Posts Tagged lawsuit

What’s The Verdict: Comcast and Houston Sports battle over bankruptcy and alleged scheming, who is behind it?

What’s The Verdict: Comcast and Houston Sports battle over bankruptcy and alleged scheming, who is behind it?

Houston Regional Sports Network has been in an involuntary bankruptcy phase but most recently, a litigation trustee filed a complaint accusing Comcast of doing everything in its power to impair the Network in an attempt to acquire the rights to broadcast Houston Astros (baseball) and Houston Rockets (basketball) games at a significant discount.

Robert Ogle makes clear that the cable giant has a track record of poor customer service and that since Houston Regional Sports Network was set up in 2003, they have experienced Comcast’s ‘dishonesty’ firsthand.  It was in 2010 that Comcast became a partner with a 22.5 percent interest in the network and the teams, Astros and Rockets, owned the rest of the percentage.  At this point, Comcast said it would use its power to achieve promised rates, gave an advanced loan for $100 million, amongst other things.  In addition, the sports teams granted the Network exclusive rights to games through the year 2032 for hundreds of millions.  This all happened in 2010 and then in 2013 is where problems arise.

The complaint (filed by the Network) asserts that Comcast has been doing everything in its power to acquire its primary and most valuable assets, the right to telecast programming related to Houston Astros and Houston Rockets, as well as the right to receive revenue from affiliation agreements with MVPDs that carry CSN Houston.  What’s interesting is that Houston Regional Sports Network was never able to reach affiliations with a major MVPD; thus, the lawsuit claims this was intentional on Comcast’s part.  Other regional sports networks owned by Comcast were able to make deals but the major difference is that with these other networks, Comcast owned most, if not all, of the equity.

In effect, Houston Regional Sports Network began to experience liquidity constraints because they couldn’t make any big distribution deals.  This caused the Astros and Rockets to offer to sell their own equity to Comcast, but they didn’t take the offer.  So what happened next? The financial situation of Houston’s Regional Sports Network continued to grow worse, which eventually led to a buy-out offer from Comcast at a much lower price.  Mr. Ogle says that all of it was part of Comcast’s plan and that Houston’s RSN was basically a scheme.  How was it a scheme?

Comcast would put the Debtor (HRSN) into bankruptcy and automatically its value would drop substantially. With that, Comcast would make a statement of its intention to offer a great amount of money to acquire the Debtor plus assets, which would scare away other potential buyers.  Once it was clear that Comcast was the only likely buyer,  Comcast could buy the Debtor plus assets at an even smaller price than it had stated.  This is because there would be no other buyers  so HRSN would have no other option but to take the offer regardless of how small it was.

Point being, Rockets and Astros were in terrible position and the truth is that Comcast played a role in this.  The teams ended up selling to AT&T and DirectTV for $5000 which is a lesser value than they would’ve made if they simply liquidated all their assets in 2013.  Comcast of course denies all claims and allegations as entirely without merit.

What do you think will happen? Stay tuned for more on What’s The Verdict!

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What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

What’s The Verdict: Were Mike Huckabee’s anti-Hollywood phone calls more like a survey or telemarketing? Will he be held liable?

Just earlier today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit that accuses U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee along with others of violating telemarketing laws.  The lower court rejected the case, but after today’s decision, Huckabee and others will again face a class action lawsuit over millions of prerecorded  phone message delivered on behalf of the film Last Ounce of Courage back in 2012.

So, what actually happened that led to the lawsuit?

Huckabee was tapped by the film’s producers including Veritas Entertainment in an attempt to get people to a see a movie about a son of fallen U.S. soldier.  The film was Last Ounce of Courage.  To be more precise, there were about 34 million calls to residential phone lines and cells phone.  Based on the script, Huckabee was promoting the film by pitching it as ‘anti-Hollywood.’ For example, Huckabee would call residents and ask the following:

“Do you agree that traditional American values are under attack in mainstream media and by our government?” As well as, “Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?”

Two St. Louis residents, Ron Golan and Dorit Golan, filed a $5 million class action suit on behalf of themselves as well as other claiming that the calls were a violation of the Telephone Communication Protection Act and Missouri’s Do Not Call Law. Turns out that the Golans weren’t actually in their home to hear the message but were left with voicemails on their answering machine.

In May 2014, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit because the plaintiffs were unable to demonstrate an injury sufficient enough to give them standing for a law intended to crack down on robocalls.  However, the 8th Circuit judge Diana Murphy has decided to read the law more broadly than the district judge who rejected.  Judge Murphy says that the lower court judge erred in dismissing the claims.

The defendants are arguing that the calls do not fall under the category of telemarketing or advertising, but were more for information gathering with survey questions.  It is now the role of the appeals court to examine and determine the context of the calls to see if the purpose was to promote goods.  Judge Murphy states in her opinion that the messages appeared to be survey-like by asking if recipients had traditional American values, but clearly acknowledges that the producers were most concerned with getting viewers of the film rather than gathering information.

Overall, Judge Murphy recognizes that the Golans are not subject to a unique defense nor did the suffer a unique injury, but what matters for all class members (including Golans) is that the phone calls placed by Huckabee were initiated for the purposes of promoting Last Ounce of Courage.  Additionally, she does not rule on whether or not Huckabee could be “vicariously liable” and is leaving that to the lower district court.

Judge Murphy has reversed the lower court judge’s opinion, meaning the case has been revived and remanded.  The final decision will be left to a lower district court judge.

The case is Golan et al v. Veritas Entertainment LLC et al, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-2484.

What do you think the lower court judge will do this time around? Stay tuned for more updates on What’s The Verdict!

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What’s The Verdict: Update on Blurred Lines case and 7th Amendment

BLURRED LINES PRESS RELEASE

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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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Tarantino Sues Gawker Over Leaked Script

Famed director Quentin Tarantino has filed a copyright infringement suit against Gawker Media for its alleged involvement in the dissemination of copies of his script, ‘The Hateful Eight’. The complaint contends that Gawker Media crossed the journalistic line by promoting itself as the first source to read the entire  screenplay illegally. The article contains multiple direct links for downloading the entire screenplay through an anonymous URL with a caption that says “Enjoy!”. After several demands for removal which Gawker has reportedly chosen to ignore, Tarantino has commenced a lawsuit that is seemingly designed to counter Gawker’s potential “safe harbor” defense under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  John Cook, the editor for Gawker, has responded to the lawsuit by asserting the website did not leak the script. Cook claims that Tarantino deliberately turned the leak into a story and wanted the script published online and Gawker published the link because it was newsworthy. 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/quentin-tarantino-suing-gawker-leaked-674424

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Courtney Love Triumphs in Twitter Defamation Suit

After eight days of testimony, a California jury decided on Friday that Courtney Love should not be held liable for a tweet directed at her former attorney, Rhonda Holmes. The lawsuit is considered to be a trailblazing case as it is believed to be the first trial in a U.S. courtroom involving allegations of defamation on the Twitter platform. Love retained Holmes in 2009 to handle fraud allegations against the executors of Kurt Cobain’s estate. After the relationship between Love and Holmes deteriorated, the rockstar tweeted about Holmes who in turn sued for defamation claiming the tweet hurt her reputation.

The court found that the attorney was a limited-purpose public figure because of her involvement with a celebrity client and thus Holmes was burdened with demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made with actual malice. Actual malice, sometimes referred to a Constitutional malice, was defined in the the landmark 1964 lawsuit New York Times Co. v. Sullivan,  as knowledge that the statement was false or reckless disregard for the truth. Love contended that the tweet as intended to be sent as a direct message and when she learned it was tweeted to the public, she quickly deleted the comment. Love further testified that she believed the tweet to be true when she sent it. The jury ultimately concluded that Holmes did not meet her burden of proof in this case. 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/courtney-love-wins-twitter-defamation-673972

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Lil’ Kim Attacked Over Zombie Makeup Photo

After posting an image on instagram, rap star Lil’ Kim was sued over a photo of zombie makeup by a Vancouver artist. Samantha Ravndahl is claiming that self proclaimed Queen Bee “splashed” a photo of Ravndahl modeling zombie-style makeup across the internet, including on the rapper’s social media pages, and is prepared to go to court to protect the image and stake some claim in her “original makeup design”. The Ravndahl allegedly posted the image on instagram and other social media outlets as part of a step by step “how to” tutorial. The artist alleges that Lil’ Kim put her name and copyright notice on the artist’s face and makeup design prior to distributing it on the internet. The lawsuit claims that Lil’ Kim’s alleged exploitation of the image is unfair and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/lil-kim-sued-zombie-makeup-673437

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