Archive for May, 2015

Whats the Verdict: Will the Feds impose gender quotas in Hollywood?

Whats the Verdict: Will the Feds impose gender quotas in Hollywood?

Last week the ACLU launched a petition via email to people in the entertainment industry asking them to urge the federal government to “look into biased hiring practices” that they claim run rampant in Hollywood.

The petition comes at a time when much of the dialogue around Hollywood revolves around perceived gender imbalance and even gender discrimination. It hopes to send a message to the government saying, “gender bias against women directors in film and television is real and has gone on for far too long,” and that an, “investigation and oversight from civil rights enforcement agencies to foster reform of the industry’s biased hiring practices would be a welcome step.”

Is the ACLU overstepping its bounds? Some would say yes. Looking at the business of entertainment from a legal perspective there could be many possible explanations for this gender imbalance. It is doubtful that Hollywood is systematically geared against individuals of the female sex. Just look at the all films and TV shows that feature strong women this year. (Orange is the New Black, How to Get Away with Murder, Pitch Perfect, Cake, Still Alice, and the list goes on and on)

If Hollywood were the misogynist wonderland that the ACLU makes it out to be how would any of those projects gotten off the ground and into our nation’s theaters and onto our TV screens?

Furthermore, does the ACLU not have anything better to do? With all of the perceived injustices in our country why is it that they have Hollywood on their radar? Could it be that in their attempt to stay relevant in our 24 hour news cycle they have decided to attack Hollywood?

As for getting the government involved all I have to say is come on, really? Does the federal government have nothing better to do than look into hiring patterns in one of the highest paid industries. Are they going to carry away studio executives and content creators in shackles? Will they impose gender distribution quotas? Does anyone really want to work in an industry where their position in a company is entirely dependent on a preset government statistic? I sure don’t.

What do you think the verdict will be? Will Hollywood be left alone, or will it have to enact gender quotas?

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What’s The Verdict: Apple Inc. is bumping heads with the DOJ and court-appointed ‘monitor’

What’s The Verdict: Apple Inc. is bumping heads with the DOJ and court-appointed ‘monitor’

Apple probably sees it as a babysitter. However you may see it, Apple is under the magnifying glass after a a gentleman by the name of Michael Bromwich was appointed to be its “monitor.”  It is widely recognized knowledge that Apple is known for being extremely successful, but on the other hand also has a reputation for being a bit too secretive.

There was an ongoing lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against Apple based on allegations of the company conspiring with publishers to illegally increase the price of e-books.  This is where Bromwich came in, after U.S. District Judge Denise Cote hired him as a full-time Antitrust Compliance Officer. Bromwich was essentially hired to keep an eye on what was going on behind closed doors and ensure that antitrust laws were not being violated. Not surprisingly, Apple objected to such a measure arguing that it was far too extreme.

Within a week of Bromwich being hired, there came a plethora of issues and Apple and Bromwich were going head to head on pretty much everything.  For example. Bromwich went directly to the board of directors for interviews, which Apple wasn’t happy about.  In addition, there were issues regarding billing, invoices, and overall fees.  While Bromwich wanted a measly $1,265 per hour, he had billed Apple for $138,432 within two weeks. (I wish I could bill for that much!) Even though the computer giant can afford to pay up, they of course aren’t giving in so easily.

In order to settle the antitrust liability, Apple has agreed to a deal with the DOJ and 33 states that supplies up to $450 million.  This would only happen IF a federal appeals court affirmed Apple’s liability for conspiring on e-book pricing, which is still pending.  The settlement money amount is entirely dependent upon the court’s determination.

Meanwhile, a separate appeal regarding the “monitor” went before the 2nd Circuit judge Dennis Jacobs.  Apple finds Bromwich to be overly aggressive, which calls into question the fairness and integrity of the courts because he is court-appointed.  The hope is that court-appointed officers always act as a neutral decision maker.  Do you agree?

The case of the e-books and pricing may be coming to a close soon; however, there will be more to come regarding the appointed “monitor” to prevent abuse of antitrust laws.  How do you feel about this case? Stay tuned for more on What’s The Verdict!

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Whats the Verdict: Is Binge Watching the New Normal? NBC takes the plunge!

Once reserved strictly for online content streaming platforms like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, binge watching seems to have gone mainstream, with big networks beginning to release whole seasons online. The adoption of the binge model by big networks comes precisely at the same time that platforms like Netflix are moving away from it.

Tomorrow NBC will release the the first season of David Duchovny’s new period drama, Aquarius in its entirety online, while at the same time airing one episode a week on TV. In a Hollywood reporter article, NBC Entertainment Chairman, Bob Greenblatt proclaimed this decisions would push new boundaries, while also giving the consumer what they want.

NBC’s jump into the binge party comes at the same time as other’s are begining to question its merit. On May 21, Netflix began airing its new show, Between on a week to week basis. Hulu is also questioning the model and is looking at non binge options for its lineup, and Yahoo’s sixth season of Community is also being released over several weeks.

At the root of this shift is the need to create buzz. Content creators want to be able to build buzz around their shows, that continue over a period of time. The binge model allows for much of this build up. However, once the show is released the hype plummets. Serial releasing of content, on a week by week basis allows for hype to be built throughout a season.

As big networks like NBC move to catch up to online content providers like Netflix, more and more shows will be released on the binge model. The implications of this for the industry could be huge. Networks will have to create more and more content. This means that season story lines will become much longer. This also means that Networks will have to green light more shows. If they no longer have to worry about the physical confines of airtime, networks will be able to produce more shows for online viewers.

The real question is wether or not this is what the consumer wants. Will weekly entertainment transition into becoming fourteen hour obligations to watch an entire season in one weekend? What implications will this have on hiring patterns? What does this trend mean for payouts in the industry?

What do you think the verdict will be?

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What’s The Verdict: Hollywood Falling Short of Guild Agreements over Original Soundtrack Music Recycling?

What’s The Verdict: Hollywood Falling Short of Guild Agreements over Original Soundtrack Music Recycling?

The state of originality over in Hollywood has been under scrutiny lately.  A new lawsuit was just filed against the largest film and television studios just this morning by the American Federation of Musicians.  Apparently, these studios, including Sony, Viacom, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros all violated terms of an agreement by recycling previously recorded film soundtracks.

While the American Federation of Musicians argue that in guild agreements “All music sound track already recorded…will not be used at any time for any purpose whatsoever except to accompany the picture for which the music sound track was originally prepared….” But these guidelines were not being followed.  For example, 33 seconds of music from Cast Away was used in Bridesmaids and 18 seconds of music from Jaws was used in Little Fockers, amongst other examples.

The American Federation is shaking their finger at the studios essentially saying ‘this is a big no no.’  The complaint was filed in California federal court this morning.  You may read the complaint here.  

Stay tuned on What’s The Verdict for more updates.

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What’s The Verdict: Grand Theft Auto Makers suing the BBC for film that covers the real-life conflict over its violent content.

What’s The Verdict: Grand Theft Auto Makers suing the BBC for film that covers the real-life conflict over its violent content.

Things are getting personal.

The US based video game company, Rockstar Games, is the maker of the Grand Theft Auto series; Its parent company, Take Two interactive, is filing suit against the BBC over the production of a film starring Daniel Radcliffe.  But, there’s more to it.  The 90-minute long film titled Game Changer is basically a documentary on Rockstar itself and the creation of the best-selling series, including both challenges and success.

In particular, the film showcases the real life battle between Rockstar’s Sam Houser and activist Jack Thompson. Houser is a British Developer to be played by Daniel Radcliffe and Thompson the lawyer and activist will be played by Bill Paxton. The two parties clashed when Thompson initiated a campaign against the Grand Theft Auto series due to the extensive amount of violence and sex in an attempt to get to stop the violent games from fallings into the hands of children. He believed there was a link between children playing violent video games and violent behavior.  Thompson filed several lawsuits objecting to the violence in the games.  In response, Rockstar asserted their First Amendment Rights.

All of this will be featured in Game Changer.  However, Rockstar isn’t going to let this slide so easily. Their goal is to ensure that “trademarks are not misused in the BBC’s pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games.”  A copy of the complaint filed against the BBC has not yet been released; however, the argument in itself seems a bit ambiguous in terms of how it will actually be infringing on intellectual property.

Lastly, it would be pretty wild for a court to object to a film that covers a First Amendment battle between two parties.  Let’s see what happens. Stay tuned for updates on What’s The Verdict!

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What’s The Verdict: The Weinstein Company Using Genius Products as a Personal Bank Account?

What’s The Verdict: The Weinstein Company Using Genius Products as a Personal Bank Account?

This past Thursday, a trustee for a bankrupt home video company, Genius Products, has filed a multi-million dollar multi-claim lawsuit against The Weinstein Company, with accusations of perpetrating a fraud scheme and demanding the return of more than $130 million!  It was in 2011 that Genius Products, LLC was forced into involuntary bankruptcy by World Wrestling Entertainment and two other companies over $8.5 mill in debt. According to the newest complaint from Chapter 7 trustee Alfred Siegel, by 2011 Genius Products was already in debt thanks to “onerous and one-sided” agreements forced upon it by The Weinstein Company.  Essentially, The Weinstein Company is being accused of treating Genius as its personal bank account and transforming ESPN, Discovery and Genius’ other licensors into unsecured creditors.

The attorney for The Weinstein Company says his client lists tens of millions on Genius and that Genius’ story does not align with the real story.  So, what is the story?

Weinstein formed Genius in 2005 gaining the exclusive rights to distribute Weinstein home videos in the US.  The following year, 2006, Genius would become an independent company and in accordance with an operating agreement, TWC held onto 70 percent.  Supposedly, becoming an independent company was a sham to mislead third parties, where Weinstein would have full control over Genius and distribution agreements that made it impossible for Genius to operate profitably. Another way in which Genius was allegedly disadvantaged by TWC is the requirement that it keep about 40 employees exclusively working on Weinstein titles at a cost of $2 mill per year.  Despite an exclusive right to distribute, Genius was not permitted to distribute in Blu-Ray and other new formats.

All in all, it looks like The Weinstein Company dictated the agreement terms in a way that pretty much all the revenue from the home video distribution was transferred to Weinstein and all expenses were paid the ‘Debtor’ or Genius Products. This is all said to have gone on for about 2 years, up until 2008 when Genius was seriously running out of money.   What happened next is that Weinstein transferred its majority ownership to an investment firm, Quadrant Management, Inc. as a means of removing itself from the relationship as a minimal cost.

While Genius Products claims this was a major fraud scheme, TWC claims that they were actually the victim in this whole series of events.  As litigation proceeds, there will be more to come, so, stay tuned on What’s The Verdict for updates!

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What’s The Verdict: Shopping in Cannes Put on Pause After Godzilla Franchise Sues Voltage over Anne Hathaway’s Latest Gig!

What’s The Verdict: Shopping in Cannes Put on Pause After Godzilla Franchise Sues Voltage over Anne Hathaway’s Latest Gig!

Shopping to buyers at Cannes Film Festival may have come to a temporary stop. Anne Hathaway has found herself in the middle of a lawsuit as the star of indie-film Colossal, where Hathaway is a woman who realizes her mind is strangely connected to a giant lizard going around town destroying Tokyo. Colossal was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and is being described as Godzilla meets Being John Malkovich. According to the Japanese company Toho, which is the rights holder of the Godzilla franchise, the film is in fact a Godzilla rip-off.

On Tuesday, Toho filed a  copyright infringment complaint against the studio Voltage Pictures claiming that the filmmakers “are brazenly producing, advertising, and selling an unauthorized Godzilla film of their own.” Toho says that Voltage Pictures flat-out refers to their film’s monster as ‘Godzilla’ in a variety of ways.  I mean, even the writer-director of Colossal, Nacho Vigalondo, said in an interview, “It’s going to be the cheapest Godzilla movie ever, I promise. It’s going to make it so cheap that you will feel betrayed.” This seems a little too close for comfort, don’t you think?

This lawsuit focuses on the filmmakers’ publicity efforts, which have included, quite literally, infringing content. Supposedly, the filmmakers sent an email blast to potential investors, sales agents and distributors pitching Colossal with a publicity still taken from the recent Godzilla reboot AND includes a document of “Director’s Notes” with multiple images from official Toho works.

According to the complaint [made by Toho], the document makes it very clear that Defendants have not only taken the Godzilla character as their own, but also they intend to use this character in the same way the character was used in the original film — i.e. attacking Tokyo.  Another infringement claim includes the line “Tokyo is under attack by Godzilla” that is in the booklet and poster featured at Cannes.  All in all, the plaintiff is suing for copyright and trademark infringements, trademark dilution, Lanham Act violations, unfair competition and unjust enrichment. Their ultimate objective is to prohibit Voltage from producing Colossal on top of unspecified damages.

I have to say this all seems pretty crazy.  Why would such a well-established Hollywood production company partake in such activities? Voltage makes direct references to copying Godzilla.  I’d like to point out that Voltage actually has a history of fighting infringements, so I guess this won’t be a new concept to them.  What do you think will happen? Will an injunction be granted against distribution of the film?

Stay tuned on What’s The Verdict for more updates!

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