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Hollywood’s major studios and streamers are taking on yet another alleged content pirate. This time they’re suing a service called Altered Carbon and the man they believe is running it, who they describe as a “recidivist mass infringer.”
“Plaintiffs tried to get [Jason] Tusa to stop without the need for court intervention by confronting him with irrefutable evidence of his illegal conduct, and obtaining his agreement, including through a written settlement, in which Tusa promised never again to operate a similar illegal streaming service,” writes attorney Rose Leda Ehler in the complaint. “Unfortunately, Tusa has shown that a binding contractual commitment will not deter his brazen infringement.”
The suit claims Altered Carbon is at least the fourth infringing service Tusa has launched following Area 51, Singularity Media and Digital UniCorn Media, with the latest coming after he signed an agreement in October that “he would never again relaunch a similar unauthorized service.”
Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Paramount, Sony and others are suing for copyright infringement and breach of contract. They say the conduct follows a pattern, and each time they’ve discovered Tusa’s unauthorized services he has “feigned cooperation,” shut down and and then rebranded and relaunched. This time, they say he’s trying to hide his connection to the service.
“Tusa believes he is both under the radar and above the law. He is neither,” writes Ehler.
Not mentioned in the suit is that “Altered Carbon” is the name of a Netflix sci-fi series (an adaptation of a 2002 novel of the same title) and the app’s font seems to be a direct copy of that show’s branding.
The studios and streamers also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking a California federal judge to prohibit future infringement and freeze the Altered Carbon websites so they can’t be accessed or transferred.
A hearing is currently set for Aug. 9.
In other entertainment legal news:
— Longtime entertainment and advertising lawyer Felix H. Kent died July 15th at home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. He was 97 years old. Kent started his career in the early days of television in the legal departments of CBS and then ABC before going into private practice where he represented a long list of ad agencies and radio and television personalities, according to an announcement from his family. The Harvard Law grad served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service and Counterintelligence Corps during World War II, and was awarded the Purple Heart medal after suffering combat wounds in France. Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested contributions to the American Cancer Society.
— UTA’s suit against Vigilant and Federal insurance companies over the denial of pandemic-related claims has been dismissed with prejudice. The agency said COVID-19 shutdowns cost it upwards of $150 million, but the court found the losses aren’t covered by its policy. An L.A. judge on June 23 followed the lead of other courts in finding the “physical loss or damage” provision in the coverage wasn’t triggered, in part, because “COVID-19 hurts people, not property.”
— Howard Stern Show’s “Stuttering John” Melendez intends to appeal the dismissal of his right of publicity suit against SiriusXM Radio. Melendez in August 2020 sued Sirius claiming it was using his archived interviews without compensation or consent. A New York federal judge on June 24 sided with the satellite radio giant, finding Melendez’s right of publicity claim is pre-empted by the Copyright Act because the gravamen of his claims “is not the use of his identity but the use of the copyrightable work itself.” Melendez on Wednesday filed a notice of appeal. (Read the opinion here.)
— FabFitFun has settled a lawsuit against a company it paid for social media endorsements, but never received, from Cara Delevingne, Sarah Hyland and Ashley Benson. The box-by-mail company in July 2020 sued JFF Entertainment for breach of contract and made clear its issues were with JFF and not the stars — two of whom weren’t aware of the purported deals prior to the suit. The complaint was dismissed without prejudice July 9, and the court will retain jurisdiction in the event it needs to enforce the terms of the settlement.
— Jon Bon Jovi, Don Henley, Ryan Tedder and Shane McAnally must give depositions up to four hours long in an ongoing antitrust fight between Radio Music License Committee, a collective of 10,000 radio stations across the country, and Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights. U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter on June 24 ruled that because the four have stakes in GMR (regardless of them being non-voting shares) RMLC should be allowed to ask about their relationships with the company. Meanwhile Pharrell Williams’ manager Ron Laffitte can’t be deposed as Hatter found RMLC failed to allege that he conspired with GMR or had an interest in it.
— Activision has beat a lawsuit from former WWE wrestler Booker T. Huffman that alleged the gaming giant used his persona and comic character G.I. Bro for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. The gaming giant convinced a Texas jury it didn’t infringe Huffman’s copyright in the character and had argued that G.I. Bro was “an unoriginal copy of The Rock from the neck down” and the former wrestler doesn’t own “the idea of an angry man with a scowling look.” A motion for a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict, if there is one, is currently due Aug. 2.
News from DC:
— President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced Jonathan Kantner is his pick to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division. The veteran attorney runs a DC-based antitrust boutique and previously served as served as an attorney for the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. The White House announcement described him as “a leading advocate and expert in the effort to promote strong and meaningful antitrust enforcement and competition policy.” Kantner has been a vocal critic of big tech and has represented clients like Yelp and Microsoft in battles against Google, which have prompted discussion about whether he’d need to recuse himself from the DOJ’s ongoing litigation against the tech behemoth.
— The U.S. House on Tuesday passed the MEDIA Diversity Act of 2021 (H.R. 1754). The bill, which would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require the FCC to “consider market entry barriers for socially disadvantaged individuals in the communications marketplace,” is now before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
In hiring news:
— Ryan Lapine has joined Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz as a partner in its litigation group, specializing in commercial and entertainment disputes. Lapine, whose past clients include Barry Manilow and Stiletto Entertainment, also has experience handling matters related to cannabis and cryptocurrency.
— LaPolt Law has named Sarah Scott its managing partner. The firm, let by music Power Lawyer Dina LaPolt, represents clients including Cardi B, Offset, deadmau5 and 21 Savage. Scott joined in 2017 from Universal Music Group Canada.
— Chris Perez has been made a name partner of the newly-minted Donaldson Callif Perez, a leader in independent film and television representation. In addition to advocacy work like DMCA reform, Perez has recently advised clients on projects including Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem; Bombshell; The Farewell; The Last Dance; and Knock Down the House.
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