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Hollywood Docket: Sammy Davis Jr. Movie Fight; Basketball TV Money; More

A roundup of entertainment and media law news.

Sammy Davis Jr. Driving Car - P 2011
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association in 1976, the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis were cut out of the expanded league. But the owners, Ozzie and Daniel Silna, were able to extract compensation in the form of a small share of TV revenue in perpetuity.

As a result, the Silnas have earned some $255 million over the years, but potentially much more is at stake in a pending court case. The Silnas feel entitled to money from international broadcasts, the league’s cable network, and more, which the NBA is resisting. A case is now before a New York federal judge where the league's attorneys argue that such new sources of revenue could never be imagined in 1976.

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Hollywood is accustomed to the kinds of profit-sharing disputes that arise when old contracts don't anticipate new methods of exploiting content. The NBA now has its own version of this type of litigation, but the case seems to be a long time coming. “This issue has been a nuisance as long as I’ve been associated with the league,” Ed Desser, the former president of NBA Television, tells the New York Times.

In other entertainment and media legal news:

  • Dueling movie projects based on the life of Sammy Davis Jr. have prompted a new lawsuit. Producer Rick Appling has sued Byron Allen Productions for $35 million claiming he, not Allen, owns the life rights to the famous crooner. Allen has anounced his intention to make a film with the blessing of the Davis estate but Applins says he previously bought the rights and the Allen project is interfering with his his effort to make a movie. (Read the Complaint Here)
  • Remember Amen, the 1980s sitcom starring Sherman Hemsley? Ed Weinberger, the creator of the show, has sued his former business managers claiming they failed to account for what he was owed after he sued the show's producer, Carson Productions, in 2011.(CNS)

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  • An actress named Hannah Cornett has sued Gawker Media becaus she claims she was defamed in a series of "ficticious in nearly every respect" articles on its Deadspin sports website. One such article was called "Surfer Grifter: The Weird Tale of Hannah Cornett and Her 20K Vegas Hotel Bill." (CNS)
  • Well-known entertainment law firm Rosenfeld Meyer & Susman has moved to a new building at 232 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills after vacating the Wilshire Boulevard property it had occupied for 50 years. Founded in 1957, the firm first moved to the Wilshire address in 1962 when it was newly constructed.
  • It's not just Republican candidates who are contending with musicians over use of music. Now media outlets covering the campaign are being hit. R.E.M's song publisher, Warner-Tamerlane Music, has sent Fox News a cease-and-desist letter after learning the cable network used "Losing My Religion" during the DNC. "We have little or no respect for their puff adder brand of reportage," wrote Michael Stipe on the band's website. "Our music does not belong there."

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  • The former N.Y.U. professor who gave James Franco a "D" is now suing the actor for defamation. Jose Santana previously sued the school for wrongful termination and was fine with Franco's silence on the subject until the actor started telling the press how he was a bad teacher. "He wasn’t fired, he was asked not to come back after three years because they didn’t think he was a good teacher," Franco purportedly said.
  • The estate of Michael Jackson has made yet another settlement -- this time with Howard Mann, who ran a merchandise website that he once called MJ's "shadow estate." Last month, the estate was successful in getting a judge to shut down the website. Now, to end the litigation, Mann has agreed to pay $2.5 million and not use the singer's image without permission.
  • That '70s Show star Wilmer Valderrama's alleged failure to pay two men for two days of working on his YouTube breakdancing webseries has added up to a $90,000 lawsuit.