Suicide Squad Lawsuit In The Works Over Lack Of Joker Screen Time

Last weekend’s Suicide Squad premiere was a huge box office success. In spite of dismal critical reviews, the film raked in receipts in excess of $135 million. Apparently, those moviegoers by-and-large didn’t share the same opinions as the critics – the film has netted a 71 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  But don’t count Reddit user BlackPanther2016 (“BP”) as one of those posting favorable reviews. He was so disappointed in the film that he has threatened to sue Warner Brothers and DC Comics. Here we go.

According to an Independent report, BP drove over 300 miles from Scotland to London to see the film, and upon seeing it, he was none too pleased with the fruits of his pilgrimage. After demanding a refund from the theater and earning only laughter from its owners, BP claims to be voicing his dissatisfaction in another forum by filing a lawsuit on August 11 against the studio. His legal grounds? BP takes issue with Joker scenes shown in the movie trailers that did not make their way into the film, an act BP claims amounts to “unjust false advertising.”

While we don’t know the allegations that will be contained in this much anticipated complaint, if it is in fact filed, we can only hope that they are somewhat similar to this Reddit user’s epic rant. BP offered the following thoughts on the grave injustice he experienced:

Movie trailers are like food menus, they give you a preview of what you’re gonna get. You look at a McDonald’s menu and you choose to get your favourite burger, presented in a nice picture with pickles, chicken, mild cheese (your favourite, in fact that’s the only reason you’re getting this burger, because you love mild cheese). You use your hard-worked money to pay for this burger, you get the burger, only to find out that this isn’t the burger you ordered. Yes it has pickles and chicken but it doesn’t have mild cheese, it has regular cheese.

Suicide Squad trailers showcased several specific Joker scenes that I had to pay for the whole movie just so that I can go watch those specific scenes that Warner Bros/DC Comics had advertised in their trailers and TV spots. These scenes are: when Joker banged his head on his car window, when Joker says ‘“Let me show you my toys’, when Joker punches the roof of his car, when Joker drops a bomb with his face all messed up and says, ‘Bye bye!’ None of these scenes were in the movie.

I drove 300 miles to London to go watch these specific scenes they had explicitly advertised in their TV ads…and they didn’t show them to me. Adding to this, they were also two specific Katana scenes they advertised that were also the reason I wanted to go watch the movie. These scenes were: Katana’s eyes going black, and a slow motion shot of her and her sword taking souls in a smoky kind of style. These scenes were advertised several times in the first trailer and many TV ads but they didn’t show it to me in the movie. I wasted a lot of money paying and travelling to go watch this movie because of these specific scenes they had advertised to me and all of us saying, ‘Hey, check out our preview! This will all be in our movie, come watch it on the 5th!’ All lies.

BP goes on to say that he is taking matters to court so he can obtain his refund as well as compensation for his fuel costs and the trauma of being embarrassed by people laughing at him for wanting his refund. We completely understand how BP feels. We, too, anticipated much more Joker in the film based on the trailers, and we too were disappointed by his lack of screen time. We also understand that passion of die hard comic fans. (However, we can’t imagine driving 300 miles to meet the actual Joker much less see him in a blockbuster film). Nonetheless, we can’t imagine filing suit over our dissatisfaction with a movie. We understand cut scenes in a trailer can, in some respects, be considered false or deceptive, but what trailer isn’t misleading on some level? Even when all of the trailer scenes make into the final product, we recall countless examples of trailers making a film look like something it is not. Whether it is showing the only “good” scenes or making an otherwise boring drama look like an action film, a trailer’s very purpose is to trick you into seeing the film.

Every movie has scenes that get cut, and often, those cut scenes find their way into the trailers. Unfortunately for BP, he was one of those super fans that actually noticed. At least for BP’s sake, the Joker made his way into the film albeit not as much as he would like. While we understand how he feels, we just can’t seem to quantify his damages.

Tattoos: Who Really Owns Them?

Last year, Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Sports, was sued in a New York federal court for the unauthorized reproduction of tattoo designs featured on the bodies of players in the popular NBA 2K video game series. The plaintiff, Solid Oak Sketches, alleged that it owned copyrights on several tattoo designs on the bodies of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan, and Eric Bledsoe, and, in an era increasing video game realism, 2K infringed on its rights in creating the players’ likeness. Solid Oak sought damages in excess of $1 million.

According to reports, 2k recently scored the dismissal of a huge chunk of the plaintiff’s claims. Judge Laura Taylor Swain dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for statutory damages under U.S. Copyright law on the grounds that the first of the series of infringements occurred before the works in question were registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. The tattoo designs were apparently registered in 2015, some two years after the release of NBA 2K14. In lieu of statutory damages, the plaintiff can still seek actual damages related to lost income for the tattoos’ appearances.

While the ruling is significant in terms of damages (the plaintiff sought up to $150,000 per infringement), 2K was saved by the timing limitations of copyright law. The bigger legal issue still remains – who really owns a tattoo after it has, in fact, been tattooed onto a body? As fans of tattoos, we recognize that a tattoo is indeed a piece of art. The tattoo artist is an “artist” and the human body is his/her “canvas.” On the other hand, a tattoo differs from a traditional piece of art in one key area. The tattoo is placed onto a canvas that itself has legal rights. When a traditional artist creates a painting, he owns the canvas on which his design comes to life (until it is sold). Obviously, that is not the case with tattoos. While money is exchanged for the design and work, the tattoo artist never owns the human canvas.

In any event, we respect the tattoo artist’s right not to have his work ripped off. We could certainly argue that a tattoo artist should never replicate another artist’s work on an ethical, if not legal, basis. But, this is not the situation in the 2K case. 2K is creating a player’s likeness which necessarily includes tattoos, hairstyles, eyes, height, weight, et cetera. 2K is not seeking to make a profit off of the tattoos themselves any more than Nike is by placing an image of Lebron James on a t-shirt. The tattoos are a part of the player and necessarily come along with him.  If Solid Oak prevails, conceivably every image of Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, et cetera on a t-shirt, poster, or basketball card is a case of copyright infringement.

The truth is that the tattoo designs are out in the public domain. Such is the case when one places a visible tattoo on a public figure whose career necessitates that his arms be exposed. Certainly, Solid Oak knew that its designs where going to be all over when it chose to tattoo the most popular basketball player on the planet.

Snapchat Now Accused of Stealing Faces

Social media giant Snapchat just can’t seem to keep itself out of the courtroom in recent months. Back in April, Snapchat was sued over a distracted driving accident. Earlier in July, the company was sued over allegedly offensive content surfacing on the app. Now, Snapchat is being sued for stealing people’s faces. That’s right, stealing faces.

So how can social media app can steal someone’s face? Well, it hasn’t joined the cult of the Many-Faced God if that is what you are thinking.In reality, it is a little more complicated. According to a report from NBC Chicago, two Illinois men have filed a class-action suit in California alleging that Snapchat captures users’ facial data without their consent in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Specifically, the suit targets Snapchat’s Lenses technology, an object recognition feature contained the app that allows users to swap faces or add quirky elements to their snapshot.

The biometric law at issue was introduced back in 2008 in response to certain gas stations and grocery stores testing the use of fingerprinting to make financial transactions. The American Civil Liberties Union took issue with the practice and spearheaded the passage of the law in an effort to prevent biometric identifiers getting into the hands of the wrong people.

For the same reason, the ACLU has been eyeballing Snapchat. According to ACLU legislative director Mary Dixon:

What we were concerned about is how [facial recognition technology] could be acquired and used, even in ways we didn’t know about . . . While you can, with great difficulty, change your Social Security number, you cannot change your unique biological identifier.

We here at Abnormal Use can certainly appreciate the right to privacy. Nonetheless, we think the fear of the plaintiffs and the ACLU are unfounded. The Lenses technology apparently does not capture and create a database of faces. Rather, it simply figures out whether an object is a face and, if so, where each facial feature is located. For Snapchat users, this is the technology that lets the app know where to put the dog nose, the heart eyes, and the rainbow tongue. In other words, it is the all the good in Snapchat.

New Hero Armed with 24-Year Old Drawing Emerges In Fight Against Apple

During the last few years, Apple has been no stranger to patent litigation over the design of its smartphones and tablets. In fact, to many of us, it seems as if the smartphone patent wars may extend into an era where no one has ever heard of an iPhone. While Apple’s feud with Samsung garners all the media attention, we here at Abnormal Use are here to tell you that a new opponent has entered the arena.

That opponent is Florida resident, Thomas S. Ross. Or, as we like to refer to him as “David” (or “Jon Snow” or “Frodo” or any other hero facing seemingly insurmountable odds). If you have never heard of Ross, you will.  According to reports, Ross filed suit against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that the iPhone, iPad, and iPod are a rip off of his idea.  That idea being Ross’ 1992 hand-drawn “Electronic Reading Device” (depicted below).

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Ross alleges that he was the “first to file a device so designed and aggregated” nearly 15 years before the introduction of the iPhone. The gadget, imagined by Ross in 1992, possessed the capability for mixed media-browsing and communications and featured a touch-screen display, a disk drive, a modem and solar panels to power up the device.  s a result of Apple’s alleged patent thievery, Ross allegedly has experienced “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money.” He will, however, settle for $10 billion in damages plus 1.5 percent of upcoming iPhone sales.

To be fair to Ross, he did, in fact, apply for a utility patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the drawings of his gadget back in November 1992. However, the application was declared abandoned in April 1995, for failure to pay application fees. Ross also submitted a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2014. While we have serious doubts Ross will ever see anything close to those financial demands contained in his lawsuit, we hope this goes well for him. We still have a picture of a flying car we drew after the release of Back to the Future II in 1989 that we would love to cash-in on in the future.

Snapchat Target Of New Suit Over Allegedly Offensive Content

According to reports, social media giant Snapchat has been hit with a class-action lawsuit over sexual content. While perusing the app, the 14-year old son of Plaintiff Lynette Young apparently came across pictures of Disney characters that included “pornographic text and innuendo next to the photographs.” Young, presumably upset with her teenage son viewing images of cartoon characters admonished by sexual references, retained famed attorney Mark Geregos to sue Snapchat on her behalf as well as all others similarly situated.

The complaint, filed in California federal court, alleges that Snapchat failed to warn users about discoverable sexual content on its app. Specifically, the suit targets the “Discover” section of the app where users can browse content posted by media partners. In particular, the complaint identifies two articles titled, “People share their secret rules for sex” and “10 things he thinks when he can’t make you orgasm,” as prime examples of this allegedly harmful content. Young alleges that such conduct is “profoundly sexual and offensive material to children” and in violation of the Consumer Decency Act. While Snapchat has yet to be served with the complaint, it has issued the following statement on the lawsuit:

We haven’t been served with a complaint in this lawsuit, but we are sorry if people were offended. Our Discover partners have editorial independence, which is something we support.

Just a couple of months ago, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about another Snapchat lawsuit in which the social media company was sued for allegedly causing a motor vehicle accident in which the at-fault motorist was distracted while using the application. We questioned the merits of that suit arguing that ultimate liability fell on the user. At first glance, the same may hold true here – with one caveat. Ultimately, social media sites are filled primarily with user-generated content, not so much content posted by the app maker itself. Some of this content you certainly may have a problem with children seeing if discovered. While this case is admittedly distinguishable in that does not arise over content posted by a “friend,” but rather by a “news” source, the principle is the same. A social media app in many ways is an extension of the Internet itself. User beware. All parents in this day in age know as much.

The caveat to this idea is that some of this allegedly offensive material at issue in this case comes through Snapchat’s Discover section. Snapchat denies having any control over this content, which may in fact be the case. While it may not control the content itself, it does control the Discover feature and, thus, presumably could do something to filter or, at a minimum, warn users of the sexual content. With that said, Snapchat still remains a bit of an anomaly to us, as we are apparently light years beyond the age of the average user. So, what do we know anyway? Remember that time, we did try out the app? It didn’t go so well.

Another Day In The Life Of A Lawyer: The Highs And Lows Of Travelling

As lawyers, our work often necessitates a good bit of travel. Whether by car to attend a deposition across the state or plane to attend a conference on the opposite coast, traveling affords us the opportunity to see parts of this great country. Most often, travel is an aspect of our profession we enjoy. It certainly ranks well above conducting late-night legal research in one’s office. Other times, traveling for work purposes can turn into an utter nightmare (as can traveling for any purpose).

Recently, I took a deposition in a small town in Mississippi situated a few hours from the nearest airport. While it may not sound enjoyable, I looked forward to it, as I had never spent any time in the state apart from driving across Interstate 20.  he trip started off well enough. I caught a flight to Jackson, rented a car, and traversed through acre upon acre of farm land before reaching my destination. After checking into my hotel, I headed to Doe’s Eat Place, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant housed in a former turn-of-the-century grocery store listed in the National Register of Historic Places. You won’t find a menu at Doe’s, but the waitress informed me that they served steak, tamales, and spaghetti. I chose the steak, and I discovered the best 10 ounces of filet mignon. Sampling local fare is a travel perk, and Doe’s set my trip off in the right direction.

The good vibes from Doe’s, however, were ephemeral. The following day, I took the deposition without a hitch and returned to Jackson to catch my return flight home. Unfortunately, there were no direct flights from Jackson to Greenville, South Carolina, so I made a pit stop in Atlanta, the city where this story begins to sour.

My flight from Atlanta was scheduled to depart at 8:59 p.m. and arrive in Greenville at approximately 10:11 p.m. (In case you are wondering, it is a 29-minute flight, but in typical airline fashion, they built in a cushion in case, well, you know). I boarded the plane around 8:30 and gladly traded my coveted aisle seat to another passenger in exchange for a middle seat. It is only a 29-minute flight, after all, and worth the personal sacrifice to please another. After assuming my temporarily uncomfortable position and listening to the flight attendants deliver the standard, monotonous safety instructions, the pilot made his own announcement over the radio:

Ummmm [never a good thing to hear from the pilot] … We have discovered that the plane’s braking mechanism is leaking some hydraulic fluid. The good news is that we have the replacement part at the airport. The bad news is that it is on the other side. Maintenance is telling me it will be another hour before we get up and running. Worst case.

I understand the need for safety, especially when we are about to undertake a short, yet epic battle with gravity. Brakes come in handy at the end of such a journey. So, I chalk it up as a minor inconvenience and figure I will be home slightly later than my scheduled arrival (given the pre-planned buffer). If only the estimated “worse case” was so. At approximately 9:45, the pilot announced that maintenance faced some difficulty with the installation process and estimated it would be another 45 minutes until departure. Not wanting to keep us hostage, the pilot stated that we are free to leave the place so long as we stay near. Remembering the bar immediately outside the gate, I deplaned and sought a beer.  Only after leaving the plane did I discover that the bar closed at 10. Still in good spirits, I found a nearby Chick-fil-A and grabbed a sandwich (I actually ordered nuggets by the way, but I am not complaining about the mishap).

When I returned from Chick-fil-a, I was greeted by the unwelcome sight of everyone exiting the plane. Apparently, the whole “another 45 minutes” thing was a gross understatement. To the airline’s credit, its representatives tried to lighten the mood by providing snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. They also gave me a free drink coupon good for one beer or cocktail. The rub, however, was that it could only be used on the plane.  he plane that we had just been kicked off of and wanted desperately to board once again. The bitter irony.

Several minutes before midnight, the pilot came out and announced that the plane had been fixed and we were ready to re-board. Unfortunately, the gate attendant had gone AWOL. After a 15 minute search, she was located and we proceeded with boarding the plane. Again. Took the middle seat. Again. Listened to the standard, monotonous safety instructions. Again. At least this time, however, on a plane with a braking mechanism smack full of hydraulic fluid. We eventually pulled away from the gate, rose into the air, and landed around 1:15 a.m. A mere 3 hours after my scheduled arrival. After retrieving my car from the garage and driving home, I strolled wearily into my house, reached into my pocket, and felt something unfamiliar: the free drink coupon, apparently forgotten amidst the frustration of a lawyer’s plight to get home.

After writing these thoughts and sharing this story, I can’t help but be reminded how travel is one of the many things I love about the practice of law. Despite the late-night, mid-week nightmare trying the get home, I am thankful for the experience. At the end of the day, I got to take a deposition, eat a steak at Doe’s, and experience a state to which I had never traveled. Certainly, it would have been better with an aisle seat, a beer, and a plane with functioning brakes, but we can’t expect everything to be perfect, can we?

“Stairway to Heaven” Plagiarism Suit Set For Trial

A while back, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Led Zeppelin. The suit, filed by the estate of Randy California of the band Spirit, alleges that Led Zeppelin lifted the opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven” from the Spirit’s song “Taurus.”  Now, some two years later, that case is on the eve of trial.  Jury selection is set to begin this very morning. Trial is is expected to last less than a week, with each side allotted 10 hours to present testimony. In case you are wondering, the great Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are expected to be in attendance at trial.

We will be curious to see how this one plays out at trial. If the plaintiff prevails, it would mean that a jury found by a preponderance of the evidence that one of history’s most prolific songs was partially plagiarized from Spirit of all bands. While we appreciate the classic California band and, in particular the song, “I Got a Line on You,” it is hard for our minds to grapple with notion that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant didn’t conceive the majestic opening chords of “Stairway to Heaven.” We get that many bands (including Led Zeppelin) are no strangers to “musical inspiration” in creating their own hits, but it still pains us to think that our favorite songs are anything less than original.  Of course, we are also the same folks who questioned whether Tyson intentionally bit off Holyfield’s ear or whether Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. So take it for what it is worth.

The plaintiff alleges that Jimmy Page got his musical inspiration for “Stairway” when Led Zeppelin was the undercard for Spirit during a 1968 U.S. Tour and heard the band play “Taurus.” According to Page, the band apparently was paying that much attention. In a 6-page declaration filed with the court, Page stated the he never heard nor was he aware of “Taurus” until a couple of years ago. We will wait and see which way the jury wants to go.

First Wrongful Death Lawsuit Hits Marijuana Industry

Since its recent legalization in certain states, marijuana has found itself in the middle of several product liability lawsuits. A new lawsuit filed in Colorado has just upped the ante. According to a report from the L.A. Times, a new suit has been filed accusing marijuana of being the culprit for a homicide. In the first wrongful-death suit against a recreational marijuana company, the children of Kristine Kirk, murdered by her husband, Richard Kirk, back on April 14, 2014, have filed suit against Gaia’s Garden, LLC, claiming that the company’s Kandy Orange Ginger chew candy triggered the shooting. The plaintiffs allege that Gaia’s failed to warn customer that marijuana edibles could lead to paranoia, psychosis and hallucinations.

According to Kristine Kirk’s 911 call, the shooting happened after Richard burst into their home ranting about the end of the world. Thereafter, he laid on the floor and asked for someone to kill him. Richard then retrieved a pistol and shot Kristine. Richard has been charged with first-degree murder. He initially pleaded not guilty, but has since changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.

We here at Abnormal Use will be interested to follow this suit as the facts develop. Reading the reports of the incident make it sound more like those involving bath salts than recreational marijuana. It is so outside-the-box that we almost wonder whether marijuana was the culprit at all. Interestingly, toxicology reports showed that the amount of THC in Richard’s blood was less than half the legal limit. Prosecutors actually contend that the murder is the result of increasing marital stress.

In any event, we see this as a case akin to suing Anheuser-Busch for a driving under the influence accident. Gaia’s apparently complied with all state labeling requirements regarding the potential adverse health effects. With legal marijuana being so new to the marketplace, we suppose this lawsuit is an attempt to test the waters with marijuana litigation. We assume that the same legal principles applied to similarly situated products will continue to apply.

McDonald’s Accused Of Not Making Drive-Thrus Accessible to the Blind

Be it hot coffee or greasy french fries, McDonald’s often finds itself as a defendant in some intriguing litigation. A new lawsuit filed in an Illinois federal court against the fast food giant might just take the crown as the most interesting. According to a report from the Chicago Tribune, a Louisiana man has sued McDonald’s because its drive-thrus are not accessible to the blind. Specifically, the man has challenged McDonald’s policy of not serving individuals who walk up to the drive-thru window without a car. During the normal operating hours, the prohibition is hardly a problem as customers without cars can simply walk inside the restaurant. However, after hours, the restaurant only serves customers through the drive-thru and, thus, people who do not have cars or otherwise cannot drive, such as blind persons, cannot order from McDonalds, the suit alleges. According to the suit, such failure to accommodate constitutes a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We here at Abnormal Use are not certain as to how this McDonald’s policy will be construed under the ADA. We do have some questions, however, as to certain statements the plaintiff’s lawyer made about the litigation. In commenting on the suit, attorney Roberto Luis Costales stated that the late-night snacks are a “quintessentially American activity that should not be denied to someone because of their disability.” Moreover, he indicated, “This is something simple that can cause a lot of hurt to disabled people, especially if, like [Plaintiff], they cannot cook for themselves.” We must admit that we, too, have been known to take a late night food run, particularly during our college days. But, we question whether it is a “quintessential American activity,” so ingrained in our nation’s DNA that it cannot be denied. Maybe if we were talking about a more critical issue like healthcare, we could take this rhetoric seriously.

Costales claims that McDonald’s could remedy the situation by installing a phone to allow customers to call in orders from outside and have the orders brought out to the customers. However, this proposal ignores the primary purpose of the late night drive-thru-only policy in the first place – security. If McDonald’s is going to be bringing orders out to customers, it might as well just open the restaurant in the first place. Or, maybe that is the end goal of the master plan and the lawsuit is just the mechanism of delivery.

 

Kanye West Accused Of Ripping Off 1969 Hungarian Pop Favorite

According to reports, Kanye West, rap star and most recent addition to the Kardashian clan, has been sued for ripping off the beats of a Hungarian composer. The complaint, filed by Hungarian composer Gabor Presser in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that West used a portion of his band Omega’s song “Gyöngyhajú lány” (recorded way, way back in 1969) in the song “New Slaves,” released in 2013 on the Yeezus album. The Omega song is allegedly “one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across Eastern Europe.” In other words, Omega is basically the Beatles. Or, something like that.

Now, we understand if you have some doubts as to how a rap mogul the likes of Kanye West could come across a 1969 Hungarian pop tune. Whether it be through iTunes or an excursion into the darkest corners of the internet, West allegedly was aware of the song and even asked Presser for permission to use it. According to Presser, West’s lawyer emailed him soon after the marketing of New Slaves began, indicating that West “would like to work out a deal with you as soon as possible.” Presser allegedly was given 24 hours to respond. Presser agreed in principle to the use of the song on the condition that a formal deal follow. However, a formal agreement allegedly never came to fruition. West allegedly sent Prosser $10,000 as an advance for the audio track, but Prosser never cashed the check. Now, he is seeking $2.5 million in damages.

We here at Abnormal Use have no idea whether the allegations of the suit have any merit. We have listened to the two tracks (available here) and, admittedly, can at least hear some resemblance. West has apparently at least acknowledged some resemblance and copyright issues by virtue of the alleged offer to work out a deal. If true, what is curious is whether West intentionally borrowed from the 1969 Hungarian track or created “New Slaves” independently, discovered the resemblance, and tried to hedge off any issues, knowing that musicians are no strangers to copyright lawsuits. Presser apparently thinks it is the former more so than the latter. He alleges that West “knowingly and intentionally misappropriated plaintiff’s composition,” and “after his theft was discovered, [West] refused to deal fairly with plaintiff.”

Is this a case of coincidence or a musician digging through the depths of the music library of Eastern Europe to make music? Take a lesson to the songs, and we will let you be the judge.