Notable Representations, Key Contacts
This evolution is especially significant in the media and entertainment industries, driving legal disputes that are redefining the boundaries of antitrust, copyright, trademark, misappropriation, false advertising/Lanham Act, First Amendment, and commercial litigation issues. These developments affect all types of media companies – established and new – as well as numerous other content providers and hosts serving global businesses and consumers.
Against that backdrop, our IP/Media practice has developed an industry-wide reputation and record of success in a number of cutting-edge areas:
- Defense of Cutting-Edge Secondary Liability, Vicarious Liability, and Contributory Liability Claims. These claims collectively represent an increasingly deployed legal tool whereby intellectual property owners are attempting to impose liability on other parties that have indirect involvement in transactions involving claimed counterfeit or infringing content (e.g., web-based e-commerce platforms that allow users to sell products to other users). Our attorneys are uniquely experienced in handling these cutting-edge issues.
- Disputes between Content Distributors and Content Providers. As traditional media distribution platforms such as cable and broadcast television adapt to increased competition from web-based and other digital distribution platforms, as well as to new high-definition content, there has been an avalanche of litigation between content providers (like television networks) and content distributors (like cable and broadband providers) relating to the rights to distribute this content. Our practice has long been at the forefront of such disputes.
- Copyright Music Licensing Disputes. Weil has built the nation’s preeminent music copyright practice, which includes such clients as Pandora Media, Sirius XM Radio Inc., ABC, NBC, CBS, DMX, Inc., the local broadcast radio industry, the local broadcast television industry, dozens of cable networks, and a host of Internet-based music users. We have put an indelible stamp on music IP law that has defined – and is still shaping – the digital era through a series of precedent-setting licensing litigations and other proceedings involving the application of established legal doctrines to novel environments, whether they be television and radio broadcasts or wireless transmissions.
Weil regularly counsels leading companies and organizations around the world on a wide variety of IP issues ranging from IP enforcement and brand protection to cutting-edge contributory liability issues to advertising and privacy/data protection issues – including in the transactional context.
Weil also successfully represented ESPN in a second and different matter obtaining a near-complete defense jury verdict following trial of more than $150 million in claims brought by DISH Network challenging certain provisions of distribution agreements ESPN had negotiated with DISH and several of DISH’s competitors.
Weil secured a complete victory for HarperCollins in a copyright infringement action against e-book publisher Open Road Integrated Media relating to the e-book rights to Jean Craighead George’s 1972 children’s book, Julie and the Wolves. HarperCollins alleges that it had obtained the exclusive right to license third parties to publish e-book versions of the award-winning children’s novel, and that Open Road had violated HarperCollins’ rights in that work by publishing such an e-book without HarperCollins’ authorization. George had contracted with HarperCollins in 1971, granting the exclusive right to publish her novel “in book form”; the agreement also granted HarperCollins certain subsidiary rights to the novel, including the exclusive right to license third parties to use the work “in storage and retrieval and information systems, and/or whether through computer, computer-stored, mechanical, or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented.” Open Road contended that this language did not convey e-book rights to HarperCollins. Ruling on the parties’ motions for summary judgment, the court agreed with HarperCollins and held that the language of the contract was clear on its face, and that the 1971 contract granted to HarperCollins the exclusive right to license electronic publications, which Open Road had infringed in its unlicensed e-book publication of Julie of the Wolves. The court found that although the 1971 agreement did not expressly address e-book rights, which were yet to be developed, the clear language of the contract was sufficiently broad to encompass those rights, finding that the contract “encompassing as it does the forward-looking reference to technologies ... is sufficiently broad to draw within its ambit e-book publication.”
Weil represents Pandora Media in a number of disputes with parties in the recorded music industry:
- Copyright Royalty Board Trial: Weil secured a favorable ruling for Pandora following six weeks of trial proceedings before the Copyright Royalty Board, which established royalty rates for the public performance of sound recordings by webcasters for the 2016-2020 license period.
- Pre-1972 Sound Recording Copyright Infringement Litigation: We also represent Pandora in defending a putative class action lawsuit brought in federal court in New York in connection with Pandora’s performances of sound recordings created before February 15, 1972 and therefore unprotected by federal copyright law. Plaintiffs have asserted claims under New York law for common law copyright infringement, violation of rights of publicity, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment.
- Copyright Royalty Board Trial: We achieved a trial victory for Sirius XM against SoundExchange in connection with satellite radio royalty rates for the public performance of sound recordings for the 2013-2017 license period. The determination of rates saved Sirius XM approximately $1.8 billion in royalty payments over the license term.
- Antitrust Litigation: We represent Sirius XM in an antitrust action filed against SoundExchange and other recording industry organizations, alleging an industry-wide conspiracy to interfere with Sirius XM's attempts to license directly with record companies.
Ranked among the top 3 firms in Band 1 in New York for Media & Entertainment Litigation and known for “handling sophisticated matters in the digital and social media sectors” and offering “expertise in copyright and trademark disputes and First Amendment litigation.”
Clients stress that “in the area of music licensing law, they are without parallel.”
This international powerhouse handles a significant amount of work in the overlap between IP and media…" and "maintains its position at the cutting edge of media issues" by acting "for an enviable list of top media clients." Clients call us “true experts in the field,” and highlight our “practical, knowledgeable and well-staffed” practice.
Clients underline the “phenomenal” results achieved by Weil’s IP/Media practice in the copyright, trademark, and internet law spaces, and highlight our “very deep bench.”
In 2013, Weil earned “Practice Group of the Year” accolades in the Media and Entertainment space from Law360, and attorneys secured a Rising Star award and an MVP award in the same space.
Weil has been recognized as a “Top-Tier” firm for Intellectual Property, Copyright and a “Leading” firm for Intellectual Property, Trademarks: Litigation, and noted for “strong trial expertise and experience in bet-the-company matters”
Legal 500 US
Recognized in 2012 as both a leading IP practice and a standout firm in the “Lawyers to the Innovators” category for its work in the music licensing space.
2012 Financial Times US Innovative Lawyers Report