Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Screenwriter Sues Mel Gibson for Fraud

Mel Gibson has been sued for fraud and unjust enrichment by Benedict Fitzgerald, one of the screenwriters for Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Fitzgerald claimed that Gibson misrepresented facts regarding the film's budget and Gibson's financial take, leading him to believe the film had a $4-7 million budget and Gibson would take no percentage of profits.

Fitzgerald was paid as a writing a fee of $75,000, while Gibson took home a $5 million salary for directing, as well as his producer's share of profits derived from the $600 million of the film's worldwide receipts.

Fitzgerald alleges that Gibson had the express purpose of depriving him of the full fruits of his efforts as the screenwriter, and that Fitzgerald experienced severe cash-flow problems due to his devotion to the project.

Law Banning Violent Videogames Held Unconstitutional

The state of Minnesota is fighting an 8th Circuit decision regarding violent video games. In March, The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an injunction against enforcement of a 2006 state law banning minors from buying violent video games (rated "M for Mature" or "AO for Adults Only.) Residents under age 17 faced $25 fines if caught buying or renting games with the mature ratings.

The court found that violent video games are protected free speech under the First Amendment and the burden of proof required "incontrovertible proof of a causal relationship between the exposure to such violence and subsequent psychological dysfunction" to overcome the burden and uphold the state law.

The state has now petitioned the Court of Appeals for a rehearing en banc (by all of the judges rather than the customary 3 judge panel) to reconsider its previous ruling, as well as question the "incontrovertible proof" standard set forth by the court, which would create an "unprecedented and unreasonably high evidentiary standard" regarding the well-being of children. The state argues that the "grossly repugnant" video games are not worthy of First Amendment protection because they do not communicate or express ideas or information.

For more information, please see: Entertainment Software Association et al. v. Swanson et al., No. 06-3217, petition for rehearing filed (8th Cir. Mar. 28, 2008).

Legal Ease, A Legal Rights Workshop for Writers

June 21, 2008, 11:00AM – 12:30PM at GREAT AMERICAN PITCHFEST

Date: Saturday - June 21, 2008Time: 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Mark will be a speaker at the upcoming Great American Pitchfest.

Screenwriters need to protect themselves from the people they write about and producers they contract with. They also need to take care when collaborating with others.

This seminar explains how writers can avoid legal problems by properly securing rights, obtaining releases and not infringing the rights of others. Related topics include registering your work, submission releases, and annotating and clearing your script.

Topics include:

When you need to purchase the rights to a person's life story
What is in the public domain
Defenses to defamation and invasion of privacy
Title and Copyright searches
Reserving rights
Reversion and Turnaround clauses
Watering down warranties
E & O insurance
Story theft
Typical compensation and terms of studio contracts
Defenses and privileges to defamation and invasion of privacy
How to preserve the integrity of your screenplay and avoid costly lawsuits

The fifth annual Great American PitchFest will take place on June 20-22, 2008 at the Burbank Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, 2500 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA 91505.

For additional information:

UCLA Self-Defense for Writers and Independent Filmmakers: Protecting Your Legal Rights JULY 12, 2008

Mark will present his annual legal defense seminar the weekend of July 12, 2008.

Filmmakers learn how to make shrewd business decisions and protect their interests in negotiations with production and distribution companies. Instruction covers how to anticipate problems before they arise and how to encourage other parties to live up to their contractual obligations through performance incentives, default penalties, and arbitration.

In the event of a dispute, learn what remedies are available to enforce your rights. Topics include creative accounting; customary terms of contracts; negotiating tactics and strategies; properly securing rights to your work; and how to avoid being sued for copyright infringement, defamation, or invasion of privacy. Attention is paid to how to protect oneself by modifying warranties, obtaining E&O coverage, using lab access letters to retain control of masters, and utilizing termination clauses.

The seminar includes an extensive handout with sample forms, contracts and a self-defense checklist.

Registration No. U2433, Additional info at: