Hollywood Docket: Brian Mulligan, Hulu Privacy, 'Ali' Residuals

A roundup of entertainment law news including the rejection of a $750 million lawsuit over an alleged Farrelly brothers infringement.
Brian Mulligan

Former Universal Pictures co-chairman Brian Mulligan has lost another lawsuit stemming from allegations that he was severely beaten by LAPD officers John Miller and James Nichols in May 2012. This time, a judge has dismissed his claims against public relations consultant Eric Rose, who worked with the LAPD's union, over the response to his charges.

Mulligan has admitted to the use of bath salts, and officers used that fact to claim that Mulligan was in an altered state from the use of drugs and that he had resisted arrest. Mulligan suffered a broken nasal bone and a broken scapula. After Rose heard about a conversation that Mulligan had with the Glendale Police Department, he used it in a press release, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League sent it out with an embedded link to the Glendale tape. As a result of the ensuing publicity, Mulligan lost his job at Deutsche Bank.

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Mulligan not only sued the LAPD for violating his civil liberties -- which resulted in a jury verdict for the defendant last January -- he sued the City of Los Angeles, the LAPD officers involved in the incident, the LAPD and the LAPPL, for attempting to curtail his First Amendment rights by publishing the press release and audio recording. Last December, a judge granted the defendants a win on summary judgment.

Separately, Mulligan sued Rose, but on April 29, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that the allegations were already litigated in the other case and that Mulligan's claims were barred by collateral estoppel. Here's the ruling.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Hulu has gotten a partial victory in a class-action lawsuit alleging violations of the Video Privacy Protection Act, intended to penalize the "wrongful disclosure of videotape rental or sales records." The video website was able to knock out claims based on the sharing of user information with metrics company comScore because the judge determined that sharing anonymous user IDs isn't the same as identifying a person who watches specific video content. The ruling potentially is salvation for digital companies who have been flummoxed over the VPPA, which was passed in the late '80s. However, the judge has kept the part of the lawsuit that dealt with the transmission of Facebook cookies, finding that a Facebook User ID is more than anonymous, but can personally identify a Facebook user. The next part of the case appears to deal with what Hulu knew about this.
  • Labor unions are going to court over residuals from the 2001 film Ali, starring Will Smith. Initial Entertainment Group, which purchased rights to distribute the film in foreign territories, is charged with failing to make residual contributions from income received overseas on this movie as well as Very Bad Things. The complaint, filed on Monday (read here), also targets Miramax Productions for alleged residual nonpayments on the film An Unfinished Life.
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rubber-stamped a lower court's ruling giving 20th Century Fox a victory over $750 million claims that Peter and Bobby Farrelly used a screenwriter's work in various films like There's Something About Mary and Kingpin. The appellate judges said there was no error in a finding of no substantial similarity, and further, that judges may disregard alleged similarities that aren't protectable.
  • Jeff Berg's Resolution has lived up to its name in a beef with agent Martin Beck, who filed suit last year with claims of being lured from ICM as part of a "plot" to poach clients and then treated unfairly. Beck sued for breach of oral contract, disability discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On May 1, the parties voluntarily dismissed the dispute. Resolution recently settled another lawsuit with ICM over commissions due to defecting agents.