A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the Nevada District Court’s ruling that the play Jersey Boys did not infringe plaintiff’s copyright in the autobiography of Tommy DeVito – a member of the Four Seasons – as the play did not copy any protectable aspects of the autobiography. See Corbello v. Valli, 974 F.3d 965 (9th Cir. 2020).

The Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys musical tracks the history of the chart-topping quartet the Four Seasons. The play follows band members Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Tommy DeVito from their meager beginnings singing under streetlights in New Jersey through their meteoric rise to stardom with songs such as “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and of course “Sherry.”

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Panel Adopts “Asserted Truths” Doctrine in Holding Jersey Boys Musical Does Not Infringe Copyright

On October 27, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a district court’s summary judgment ruling that scenes from the Netflix series Narcos did not infringe a Colombian journalist’s copyrighted memoir, agreeing that “no reasonable jury could find that the two works are substantially similar.” See Vallejo v Narcos Productions LLC, No. 19-14894, 2020 WL 6281501, at *9 (11th Cir. Oct. 27, 2020) (per curiam).

Virginia Vallejo, a Colombian journalist, authored the memoir Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar). In the memoir, Ms. Vallejo recounted her romantic affair with infamous drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and described the rise of Colombian drug cartels. Two chapters of the memoir were considered in the case: “The Caress of a Revolver” and “That Palace in Flames.”

Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Says Netflix Series Does Not Infringe Copyrighted Memoir

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the Act). At over five thousand pages, the Act is an amalgamation of numerous legislative measures, including further stimulus measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an omnibus spending bill. Below is a discussion of some of the tax provisions in the Act that may impact the entertainment industry.

Continue Reading Impactful Tax Changes for the Entertainment Industry

One of the oddities of 2020 is that a great many people in the entertainment and media industries became familiar with a complex form of securities offering: the SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company).

Despite having the word “Company” in their name, SPACs are not really companies. Rather, they are piles of money looking for businesses to acquire. In 2020, over $60 billion was raised in the public equity markets by SPACs (more than four times the amount raised by SPACs in 2019), with approximately $4 billion specifically targeted for entertainment and media acquisitions. Since most acquisitions involve leverage (adding debt on top of equity), the amount of cash available to acquire entertainment and media companies due to the SPAC boom will be billions more.

Continue Reading SPAC Boom of 2020 Likely to Trigger Media M&A Boom in 2022

The federal government’s latest spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Act), included $284 billion of renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and a newly established $15 billion grant program for “Shuttered Venue Operators” (described below). Congress also modified the PPP in numerous ways that should benefit businesses who receive PPP funding.

Under the Act, the allowable uses for PPP funds that will be forgiven was broadened to include, among other expenses, costs associated with protecting workers in compliance with federal health and safety guidelines and property damages caused during public disturbances in 2020 that were not covered by insurance. Additionally, the Act created a simplified loan forgiveness process for PPP loans under $150,000. Lastly, Congress clarified its original intent to allow taxpayers to deduct expenses paid with tax-free, forgiven PPP funds.

Continue Reading New COVID-19 Relief Bill Reboots Paycheck Protection Program and Provides Grants to Hardest Hit Businesses in Entertainment

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently dismissed all claims against the coupon database and news website Coupons in the News, reinforcing protections for online publications and associated photographs that are of legitimate public concern.  See Anderson v. Best Buy Stores, Case No: 5:20-cv-41-JSM-PRL (M.D. Fla. July. 28, 2020).

The lawsuit arose over a disagreement about the use of expired coupons at a Best Buy store.  Courtney Anderson allegedly caused a disturbance by pulling down her pants during the argument, ultimately finding herself under arrest for disorderly conduct. Coupons in the News, a website offering coupons, advertisements, and a news service pertaining to couponing, posted an article on its website that detailed Anderson’s alleged actions at the store and included her mug shot. The article labeled Anderson the “Pantless Couponer.”

Continue Reading Florida Court Reinforces Protections for Newsworthy Publications

Keith Boykin, a New York Times best-selling author and one of TV’s leading commentators on politics, race, and sexual orientation, participated in Venable’s Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Program on December 3. Keith discussed his personal struggles in coming out as a gay man and his efforts to promote inclusivity and tolerance for gay men of color and other minority groups.

When Keith Boykin finally worked up the courage to tell his mother that he was gay, his declaration was met with a long silence. Once his mother replied, she told him, “Well, I love you no matter what,” but she asked that he not tell too many people, “especially not your grandmother. It will just kill her if she finds out.”

Continue Reading A Discussion on the Intersection of Race and Sexual Orientation with Author and Commentator Keith Boykin

On December 11, 2020, Alan Epstein was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on the tax benefits at play in the sale of Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group.

According to the article, the price of the sale hasn’t been revealed but is said to be between $300 million and $400 million, making it the latest and largest of a spate of similar deals this year that come with significant tax benefits, both for the songwriters selling the rights and for the companies buying them. “Many of these deals are not tax-driven, but some have a significant tax flavor,” says Epstein.

Continue Reading Wall Street Journal Quotes Alan Epstein on Tax Benefits at Play in Sale of Bob Dylan’s Songwriting Catalog

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on commercial real property markets in much of the country, an ever-increasing demand for streaming content has caused existing studio space in Los Angeles and elsewhere to become even more valuable, and the demand for studio space continues to rise. In this Q & A, Venable partner Andrew Schmerzler discusses some of the long-term trends that have contributed to this increased demand, tech companies making a commitment to Los Angeles (leading to the rise of “Silicon Beach”), and how the pandemic is accelerating these trends.

Continue Reading The Rise in Demand for Studio Space in Los Angeles – Q & A with Andrew Schmerzler

A leading voice on politics, race, and sexual orientation, Keith Boykin – a former White House aide to President Bill Clintonwill bring his unique insight to Venable’s Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Program on December 3. The discussion will center on Keith’s personal struggles in coming out as a gay man; his efforts to promote inclusivity and tolerance for other gay men of color; and the importance of minority groups moving away from the idea of a “hierarchy of oppression.”

Continue Reading Join Us for a Discussion on the Intersection of Race and Sexual Orientation with New York Times Best-Selling Author and CNN Political Commentator Keith Boykin