Hollywood Docket: China yanks 'Avatar;' who owns Sherlock Holmes?; Jay-Z loses to Rockafella

Entertainment law news this morning:

  • The 2D version of "Avatar" has been pulled from the Chinese market just as the movie has set a new box office record in the country. The move was made at the urging of governmental officials who worry that "Avatar" is taking too much market share away from Chinese films and focuses attention on the locally sensitive issue of seizing property from local citizens. (Topic for dorky legal discussion: Was "Avatar" a reaction to Kelo v. City of New London?)
  • A judge has rejected a motion to dismiss the charges against David Letterman's accused blackmailer.
  • The NY Times examines the complicated copyright issues tied to the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise. The character was created 123 years ago and would seem to be a part of public domain, but the author's heirs recaptured rights in 1981, sold them to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, bought them back, and have been waging war in court to protect them.
  • New York is proposing $420 million per year in state money for the continuation of tax credits for film and TV production through 2014.
  • Hip hop superstar Jay-Z has lost a UK trademark case against the winner of a cooking reality show who calls his restaurant "Rockafella." The judge ruled that celebrity chef Terry Miller isn't infringing upon Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records empire and has the exclusive right to use the name in the UK.
  • Speaking of celebrities and trademarks, Shaquille O'Neal is suing an Arizona company over the use of "SHAQTUS." According to the complaiant, O'Neal says that the defendant tried to interfere with an ESPN commercial that featured the NBA superstar commenting on a big cactus.
  • Photographer Annie Leibovitz has settled a copyright lawsuit with an Italian photographer who accused her of stealing his pictures for a coffee campaign.
  • Many PBS stations around the country will be airing a documentary tonight called "Copyright Criminals," examining the issues surrounding musical sampling. Check local listings.