Hollywood Docket: Fox Loses Dodgers Ruling; Hip-Hop Blog Saved; Anti-Piracy Debate Heats Up

Ruling by bankruptcy judge, the difference between bloggers and journalists, and the Stop Online Piracy Act are among the items of note this week in entertainment and media law.
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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers have prevailed over Fox in a dispute about whether the team can auction future media rights in advance of a sale of the franchise.

At a hearing yesterday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross overruled Fox's objection that the planned sale violated terms of a contract with one of its affiliates. Fox had argued that it held broadcast rights through the 2013 season as well as the right to exclusive negotiations until November 2012.

Gross said at the hearing that he wasn't convinced that moving up the date would constitute material harm. "I am satisfied the proposed modifications are not material," Gross said. "That, to me, is the key."

Fox says it will appeal.

In other entertainment and media legal news:

  • A popular hip-hop blog has been rescued from copyright purgatory. A year ago, the U.S. government seized DaJaz1.com, and 81 other sites for facilitating piracy. Since the action by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, attorney Andrew Bridges at Fenwick and West has been fighting the government's charges and contending with court documents that were filed under seal by ICE. The attorney, who worked pro bono on the case, has called an about-face by the government to abandon its lawsuit a victory for the First Amendment.
  • A federal judge has refused to allow an Oregon blogger who questioned the ethics of a trustee of a bankrupt investment group to use a media shield law to protect sources. The woman has been ordered to pay $2.5 million for making defamatory statements, and observers wonder if the case could harm digital media.
  • A legal war has broken out over the estate of Nina Simone, with the singer's daughter suing her ex-stepfather for attempting to improperly transfer ownership of various assets including master recordings and personal writings. The lawsuit accuses Andrew Stroud, the late singer's ex-husband and former manager, of using shell games to transfer assets and demands he pay restitution for those itsms valued at $155 million.
  • The battle to frame the "Stop Online Piracy Act" continues. Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe is the latest to weigh in, saying in a legal memo that the pending anti-piracy bill is unconstitutional because it violates the "prior restraint" doctrine, suppressing free speech without due process. Earlier in the week, on the MPAA's blog, Paul Hortenstine made his own arguments for the bill's adoption, saying that the censorship charges are overblown and that critics have done little to show how enforcing IP rights violates First Amendment rights.