The 2010 Midwest Art, Entertainment & Sports Law Institute

I will be presenting along with many other area attorneys at next weeks Midwest Art, Entertainment & Sports Law Institute. Come out and hear about some the latest opportunities and challenges facing the attorneys for the art, entertainment and sports communities. http://www.minncle.org/Materials/Seminars/67410.pdfHighlights Include: Former ASCAP executive and current president of a music publishing company, attorney Ron Sobel will “teach, discuss, rant and rave” about intellectual property pitfalls, new media trends, current revenue models and licensing protocols Music publishing contracts and other issues in the digital age The FTC’s take on endorsements and Internet advertising The hottest legal and ethical concerns in college sports A review of core intellectual property concepts, as well as contract, licensing entity basics with a nod to the creative client The Ramifications of Supreme Court...
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When is a farm boy just like any other farm boy?

When is a farm boy just like any other farm boy? That's the question at the heart of a recent Federal Circuit decision (Odom's Tennessee Pride Sausage, Inc. v. FF Acquisition, LLC, No. 09-1473) involving a decision by the USPTO to grant a trademark registration to FF Acquisitions (a SuperValu company) over the objection of Odom (a retail food conglomerate). Despite the fact that the registration in question was merely adding the body onto an already registered mark making up the torso of a farm boy (mark on the right), Odom was concerned that the mark was now likely to confuse consumers and opposed the registration, citing its own registrations. Even though Odom argued that there were other factors to be considered under the DuPont test for likelihood of confusion, the USPTO and the Circuit court summarily dispatched the complaint by noting that the registered marks differed in...
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AIGA MN – Cocktails with Creatives

Come on out and mingle with a variety of creatives (and one lawyer) from the Twin Cities.I will be sponsoring the AIGA MN's Cocktails with Creatives in January. It will take place at the Peacock Lounge, the bar part of Erte Restaurant, in Northeast Minneapolis on January 7th from 6 to 8 p.m. Happy Hour goes until 7 p.m. and parking is free anywhere on the streets. Relax, munch, chat and enjoy!...
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FTC Endorsement Guidelines – Typicality Claims

Effective December 1, 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has adopted new advisory guidelines concerning use of testimonials in advertising. These modifications and clarifications concerning FTC enforcement have raised concerns in many industries that rely heavily on testimonials as a large component of their marketing efforts.What are these guidelines about?The FTC is charged with enforcement of federal laws prohibiting deceptive trade practices – i.e. false advertising. To accomplish this mission, the FTC adopts rules and issues policy guidelines regarding the laws.Complete Bulletin available on KunkleLaw.comAudio from a recent interview with CoachingToys.com...
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Public Performance and Ringtones

As if to demonstrate why the general public continues to question the validity of all copyright claims in music, ASCAP recently provided us with one of the stupidest and greediest copyright cases in the recent past. (opinion at www.eff.org). After being sued in relationship to the reasonableness of its blanket licenses (related to its antitrust exemption), ASCAP argued that when someone's cell phone rings with a musical ringtone, the ring is a public performance of the composition and therefore the phone companies owe licensing fees for each call. The Electronic Freedom Foundation, who filed an amicus brief in the case, noted that: “Under this reasoning from ASCAP, it would be a copyright violation for you to play your car radio with the window down!" While I am not sure it is quite this bad, the arguments advanced by ASCAP do require a great deal of legal gymanstics in order to work.While the law of copyright...
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Public Performance

What is a performance license?One of the exclusive rights of composers of songs is to control the right to publicly perform the song publicly. Of course with the way that the music industry has developed, it is not practical in most cases to go to the composer each time a radio station or concert hall wants to play a song for their customers. Coming to the rescue (Debatable, but that's another post) are the folks at ASCAP, BMI, and SEASAC (and a few others). These organizations, commonly referred to as Performing Rights Organizations (“PROs”), have entered into agreements with thousands of composers and music publishers for the right to represent them and to license their music to radio stations and venues. While technically everyone involved (DJ, sponsor, and venue) can be held to jointly infringe a copyright, in practice the venue and promoter is most often the one that is expected to have obtained a license for music performed.What is...
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Bratz Revisted

In the continuing case of the Bratz doll, the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in the case of Art Attacks Ink, LLC v. MGA Ent'mt. Inc. While the case dealt with several issues, of interest to me is the portion of the ruling dealing with whether Art Attacks had proved adequate access to their character that they sold at fairs and on their website.In the opinion, the court went out of its way to note technical weaknesses of the website as evidence of the small likelihood that there has been any access to the designs. In particular, the court noted that it "took a full two minutes" for the website to fully load; and that the website did not use meta tags that contained the words "Spoiled Brats." The court then drew the conclusion that:A website with such limitations could not have widely disseminated the copyrighted Spoiled Brats material.It is not clear from the opinion how this...
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Bringing Conciliation Court Cases

Conciliation court was created to allow citizens to bring legal actions for smaller claims that would normally be difficult to bring due to the expense and knowledge needed to bring a suit in district court. Generally, these courts allow individuals to bring claims of up to $7,500 ($4,000 in cases involving commercial consumer credit transaction), or order the return of property. However, these claims may not include claims for title to real estate, libel or slander, class actions or medical malpractice. Additionally, since these are state courts, they can not hear matters of federal law such as disputes over copyright ownership. They can, however, hear cases involving breach of contract that involves copyrighted material. This means that the conciliation court can not hear a case involving ownership of a copyright, but it can hear a case involving whether a party has paid what they owe for the creation of copyrighted material. An important thing to remember before you file a conciliation court...
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Audit & Record Keeping Provisions

Whether you have partners, or are contracting for royalties from another party, one of the most common provisions in any licensing & partnership contracts is one that provides a means and method of keeping financial records of the project or business. The exact language will differ slightly depending on the specifics of your circumstances, but common terms will include what types of books are kept, how and when audits may occur, and a description of what is to happen in the event of a problem with the records.RecordsWhile there are a variety of record-keeping methods, typical contract provisions regarding record-keeping will simply provide that the books are complete and accurate. In most cases it is understood that the books will be kept in accordance with “generally accepted accounting principles.” Furthermore, in some circumstances, state statutes may regulate how the books are kept.AuditsOnce it is decided what and how records are kept, one of...
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Tax Deductions for Creatives

As Tax day approaches its important to take into account targeted deductions that benefit Creatives. One such deduction is the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (AKA Section 199 deduction) which was meant to encourage U.S. job creation. The deduction was created in 2004 as a part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and is one of those nice benefits that is targeted at small businesses operating as sole proprietors, partnerships, LLC, or S Corps. So What? For many creative based businesses, this deduction may provide a significant deduction on gross income, based on the amount of W-2 wages spent in the production of their work. The deduction specifically singles out wages paid out in the sound recording, software (including websites), and film (excluding porn) industries, as well as producers of personal tangible items (clothing, books, etc.) for an additional tax credit against profits. What to do? Simple - if you are engaged in one of these categories, had a profit, and paid W-2...
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