Disney and Phase 4 Films Settle Lawsuit over Frozen Logo

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Earlier this year, Disney and Phase 4 Films settled a lawsuit over Phase 4′s attempts to capitalize on Disney’s latest animated success, Frozen. Phase 4′s film was originally titled The Legend of Sarila. According to the complaint filed by Disne​y, it was released November 1, 2013, a few weeks before Frozen’s release, to dismal box office revenues. Phase 4 then changed the film’s name to Frozen Land, and redesigned the film’s logo to mimic that of Disney’s Frozen. For a side-by-side look at the logos, see the complaint filed by Disney here. 

In the settlement, Phase 4 agreed to immediately stop marketing and distributing its film under the name Frozen Land, and pay Disney $100,000. At first I was skeptical of Disney’s claim, but after comparing the separate logos, it seems highly unlikely that this was anything but a blatant attempt to profit off of Frozen‘s success. The logos contain the same color scheme, the same shape, and almost identical fonts.

As far as the Lanham Act violation claim, it seems almost certain that consumers would be confused as to the relation between the two movies, perhaps reasonably assuming that Frozen Land is a spin-off of Frozen. They also settled an unfair competition claim that was based on Disney’s claims that Phase 4′s Frozen Land caused irreparable damage to Disney’s goodwill and reputation.

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Law Day Gives High Schoolers Glimpses of Lawyers in the Movies — and In Real Life

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Category: Education & Law, Marquette Law School, Popular Culture & Law, Public
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If you are a typical high school student, where do you get your ideas on what attorneys do? Television and movies – that’s a pretty likely answer. So let’s role the tape and look at the reality of being a lawyer versus what the movies show.

For example, consider a clip from the 1998 movie, “A Civil Action.” After viewing it, Milwaukee Circuit Judge Carl Ashley’s reaction was, “It’s pretty sensationalized, but partly true.” Court rooms and law firms may not have movie-like drama often, but lawyers in real life do help people and can “make something right,” Ashley said.

In the movie, the lawyer played by John Travolta called some lawyers “bottom feeders.” But Marquette Law School Professor Rebecca Blemberg, a former prosecutor, said lawyers she has worked with almost all have been people who really want to help others, and a lot of people genuinely benefit from lawyers.

Milwaukee County Judge Joseph Donald said he wished some aspects of the movie were matched in real life. “I’d love to have theme music playing every time I’m in court,” he said.

And Marquette Law Professor David Papke said the real case that was the basis of “A Civil Action” didn’t turn out so well for the attorney for the plaintiffs – he tried to do the right thing and ended up filing for personal bankruptcy.

Joining the four in watching that movie clip (and several others) were 180 students from eight public and private schools that took part in Youth Law Day at Marquette Law School’s Eckstein Hall on March 12. The event was sponsored by the Law School, the Saint Thomas More Lawyers Society, and the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office. Even during their spring break week, about 20 Marquette Law students assisted during the mock trial and shared their educational experiences with the high school students. Law student Lindsey Anderson took a leading role in organizing the event.  Read more »

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The Sources of Anti-Gay Sentiment in Uganda

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Popular Culture & Law, Public, Religion & Law
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American politicians and journalists have sharply criticized Uganda’s apparent hostility toward gay men and lesbians. When in February Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill imposing harsh criminal penalties for homosexual acts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the Ugandan law as a violation of international human rights. When a tabloid in Kampala, the nation’s largest city, published a list of “Uganda’s 200 Top Gays,” American newspapers reported that this mass “outing” led those on the list to fear for their lives and to seek desperately to flee the country.

In response to this criticism, the Ugandan government characterized the political comments and journalistic reports as disturbingly arrogant. Once again, the U.S. seemed to be trying to control Ugandan lawmaking and public opinion, the government said. Museveni himself insisted “outsiders” should leave his nation alone and vowed he would not give in. “If the West does not want to work with us because of homosexuals,” Museveni said, “then we have enough space to ourselves here.”

Is the dispute simply a matter of American support for gay rights colliding with Ugandan homophobia? As is usually the case in an international dispute of this sort, the controversy involves more than the purported enlightenment of the West on the one hand and the narrow-mindedness in the developing world on the other. There is ample evidence that American evangelical Christians heavily influenced Uganda’s political and religious leaders, who as a result of this influence turned on the nation’s gay men and lesbians. Read more »

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A Conceptual Approach to Advising High-Profile Clients

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This blog post concludes the series on the Fantex, Inc. IPO by analyzing the need for competent, and honest, financial attorneys with respect to managing the wealth of high-profile clients.

It is hard to imagine that NFL running back Arian Foster received legal or financial counsel before signing his brand contract with Fantex. Under the terms of the agreement, Foster assigns 20 percent of his gross earnings to the company in return for a one-time payment of $10 million, intended to be raised through the company’s IPO. The contract remains effective indefinitely and grants Fantex the right to audit Foster’s finances. Moreover, the only earnings excluded from the 20 percent assignment provision are any movie and TV roles where Foster does not portray a football player, as well as any music that he produces or writes. The one-sidedness of this contract—and the fact that Foster actually signed it—shows that Foster’s advisors, if any, did not have his long term financial interests in mind. Read more »

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Adding Context to the Fantex Public Offering

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Part 1 of 3: Legitimate or Emotional Investment?

During the NFL season, millions of fans are emotionally invested in their favorite teams and players. But since Fantex, Inc. filed a preliminary prospectus with the SEC on October 17, the notion of financially investing in professional athletes has generated considerable buzz. After letting the dust settle, a careful reading of the company’s prospectus reveals numerous red-flags regarding this IPO – most notably to potential investors.

At first glance, Fantex’s strategy to raise capital appears pretty straightforward. The company will raise $10 million by selling ten-dollar shares to the general public. Fantex also entered into a “brand contract” with Houston Texan’s running back Arian Foster. Under the terms of this contract, Fantex will make a one-time, $10 million payment to Foster in exchange for 20% of his future earnings. The company expects to enter into similar brand contracts in the future with not only athletes, but also entertainers and other high-profile individuals. If Fantex’s efforts are successful, it will issue dividends to investors. Therefore, the more shares that are purchased, the more dividends investors can expect to receive – right?

As with most IPOs, nothing is ever quite so clear. The details in the prospectus reveal that Fantex lacks any clear business model. More importantly, there is no clear plan for generating a return for investors. Based on the prospectus, it is safe to conclude that any reasonable investor would not purchase shares under this IPO. However, this offering is perfect for those investors who do not actually intend to make any profit. Read more »

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Toddlers, Tiaras and the Law

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“On any given weekend, on stages across the country, little girls and boys parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes. … From hair and nail appointments, to finishing touches on gowns and suits, to numerous coaching sessions or rehearsals, each child preps for their performance. But once at the pageant, it’s all up to the judges and drama ensues when every parent wants to prove that their child is beautiful.” (“About Toddlers & Tiaras”, The Learning Channel).

If the parent’s quest to prove her child’s superior beauty is, indeed, the point of beauty pageants, French parents may soon need to find alternative ways of doing so. The New York Times reports that the French upper house this week passed a women’s rights bill that includes a ban on beauty pageants for children under the age of 16; the measure now goes to the lower house for discussion. Read more »

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The Criminology of “Oliver Twist”

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Category: Criminal Law & Process, Legal History, Popular Culture & Law, Public
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oliverLet’s face it.  The protagonist of “Oliver Twist” just isn’t a very interesting character.  Things start out promisingly enough with his famous request, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  And who can resist applauding when he gives the boorish Noah Claypole a well-deserved thrashing?  But we’re then forced to endure nearly 400 pages of Oliver as an insufferable milquetoast, passively cast here and there to suit the needs of Dickens’ laughably improbable plot, weeping copiously on cue to amplify the author’s sentimental excesses.

No, Oliver himself gives us no good reason to continue to read past page 50.  It’s the villains who really carry the show.  Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, of course, supply some darkly memorable comic relief, and they are villains of a sort.  Venal and hypocritical public servants, we might think of them as the forebears of some of today’s white-collar criminals.  (Mr. Bumble is also the source of a perennially favorite statement about the law; upon being informed that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction,” Bumble sputters helplessly, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass–a idiot.” (402))

But the real scene-stealers are the criminals of a more conventional sort.  Is there any doubt that Fagin is the most memorable and richly realized character in the book, with the murderous Bill Sikes not far behind?   Read more »

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American Exceptionalism – Your Thoughts?

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Category: International Law & Diplomacy, Popular Culture & Law, Public
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Statute of LibertyBy now I imagine most readers have read Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed, published yesterday. In the piece addressed to the American people and their political leaders, the Russian President argues against military intervention in Syria and urges adherence to the United Nations Charter to “preserv[e] law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world … to keep international relations from sliding into chaos.”

Putting the debate on the morality and legality of a possible US strike against Syria to one side, I found the final paragraph of the op-ed most striking:

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” Read more »

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The Societal Backdrop of the Martin/Zimmerman Tragedy

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Gated Community EntranceNot surprisingly, the killing of Trayvon Martin and trial of George Zimmerman have prompted much reflection on race-related assumptions and tensions in the U.S. It might also be appropriate to reflect on the societal backdrop of these tragic events and to underscore two social developments that set the stage, namely, concealed carry laws and private, gated communities. Both suggest troubling aspects of contemporary American life.

Concealed carry laws allow the practice of carrying handguns in public in a concealed manner. These laws have grown more common in recent years, and Illinois, which had held out as the last state to ban concealed carrying, just recently gave in. Florida, one of the champions of concealed carry, has issued well over 2 million licenses for concealed carrying since 1987. No clear evidence exists proving that concealed carrying reduces crime, but the concealed carry laws seem to relieve people’s anxiety. For some, concealed carrying or, at least, the option to conceal and carry bolsters a sense of one’s “manhood.”

Private, gated communities, meanwhile, are also on the rise. Again, Florida is one of the leaders, and countless Floridians have taken comfort in residing in private enclaves, often behind walls and gates. The society outside those walls and gates is taken to be menacing and dangerous. In other states as well, many have abandoned any sort of deep and defining affiliation with a town or a city in favor of belonging to private spaces supposedly sealed off from the surrounding trouble and tumult. Often these communities have corny names such as “Deer Run” or “Oak Crest,” which are designed to connote nature. Some scholars have dubbed these private, gated communities “Privatopia.”

George Zimmerman was carrying a concealed handgun and guarding a gated community, and Trayvon Martin is dead. I do not underscore these facts in order to challenge the jury’s verdict. However, I do think the rise of concealed carry and the gated community suggests how frightened and anxious, how hostile and combative our society has become. According to the defendant in Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska,” “There’s just a meanness in this world.”

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Lindsay Lohan and the Law

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lindsay-lohan-mug-shot-2011-la-sheriffI have two friends (and fellow classmates) who love to flood my email inbox and Facebook account with pictures of Lindsay Lohan. I think they love it more than summer break. Admittedly, I had this coming. These friends showed me a particularly startling picture of Ms. Lohan during a study break 1L year, and I let out a sort of shriek that I’m not proud of. I understand that actions have consequences. The pictures began rolling in during fall of 2011 and haven’t stopped since.

Feelings of disregard pervaded those first few months. But as the seasons changed, so did I. Most pictures came with headlines, and the more I read, the more I wondered how someone can so frequently break laws, violate probation, and skip out on court dates, and yet avoid any meaningful jail time. Then again, it’s not necessarily her fault that she’s been able to avoid consequences better than I have. The question, for me at least, is whether the justice system has treated her differently than it would you or I. And if so, why? Read more »

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Adam’s Rib as an Historical Document: The Plight of Women Lawyers in the 1940s

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In a recent post, Professor Lisa Mazzie offered her observations on the 1949 film classic, Adam’s Rib, which stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as husband-and-wife attorneys who end up on opposite sides of the same murder case. Like Professor Mazzie, I have long been fascinated with the movie, especially as an historical document.

Trying to figure out what it is that Adam’s Rib has to say about women and the legal profession in the 1940’s turns out to be a bit perplexing. Does it endorse the idea that women make just as good attorneys as men, or is it merely just a celebration of the uniqueness of Hepburn’s character?

Although you would not necessarily discern this from the movie itself, Adam’s Rib was filmed at a time in which the role of women in the legal profession was apparently changing in significant ways.

In an era when very few women went to law school and even fewer practiced law, the 1940’s were, thanks to World War II, a decade of expanded opportunities for women in the legal profession. Unfortunately, this expansion turned out to be quite temporary. Read more »

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Superman and the Rule of Law

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This month (June 2013) marks the 75th anniversary of the first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1.  Although he has been imitated many times, Superman, a/k/a Clark Kent, the surviving son of the exploded planet Krypton, remains the archetype of the comic book superhero.  Literary critics and cultural theorists as noted as Umberto Eco and Scott Bukatman have long ruminated on his significance. (If you doubt this, see Eco, “The Myth of Superman,” Diacritics, Spring 1972; Scott Bukatman, Matters of Gravity (2004).)

For most of the past 75 years, Superman has been held up as a symbol of the fairness of the American system.  After all, at least since the debut of the Adventures of Superman television show in 1951, he has been committed to fighting for “truth, justice, and the American Way.”  However, upon closer analysis, the relationship between Superman, justice, and law has never as straightforward as it appeared in the middle of the twentieth century.

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