Celebrity Justice - The FindLaw Celebrities and The Law Blog

May 2017 Archives

While some people only felt robbed of the price of admission and 3 hours and 14 minutes of their life after watching the 1997 film Titanic, a Florida man recently filed a lawsuit claiming James Cameron stole his family's story for the film. Stephen Cummings is seeking $300 million as well as a 1 percent ongoing royalty as a result of the alleged theft.

According to sources, Cummings is claiming that the story of Jack Dawson and Rose Bukater mirrors the story of his two relatives, a husband and wife couple aboard the Titanic. When the real ship sank, only the wife escaped. The actual tale, which Cummings was known to tell to friends, has other similarities to the one told in the movie.

The rightful heirs to estate of the late artist, Prince, have finally been identified by a Minnesota probate court over a year after his death. However, before they can collect, the rightful heirs are required to wait an additional year for appeals by those who were rejected as heirs. This means that additional heirs could potentially be named, though it is not expected.

While it is not unusual for celebrity deaths to result in multiple claims to the deceased's estate, Prince's death resulted in over 40 different claims. Many of which, such as the one from an incarcerated fellow in Colorado, were disproved using DNA tests. Last week, the judge ruled that Prince's six siblings will split the $200 million estate.

A recent decision in the civil case against Conan O'Brien is no laughing matter for the late night host. Writer Alex Kaseberg filed suit in 2015 over a series of jokes that he claims were stolen from his blog and Twitter feed. The federal judge hearing the copyright infringement claims ruled that three of the five allegedly infringing jokes can proceed to trial.

Kaseberg, who writes a comedy blog, alleged that Conan O'Brien, as well as others, stole and published his jokes. The jokes alleged to have been stolen were written about current events, and though none were stolen word for word, the similarities are obvious.

Warner Brothers, the makers of the 2016 comedy War Dogs, have been hauled into a Florida federal court by the very person the film is based on. The subject of the film, Efraim Diveroli, is a convicted arms dealer who is currently incarcerated. Diveroli is asserting that the film was advertised as being a true story, his true story, and does not actually accurately depict the true story.

While the case is still relatively new, Diveroli has cleared the first hurdle in bringing his claim and survived a motion to dismiss. At this stage, if Warner does not settle, they will actually have to respond to the factual allegations in court (though that could take years to play out). Diveroli is seeking to hold Warner liable for his financial losses, as well as for misleading the public.

Last week, an arrest was finally made in the 2015 shooting of Darrell Alston, better known to his fans as "Nazty." Police cited the on-going beef between Nazty and Kevron Evans, aka Young Moose, as the motivation for the shooting. However, Young Moose has not been implicated in any other way.

Police arrested Antonio Melvin for the murder of Alston, who is a friend of Young Moose and has appeared in the rapper's music videos. Police have linked the murder of Alston to the feud between the rappers due to so-called"diss tracks" that each released attacking the other with biting lyrics.

The trustees of Elizabeth Taylor's estate have filed a lawsuit against Christie's due to a couple disputes over some high priced auction items. The late Taylor's jewelry collection was acclaimed as legendary. The actress, businesswoman, and fragrance mogul, amassed a fortune in jewels throughout her life, a treasure trove that sold for over $150 million after her death.

The primary issue involves a $9 million diamond that was rumored to have been owned by a Mughal emperor from the 1600s (but was not listed as such by Christie's). In addition to this rumored piece, another $3 million Bulgari ring is also at issue.

On February 18 and 24, 1969, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Considering the iconic artist and the iconic venue, this is no doubt a concert Hendrix fans would die to see. But thanks to ongoing litigation they're just hoping they don't die before they're able to see it.

The concerts were filmed and recorded with the express purpose of being released as a film. The problem, in the intervening 48 years, is that the parties to the recording contract can't seem to agree on how to release the footage. And with a recent California Court of Appeals decision, that release will be delayed even further.

The way that Hollywood recycles movie plots, you would think that all the good stories have already been told. And pirate stories have been around for centuries. So how do you separate new, original works from the many predecessors? Or, more accurately, how do you prove a new movie based on old pirates isn't lifted from someone else's work?

One way is to show them that you have even older artwork, pre-dating their own and ask them to sign a release, absolving you from future copyright liability. But what if someone says they found artwork even older than what you've presented, and claims you altered your artwork, and claims you fraudulently obtained the release? That's what Royce Mathew says The Walt Disney Company did, in the latest chapter of their ongoing feud over the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise.

Last week, it was reported that the lawsuit filed by Tomi Lahren against TheBlaze and Glen Beck has settled. While there is no disclosure as to any dollar figures, or whether there was even a payout at all, Lahren did walk away with something rather significant: her Facebook profile page which was allegedly being held hostage by TheBlaze.

Lahren had filed suit as a result of being removed from Beck's program. Although she was still being paid under her contract, the lawsuit claimed that she had been wrongfully terminated for expressing views contrary to Beck and TheBlaze's opinion. Specifically, Lahren expressed a pro-choice stance on abortion which was premised upon not being a hypocrite when it came to favoring less government regulation.

It's gotta be hard if you're a struggling artist and you think a major studio ripped off your idea. What's even harder, though, is backdating that idea, forging some sketches, and suing said studio in an attempt to extort a multimillion dollar settlement.

So hard in fact, that you'll probably be forced to withdraw your civil lawsuit, then get charged, indicted, and convicted on federal fraud and perjury charges, sentenced to two years in prison, and forced to pay the studio $3 million. Irony, right?

For Alanis Morissette's former business manager, Jonathan Todd Schwartz, formerly of GSO Business Management, everything isn't gonna be fine fine fine. In an un-ironic twist, months ago Schwartz admitted to embezzling nearly $7 million from GSO clients, as well as covering up his thefts. Recently, a federal court judge sentenced Schwartz to 6 years behind bars as a result of his plea bargain.

In addition to the lengthy prison sentence, Schwartz has been ordered to pay restitution totaling nearly $9 million. The sentence is sure to provide Schwartz with a daily reminder of the mess he left when he went away.

The FTC recently announced that it issued over 90 letters to Instagram and social media 'influencers' and celebrities to remind them about the legal requirement to clearly disclose paid-for social media posts.

The announcement explains that many social media influencers use unclear hashtags or comments, such as #sp, #sponsored, or "Thanks [brandname]," in an attempt to meet the FTC disclosure requirements. However, as the FTC explains, these phrases are not clear, nor conspicuous, enough. Additionally, the agency pointed out that the clear and conspicuous guideline is violated when a user has to click or touch an image or link in order to see the disclosure.

Even with the cool wind in their hair, the iconic classic rock band, the Eagles, has filed a lawsuit against a Mexican hotel due to pretending to be the very same Hotel California that the famous rock group sang about in their popular song, Witchy Woman. However, what a nice surprise it was that the hotel policies that prohibit ever checking out and wine (at least since 1969), weren't the basis of the lawsuit.

In all seriousness though, the lawsuit against the Hotel California is due to the unsurprising inevitability of a hotel trying to use an unlicensed, and sadly, fake, gimmick to attract guests. The Eagles are seeking to stop the hotel from using the name Hotel California and misleading guests into thinking there is any connection between the location and the song.

This past weekend, the first ever Fyre Festival, a luxury getaway music festival in the Bahamas, turned out to be more like a disaster relief drill than luxury music experience. Thousands of concert goers, who all paid thousands of dollars to be there, were essentially deceived and needlessly put in harm's way. Rather than luxurious accommodations, attendees found FEMA disaster relief tents. Rather than gourmet food, bread with sliced cheese was poorly rationed out alongside relatively plain salad. Rather than plentiful top billing headlining artists entertaining the crowds, the entire festival was cancelled the morning it was set to start.

As a result of the failures of the Fyre Festival organizers (specifically Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, who co-founded the festival), a class action lawsuit has already been filed in a California federal court. The lead plaintiff spent $2,000 to attend the concert, and like thousands of others was not notified of the cancellation until he arrived.

A recent class action lawsuit filed against Fox News and top level current and former employees alleges race discrimination was widespread behind the scenes.Plaintiffs' attorneys released a statement lampooning Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, stating that based on the facts of the case, they are more like "18th Century Fox."

While this may sound like an extreme position, the complaint includes allegations that Roger Ailes denied security clearance to non-whites to be on the same floor as his office, and had a wall constructed in his office to keep out minorities. Other allegations include countless racially insensitive statements, several denials of opportunity due to race discrimination, as well as retaliation claims for opposing racism.