Hollywood Docket: Taiwanese Protest Sparks 'Les Miserables' Song Use Quarrel

Wednesday's roundup of entertainment law news includes an intern's lawsuit against MTV and a judge's refusal to stop "Snooki & JWoww."

Someone was listening when 200,000 people in Taiwan took to the streets earlier this month and sang in their local language:

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men.
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!"

Unfortunately, for Citizen 1985, an activist group leading a protest intended to force more information about the death of an Army Corporal in the country, it was heard by the rights-holder of "Do You Hear the People Sing," from Les Miserables.

According to the Tapei Times, Warner/Chappell, on behalf of Alain Boublil Music Ltd., registered a copyright complaint over a Taiwanese version of the anthem, which in Les Miserables, serves as a rallying cry against oppression.

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A translation of the song was made by a local doctor, Wu Yi-cheng and musician, Wang Hsi-wen.

Wu says he originally tried to get Warner's permission to use the song, but never heard back.

Later, after a foundation posted sheet music online, it got a call from Warner-Chappell about copyright infringement. The sheet music was taken offline. The music remains.

Tapei Times reports a quirk in local copyright law that if consent can't be obtained to modify music or lyrics, there is allowance for "usage within reason," with a local government official opining that rally music might be covered if not digital distribution.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Flo Rida, the rapper, has escaped $400,000 in a default judgment for not showing up to the 2011 Fat As Butter festival in Australia after a local appeals court ruled that it was improper to serve him papers through Facebook. According to the ruling, "The evidence did not establish, other than by mere assertion, that the Facebook page was in fact that of Flo Rida and did not prove that a posting on it was likely to come to his attention in a timely fashion."
  • More lawsuits from ex-interns hit Hollywood: Sean Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment is now facing one. So is Viacom and MTV from Casey Ojeda, who has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in New York federal court alleging violations of the Federal Labor Standards Act and the state's labor law. Ojeda says he worked at MTV from September 2011 until January 2012 and helped maintain the network's mobile website.
  • Former NFL players have brought a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey federal court over the use of their names, images and likenesses in old film footage used by the NFL Network. The group of ex-players, including five Hall of Famers, say their consent was needed and never obtained. It's hardly an accident that the players have filed their lawsuit in New Jersey, of all places.
  • It might seem like a million years ago, but there was a time when Netflix' stock wasn't doing so hot amid questions about the company's future as it shifted from sending DVDs thought the mail to one that offered streaming. In 2011, a shareholder class action was brought against the company for allegedly concealing negative trends in its subscription business and putting out false and misleading statements about contracts with content providers. Essentially, Netflix's leaders were accused of hiding how less profitable streaming would be for the company. This week, the case was dismissed with prejudice after a judge said there weren't any false or misleading statements made.
  • Speaking of New Jersey, a local judge there has turned down an attempt to stop production of the MTV reality series, Snooki & JWoww. Some residents there threw up a zoning challenge and also raised the specter that the Jersey Shore spinoff might interfere with efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.