ESPN won’t be the first to take issue with BMI, Broadcast Music, Inc., over their music licensing and royalty collection terms for public performance of music in their artist catalogs. BMI is one of two major professional organizations managing performance royalty rates for musicians and their works, the other being ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers with catalogs of thousands of artists and songs. Think you can simply play your iTunes downloaded music in your workplace without a license? Think again. We have addressed this topic before as many a business owners has received the unpleasant demand letter for licensing fees under either BMI, ASCAP, or the smaller performance rights organization called SESAC, originally the “Society of European Stage Authors and Composers”. Now, however, ESPN is forging a battle in the music industry competition referred to as rate-setting and contending that BMI’s rates are disproportionate to EPSN’s payments to performers and publishers and are, therefore, unreasonable. In fact, ESPN has asked the Court to weigh in on this one.
Continuing our series on copyright law, we turn to the matter of copyright infringement (a previous topic here, here, and here). An important subject for creative business people of all kinds, popular culture is often a prism through which we can examine the concepts fundamental to American copyright law. The underlying premise is simple: society benefits when authors are given a monopoly to exploit their works. Without such a monopoly, authors would have no incentive to unleash their creative genius to the public, since anyone could simply profit from the hard work of the author. As a consequence there would be no Superman, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, or even Star Trek. That last endearing American work has now become the subject of an interesting copyright lawsuit pushing the boundaries of fan engagement and copyright ownership.
Being named in a lawsuit can be frightening. All of the thoughts that start streaming through your mind: What is going to happen? What do I do? How will I afford an attorney? How will I choose an attorney?
Regardless of what you do or do not know, once served with the complaint and summons, DO NOT ignore it. If you do not respond to the complaint on time, a default judgment likely will be entered against you. This may be something that cannot be undone.
Due to the procedures that must be followed and the complexities of understanding the substantive law, there is no substitute for an attorney who is familiar with the specifics of your case and can advise you accordingly. You are most likely to be successful if you retain an attorney who practices in the area of civil litigation and is not only familiar with the subject matter of the case but is also familiar with the court in which your case is pending.
Prior to retaining an attorney, however, the information below will help you get started.
Every fan of the National Football League (NFL) has heard by now about “Deflategate,” the scandal involving the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady. Following the American Football Conference (AFC) Championship game between the Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts (the game immediately preceding the Super Bowl), the NFL became suspicious that the Patriots, including Brady, may have purposely tampered with the air pressure in footballs used during the game. This suspicion was only possible based on a rule change proposed years before by Brady and the Patriots, which permitted teams a degree of control over the footballs used by their respective offenses. The allegation—possibly brought by both the Colts and the Baltimore Ravens, a prior Patriots playoff opponent—was that at some point before kickoff the Patriots were removing air from footballs to provide their quarterback with a better grip on the ball. Removing air from footballs might also provide an advantage during running plays or after a receiver catches the ball, as it might conceivably reduce the likelihood of a fumble by the offense. Fast forward and the Super Bowl Champion Patriots and their star quarterback have incurred severe sanctions from the NFL, in large part because of a legal doctrine known as “evidence spoliation.”