9:23am PT by Eriq Gardner
Hollywood Docket: Louis C.K.'s Legal Bill; Jay Z Beats Sound Engineer; Nina Simone Settlement
Louis C.K. not only has to make health and pension contributions to several union benefit plans, but a judge is also sticking him with a $163,000 attorney fee tab.
For FX's Louie, the comedian is a producer, writer, director, actor and editor. He belongs to multiple unions. In October 2013, Louis C.K.'s Pig Newton production company sued the directors of three union-industry plans and wanted a declaratory judgment that he was not required to make contributions, and if he was, it should reflect the time he spent in various roles on the series.
This led the parties to discuss the "controlling employee" provisions of collective bargaining agreements. With an eye towards ensuring that someone who controls work hours doesn't manipulate their schedule so as to obtain maximum benefits while paying minimum contributions, the directors of union-industry plans instituted safeguards. In reaction to the lawsuit, the union-industry plan directors aimed to hold Louis C.K. to a 40-hour-per-week, 50-week-per-year contribution schedule even if he wasn't a full-time editor.
In March 2015, U.S. District Judge Katherine Failla rejected the comedian's arguments that the directors lacked the authority to create the "controlling employee" provision. Pig Newton filed an appeal, but that was later withdrawn.
On Tuesday, Failla agreed with the defendants that they were entitled to attorneys fees and costs. She was told by them that the issues raised by Louis C.K.'s company were not only complex and novel, but also of "monumental significance to the [health and pension] plans," and that a finding in the plaintiff's favor would invalidate provisions affecting more than one hundred employees nationwide. She doesn't accept the $212,000 in requested fees and costs for such complex work, but after reviewing billing statements, she agrees to much of it.
In other entertainment legal news:
— On Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a win by Jay Z and Roc Nation against a sound engineer named Chauncey Mahan, who worked on Vol 3 … The Life and Times of S. Carter, who held onto masters, outtakes and other unpublished material and who later claimed co-ownership. Just as the district court ruled, the appeals court finds that Mahan has waited too long to pursue his copyright claims. Jay Z and Roc Nation also affirm a decision that their communications with the Los Angeles Police Department in an effort to recover the tapes is privileged and can't serve as the basis for a claim of conspiracy to commit conversion. The ruling doesn't appear to have been a close one. Mahan not only must pay defendants' attorney fees for his initial loss, but he will also have to pay fees and costs for the appeal as well.
— A long legal fight over Nina Simone recordings seems to be finally over. Steven Ames Brown, an attorney who represented Simone in the late 1980s and 1990s, has been battling to recover rights and increase royalty payments for decades. Most recently, he's been contending with Sony Music, and while the parties came close to an agreement in 2014 where Sony would have paid $390,000 to Brown, reversed $105,963 in producer costs for Simone and changed royalty rates for Simone recordings, that deal hit a snag over the scope of rights that Sony was being conveyed. The dispute then escalated into nuclear territory with a new claim that a subsidiary of Sony had uploaded more than 80 bootlegs of Nina Simone performances — which allegedly made Sony "one of the largest pirates in the recorded music industry in America." At a settlement conference in December, the parties came to a new agreement, according to a declaration by Brown in court filed on Tuesday, although this situation wouldn't be resolved without some late drama. Sony is said to have not have signed off on a stipulation of dismissal right away. Apparently, though, that will be coming soon.
— The first order of business for a judge overseeing a massive profits participation lawsuit over Fox's series, Bones, is deciding whether the fight belongs in a public courtroom or must go to private arbitration. Executive producer Barry Josephson and stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz are pursuing claims they've been shortchanged tens of millions of dollars through sweetheart licensing deals, self-dealing, improper allocations and wrongful charging costs. All told, a series that reaped more than $500 million in revenue through its first seven seasons was allegedly operating at a deficit, meaning no profits. In response, Fox is latching onto an agreement to arbitrate arising from a so-called "distribution controls" provision. The plaintiffs argue that Fox is trying to "jam a square peg into a round hole" by making too much of the self-dealing claim that contends 20th Century Fox licensed the show at an artificially discounted rate to the company’s affiliated distribution channels. According to a memo in opposition to arbitration, the plaintiffs say the "Complaint does not contest Defendants' rights to control the distribution of Bones ... Rather, the Complaint essentially alleges that Defendant 20th TV had contractual and implied contractual obligations to properly account to Plaintiffs and to pay them their fair share of profits, that it failed to do so, and that the other Defendants conspired with 20th TV in underpaying Plaintiffs."
— Gabriel Salvador claims in a lawsuit that he deserves a cut of the hundreds of millions of dollars reaped from last year's "fight of the century" between boxers Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. According to a complaint filed against Pacquiao, Frederick Roach, CBS and Showtime on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Salvador says he introduced CBS president Leslie Moonves to Roach — a boxing coach who is close to Pacquiao and also is said to train Salvador's son — and was promised a finder's fee of 2 percent of the gross proceeds from the fight paid to the networks. Salvador says that he has not been able to collect, and that his acting career has been threatened by his pursuits of claimed money. Here's the complaint.