Hollywood Docket: 'Call of Duty' Trial; 'SYTYCD' Star Vs. Manager; Art Law Overturned
A roundup of the week's news in entertainment law.
Dish Network's big-money litigation with the major TV networks over its new AutoHop commercial-skipper dominated the legal headlines this week, but there were a few other stories worth noting...
- The billion-dollar legal dispute between Activision Blizzard and the creators of the mega-selling Call of Duty video game franchise is finally heading to trial. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle has set June 1 for the start of a 22-day trial to determine whether a three-page agreement Activision signed in 2008 with game developers Jason West and Vincent Zampella, the former heads of the studio that developed Call of Duty, entitles them and other developers to hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties (West and Zampella were fired in 2010). The courtroom proceedings will coincide with the annual E3 video game convention down the street at the LA Convention Center. Perhaps a few game designers will stop by the courthouse to check out the legal gamemanship.
- Music lawyers are calling these "Eminem cases": Doobie Brothers singer Michael McDonald has become the latest music figure to sue his label in the wake of the rapper's former production company winning an appeals court ruling against the record company practice of paying artists small royalties for downloads instead of a 50 percent licensing fee. Repped by litigator Richard S. Busch, McDonald sued Warner Music Group in federal court in Nashville, reports Billboard. Busch has filed other suits for Kenny Rogers and Peter Frampton.
- So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy's legal battle with her ex-manager Michael Sanchez is heating up. Sanchez, brother of L.A. television personality Lauren Sanchez, was sued in December for allegedly stealing $60,000 from his former client. He fired back this week, according to TMZ, with his own lawsuit claiming Murphy has illegally coached contestants on the Fox competition and has showed up drunk and high on cocaine.
- California's high-end art world is abuzz with news that the state's controversial Resale Royalty Act of 1976 has been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. The little-enforced law requires gallery owners and other art re-sellers to pay a slice of purchase prices to the original creator of the art. Judge Jacqueline Nguyen struck down the law last week, the LAT reports, because she believes it attempts to regulate commerce outside the state. In doing so, she dismissed a class-action suit brought last year by artists Chuck Close, Laddie John Dill, the estate of Robert Graham and the Sam Francis foundation against Christie's and Sotheby's auction houses. Artist lawyer Michael Bowse says an appeal is planned, with a possible showdown brewing at the 9th Circuit or even the U.S. Supreme Court.