Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - October 31, 2018

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Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 759.  This is a SLAPP case.  Plaintiff filed an action against the marketers of a posthumous album by Michael Jackson.  The marketers included the co-executor of Jackson’s estate as well as a music company and a production company.  Plaintiff contended that the album cover and a promotional video was misleading and represented that Jackson was the lead singer on each of the ten vocal tracks on the album, and in fact he was not on three of those tracks.  The marketers filed a SLAPP motion.  The Court of Appeal found that the challenged representation, that Jackson was the lead singer on all tracks, was not simply a marketing matter, but also a disputed matter of public interest.  Therefore the identity of Jackson the disputed tracks was an issue of interest and related to a public controversy, making it appropriate to take into account the First Amendment significance of the work itself in assessing whether the content of the statement concerning who the vocalist was was more than a purely commercial issue.  The marketer’s statements were not therefore simply commercial speech but were also subject to full First Amendment protection.  That was sufficient to defeat the unfair competition and consumer protection claims.  Plaintiff was unable to show a likelihood of prevailing on those claims and her allegations with respect to the marketers therefore should have been struck under the SLAPP statute. 

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