Hollywood Docket: Digital Music Class Action; Aereokiller Settlement; Snoop Lion Lawsuit

A roundup of entertainment law news including why a judge won't dismiss copyright claims against Apple and Google.
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Snoop Lion is sued by a Lebanese businessman.

A New York federal judge has declined to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit against, as he puts it, "the whole of the digital music industry."

Norman Blagman is the named plaintiff and seeks to hold liable for copyright infringement several powerhouse companies including Apple, Amazon.com and Google. The defendants in the lawsuit sought to have the lawsuit dismissed for failure to state a plausible claim, but U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter says not so fast.

In the lawsuit, Blagman, the author of three musical compositions, alleges that defendant Orchard Enterprises doesn't require mechanical licenses in distributing audio and video recordings and that the retail defendants haven't ensured that compositions were properly licensed before distribution. In short, the plaintiff claims that the digital music industry is circumventing traditional channels for licensing.

The defendants wanted to strike Blagman's claims as "implausible," but the judge retorts "they reach too far."

Although there are tinges of skepticism from the judge about the merits of the claims, the ruling says that Blagman has hurdled past an issue like standing and should be given a chance to get into the discovery stage. The opinion (read in full here) also serves some comment on another judge's recent decision to deny class certification in a big lawsuit against YouTube.

"While it may be true that copyright claims are poor candidates for class-action treatment," writes Judge Carter, citing the YouTube case, "at least in this Circuit, a motion to strike class claims is considered premature if the issues raised are the same ones that would be decided in connection with determining the appropriateness of class certification..."

In other entertainment law news:

  • Barry Diller and Alki David have made peace. In a series of lawsuits (see here, here and here), the two fought over trademarked names including AereoKiller, BarryDriller and Aero. The parties recently filed a stipulation in California court to settle the disputes and David will reportedly change the AereoKiller name. The two can now focus their legal attention on defending their digital TV distribution upstarts from lawsuits from TV broadcasters.
  • A judge won't allow Snoop Lion to escape a lawsuit from a Lebanese businessman. Snoop performed in concert in Beiruit in 2009 and the video for "That's Tha Homie" showed him smoking marijuana at a bar after the concert. Roger Kalaouz, who promoted the concert, was also shown and alleged in a lawsuit claims that the rapper had caused him injury to his reputation and trouble with the government. Snoop is successful in getting the judge to dismiss a claim over Kalaouz' likeness, but he hasn't yet been able to dodge allegations over how the plaintiff was supposed to represent Snoop in the Middle East and solicit collaborations with artists there. Here's the ruling.
  • CBS is being sued over the series, Brooklyn D.A. The claim comes from the Democratic primary challenger to incumbent District Attorney Charles Hynes and contends that the series is an "unlawful campaign contribution." A spokesperson for CBS tells a legal news outlet that the series is a documentary series not a reality show and adds, "We are surprised that this candidate would not know about the First Amendment."
  • The Recording Industry Association of America has promoted Steven M. Marks to the newly created position of chief, digital business & general counsel. Marks, a graduate of Duke Law School, has been with the RIAA for 15 years and was previously an executive vp. According to the RIAA, he "will oversee industry-wide initiatives to help grow the digital music marketplace and the new revenue streams that are increasingly critical to the music business."
  • On Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter unveils its seventh annual Power Lawyers list. Stay tuned.