Hollywood Docket: Feuding Magicians; "We're Netflix"; Kendrick Lamar v. VARA

Updates from the realm of entertainment law
Illustration by: Jenn Liv

Simon Painter, producer of The Illusionists, has failed in a bid to vacate a $2.6 million arbitration award to magician Brett Daniels, co-creator of the hit live stage magic show.

Both sides filed claims against each other after a breakdown in the relationship left Daniels stranded on tour. The matter ended up in arbitration, where Daniels claimed he was denied fees to The Illusionists and sequels. Painter alleged Daniels' follow-up act violated intellectual property rights and that he breached the "Conduct and Behavior" clause of his Performance Agreement through tantrums and alleged sexual harassment towards colleagues. The arbitrator largely found in Daniels' favor, which caused Painter to try to upend the award in federal court with the argument the arbitrator  "manifestly disregarded the law and/or acted completely irrationally."

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lew ruled earlier this week that there was no good reason to vacate. He denied Painter's attempt to re-argue that Daniels' fee entitlement from a Creator Agreement was void because Daniels was allegedly acting as an unlicensed agent in recruiting fellow magicians to perform. Lew also rejected arguments challenging how Painter and his company were jointly liable or limit future damages to present cash value.

Here's Lew's complete order.

As for those sexual harassment allegations, Daniels contacted The Hollywood Reporter to insist on his innocence.

"These allegations against me are outrageously false," he says in a statement. "I was never even accused by any of the women my opponent cites. Both women have now come forward with statements which 100 percent clear me of any possible hint of wrongdoing, and I have passed a polygraph examination refuting both the sexual harassment claims and professional misconduct claims."

In other entertainment law news:

— According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, former Lions Gate Entertainment general counsel Wayne Levin resigned from the company last year after being accused by a subordinate, Wendy Jaffe, of mistreatment including nonconsensual sexual contact. The paper reports that the accusations led to two settlements, including a $2.5 million payment from Lions Gate to Jaffe. Lions Gate had previously represented in a regulatory filing that Levin had resigned "for health and personal reasons." His attorney didn't offer much comment about the allegations, but gave the WSJ a series of email exchanges between Levin and his subordinate that presented the ex-GC a better light. Jaffe tells The Hollywood Reporter, "I hoped leaving quietly would make the abuse stop but it didn’t. So, I stood up for myself and other employees, and Lionsgate treats that as the problem rather than what its executives do. This has to stop, and that’s why I speaking out.”

— Sidney Price, a 92-year-old World War II veteran as well as an attorney, has filed a lawsuit against Paramount in connection with an upcoming Netflix series entitled Maniac, said to star Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. According to the complaint, Price agreed to allow Paramount to film in his residence. The contract had certain limitations including the use of only the first floor. Price alleges that during filming, a worker began to pack up his belongings onto a truck to his objection. The worker allegedly responded, "We're Netflix. We can do what we want." The complaint (read here) says that Price is missing memorabelia, including signed Harrison Ford posters, family photos and furniture.

— Kendrick Lamar, SZA and associated music companies are currently facing a lawsuit alleging that the video to the song, "All The Stars," from the Black Panther soundtrack, copied artwork created by artist Lina Iris Viktor. A motion to dismiss calls the lawsuit the "epitome of litigation overreach...based on renderings of traditional African motifs that differ from hers." The defendants argue the artist is not entitled to disgorged profits from the single because there's no causal nexus with use of the artwork, but perhaps just as interestingly are the arguments addressing the allegation that the movie and music video forced an association and harmed the integrity of her work and her reputation as an artist. Although Viktor brought copyright claims and not specifically a cause of action under the Visual Artists Rights Act, the dismissal memorandum addresses the quasi-moral rights law that entitles visual artists a right of integrity. The provisions of that law, argues attorney Robert Jacobs, "are limited to circumstances in which a defendant uses or does something to the author’s actual work, and, therefore, do not apply when — as is the case here — a defendant allegedly depicts or otherwise copies the work."