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San Francisco Civil Litigation Blog

Civil litigation and the subpoena power

Successful civil litigation requires not only an understanding and appropriate application of the law, but also an ability to think on one's feet. While television and movies will have you believe that litigators can craft compelling legal arguments on the fly, the truth is that there is a thorough amount of preparation that goes into civil litigation. It is this preparation that allows for effective litigation.

One major piece of this preparation is the subpoena power. A subpoena is a court-ordered demand for either one's appearance in court or the production of documents. The former is the most commonly thought of. Here, an attorney subpoenas witnesses so that they are compelled to appear in court to testify, and if they don't, then they will face penalties. Subpoenas for documents, known as a subpoena duces tecum, requires the subpoenaed party to provide documents and other tangible materials.

Entertainment law: Jackson's estate claims HBO breached contract

The terms of a contract can have a tremendous impact on the way business is conducted in the entertainment industry. This means that those who fail to take active steps to protect their rights may see themselves being taken advantage of. For this reason, those engaged in the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to contracts, should carefully consider seeking out legal assistance before moving forward with an agreement.

To see an example of the power of contracts in the entertainment context, one need only look at a recent lawsuit filed by Michael Jackson's estate against HBO. The lawsuit centers on a 1992 contract between the parties whereby HBO agreed not to disparage Jackson's image or reputation, or the image or reputation of his agents or music. Jackson's estate claims that HBO's upcoming two-part series, Leaving Neverland, which focuses on accounts from two man who have accused Jackson of molestation, breaches the terms of that 1992 contract. There may be as much as $100 million at stake in this case.

Civil litigation and the importance of depositions

Effective litigation requires skill in the courtroom. Oftentimes, those who are embroiled in civil litigation need to be skillful in making and meeting objections, as well as questioning favorable and adverse witnesses in order to succeed. While an attorney must be able to think quickly on his or her feet to successfully litigate, a strong foundation created through thorough preparation can go a long way.

That is why it is important for plaintiffs in civil litigation to engage in discovery, whereby information is obtained from the defendant and other individuals and businesses that have relevant information. One critical part of this process is the deposition.

U. S. Copyright Royalty Board raises songwriter royalties

The United States Copyright Royalty Board has finalized a royalty increase for songwriters.

The Copyright Board proposed a 44 percent increase in streaming revenue for songwriters last year. Now it's finally a reality. However, companies like Spotify may challenge the increase in court.

What is the difference between fair use and public domain?

If you produce art or entertainment in the United States, your copyrighted work is protected from entering the public domain for a certain number of years. In 2019, the largest amount of previously copyrighted work will enter the public domain where anyone will be able to use the material for free.

The public domain can be a confusing area of copyright law. Some entities publish material that is still under active copyright as “free use.” If this is the case, how do you know if your work is protected?

Netflix sued for alleged trademark infringement

Many of us remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were popular during the '80s and '90s. Most people don't realize just how wildly popular the series has been, though. The fact is that the series has sold more than 265 million copies worldwide. This means that the intellectual property associated with Choose Your Own Adventure has significant value. This is why the series' publisher recently filed a trademark lawsuit against Netflix for its film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

The lawsuit claims that Netflix has confused audiences by drawing an association between its film and the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. The film is interactive in nature, allowing the viewer to choose which direction the plot moves during given points. There is even one scene in the film that references the book series. The book series' publisher, Chooseco, states that Netflix sought a license but never received one. The lawsuit also claims that a cease and desist letter was sent to Netflix, but the film continues to stream online. Chooseco is seeking $25 million in damages.

Entertainment law and the preliminary injunction

Those who enter into the realm of entertainment typically wind up possessing a bundle of rights. An individual may acquire copyrights to a number of creative works, but the protections don't end there. For example, an individual has the right to prevent others from benefiting from his or her likeness without authorization. Personality and life rights can have tremendous value, too, so those who infringe on those rights can wind up stealing significant financial resources.

Once these violations are spotted, legal action can be taken. However, the legal process can take some time to play out. So what happens to the wrongful use of a copyright, likeness, or personality? Well, unless additional legal action is taken, a defendant can continue to use them until it is proven that such use is wrongful in nature. By seeking a preliminary injunction, though, an individual may be able to put a halt to such action until pending litigation is decided.

Fortnite makers sued for using dances without approval

When looking at entertainment law, individuals are endowed with certain rights. As we have discussed previously on this blog, those who create artistic works are instilled with copyright protection.

Trademark and patent protections may also be available to an individual depending upon the circumstances and work at hand. Another right that individuals possess is the right to not have other unfairly profit form their likeness without their consent. These are sometimes referred to as personality rights.

Copyrighted works are entering the public domain again

Copyright law has kept many works from the public domain for a long time, but several copyrights are expiring for the first time in many years.

Effective January 1, all works published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. This is significant news in the world of copyright, as it has been over two decades since the last round of mass copyright expiration.

A primer on the rule against hearsay

There can be a lot at stake in civil litigation. Depending on the strength of the legal arguments you make in court, a judge or jury may or may not rule in your favor, which could result in significant financial consequences either to your advantage or your disadvantage. Therefore, prior to engaging in civil litigation, you need to make sure that you have not only strong, compelling legal arguments to make, but also a firm understanding of how to best present those arguments to protect your claim.One way to do this is to ensure that you have a full understanding of the rules of evidence. These often come into play when dealing with objections. One common objection is hearsay. Basically, hearsay is a statement that is made outside of court and is testified to by someone else in court, and those statements are offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Although hearsay is generally inadmissible in court, there are a number of exceptions. For example, statements that are made by a party opponent and are not hearsay. Also, business records are an exception to the hearsay rule because they are deemed reliable. The same holds true for an individual's statements pertaining to his or her then existing mental or emotional condition, as well as an individual's statements about an event as he or she is observing it. Even statements that are made to a medical professional for the purposes of receiving medical treatment are deemed reliable enough to be considered an exception to the rule against hearsay.Hearsay is just one of the many objectionable issues that may arise during civil litigation. Therefore, regardless of the type of litigation you find yourself embroiled in, whether it be family law, probate, torts, or some type of appeal, you need to make sure you have a firm understanding of the rules of evidence and how to use them to your advantage. Skilled litigators stand ready to help you with any civil litigation needs you may have, including dealing with evidentiary issues.

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