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Entertainment Law
WMU-Cooley Law School
Dulan, Steven

ENTERTAINMENT LAW HILARY 2O14 PROFESSOR DULAN

I. International Legal Challenges

a. London Films v. Intercontinental Communications

i. Facts: Copyright infringement claim; London Films does movies in Great Britain and Intercontinental Communications specializes in Chile as well as other locations; Plaintiff alleges that the films were subjects of arrangements between Dilatsa S.A. and defendant area protected by copyright in Great Britain as well as in Chile and most other countries (but not in the United States) by virtue of the terms and provisions of the Berne Convention (multi-lateral treaty where countries have agreed to enforce copyright; variations notwithstanding)

ii. Issue: Whether the court (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York) has jurisdiction over this matter?

iii. Defendant’s Argument: Since the plaintiff has failed to allege any acts of wrongdoing on defendant’s part that constitutes a violation under United States law, and, therefore, defendant claims that this court lacks vital interest in this suit

iv. Reasoning: The court has an obvious interest in securing compliance with the US’ laws by citizens of foreign nations who have dealings within this jurisdiction (purpose availment). There will be no danger that foreign courts will be forced to accept the inexpert determination of this Court, nor that this Court will create an unseemly conflict with judgment of another country. To defendant’s forum non conveniens argument: there is no foreign forum in which defendant is the subject of personal jurisdiction, and an available forum is necessary to validate dismissal of an action on the ground of forum non conveniens, for if there is no alternative forum the plaintiff might find himself with a valid claim but nowhere to assert it.

v. Holding: For all reasons stated above, the Court finds it has jurisdiction over the instant case and defendant’s motion to dismiss is denied, as is its motion o have the Court abstain from exercising the jurisdiction here

b. Subafilms, LTD v. MGM-PATHE Communications Co.

i. Facts: Beatles made the Yellow Submarine film in 1967 and 1968 and there were no home videos. Subafilms brought suit against MGM and contended that videocassette distribution of the of the picture (“Yellow Submarine”) was in violation of the 1967 agreement. The alleged violation (the distribution of the video cassettes) was in violation of the United States Copyright Act, but the violation occurred outside the US. The plaintiff didn’t allege anything else. The agreement being authorized under the USCA is not enough. The plaintiff failed to assert that the two parties do business in the states, making this more of a situation where there is a defective claim

ii. Rule: If you are plaintiff’s attorney, the general rule is “Kill them all, and let God sort them out”; Sue everyone under every possible legal theory and let the judge sort them out

iii. Reasoning & Holding: We hold that the mere authorization of acts of infringement that are not cognizable under the United States copyright laws because they occur entirely outside of the United States does into state a claim for infringement under the Copyright

II. Idea Submission: Pitches & Treatments

i. Pitch: Are ideas that are submitted orally. The owner of the idea will give an overview of a film or television show along with potential casting and what the project might cost

ii. Treatment: Short synopsis or outline of an idea for a motion picture that is written. It can range from a page or two to several dozen pages. The treatment provides an overview of the film, including plotlines, essential characters, sometimes locations and settings, and what it would take to make the movie work. The purpose is to give the reader a sense of how this project might develop on screen

iii. In copyright ideas are not protected, ideas must be reduced to a tangible medium in order to be protected. Tangible has been stretched in law to include the term

“electronics”

iv. Blaustein v. Burton

1. Facts: Blaustein brought suit for 1) breach of contracts 2) unjust enrichment 3) breach of confidential relationship 4) services and benefits conferred. The basic idea conceived by the Blaustein consisted of the following elements:

a. The idea of producing a motion picture based upon William Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew

b. The idea of casting respondents Richard Burton and Elizabeth Tay

disclosed his idea to Stallone, and thus started the breach of confidence claim. The action by Anderson was not filed until January 1987, and therefore the breach of confidence claim is barred by statute of limitations. Additionally, the defendant’s are entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff’s work infringes upon Stallone’s work (the previous three Rocky movies are copyrighted under Stallone, and the physical and emotional characteristics of Rocky Balboa and the other characters were set forth in tremendous detail in the three Rocky movies before Anderson appropriated the character for his treatment) that is entitled to copyright protection, and Rocky IV is not substantially similar to Andersen’s treatment, and no reasonable jury could find that Rocky IV is picturization of Anderson’s script

a. Derivative Work: Derived from a copyrighted work or follows from a copyrighted work or is a continuation of some sort of a copyrighted work; Includes all or part of a copyrighted work or its based on the copyrighted work

5. Holding: Anderson’s treatment is an authorized derivative work. Thus, Anderson has infringed upon Stallones’ copyright

vi. Buchwald v. Paramount

1. Facts: Art Buchwald was a columnist who wrote a treatment that was based on a state visit in Iran. His friend (Alan Bernheim) told him the character should be black. Bernheim gave the project to paramount who abandoned it. Buchwald optioned it to Warner Brothers who cancelled after discovery that Paramount was shooting ”Coming to America”, which turned out to be similar to the treatment made by Buchwald. Paramount’s obligation to pay

2. Plaintiff’s Argument: The Paramount work entitled “Coming to America”, is similar to that of plaintiff’s treatment entitled “King for a Day”. Substantial similarities include: