News

#BlurredLines: Copyright Vs. Creativity

Can you copyright cowbell? An article recently published in Tennessee Law dives into that question with a look at copyright legal battles, including one between writers of the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” and the family of Marvin Gaye. The family of the late singer claim the song infringes on the copyright of Gaye’s 1977 “Got to Give It Up.”  In the article, two University of Tennessee College of Law professors and two UT music professors discuss the case and what it means for music, artists and copyright law.

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Bill to Legalize, Tax Fantasy Sports Heads to Haslam

The Fantasy Sports Tax Act, which would legalize, regulate and tax fantasy sports betting, is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam. The Senate signed off on the measure (SB 2109) yesterday. The legislation follows a legal opinion issued by Attorney General Hebert Slatery that said fantasy sports contests are illegal gambling. The fiscal analysis of the legislation estimates $42 million is spent annually in Tennessee on fantasy sports, The Associated Press reports

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Music Industry Lobbies Congress on Royalties

The Tennessean reports more than 200 musicians and songwriters lobbied Congress yesterday to pass legislation requiring broadcasters to compensate artists whenever AM or FM radio plays their songs. The Fair Play Fair Pay Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood. Radio play has traditionally been viewed as promotion and a way to drive record sales, and thus artists do not receive royalties. The National Association of Broadcasters opposes the measure.

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Entertainment and Sports Forum Set for May 19

The TBA’s annual Entertainment & Sports Forum is planned for May 19, 12:30 – 4:45 p.m., at Belmont University College of Law, Baskin Center, 1900 Belmont Blvd. in Nashville. This year’s forum, titled “Nashville: The Intersection of Television, Fashion and Music,” is approved for four CLE credits. Topics include an inside perspective on the intellectual property issues for the TV show "Nashville,” and a discussion of the ethical challenges when using social media and online platforms to market your practice. Register by May 15 to avoid a late fee. 

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AG: Fantasy Sports Are 'Illegal Gambling' in Tennessee

An opinion released today from Attorney General Hebert Slatery said all fantasy sports contests amount to “illegal gambling” in Tennessee. “The participants do not control how selected athletes perform in actuality on a given day …Thus, absent legislation specifically exempting fantasy sports contests from the definition of 'gambling,' these contests constitute illegal gambling under Tennessee law,” Slatery writes. The Tennessean reports the opinion was requested by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

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UT Files More Reasons to Dimiss Title IX Suit

WATE reports a judge allowed the University of Tennessee to file additional documents on a motion to dismiss a sweeping federal lawsuit against the school. The university says the plaintiffs have failed to articulate any “official policy” leading to the sexual assault cases. The move is in response to the plaintiffs citing a sexual assault case against the University of Colorado that claims the university had an “official policy” to provide women and alcohol to the high school football recruits. The UT filings also request that the university is not required to answer to “the nearly 100 paragraphs accusing unrelated individuals of crimes and other misconduct over a period of more than twenty years.” UT President Joe DiPietro today defended the safety of the campus during a board meeting, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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Volunteers Needed for Nashville Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic

Volunteers are needed for the Nashville Arts & Entertainment Law Clinic that will be held Saturday, April 23, 10 a.m. to noon at the Church of the Redeemer in Green Hills, 920 Caldwell Lane, The event is co-sponsored by the TBA Entertainment & Sports Law Section and the Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts.  Attorneys interested in volunteering should contact Casey Summar at 615-460-8274.

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Fantasy Sports Regulation Bill Advances

A Senate panel signed off Wednesday on a bill that would create an advisory task force to oversee fantasy sports websites, such as FanDuel and Draft Kings. The two major fantasy sports companies were accused last year of insider trading. The proposed nine-member force would be able to recommend any necessary statutory revisions to the state’s consumer protection laws, The Tennessean reports. The bill, presented by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, now heads to the the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

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Peyton Manning Cited in UT Sexual Assault Suit

Peyton Manning was cited in the federal lawsuit filed last week by six anonymous women against the University of Tennessee. The suit claims Manning exposed himself on a female athletic trainer in 1996 while he was the university’s star quarterback. Manning claimed he was “mooning” another athlete in the room. The trainer resigned from her job, sued the university and settled out of court. Manning and UT have not responded to the allegations outlined in the suit. Read more from CBS.

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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.

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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].

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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'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.

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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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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