Hollywood Docket: Carol Burnett Sued; Pussy Riot v. Lawyers; Hulk Hogan Sex Tape
A roundup of entertainment law news, including Kim Dotcom's possible extradition, two settlements and a new suit against "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis.
Carol Burnett has been sued by a dead person. Well, almost. The comedy legend was hit with a lawsuit Wednesday by Bob Banner Associates, the production company of the late Bob Banner, which alleges he helped create the long-running classic The Carol Burnett Show (and its spinoff Mama's Family) but was cut out of a recent deal with Time Life to put the shows on home video.
Banner -- or at least his production company -- is seeking a full accounting from Burnett and her Whacko Inc. company. Read the full complaint here.
In other entertainment and media law news:
- The Pussy Riot saga has taken another turn. In August, three members of the Russian punk group were found guilty of hooliganism for a performance inside a Moscow cathedral. Now, in an interview, member Yekaterina Samutsevich has turned against the group's lawyers, accusing them, according to the Guardian, of "forging papers to register the Pussy Riot brand while the three women were still in pre-trial detention." Samutsevich says that three lawyers who represented the group cared more about personal fame and careers rather than the interest of the clients. The lawyers are no longer representing the group.
- The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed the dismissal of a copyright infringement suit against the creators and producers of Modern Family. A writer named Martin Alexander sued, claiming his treatment called Loony Ben was ripped off to create the Emmy-winning ABC comedy, but the trial court found no substantial similarity between the treatment and the show. On Nov. 14, the 2nd Circuit agreed.
- Hulk Hogan has lost his initial effort to force Gawker to remove a sex video featuring the wrestler from its website. Terry Bollea (Hulk's real name) sued, asking for a preliminary and permanent injunction against dissemination of the video, which shows the Hulkster cavorting with a woman who is not his wife. But a federal judge in Florida ruled Nov. 14 that at least at this preliminary stage, the tape is a matter of public concern that is protected by the First Amendment.
A lawyer working for New Zealand's commissioner of police says there is a "high likelihood" that the hearing on whether to extradite Kim Dotcom to the U.S. could be delayed until July. Who's Kim Dotcom? Here's THR's profile of the Megaupload founder, which just won a national entertainment journalism award.
- A legal dispute over a documentary concerning Stalin-era genocide in Ukraine has been resolved. In April 2011, the producers were sued for allegedly perpetrating a fraud. To make a film about an atrocity that exterminated approximately 25 percent of the Ukrainian population in the early 1930s, producers crowd-funded the film from Ukranians who wanted the story told. But the investors got upset when they couldn't immediately see the documentary. After the lawsuit was filed, the producers countersued for libel, pointing to the story in The Hollywood Reporter and alleging the plaintiffs had promulgated false statements. We've obtained a copy of the settlement between the parties. The plaintiffs gained the right to review the footage, but otherwise the producers have gained the ability to use interviews and release the film. The settlement came after Eugenia Dallas, one of the survivors of the genocide, gave a declaration in which she said, "It is my wish that the plaintiffs drop this lawsuit and let everyone's resources go towards having this important story be told."
- Another settlement: In January, the Akin Gump law firm sued film executive Mark Manuel over $2 million in finder's fees for helping line up studio loans, including $150 million for Warner Bros. and $100 million for Sony. The lawsuit also dealt with the distribution of Father of Invention, starring Kevin Spacey, and the murky and sometimes complicated structures of film financing. "I am happy to report back that both parties have resolved their dispute to the satisfaction of both sides," says Manuel.
- And some legal disputes never end: The latest twist in the Steve Wynn v. Joe Francis defamation battle is that Francis' lawyers in the dispute are now suing Francis to collect $15,889 in legal fees for representing him. Perhaps some of the money can come from the savings that Francis enjoyed when a judge trimmed a $40 million verdict to $19 million.