The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of a major motion picture studio, movie distributor and music company yesterday, affirming summary judgment in the decision Moore v. The Weinstein Company, LLC, et al. Waller is proud to have successfully represented the filmmakers in the matter.
In affirming the decision by District Court Judge Aleta Trauger, the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the creators and distributors of the 2008 film and soundtrack, Soul Men, starring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac against claims by the entertainer Sam Moore. Moore, formerly of the soul music group “Sam & Dave” and best known for his 1960s versions of the songs “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” challenged the lower court’s rulings dismissing his claims that the film and soundtrack violated his trademark rights and appropriated his life story.
The Sixth Circuit rejected Moore’s right of publicity claims, ruling that even if Moore could establish that the film somehow appropriated his likeness, the First Amendment shielded the film because it “without a doubt” added significant expressive elements to any purported use of Moore’s identity.
Turning to Moore’s trademark claims, the Sixth Circuit rejected Moore’s argument that the fact that he claimed to be personally famous meant that his purported trademarks were “famous” under the federal dilution statute.
The Sixth Circuit also rejected Moore’s argument that the District Court improperly dismissed both of his state law unfair competition and consumer protection claims based on a flawed choice of law analysis. Moore failed to present admissible evidence that created a genuine issue of fact for trial about whether the Defendants’ actions deceived or injured Tennessee consumers. Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit found no error in the District Court’s dismissal of his remaining claims.
As noted by The Hollywood Report, this decision is one of several recent, high profile rulings addressing publicity rights. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is expected to soon address claims that the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker misappropriated the life story of an Iraq War veteran. Additionally, the NCAA recently has sought an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court about use of the likenesses of student athletes in video games.
Waller attorneys Robb Harvey, Heather Hubbard, Laura P. Merritt and Todd Hambidge represented the major motion picture studio, movie distributor and music company in the appeal.