Legal Impact Report 2012

When a London pub owner showed a soccer game in her establishment, she didn’t use a Sky TV subscription, but a cheaper decoder that accessed a Greek TV network televising the same event. The Premier League sued, but after years of litigation she prevailed in February in a copyright case with implications across Europe — and beyond.

The Beverly Hills Bar Assn. recently highlighted the “Pub Landlady” case in the panel “On the Other Side of the Pond: What to Expect if Our Clients Are Involved in Litigation or Transactions in Europe,” along with a host of other issues involving copyright law, contracts and privacy.

The international focus of the event speaks to the latest effort of BHBA to respond to changes in entertainment law — and to the fact that so much more business is done across international borders than in the past.

“The globalization of the media is something that’s a big concern,” says Joseph D. Schleimer, who, along with Adam Siegler, is chair of BHBA’s entertainment law section.

BHBA — celebrating its 80th year and boasting about 5,000 members — has become well known for its panels, streamed on the Internet in partnership with the West LegalEdCenter, and available for Continuing Legal Education credit.

“It is such a fast-changing landscape, particularly with the impact of European law,” says Alexander Rufus-Isaacs of Rufus-Isaacs, Acland & Grantham, who organized and moderated the European panel. “It has huge repercussions.”

The Pub Landlady case, for instance, impacts how dealmakers draft international television licenses, Rufus-Isaacs says. “How does that leave you when you are negotiating a deal with one broadcaster in France, and the European Court of Justice rules that territorial restrictions are unenforceable?”

Another panel, slated for July 18, is called “How Your Client Can Break Into the Chinese Entertainment Industry Without Going Broke.” Scheduled speakers include Tom Ara of Reed Smith, Chris Fenton of DMG Entertainment and Disney’s Rey Rodriguez. Among the topics: financing and production, film regulation, co-financing — and the hot-button issue of compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“There’s a lot of money in China right now. They’re looking for places to invest in the States, and also American films are popular in China when they can get in,” says Brian Schaller, who is organizing the event and will moderate. The idea, he says, is to present a “nuts and bolts” program on how to do business in the country and with Chinese investors.

An April panel — “Living la Vida Loca” — focused on the Latin film and TV business, with reps from Univision, Pantelion Films and Canana Films. George Gamez, the moderator, says the issues involved include the dealmaking implications of shifting demographics and the nuances of making contacts in Latin America.

“You have different kinds of laws in each one of these countries,” Gamez says. “Most of the big legal firms have offices in each of these countries, but it is tough for the smaller firms that may not be familiar with these laws.”

Not that BHBA ignores the domestic side. In addition to multiple events focused on Stateside issues, the org annually presents its Entertainment Lawyer of the Year Award at a gala dinner each spring.

This year the honor went to Lavely & Singer’s Marty Singer, one of the attorneys on the Impact list in this issue. “We’ve grown from having a dinner for about 70 to staging an event for 470 or so, complete with celebrities and an emcee,” BHBA executive director Marc Staenberg told Variety just prior to this year’s event. “It’s quite a production.”

BHBA: MILESTONES ALONG THE WAY


1931
Beverly Hills Bar Association founded as an unincorporated association by attorneys on the Westside of Los Angeles looking for an alternative to the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Total membership: 22. Arthur L. Erb selected as first president.


1954
BHBA has 407 members. Hosts first judicial reception honoring California Supeme Court.


1967
BHBA has 1,375 members and hires Tracy Schumacher as first executive secretary. U. S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark speaks at annual Law Day celebration attended by the justices of the Ninth Circuit.


1970
BHBA is first in the country to join hands with a black bar association, partnering with the Langston Law Club (now the Langston Bar Association) to design and implement a course of high school instruction.


1976
With election of Norma Zarky, BHBA becomes first metropolitan bar association in California to be led by a woman president.


1979
Senator Edward M. Kennedy honors BHBA as “one of the first (bar associations) in the nation to respond to the under-representation… of minority communities in the legal profession by establishing a scholarship foundation to assist minority law students.”


2011
BHBA turns 80.


2012
BHBA celebrates its 80th Anniversary as the sixth-largest bar association in California with over 4,000 members.

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