More than two years have passed since the tragic helicopter crash that killed basketball player Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and all others on board the January 26, 2020 flight. Since that time, several cases related to the crash have been working their way through the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, including two brought by Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant and mother of Gianna Bryant. One case, brought by Vanessa Bryant against the owners of the helicopter and the estate of the helicopter’s pilot, was settled by the parties and voluntarily dismissed with prejudice on December 14, 2021.[1] The other case was brought by Vanessa Bryant against the County of Los Angeles and others, alleging severe and continuing emotional distress caused by Los Angeles County employees who allegedly took and disseminated graphic photographs of the crash site using their personal smartphones. That case, Vanessa Bryant v. County of Los Angeles, et al., No. CV 20-9582, is headed for trial following U.S. District Judge John F. Walter’s denial of the County’s motion for summary judgment on January 5, 2022.[2] The trial is scheduled to begin on July 26, 2022.[3]

One of the most contentious issues we can expect at trial is proximate causation. It is not disputed that Vanessa Bryant has suffered significant emotional injury. Nonetheless, the County is poised to argue that Vanessa Bryant’s emotional distress was not proximately caused by the alleged tortious acts of the County.[4] One way the County may attempt to do so is by using Vanessa Bryant’s mental health records to show that it was the effects of the helicopter crash itself, and not the subsequent acts of County employees, that caused her emotional distress.

Continue Reading Vanessa Bryant v. County of Los Angeles, et al.

On April 7, 2022, Venable partner Sarah Cronin was featured on the NPR podcast The Indicator from Planet Money, where she discussed pandemic insurance for the entertainment industry and her role handling insurance recovery disputes on behalf of policyholders.

According to the podcast, a lot can happen in a music venue that could result in injury to people or damage to property for which the owner could be held liable. That’s why business owners often rely on insurance to cover themselves, but policies are complex, and so are the various kinds of coverage they offer. The pandemic forced the closure of music venues around the country. Owners of many of these businesses believed their existing insurance policies would help them weather the storm, but many of those policies weren’t designed for pandemics.

Even before COVID-19, pandemic coverage was rare, but it has since virtually disappeared. “Now with event cancellation insurance, every insurance company throws on a communicable disease exclusion so that there would not be coverage,” said Cronin.

Click here to access the podcast.

To learn more about Sarah Cronin’s insurance practice, click here.

A United Kingdom High Court recently ruled in favor of singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (Sheeran) in a contentious copyright infringement case over his 2017 song, Shape of You (“Shape”). The Court granted Sheeran’s claim for declaratory relief, ruling that Shape did not infringe the copyrights of UK artist Sami Chokri’s (Chokri) song Oh Why.

Sheeran’s popularity extends far beyond the United Kingdom; he is an internationally known artist. Shape topped the charts worldwide and, with over 3 billion streams, is the most-streamed song on Spotify.

Continue Reading STEMMING THE TIDE: Ed Sheeran’s Copyright Victory Brings Changes to Copyright Evidentiary Burden

On April 20, 2022, Variety released its annual Legal Impact Report, featuring the top in-house attorneys, litigators, and transactional attorneys in the entertainment industry. Lee Brenner, William Briggs, David Fink, and Josh Rosenberg were recognized in the Litigation category. Chris O’Brien was recognized in the Transactional category.

Continue Reading Lee Brenner, William Briggs, David Fink, Josh Rosenberg, and Chris O’Brien Recognized in Variety’s 2022 Legal Impact Report

On March 28, 2022, William Briggs was recognized by Billboard among its 2022 Top Music Lawyers. This prestigious list spotlights the savviest legal counselors in the music industry.

Mr. Briggs is a trial lawyer and civil litigator with broad experience in the entertainment industry. He 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.

For this year’s Top Music Lawyers report, Billboard asked attorneys not only about their clients and achievements but also their top concerns for the music business. Mr. Briggs noted that many artists today “have been sued or have had claims made against them for copyright infringement arising from social media posts. Many have found pictures of themselves [online] and have simply reposted those photographs on their social media accounts. Those posts have been the subject of copyright infringement claims by paparazzi, who often claim entitlement to damages greater than a license fee they could obtain for the photograph. We have resolved a number of these claims.”

To learn more about William Briggs’ entertainment law practice, click here.

Venable LLP is pleased to announce the arrival of Joshua Rosenberg, partner, and Max Wellman, counsel, at the firm’s Litigation Practice in the Los Angeles office.

Mr. Rosenberg handles a wide range of complex litigation matters, including breach of contract, copyright and trademark infringement, employment disputes, defamation, invasion of privacy, and general business matters. He has represented numerous entertainment industry clients, including studios, production companies, talent agencies, management companies, concert promoters, record labels, recording artists, actors, writers, directors, producers, studio executives, and social media influencers. He has also represented manufacturers, real estate developers, high-net-worth individuals, and nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Wellman represents individual and corporate clients in business and entertainment matters. He works closely with his clients to build relationships and manage their needs, both in and outside of the courtroom. When handling litigation, Mr. Wellman focuses on complex commercial disputes involving intellectual property, trade secrets, commercial debts, corporate dissolutions, and general contract and business tort claims. Outside the courtroom, Mr. Wellman provides strategic and operational advice, primarily in the entertainment, media, and technology industries, including assisting intellectual property owners in building, protecting, and monetizing their assets. He predominantly represents production companies, global influencers, merchandising companies, developing artists, entrepreneurs, consumer product brands, and technology start-ups.

Continue Reading Venable Expands Service Offerings for the Entertainment and Media Industry with the Addition of Joshua Rosenberg and Max Wellman

On December 8, 2021, Paul BernsteinChris O’Brien, and Jim Nelson were recognized in Variety’s Dealmakers Impact Report. This recognition honors the top financiers, attorneys, executives, and entrepreneurs who forged the major game-changing deals that changed the showbiz landscape.

Paul Bernstein, chair of Venable’s Entertainment Transactions practice, advises clients on complex corporate matters. Paul handles joint ventures, endorsement deals, financings, mergers and acquisitions, executive employment deals, and all manner of entrepreneurial activities for actors, writers, directors, producers, musical artists, athletes, and others in the entertainment industry. He also represents several talent management companies and production companies.

Chris O’Brien helps clients create value through corporate transactions across a wide range of industries, including entertainment and media. Chris represents multinational and regional corporations, established companies, and nascent enterprises on a wide range of business transactions, including company formation, mergers and acquisitions, financings, and joint ventures. He is also a co-founder and a co-chair of Venable’s Blockchain and Digital Currencies Group. As a trusted advisor, Chris frequently serves as outside general counsel for his clients.

Jim Nelson is a corporate attorney, a co-chair of the Technology, Media, and Commercial Group, and partner-in-charge of Venable ‘s San Francisco office. Jim focuses on intellectual property-centered businesses that emphasize the development, production, and commercialization of IP assets. He manages a wide range of commercial contract and outsourcing engagements, in addition to his general corporate work forming and financing companies and supporting them in mergers, sales, acquisitions, and joint ventures. His clients range from startups to emerging growth and Fortune 50 companies—often located or acting globally—in financial services, technology, media, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, hospitality, and consumer products, among others.

Continue Reading Venable’s Paul Bernstein, Chris O’Brien, and Jim Nelson Recognized in Variety’s Dealmakers Impact Report 2021

On October 21, 2021, Sarah Cronin was quoted in Best’s Review on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on insurers in the live entertainment market.

According to the article, over the past 19 months, insurers have been hit with some fairly large losses, particularly in event cancellation coverage. That’s forcing some policyholders to reevaluate where they will place those risks, with some looking to captives or self-insurance as an option, said Cronin. Since the start of the pandemic, carriers insuring live events have been busy altering policy language and adding communicable disease exclusions.

Continue Reading Best’s Review Quotes Sarah Cronin on the Impact of COVID-19 on Event Insurance

Most of us know what it’s like to receive a notice that one of our subscriptions has been automatically renewed for another year. As the regulatory landscape of subscription-based offers continues to evolve, federal and state regulators and private plaintiffs have ramped up actions and challenges against companies that sell products and services on an automatically renewing basis. Last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new legislation to protect California consumers. Among them are long-anticipated updates to California’s Automatic Renewal Law (ARL) that impose new notice requirements on automatic renewal and continuous service offers with free or introductory trial periods and offers with an initial term of one year or longer, as well as stronger provisions allowing consumers to cancel services more easily and quickly. As companies quickly embrace the rise of digital technologies when offering entertainment and personal services, they should familiarize themselves with California’s ARL, as it applies to all businesses that make automatic renewal offers and continuous services offers to California consumers.

Continue Reading Looking Ahead: Significant Changes in California Law for Subscription Merchants Coming in July 2022

With technological innovation continuing to transform how companies do business, more and more entities are looking to forge strategic alliances that leverage the commercial uses of intellectual property and other intangible assets. In this Q and A, Jim Nelson and Bill Russell, co-chairs of Venable’s Technology, Media, and Commercial (TMC) group, discuss their extensive experience facilitating such alliances; how innovation is impacting different industries; and some of the most exciting new developments in the field.

Q: What are strategic alliances and how do they work?

Bill:  There can be infinite variations, but in its simplest form a strategic alliance is where one company has a particular service or product, another company has a particular service or product, and they both recognize that if they were to collaborate and put elements of those together, they can differentiate themselves in the marketplace, improve their existing product or service offerings, or create something entirely new. That’s where people like Jim and me come in. We understand how these relationships are built, we have the experience to know what generally works and what doesn’t work, and we have the skill to guide the parties in achieving their objectives, both collectively and individually, and to structure these objectives into a deal.

Continue Reading The Increasing Need for Strategic Alliances: A Conversation with Bill Russell and Jim Nelson