Celebrity Justice - The FindLaw Celebrities and The Law Blog

June 2016 Archives

Public Profanity Gets 50 Cent Arrested in St. Kitts

Swearing on stage is not allowed in St. Kitts. Although hip-hop is known for its profanity, it is nonetheless expected that rappers keep it clean on the Caribbean island. That is why last weekend, 50 Cent was arrested after an impromptu performance before 40,000 people.

In the immortal words of his representative, "The show was a great success and he will make sure for future trips to St. Kitts that he leaves the "motherf*****s" in the United States." The following is a cautionary tale about small charges and doing favors, as reported by the New York Daily News.

Ivanka and the Wild Things: Aquazzura Sues Trump for Shoe Style

Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. So why isn't Aquazzura happy that Ivanka Trump allegedly copied its Wild Thing shoes? The Italian shoe designer is suing the daughter of the Donald, and her licensing company Marc Fisher, for knocking off a popular sandal that it claims to have made famous.

Ivanka's shoe is called the Hettie and her licensing company denies that it's an imitation of Aquazzura's slipper. But the Italian shoemaker says that Ivanka's forever flattering them with imitation, and this is not the first time she has been inspired by their signature styles.

After Hellish Battle, Led Zeppelin Owns 'Stairway to Heaven'

Eight California jurors yesterday decided not to rewrite rock n' roll history, finding that Led Zeppelin did not copy a guitar riff from a band called Spirit nearly half a century ago. The dispute was over an instrumental portion of the iconic song "Stairway to Heaven," which was composed by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and released in 1971.

The song's 2012 re-release provided a basis for a much-delayed copyright violation claim by the representative of a deceased musician who said the Led Zep guitar riff copies his earlier song, "Taurus." Although Led Zeppelin has previously settled copyright violation claims, this case was different. To some extent, the band's future significance, its place in rock n' roll history, depended on defeating this claim. "Stairway to Heaven" is their best-known song.

Is Forever 21 Copying Kanye's Gear?

A long time ago, Ecclesiastes said that there is nothing new under the sun. Yet we claim ownership over artistic works as if they were truly new. We call these works intellectual property. In some cases, people can become very wealthy from their works of creative genius.

Kanye West is such a person. So he's probably not pleased that his merchandise may have inspired fast fashion giant Forever 21. The claim, made by Hypebeast and reported by People, is that a t-shirt sold on the musician's pop up shop in association with his album The Life of Pablo was copied by the retailers. Let's consider.

Who's Bad? The Gory Stash of Child Porn at MJ's Neverland Ranch

What did Michael Jackson see when he looked at the man in the mirror? Did he feel bad? Remember the time, in 2004, when the King of Pop was indicted for multiple counts of child molestation and intoxicating a minor to seduce him?

A jury found him not guilty after a trial in 2005, but this week Radar Online is reporting what investigators found at Jackson's Neverland ranch all that time ago. It's bad. Real bad.

Musicians Sign Petition Calling for Copyright Reform

It can be difficult to feel the pain of the world's wealthiest performers as they complain about YouTube, a video-streaming platform musicians say is built on stolen content. But artists are banding together against YouTube, signing a petition which they are publishing in major Washington, D.C. publications this week, calling the platform a haven for copyright infringement.

Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, U2, and other bands and musicians who already made a ton of money, signed the petition to show support for reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The musicians blame tech companies for their dwindling profits, saying that the corporations create tools that enable them to generate profits from the work of artists while musician incomes are decreasing.

News From the 'Stairway to Heaven' Copyright Trial

If you are of a certain age, then you know that every school dance must end with one song. It's slow and long and now-iconic and it's the subject of a copyright trial in federal court in California.

The "Stairway to Heaven" copyright case has qualities similar to the famous song at its center insofar as it's convoluted. But resolution may not be too far away, reports Courthouse News Service. This week the case is being tried more than four decades after the song was released. Members of the band Led Zeppelin are present and have testified.

Agency Sues Kardashian-Jenner Sisters for Breach of Contract

It can sometimes seem like everyone loves the Kardashian-Jenners but it isn't so. The super sisters are being sued by their former agents who complain that the ladies have deprived them of their cut of profits from product endorsement deals -- in other words, that they've been stealing.

An attorney for the sisters fervently denied the claim, saying that the agency's failures will be revealed in the litigation. Agency for the Performing Arts, TMZ reports, sued the five famous sisters -- Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian; and Kylie and Kendall Jenner -- leaving only Rob, the brother, out. The agency represents big brands such as Marriott Hotels, Lamborghini cars ... and until last year, the Kardashian-Jenner clan.

Ed Sheeran Sued: Is 'Photograph' an 'Amazing' Copyright Violation?

Two American musicians are suing British pop singer Ed Sheeran for more than $20 million, claiming copyright violations. Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard sued Sheeran in federal court in California, arguing that his hit song "Photograph" contains striking similarities to their 2009 song "Amazing."

Sheeran, 25, is one of Britain's top-selling pop artists, reports Reuters, and the song in question is off of his hit album "x" (which we are supposed to pronounce "multiply" and is one sign that Sheeran's not much of a writer). The song has reportedly sold over 3.5 million copies and his video for "Photograph" has 208 million views on YouTube. The plaintiffs are much less popular, yet their claims do have an interesting basis. Let's take a look at their case.

Appeals Court Reverses Jesse Ventura's $1.85M Damages Award

A brief barroom brawl has been the subject of a protracted legal battle, one that has outlived one of the brawlers. In 2006, Chris Kyle wrote an anecdote in his best-selling autobiography American Sniper in which he punched out a man called "Scruff Face" for speaking ill of Navy SEALs in Iraq. Scruff Face was later revealed to be Jesse Ventura -- a former Navy SEAL himself and former Governor of Minnesota, who fought back legally.

Ventura sued Kyle for defamation in a case that lasted longer than the sniper himself. Kyle is now deceased and Ventura was awarded $500,000 in damages for the defamation, plus $1.35 million of the profits from Kyle's book based on unjust enrichment. But today an appeals court overturned that award, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

More Musicians Miffed About Trump Using Their Tunes

Donald Trump doesn't ask permission, generally speaking. He acts first and lets others demand apologies later. So it should not be surprising that over the course of his campaign for president, the brazen candidate has used more than a few songs without the permission of the artists who wrote and own them.

The latest to join the growing list is Queen's 1977 song, "We Are the Champions." Last week, Brian May -- the former Queen guitarist -- posted a statement on his personal website, according to The Hollywood Reporter, saying that Trump did not seek or receive permission from the band to use the rousing anthem in association with his campaign.

Filmmaker Sues Beyonce for 'Lemonade' Copyright Violations

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or if you're Beyonce, you make Lemonade, a visual album that generates tons of press and speculation. The release by the pop goddess has stirred up lots of talk about her married life and role as wife to Jay-Z, as well as chatter about cultural matters, like who is Becky with the good hair. But now, reports the Associated Press, Queen Bey has been stung with a lawsuit claiming that the trailer for her visual album violates copyright.

Take Me Down: Axl Rose Calls Mean Memes Copyright Violations

The Internet is not like Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. It can be a mean space, and aging online is difficult for celebrities especially. People who were once adored understandably don't like it when they are mocked. That's what's happening to Axl Rose, the Guns n' Roses lead, and he told Google to make it stop.

But the best way to guarantee a person will be the laughingstock of the web is to complain that it's not fair that people are poking fun and to demand that unflattering images be taken down. Rose has done that 11 times since May 31, reports NBC News. All he seems to have accomplished with these demands is to inspire more mean memes and wider circulation of the offending images.

Amber Heard Sues Comedian for Defamation Over Depp Divorce Comments

Acting couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have not been married long but already they are divorcing and already their divorce case is spawning other lawsuits. The first is Heard’s filing, a defamation claim against comedian Doug Stanhope, who posted an article in defense of Depp on May 29 in TheWrap.com.

In this article, which has since been removed from the website, Stanhope accuses Heard of blackmailing Depp and lying about his alleged domestic abuse. Heard seeks punitive damages for defamation, emotional distress, and interference with economic relations. Let’s consider the claims, which were reported by Courthouse News Service.

Hillary's Brother-in-Law, Roger Clinton, Out on Bail After DUI Arrest

Hillary Clinton has a lot on her plate right now -- like trying to win the Democratic presidential primary in California -- so she was no doubt hoping to avoid a family scandal. But, as news outlets love to remind us, family scandals are common for the Clintons, and the latest comes from Bill's step-brother who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Redondo Beach on Sunday night.

While Hillary Clinton campaigns, and Bill does the same on her behalf, Roger Clinton spent Sunday night in jail. His bail, which he has since posted, was set at $15,000 and his first appearance date is reportedly set for September. No doubt the Clintons are hoping that Hillary will win the state before concerning themselves with Roger Cassidy Clinton's fate.

No Big Deal: Federal Appeals Court Affirms Madonna's Sampling

Pablo Picasso said that good artists copy and great artists steal. So does that make sampling a song without paying an act of artistic genius? The answer to that would depend on who you ask.

Certainly, if you look at the most recent ruling approving Madonna's use of a sliver of another song in her hit "Vogue," you might think Picasso had a point. The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is controversial, according to The Hollywood Reporter, creating a split between circuits, or federal appeals courts around the country. That means the issue of how much sampling without a license constitutes theft could go before the Supreme Court soon.

Fentanyl Killed Prince, Per Cryptic Midwest Medical Examiner's Report

Today a cryptic report about Prince's death was released by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office. He died of a drug overdose, and his death was deemed accidental, with no details revealed as to how he obtained or administered the Fentanyl that left him dead in the elevator of Paisley Park, his Minnesota home and music studio, on April 21.

This is the last the office will publicly say on the matter, according to the one-paragraph preface to the report, which is really just a form. It is a very interesting form, however, telling in its way and perhaps appropriate for a tiny giant, a paradoxical musical powerhouse who wrote so much music but is mysterious in life and in death. Let's see what we can glean.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Battle in Court and Media

Last year, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp were married in a discreet, secret ceremony, and last week their pending divorce was made very public. Heard served Depp with divorce papers just after his mother's death and as he was promoting a new film, prompting comments that she was unkind. In response, she notified the world that he is violent, and sought a restraining order.

The restraining order was granted and Heard says that throughout their four year relationship, Johnny Depp had been physically and verbally abusive. Today, the latest issue of People magazine was published featuring a battered-looking Amber Heard on the cover.