The Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society (BESLS) recently held its Third Annual Panel Event to discuss ways in which the law intersects with fashion, sports, film, television, and music.
Fashion panelists included David Faux of David Faux, PC; Charles Colman of Charles Colman Law, LLC; and Alexandra Steigrad, an editor and reporter at Women’s Wear Daily. Matthew Krejcarek ’13 moderated the discussion. Panelists offered their insights on the much-publicized case of Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent America (YSL), currently before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. At issue is Louboutin’s red sole trademark, presumed to be valid since 2008. Louboutin requested a preliminary injunction against YSL, which the court barred, finding that customers were not confused about brand identity because Louboutin’s signature look involves a contrasting shoe and sole, while YSL is identified by its monochromatic shoes, one style of which is completely red. The court ruled that at the point of sale, customers knew what brand they were buying. Further, Judge Victor Marrero reasoned that in fashion, as in art, the designer must have access to the entire color pallet.
The sports panel included Jeffrey Gewirtz ’94, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of the NETS, and Guiselle Torres, an attorney for Major League Soccer (MLS), and moderated by Cassidy Merriam ’13. The panelists discussed sports marketing and sponsorship for a variety of products via stadium advertisements, on social media platforms, through contests or sweepstakes, and with the use of logos on uniforms and coaching equipment. “Exclusivity is king,” said Gewirtz, who noted that forming a positive association between the sport and the product is crucial. With respect to athlete product promotions, the panelists explained that in most sports, advertisers must approach athletes individually. However, because MLS has single entity status (owning all their players and stadiums) and is immune from Section 1 of the Sherman Act, advertisers can approach MLS directly. Torres discussed the importance of morality clauses in sponsorship agreements and the involvement of agents and athletes negotiating what level of moral turpitude would justify a termination of the agreement.
The film and television panel moderated by Brian Hewitt ’14 featured two representatives from FilmNation Entertainment, Tara Erer, Director of International Sales and Jennifer Fradlin, Manager of Business and Legal Affairs; and Amy Eckstein, senior attorney in the IP, Entertainment, and Technology Group at Moses and Singer. The panelists addressed the importance of globalization and the need for the film industry to adopt a new model that recognizes the significance of overseas markets. Erer noted that some films may not perform well domestically but are quite profitable globally. The group stressed the need to be proactive in discouraging piracy. One solution offered was to decrease the window of time between theatrical and home releases. Eckstein pointed to Sesame Street’s practice of posting small clips online that direct viewers to its Web site as a successful example. Red boxes have proven to be another good but underused model. Panelists also urged creativity, such as an “iTunes solution” for movies.
The music panel consisted of Dan Getz, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Universal Republic Records, and Maximillian Verrelli, General Counsel and Director of Business Affairs for Blackheart Records Group, Inc. Jason Barth ’13 and Dan Rocco ’13 moderated the panel. The panelists discussed the future of record labels in light of new streaming services, which account for five percent of recorded music revenue. Panelists recognized that streaming is especially beneficial for new artists, but distinguished legitimate services like Spotify from those that do not follow appropriate licensing procedures. Getz proposed that streaming services charge monthly subscription fees, noting that studies show that people do not place a high monetary value on individual songs, but might accept a monthly bill for music services, viewing it like a cable bill. Verrelli agreed that technology would increase revenue and noted that it is already being used creatively for marketing purposes. Overall, panelists were hopeful that record labels would play a role in the future because of their ability to provide needed marketing and promotion services.
BESLS organizers were pleased to have brought together expert panelists and students to discuss leading-edge topics. Everett Hendler ’12, BESLS President said, “In addition to serving as a networking opportunity, our annual panel event allows students to explore hot legal topics affecting the sports and entertainment worlds through discussion with practitioners in fashion, music, film, TV, and sports. We continue to garner more interest for the panels with each passing year.”
By Jennifer Johnson '13