Hollywood Docket: Interns v. Fox; 'Doing Paula Deen'; Will.I.Am's Trademarks
A roundup of entertainment law news including a couple of odd moments from a hearing where TV broadcasters pushed Dish Network to hand over documents related to Aereo.
The lawsuits are piling up fast on the internship front, and Fox isn't done contending with claims of unpaid labor.
In a new class action lawsuit brought this week, Christopher MacKnown says he spent time as an unpaid intern at the Fox Soccer Channel and FoxSports.com between February 2010 and August 2010 and did things like "watching soccer games on tape and logging the time codes of key plays and events for Fox employees to compile highlight reels to be used during Fox half-time shows."
He's being represented by the same law firm that took on former Black Swan interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt in a summary judgment win two weeks ago.
Even though the new lawsuit is brought in New York, it's alleging various labor claims under California state laws as well the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Besides damages, MacKnown is asking for an injunction "including but not necessarily limited to an order enjoining Defendants from continuing its unlawful practices."
Fox isn't letting the attack of the interns go unchallenged. The company has indicated that it would appeal the Glatt ruling. It's also far from alone. Lawsuits have come in the past two weeks against Conde Nast, Warner Music, Gawker and the latest on Thursday, the production company behind Nickelodeon's Alien Dawn.
In other media and entertainment law news:
- Paula Deen's racy deposition in a harassment lawsuit has been widely discussed this week and has led the Food Network to part ways with her. Matthew Billips, one of the lawyers taking on Deen, has had to defend his own statements. Deen's own lawyers wanted a judge to disqualify Billips for tweeting that he was "doing Paula Deen, in a strongly metaphorical sense." A magistrate judge denied the request, and Deen's lawyers are appealing. Billips has deleted his Twitter account.
- There was a bit of confusion this week over news reports that Will.I.Am was suing Pharrell Williams over the phrase, "I Am." Other reports that Will.I.Am was threatening a lawsuit were not an improvement. There's no lawsuit, but Mr. Will.I.Am has filed a "notice of opposition" to Pharrell's "I Am Other" trademark attempt. And the adjudication that will happen at the U.S. Trademark and Trial Board is a bit like a lawsuit in some respects. It's also worth noting that the parties have been fighting with each other over the trademark registration since March.
- Uh-oh, China has gotten the secrets to exhibiting big-screen digital movies. IMAX has filed a lawsuit that alleges a former employee named Gary Tsui stole trade secrets "relating to IMAX's core projection and conversion technologies" to start up a company in China that now allegedly competes against IMAX. IMAX also details its pursuit of Tsui and his company, saying it has obtained, among other things, relief from two foreign tribunals, an arrest warrant issued by the Canadian court and and a broad search and seizure order issued by the Beijing court and executed by several Chinese judges. The lawsuit is against GDC Technology, which allegedly is employing technology that IMAX says is stolen. Here's the complaint.
- A hearing last month over whether Dish has to turn over documents to broadcasters relating to its discussions and potential acquisition of Aereo had some humorous moments. At least in our eyes. According to the recently released transcript in this discovery fight, at one point, the judge wanted to know why the broadcasters weren't pushing DirecTV for documents. "Wouldn't they have an interest in acquiring Aereo as well?" asked the judge. The attorney for the broadcasters responded, "Well, I believe DirecTV is owned by News Corp.," seemingly unaware that News Corp. sold its stake to Liberty Media more than five years ago. Then, there's a moment during the hearing when a credit union robo-calls the courtroom, interrupting the proceeding with an offer to "remove restrictions and reactivate your card." The judge said it was a first.