Hollywood Docket: 'Dungeons & Dragons' Trial; Prince vs. Bootleggers; 'Home Improvement' Lawsuit
A roundup of entertainment law news including why Angelina Jolie's residence is coming up in a News Corp. hacking lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee is prepared to send a legal dispute over who gets to make a new Dungeons & Dragons film to trial.
Last May, Hasbro filed a copyright claim against Sweetpea Entertainment over the franchise. The toy company asserted that D&D film rights under a 1994 agreement had reverted and that Sweetpea couldn't authorize a new film. At the time, Sweetpea was reportedly in talks with Warner Bros. for a reboot.
In response, Sweetpea brought counterclaims that maintained it still had rights and that Hasbro couldn't make its own deal with Universal Pictures for a new film. Last month, Sweetpea followed up with a summary judgment motion arguing that Hasbro's lawsuit over a script it had no hand in writing was defective.
On Friday, Judge Gee tentatively dismissed Hasbro's claim of direct infringement, but is also allowing Hasbro to pursue Sweetpea for contributory infringement. The counterclaims will proceed too.
A trial date of March 25 has been set.
In other entertainment law news:
- Prince is targeting about 20 individuals for allegedly facilitating the distribution of bootlegged performances. Two of the defendants are named while the others are listed by pseudonyms or as John Does. The litigious musician says the he has identified 363 separate infringing links to bootlegged material on file-sharing services. The defendants are allegedly using Google's Blogger platform or Facebook to spread links. Although neither Google nor Facebook are listed as defendants in Prince's lawsuit, the complaint (read here) seems set up in a way to obtain subpoenas to deliver to the two companies. Prince demands at least $1 million from each of the defendants. UPDATE 1/28: Prince has already dropped the lawsuit.
- Last February, the creators of Home Improvement brought a big lawsuit against Disney over millions of dollars in revenue allegedly owed. Among the claims was how the '90s sitcom was sold into syndication "at well before the fair market value" and against the interests of the profit participants. The lawsuit now has a sequel. The creators have filed a second lawsuit that focuses on the time between 2006 and 2012. Here's the complaint. After a motion of related case is filed, the two lawsuits are likely to be considered in tandem by an L.A. Superior judge.
- Singer/songwriter Kenny Chesney is going to court over an "Old Blue Chair." That's the title of a song from his chart-topping album from 2004. After the song came out, he created a label imprint under Sony Music and registered various marks and logos at the U.S. Trademark Office. He signed a merchandising license agreement with a Tennessee company called Latitude, which then entered into a sublicense deal with another company called T&M. But Chesney says he never approved this. He made a settlement agreement with T&M, but T&M owner Harneet Pasricha never signed the agreement, and now Chesney is targeting Pasricha for allegedly transferring the inventory to another Pasricha company. Here's the complaint.
- The U.S. Supreme Court has clarified what question will be addressed when TV broadcasters square off against Aereo this spring. In the petition for cert, broadcasters asked the high court to consider "whether a company 'publicly performs' a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet." In response, Aereo formulated its own question that emphasized the "personal recording" aspect of its service. The battle over framing has been won by the broadcasters. The Supreme Court takes the broadcasters' "question presented."
- Eunice Huthart once worked as a stunt double for Angelina Jolie and is suing News Corp. for allegedly intercepting her voice mail. In defending the lawsuit, News Corp. wants to move it to the U.K., where hundreds of other hacking disputes are proceeding. Last month, Huthart's attorneys explained why that was unacceptable including the possibility that Jolie would need to testify. "Jolie has a home in London that she apparently has made her permanent residence," responds News Corp. in the latest court documents. "Even if Jolie would view travel to London as burdensome and would not be amenable to appearing there to testify on behalf of her daughter’s godmother, that risk hardly justifies expecting every other percipient fact witness to travel from England to California."