Hollywood Docket: Settlements for Black Flag, Eminem and 'The Expendables'

Expendables Illustration - H 2014
Illustration by: Kyle T. Webster

Expendables Illustration - H 2014

Not every Hollywood lawsuit ends with a made-for-TV court ruling. Among the pieces of litigation that have been quietly put to bed in the past week are headline-making disputes over whether former Black Flag members could tour as "Flag," Facebook's use of Eminem music in an advertising campaign and a bitter credit fight over Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables.

Here's a roundup of some recent settlements:

  • Last August, Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn sued his former bandmates Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski and Bill Stevenson for touring as "Flag," which allegedly constituted a violation of trademarks to the name and logo. Henry Rollins was sued, too, although he wasn't part of the tour. In October, a judge refused an injunction because of the possibility that the marks had fallen into generic use. The issue won't be tested, though, because on April 10, the parties informed the court of a settlement. "Flag gets to be Flag, and Black Flag as it is presently known continues to be Black Flag," says attorney Evan Cohen, who represented the plaintiff, and says that Ginn has been confirmed to own Black Flag recordings, name and logo.
  • Last May, Eminem's music publisher Eight Mile Style sued Facebook for allegedly using one of the rapper's songs for the launch of an application called "Facebook Home." The song was supposedly picked by Facebook's co-defendant ad agency to curry favor to known Eminem fan Mark Zuckerberg. When threatened with a copyright lawsuit, the ad agency is said to have attacked hip-hop producer (and sometime Eminem collaborator) Dr. Dre for being a flagrant thief who had stolen the song in question from Michael Jackson. Alas, on April 11, the parties stipulated to a voluntary dismissal.
  • Last Christmas Eve, producers of The Expendables sued screenwriter Dave Callaham and the WGA on the allegation that a fraud had been committed during arbitration to determine writing credits on the blockbuster film. Nu Image also demanded that a federal judge halt another arbitration over whether Callaham should receive $175,000 in bonus money (plus interest) on Expendables 2. The restraining order was denied, the arbitration continued and so did the lawsuit, asking among other things for declaratory relief that Stallone be given sole screenplay credit. That is, until March 31, when the parties informed the court that a conditional settlement had been reached to end the lawsuit. Terms have not been made public.
  • Last August, a personal injury attorney named Bobbie Celler sued Sony Pictures Television for ruining his planned "Shark Tour and Entrepreneur Expo." The lawyer had planned to have several entrepreneurs who star on ABC's Shark Tank appear, including Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec and seasons one and two investor Kevin Harrington, but allegedly after pressure from the show's producer, they backed out. He sued for tortious interference. Sony asserted counterclaims for trademark infringement. The dispute went to trial this week, but in the middle, the parties came to a resolution to end the dueling legal claims. According to a Sony spokesperson, the settlement came after it won a directed verdict. Terms of the resolution weren't announced.
  • In October 2011, the estate of Rick Nelson sued Capitol Records for allegedly underreporting royalties. Among the allegations was the claim that the record label was in possession of up to $250 million in "unmatched income," money that Capitol claimed it couldn't link to any particular artist. The heirs of the author of songs including "Travelin' Man" and "Poor Little Fool" have now reached a deal. Neville Johnson, the attorney for the plaintiff, said the issue was "amicably resolved."
  • Last September, The Walt Disney Company was sued for copyright infringement over allegations that it infringed typeface fonts to create merchandise for the animated film Cars. Hypefortype, the plaintiff, claimed that the studio hadn't purchased licenses to use its software and had used it anyway to create items like a "Lightning McQueen Reusable Tote." It was represented by Frank Martinez, a Brooklyn lawyer who has brought quite a few font infringement lawsuits against entertainment and media companies. Those settled and this one appears to as well. Papers to dismiss the case were filed on March 31.