Hollywood Docket: 'Baby Driver' Settlement; 'Inside Out' Ruling; TMNT Trademark Fight

A roundup of entertainment legal news.
Courtesy of TriStar Pictures
'Baby Driver'

Baby Driver's producers and a singer-songwriter's heir are likely singing a happy tune after quietly settling a copyright infringement lawsuit over the use of T.Rex's "Debora" in the film.

It makes sense that a love interest named Debora would warrant a reference to the band's 1968 hit that shares her name in such a music-driven film, but it seems the license to actually use the song in the film wasn't arranged before its release. 

Rolan Feld, the son of T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan, sued Sony, Media Rights Capital and others in August. He claimed producers failed to clear the use of the song in the film — which he learned when a Sony Music rep reached out to his lawyer to get permission to use the work on the movie's soundtrack.

A report filed Tuesday by mediator Gail Migdal Title shows the matter was fully settled during a Jan. 12 mediation. 

Sony declined comment and deferred to MRC, which is owned by The Hollywood Reporter's parent company and has not yet commented on the settlement. 

In other entertainment legal news:

— Starz has settled a dispute with a former exec who claims he was fired for refusing to fabricate revenue numbers. Keno Thomas sued Starz in October 2015, claiming his supervisors ordered him to fudge income and subscriber figures before the company's board and he was fired in retaliation for complaining about allegedly illegal business practices. The following July, the court trimmed the complaint but allowed the dispute to continue. A trial had been set for August, but the parties on Thursday filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the case with prejudice. 

—  Disney has beat a lawsuit from a childhood development expert who claimed the media giant stole her idea for a story about anthropomorphized emotions for its animated hit Inside Out. U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez on Jan. 31 granted Disney's motion to dismiss the suit, finding Daniels' conceived characters, called The Moodsters, don't meet the standards required for copyright protection either individually or as an ensemble. The court didn't reach the issue of whether The Moodsters are substantially similar to the Inside Out characters. Gutierrez is giving Daniels leave to amend her complaint with regard to her copyright infringement claims, but she won't have another shot at her cause of action for breach of implied-in-fact contract. (Read his analysis here.)

— Beyonce Knowles Carter this week quietly settled a copyright infringement dispute with the heir of a New Orleans comedian and music artist known as Messy Mya. The estate of Anthony Barre in February 2017 sued Bey over clips of his spoken word that were sampled in "Formation." The parties filed a joint stipulation on Feb. 5, and U.S. District Judge Nannette Brown dismissed the matter with prejudice. 

— Viacom is exercising its turtle power in an effort to shut down a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action parody show. The media giant on Feb. 2 filed a copyright and trademark complaint in New Mexico federal court, claiming the show infringes on the franchise's rights, including its characters, costumes and catchphrases. Viacom also argues the show isn't really a parody, as it is presented with out "any irony or self-awareness." (Read the complaint here.)

— Discovery Communications has responded to a lawsuit from the U.S. government over an alleged tax refund overpayment. The government sued in November, claiming erroneous refunds were issued for the 2006, 2007 and 2008 tax years because Discovery claimed unpermitted exclusions of extraterritorial income. It is seeking repayment of as much as $8.8 million. Discovery claims in its answer that the government sued the wrong corporate entity and also that the "overpayments" were not erroneous. The company claims the payments to Discovery Communications Holding for 2006 and 2007 were the result of a closing agreement between itself and the IRS and the refunds were legally required and that the statute of limitations for filing an erroneous refund suit has passed.

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