News

Court Ruling Could Help Redskins in Trademark Case

A U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that says the government cannot reject trademarks it deems offensive to others could help the Washington Redskins defend the team's own trademark protections. The Federal Circuit court’s ruling comes in a case involving an American-Asian band, The Slants, whose application to trademark its name was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The court said banning offensive trademarks violates the First Amendment. The Redskins are currently appealing the government’s pending withdrawal of its trademark protection. Read more from The Washington Post.

read more »

Hip-Hop Artists File Brief Supporting Suspended Student

Several hip-hop artists filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of a Mississippi high school student suspended for posting a rap song on social media. The song threatened two coaches and accused them of sexual misconduct. “The government punished a young man for his art — and, more disturbing, for the musical genre by which he chose to express himself,” the brief says. Read more from The New York Times [subscription required].

read more »

Legal Experts: Fantasy Sites Will Continue to Operate

Legal experts tell USA Today that despite legal troubles for popular fantasy sports sites Fan Duel and DraftKings, fantasy games are too lucrative to disappear. A New York state appeals court decided Friday to temporarily allow the two websites to operate in the state, blocking a lower court’s ruling earlier that day to ban the websites from taking bets. “I think that this is just one move in a series of moves that is going to be made both in the courts and in legislatures and also before regulatory bodies, perhaps, that will ultimately wind up in the regulation of fantasy sports and not its removal,” Alfred Yen, director of the Emerging Enterprises and Business Law Program at Boston College, said.

read more »

Nashville Artist Fights Beside Attorneys for Higher Royalty Rates

George Johnson, a Nashville singer-songwriter and non-attorney, has gained attention for standing toe-to-toe with attorneys in a case that will determine new royalty rates for record labels, artists and popular internet music services. Artists and record labels are asking the Copyright Royalty Board to set the rate for non-interactive music at $.0025 cents per stream, compared to rate proposals from the service providers starting at $.0005 per stream. Johnson, the only artist representing in the rate-setting hearing, says artists and labels should be paid a licensing fee of between 10 cents and $1 for each song. Read more from The Tennessean.

read more »

Tennessee Attorneys Suing FanDuel, Draft Kings

Tennessee attorneys are suing two popular fantasy sports companies, accusing them of online gambling and seeking at least $10 million for plaintiffs. “FanDuel and Draft Kings both said it's a game of skill; however it really is a game of chance, since you're betting on players you don't control," Frank Watson said. Read more from WMCActionNews5.

read more »

New York AG Strikes Blow to Fantasy Sports Sites

New York’s attorney general ordered DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest daily fantasy sports companies, to stop accepting bets from New York residents, saying their games constitute illegal gambling under state law. The New York Times reports that legal experts say they expect the action to reverberate in other states where others are questioning whether the exploding fantasy sports industry should operate unfettered by regulations that govern legalized gambling.

read more »

Attorneys Needed to Offer Artists Free Legal Advice

Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts seeks attorneys to offer free legal advice to artists of all forms on Nov. 16 at 55 Music Square E. in Nashville. Thirty-minute appointments will be available from 5-7 p.m. for questions regarding songwriting contracts, intellectual property and more. RSVP by email or by calling (615) 460-8274. Contact Casey Summar with any questions.

read more »

Songwriter's Family Wins Right to Popular Christmas Tune

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Second U.S. Ciricut Court of Appeals panel has ruled that the family of the man who wrote the popular Christmas tune “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” will resume the rights to the song at the end of this year. The rights to the holiday melody are currently controlled by EMI Feist Catalog Inc., a Sony subsidiary. The song is the most frequently performed holiday song, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

read more »

Popular Fantasy Sports Sites Accused of Insider Trading

DraftKings and FanDuel, two major fantasy sports companies in which players assemble fantasy teams with real athletes, are defending themselves against allegations of insider trading, The New York Times reports. The unregulated businesses are now being questioned about who has access to valuable data and how it is protected after employees of both companies won jackpots playing at each other’s fantasy sites. “The single greatest threat to the daily fantasy sports industry is the misuse of insider information,” Daniel Wallach, a sports and gambling attorney, said. “It could imperil this nascent industry unless real, immediate and meaningful safeguards are put in place.”

read more »

'Happy Birthday' Public Domain Question Continues

Fast Company reports that a federal judge’s decision last week regarding Warner Chappell Music’s rights to “Happy Birthday” may not have forced the song into public domain. The lyrics may still have outstanding legal protection almost 125 years after they were assumed to be created. "It would be terrible if the effect of this decision were to put 'Happy Birthday' in limbo, and now nobody uses it, because they can't find anybody who would license them, and yet there was no declaration as to the public domain, either," George Washington University Law School professor Robert Brauneis says.

read more »

Legislators Travel to Nashville to Discuss Copyright Laws

Do current copyright laws still work in today’s digital age? That question will be before a Congressional listening session tomorrow in Nashville, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia. “In the coming weeks the House Judiciary Committee will conduct several roundtable discussions to hear directly from the creators and innovators about the challenges they face in their creative field and what changes are needed to ensure U.S. copyright law keeps pace with technological advances,” Goodlatte and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, said in a joint statement. The Tennessean has more

read more »

Nashville Law Firm Opens Entertainment Law Practice

Stites & Harbison PLLC is starting a new Nashville-based entertainment law practice, bringing on Stephanie Taylor as a partner from Bone McAllester Norton PLLC to lead the new practice, Nashville Business Journal reports. Taylor serves on the board of the Foundation for Bluegrass Music and the International Bluegrass Music Museum. Stites & Harbison currently employs 28 attorneys in its Nashville office, making it the sixth-largest law firm in Nashville, according to the Nashville Business Journal. Bone McAllester recently added Suzanne Kessler to its entertainment law practice. 

read more »

Entertainment Law Firm Moving to Music Row

Nashville entertainement firm Keller Turner Ruth Andrews Ghanem and Heller PLLC is under contract to buy a two-story office building on Music Row, Nashville Business Journal reports. Neighbors near the property include RCA recording studios, some offices for Sony/ATV Music Publishing and a proposed luxury hotel operated by Richard Branson's Virgin Group Ltd. "We're excited. With us being an entertainment firm, it's a natural fit,” said Jason Turner, one of the firm’s founding partners. The firm, with clients including OneRepublic and the Backstreet Boys, is currently located in the Terrazzo tower in the Gulch.

read more »

Nashville Judge Throws Out Athletes’ ‘Pay for Play’ Case

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by 10 former college football and basketball players who alleged their images were improperly used without their permission by broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences, the Tennessean reports. Chief District Judge Kevin H. Sharp ruled in Nashville yesterday that the players' claims that they were entitled to monetary compensation because they played in televised games do not represent a sufficient case. The ruling, however, runs counter to the findings in a similar California case and likely sets the stage for consideration by multiple appeals courts according to observers.

read more »

Appeals Court Protects Controversial Muslim Film

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reversed an earlier takedown order for the “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Muslim film that has resulted in death threats against an actress who says she did not authorize filmmakers to use her image and words. The appeals court said the takedown order, issued by a three-judge panel of the court, was an unconstitutional prior restraint under the First Amendment. The actress had filed suit to have the film removed from all Google sites, including You Tube. The ABA Journal has links to the story.

read more »

Event to Benefit Legal Assistance for the Arts

The Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville, in conjunction with the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, will host a fundraiser May 27 for the Tennessee Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts. The event will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the W.O. Smith School. It will include food, live music and a silent auction. Contact Kelly Donley to learn more.

read more »

CLE Looks at ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict

Learn more about the inside perspective on negotiating publishing deals and the “Blurred Lines” verdict at this year’s annual Entertainment and Sports CLE held at Belmont University College of Law on May 14. Visit TBA CLE for more information.

read more »

Is Birch a Candidate to Run Titans?

An ESPN reporter is suggesting a familiar name in the Nashville legal community as a potential candidate to run the Tennessee Titans -- Adolpho Birch. The Nashville native and son of former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice A. A. Birch is the NFL’s senior vice president of labor policy and government affairs. He is also a Vanderbilt Law School grad.

read more »

Nashville Lawyer Wins Big for Marvin Gaye’s Family

Pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed on the copyright for Marvin Gaye's hit song "Got to Give It Up," according to a Tuesday verdict from a federal jury, which awarded Gaye's family $7.4 million. The case marked a monumental win for Nashville entertainment law attorney Richard Busch of King and Ballow, who represented the Gaye family. The contentious and sometimes weird legal battle centered on Thicke and Williams' 2013 song "Blurred Lines.” The Tennessean has the story.

read more »

Chicago Entertainment Firm Opens Nashville Office

Leavens, Strand & Glover (LSG), a Chicago-based entertainment law firm, has opened an office on Nashville’s Music Row. LSG partner Hillel Frankel will relocate to Nashville to lead the office, which will be located at 1102 17th Ave. S., Nashville 37212. LSG focuses in music, film, entertainment and intellectual property law. Clients include Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, Pitchfork Media Inc. and Rick Nielsen, lead guitarist of classic rock band Cheap Trick, the Nashville Business Journal reports.

read more »

Songwriter Equity Act Again Introduced in Congress

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers yesterday introduced the Songwriter Equity Act. Led by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Georgia, the legislation would allow the special royalty rate-setting board to consider the fair market value of a song when setting digital royalty rates. Music industry advocates believe this would lead to better royalty payments for songwriters and publishers. While an identical bill went nowhere last year, supporters hope it may fare better this year in the now GOP-controlled congress, the Tennessean reports.

read more »

Predators CLE Feb. 24

Go inside the world of sports and entertainment law at the upcoming Predators CLE at Bridgestone Arena on Feb. 24. This CLE will offer a detailed look into the world of sports and entertainment, with winning advice from top professionals including former Nashville Predators players and a professional sports manager. Registration includes a pregame social hour and tickets to the Predators matchup with the Colorado Avalanche. Visit TBA CLE to register or for more information.

read more »

Belmont Appoints Dean of Curb College

Belmont University has appointed Doug Howard to the position of dean for the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. A 1979 alumnus of Belmont, Howard received his law degree from the George Washington University School of Law. Following law school, Howard served as vice president and general manager for PolyGram Music Publishing for five years before becoming the senior vice president of A&R for Lyric Street Records, a division of the Walt Disney Company. Howard is the president and owner of Vandermont Music Group, a company he founded in 2010.

read more »

IP Law Firm Partners with Project Music Accelerator Program

Patterson Intellectual Property Law today announced its partnership with Project Music, a music and technology business accelerator program. Developed in partnership with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and the Country Music Association, Project Music guides eight tech start-up companies through an intensive 14-week business development and music business boot camp. All eight start-ups in the program are building businesses to work with the music industry.

read more »

Dallas Entertainment Law Firm Adds 3 Nashville Attorneys

Dallas-based entertainment law firm Shackelford, Zumwalt & Hayes has added three attorneys to the firm’s Nashville office, which opened in 2010. Jay Bowen, Will Parsons and Lauren Kilgore will head the firm's litigation practice in Nashville, which previously specialized in entertainment business and commercial law, according to a news release. The firm will now be known as Shackelford, Bowen, Zumwalt & Hayes. It is part of Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton. The Nashville Busines Journal has more.

read more »