Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law
VA Citizens Defense League v. Couric
Plaintiffs, aggrieved at their portrayal in a documentary on gun violence called Under the Gun, filed suit alleging defamation by the film's creators. The crux of plaintiffs' defamation claims was that an edited interview manufactured a false exchange that made them look ridiculous, incompetent, and ignorant about firearm ownership and sales, including the policies surrounding background checks.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the edited footage did not arise to the level of defamation under Virginia law. The court held that plaintiffs' defamation per se claims failed, and that the edited footage was not reasonably capable of suggesting that the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members were "ignorant and incompetent on the subject to which they have dedicated their organizational mission." Finally, regardless of how certain media outlets covered the short-lived frenzy surrounding this incident, the Supreme Court of Virginia has consistently stressed that it is the province of courts to perform the gatekeeping role of distinguishing defamatory speech from mere insults. In this case, the district court properly performed its independent gatekeeping role and the district court reached the correct result on the merits. View "VA Citizens Defense League v. Couric" on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law, Entertainment & Sports Law, Personal Injury
Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan
Plaintiff filed suit under section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(1)(B), after the plan administrator determined that plaintiff's disability-onset date rendered him ineligible for benefits. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiff was entitled to benefits and order requiring the Plan to provide the benefits. The court explained that the Board failed to follow a reasoned process or explain the basis of its determination -- neither addressing nor even acknowledging new and uncontradicted evidence supporting plaintiff's application, including that of the Plan's own expert. View "Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan" on Justia Law
Posted in: Entertainment & Sports Law, ERISA
Champion Pro Consulting Group v. Impact Sports Football
Champion Pro filed suit against Impact Sports and others, principally alleging that Impact Sports engaged in deceptive and unfair practices in violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act (UDTPA), N.C. Gen. Stat. 75–1.1, by their recruitment of a football player, Robert Quinn. The court affirmed the district court's denial in part of Champion Pro's motion for sanctions based on the alleged spoliation of evidence and grant of Impact Sports motion for summary judgment on all claims. The court agreed with the district court that Champion Pro's allegations, even when assumed to be true, are insufficient to establish a violation of the UDTPA. Likewise, Champion Pro's civil conspiracy claim fails as a matter of law. Finally, Champion Pro's claim that the district court erred in failing to award sanctions in the form of an adverse jury instruction is moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Champion Pro Consulting Group v. Impact Sports Football" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Contracts, Entertainment & Sports Law
Class v. Towson Univ.
Plaintiff collapsed with exertional heatstroke while practicing as a member of the Towson University football team. Plaintiff was in a coma for nine days, almost died, and suffered multi-organ failure, requiring a liver a transplant and numerous additional surgeries. Plaintiff subsequently recovered and pursued his plan to return to playing football. However, the Team Physician, a board-certified sports medicine doctor, concluded that allowing plaintiff to participate in the football program at the University presented an unacceptable risk of serious reinjury or death. Plaintiff filed suit against the University, alleging that its decision to exclude him from the football program amounted to a violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701 et seq. The district court entered judgment against the University. The court reversed, concluding that plaintiff was not “otherwise qualified” to participate fully in the University’s football program because the University reasonably applied its Return-to-Play Policy. The court was required to give deference to the University's judgment. The court did not reach the University's challenge to the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "Class v. Towson Univ." on Justia Law
Copeland v. Bieber
Devin Copeland, a musician, filed suit under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., against Justin Bieber and Usher Raymond IV, alleging that three recorded songs by defendants, each titled "Somebody to Love," infringe upon Copeland's copyright over his own, earlier song of the same name. On appeal, Copeland challenged the dismissal of his claim. The district court concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Copeland's song and defendants' songs sufficiently similar to give rise to liability for infringement. At issue was whether the songs at issue, assessed from the perspective of the intended audience - here, the general public - and taking into account their “total concept and feel,” are sufficiently intrinsically similar to give rise to a valid infringement claim. After listening to the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs as wholes, the court concluded that their choruses are similar enough and also significant enough that a reasonable jury could find the songs intrinsically similar. Further, the choruses of the Copeland song and the Bieber and Usher songs are sufficiently important to the songs’ overall effect that they may be the basis for a finding of intrinsic similarity. The court declined to reach Copeland’s other arguments. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Copeland v. Bieber" on Justia Law
Posted in: Copyright, Entertainment & Sports Law, Intellectual Property
Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Ltd.
This case concerned a dispute over the Baltimore Ravens "Flying B" logo. After the Ravens had played their first season in 1997, plaintiff filed his first lawsuit against them and the NFL, alleging that the logo infringed the copyright in three of his drawings. In this appeal, plaintiff challenged the NFL's use of the logo in three videos featured on its television network and various websites, as well as the Baltimore Ravens' display of images that included the logo as part of exhibits in its stadium "Club Level" seating area. The court affirmed the district court's finding that defendants' limited use of the logo qualified as fair use. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Ltd." on Justia Law
Dash v. Mayweather, Jr.
Anthony Lawrence Dash filed suit against Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Mayweather Promotions, Mayweather Promotions LLC, Philthy Rich Records, Inc., and World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE), alleging that defendants violated his copyright by playing a variant of Dash's copyrighted music during Mayweather's entrance to two WWE events. On appeal, Dash challenged the district court's grant of summary judgment and its denial of reconsideration with respect to his entitlement to actual and profit damages under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 504(b). The court found that an expert's report's, (the Einhorn Report) estimation of Dash's lost licensing fee, without more, was too speculative to show that "a reasonable jury could return a verdict" in Dash's favor on his actual damages claim, and therefore, summary judgment was appropriate; even if the Einhorn Report had suggested or even expressly concluded that the use of Dash's beat at WWE events was of some value to defendants, summary judgment would still be appropriate because the evidence supporting such conclusion was overly speculative in light of the record before the court and, therefore, was insufficient to establish a genuine dispute regarding Dash's actual damages; and the district court properly granted defendant summary judgment on Dash's claim for profit damages because Dash provided the factfinder with no reasonable basis for concluding that the infringement contributed to defendants' profits. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Dash v. Mayweather, Jr." on Justia Law
Mayfield v. NASCAR, et al.
Plaintiff, Jeremy Mayfield, a professional race car driver, appealed the district court's dismissal of his complaint against NASCAR for conduct arising out of a positive drug test. Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, asserting claims for defamation, violation of North Carolina's disability statute, unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, and negligence, when one of the defendants, Brian France, held a press conference where he indicated that plaintiff had been suspended because he took a "performance enhancing" or "recreational" drug. The court found that the district court properly dismissed the case and there was no abuse of discretion in denying plaintiff's motions to reconsider and to amend. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Mayfield v. NASCAR, et al." on Justia Law