“The Rise and Fall of Aereo”

Damon Root, in the latest issue of Reason, has an interesting piece explaining the U.S. Supreme Court battle between Aereo, makers of a tiny antenna which allowed subscribers to watch and record TV broadcasts on their mobile phones, and the major American TV networks. 

“Subscribers” might be the key word here. I get the impression that Aereo might have won its case had its device been more like an old-fashioned rabbit-ears antenna, which you paid for once, transmitted nothing and received television signals broadcast for free over the public airwaves.

The Aereo model was found to violate the 1976 Copyright Act, but even some justices who sided with the broadcasters asked pointed questions about how their (ultimately successful) argument could affect cloud computing services. There’s too much here to excerpt, so read the whole thing.

Whoever wins, we lose

The good news is, Donald Trump or Bill Maher will lose this case. The bad news is, Donald Trump or Bill Maher will win this case:

Donald Trump is filing a lawsuit against Bill Maher for failing to live up to an “unconditional offer” made on NBC’s Tonight Show to donate $5 million to charity if Trump provided a copy of his birth certificate proving that he’s not “spawn of his mother having sex with orangutan.”

We’ll chip in $500 to the charity of Trump’s choice if he actually prevails in court over Maher and collects $5 million.

“Trump would have to prove that Maher’s words and conduct demonstrated, objectively, that he intended to be bound by his statement, and that he was not merely making a joke,” says Dori Ann Hanswirth. “Given the outrageousness of Maher’s statement, the amount of money involved and the fact that his statement was made on a comedy TV show, it seems that Trump has an uphill battle here.”


perhaps the case that might most demonstrate why Trump is likely to lose is the case ofthe Pepsi Points.

In 1999, John Leonard sued PepsiCo., attempting to get the company to hand over an AV-8 Harrier II jump jet. The advertised “offer” came in the form of a television commercial that showed the big prize for 7 million Pepsi points. Leonard had 15 points and attempted to send Pepsi a certified check for $700,000 — 10 cents a point, per contest rules — to cover the rest.

Pepsi successfully argued that its advertisement was intended to be humorous.

“Plaintiff’s insistence that the commercial appears to be a serious offer requires the Court to explain why the commercial is funny,” wrote a judge. “Explaining why a joke is funny is a daunting task; as the essayist E.B. White has remarked, ‘Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process.’ ”

Ultimately, Leonard was deemed to be a loser.

As the judge wrote: “A reasonable viewer would understand such advertisements as mere puffery, not as statements of fact. … The Court rejects plaintiff’s argument that the commercial was not clearly in jest.”

The kids are alright

Not all child stars end up like Lindsay Lohan.  Business Insider lists six who went on to become successful lawyers, like Charlie Korsmo from Dick Tracy and Hook:

Law School: Yale

Undergraduate: MIT — Physics

Current job: Law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Films: “Hook,” “What About Bob?,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Dick Tracy”

How You Probably Know Him: As little Jackie Banning who discovers his father is Peter Pan (Robin Williams) in “Hook.”

The others include Samantha from Gimme a Break, Chunk from The Goonies, and Paul Pfeiffer from The Wonder Years – who somehow finds time to practice law and be Marilyn Manson.

Courtney Love: client from Hell

This is why we ask for retainers, folks.  (In this case, it should have been at least half a mil.)

Courtney Love is having more ex-lawyer problems. This time, she’s being sued by the attorney who represented her in the first Twitter defamation battle over alleged nonpayment of more than $400,000 in legal fees.


During this time, there were many battles for Love, says Fink. “A number of these disputes and lawsuits centered on Love’s alleged failure to pay various third parties for services rendered,” says his complaint. “Little did [Fink’s law firm] know that it would subsequently be forced [to] join their ranks.”

Among the matters handled included:

  • A breach of contract lawsuit and subsequent arbitration with Love’s former business manager.
  • A lawsuit stemming from purported nonpayment of $352,000 on an American Express credit card.
  • Arbitration over managerial control over the End of Music publishing catalog of Nirvana songs.
  • A lawsuit with a bank stemming from the End of Music arbitration.
  • A lawsuit over payment for security services.
  • A lawsuit with business partners over Japanese “manga” comic books centered on a Love-like character.
  • A case before the Labor Commissioner over wage claims by her former housekeeper.
  • Two lease disputes at her former residence in Los Angeles and the negotiation of a new residence.
  • Claims with insurers over a robbery and artwork allegedly destroyed by her former housekeeper.
  • Advice to continue touring under the name “Hole” after her band partnership was dissolved.

Fink makes it sound as if Love wasn’t the easiest client to maintain. He says that during the time he represented her, she sent the firm hundreds upon hundreds of text messages, which were “difficult and time-consuming” to interpret. She allegedly refused to meet in person but would telephone at bizarre and late hours of the night, and one time, she supposedly summoned Fink to her hotel room and made him wait in the lobby for hours with no meeting taking place.

There was some gratitude sent Fink’s way in the form of framed Nirvana and Hole gold records, Las Vegas concert tickets and a bouquet of flowers.

But the money allegedly stopped coming to Fink in July 2009. Love already had made payments of more than $82,000, according to the lawsuit, but wouldn’t pay the rest, even though she was racking up months-long stays at hotels in New York and Los Angeles as well as paying personal assistants hundreds of dollars at a time to fetch her coffee.

Fink says he stopped working for Love in October 2009. He now demands $436,029.32, plus interest, in the outstanding balance of legal fees incurred.

Revenge of the ex-boyfriend

Adele, a British pop star whose music I’d probably care about if I hadn’t given up on pop music around 1999, is being sued by the former boyfriend who allegedly inspired her music:

Adele’s ex-boyfriend is supposedly cheekily claiming for a slice of the profits she made on debut album ‘19’ – because he feels their doomed relationship was the inspiration for a number of the LP’s lovelorn tracks.

…according to the tabs today (May 10) she’s furious that her former partner is trying to claim the credit for her initial success – as well as a cut of the royalties.

She is quoted in The Sun as saying: “For about a week he was calling and was deadly serious about it. Finally, I said ‘Well, you made my life hell, so I lived it and now I deserve it’.”

She added: “He really thought he’d had some input into the creative process by being a prick. I’ll give him the credit – he made me an adult, and put me on the road that I’m travelling.”

Via IDLYITW.  If this is successful, the case of Coulier v. Morrissette should soon be winding its way through the court system.

The NFL lockout explained

The BlackBook Legal Blog explains the NFL labour situation more succinctly than anything else I’ve seen.  (via Instapundit)

Related (and further to this post): at the Huffington Post, “Celebrity Divorce Attorney” Doug Kepanis explains how the lockout has affected some players’ child support and access visits.  There are lessons here for anyone who suddenly finds him- or herself without a regular income:

When an NFL player is ordered to pay child support during his tenure as an active player, such support is commensurate with his high earner status. (The NFL league minimum salary in 2010 was $310,000.00 per annum). However, the average NFL player salary in 2010 hovers around the $1,000,000.00 per annum mark. During a lockout, however, there is no salary. This means that all of those child support orders or agreements, entered into while the NFL athlete was earning a considerable salary, become ripe for modification.

In most states, child support orders may be modified upon a showing of a “change in circumstances” or a “substantial change in circumstances”.  [“Material change of circumstances” in Nova Scotia – DJP]  When the salary of an NFL player, an average of almost $1,000,000.00 is reduced to zero through no fault of the player himself, as is the case of the lockout, this will surely qualify as a change in circumstances of substantial change in circumstances in almost every state.

There have been recent instances of players’ support check bouncing. Without a salary coming in, unless you are one of the superstar players in the NFL who get paid handsomely for endorsements, your support checks will soon bounce as well. Whether it is a temporary reduction in support or a more long-term reduction, when you have no income, you must seek to reduce your child support payments or risk losing your license, passport, or end up behind bars.

Moreover, if there is no NFL season, players may also seek to have their visitation with their child(ren) modified so that, while they are not traveling for six to eight months, they can enjoy watching their child(ren) grow up and be a more active parent in their lives.

Not all of these types of modifications require a trial in the courts. The parties can voluntarily agree to modify their child support and/or visitation agreements, execute them, and file them with the court. However, it must be stressed that each State has different child support and visitation laws and an attorney expert in this area of the law should be sought out for legal advice.

Considering how much money even the lowest-paid NFL players earn, I doubt a locked-out player would be ordered to pay no child support at all.  Applying Canadian law, a lower level of income (and therefore support) would be imputed until the labour dispute is over, at which point the matter could be reviewed once again.

“Why do these stories always seem to come from Britain?” department

For God’s sake, don’t let the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council know about this:

A pub singer has been arrested on suspicion of racial harassment after singing Kung Fu Fighting in front of two Chinese people.

Simon Ledger says he fears he will end up with a criminal record for performing the 1974 disco classic at a seafront bar on the Isle of Wight on Sunday after two people walking past apparently took offence.

The 34-year-old, from the island, regularly features Carl Douglas’s 1974 number one hit in his set when he performs at the Driftwood Beach Bar in Sandown.

But after striking up the melody in front of customers at the weekend he noticed a man of Chinese origin walking past with his mother, making gestures at him and taking a picture on his mobile phone.

He said that he later received a telephone call from police – while he was dining in a Chinese restaurant – asking him to meet officers about the incident.

He was then arrested and questioned before being bailed.

This seems insane even for the PC-crazed United Kingdom, so don’t be surprised if it turns out there’s more to this story than the scrupulously accurate British newspapers are telling us.  But in the meantime, how can I not post the video?

Charlie’s case

The world has been laughing at and/or with Charlie Sheen about his threats to sue CBS and the producers of Two and a Half Men.  The Hollywood Reporter, however, says Sheen might have a legitimate case, mainly because his background of drug use, domestic violence and general nuttery was hardly a secret:

While showbiz legal experts say that referring to Lorre as a “clown” and a “retarded zombie” on television doesn’t help Sheen’s cause, many believe he has a decent case, especially if reports are true that his deal with WBTV includes no morals clause. The controversy, say the lawyers consulted byTHR, will hinge on which side breached the heavily negotiated contract that pays Sheen more than $1.2 million an episode.

Sheen’s lawyers believe that Warner Bros. and CBS violated their obligations by allowing Lorre to dictate that the show be shut down in the wake of Sheen’s outrageous statements and partying with porn stars. Sheen maintains he’s clean and sober and there’s nothing in his private life that would trigger a “default” under his contract. The legal arguments mirror a path that has proved successful for other entertainers who have been terminated for offensive comments.

Martin Gold, a litigator at SNR Denton in New York, says the situation reminds him of when CBS fired shock jock Don Imus after he made derogatory statements about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. CBS tried to avoid paying Imus on his contract, but it couldn’t get around the argument that the conglomerate got exactly what it had bargained for, signing extension after extension even though it knew Imus’ reputation.

Similarly, if the deal between WBTV and Sheen is “pay or play” — as Singer’s letter says it is — then Sheen will argue that bragging that he’s survived “banging seven-gram rocks” can’t be held against him. Indeed, Warners knew for years about Sheen’s behavior—including stints in rehab and an arrest on charges of attacking then-wife Brooke Mueller—but only acted after Sheen insulted Lorre, perhaps the studio’s top showrunner.

Gold says, “This was going on for a long time, so it can hardly be called a surprise.”

However, experts say CBS and Warner Bros. could have equally strong arguments that Sheen, not the network or studio,  violated the contract. And if Sheen is found to have materially breached his deal, he could forfeit his rich deal and even be forced to reimburse CBS/WBTV for lost revenue, which could reach as much as $250 million if the show shuts down permanently.

Such a case would likely be premised on the notion that Sheen, despite his willingness to show up on set, has become such a high risk and has damaged so many relationships that continuing the show would not be possible. It’s no coincidence that the statement released by CBS and WBTV on Feb. 24 blamed the shutdown on “the totality of Charlie Sheen’s statements, conduct and condition.”

For the record, Two and a Half Men is in its eighth season, while Action was cancelled after six episodes.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.