Venable is pleased to announce that Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam has joined the firm as a partner in the eCommerce, Privacy, and Cybersecurity Practice in its Los Angeles office. Mr. Nigam has nearly 25 years of experience in solving online security, privacy, and safety challenges facing celebrities, pro athletes, high-net-worth individuals, corporations, and start-ups, as well as government and law enforcement. He has extensive experience conducting end-to-end cyber assessments and protection and often provides counsel on cutting-edge online privacy and security issues. Mr. Nigam seeks justice for entertainment and sports professionals who are cyberstalked, hacked, or harassed, or who have fallen victim to other forms of online attacks.

Continue Reading Venable Expands Service Offerings for the Entertainment and Media Industry with the addition of Privacy and Cybersecurity Veteran Hemanshu Nigam

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

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.


Continue Reading Entertainment Attorney William Briggs Discusses his Journey to a Successful Legal Career

On November 17, 2020,  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated William Briggs to serve on the city’s Board of Police Commissioners.

“Our city is leading the movement to reimagine public safety, revitalize our commitment to racial justice and support our courageous police officers who keep our city safe. And I’m confident that William Briggs will bring an extraordinary record of leadership and commitment to the fight for fairness, equity, and a safer Los Angeles,” said Mayor Garcetti.

Mr. Briggs is a leading trial lawyer and civil litigator with extensive experience providing counsel to some of the most recognizable names in the film, television, music, and sports industries. He has received numerous accolades for his work in the entertainment industry, including being named a Most Influential Minority Attorney and Top Litigator & Trial Lawyer by the Los Angeles Business Journal. He was also recognized by The Hollywood Reporter as a Power Lawyer and by Billboard as a Top Music Lawyer.
Continue Reading Venable Entertainment Attorney William Briggs Nominated to Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners

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 June 1, the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force (Task Force), composed of representatives of producers and the unions of the motion picture and television industries, submitted to the governors of California and New York a white paper proposing guidelines for the resumption of motion picture, television, and streaming production (White Paper). The White Paper presents the consensus of the Task Force regarding the circumstances under which content production can safely resume, with an emphasis on regular testing, sanitation, physical distancing, and education and training. The White Paper also addresses unique production-specific concerns, such as preventing infections from equipment that is commonly shared and not feasibly disinfected (e.g., lighting / electrical cables and certain props, costumes, accessories, wigs, and other specialty items), and special guidelines for casts that include minors or animals.
Continue Reading Industry Task Force Proposes Guidelines to Restart Production in California and New York

Last week, it was announced that eminent entertainment law firm Grubman, Shire, Meiselas and Sacks (Grubman) was the victim of a significant cyberattack. Current reports suggest that in addition to encrypting the firm’s data, so that the firm cannot gain access to its own files, the perpetrators made away with a massive amount of privileged data, including contracts, nondisclosure agreements, phone numbers, email addresses, and private correspondence of the firm’s clients. The attack has garnered international attention for the high-profile individuals potentially affected and the large public ransom demand, which stands at $42,000,000 as of this writing.

The attack involved the use of well-known ransomware (called REvil/Sodinokibi), which has been used in a number of other high-profile cyberattacks, such as the one on foreign exchange firm Travelex. The identities of the attackers are not publicly known, but the track record of REvil’s operators suggests they are sophisticated and experienced. The perpetrators have released a handful of documents to prove the validity of their claims, and sources suggest that they will publish the data in installments if their demands are not met.
Continue Reading The Grubman Ransomware Attack and What It Means for the Cyber Risks That You May Face

For many entertainment businesses, the recent congressional stimulus has proved to be a smash hit. The IRS, however, is a tough critic and is looking to claw back some of that money by disallowing deductions associated with such stimulus funds. On April 30, 2020, the IRS released Notice 2020-32 (the Notice), which provides some clarity regarding the tax treatment of loans received pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Specifically, the Notice clarifies that any expenses paid with proceeds from forgiven PPP loans are not deductible for federal tax purposes. In an earlier post, we raised the question of whether such a deduction would be allowed; now the IRS has answered, but it may not get the last word on this issue.
Continue Reading No Deductions (Yet) for Business Expenses Paid with Paycheck Protection Loans

As the entertainment industry continues to adjust to a new normal, a largely forgotten provision of the Internal Revenue Code may provide welcome relief to both entertainment businesses and their employees during these uncertain times. The provision would allow individuals to receive tax-free payments from their employers while still giving employers the benefit of a deduction for such payments. The tax relief in question hearkens back to an earlier national crisis: following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act of 2001, which was intended to provide federal tax relief to victims of national disasters. Among the tax provisions to stem from this legislation was Internal Revenue Code Section 139 (Section 139).

Section 139 permits individuals to exclude from gross income for federal income tax purposes payments from any source (including an employer) that are qualified disaster relief payments. Qualified disaster relief payments include, among other things, payments and reimbursements for reasonable and necessary medical, personal, family, living, or funeral expenses that are incurred by an individual as a result of a qualified disaster[1] and not otherwise compensated (e.g., by insurance). Significantly, employers are able to deduct such payments for federal income tax purposes. Section 139 payments are also not subject to any federal withholding obligations and, therefore, do not need to be reported on a Form W-2 or 1099.


Continue Reading Take Two for an All-But-Forgotten Disaster Relief Provision of the Tax Code