In a now famous Oscar speech from 2018, Frances McDormand encouraged more diverse hiring in the film industry. “I have two words to leave you with tonight,” she told the audience as she accepted her Best Actress trophy,—“Inclusion Rider.” Most viewers had no idea what she meant, prompting immediate online searches of the term.

Prior to this, April Reign had created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in response to the lack of diversity at the 2015 Oscars, when all twenty acting nominations were awarded to white actors. This criticism of an awards season that failed to reflect the actual makeup of those working in the industry and of movie-goers nationwide seemed to take the Academy by surprise. The issue persisted, however, when the miniseries Hollywood, about a diverse group of aspiring actors and filmmakers trying to make their dreams come true during the post-World War II era, hit our screens this spring. While some criticized the tone, writing, and artistic license taken, many viewed the show as illustrative of what Hollywood could have been if it had allowed for more diversity, both in front of and behind the camera.

Continue Reading The Academy’s New Standards For Best Picture—A Bold Chapter In The Name of Inclusivity

On July 27, Melissane Velyvis successfully argued that a Domestic Violence Protective Order (the Order) was an unconstitutional prior restraint on her freedom of expression. Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus sustained Velyvis’ demurrer to a misdemeanor complaint brought against her for violating the Order in People v. Velyvis, Case No. CR211376A.

The Order prohibited Ms. Velyvis from posting anything on social media, blogs, or the internet regarding her ex-husband, Dr. John Velyvis, or his children. Dr. Velyvis applied for an order to curb posts on Ms. Velyvis’ blog, The Voice of Melissane Velyvis, which detailed the domestic abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of Dr. Velyvis, and other events leading up to and resulting from the couple’s divorce. The blog describes Ms. Velyvis as a “survivor of non-fatal strangulation.”

Continue Reading Blogger’s Descriptions of Domestic Violence Protected by Freedom of Expression

This summer, the United States Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In a 6-3 opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch found that “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex,” and as a result, “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” Bostock v. Clayton Cnty., Ga., 590 U.S. __ (2020).

While this landmark decision ensures that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories under federal law, many individual states and localities provide varying degrees of protection for LGBTQ+ workers. For employers in the entertainment industry, it is important to be aware of these state and local laws when structuring and implementing employment policies, as those laws can significantly impact prospective liability.

Continue Reading Following a Landmark Decision for LGBTQ+ Workers, State and Local Laws Impacting the Entertainment Industry Are Still Vastly Different

In a published opinion, the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s ruling that CBS News did not defame a pharmacist in its reporting on the opioid crisis, agreeing that the statements at issue were substantially true. See Ballengee v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., No. 18-2018 (4th Cir. Aug. 3, 2020).

The ruling protects CBS’s award-winning investigative reporting on the opioid crisis.  It also demonstrates the enduring need for defamation law’s “substantial truth doctrine,” which excuses minor factual inaccuracies as long as the substance, gist, or sting of the statement remains true.  See Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, 501 U.S. 496, 517 (1991). Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Rejects Pharmacist’s Opioid Defamation Claims Against CBS

With the rise of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, the demand for online content has increased exponentially. Given this new reality, online content creators must take steps to ensure that their online creations don’t land them in legal hot water. One of the most prevalent cross-industry issues is music licensing. Music is everywhere in online content and often plays an integral part in the overall experience. From video game players streaming music as they show off their skills on the largest video platforms to fitness instructors using popular music to pump up their workout classes, individuals and companies must ensure that they don’t run afoul of the copyright laws when they incorporate music into their online content.

Continue Reading Legal Implications of Syncing Copyrighted Music with Other Content

Although many businesses providing services in the field of performing arts are not eligible for the qualified business income (QBI) deduction, some entertainment businesses that do not fall in this category have taken the position that they do qualify.  Recent indicators from the IRS, however, suggest that taxpayers claiming the QBI deduction may be subject to increased audit risk in the near future. Continue Reading Taxpayers Claiming QBI Deduction May Face Increased Audit Risk

The California Court of Appeal (the Court) has affirmed a trial court’s grant of preliminary injunction, enjoining HomeAdvisor’s use of allegedly misleading language in advertisements.  See People ex rel. Gascon v. HomeAdvisor, Inc., No. A154960 (Cal. Ct. App. June 5, 2020).

The lawsuit was brought by the People of the State of California (the People), acting by and through the San Francisco District Attorney.  Specifically, the People claimed that HomeAdvisor’s advertisements were “false and misleading because they are likely to deceive consumers into believing that all service professionals hired through HomeAdvisor who come into their homes have passed criminal background checks.  That is not the case.  The only person who undergoes a background check is the owner/principal of an independently-owned business.”  Id. at *1. Continue Reading Court of Appeal Affirms: No First Amendment Protection for Misleading Commercial Speech

Among the countless casualties of COVID-19, many much-anticipated events had to be canceled. Instead, some of the world’s largest entertainment industry events are becoming virtual experiences.

Comic Con, which boasts over 135,000 annual attendees, announced that its in-person convention will be replaced in 2020 by a virtual experience. Lollapalooza, an annual music festival in Chicago, will also be virtual this summer. Even the venerable Cannes Film Festival has moved online.

These virtual formats pose new legal challenges, however, including cybersecurity threats, consumer privacy policies, and music licensing. Continue Reading Virtual Events Raise Real World Legal Issues

A Texas Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a case against Kirkstall Road Enterprises (Kirkstall), the production company behind the true-crime show The First 48, holding that Kirkstall could not be held liable for the shooting of a man who appeared as a witness on one of the show’s episodes.

The First 48 is a nationally-broadcasted show that features investigations of real homicide cases.  Each episode follows homicide detectives in the first 48 hours of their investigation and includes both reenactments of events surrounding the investigation as well as actual recordings of police interviews of different witnesses. Continue Reading First Amendment Protects True-Crime Show From Negligence Liability

An increasing number of celebrities and social media personalities are endorsing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) products through social media. Many of these “influencers,” however, fail to account for and comply with the complex regulatory environment surrounding CBD advertisements. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both limit the use of certain language in CBD endorsements. As these advertisements attempt to reach the broadest possible audience, violations by influencers are especially noticeable to regulators, who have stepped up their enforcement efforts in this area. Continue Reading CBD Advertisements: What Celebrity Influencers Need to Know