Year-End: Legal Battles Of 2013 And Beyond – Aereo, ‘Hobbit’ Sequels, ‘Walking Dead’ Vs. Frank Darabont, Prospect Park & ‘Godzilla’
One in a series of Deadline stories that look back on 2013 and ahead to 2014.
It was a year that saw the Weinsteins and Warner Bros clash over the title of The Butler and then get into the ring again for The Hobbitsequels. 2013 also witnessed the first fired Walking Dead showrunner wanting to take a bite out ofAMC for his piece of the cable blockbuster, a Ray Donovan EP nailed by the feds in a big-time gambling scheme right out of the Showtime Hollywood fixer series and a monster of a legal drama in the making as Legendary Pictures tried to swat some seasoned producers off its Godzilla reboot. In the end, with those cases and more, the Hollywood legal landscape of 2013 proved to be a stringent reminder of why they call it show business and not show friends.
With money and rights at the basis of most of the disputes, the complaints and motions were as numerous as locusts and as prevalent as rats, with many of them spilling over into 2014 and perhaps beyond. Just ask Barry Diller and Les Moonves as streaming service Aereo and CBS and other broadcasters suit up for a potential Supreme Court winner-takes-all showdown next year. Or Prospect Park as it fights ABC in a $125 million suit over licensed soaps All My Children and One Life To Live while having to contend with a complaint from co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz seeking a declaratory judgment from the court over non-compete clauses in his contract with the company. Sure, sometimes weapons are lowered like when Paramount and asset management firm Content Partners reached an undisclosed settlement on December 12 in their $45 million film financing slate dust-up after three years going at it in the courts. With a pivotal hearing looming, that was realpolitik in action as the sudden deal allowed the studio to sidestep dragging JPMorgan Chase, which corporate parent Viacom has significant banking dealings with, into the protracted case despite the blessing of the presiding judge. However, with the grinding duration of a lot of the legal disputes in this town, such resolution is rare, even when the end seems in sight.
Look for instance at Warner Bros and the seemingly never-ending Superman heirs’ rights battle. After a string of seemingly conclusive legal wins this year, WB and subsidiary DC Comics now could face more Krypton courtroom drama in 2014. On December 10, the co-creators heirs’ attorneys Marc Toberoff and Keith G. Adams petitioned the 9th Circuit for either a rehearing by the panel that found in the studio’s favor on November 21 or by the full court itself. If that effort fails, they could take the matter to the SCOTUS. Even with all the billings that O’Melveny & Myers get to make to WB after years of litigation, the sharp-elbowed Daniel Petrocelli and Matthew Kline must want to be able to declare a super-lawyer victory and move on – after all, they also have the Trouble With The Curve copyright suit to handle for the studio and a February 24 hearing on a summary judgment motion in that case by plaintiffs Ryan A. Brooks and Gold Glove Productions to fend off. (more…)