Sunday, August 7, 2011

Current Controversies In The Entertainment Industry: Adam Levine Sues Activision, J.R Bricks Receives "Cease To Desist" Letter For Release Of "Waffle House" Song & Spotify Is Sued By VideoPacket

Although artists and entertainment businesses can protect their intellectual property as well as their image through federal, international and state laws this does not exclude them from being sued by other parties and not becoming a victim of having their image wrongfully used. Whether you are an established artist, an up-incoming star or a new entertainment business, protecting your image as well as your products and services is essential specially in an industry where being held legally responsible, regardless of your intentions is as easy as 1, 2, and 3. In the entertainment industry, research suggests that a common area where artists and or businesses find themselves in a legal bind is when they use another company's product or an artist's product without obtaining proper legal permission and licensing. An artist can also be at risk of having their image and or trademark distorted as well as used for other purposes when they are blinded by a sweet deal and forget to read the fine print in a contract. There are several ways to minimize the risk of being sued and that is by protecting one's own intellectual property through legal rights as well as understanding how one can interact and use another artist's property in a given contract as well as through laws.

Are you an artist who is passionate about writing and wants to protect your content? Has your company invented software or product that is unique and you want to protect this innovation? Is your company slogan catchy and you feel your company should have official rights to those phrases? If your situation fits into one of the above questions, there are several legal steps one can take to protect their intellectual property. With all that said, if an artist has the proper laws and rights set in place for their artistry, and someone wrongfully distorts his or her image then, he or she can sue the other party.

A recent report by Billboard revealed that 'The Voice's' and Maroon 5 band member, Adam Levine is suing Activision for their video game Guitar Hero where he claims that the company is improperly using his image to encourage game sales.  Billboard underlines that Levine claims the company violated their contract by breaking the "common-law right of publicity" and by using "unfair business practices." According to The Hollywood Reporter, the original arrangement between Mr. Levine and the company Activision stated that Mr. Levine "granted the company limited use of his name and likeness for the game, Band Hero." In addition to that, The Hollywood Reporter underlined that Levine supposedly allowed Activision to use the song "she will be loved" for the video game, "Band Hero." Billboard also highlighted that Mr. Levine alleges that Activision allows gamers to "use his avatar to perform songs by other artists without his approval" and "without the use of his voice." The result of his claims is yet to be announced in court. Is Mr. Levine entitled to monetary grief for what he so alleges? 

Personally, if Activison did not adhere to the agreement, then by all means Levine should receive relief from Activision. On the other hand if Activision adhered to the contract and did not violate the terms then, Levine should not be granted relief for this lawsuit. It appears that Levine only agreed to have his avatar and voice to be used in specific areas and that further use of his voice and avatar needed to be approved by him. If that were the case then the judge should grant Mr. Levine relief because his voice is being used to promote other songs that are not his which is not to his benefit but more so for the benefit of the game and Activision. Using an artist's avatar would not only discredit and minimize the artist's likeness but also his or her image specially if, the artist’s neither voice nor songs are being showcased. I do feel that further information regarding details on the specifics of how Levine's avatar and his songs could be used, if Activision's actions were not in violation of common rights law and other intellectual property laws and knowing whether or not Mr. Levine and his management have what types intellectual property laws in place would allow me to me to give a better conclusion on this controversy.  

Unlike Adam Levine who was the suing party in the lawsuit, Billboard sources report that in another controversy rapper and artist J.R. Bricks and his label was recently called to attention for his song "Waffle House," by popular restaurant Waffle House for "trademark infringement." According to, Waffle House claims that J.R. Bricks's had no rights in using their company logo and that had J.R. Bricks and his label sat down to discuss rights to the company logo for usage perhaps, a cordial agreement would have supported the usage of company logo and name. Music Industry News Network reported that the Air Force veteran, and Florida native J.R Bricks responded to Waffle House's claims by stating that the company's claim was an act of "cultural discrimination" and that they are opposed to the "hip hop lifestyle." Billboard reported that a week later after "Waffle House" made its debut, on July 20, 2011 J.R. Bricks's label received a "cease and desist" letter from WH Capital, LLC and Waffle House, Inc. In that letter sources say that the restaurant Waffle House demanded that the artist change the name of the song and stop using the company's logo. In conclusion, Billboard underlines that the artist was able to "re-release the song on iTunes" and even able to "mention Waffle House name in the chorus line," with its new title. Billboard sources say that Waffle House defended themselves from the rapper's discrimination claims by stating that their company has allowed artists such as T.I., Queen Latifah and the like to obtain usage of the company's logo and obtain rights to film movies on company premises. 

Was Waffle House in the right to send a "cease and desist letter" to the rapper and his label? In my opinion Waffle House was in their total right to send the letter. The rapper and the label apparently had not obtained legal permission to use the company logo and or name for the song's content as well as for video taping purposes. In my opinion, which is based on evidence, I feel that the label and the rapper engaged in trademark infringement by not consulting the company on whether they could use the company's logo as well as the company name for their personal music sales. Any personal usage to gain monetary value from a company or product that where one has no legal right, is clearly in violation of that company's intellectual property rights.

Now who is in the right, if an entertainment business created a software or unique product of its first kind and someone else claimed that they had ownership to the product previously? Billboard sources reveal that shortly after its release in the United States, Spotify, a digital music service company "is being sued for patent infringement by the PacketVideo Corporation." Billboard also reported that PacketVideo, who provides "multimedia communications software," alleges that Spotify's introduction to "hybrid technology" is similar to Rolf Brugger's invention, the patent called "Device for Distribution of Music in Digital Form" which was "issued in 1997." states that PacketVideo Corporation's patent is described as "a system that is used for distributing digital music information to a central memory device." According to Billboard, in a recent press release Spotify strongly contests PacketVideo Corporation's claims and states that its product is "highly innovative," and that it also uses "P2P technology." Is there a basis for PacketVideo to sue Spotify? In my opinion, PacketVideo has proof of a patent that is registered and therefore should sue. On the other hand, we have no way of knowing whether Spotify that is, if their product is similar to PacketVideo and if the company had previous knowledge of the patent yet if that is their competitor shouldn't they know that? I think in this particular patent infringement lawsuit, the judge will ultimately look at what is the evidence and decide whether or not PacketVideo is in the right on their alleged claims. 

Artists and entertainment businesses need to not only be "in the know" of how to protect their products and services but also must understand that there are certain steps that have to be taken in order to obtain permissions and licensing when using another artist's content or company's products for their own purposes. By registering products and services to specific intellectual property laws an artist and or business can obtain local, state and federal protection for their products. Entering the entertainment industry without any knowledge of businesses and artists that have a particular song or that have developed current line of products for example could be detrimental to any new artist or business especially if they try to launch a similar product. In any case, taking the proper measures to protect what one deems is his or her artistry in legal means will go a long ways in minimizing the window of potential lawsuits and or other controversies. Have a trade secret or love your slogan? Protect your craft and obtain legal protection so that you get the rights you seek. If you don't do it, someone else will have the power to rightfully claim your innovation or craft.


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