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Hollywood Docket: Archie Comics War Heads to Mediation; Comcast Antitrust Trial; Supreme Court Tackles 'First Sale' Rules

Here's our roundup of hot entertainment and media law news.

Archie Gay Marriage Issue 16 Cover - P 2012

A particularly nasty dispute involving the future control of Archie Comics is headed to mediation.

Jonathan Goldwater, son of one of the company's co-founders, is fighting Nancy Silberkleit, daughter-in-law of the company's other co-founder. In dueling lawsuits filed in New York state court, the two have been hurling scandalous accusations at each other in an effort to take dominion over Archie Comic Books, established in 1939.

Both heirs to the Archie legacy are accusing the other of endangering the family legacy, reports The New York Times in a lengthy piece.

Goldwater says that Silberkleit's family-centered approach is stagnating the company and hurls charges that threatened workers with termination for not looking right, sexually harassed employees, and let her roaming dog defecate in the art department. Goldwater has attained a restraining order that prevents Silberkleit from being in the office and limits her interactions with employees.

Meanwhile, Silberkleit says that Goldwater has illicitly sought outside investors and WME agent Ari Emanuel to grab ahold of the company and expand it into a megabrand. She is also suing Goldwater for defamation and adds that he punctured her car tires and destroyed her website.

The parties now head to mediation, but there's a long way to bridge the differences. Observers say they aren't surprised.

“Two C.E.O.’s can be a recipe for disaster," says Johanna Draper Carlson, a comic book critic, to the NYT.

In other entertainment and media law news:

  • A Pennsylvania judge has limited some of the biggest claims in a $875 million class action antitrust lawsuit against Comcast, but is allowing the trimmed claims to be heard at trial. The plaintiffs alleged that Comcast had entered into agreements wiht competitors to allocate regional cable markets and thereafter raise cable prices artificially high. The judge is allowing claims that Comcast's creation of a Philadelphia cluster through its acquisition of competing cable companies and swapping of assets constituted a horizontal allocation of markets. That claim is limited, though, because the judge found that Comcast had demonstrated that the clusters created "pro-compeittive economic efficiencies [that] allowed it to offer new products and services." The judge is also allowing a claim for attempted monopolization by acting with predation in the creation of targeted discounts, but not in the way Comcast clustered and blocked access from its competitors to cable infrastructure installation contractors. Here's the 72-page decision.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court is again taking up the issue of the "first sale doctrine," which allows for the resale of purchased copyrighted material. The case involves a man named Supap Kirtsaeng who was found guilty of violating the rights of textbook publisher John Wiley & Sons Inc for selling foreign-edition textbooks on eBay. Kirtsaeng was ordered to pay $600,000 for violating copyright law, and he appealed. The first-sale rule didn't apply to goods outside the U.S., ruled an appellate circuit. Now, the Supreme Court is reviewing this copyright case, and the deciding vote could be held by Justice Elena Kagan, who recused herself from a 4-4 decision in 2010 in a similar case.
  • A federal judge has refused to certify a class action brought by Facebook advertisers who alleged they were wrongfully billed by the social networking giant. The class action wished to cover claims by those who had used Facebook's cost-per-click program, but the judge was skeptical about the commonality of the claimants, saying, "The need to determine both liability and damages on an individualized basis makes this case inappropriate for class treatment."
  • In defending itself from a recent lawsuit from the Department of Justice over agreements with publishers on the pricing of e-books, Apple has fired back and attacked one of its competitors. Apple says the allegations of collusion are "simply not true," and that "the launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."
  • The legal battle over who gets to say "yuuup!" on TV is getting hotter. Dave Hester, star of A&E's Storage Wars, sued rapper Trey Songz  for interfering with his right to say the phrase. The rapper said it was his signature sound and sent a cease-and-desist letter despite the fact that Hester had registered the trademark on three occassions. But Trey Songz has now countersued Hester, saying that the trademark was only filed in 2011 and he's been using it since 2009.The rapper wants the trademark voided and Hester to pay him damages.