Hollywood Docket: Comedy Club Documentary Lawsuit; Michael Jordan vs. 1st Amendment

Jerry Seinfeld Baseball Cap 2010 - P

The owners of New York's Comedy Strip nightclub, which has featured such comics as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy in its 35 years in business, are suing the producers of a documentary entiled Eat, Drink, Laugh for allegedly breaching an agreement to work together during all phases of production.

Letterbox Productions is the defendant in the case along with Brent Nemetz, who won an Emmy for PBS' Souls of New York and Abby Russell, who directed MTV reality series Pageant Place and was a producer on The Next Food Network Star.

According to the lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday, the documentary was to be about the history of the famous comedy club, but the producers had trouble getting it into Sundance and finding funding.

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Comedy Strip Promotions says the defendants were obligated to keep them informed about the developments and allow for feedback, but that didn't happen nor was the film ready by June 2011 -- the club's 35th anniversary -- as purportedly agreed upon.

The plaintiff says the alleged failures to complete the film caused the producers to solicit charitable donations, which is deemed harmful. "Apart from the negative connotation and publicity such solicitation has for 'The Comedy Strip,'" says the complaint, "It is also embarassing and humilating for [the owners of the club] to have their names and reputations in the industry associated with a project concerning 'The Comedy Strip' that is dependant on charity to bring to completion."

The plaintiffs demand an injunction against the film.

In other entertainment & media law news:

  • The European Court of Justice has rejected demands by a Belgium-based music management company to force social networking sites to install filters to prevent piracy. The decision said that EU Member States couldn't impose general monitoring obligations upon internet service providers, but spelled out acceptable duties of care to detect illegal activities. But the justices specifically rule out the mandated installation of a "general filtering system" against the social networking defendant, Netlog.
  • Last October, we reported that KickStarter, the burgeoning online forum that allows filmmakers, musicians, and other artists to raise independent financing for projects, had gone to court after facing a patent threat. The defendant -- KickStarter's alleged aggressor -- now says there isn't a controvery and that the lawsuit should be dismissed. ArtistShare told a judge in legal papers filed earlier this month that patent infringement litigation was never threatened; that ArtistShare merely approached KickStarter about licensing their platform, including patent rights."Rather than responding to ArtistShare?s request for a counter-proposal, Kickstarter filed this lawsuit," the company says.
  • The battle between the record industry and second-hand digital music file reseller ReDigi continues to heat up. Previously, a judge turned down a motion for a preliminary injunction. Now, ReDigi is accusing plaintiff Capitol Records of sabotaging its business by getting one of its partners to pull the plug on a service to provide album art and 30-second music clips. Capitol hasn't commented.
  • A federal judge in Illinois is rejecting a $5 million lawsuit by NBA great Michael Jordan, who objected to an advertisement run by a grocery retailer in Sports Illustrated that congratulated him on his induction to the NBA Hall of Fame. The ad in question said,  "Jewel-Osco salutes #23 on his many accomplishments as we honor a fellow Chicagoan who was 'just around the corner' for so many years." Jordan claimed the ad violated his trademark rights, but the judge said that the company didn't "propose any kind of commercial transaction" and thus was protected by the First Amendment.
  • At a Beverly Hills entertainment law luncheon earlier this week, THR Power Lawyer John Branca told what happened many years ago, when two years out of law school, he presided over a meeting among the members of the Beach Boys on whether or not to dismiss the band's manager, Steve Love. Two members, including Steve's brother Mike, were in favor of keeping him. Two members were in favor of firing him. The tie-breaking vote came down to Brian Wilson, who was face-down on the conference room, seemingly asleep. Branca told Wilson to knock once to fire, twice to keep. "He knocked three times,” Branca recalled. “So I did what any good lawyer would. I called for an adjournment and persuaded Steve to resign.”

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