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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Blagojevich, Muppets, and Goldman Sachs: How Rod’s Incarceration Magnifies The Deep Flaws in America’s Justice System

Blagojevich, Muppets, and Goldman Sachs: How Rod’s Incarceration Magnifies The Deep Flaws in America’s Justice System

Rod Blagojevich

A few days ago, Rod Blagovich was taken into custody for incarceration in the Englewood, Colorado federal correctional institution for a 14-year sentence, closing the chapter on the ongoing saga involving the former Illinois governor. The crimes for which he was convicted? Bribery and political corruption.  Taking advantage of his political office, for self-aggrandizement and for profit, at the expense of his constituents.  Around the same time, an open letter was published by Goldman Sachs departee Greg Smith in the New York Times, accusing Goldman Sachs of corruption and “losing its moral compass,” which made ripples throughout Wall Street.  According to Smith, over the course of his career, Goldman Sachs changed from being a respectable institution into one he could no longer bear to be affiliated with.  Smith accused Goldman Sachs nurturing a culture that promoted greed and gleefully ripping off clients.  The path to success at Goldman Sachs, said Smith, usually involved persuading gullible clients to buy worthless securities, making financial decisions based on how much money it would make Goldman Sachs (not the clients), and selling cooked-up financial products to clients that did not align with their financial goals.  Perhaps the most telling portion of the letter was Smith’s admission that behind closed doors, Goldman Sachs associates (and managing directors) called their clients “muppets”  -  wood-headed inanimate playthings whose every moves would be controlled by the puppeteers, Goldman Sachs.  Continue reading

Just a Reminder: No Using Names and Photos For Publicity Without Consent

You would think that it would be clear by now – it is not permissible (nor legal) to use celebrities’ names, pictures or likenesses to sell your products or services, unless they consent.  Last week, there were two fresh “Right of Publicity” allegations that surfaced:

Just a Reminder: No Using Names and Photos For Publicity Without Consent

Photo of Billboard, Courtesy of TMZ

In the first, Hollywood gossip website TMZ reported that a local Mexicali plastic surgeon, Victor Ramirez, decided to promote his services by putting up a billboard of Kim Kardashian wearing a bikini, without her knowledge or approval.

Earlier in the week, True Blood star (Sam Merlotte’s shape-shifter girlfriend) and “The L Word” actress Janina Gavankar sued a LA clothing company, claiming that the company used her image to promote its plus-sized clothing line, without her permission.

 All of this is, of course, entirely unauthorized if the actresses did not agree to have their names and likenesses promoted in this manner. In California, individual privacy rights include the “right of publicity,” and makes it illegal for companies or individuals to use the names or likenesses of others, without their permission. 

Just a Reminder: No Using Names and Photos For Publicity Without Consent

Janina Gavankar, as "Luna Garza" in True Blood

To be successful, claimants must generally demonstrate that there was a use, for profit, of the individual’s identity, without consent, that resulted in injury to the individual.   There are several exceptions, such as the use of or likeness to report news-worthy events, or a use that is so “transformative” that its primary value is not derived from the celebrity’s fame. 

The Plastic Surgery billboard does not appear to make the cut (no pun intended).  Although TMZ reported that KK was considering whether to bring suit, the big issue is probably going to be whether it is worth the time to pursue Dr. Ramirez thorugh the Mexican court system. 

For Gavankar, on the other hand, it may be too early to tell.  Her lawsuit against Jasmine USA and its CEO, David Youshouafar, is underway LA Superior Court for now, and it will be seen whether the allegations are fact or fiction.

Saved By the Prof: Myspace and Craigslist Win Lawsuit Over Database Patents

Myspace and Craiglist have been absolved of patent infringment by pointing to the scientific achievements of a Harvard-Ph.D. computer science professor, who they argued created the same processes more than a decade earlier.

Continue reading

Akon Stiffs Lawyers Over $40K of Unpaid Legal Bills

Akon Stiffs Lawyers Over $40K of Unpaid Legal Bills

Senegalese-born Akon

Financially-embattled Flordia-based law firm Yoss has filed a lawsuit against Akon (real name Aliaune B. Thiam)  seeking to recover nearly $40K of legal bills.  Yoss apparently represented Akon in an earlier lawsuit filed against Akon by a construction company, when he failed to pay his bills to them too. 

Last year, Yoss closed several of its offices and restructured its partnerships, apparently due to financial difficulties.  At one point, it announced it would be dissolving due to “months of defections, office closings, bounced paychecks, missed capital contributions, and a malpractice judgment.”

Related Resources:

http://www.stlamerican.com/entertainment/living_it/article_cc76915c-66d5-11e1-8e2b-001871e3ce6c.html

http://blogs.findlaw.com/celebrity_justice/2012/03/akon-sued-by-own-lawyers-contractor-over-unpaid-bills.html?DCMP=NWL-cons_blg-celebrity

Apple iPhone 4 Settlement: A Roadmap For Consumers

For purchasers of the original Apple iPhone 4 who survived “Antenna-gate,”  there is good news: Apple has agreed to settle the class action brought over the poor antenna reception of the iPhone 4 and will be offering consumers a $15 cash payment or a free bumper/case to rectify the problem.   Affected consumers will have four (4) months to file claims under the settlement to receive their cash payment , once Notice has been provided.

Continue reading

Sandra Bullock Sues Watchmaker Over Unauthorized Use of Her Identity

In today’s news,  Sandra Bullock is suing watchmaker ToyWatch and several others for using her name and photograph to advertise their watches without seeking her permission.  A visit to the Christine Jewellers’ website does seem to display a picture of Bullock with a “ToyWatch” that she supposedly “wore in her recent movie Blind Side.”

 

Sandra Bullock Sues Watchmaker Over Unauthorized Use of Her Identity
                   Snapshot of Sandra Bullock from                     Christine Jewellers’ Website

In California, individual privacy rights include the “right of publicity,” which provides individuals with an avenue of recovery if their names or likenesses are misappropriated by others.

To be successful, claimants must generally demonstrate that there was a use, for profit, of the individual’s identity, without consent, that resulted in injury to the individual.   There are several exceptions, such as the use of or likeness to report news-worthy events, or a use that is so “transformative” that its primary value is not derived from the celebrity’s fame. 

However, those defenses may not be vailable to ToyWatch – after all, Sanda Bullock seems to be displayed in a number of sites on the internet and used to promote the ToyWatch “Plasteramic” Collection.

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