PUBLISHED BY HEATHER M. MORADO

I am an attorney at Morado Law, PLLC.  I practice in the areas of entertainment and intellectual property law.

Tuesday
Nov082016

Congrats to client Andy Brown

Congratulations to client Andy Brown on the release of his book, Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild Air Force Base.  The book is a vivid and moving account of the events that led up to the 1994 mass shooting and B-52 bomber crash at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington.  These two tragic events occurred only four days apart.  Warnings Unheeded is the result of seven years of meticulous research and development, and focuses on the numerous warning signs from mental health professionals and military airmen that could have prevented the tragedies - but instead, went unheeded.  The author, Staff Sergeant Brown, was the military police officer that successfully ended the Fairchild hospital mass shooter’s rampage with a remarkable and heroic pistol shot. 

The book is available for purchase on Amazon and Fairchildhospitalshooting.com

UPDATE: Warnings Unheeded reached the #1 spot on Amazon's "True Crime" new release list - congrats Andy!


Friday
Jun242016

Jury verdict in Led Zeppelin trial

In a case closely watched by the music industry, a California jury has found that Led Zeppelin’s iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” does not infringe the copyright of the song “Taurus” by the band Spirit.  At trial, both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant testified that they had never heard “Taurus” prior to the creation of “Stairway to Heaven.”  Interestingly, the jury found otherwise on this issue (see the jury’s answer to question two below), but their verdict ultimately rested on the lack of extrinsic substantial similarity between the two songs. 

At trial, the jury was only permitted to hear an expert guitar performance of “Taurus” that was based on the sheet music submitted with the federal copyright registration, rather than the actual studio recording (featured below).  Other curiosities of the trial included Robert Plant’s testimony that he cannot read nor write music; and the over 100 objections sustained against counsel for plaintiff Michael Skidmore (the trustee of the estate of songwriter Randy Wolfe).  Observers of the trial have commented that the conduct of plaintiff’s counsel appeared to test the limits of both the judge’s and jury’s patience.  Plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the jury’s verdict.  The case citation is Michael Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin et. al., CV 15-03462-RGK.

 

 

Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin jury verdict

 

Wednesday
Mar232016

Support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act

Today I wrote to my U.S. congresswoman, Suzan DelBene, to ask for her support for the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, H.R. 1733.  The Act would rectify a major flaw in the Copyright Act by requiring that owners of sound recordings be paid for radio airplay on terrestrial radio.  Although songwriters are paid for terrestrial radio airplay through the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC), sound recording copyright owners (generally either recording artists or their record label) are currently paid nothing for terrestrial radio airplay.  The Act would also partially resolve another flaw in the Copyright Act, by providing that the performance right extends to sound recordings created prior to February 15, 1972.  The United States currently sits on a rarefied short list of countries – which includes North Korea, China, and Iran – that do not pay artists a performance royalty for sound recordings on terrestrial radio.

The MusicFirst coalition provides an easy way for individuals to reach out to members of Congress by filling out a short form through their website here.

 

Thursday
Feb252016

Congrats to client Marymoor Productions on the online premiere of "Having It All"

Congratulations to client Marymoor Productions and filmmaker Vlada Knowlton on the online premiere of the documentary film, “Having It All,” which will be hosted by FlexJobs and 1 Million for Work Flexibility on March 3rd

The film chronicles the lives of three women and their partners as they attempt to navigate the unanticipated difficulties and tough personal choices involved with balancing careers while also starting a family. 

The film’s website provides the following synopsis:

From the shockingly painful exercise of putting an infant into childcare, to the heartbreak and defeat of divorce, this film examines some routinely overlooked, yet ubiquitously endured experiences of today’s working parents. It also underscores the fact that the “Having It All” ideal is not the same for everyone.

We hope this documentary offers a new perspective for thinking about the work/life model that has been created for not only women, but all working parents in our modern culture. Hopefully it will also contribute towards new solutions for dealing with this challenge as individuals, as well as a society. Most of all, we hope this film simply offers a compelling story about three people trying their best to understand themselves and their limits, in a world that has encouraged them to strive towards having it all.

The film will be available on Amazon and iTunes on March 4th.  The trailer is featured below.  Congratulations Vlada!

Wednesday
Feb172016

Fox prevails in trademark suit over “Empire” series title

Twentieth Century Fox has defeated trademark infringement claims arising out of its popular television show, “Empire.”  “Empire” chronicles the life of fictional music mogul Lucious Lyon, whose wife and three sons struggle for control over his hip hop label, “Empire Enterprises.”  The show also features original music produced for the series, released by Columbia Records following the broadcast of each episode.

In response to a cease and desist letter from Empire Distribution, Fox brought suit for a declaratory judgment that the “Empire” series title did not infringe Empire Distribution’s trademark rights.  Empire Distribution is a record label, music distributor, and publishing company specializing in hip hop, rap, and R&B music, featuring famous artists such as T.I., Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Too $hort, Tyga, and Busta Rhymes. 

Empire Distribution argued that the Court should evaluate its trademark claims by determining whether the two trademarks caused confusion among consumers.  However, the Court did not reach this issue, because it determined that Fox’s use of “Empire” was protected by the First Amendment.  Since the “Empire” show is an expressive work, Empire Distribution's trademark claims would only be actionable if the term “Empire” had no artistic relevance to the work; and/or if the show was explicitly misleading as to the source or content of the show.  Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 997 (2nd Cir 1989).

The Court reasoned that the term “Empire” had artistic relevance because the series told the story of characters struggling for literal control over a company called “Empire Enterprises,” as well as figurative control over the “empire” that Lucious had built.  Additionally, the series was set in New York, which is known as the “Empire State.”

In analyzing whether the “Empire” series title was misleading as to source, the Court focused solely on the intent and actions of Fox, rather than examining any evidence of actual confusion among consumers.  Although Empire Distribution had introduced significant evidence of actual consumer confusion, the Court held that this evidence was entirely irrelevant.  Since Fox had not made any explicit claim or misstatement as to the source of the show, the Court held that Fox had not misled consumers, and Empire Distribution’s trademark infringement claims were barred.  Accordingly, the Court granted Fox’s motion for summary judgment. 

The case citation is Twentieth Century Fox Television, et. al. v. Empire Distribution, Inc., Case No. CV 15-2158 PA.