New York New York Legal Blog

Legal malpractice claims for lack of email security

New York residents who face legal situations are often flummoxed by the complexity of the issues involved. Because an attorney has specialized knowledge, clients often take a leap of faith that the lawyer is safeguarding the information with which he or she is entrusted. When that trust is misplaced, the lawyer may end up facing allegations of legal malpractice.

One woman wanted to buy a home -- a simple, three-bedroom ranch in another state. Following the advice of many, she hired a real estate attorney and sent a wire transfer of $73,401 from her bank, following instructions she received in a series of emails she believed were from her realtor. Despite the fact that the wire transfer for a local real estate transaction was being routed to an out-of-state trading company, the bank completed the transfer without confirming the details with the woman's attorney.

Is fanfiction stealing intellectual property?

Since the modernized fanfiction appeared in a magazine paying homage to the original Star Trek series, the world of fanfiction has evolved into a life of its own. The inception of fanfiction websites made such creative expressions more accessible, spawning derivative fiction for every conceivable literary genre. While some authors in New York and elsewhere welcome and even encourage fans to show their appreciation in this unique way, other authors argue that fanfiction violates their intellectual property.

In the world of fanfiction, writers may take the characters a published author has created and place them into new situations, taking them in directions the author may not have imagined. Fanfiction websites exist for thousands of books, such as Harry Potter, Twilight and even some classic works of literature, such as To Kill A Mockingbird. Copyright law may protect writers of fanfiction since those laws allow for derivative works as long as the authors abide by the fair use doctrine.

Banana costume sparks intellectual property litigation

For some in New York, it takes only the turning of the calendar page to October to begin preparations for Halloween. Cobwebs go up in trees, and pumpkins are arranged on the porch. Finally, the only thing left to do is to procure the perfect costume. Rather than becoming a goblin or Iron Man, some will purchase a costume to transform themselves into the funniest of fruits, the banana. However, banana costumes are currently the center of intellectual property litigation.

Rasta Imposta has long been the go-to manufacturer of affordable costumes. Among its most popular costumes is the banana, in which the wearer's face, legs and arms stick out from openings in the foam. The costume has so much "ap-peel" that other manufacturers have recently tried to copy it.

Taylor Swift hopes copyright law supports her

New York fans of singer-songwriter Taylor Swift often admit they admire her because her music speaks to them. Swift's lyrics come from personal experiences, and those who enjoy her songs, especially young women, find them empowering. However, songwriters frequently find themselves faced with lawsuits when their music or lyrics too closely resemble songs written by other people. Swift is no stranger to these lawsuits, and in the past, copyright law has been on her side.

In 2001, the group 3LW performed an R&B song called "Playas Gon' Play," written by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler. Recently, Hall and Butler filed a lawsuit against Swift, claiming that the refrain of her song "Shake It Off" too closely resembles the lyrics and structure of their 2001 release. While the two songs sound nothing alike, Hall and Butler contend that Swift's use the of the lines, "Players gonna play… and the haters gonna hate…" are derivative of their lyrics, "Them playas gon' play, them haters gonna hate."

No monkeying around with copyright laws

New York is no stranger to famous people. Photos of these famous people can be worth a lot of money to the photographers who take them, but new technology and trends in photography have sometimes made it difficult to determine who might actually own the photo. Since the inception of the front-facing "selfie" camera on smartphones, people have been able to take self-portraits easier than ever before.

Selfies have become so popular, in fact, that even monkeys are catching on to the trend. In 2011, a wildlife photographer was attempting to capture images of a macaque in Indonesia. The photographer set his camera down, and then the monkey picked it up and took a picture of himself. The image has since gone viral and was the subject of a copyright lawsuit to determine ownership.

Legal malpractice common after lawyers miss deadlines

When New York families take a vacation, it is usually to escape the stress of daily life and create fond memories for their children. However, injuries or illness during vacation may only add to parents' stress, and an accident certainly creates memories one would sooner forget. One family's amusement park ride was a terrifying experience, but their efforts to seek compensation for damages were met with frustration and potentially legal malpractice.

The mother and her daughter rode on Six Flags Great Adventure's El Diablo, a looping roller coaster seven stories tall. After the girl buckled herself into the ride, no attendant checked to see if her belt was properly secured. At some point during the ride, the belt became undone, causing the girl to have to cling to the shoulder bar to keep from being ejected as the ride spun and looped, at one point turning the girl completely upside down. When the ride ended, the family alerted the attendant, who examined the belt and shut down the ride.

It is still a crime to steal intellectual property

Increasingly, intangible assets are vital to the economy of our country. Intellectual property such as music, computer programs and written works are not only the driving force behind many industries, but provide a livelihood for the inventors and artists who often make great sacrifices regarding their unique creations. In New York and across the country, there seems to be a misconception about what constitutes the illegal use of someone's intellectual property.

Stealing a CD or DVD from a store is clearly an example of theft. However, some would argue that the theft occurred because physical property was taken. In other words, the disc on which the music or movie was stored is the only thing with value. This thinking would make downloading such works online legal and perhaps clear the way for others to profit from such unauthorized downloading.

Intellectual property litigation involving Pepe the frog

Those in New York who enjoyed the antics of Pepe the Frog may have mourned the cartoon character's death earlier this year. The laid back, self-indulgent amphibian gained a cult following after artist Matt Furie introduced him in an e-zine in 2005. For nearly 10 years, Furie and his frog enjoyed popularity among fans whose philosophies mirrored those of the lazy, hedonistic character. However, recently the artist turned to intellectual property litigation when someone attempted to use his creation for nefarious purposes.

Pepe was not a stranger to hijacking. In 2015, a group of white supremacists adapted the frog's image, morphing it into Adolph Hitler and other figures associated with hatred and bigotry. Within a year, Furie's easy-going frog had become a symbol of racism, and the artist felt he had lost control of his work. To combat this trend, Furie opted to kill off the frog and move on to new ventures. However, recently the frog made another appearance in a self-published book that some critics called a thinly-veiled attack on Islam.

Will the real Village People please stand up: Copyright law issue

A group of men took to the stage in the 70s to entertain music lovers with their song and dance talent. They were a costume-oriented group known as The Village People. Many people today still recognize their construction worker, Native American and cowboy persona, in addition to a few others Several members of the original group are currently engaged in a contentious copyright law dispute involving several other management and licensing entities.

When The Village People first hit the charts with their routines, Can't Stop Productions was said to have spearheaded the idea. Sometime later, Can't Stop accepted a 5 percent license fee agreement when two members from the group founded their own company, Sixuvus Ltd., and began performing live with both original and new group members under the new company umbrella. Not long ago, Can't Stop severed the agreement when it formed a new contractual relationship with a third party, Harlem West Entertainment.

Legal Malpractice Case Filed Against Gloria Allred

Gloria Allred may not be a household name, but many are familiar with her work. The attorney has represented high-profile cases, including defamation, sexual assault and discrimination lawsuits against celebrities like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. Last month, a former client filed suit against her for legal malpractice and fraud, alleging that she didn’t follow through with promised counsel, as well as failure to disclose a conflict of interest.

In representing a TV weatherman’s case against CBS, the suit alleges that Allred failed to disclose her own negotiations for a television show with the network. It also claims that witnesses were not interviewed, despite Allred’s claims. The weatherman was ordered to pay $800,000 in legal fees, which he claims are due to Allred’s negligence.

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