Hollywood Docket: FX's 'Gianni Versace' Series; Sportscaster's Slogan; Mel Gibson Movie

A roundup of entertainment law news including Kanye West settlement negotiations, NBC depositions and HBO's new lawyer in the feud over 'Leaving Neverland.'
Jeff Daly/FX
'The Assassination of Gianni Versace: An American Crime Story'

An anonymous individual is suing FX and Netflix in what appears to be an objection over the TV series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

Although the complaint doesn't specifically mention the show, co-defendants also include Maureen Orth, whose Vulgar Favors book formed the basis of the series, as well as Tom Rob Smith, one of the co-writers of the show.

The plaintiff recounts a 2000 settlement with Orth that resolved claims of defamation and privacy invasion. 

"At a point in time presently unknown to Plaintiff, Orth, Smith, and FXN jointly collaborated on the publication of matter concerning Plaintiff which is both false, and defamatory per se, including a false implication that Plaintiff is a chronic abuser of alcohol who consumes alcohol throughout the day," states the complaint (read here).

Other developments in entertainment law:

— David Johnson, a sportscaster who says he coined the iconic phrase, "And down the stretch they come...," is suing those associated with the film St. Vincent. According to the complaint, the defendants violated his right of publicity and trademarks when Bill Murray, in the film, imitated him and voiced his catchphrase. The complaint (read here) may provoke a First Amendment defense, though rights to the movie were transferred in the bankruptcy of The Weinstein Co., and there's no indication that Johnson's attorney submitted any claim in the bankruptcy nor requested permission to go around the bankruptcy stay.

— Farhad Safinia, director of the upcoming feature The Professor and the Madman, was recently denied summary judgment on a claim of owning the copyright to the film. He and Mel Gibson, the pic's star, have been locked in a bitter feud with Nicolas Chartier's Voltage Pictures over control over the movie. The dispute has been playing out on two fronts — in state court, where contractual obligations are at play, and federal court, where the producers answer Safinia's copyright claim with the contention that the film screenplay is a work-for-hire. As a trial nears, both sides have begun to fuss over evidence they wish to exclude. Safinia doesn't want Gibson's past legal troubles coming up at trial, while Chartier is looking to keep out the allegation that there was an offer to inflate Safinia's writing and directing fees to obtain a higher tax rebate from Irish authorities. (See portions of Gibson's heated deposition here.)

— Kanye West and EMI have agreed to put on hold a legal dispute over the hip-hop star's attempt to escape a publishing contract. The two sides are discussing a settlement, and a 60-day stay on the case is now in effect.

— With the DC Circuit about to weigh in on the FCC's order rescinding net neutrality rules, a case brought by broadband providers over Vermont's own net neutrality statute has now been paused pursuant to an agreement by the parties. 

— NBC is making two of its executives available for deposition next month in a defamation suit against the New York Post over stories about The Biggest Loser. The publication demanded documents in connection to an NBC internal probe over whether contestants were given drugs behind the scenes. According to a recent letter to the judge requesting an extension of the discovery period, the network is now cooperating with the defendant's lawyers.

— Daniel Petrocelli, the star litigator who successfully defended the AT&T/Time Warner merger from the government's efforts to block it on antitrust grounds, is now representing the company's subsidiary HBO in a legal war with the Michael Jackson Estate over the documentary Leaving Neverland. It is alleged that the sex abuse doc violates a non-disparagement provision from a contract dating back decades. This isn't Petrocelli's only case against the MJ Estate. He's also defending Disney from claims that an ABC documentary about the singer infringed intellectual property.