Out With a Bang: December IP News

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 @ 10:49AM

ENDING THE YEAR ON A HIGH NOTE… AND A LOW ONE

There’s some great news as we end 2018: filmmakers are suddenly free to use a lot more preexisting material in their own work.

And there’s some bad news too. Ticketmaster is once again at odds with its customers.

This month is a perfect example of how intellectual property comes into play in all forms of entertainment, whether music, sports, or film. Let’s dive in.

“YOU CAN’T SUE US,” SAYS TICKETMASTER

If you’re a big live music fan, it has been interesting to watch the changing dynamics of the ticketing industry over time. A lot of small ticketing operations vowing to take on Ticketmaster have come and gone, and by joining forces with Live Nation, the behemoth has gotten even bigger.

Meanwhile, the ticket purchasing process has become increasingly automated – and even with less labor involved, ticket surcharges continue to rise.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Ticketmaster’s longstanding anti-scalping policy… or has it?

A group of angry Ticketmaster customers have filed a class action lawsuit in Northern California alleging otherwise. While Ticketmaster outwardly deems scalping unfair competition, the suit claims that the service allows scalpers to purchase tickets in bulk and then begin reselling them virtually immediately.

The alleged scheme allows Ticketmaster to collect payment twice: once when the ticket is sold to a scalper, and a second time when the scalper sells it and gives Ticketmaster a cut.

These sound like serious allegations that might interest the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice…

Yet Ticketmaster argues the entire suit needs to be thrown out.

The rationale? Ticketmaster’s user agreement. Whenever someone buys a ticket to an event, they’re agreeing to a host of conditions which are in the fine print. And according to Ticketmaster, the fine print states that people who buy tickets waive the right to sue. Instead, they must enter into binding arbitration.

For the suit to move forward, the court must agree with the Plaintiffs that this was a hidden clause the company knew no one would ever read. If the court agrees with Ticketmaster that the fine print is an enforceable agreement, then the case will indeed be throw out.

Keep an eye on this one. It has the potential to be a big case with serious impact.

“SCARY TERRY” ROZIER FACES A FRIGHTENING LAWSUIT

Every few years, a basketball player comes from seemingly nowhere to capture our attention and imagination.

Last season, it was Terry Rozier of the Boston Celtics. He’d spent a lot time on the bench until he came off to replace an injured teammate. But when he did, he made the world take notice.

Along with great plays on the court came goofy antics off the court – and the introduction of the “Scary Terry” character. Rozier liked the nickname bestowed on him by his fans. His favorite movie is Scream, and he even has an image of the film’s Ghost Face mask tattooed on himself.

Soon enough, Scary Terry became a commercial figure. One of Rozier’s representatives initially proposed a mascot of Rozier wearing a hockey mask like the one from Friday the 13th. Rozier suggested using the Ghost Face mask instead. The character began appearing on clothing (a first run sold out quickly) and caught the eye of Fun World, the owner of the Ghost Face mask’s intellectual property.

Fun World licenses its IP – which is how the Scream film series was able to use the mask and turn it into something iconic. Yet no one from Rozier’s camp ever approached Fun World ask about securing a license. As a result, Fun World brought suit.

The company asserts that Rozier owes up to $150,000 for each act of willful infringement, plus damages and fees. It also seeks a permanent injunction.

Click here to find out some of Rozier’s potential defenses in the suit.

THAT’S A WRAP!

We believe in ending the year on a high note, so we’ve saved some good news for the end.

In the copyright world, you may have heard of exemptions for fair use, or the Fair Use Doctrine. But have you heard of DMCA exemptions?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, codifies the allowance of technical protection measures to copyrighted materials and prevents their circumvention. For instance, encryption software or other technical locks can be used to prevent others from copying digital files like music or movies.

At the same time, the Copyright Office has the authority to determine exemptions to these prohibitions. While these exemptions are narrower than those covered by Fair Use, the purpose is the same – to protect creators without needlessly inhibiting legitimate uses of the protected content.

Exemptions had already been in place for documentary films (just as, similarly, the Fair Use doctrine makes an exemption for news items). But now they’re available for makers of films of all genres, including fiction. This is a huge victory for the industry and will make it easier to create and share more ideas without worrying about violating someone else’s legal rights.

Do You Have Questions About Copyright or Other Intellectual Property Rights?

Our firm focuses on intellectual property and entertainment law, including copyright, trademark, and patent law. We would be happy to discuss your matter with you. Contact us at (561) 953-9300 or through our website form to schedule your free consultation.

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