On April 8, 2021, Variety released its annual Legal Impact Report, featuring the top in-house attorneys, litigators, and transactional attorneys in the entertainment industry. Venable partner and chair of the firm’s West Coast Tax and Wealth Planning Practice Michele Mulrooney made her eighth consecutive appearance in the report. She was joined by partner Alex Weingarten, included for the fifth consecutive year, as well as partner and vice chair of the Entertainment and Media Group Paul Bernstein, and partner and chair of the Entertainment and Media Litigation Group Lee Brenner.
Taxpayers who owe quarterly estimated taxes must make such payments by April 15,2021, notwithstanding the extended filing deadline this year. On March 17, 2021, the IRS announced a one-month extension of the tax filing deadline for individuals from April 15 to May 17 of this year. The rationale, per IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, was that the IRS wanted to “continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities.” The IRS followed this announcement with Notice 2021-21, which confirmed the May 17 filing deadline and extended it to certain other filings.
In its March 17 announcement, the IRS admonished taxpayers that the deadline for estimated tax payments remained April 15. On April 8, 2021, the IRS reaffirmed its position and issued a bulletin reminding taxpayers that estimated tax payments are still due by April 15. Accordingly, accountants and business managers with clients that are expected to owe estimated taxes this quarter are urged to make such payments as soon as possible.
To learn more about Venable’s Business Transactions Tax practice, click here.
Hollywood is abuzz about NFTs—nonfungible tokens—the digital assets that are being sold at eye-popping prices by celebrities, athletes, and artists as limited-edition collectibles on blockchain marketplaces.
Prices are being driven by a relatively small group of buyers who made fortunes by getting in early on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But as the supply of NFTs increases exponentially over the coming months, it is almost universally expected that prices for new NFTs will sputter. The NFT rocket ship has flown to great heights, but like everything that goes up, it must eventually come down. The question is: When and where will it land?
On April 5, 2021, William Briggs and Alex Weingarten were recognized by Billboard among its 2021 Top Music Lawyers. This prestigious list spotlights attorneys throughout the music industry who have supported a land rush of negotiations, new business models from livestreaming to nonfungible token (NFTs), and the ongoing need to advocate for their clients and social justice.
William Briggs is a trial lawyer and civil litigator with broad experience in the entertainment industry. William represents some of the top talent in film, television, music, and sports. He has experience in state, federal, and appellate courts, and with arbitrations, involving intellectual property disputes, complex entertainment contract disputes, partnership disputes, rights of publicity and First Amendment issues, and employment matters.
Many celebrities balance maintaining their brand by staying in the public eye with privacy in their personal life. A new California law, however, has some business managers and celebrities concerned about maintaining their privacy. With little fanfare, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 592 (the Bill) on September 28, 2020, which may raise eyebrows this year as business managers and taxpayers navigate the 2020 tax reporting season. Specifically, the Bill requires the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to revise the California resident income tax return form to include a line item for the taxpayer’s address of their principal residence and their county of principal residence. In the past, high-profile taxpayers often used their business manager’s address when filing tax returns, to maintain privacy and security. The Bill, however, takes effect this year, so that California residents must now disclose the address of their principal residence on their 2020 California income tax returns.
On March 11, 2021, a piece of digital art sold for $69,000,000.00 (yes, sixty-nine million United States dollars) at Christie’s Auction House (online, of course). That happened roughly five months after its original sale, meaning that the piece created by the artist known as Beeple sold for over 100,000% of its original price ($66,666.66), pushing Beeple to become one of “the top three most valuable living artists” according to Christie’s. Other than the price, what makes the Beeple sale noteworthy is the fact that the work was in the form of an NFT.
What Is an NFT?
NFT stands for “non-fungible token,” or a bit of digital code written onto a blockchain (also called distributed ledger technology). Through an NFT, a digital asset like a piece of art, a video clip, or the very first Tweet can be permanently registered on a blockchain forever. Ownership and provenance can be verified instantly. For the first time, digital scarcity can be achieved for digital items and, with it, the promise of higher prices for digital assets, outside of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. You might pay a small fortune for an authentic Ted Williams rookie year baseball card, but not for a reproduction made today that is physically identical in every respect. The same idea is fueling a boom in NFTs sold by artists, athletes, and others, because the digital item is registered and its quantity limited. As a result, the owner has “the one” (or one of 100 limited edition items, for example) and can prove it. In this context, ”digital” may now mean scarce, and therefore valuable.
Venable’s elite Trademark Prosecution and Counseling Group recently announced the launch of its Wellbrand service, an innovative naming solution that leverages the firm’s trademark-law intelligence to accelerate the process of finding effective brand names. Currently available only to established clients of the Trademark practice, the Wellbrand service bridges the gap between marketing needs and legal know-how, drawing on a deep well of experience to identify names that are more likely to avoid refusal by the USPTO and challenge by third parties. How can we help you “get to yes” faster? Visit Venable.com/Wellbrand to learn more.
Venable partner William Briggs was recently nominated by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve on the city’s Board of Police Commissioners. In this Q & A, Briggs discusses his journey from public high school to a prestigious law school, the legal accomplishments he’s most proud of, including his previous advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged children, and what he hopes to accomplish in his new role.
You were raised in a single-parent household in Los Angeles, where you attended a public high school. How did you get from there to one of the country’s top law schools?
I was lucky to have had some very good role models and teachers. One of whom was a biology teacher who I guess recognized that I had some potential and then helped me at an early age to get a job in a laboratory at UCLA. While there I worked for a doctor of Armenian descent who not only exposed me to a completely different culture, but also to a different way of thinking. Basically, he taught me that you don’t have to let the circumstances of your life inhibit your ambition. Like-minded friends of my mother told me the same thing, and my aunt, Dr. Dorothy Height, a civil rights activist, also strongly encouraged me to pursue an education. She had a connection with Bethune-Cookman College, a historically black college in Florida, so that’s where I ended up going.
The Supreme Court of New York recently denied a motion to seal the record in the case of Choi v. Solomon, stating that “harsh words are not a basis to seal a case, especially where it appears both sides have no qualms about tearing each other down.” Decision and Order on Motion at *4, Choi v. Solomon, No. 001-654666 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. November 6, 2020).
The case was brought by Yukyung Choi against Scott Solomon for ten different causes of action, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, and defamation. Choi claims that from 2010 to 2019, she lived with Solomon in a platonic relationship, paying for their apartment without contribution from Solomon and supporting his “lavish personal expenses.” Id. at *1. The relationship eventually deteriorated and Choi sought to distance herself, and additional plaintiff Eric Reiner, from Solomon.
New York has protected the rights of living persons to control the use of their name and likeness in commerce for over one hundred years. The existing right to privacy gives any person the right to sue for an injunction or damages if their name or likeness is used within New York for advertising or trade purposes without their written consent. See NY CRL § 51. These privacy rights dissipate at death. But starting in May of this year, New York’s new right of publicity statute will grant successors of certain individuals a right of publicity after death. This brings New York’s statute closer to that of California, which has recognized postmortem rights since 1985. The statute also grants new rights concerning the use of deepfakes in sexually manipulated content. More on that below.
The postmortem part of the statute protects only certain individuals who die as New York domiciles and only if they die after the statute goes into effect on May 29, 2021 (i.e., no retroactive effect). The rights that are granted last for 40 years after death and can be transferred by contract, license, trust, will, or another instrument. The bill differentiates between “performers” and “personalities.”