SAG Power Struggle Spills Into Court Amidst Talk of Strike

by Thomas Paschalis February 16 2009, 14:04
I. Introduction

In February 2008, when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) ended the acrimonious three-month strike that crippled American television production, a sense of relief spread throughout the entertainment industry.[1] Hollywood studios had achieved three years of labor peace with writers, television production would resume, and the Oscars could air undisturbed.[2] Any feelings of elation were short-lived, however, as the industry collectively turned its head toward the impending expiration of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) contract that summer.[3] Despite the express desire of both parties to avoid a reprise of the writers’ strike, the June 30 expiration date came and went without a new agreement between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).[4] SAG members have now been working under an expired contract for over seven months, with the threat of another strike persistently looming.[5] Further complicating matters has been a power struggle between hardliners and moderates within the ranks of SAG, which has lead to a legal battle over the attempted ouster of SAG’s Executive Director, chief negotiator, and strike-proponent Doug Allen.[6] [More]

Chipping Away at the RIAA's "Making Available" Theory of Copyright Infringement

by Thomas Paschalis November 4 2008, 12:15
I. Introduction

On September 8, 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed copyright infringement lawsuits against 261 individuals for sharing songs on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.[1] In the five years since, the RIAA has sued, settled, or threatened litigation against over 30,000 Americans for alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.[2] These actions have attracted a great deal of public attention, largely due to the fact that the suits have hit very close to home for many Americans. Unlike prior lawsuits, which targeted software programs such as Napster and Grokster, this new chapter in the file-sharing saga has focused on ordinary people.[3] The targets of the RIAA’s legal claims run the spectrum of everyday people who are not typically the subjects of copyright actions, including children, parents, grandparents, single mothers, professors, and college students.[4]

The RIAA’s strategic offensive against music consumers has spurred a firestorm of debate concerning topics such as copyright law, technology, privacy, and legal procedure. For the first few years of the RIAA’s legal efforts, the focus of legal and social observers centered on the RIAA’s tactics for identifying and filing suit against potential defendants.[5] In the last year, however, as contested cases have made their way through district court litigation, the focus has shifted to the interpretation of black-letter copyright law. The RIAA’s “making available” theory of infringement has garnered a great deal of attention, though its acceptance by district courts has been inconsistent. To date, the few district courts to rule on the matter have each interpreted the Copyright Act differently in the context of file-sharing, indicating that there is likely to be ongoing uncertainty until appellate level courts offer clarification. For the moment, though the trend is moving away from acceptance of the "making available" theory, courts appear more willing to allow the RIAA to prevail on the basis of actual dissemination. [More]

The Obama "Celebrity" Ad and the Right of Publicity

by Thomas Paschalis September 29 2008, 12:43
I. Introduction

With the 2008 presidential campaign expected to break spending records, it is no surprise that both major political parties are flooding swing-state airwaves with television advertisements. While recent elections have produced the much-discussed "swift boat" and "3 a.m." commercials, the McCain campaign took a unique approach with the summer release of the so-called Barack Obama "celebrity" ad.[1] In response to the enthusiasm generated by large U.S. and European crowds at Obama's public appearances, the McCain campaign featured images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton in an ad that characterized Obama as "the biggest celebrity in the world."[2] Such unauthorized use of celebrity images in political advertisements has been the subject of recent debate, as any potential legal actions implicate the tension between the right of publicity and the First Amendment. [More]

Probing Spygate: Will the NFL Indemnify Key Witness?

by Thomas Paschalis April 23 2008, 12:59
I. Introduction

From the moment of its initial disclosure, the National Football League's (NFL's) so-called Spygate incident had the potential to be one of the more notorious sports scandals in recent memory. During the first game of the 2007 season, a videographer on the New England Patriots sideline was caught taping the hand signals of New York Jets offensive coaches, a violation of Article 9 of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws.[1] The intrigue was apparent: the league's modern-day dynasty had been caught red-handed, begging the question of whether the Patriots had broken league rules at any other times during its championship era. The NFL's first-year commissioner, Roger Goodell, addressed the issue quickly, fining the team and head coach Bill Belichick a combined $750,000 and taking away a first-round draft pick.[2] Despite its rapid action, the NFL's handling of the situation added to the mystery. After announcing the penalty, the league destroyed the tapes it confiscated from the Patriots.[3] Further fueling the controversy, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter publicly rebuked the Patriots, accusing the team of "stonewalling" his own investigation into the matter.[4]

The questions followed the then-undefeated Patriots to Super Bowl XLII, when the Boston Herald reported that Matt Walsh, a former Patriots employee, allegedly taped the St. Louis Rams walk-through practice the day before New England's surprise upset of the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.[5] Since that report, the NFL has expressed a desire to speak with Walsh regarding his knowledge of any potential wrongdoing by the team.[6] Walsh, for his part, has suggested he has damaging information, but his legal representation is demanding full indemnity before revealing his knowledge or role in any malfeasance.[7] The negotiations over the scope of an indemnity agreement have lasted for months, keeping the league in the dark as to what Walsh really knows.[8] [More]

Wait 'Til Next Year: When Will Comcast and The Big Ten Network Reach an Agreement?

by Thomas Paschalis April 3 2008, 17:12
I. Introduction

When the college footballs season kicks off in August, Midwestern cable customers may finally get the chance to see what all the fuss over the Big Ten Network (BTN) is about. After over a year of tense negotiations, published reports indicate that the BTN and Comcast are nearing a deal to air the channel on the Midwest's largest cable provider.[1] Upon becoming the first conference to announce the creation of its own cable station, the Big Ten counted on the appeal of being able to guarantee its fans the ability to see nearly every game played by conference teams.[2] When negotiations commenced with Midwest cable providers, however, Comcast and its competitors balked at the BTN's high asking price and broad distribution demands.[3] The ensuing stalemate prevented most Midwest fans who do not have satellite cable from viewing the much-anticipated Ohio State-Wisconsin football game in November.[4] Additionally, the Wisconsin-Indiana and Wisconsin-Purdue men's basketball games in February were also unavailable to most fans within the Big Ten region.[5]

Months of public sparring between the BTN and Comcast seem to have finally given way to a compromise. As major sports leagues are trending toward cable broadcasting, the anticipated agreement between Comcast and the BTN is sure to impact fans and cable customers nationwide, while setting a precedent for future contractual negotiations between cable providers and athletic leagues. [More]

When In Doubt, Seek a Buyout: Indiana's Solution to the Kelvin Sampson Dilemma

by Thomas Paschalis February 28 2008, 17:25
I. Introduction

Parting ways with a college coach accused of violating National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules has become a delicate process. On February 8th, the NCAA notified Indiana University that its men's basketball coach, Kelvin Sampson, had allegedly committed five "major" NCAA rule violations.[1] After more than a week of speculation surrounding Sampson's future at Indiana, the school negotiated a settlement to terminate its relationship with the second-year coach.[2] In exchange for a $750,000 buyout, Sampson resigned and agreed not to pursue any legal action against the university.[3]

On its face, the buyout seems generous for a coach who conceivably could have been fired outright for cause. Sampson, who was already under NCAA sanction for prior infractions, had a clause in his contract that allowed Indiana to terminate him for "significant or repetitive violations."[4] Nevertheless, Indiana was in a difficult position. Firing Sampson prior to NCAA hearings on the alleged violations would have likely spurred a wrongful termination suit in which Sampson could potentially recover the remaining $2.5 million on his contract.[5] Allowing the embattled coach to remain a Hoosier until the NCAA's final determination in July would prolong the program's instability as the NCAA tournament and recruiting season approach.[6] Faced with this dilemma, Indiana decided it was well worth the buyout to get Sampson out the door immediately. [More]



The Legal Attack on Fantasy Sports

by Thomas Paschalis November 9 2007, 18:32
In the last thirty years, fantasy sports have evolved from a little known hobby into a $1.5 billion industry.[1] While historical accounts differ, CNN claims that the first fantasy league began in 1980 and involved the use of baseball statistics.[2] Fantasy sports grew drastically during the 1990s, as internet technology gave rise to services that could conduct quick statistical updates and provide fantasy managers with up-to-the-minute league scores and standings.[3] By 2005, there were more than 12.6 million Americans competing in fantasy sports leagues, spending nearly $500 per player.[4] The rapid growth of the fantasy sports industry has spurred litigation that threatens viability of the industry as a whole. In this article, I will discuss a recent case in which a federal court was asked to declare fantasy sports to be a form of illegal gambling. [More]

Chicago 2016: Let The Civic Battles Begin

by Thomas Paschalis October 12 2007, 19:06
When the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced that Chicago would be the country's bid city for the 2016 Olympic Games, Chicago's political and business leaders rejoiced in their joint victory.[1] Nearly a year after Chicago Mayor Richard Daley formed the Olympic exploratory committee, and nine months after being named one of the U.S. finalists, the USOC threw its support behind the city that has quickly achieved front-runner status in international phase of the selection process.[2] Like most sporting events, the modern day Olympic Games are big business. As such, Daley and Chicago 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan created a comprehensive bid detailing the financial and logistical components of a potential Chicago Olympics.[3] Yet, while public support of Chicago's bid remains high, some community groups are voicing opposition to elements of the plan.[4] Specifically, political (and potential legal) clashes are being waged concerning the proposed use of public funds, public land, and a local nature preserve. [More]



Veto Power In The Sale Of The Cubs

by Thomas Paschalis September 14 2007, 19:24
The Tribune Company’s opening day announcement that it would divest itself of the Chicago Cubs began the process of what could be the most scrutinized sale of a professional sports team in history. While the prospect of a change in ownership has been the subject of speculation ever since the team’s off-season spending spree and the parent company’s decision to put itself up for sale, the news that one of Major League Baseball’s (MLB's) marquis franchises would change hands by early 2008 made waves throughout sports and business communities.[1] Forbes Magazine estimates the value of the Cubs to be $592 million, a substantial appreciation from the $21 million the Tribune Company paid for the team in 1981.[2] As further enticement to potential investors, the sale will also include Wrigley Field and the team’s twenty-five percent stake in the Comcast sports channel in Chicago.[3] To date, much of the attention has been focused on the list of high-profile bidders, fueling speculation that the sale price could exceed one billion dollars.[4] Despite the possibility of a bidding war, MLB’s procedural rules for the sale of a franchise ensures that dollars alone will not be the decisive factor in determining who will be the next owner of the Cubs. [More]



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