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The Pitch – January 2023 | Chicago Popular

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The Pitch newsletter is a monthly update of legal issues and news affecting or related to the music, film and television, fine arts, media, professional athletics, eSports, and gaming industries. The Pitch features a diverse cross-section of published articles, compelling news and stories, and original content curated and/or created by Arnall Golden Gregory LLP’s Entertainment & Sports industry team.

 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton 


Copyright Claims Board: Now Entering the “Active Phase”
AGG Corporate and Technology attorney Michelle Davis authored an article for the January 2023 issue of Law.com’s Entertainment Law & Finance Newsletter providing an update on the Copyright Claims Board (“CCB”) and its outlook for 2023.

(Source: Law Journal Newsletters, January 1, 2023)


Alec Baldwin Will Be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter in ‘Rust’ Shooting Death
Actor Alec Baldwin will face a criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust, prosecutors in Santa Fe, N.M., said on Thursday.

(Source: NPR, January 19, 2023) 

 

Band v. Brand: How Did Indie Rockers OK Go End Up in a Legal Battle Over Cereal?
If you saw a portable snack package of Fruity Pebbles or Honey Bunches of Oats under the brand name “OK Go!” on a supermarket shelf, would you think that the rock band OK Go was somehow involved? That bizarre question is at the center of a new lawsuit filed by cereal giant Post Foods against the power pop band, which is best known for its viral music videos, including a Grammy-winning video for the song “Here It Goes Again.” In a complaint filed in Minnesota federal court, Post said OK Go had been quietly threatening to sue for months, claiming that the company had infringed the trademark rights to the band’s name by launching the new on-the-go packages earlier this month.

(Source: Billboard, January 17, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Adidas Can’t Make American Label Thom Browne Stop Using 4-Stripe Design on Its Clothing, Jury Rules
A court ruled against Adidas’s bid to stop luxury New York-based designer Thom Browne from using a four-stripe design on its clothing. Adidas clothing regularly features variations of its iconic three-stripe logo, while Browne’s designs often include four horizontal stripes. Adidas, which accused the Thom Browne brand of producing designs that resembled its own classic triple-stripe design too closely, had planned to seek $7.8 million in damages as well as a cut of the latter’s infringing sales, news agency Reuters reported.

(Source: Fortune Magazine, January 13, 2023) 

 

Warner Bros. Discovery Exploring Sale of Music Assets
Warner Bros. Discovery is exploring a sale of its music assets that could be worth upwards of $1 billion, according to a source familiar with the matter. Universal Music Group (UMG) already administers the publishing assets, which are likely the largest part of the deal, and Warner Music Group (WMG) distributes WaterTower Music, Warner Bros. Discovery’s in-house record label. The assets being shopped, including music and production music from the company’s television and film projects, are not the kinds of music rights that have made headlines over the past couple of years as investors have flocked to the music business. Unlike most publishing rights or royalty streams, the Warner Bros. Discovery assets are not tied to the steady growth trend affecting traditional streaming. That’s because relatively few people head to Spotify to stream the soundtracks for Game of Thrones, The White Lotus or Batman, for example, even if the television and film projects are smash successes. As such, these type of assets have historically trade lower than popular music rights — typically in the single-digit multiples.

(Source: Billboard, January 12, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Dr. Dre Selling Music Assets to Universal Music and Shamrock
Dr. Dre is selling a bundle of music income streams and some owned music assets in a deal that was seeking $250 million when it came to market, according to sources. Those assets, which generate almost $10 million in annual income, are being acquired, apparently in two separate deals, by Shamrock Holdings and Universal Music Group. Both deals are said to be close to completion and were shopped by Peter Paterno, name partner in King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, sources say. The assets include mainly passive income streams, according to those sources, such as artist royalties from two of his solo albums and his share of N.W.A. artist royalties; his producer royalties; and the writer’s share of his song catalog where he doesn’t own publishing, which may include the writer’s share of songs on his The Chronic album, which is published by Sony Music Publishing. Sources say that portion of the bundle comprises 75% to 90% of the package’s revenue and is most likely being acquired by Shamrock, which owns some Taylor Swift master recordings, among other past acquisitions. The remaining 10% to 25% of income in the package is generated by owned assets and is probably being acquired by Universal Music Group.

(Source: Billboard, January 11, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Bills DB Damar Hamlin Applies To Trademark Two Phrases
Hamlin is applying for two trademarks on the phrases “Did We Win” and “Three is Back,” per reports Wednesday from TMZ Sports. Per Hamlin’s trademark application, he intends to use the potentially trademarked phrases on shirts, clothing, hats, jackets and more. He also plans to use these phrases for “motivational and educational speakers in the field of self- and personal improvement” and “health care services in the nature of athletic training.”

(Source: FanNation, January 11, 2023) 

 

Lawyers for Dr. Dre Tell Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene To Stop Using His Music
Lawyers for rap legend Dr. Dre are demanding that Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene stop his using his music, after the controversial politician used the hit “Still D.R.E.” “I don’t license my music to politicians, especially someone as divisive and hateful as this one,” Dre, who was born Andre Young, said in a statement.

(Source: CNBC News, January 10, 2023)

 

Joe Burrow, Blake Griffin, Other Top MLB, NHL Players Purchase Corn and Soy Farm in Iowa
Athletes from all the major American sports are getting into the farming business. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Celtics forward Blake Griffin, Islanders forward Anders Lee, Blue Jays pitcher Kevin Gausman, and 20 other athletes have purchased a 104-acre Iowa farm for around $5 million, per a report from Front Office Sports. The farm produces corn and soy, and the famous investors will lease the land to farmers while asking for a single-digit annual return. Patricof Co. arranged the group, which also included Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Zach Ertz, and Sam Hubbard, that bought the farm. Mark Patricof, the founder of the company, told Front Office Sports that the market was right for the athletes to invest in farming.

(Source: CBS News, January 10, 2023)

 

Class Action Filed Against DraftKings Alleging Inconsistent Usage of Stats Related to Canceled Game Involving Damar Hamlin
DraftKings, the daily fantasy sports and sports betting site, was hit with a customer class action in Massachusetts District Court over its handling of the Jan. 2 Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game that was interrupted by the on-field injury of Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin. The court action claims that DraftKings has arbitrarily applied the statistics from the suspended game to certain contests, while refusing to apply the statistics in other contests. 

(Source: Law.com, January 9, 2023)

 

Atlanta’s Home Prices Jump 10 Percent in One Year As Production Boom Fuels Home Market
In the past decade, Atlanta has earned the moniker Hollywood of the South. The city boasts a population of around 500,000 in Atlanta proper and roughly 6 million in the greater metro area, with a rising number of full-time and part-time residents who are entertainment industry professionals. Many have been lured to work on productions like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Walking Dead and the new Father of the Bride, or to find more stable work at the 700-acre Trilith Studios or Tyler Perry Studios in the heart of Atlanta. Long a mecca for hip-hop artists and Black creators, Atlanta has also become increasingly popular with public figures from all walks of life. The undisputed media king of Atlanta — Tyler Perry — recently completed an astounding $100 million estate on 2,100 acres in the city of Douglasville, near his 330-acre studio complex. Celebrities who live or have had homes in Atlanta include Elton John, Melissa McCarthy, Ludacris, André 3000, Norman Reedus, Cardi B, Shaquille O’Neal, Gucci Mane, Jane Fonda and The Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec. Whitney Houston was also a longtime resident; the Alpharetta home where she and Bobby Brown shot Being Bobby Brown is on the market for $1.9 million.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter, January 7, 2023)

 

Hundreds of Artists Push for Copyright Rule Change on Streaming Royalties: ‘We Stand Together’
Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, Sting and a slew of other musicians are throwing their support behind a new federal copyright rule aimed at making sure that songwriters who regain control of their music actually start getting paid their streaming royalties after they do so. As first reported by Billboard in October, the U.S. Copyright Office wants to overturn a policy adopted by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (which collects streaming royalties) that critics fear might lead to a bizarre outcome: Even after a writer uses their so-called termination right to take back control of their songs, royalties may continue to flow in perpetuity to the old publishers that no longer own them.

(Source: Billboard, January 6, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Universal Music Sues Triller For Failing To Pay Music Licensing Fees Amid ‘Lavish’ Spending Elsewhere
Universal Music Group is suing Triller over allegations that the video-sharing app has failed to make payments for months under its music licensing agreements, echoing accusations made by Sony Music Entertainment in a similar lawsuit last year. In a complaint filed in Los Angeles court, the music giant’s publishing arm claimed that Triller stopped making payments in April 2022 under two different licensing deals and had missed several required payments since.

(Source: Billboard, January 6, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Widow Sues Producer of Ammerican Horror Story for Wrongful Death Related to COVID-19
The Walt Disney Company, Twenty-First Century Fox and Ryan Murphy Productions were slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit in Massachusetts District Court. The suit contends that Paul Woodward contracted, and later died of, COVID-19 in the course of his employment while working on the production set of American Horror Story in March 2021. The complaint accuses the defendants of violating and failing to enforce their own COVID-19 safety protocols as well as other occupational industry standards designed to keep the employees safe during the pandemic.

(Source: Law.com, January 4, 2023) 

 

Breakdancing Is Heading to the Olympics – But at What Cost?
Breakdancing (or breaking, as its practitioners prefer) is standing at a crossroads. Considered part of the “four elements” of hip-hop, alongside rapping, graffiti and DJing, it first emerged in the 1970s on the streets of the Bronx. The first B-boys and B-girls were typically Black and Puerto Rican youth, who lived on the margins of New York City. Requiring no expensive equipment or technical training, it was an art form that emerged out of poverty and oppression – people often got into breaking because there was nothing else to do. Today, it’s a global industry and, as of 2024, will be an Olympic sport.

(Source: Dazed Digital, January 4, 2023)

 

UTA Kicks Off 2023 With Another Acquisition: Literary Agency Fletcher & Company
The talent agency is expanding its presence in the publishing space, acquiring the boutique literary agency Fletcher & Company. Founded and run by Christy Fletcher, Fletcher & Company will become part of UTA’s publishing division, based in New York. Fletcher and UTA publishing chief Byrd Leavell will both report to UTA president David Kramer, and all of Fletcher & Company’s team will join UTA. Financial terms were not disclosed. Fletcher & Company represents best-selling fiction and non-fiction authors like Maggie Shipstead, Stephanie Clifford, Daniel Mason, John Carreyrou, and Gretchen Rubin, among others. The firm’s client list includes Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, National Book Award recipients, and a bevy of New York Times bestsellers.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter, January 4, 2023)

 

’90s Hip-Hop Duo Black Sheep Sues Universal Music Over an Alleged $750M in Unpaid Spotify Stock Royalties
Prominent ’90s hip-hop duo is suing Universal Music Group for withholding royalties tied to what they’re alleging is a “sweetheart” deal the label reached with Spotify in the late 2000s. Filed in U.S. district court in New York by attorneys representing Andres Titus (Dres) and William McLean (Mista Lawnge), members of the hip-hop duo Black Sheep, the lawsuit claims UMG owes its artists approximately $750 million in royalties deriving from the company’s stock in Spotify. Under a licensing deal they claim UMG and the streaming giant reached in 2008, the label agreed to receive lower royalty payments in exchange for equity in the then-nascent streaming company. But Titus and McLean say the label breached their contract with Black Sheep and other artists by withholding what they argue is the artists’ rightful 50% share of UMG’s now-lucrative Spotify stock — and otherwise failing to compensate them for the lower royalty payments they received as a result of the alleged deal. “Rather than distribute to artists their 50% of Spotify stock or pay artists their true and accurate royalty payments, for years Universal shortchanged artists and deprived Plaintiffs and Class Members of the full royalty payments they were owed under Universal’s contract,” the complaint reads. Titus and McLean further claim that Universal deliberately omitted from royalty statements both the company’s ownership of Spotify stock and the lower streaming royalty payments that resulted from its alleged deal with the streaming service.

(Source: Billboard, January 4, 2023) [Subscription may be required]

 

Hollywood’s Deal Dilemma for 2023: Go Big or Wait Out the Downturn?
In December, the general mood on Wall Street was that 2023 will not see an explosion of major transactions along the lines of the ones that created Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), Paramount Global or Disney’s takeover of large parts of 21st Century Fox assets. After all, companies like the David Zaslav-led WBD are still focused on making prior megadeals work, and others are waiting for what is perceived as a more favorable regulatory environment amid increased antitrust scrutiny. All entertainment companies are dealing with such challenges as accelerated cord-cutting and the advertising fallout of recession fears. Higher interest rates and decreased access to capital are also potential obstacles for M&A. Plus, sector stocks are depressed, making agreements on price tags particularly difficult. “Consolidation has been a theme in media due to the combination of rising content intensity in streaming and well-known declining linear trends,” Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall wrote in a Dec. 20 report. “In 2023, we don’t expect any major media deals.”

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter, December 26, 2022)

 

YouTube Bags NFL ‘Sunday Ticket’ Package
The NFL is taking another big step into the streaming world. The league has struck a deal with Google’s YouTube for rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket subscription package beginning with the 2023 season. YouTube will take over Sunday Ticket from previous rights holder DirecTV, whose contract is up at the end of this season. Sunday Ticket, which lets users watch Sunday afternoon games not aired by CBS and Fox in their home markets, will be available through the YouTube TV multichannel streaming video service, as well as through YouTube Primetime Channels, where users can subscribe to standalone offerings like Showtime and Starz.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter, December 22, 2022)

 

Rust AD Dave Halls Countersues Alec Baldwin
Dave Halls, who served as assistant director on Rust when Halyna Hutchins was killed, is countersuing Alec Baldwin over who is to blame for Hutchins’ death and the injury of director Joel Souza. Earlier this year, Baldwin filed a negligence lawsuit against Halls, armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, prop master Sarah Zachry and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney, laying responsibility at their feet. Halls’ countersuit, on the other hand, asserts that Baldwin and other crew members’ “active and primary negligence” were the problem. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Halls’ suit is connected to script supervisor Mamie Mitchell’s lawsuit, which alleges a blatantly negligent safety culture on the set of Rust and violations of many industry standards and norms around firearms. Halls is named in that suit because he handled the gun shortly before its firing, giving it to Baldwin.

(Source: Vulture, December 21, 2022)

 

DeKalb Jury Awards $160 Million Verdict After Underground Atlanta Shooting Deaths
A DeKalb County jury has awarded a $160 million verdict to the families of two men killed at an Underground Atlanta rap concert in 2017, according to Atlanta attorneys. The jury found Sony Music Holdings failed to protect patrons at the Masquerade venue in downtown Atlanta, the Beasley Atlanta law firm said. “This verdict represents an incredible day of justice for our clients and for the safety of all people that attend concerts across America,” attorney Parker Miller said in a statement. “Obviously, these types of cases do not come around often. This was a mass shooting in a crowded concert. There were multiple deaths, and Gio and Wells suffered significantly before losing their fight for life, as eyewitnesses outlined.”

(Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 20, 2022) [Subscription may be required]

 

‘Fortnite’ Maker Epic Games Will Pay Record $520M in FTC Privacy and Billing Settlement
Epic Games will issue the largest customer refund in history in connection with unwanted charges in Fortnite — $245 million — and pay a record penalty of $275 million for alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. “Epic put children and teens at risk through its lax privacy practices, and cost consumers millions in illegal charges through its use of dark patterns,” said FTC consumer protection bureau director Samuel Levine. “Under the proposed orders announced today, the company will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers, and pay a record-breaking penalty for its privacy abuses.”

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter, December 19, 2022)

 

Machine Gun Kelly Picks Legal Fight With Fox Network Over Rival ‘Diablo’ Trademarks
For Machine Gun Kelly and Fox, the devil might be in the details. Citing the name of Kelly’s 2019 album, Hotel Diablo, lawyers for the superstar last week quietly launched a legal battle to block the television network from securing a trademark on the term “Diablo” — the name of a character on Fox’s animated sitcom HouseBroken. Fox Media applied to register the term as a trademark for selling a wide range of goods “in connection with an animated, dog-like character.” That was clearly a reference to “Diablo,” an anthropomorphic terrier voiced by Tony Hale on the hit animated show, which rolled out its second season earlier this month.

(Source: Billboard, December 19, 2022) [Subscription may be required]

 

The 10 Biggest Music Business Deals of 2022 (And What They’re Worth)
Only two of the last year’s top 10 deals — ranked by dollar amount — didn’t involve a catalog changing hands. One was a reverse merger that made French streaming company Deezer a publicly traded company, while he other was Spotify’s latest acquisition to further its goal of becoming a one-stop destination for audio.

(Source: Billboard, December 16, 2022) [Subscription may be required]

 

Significant NLRB Move Will Aid Pursuit of College Athletes Becoming Employees
The National Labor Relations Board’s Los Angeles Region plans to pursue unfair labor practice charges against USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA as single and joint employers of FBS football players and Division I men’s and women’s basketball players. The National College Players Association announced the move 10 months after filing the charge with the NLRB office. The NCPA’s goal is to affirm employee status for Division I basketball players, men and women, as well as FBS football players. The announcement makes public a story published last week from Sportico.

(Source: Sports Illustrated, December 15, 2022) 

 

Social Media Influencers’ $100 Million SEC Charge Hints at Tighter Enforcement Going Forward
A number of social media influencers were charged on December 14 with fraud related to a “pump-and-dump” scheme which unfolded across multiple social media platforms. But securities attorneys think the case’s use of additional resources and more technical agencies suggest a new level of collaboration in the social media enforcement space on behalf of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Texas District Court, defendants Perry Matlock, Edward Constantin, Thomas Cooperman, Gary Deel, Mitchell Hennessey, Stefan Hrvatin, and John Rybarcyzk used their massive social media following to coordinate the acquisition of shares, promote the shares to their followers, and then dump those shares for “substantial profits.” 

(Source: Law.com, December 14, 2022)

 

Marc Anthony Livestream Fiasco at the Center of New Legal Battle
Nearly two years after Marc Anthony was forced to cancel his highly-anticipated “Una Noche” livestream concert at the last minute, the event’s promoter is now suing the streaming platform for causing the “complete and total failure.” In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles court, attorneys for Loud and Live Entertainment claimed that Maestro had assured the promoter that the platform’s technology could “automatically scale to accommodate the number of ticketholders” – more than 100,000 people worldwide.

(Source: Billboard, December 14, 2022) [Subscription may be required]

 

Requirements for Engaging Musicians as Independent Contractors
The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has recently been auditing Seattle restaurants, resorts, hotels, and nightclubs and claiming that, under Washington law, their musicians (such as solo artists, pianists, and DJs) are employees of the company unless they have a written independent contractor agreement. Nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that hire musicians to perform on their premises should prepare for the possibility of similar audits.

(Source: JDSupra, November 15, 2022)

 

Obscure Copyright Rule Change Might Be Big Win for Songwriters
The U.S. Copyright Office is quietly proposing a new rule to make sure that songwriters who invoke their termination rights actually get paid their streaming royalties, overturning a previous “erroneous” policy that could potentially have kept sending money to former owners in perpetuity. Starting in 2020, groups like the Recording Academy raised alarm bells that a policy adopted by the Mechanical Licensing Collective (the entity that collects and distributes streaming royalties) might lead to a bizarre outcome: Even after a writer takes back control of their songs, royalties might still flow to the old publishers that no longer own them — forever. In a new rule proposed last month, the agency said the MLC’s policy was based on an “erroneous understanding and application of current law.” Ordering the group to “immediately repeal its policy in full,” the Copyright Office’s says that when a songwriter gets their rights back, they should obviously start getting the royalties, too. 

(Source: Billboard, November 2, 2022) [Subscription may be required]

Art is unquestionably one of the purest and highest elements in human happiness. It trains the mind through the eye, and the eye through the mind. As the sun colours flowers, so does art colour life.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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