Hollywood Docket: Aereo Lawsuit Finally Ends

A roundup of entertainment law news including more activity for Fox News and Paramount Pictures in old cases.
Illustrations by: Tomi Um

On Monday, the copyright lawsuit that the major broadcasters brought against Aereo in March 2012 was officially closed.

Aereo, the upstart tech company that delivered over-the-air television signals to subscribers' digital devices, scored some early successes in court, but was handed a devastating loss at the Supreme Court, a preliminary injunction and bankruptcy.

The company that raised nearly $100 million sold some of its assets to Tivo for $1 million, which was about the amount handed to TV broadcasters to settle copyright claims. To fully resolve the litigation, Aereo agreed to make the injunction permanent. 

Judge Alison Nathan entered the permanent injunction and closed the chapter on an important chapter in the legal history of television.

In other entertainment law news:

—Fox News appeared to have ended its legal fight over use of a photograph on Facebook of three firefighters raising the American flag at the ruins of the World Trade Center site, but a settlement with the North Jersey Media Group has collapsed. Last February, Fox News was denied summary judgment on fair use grounds, which led the cable news network to seek an appeal that it it believed would help resolve the question of how to determine what's fair use in the context of social media. The appeal looked to be abandoned, but on Monday, an attorney for the North Jersey Media Group told the judge that the parties were unable to complete a settlement and requested the judge address pending motions including leave to appeal.

—In another dispute that's not quite over, Paramount Pictures is suing the Wall St. investors who previously sued the studio. Last October, Paramount won a trial over allegations it defrauded investors on 25 films released between April 2004 and March 2006 by abandoning international presale agreements. The financial institutions then filed an appeal to the 2nd Circuit. Quickly thereafter, Paramount filed a lawsuit against those same investors for allegedly violating a covenant not to sue in their investor subscription agreement. Paramount is seeking the reimbursement of millions of dollars in its legal fees. The investors respond in a motion to dismiss that Paramount should have asserted this as a counterclaim in the old lawsuit and now are judicially estopped from making the claim. The motion is pending.

—Fox News isn't the only big media company bringing an appeal that could influence how copyright fair use gets weighed. Last week, the rights-owner of Three’s Company  filed appellate papers looking to challenge a judge's recent decision that David Adjmi’s play 3C is a permissible parody.

—Meanwhile, a lawsuit alleging that Led Zeppelin stole its biggest hit "Stairway to Heaven" from Randy Craig Wolfe, founding member of the band Spirit, has headed west. A Pennsylvania judge ruled that there isn't enough of a jurisdictional basis to keep the lawsuit in his state. On Monday, the case was officially moved to a California federal court.

—Read your concert ticket closely, even if it's a paperless ticket. You might see an agreement to arbitrate any disputes. That didn't stop Thomas Sheridan and attorneys from his firm from attempting to bring a class action lawsuit against Live Nation over customers' inability to transfer e-tickets. Then, the attorney were told about the arbitration provision in the fine print, which probably would have stopped most lawyers. Not these guys. They decided to go to arbitration anyway and put up a big fight. The outcome? Just $100 for their clients (plus some limited injunctive relief) but a whopping $93,000 in attorney's fees for themselves. They are still having trouble collecting, though.

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