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

Two Illinois state courts recently dismissed defamation claims related to an online article and a disciplinary proceeding conducted by the Champaign Illinois Kennel Club.  Both courts found that the defendants were immunized because the statements in dispute were unactionable opinions and were protected under the innocent construction rule.  See Law Office of John S. Xydakis, P.C. v. Reiland, No. 2020 L 3990 (Ill. Cir. Ct. May 18, 2021); Boyd v. Crumpler, No. 2020-L-000201 (Ill. Cir. Ct. May 20, 2021).

The first suit, Law Office of John S. Xydakis, P.C. v. Reiland, arose from an article written by Jordyn Reiland and published by the. Reiland, slip op. at 1.  The report outlined Judge Margaret Ann Brennan’s remarkable imposition of a $1 million sanction against Marshall Spiegel and his lawyer, John Xydakis.  Id.  Judge Brennan issued the sanction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 137, which is designed to prevent and discourage the filing of frivolous and false lawsuits.  Id. at 1-2.  The Circuit Court of Cook County found that the legal news website could not be sued for allegedly defamatory statements that are reasonably interpreted as opinions.  Id. at 1.

Continue Reading Opinion Defense Dashes Two Recent Illinois State Court Defamation Decisions

On June 10, 2021, the Texas Court of Appeals held that a trial court had erred in denying motions to dismiss brought by KHOU-TV and the Houston Chronicle under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (the TCPA), the Texas anti-SLAPP statute.  The three-justice panel held that the plaintiff, Status Lounge, failed to show that the news outlets’ reports on a shooting at its bar were not substantially true. See KHOU-TV, Inc. v. Status Lounge Inc., No. 14-19-00393-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 4584 (Tex. App. June 10, 2021).

Police reports of the 2016 shooting described an altercation between the “owner” of the bar and a band member over the duration of the band’s performance. The police reports went on to say that the “manager” of the bar shot the band member and fled the scene. Both KHOU-TV and the Houston Chronicle published articles stating that the owner shot the band member. The KHOU-TV article also stated that the owner was taken into custody, while the police reports were silent on this matter. Status Lounge sued the media defendants for libel and business disparagement. Both outlets filed motions to dismiss under the TCPA.

Continue Reading You Can’t Handle the (Substantial) Truth: Texas Court Sides with Media Defendants in Libel Case

A recent decision in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals may have tax implications for talent who conducts significant endorsement or brand ambassador activities. Generally, endorsement deals often have two components: (1) endorsement services (e.g., public appearances, social media) and (2) licensing the talent’s name and likeness (e.g., for use on print and digital advertisements). In other relevant tax contexts, income attributable to endorsement services has been treated as services income, while income attributable to licensing of one’s name and likeness has been treated as a royalty. See, e.g., Goosen v. Comm’r, 136 T.C. 547 (2011) (holding that income arising from licensing one’s name and likeness constitutes royalty income for purposes of determining U.S. source income). In the limited context of determining whether income is qualified business income for purposes of IRC 199A, however, income attributable to licensing one’s name and likeness is treated as disqualified service income. But is name and likeness income subject to self-employment tax?

Continue Reading Should Talent Pay Self-Employment Taxes on Income Associated with their “Brand”?

How do motion picture studios protect their valuable content from piracy during distribution and exhibition in theaters? A recently awarded Disney patent aims to tackle such issues using blockchain, the distributed ledger technology underpinning popular cryptocurrencies.

The patent, “Blockchain Configuration For Secure Content Delivery” outlines the workings of a blockchain-based content distribution system for delivering, monitoring, and controlling playback of audiovisual works delivered to movie theaters. Through such a system, Disney may achieve an advancement in tackling the ongoing problem of piracy leaks when movies are released in theaters.

Continue Reading Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Anti-piracy Movie Distribution System