Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Gold Forever, a music publishing company solely owned by Holland, has agreements with various artists entitling it to half of the royalties collected for the sale and performance of those artists’ work. Holland was a Motown artist and co-wrote several famous songs. His music forms some, but not all, of Gold’s catalog. BMI and Universal license others to use Gold’s music; they collect and remit the royalties to Gold. Holland owes millions of dollars to the IRS in taxes, interest, and penalties. In 2012, the IRS served notices of levy to BMI and Universal, identifying Gold as the “alter ego/nominee transferee of" Holland and requiring the companies to remit to the IRS property and rights to property that they were obligated to pay Gold. Beginning on October 6, 2016, the companies remitted $967,140.76 to the IRS. Gold made requests for refunds to the IRS within nine months. On December 6, 2017, Gold filed a wrongful levy action for the funds remitted beginning on October 6, 2016, alleging that most, if not all, of the money belongs either to Gold or to artists other than Holland. The court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The statute of limitations for a wrongful levy action cannot begin until there has been a levy that attaches to the property at issue. Notices of levy in 2012 did not constitute levies on royalties generated after the notices were served, so the statute of limitations did not bar the wrongful levy action. View "Gold Forever Music, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Detroit residents voted to allow the school district to increase property taxes “for operating expenses.“ In 2013, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) announced its intent to capture some of that tax revenue to fund the construction of Little Caesars Arena for the Red Wings hockey team. In 2016, the DDA revised its plan to allow the Pistons basketball team to relocate to Arena. The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA) agreed to contribute to the $56.5 million expenditure, including reimbursing construction costs that private developers had already advanced. The project is largely complete. Plaintiffs requested that the school board place on the November 2017 ballot a question asking voters to approve or disapprove of the agencies' use of tax revenue for the Pistons relocation. The board held a special meeting but did not put the question on the ballot. Plaintiffs filed suit. Count VIII sought a declaratory judgment that the board had authority to place the question on the ballot. Count IX sought a writ of mandamus ordering the board to place it on the ballot. The court dismissed Counts VIII and IX, noting that Plaintiffs could have filed suit in 2013. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs lack Article III standing. Failure to place Plaintiffs’ question on the ballot affects all Detroit voters equally; they raised only a generally available grievance about government. Michigan statutes do not give Detroit residents the right to void a Tax Increment Financing plan by public referendum, so a referendum would not redress Plaintiffs’ injury. View "Davis v. Detroit Public School Community District" on Justia Law

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Upon receiving an anonymous tip, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) investigated allegations of race-fixing, involving gamblers and harness-racing drivers. Plaintiffs, MGCB-licensed harness drivers, attended an administrative hearing but declined to answer questions, invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The MGCB immediately suspended their licenses, based on a requirement that license applicants “cooperate in every way . . . during the conduct of an investigation, including responding correctly, to the best of his or her knowledge, to all questions pertaining to racing.” MGCB later issued exclusion orders banning the drivers from all state race tracks and denied Plaintiffs’ applications for 2011, 2012, and 2013 licenses. Plaintiffs sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming violations of their procedural due process and Fifth Amendment rights. The Sixth Circuit held that the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The exclusion orders were issued about 30 months before a post-exclusion hearing; Plaintiffs identified a violation of a clearly established right. Under specific conditions, a public employee “may rightfully refuse to answer unless and until he is protected at least against the use of his compelled answers.” The Supreme Court has held that if a state wishes to punish an employee for invoking that right, “States must offer to the witness whatever immunity is required to supplant the privilege and may not insist that the employee ... waive such immunity.” Both rights were clearly established at the time of the violation. View "Moody v. Michigan Gaming Control Board" on Justia Law

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Kibler, a disc jockey, uses turntables and others’ vocals to produce music containing jazz and funk elements. He released several albums under the name “DJ LOGIC” since 1999, but currently has no record deal. Kibler registered “DJ LOGIC” as a trademark in 2000, allowed the registration to lapse, and re-registered it in 2013. He has also been known as “LOGIC.” Hall has performed under the name “LOGIC” since 2009. In 2012, Kibler’s attorney sent Hall’s management company and booking agent an email ordering them to stop using the name “LOGIC” and to recall any product or advertisement that did, claiming infringement on Kibler’s mark. Hall’s company applied to register “LOGIC” as a trademark. Kibler sued, alleging trademark infringement, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); breach of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act; unfair competition under Michigan law; and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act. In 2014, defendants delayed Hall’s tour and first album release due to ongoing settlement negotiations that ultimately collapsed. Defendants then released the album, which sold over 170,000 copies. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Kibler did not provide evidence sufficient to find that relevant consumers are likely to confuse the sources of his and Hall’s products or that Hall diluted Kibler’s mark. View "Kibler v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Fakhouri, a resident of Michigan who uses a wheelchair, traveled to Tennessee for a vacation in summer, 2012. She visited Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort that also has a year-round amusement park, restaurant, lounge, and shopping center alongside the ski paths and mountain trails. To bring visitors to and from the ski area and associated attractions, Ober Gatlinburg operates a tramway, which Fakhouri rode without incident up the mountain when she arrived at the site. When she tried to enter the tram for her return trip, her wheelchair caught on the tram, breaking one of the wheels and causing her leg to buckle underneath the chair. She sought medical treatment for injuries to her leg and neck, and she continues to experience swelling, weakness, poor blood flow, and discoloration in the affected leg. The district court rejected her negligence suit on summary judgment, relying on a Tennessee statute that precludes liability for ski resort operators under certain conditions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Fakhouri’s lawsuit was precluded because she was a “skier or passenger,” Ober Gatlinburg is a “ski area operator,” and her injuries “aris[e] out of” her “use of any passenger tramways associated with Alpine or downhill skiing.” View "Fakhouri v. Ober Gatlinburg, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fans of the musical group Insane Clown Posse, who call themselves “Juggalos,” frequently display, on person or property, insignia representative of the band. In 2011, the National Gang Intelligence Center—an informational center operating under the Federal Bureau of Investigation—released a congressionally-mandated report on gang activity that included a section on Juggalos. The report identified Juggalos as a “hybrid gang” and relayed information about criminal activity committed by Juggalo subsets. Juggalos allege that they subsequently suffered violations of their First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights at the hands of state and local law enforcement officers who were motivated to commit the injuries in question due to the identification of Juggalos as a criminal gang. They filed suit against the Department of Justice and FBI under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The SIxth Circuit reversed dismissal for lack of standing. The Juggalos sufficiently alleged that the reputational harm and chill was caused by the 2011 Report and, where reputational harm and chill will likely be alleviated by the relief sought, redressability exists. View "Parsons v. Dep't of Justice" on Justia Law

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The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) received an anonymous tip that certain harness-racing drivers were fixing races in concert with known gamblers. At a hearing, the drivers asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions. The state suspended their licenses to work in horse racing because for failure to comply with the conditions precedent for occupational licensing, as outlined in R431.1035, which provides that a license applicant, “shall cooperate in every way” during an investigation. The MGCB would not lift the exclusion orders unless the drivers answered questions without legal representation. The drivers unsuccessfully applied for 2011-2013 licenses, then filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983; the district court granted MGCB summary judgment, finding that that the Eleventh Amendment barred claims for money damages against MGCB and its officials and that the MGCB was entitled to qualified immunity because the drivers failed to identify the violation of a constitutional right. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, but reversed with respect to due-process claims about the exclusions and self-incrimination claims, and remanded three issues: did the drivers request hearings on their exclusions, did their self-incrimination and due-process claims involve clearly established rights, and, if so, should an officer in the MGCB’s position have known about those rights? View "Moody v. Mich. Gaming Control Bd." on Justia Law

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Rafters Bar and Grill, a golf-course restaurant in Canton, Ohio, offers music and dancing, sometimes turning on a recording, sometimes bringing in live performers, but it hosts performances of the music without getting the copyright owners’ permission. BMI, an organization of songwriters and composers that licenses music and collects royalties on behalf of its members, sent Rafters more than a score of letters, warning the restaurant not to infringe its copyrights and offering to license its music. It got no response. BMI sued for copyright infringement. Roy, the owner of Rafters, argued that he did not perform any of the copyrighted music. The bands that played at the restaurant and the people who turned on the recordings did that. The district court granted BMI summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that a defendant becomes vicariously liable for a direct infringement of a copyright “by profiting from [the] infringement while declining to exercise a right to stop or limit it.” A defendant’s ignorance about the infringement or the performances does not negate vicarious liability. View "Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Meadowlake Ltd." on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act of 1998 is a county-option state law to address deleterious secondary effects associated with adult-oriented businesses, including crime, spread of venereal disease, and decreased property values. Adult-oriented establishments that are subject to the Act, and their employees, must obtain licenses. The Act prohibits nudity, certain sexual activities, touching of certain anatomical areas, all physical contact during performances, sale or consumption of alcohol on the premises; it requires that all performances occur on a stage at least 18 inches above floor level with all performers at least six feet away from customers and other performers. Shelby County adopted the Act in 2007. Owners of adult establishments challenged the ordinance. Following denial of a preliminary injunction, the district court granted summary judgment upholding the law, except with respect to a claim of facial invalidity attacking the reasonableness of coverage of establishments featuring “briefly attired” dancers. The court then rejected that challenge. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting First Amendment challenges. View "Entm't Prods., Inc. v. Shelby Cnty." on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Michigan legislature enacted laws that barred sexually oriented businesses from displaying signs on the premises that contained more than “words or numbers,” Mich. Comp. Laws 125.2833; and imposed similar restrictions on off-site billboards, Mich. Comp. Laws 252.318a. In response to a First Amendment challenge, the district court preliminarily enjoined enforcement. The state stipulated to a final judgment declaring both laws facially unconstitutional and permanently enjoining enforcement. Two months later, Platinum, represented by the same attorney who had won the first lawsuits, sued the same defendants, challenging the same laws on the same free speech grounds. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The legal possibility that “this Governor or this Attorney General will enforce these laws in the face of these injunctions is: zero.” Platinum Sports has no cognizable theory of injury. View "Platinum Sports Ltd. v. Snyder" on Justia Law