News

National Immigration Conference Coming to Nashville

The Ninth Annual National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC) will take place in Nashville next week on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The conference will feature leading voices on immigration and civil rights as well as those affected personally by immigration policies. Among those sharing personal stories will be Eddie Huang, who will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday on “Breaking Bread: Food, Culture and Immigration.” Widely known as the chef and owner of a popular Taiwanese restaurant in New York City, Huang also has produced several projects under the moniker "Fresh Off the Boat," including a memoir, a travelogue and a sitcom. Register for the full conference or RSVP for the complimentary Huang presentation.

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DOJ Files Appeal in Songwriter Licensing Case

The Department of Justice on Friday appealed a federal judge’s decision to strike down its proposal for 100 percent music licensing for songwriters and publishers represented by BMI. Under the scheme proposed by the department, music licensing organizations such as BMI would be forced to license a song even if they only represented a small percentage of the song’s copyright. Songwriters and publishers have criticized the proposal saying it would throw the profession into chaos and threaten the practice of co-writing among songwriters from different performance rights organizations. The appeal was widely expected according to industry watchers, the Tennessean reports.

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Vandenburg Sentenced to 17 Years

Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins ruled Friday that Brandon Vandenburg will spend 17 years in prison for his role in the rape of an unconscious woman in his Vanderbilt University dorm room more than three years ago. The former college football player, 23, was found guilty of five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery and unlawful photography. He will now go to Bledsoe County Correctional Complex for intake and an assessment to determine where he will serve his sentence, the Tennessean reports.

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Clapton, Labels Sued over Iconic Song

The stepgrandson of Bo Carter is suing Eric Clapton, alleging that he wrongly attributed the song “Corrine, Corrina” to Huddie Ledbetter (better known as Lead Belly) in his 2013 re-release of his “Unplugged” album. The suit also seeks more than $5 million from a slate of songwriters, publishers and broadcasters for receiving royalties and failing to give Carter proper credit for the widely covered blues and country standard. Among those named are Warner Music Group Corp., Sony/ATV Music Publishing, EMI Mills Music Inc., Rhino Entertainment Co., Viacom Inc., Folkways Music Publishers Inc., Hal Leonard LLC, J.W. Pepper & Sons Inc. and 10 “John Does.” Industry observers tell the Tennessean that the very nature of the blues genre may make it difficult to prove copyright violations.

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SCOTUS Denies NCAA Appeal in O'Bannon Amateurism Case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear the NCAA’s appeal in the Ed O'Bannon case, keeping the lower court’s decision that found amateurism rules for college basketball and football players to be in violation of federal antitrust laws. The LA Times reports that the court also rejected another appeal, this one from former college basketball star O’Bannon, that called for a plan to pay football and basketball players. In 2014, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in the original case that the NCAA’s use of names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation violated antitrust law.
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CLE SKI Set for Jan. 22-27 in Snowmass

Mark your calendar for the 32nd Annual TBA CLE SKI, being held Jan. 22-27, 2017, at the Stonebridge Inn in Snowmass, Colorado. Participants will be able to attend CLE sessions each morning and afternoon with plenty of time to hit the slopes in between programs. Topics will cover entertainment law, social security disability, updates on labor and employment law, ethics and a U.S. Supreme Court case review.

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Lawyer ‘Working on’ Deal for 3rd Rape Defendant

For more than three years, rape cases against two former Vanderbilt University football players have been essentially on hold while two other ex-players, Cory Batey and Brandon Vandenburg, have gone to trial. With Vandenburg’s sentencing hearing coming up at the end of September, attention is now turning to the cases against Brandon E. Banks and Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie. Banks’ lawyer confirmed this week that a plea deal is in the works to avoid more trials for his client, the Tennessean reports. McKenzie’s lawyer did not comment. Both face rape charges and have pleaded not guilty.

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UT Names Panel to Investigate Title IX Programs

The University of Tennessee will pay four attorneys $45,000 each plus expenses to serve on an independent commission to evaluate the school’s Title IX programs, Knoxnews reports. The move comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit settled in July that accused the university of maintaining a “hostile sexual environment.” School officials said they hope to keep the cost of the commission under $250,000. The group, recruited by Nashville attorney Aubrey Harwell – a founding partner at Neal & Harwell – includes Stanley Brand with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., Nashville lawyer Bill Morelli, Elizabeth Conklin with the University of Connecticut, and Janet Judge, president of Sports Law Associates. A final report is expected in six months.

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Taylor Swift Reports for Jury Duty in Nashville

After delaying jury service last December because she was on tour, Taylor Swift showed up for jury duty today. If selected she would have heard a domestic violence case involving a charge of aggravated rape. She was dismissed about 1 p.m. though. Others in the courthouse said she was smiling and happy and willing to take pictures with would-be jurors, the Tennessean reports.

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ASCAP, BMI Join Forces to Fight Music Licensing Ruling

The leaders of ASCAP and BMI convened a private meeting Monday for Nashville’s songwriting and publishing community in a historic show of solidarity by the two competitors, the Tennessean reports. The performance rights organizations are banding together to fight a ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding 100 percent licensing, which allows a copyright holder to license a song no matter how small a percentage of the copyright they own. The groups said they expect a protracted battle with the Justice Department. By contrast, the DOJ ruling has been applauded by music tech firms such as Google and Pandora, along with radio broadcasters and restaurants that license music.

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Vanderbilt AD Williams to Speak on ‘Today’s SEC’

David Williams II, athletics director and vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs at Vanderbilt University, will share his perspective on the Southeast Conference (SEC) Aug. 30 from 1-3 p.m. at the Williamson County Public Library in Franklin. Williams, who has represented the SEC in negotiations over television contracts and currently chairs an infractions appeals committee for the NCAA, holds a master of business administration and law degree from the University of Detroit as well as a master of laws in taxation from New York University.

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Georgia Congressman Takes on Music Licensing Fight

Georgia congressman Doug Collins is vowing a legislative response to the Department of Justice’s recent decision not to update music licensing consent decrees but instead enforce “100 percent licensing,” the Tennessean reports. Under that scheme, a songwriter and publisher may license a song no matter how small a percent ownership they have in the copyright. Many in the music industry fear the new opinion could threaten the practice of co-writing songs, curb the creative process and complicate royalty payouts. 

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Batey Changes Lawyers, Strianse to Take on Appeal

Convicted rapist and former Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey has hired Nashville lawyer Peter Strianse to handle the appeal of his conviction, where he was sentenced to 15 years. Worrick Robinson, who represented Batey in his trial, told reporters he believed it was unfair that two other men charged in the case were playing college football while awaiting trial. Each man also is charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Batey and another football player, Brandon Vandenburg, who faced the same charges, have gone to trial and were found guilty.

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Lawyers Donate $76,000 to Access to Justice Efforts

More than $76,000 has been donated by Tennessee attorneys to organizations that serve low-income individuals in need of legal assistance, the Administrative Office of the Courts reports. The donations come as part of the annual licensing registration process. Starting in 2015, attorneys were given the option to donate to an Access to Justice Fund when renewing their licenses. Organizations receiving funds this year are the Community Legal Center, Disability Rights Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee, Legal Aid Society, Memphis Area Legal Services, Southeast Tennessee Legal Services, Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, Tennessee Justice Center, Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, Volunteer Lawyers and Professionals for the Arts, and West Tennessee Legal Services.

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Tennessee Athletes Take ‘Pay for Play’ to 6th Circuit

Tennessee college athletes will be before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week arguing they should be paid for the use of their names and images in the college sports industry and on television, the Tennessean reports. The athletes are asking a panel of three judges to reopen their case, which a Nashville federal judge dismissed last year. Ten former football and basketball athletes, many of whom attended Vanderbilt University or the University of Tennessee, filed a $5 million lawsuit in 2014 saying their images were used without their permission by the broadcast networks and eight NCAA conferences.

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'Pokemon Go' Raising Thorny Legal Issues

Pokemon Go is taking the country by storm. But with imaginary characters waiting to be “caught” on both public and private property, the game is “raising legal issues and public safety concerns.” Press headlines indicate people are injuring themselves and others in pursuit of the game, while private property owners are dealing with players swarming their land. The game’s terms of service disclaim liability for property damage, personal injury or death occurring while playing but thorny legal issues no doubt await. The ABA Journal has links to several legal articles on the issue.

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UT Asks for Extension in Title IX Lawsuit

Lawyers for the University of Tennessee asked a judge last week for more time to file a response to the federal Title IX lawsuit against the university, Knoxnews reports. The extension request for a new deadline of July 7 follows a previous extension from the original deadline of June 16, which was set to expire Thursday. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville in February, alleges UT has a “hostile sexual environment” and violated Title IX in the handling of sexual assault cases, especially accusations against student athletes.

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Fantasy Sports Licensing Now Open

The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office has renamed its gaming department the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming, as required by the Fantasy Sports Act of 2016, and opened the process for licensing. The new law requires fantasy sports operators to obtain a license from the division. There is no requirement for players to register. A copy of the law, application and complete set of rules can be found on the secretary of state's website. Those with questions can email fantasy.sports@tn.gov or call (615) 253-6658. Humphrey on the Hill has more from the secretary of state.

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Songwriters, Publishers Criticize Music Licensing Decision

The Nashville songwriting and publishing communities voiced outrage Thursday after the U.S. Department of Justice said it will not recommend any changes to consent decrees governing licensing and fee collection agencies ASCAP and BMI, and instead will enforce so-called “100 percent licensing.” Under the DOJ’s plan, any licensing agency with a minority stake in a song could license it. Many in the music industry fear the new opinion could threaten the practice of co-writing songs, curb the creative process and complicate royalty payouts, the Tennessean reports.

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Led Zeppelin Duo Prevails in Copyright Suit

A Los Angeles jury today found Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page not guilty of copyright infringement on perhaps their most famous song, "Stairway to Heaven," CNN reports. The case centered on claims that Led Zeppelin copied key note patterns in the first two minutes of their hit from a song by the 1960s psychedelic band, Spirit.

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E-books Settlement Payments to Begin This Week

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III announced yesterday that Tennessee residents who purchased electronic books (e-books) could begin receiving account credits or checks this week. Payments are the result of the successful prosecution of a price-fixing case against Apple in 2013. Apple is obligated to pay $400 million in nationwide consumer compensation. Tennesseans will share $8.5 million. A toll-free number (866-686-9333) and website have been set up for consumers with questions. Read the AG's release.

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Former UT Football Player Sues SEC, NCAA

The Tennessean reports that former University of Tennessee football player O.J. Owens is suing the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA in an effort to recoup unspecified damages for the effects of head trauma he experienced during his college career. His suit is one of 10 filed in the past two months by Chicago-based law firm Edelson on behalf of former college football players. UT is not named as a defendant in the suit. 

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Nashville Lawyer Files Copyright Suit Against Pop Star Ed Sheeran

Nashville attorney Richard Busch from the firm King and Ballow is representing two California songwriters who have filed a copyright lawsuit against pop star Ed Sheeran. The songwriters, Martin Harrington and Tom Leonard, claim Sheeran ripped off their song as the basis for his hit, “Photograph.” Busch has won many landmark music copyright cases in his career, including one on behalf of Marvin Gaye’s family against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their song “Blurred Lines.” Read more from The Tennessean

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Cities to Pay Millions in 'Jock Tax' Settlements

The city of Memphis will soon return over $2.38 million to more than 900 NBA players as part of a 2015 settlement in a suit challenging the city’s “jock tax.” The National Basketball Players Association sued the state over the tax and claimed some players paid more in the tax than what they earned from the games. The National Hockey League Players' Association also sued the state over the tax and settled in 2015 for $3.27 million. Read more from The Commercial Appeal

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Justin Bieber, Skrillex Face Nashville Copyright Suit

Pop stars Justin Bieber and Skrillex were sued in Nashville court this week for using without permission a vocal riff that singer-songwriter Casey Dienel said was hers, the Tennessean reports. Dienel, who performs under the name White Hinterland, said the Bieber and Skrillex song "Sorry" features a vocal riff in the same key and using the same notes as the riff in her song "Ring the Bell." Read more and listen to the two cuts.

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