On May 10, 2021, Shane Nix and Sam Djahanbani published “Taxing Termination Rights” in Los Angeles Lawyer and were featured on the cover of the magazine’s 37th annual Entertainment Law Issue.

The following is an excerpt from the article:

As the music touring industry faced an almost overnight collapse with the pandemic entirely shutting down touring in 2020, music streaming revenues surged by more than $1 billion as fans streamed more music while under quarantine. Ultimately, however, global music revenue declined by 25% as a whole. And with musicians losing two-thirds of their income in 2020, music artists may continue to pursue alternative monetization, including in the form of catalogue sales. Meanwhile, as older generations increase music consumption through streaming platforms, the demand for older catalogues has dramatically increased. These factors, among others, may partially contribute to the increase in catalogue sales at massive multiples.  It is conceivable that some musicians may exercise their copyright termination rights in order to renegotiate their original deals under current favorable market conditions. 

Click here to access the article.

Continue Reading Shane Nix and Sam Djahanbani Publish “Taxing Termination Rights” in Los Angeles Lawyer, Featured on the Cover of the 37th Annual Entertainment Law Issue

In a case involving Andy Warhol’s works known as the “Prince Series,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reined in the fair-use defense for visual art that is based on copyrighted photos. The works consist of fourteen silkscreen prints and two pencil illustrations based on an unpublished photo of musical artist Prince taken by professional photographer Lynn Goldsmith. In its ruling, the Court clarified that a secondary work must convey a “‘new meaning or message’ entirely separate from its source material” when it does not “comment on or relate back to” the copyrighted material. Using that clarification in its fair-use analysis, the panel found that Warhol’s Prince Series was not fair use. The panel also found that the Prince Series works are substantially similar to Goldsmith’s original photograph.

In 1981, Goldsmith took twenty-three photos of Prince, held a copyright in each of those photos, and licensed one to Vanity Fair as an “artist reference.” Vanity Fair then commissioned Andy Warhol to use that unpublished photo to create an illustration for an article about Prince. But Warhol didn’t stop there. Without Goldsmith’s permission, Warhol used the photo to make fifteen more works, creating the Prince Series.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Finds Andy Warhol’s Use of Prince Photograph Not Fair Use

On April 12, 2021, Alex Weingarten was featured on WealthManagement.com’s podcast, Celebrity Estates: Wills of the Rich and Famous, where he discussed the tumultuous estate of R&B singer Aretha Franklin and the need for good communication when developing an estate plan.

According to the podcast, it was believed at the time of her passing that Franklin left no will, therefore leaving her estate to be divided equally among her children. Since then, new developments have surfaced. Four separate wills were found in Franklin’s home, three handwritten and one typed but not signed, leading to a litigious estate battle.

Continue Reading Celebrity Estates Features Alex Weingarten on the Tumultuous Estate of Aretha Franklin

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.

Continue Reading Michele Mulrooney, Alex Weingarten, Paul Bernstein, and Lee Brenner Recognized in Variety’s 2021 Legal Impact Report

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?

Continue Reading NFTs: From Rocket Ship to Main Street?

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.

Continue Reading William Briggs and Alex Weingarten Recognized Among Billboard’s 2021 Top Music Lawyers

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.

Continue Reading New Disclosure Law for California Taxpayers: A Huge Breach of Privacy? Probably Not.

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.

Continue Reading NFTs Promise Digital Scarcity Through the Blockchain for Artists, Athletes, and Celebrities – and an Abundance of New Legal Issues

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.