News

College Athletes Can Unionize, NLRB Rules

Football players at Northwestern University are deemed employees under federal law and so can create the nation’s first college athletes’ union, according to a ruling by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director Peter Ohr. Union lawyers argued the Big Ten school's football players are part of a commercial enterprise that generates hefty profits through their labor. The NCAA, Big Ten Conference and the private school vehemently opposed the union drive. The Tennessean has the story.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Bill Creates Digital Performance Royalties for Pre-1972 Songs

State lawmakers Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, have filed a bill they say would close a loophole in copyright law and establish digital performance royalties for recordings made before 1972. Under current copyright law, songs recorded prior to Feb. 15, 1972, do not pay a performance royalty to the artist and musicians. Instead, they are protected by a “patchwork of state laws and common law,” the Tennessean reports. Last month, a hearing on comprehensive royalty reform was held in the House Judiciary Committee, but with powerful interests on both sides of the issue action may not be likely any time soon, observers say.

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New Name for Nashville Law Firm

The Nashville entertainment law firm of Ansel L. Davis & Associates has become Davis Dirickson PLLC after firm attorney Landon Dirickson was named partner. Dirickson, a native of Tulsa and a graduate of the University of Tulsa Law School, has been with the firm since 2005. He will continue to represent existing clients and focus on expanding the business. The firm focuses on negotiating agreements for artists, producers, songwriters and executives. Its address and phone number will remain the same. The Nashville Business  Journal reported the news.

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NFL Sued for Consumer Fraud over Super Bowl Tickets

A New Jersey man has sued the National Football League (NFL) for violating the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The suit accuses the NFL of pricing average football fans out of the Super Bowl by only making 1 percent of all tickets available to the public for purchase at face value. The NFL says it is reviewing the suit, but notes that three-quarters of the game’s tickets are given to teams, which sell them at face value to fans who win lotteries. Knoxnews has the story.

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UK Lawyer Fined for 'Outing' Harry Potter Author

A lawyer with the London firm Russell Solicitors has been fined more than $1,600 for breaching client confidentiality rules and disclosing confidential information about a client to a third party when he revealed to his wife’s friend that “Harry Potter” author J.K Rowling was the secret author of “The Cuckoo’s Calling.” Rowling sued Russell Solicitors, which issued the attorney a written rebuke and paid damages to the author for the leak. WRCB reports from the Associated Press.

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Pop Star Sued for Copyright Infringement

Pop star Ariana Grande, her publishing company and record label were named in a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court today, the Tennessean reports. Minder Music claims Grande and producer/writer/co-performer Mac Miller copied from its 1972 disco song “Troglodyte” for her hit song, “The Way.” Minder Music is represented by Nashville entertainment law attorney Richard Busch of King & Ballow.

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Judge Allows Copyright Suit Against Country Duet

Nashville-based U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger ruled this week that a copyright lawsuit against country superstars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood over their duet “Remind Me” could move forward. The ruling found that songwriter Amy Bowen, who performs as Lizza Connor, established a plausible claim of copyright infringement by Paisley and Underwood and songwriters John Kelley Lovelace and Charles DuBois. However, Trauger was clear that she was not ruling as a matter of law that the defendants infringed the copyright. Bowen claims she performed her song “Remind Me” at a songwriting workshop where Lovelace and DuBois were advisers three years before they penned a song with the same name. The defendants argue their song has a different melody, hook and lyrics. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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Investor Lawsuit Allowed to Continue in State Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court yesterday unanimously decided that a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey R. Cooper against a movie start-up could proceed in state court. Cooper’s suit claims Phillip, Richard and David Glasser misrepresented facts to induce him to invest $500,000 in their production company, Hi Def Entertainment. After Cooper requested dismissal of a similar action filed in California and a suit filed in federal court, the defendants sought to block the case based on a federal rule that precludes proceeding on a claim after two dismissals. The high court determined that the voluntary federal dismissals did not address the merits of the case and that the claims raised by Cooper were still viable in state court. The Administrative Office of the Courts has more.

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DA: Lawyer in Vanderbilt Rape Case Destroyed Evidence

The Nashville district attorney's office on Friday accused Albert Perez Jr. -- who is representing Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg on rape charges -- of destroying evidence in the case. As first reported in the Nashville Scene, the DA's motion alleges that two witnesses said the California attorney “was directly involved with the destruction or attempted destruction of evidence in this case." The DA also filed a motion to disqualify Perez as Vandenburg's lawyer. Last week, Perez accused the DA of withholding evidence needed to prepare for trial.

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Class Action Suit Pits Players Against NCAA

Georgia and Auburn went head to head in one of the most exciting games of the week on Saturday, but both before and after the action ended, the players were all on the same team. A federal judge on Nov. 8 declared a case brought by the nonprofit National College Players Association as a class action, meaning that all Division I men's basketball players and bowl-subdivision football players are suing the NCAA unless they opt out. If they win, they will receive a slice of college sports revenue, including profits from broadcast rights contracts. Read more from Barrons.

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UT Gender Discrimination Suits Drawing National Attention

For nearly 40 years, the University of Tennessee's Lady Vols were a role model for college athletics while former coach Pat Summitt and sports medicine director Jenny Moshak provided examples of how women can succeed in sporting. But as two discrimination lawsuits filed last year work their way through the system, new filings and exhibits lead sex discrimination lawyers to believe they could become a model for similar cases nationwide. And there is plenty of fertile ground, Northern Virginia attorney and Title IX specialist Kristen Galles says, alleging that there is “massive sex discrimination in college sports.” Read more on govolsxtra.com.

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Humor: Football Game Prayers and '1st Church of Neyland'

Prayers in Knoxville's Neyland Stadium were never more needed, especially after last Saturday's Auburn game, and Bill Haltom is ready. In this month's humor column, Haltom gives a testimonial about football-game prayers and the First Church of Neyland, where its 100,000 members "pass the orange offering plate seven times a year." Read "Meet me at the 50 … and bring your lawyer" in this month's Journal.

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Court Accepts 8 Cases; Likely Will Work During Shutdown

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted review of eight new cases, including one from Tennessee seeking to clarify when an individual commits a crime for having a gun after being convicted of domestic violence. Other cases involve questions about the award of attorneys' fees in patent cases; whether it is unconstitutional for a state to require home-care providers to pay a union to represent them before state agencies; whether the federal government has a right to reclaim lands abandoned by a railroad; whether shuttered businesses must pay Social Security and Medicare tax on severance checks; and whether police, after receiving an anonymous tip, must observe drunken or reckless driving before stopping a vehicle. The final case seeks to resolve a long-running copyright dispute in Hollywood over the screenplay for the 1980 movie Raging Bull. Although much of the government is closed because of the budget impasse, the Supreme Court is going ahead with its work, SCOTUSblog reports.

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DOJ Wins 'Zero Dark Thirty' Freedom of Information Suit

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled in favor of the Department of Justice yesterday, saying it does not have to disclose the full names of the Navy SEALs and CIA officers who were key in the raid that would end in the death of Osama bin Laden. Allowing the filmmakers behind “Zero Dark Thirty” inside access to interview key players did not render the names of those officers public record, the judge ruled. The Blog of the Legal Times has the story.

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Attorney for Vandy Football Player Says DA Has Been Fair

"The DA's office has been fair and truthful in its dealings with us throughout its dealings in this case," Roger May told the media Wednesday. Boyd is representing Vanderbilt student Chris Boyd, who is charged as an accessory after the fact and accused of taking part in an attempted cover-up of the sexual assault by helping one of the defendants indicted on the rape charges. May said he was "setting the record straight" after Boyd's father earlier this week made claims that the Metro District Attorney’s Office had done "irreparable damage to his son's character and integrity, and that the indictment was unnecessary." The Tennessean has the story and video.

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Players Ready to Sue Over Jock Tax

Pro athletes say they are ready to go to court over Tennessee’s tax on hockey and basketball players, Nashville Public Radio reports. At a hearing Thursday, lawmakers listened to arguments for and against repealing the state’s so-called “jock tax,” which is the highest in the nation by most measures. Twenty states tax professional athlete salaries, but most use a percentage. Tennessee’s levy is a straight fee – $2,500 per game with a cap of $7,500. That goes for both home and visiting teams. According to the NHL Players Association, 43 percent of athletes don’t even make $2,500 per game. The money has effectively gone to the respective team ownership groups, which have management organizations to run their city-owned arenas. The funding is supposed to go toward attracting concerts to the facilities through subsidies, though lawmakers note there is very little public accountability for how the money gets spent.

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Lawyer, Former Congressional Aide Dies

Macon County attorney Fletcher “Keith” Adkinson died June 19 at the age of 69. Adkinson, a 1969 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, represented corporations and entertainers in Beverly Hills and later in Washington, D.C. From 1974 to 1979, he was counsel to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations where he managed probes into organized crime, labor racketeering and government corruption. Adkinson was national director of Democrats for Reagan/Bush in 1980 and after the election, served on the Department of Justice Transition Team. In 1984 he took on a case to prove Jett Williams was the daughter of Hank Williams. He married her in 1986 and the couple lived for many years in Lafayette. He died while undergoing heart surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center. The Macon County Times has more on his life.

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Court Will Not Consider Challenge to Copyright Board

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to the authority of the Copyright Royalty Board, which sets royalty rates for musical works. The high court today refused to hear an appeal that the panel – made up of three copyright judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress – should be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The company bringing the suit also wanted to overturn the panel’s decision that noncommercial educational webcasters pay an annual fee of $500 per channel for a license authorizing the webcasting of unlimited amounts of music. The Memphis Daily News has this Associated Press story.

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Event to Benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts

Arts Immersion, presented by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and the Nashville Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, will take place June 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the W.O. Smith School. The event will feature live performances, visual art and a silent auction – including opportunities to co-write with top songwriters. All proceeds benefit Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts, which has provided $1 million worth of free legal and business help to over 1,000 low-income artists and 300 nonprofit arts organizations over the past five years. Tickets are $40 and are available at the door or online. Food, beverages and valet parking will be provided.

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'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Sues Literary Agent for Royalties

Acclaimed author Harper Lee is suing her literary agent Samuel Pinkus, alleging that he tricked her into signing a document transferring the royalties from her 1960 novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The 87-year-old was recovering from a stroke and says she did not understand what she was doing. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” her lawyer, Gloria Phares, wrote in the suit. “Harper Lee had no idea she had assigned her copyright.” The ABA Journal has the story.

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Home Studios to Remain in Limbo

After months of effort to legalize home music studios in Nashville, the Metro Council yesterday deferred action on the ordinance indefinitely. Currently, codes officials look the other way as hundred of musicians run professionals studios out of their homes. The proposal was intended to give them a way to operate within the law. Councilmember Megan Barry says she had just enough votes to approve her ordinance, but she chose to put it off. “I believe that a measure like this – balancing neighborhood concerns with business interests and the city’s music-oriented DNA – should be enacted by a large margin, not a narrow one.” She told Nashville Public Radio.

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Armstrong Sued by DOJ

The Justice Department formally filed suit against cyclist Lance Armstrong and his company, Tailwind Sports, for approximately $40 million that the U.S. Postal Service spent to sponsor the cycling team from 1998 to 2004. In the wake of Armstrong’s doping confession, the government charges that the use of prohibited drugs constitutes a break of contract with the Postal Service. CNN Justice reports that the government could recover triple the amount of the sponsorship under the False Claims Act, which could bring a total of more than $100 million in damages.

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Bill Plans to Lower 'Jock Tax' for Pro Athletes

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, has sponsored a bill to repeal the “jock tax,” a 2009 tax on professional athletes that is one of the highest in the country. The National Hockey League Players Association is behind the legislation. The union called out Tennessee’s privilege tax in the most recent contract and committed to getting the levy repealed. The tax generates roughly $3.5million a year and affects NHL and NBA players. Nashville Public Radio has the story.

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Ticketing Bill Loses Support

Four lawmakers who had been listed as co-sponsors of House Bill 100, the Fairness in Ticketing Act, have pulled their support from the measure, the Tennessean reports. Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, and David Hawk, R-Greenville, have removed their names from among the bill’s 26 co-sponsors. Rep. Lynn said in a release, “I think many of us signed on as sponsors before realizing what it would do to citizens’ ownership rights or its negative impact on small business. In my case, I have not only decided to be removed as a sponsor, but to become a vocal opponent.” The act seeks to impose stricter regulations on event ticketing practices and the ticket resale market.

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