Week In Review - Week Ending 3/22/20

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News, including coronavirus information:


Katy Perry Escapes "Dark Horse" Verdict

Last July, a federal jury stunned the music industry by finding that Katy Perry's hit "Dark Horse" had infringed on the copyright of a Christian rap song, and the jury later ordered the pop star's team to pay $2.8 million in damages. This week, the judge in that case made an equally surprising move by vacating the jury's decision, which means that Perry and her collaborators -- including her longtime producer Dr. Luke -- are not liable for infringement, and therefore do not have to pay damages.

Court Holds That "Inside Out" Did Not Infringe TV Pilot

The Ninth Circuit has affirmed a district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's action alleging copyright infringement by the Disney movie "Inside Out" of the plaintiffs' characters called "The Moodsters". After the plaintiff developed The Moodsters, anthropomorphized characters representing human emotions, she pitched to entertainment and toy companies around the country, including The Walt Disney Company. The panel held that, under DC Comics v. Towle, 802 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2015), lightly sketched characters such as The Moodsters, which lack consistent, identifiable character traits and attributes, do not enjoy copyright protection.

The case is Daniels v. The Walt Disney Co., read the decision below.

Central Park Five Prosecutor Sues Netflix + Ava DuVernay for Defamation

Former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein is suing Netflix and director Ava DuVernay, arguing that she was falsely portrayed as a "racist, unethical villain" pushing for the convictions of five black and Latino teenagers in "When They See Us," a series about the 1989 Central Park Five case. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fort Myers, Florida, came after the series made Fairstein, a best-selling crime novelist, the object of public outrage, prompting her to be dropped by her publisher and resign from several prominent boards. In the suit, Fairstein claims the four-part series defamed her in nearly every scene in the three episodes in which her character appears. Netflix rejected Fairstein's claims and DuVernay declined to comment.

Pixar Pioneers Win $1 Million Turing Award

The Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest society of computing professionals, announced that Drs. Ed Catmull and Pat Hanrahan would receive this year's Turing Award for their work on three-dimensional computer graphics. Often called the Nobel Prize of computing, the Turing Award comes with a $1 million prize, which will be split by the two pioneers of what is often called C.G.I., or computer-generated imagery. The Drs. created computer techniques that remade animation, special effects, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Their work changed not only animated movies, but also Hollywood special effects, video games, and virtual reality.

Rich + Famous at the Front of COVID-19 Test Line

Politicians, celebrities, social media influencers, and even National Basketball Association (NBA) teams have been tested for the new coronavirus. Yet as that list of rich, famous, and powerful people grows by the day, so do questions about whether they are getting access to testing that is denied to other Americans. With tests still in short supply in areas of the country and health care workers and many sick people unable to get diagnoses, some prominent personalities have obtained tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus, as required by some testing guidelines. Others have refused to specify how they were tested. Such cases have provoked accusations of elitism and preferential treatment about a testing system that has already been plagued with delays and confusion, and now stirred a new national debate that has reached the White House -- with Trump being asked at a news conference whether "the well-connected go to the front of the line."

The "Freelance Hustle" Fails a Singer

Jenna Camille Henderson, a singer-songwriter in Washington, D.C., didn't have just one job. Instead, like many other musicians and creative workers in the United States, she pieced together a living from multiple sources. This delicate process, known dryly as the freelance hustle, can be exasperating, but it can also provide a special kind of freedom and independence. It can even be reassuring to know that your economic fortunes aren't tied to a single company or field, until a global pandemic hits, and all the places where one works are affected. Henderson, who does not have health insurance, has no source of income for the foreseeable future. As freelancers, she said, "I think we take for granted that there's always going to be something to do."

Box Office Sales Hit Historic Low

Hollywood may have just had its worst weekend since ticketing data started to be independently compiled in the 1980s. Most cinemas in the United States remain open, with the two biggest chains, AMC and Regal, reducing seating capacity in auditoriums by 50% so that people could leave at least one empty seat between them. However, fears about the coronavirus kept the masses at home: Domestic ticket sales totaled about $55.3 million, a 44% drop from last weekend, despite three new films -- "Bloodshot," "The Hunt", and "I Still Believe" -- arriving in wide release. It was the worst period for movie theaters in two decades, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. The next lowest weekend was September 15 to 17 in 2000, when ticket sales totaled $54.5 million - or roughly $83 million in today's money.

Movie Theaters Want Relief Too

The National Association of Theatre Owners urged U.S. lawmakers to approve loan guarantees to help cover fixed costs, tax benefits for employers providing support to employees, and other measures. "The business model of the movie theater industry is uniquely vulnerable to the present crisis," the group said in a statement. Most movie theaters in the United States, including those owned by AMC Entertainment and Cineworld Group Plc's Regal Cinemas, shuttered this week to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.

Openings Just Went POOF

Artists, actors, dancers, and authors search for a silver lining as openings are disrupted by the virus outbreak. Most of New York's culture system -- and indeed the country's -- shut down all at once last week. The impact of indefinite closures to the public or by-appointment hours won't be fully understood for a while, nor will it be uniform. For young and emerging artists whose openings were scheduled this week, some of which represented large scale debuts in their field, the personal disruption can feel profound.

Workers Behind the Stars Are Hurting

Last week, Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Presents, the two biggest powers in the industry, put their shows on hiatus amid growing concern over the rapid spread of the coronavirus, sending stars like Billie Eilish, Jason Aldean, and Cher to social media to apologize to their fans for the scuttled shows. Behind the artists who appear onstage, however, is a fragile pool of thousands of workers who perform much of the labor that allows tours to go on -- from sound and lighting to transportation, merchandise sales, and hospitality. Most are freelancers with few if any employment protections, and they now face months of uncertainty, and potential economic ruin, if the touring interruption consumes the all-important summer season.

Performers Discover a Stage on the Web

Videos of performers sprouted on social media after Tony-winning actress Laura Benanti invited theater kids to share songs from shows canceled by the coronavirus. In a tweet, Benanti wrote "Dark times for all. Trying to find some bright spots. If you were meant to perform in your High School musical and it was cancelled please post yourself singing and tag me. I want to be your audience!! Sending all my love and black market toilet paper." Her offer had been viewed more than 3 million times, thousands of students, their parents, and teachers, have responded by posting footage of rehearsals and performances from shows that have been postponed or canceled and it has been followed by a string of other efforts to find new platforms for performers whose productions have been silenced.


Court Holds That Copyright Licensee Has Unrestricted Sublicense Rights

In a case of first impression, the First Circuit held that a copyright licensee given the unrestricted right to grant sublicenses may do so without using express language. The court held that Sylvania, which paid $3 million to license Photographic's images, could sublicense them to Orgill, even though it never gave the distributor explicit permission to use them. Read the decision below.

Last Call for Beauty and Books

Amidst all the closures happening across the globe, news that the New York Public Library would be closing its Rose Main Reading Room in its 42nd Street flagship -- along with its 91 other locations across Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx -- at least until April 1 caused a special kind of sadness and alarm. The Rose Reading Room, lined with two levels of bookshelves and huge arched windows overlooking Bryant Park, is one of the great spaces of New York. It's a Grand Central Terminal for the bookish, complete with (in more ordinary times) crowds of tourists snapping photos from a designated zone near the entrance.

F.I.T. Runway Fiasco

Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down classes, the Fashion Institute of Technology had been in upheaval, since a student designer used oversized lips and "monkey ears" in a fashion show last month, setting off widespread outrage. Other episodes have also bubbled to the surface, revealing what many students and some faculty members describe as a climate of racial insensitivity; for example, some African-American students said they were told that their "bushy Afro" would ruin a fashion show because their hair wasn't "professional or sleek enough." Following the fallout over the lips and ears at the fashion show, the school held an emotional forum in which several black students criticized the school and its president, Dr. Joyce Brown, who herself is African-American, over what they said were deeper, systemic problems.

Ballet School Rehired an Embezzler

Sophia Kim had been the treasurer at the Kirov Academy of Ballet two decades ago, when the school was affiliated with the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. However, Kim also had a gambling habit and had spent almost two years in prison for embezzling $800,000 from another nonprofit affiliated with the church. It was therefore was more than a bit surprising when the Kirov Academy, for reasons that remain tremendously opaque, hired Kim back, put her in charge of the books, and gave her a Branch Banking & Trust debit card and access to the school's accounts. The consequences of that decision became clearer earlier this month, when Kim appeared in court to face charges that, not long after she started working again at the Kirov Academy, she misappropriated $1.5 million from its coffers. According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, over a period of nine months in 2018, Kim wrote checks to herself and used the bank card 120 times to withdraw cash and pay off losses at the MGM Grand Casino in nearby Maryland.

District Court Holds Cox Media Liable for Copyright Infringement

Last week, the EDNY granted summary judgment for a plaintiff photographer and denied summary judgment for defendant Cox Media Group, rejecting Cox's fair use defense and finding that its use of a photo of a 2017 terrorist attack violated the plaintiff's copyright. The court found that while fair use sometimes allowed news organizations to use works, that only applied if they were actually reporting on the work itself - but Cox's article didn't serve to illustrate commentary, criticism, or a news story about the photograph.

Read the decision below.

Artist Sues Sotheby's for Infringement

Belgian artist Christian Silvain has filed a complaint against Sotheby's, alleging that works Sotheby's is selling by Chinese artist Ye Yongqing infringe Silvain's works. Yongqing has vehemently denied copying Silvain's works.

Read more about the case below.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Prepares for $100 Million Loss and Closure Until July

In a powerful sign that casualties of the coronavirus outbreak include even the country's strongest cultural institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is projecting a total shortfall of close to $100 million for the near future and expects to be closed until July, according to a letter sent to its department heads. "This is an extraordinarily challenging time for us all," said the letter, signed by the Met's top executives, Daniel H. Weiss, the president and chief executive, and Max Hollein, the director. "As staff members of The Met we all have a profound responsibility to protect and preserve the treasured institution we inherited."

Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler's Mein Kampf

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf late last week as part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself as it was caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. Yet the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future

Publishers, bookstores, and authors are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout from the unfolding coronavirus crisis. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity. "There's no question we're going to see a drop in sales," said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. "It's unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell."

Researcher Quits After Nazi Looted Art Isn't Returned

Researcher Sibylle Ehringhaus worked with the Georg Schäfer Museum in northern Bavaria to examine the ownership history of its 1,000 oil paintings and several thousand drawings, prints, and watercolors. Schäfer, the industrialist whose collection is displayed there, had bought much of the art in the 1950s in Munich, then a hub for dealers who had had relationships with the Nazis. Among those from whom he purchased works was Adolf Hitler's personal photographer. Ehringhaus's job was, in part, to determine just how much of the collection had a tainted provenance. After she had identified several plundered works, she said, no one seemed to have any plans to return them to the heirs of the original Jewish owners. Increasingly, she said, she began to feel her work was unwelcome. She was denied access to historical documents vital for her research, she said, and forbidden to contact colleagues at another museum with a research inquiry. Therefore, in December she rejected an offer to extend her contract for another year. The museum has denied trying to hinder Ehringhaus's work.

Art Basel Goes Virtual

After canceling its fair, Art Basel Hong Kong will present more than 2,000 works online with an estimated value of $270 million. That's just the beginning as the art world goes virtual. Art Basel will, for the first time, offer online viewing rooms to replace the Hong Kong fair that was canceled this month because of the pandemic. More than 230 dealers who planned to bring work to Asia will instead offer some 2,000 pieces through the virtual fair with an estimated value of $270 million, including 70 items over $1 million. Galleries throughout the United States are also considering web-based works and curated online exhibitions.


NBA Shutdown Not a Surprise

The NBA was the first major professional sports league in North America to suspend operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, now a pandemic, but Danilo Gallinari, as Italy's pre-eminent basketball export, had been consumed by the crisis for weeks. Only China, where the respiratory virus originated, has been hit harder by the outbreak than Italy, which had reported nearly 25,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,800 deaths so far. Mattia Ferraresi, who works for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, wrote recently in a cautionary piece for The Boston Globe that "it took weeks after the virus first appeared here to realize that several measures were absolutely necessary," and that many Italians now regret not taking the coronavirus more seriously in its early stages. "The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lockdowns, canceling public gatherings and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus," Ferraresi wrote. "We now know that wasn't nearly enough."

National Football League Players Vote Yes on 10-Year Labor Deal

National Football League (NFL) players voted to approve a new 10-year labor deal that will include the first major expansion to the NFL season in more than four decades. A narrow majority of the league's roughly 2,000 players signed off on the deal, paving the way for the addition of a 17th regular-season game, an expanded playoff format, more limited training camps, and a relaxation of rules governing the use of marijuana. The players' union said in a statement that the final tally had 1,019 players voting for the deal and 959 voting against it.

NFL to Ban Public from Draft

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended gatherings of no more than 50 people, the NFL canceled plans to hold its draft publicly in Las Vegas and will conduct the three-day event in front of a television audience only, the latest sports-schedule change due to restrictions designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The draft will take place April 23 through 25, as originally planned. "The NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will provide that information as it becomes available," the league said in a statement. "Public NFL draft events in Las Vegas next month will not take place."

International Olympic Committee Says the Summer Olympics Will Continue

Even as the coronavirus spreads across the world, overwhelming health care systems and cratering national economies, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) doubled down on its commitment to hold the 2020 Games in Tokyo this summer, stunning athletes and other stakeholders who had been preparing for a postponement.

"The Scheme" Exposes the Racket of Recruiting

A documentary pulls back the layers of corruption in college basketball with a talent scout who was a part of it. Christian Dawkins, a middle man and a scout for a top NBA agent, reappears as a star of "The Scheme," an HBO Sports documentary directed by Pat Kondelis that will air on March 31. The film exposes the septic tank that is college basketball, and the coaches and university officials who claim not to notice the stink.

For Female Athletes, the Financial Fallout Hits Especially Hard

The coronavirus has upended the sports world, throwing many professional athletes into uncertainty. Women, who have fought so hard to get to the top level of sports, might feel a sharper pain than travel woes. Their paychecks and sponsor deals are often much smaller than men's and their leagues are less established. The specter of a recession is an additional concern. Women's professional leagues are usually laser-focused on building on their successes and finding ways to cultivate their brands to make them sustainable for the long run. Yet like the rest of a population faced with daily complications caused by the coronavirus, they now have to figure out how to navigate a world that changes seemingly by the minute.

French Open Pushed to September

The French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments that define success in tennis, will be postponed until September because of the coronavirus. French Open organizers announced the decision amid a wide lockdown in France aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. "The current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with the dates as originally planned," tournament officials said in a statement. Officials have now shifted those dates to September 20 to October 4.

Euro 2020 and Copa América Are Postponed for a Year

The quadrennial championships, two of the most important events on the sport's calendar, were scheduled for this summer but will now be moved to 2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Tournament organizers announced that the European Championship (Euros), second only to the World Cup in importance and value in international soccer, will be postponed until 2021. Shortly afterwards, the organizers of the Copa América, South America's continental championship, which was scheduled to run concurrently with the Euros, announced that it would do the same, moving its event -- set for Argentina and Colombia this summer -- back a year. The move by the governing body for soccer in Europe, UEFA, will clear the month of summer dates blocked out for the tournament, known as Euro 2020, and could allow national leagues that have been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak to complete their seasons.


Social Distancing Tests the Internet

With millions of people suddenly working and learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic, internet companies are being put to the test with one of the biggest mass behavior changes that the nation has experienced. That is set to strain the internet's underlying infrastructure, with the burden likely to be particularly felt in two areas: the home networks that people have set up in their residences, and the home internet services from Comcast, Charter, and Verizon that those upon which home networks rely. "We just don't know" how the infrastructure will fare, said Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. "What is sufficient bandwidth for a couple of home computers for a husband and wife may not be sufficient when you add students who are going to class all day long operating from home." In response, Verizon, Charter, Cox, Comcast, and AT&T said that they were confident they could meet the demands placed on their home internet services, which includes cable broadband like Xfinity, fiber-based broadband like FIOS, mobile LTE services from Verizon and AT&T, and Wi-Fi hot spots. They added that they were taking measures to help people who were working and learning from home.

China to Expel American Journalists

In a sharp escalation of tensions between the U.S. and China, China announced that it would expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. It also demanded that those outlets, as well as the Voice of America and Time magazine, provide the Chinese government with detailed information about their operations. The announcement, made by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came weeks after the Trump administration limited to 100 the number of Chinese citizens who can work in the United States for five state-run Chinese news organizations that are widely considered propaganda outlets.

China Defends Move Against American Journalists