Media

Arnold & Porter's innovative solutions and imaginative approaches have kept media companies and content creators coming to us for decades. From the inception of an idea, through development and production, we protect our clients' creative content and guide them through a myriad of legal challenges. We integrate our corporate, intellectual property, litigation, and regulatory experience to guide our clients through complex legal problems and structures.

Selected Key Capabilities

Copyright

Advising clients on the scope of copyright protection, defending against copyright lawsuits claiming infringement of preexisting works, and protecting our clients' valuable IP from misuse by others. Our work includes acting as production counsel to a satirical reality-style comedy television show, representing blockbuster movie studios and comic book companies in successful defense of a copyright claim based on allegations of copying in popular super hero movie franchises and related properties, representing the owners of some of the most widely-recognized literary properties in the world in pursuing claims against infringers improperly claiming fair use defenses, and successfully representing a video game developer in a copyright suit alleging that a competitor copied protected expression. We also filed litigation that ultimately persuaded a Senatorial candidate to cease publication of a campaign advertisement that used television news content and branding without authorization.

Corporate/M&A

Representing private equity firms and public and private corporations in the media industry in all manner of mergers and acquisitions, financings, dispositions, joint ventures, securities law compliance, and other corporate matters. Our Corporate/M&A practice is closely integrated with other leading practice groups at the firm, providing a full-service solution for our clients with lawyers who have a deep understanding of the industry in which they operate. Our work includes acting as corporate counsel to several independent film and television producers for several decades.

Libel/Defamation

Routinely responding to legal claim letters and persuading would-be plaintiffs not to resort to litigation, and successfully defending against such claims in court and before regulators, both in the US and abroad. We recently won dismissal of a defamation claim brought by a prominent social activist against a well-known commentator, concerning statements made about two lawsuits arising out of activities at a protest march. We also notably persuaded a non-US television regulator to expand free speech protections for opinion commentary, including on matters of national controversy. Our work includes pre-publication legal review for potential exposure to libel and privacy concerns, and day-to-day production and legal advice for a leading cable television network, a popular reality show production house, and a global online platform.

Licensing/IP Transactions

Providing strategic advice to major media companies, startups, authors, independent producers, investors, and media industry consortia on content, technology, and other intellectual property transactions, including collaborations, joint ventures, licenses, releases, options, infrastructure agreements, endorsement deals, video game development deals, promotional licenses, and global rollouts of new products and services. We are particularly experienced in transactions that are at the intersection of media, entertainment, and technology. Our work includes advising television production and media companies on licensing and release documentation for news and entertainment programs, structuring new digital distribution platforms and negotiating agreements with major film and television studios to license content for those platforms, and negotiating and drafting video game and merchandise license agreements on behalf of the holder of film, stage and merchandising rights in a classic fantasy literature series.

Newsgathering Protection/Leak Investigations

Successfully defending against and giving advice regarding subpoenas and other legal processes seeking confidential and nonconfidential newsgathering information, including demands for reporter notes, outtakes, testimony, anonymous subscriber information and electronic devices in both the news and docuseries/reality show context. Our work includes notably defending against a subpoena seeking to unmask a group of anonymous individuals who reported #MeToo allegations and winning a precedential New York Court of Appeals decision protecting an investigative journalist from being compelled to reveal confidential newsgathering sourcing in the murder trial of Batman-killer, James Holmes. We have also represented an online news publication in its publication of the Top Secret document disclosed to it by the NSA contract employee, Reality Winner, as well as worked on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee case in which, for the first time, nongovernment employees were prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

Creative and Influential: Unlike firms that sit on one side or the other, we stand at the intersection between intellectual property and free speech and draw the lines to achieve our clients' goals.

Groundbreaking Precedents: From winning a landmark decision in New York's highest court protecting journalists' sources to successfully defending first-ever case about "fake news," we take on the emerging and unresolved issues at the core of TMT businesses.

Deep Industry Knowledge: Our extensive experience with the media industry coupled with our pragmatic approach gives us an edge when it comes to understanding the business effects of legal advice.

The depth of our practice is reflected in our wide array of key capabilities.
Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)’s MediaLawLetter: 10 Questions to a Media Lawyer

Experience Highlights

  • One of the world's leading entertainment companies in the successful defense of a copyright claim based on allegations of copying in popular comic book movie franchises and related properties.
  • Leading television news network and two of its on-air anchors in the successful defense against a first-of-its-kind defamation claim based on fake news. Won summary judgment in district court and that decision was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
  • HarperCollins Publishers in various antitrust actions involving the pricing of e-books, as well as in private class action and retailer litigation brought against various publishers and Apple.
  • Ad hoc group of term lenders to iHeartMedia Inc. in the restructuring of approximately $20 billion of debt issued by iHeartMedia Inc. and its affiliates. Our bankruptcy, litigation, corporate, tax, and regulatory lawyers guided the clients through a complex, multi-year effort, which included a successfully litigated adversary proceeding trial over alleged violations of an indenture covenant; the separation of iHeart and Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. into independent public companies; and addressing the antitrust issues for iHeart's successful emergence from bankruptcy. Because iHeart operates the largest collection of US broadcast radio stations, our telecommunications lawyers ensured compliance with US Federal Communications Commission rules. Compliance has been complicated by many of the funds or investment advisors being formed in offshore jurisdictions, requiring an FCC declaratory ruling to permit up to 100 percent foreign ownership. Following the template we pioneered in the Cumulus Media restructuring enabled iHeart to emerge from bankruptcy prior to that declaratory ruling.
  • One of the country's largest digital news platforms in litigations filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act concerning access to online materials and information.
  • LeanIn.org in connection with its partnership with Getty Images to create the Lean In Collection, a library of images devoted to celebrating powerful images of women, girls and the communities who support them; the Ban Bossy Campaign, its partnership with the Girl Scouts, and other ongoing activities relating to the advancement of women and LeanIn.org's mission.
  • Investigative journalist in defending her right to maintain the secrecy of her sources in reporting on the Batman movie theater mass shooting, leading to a landmark decision in the New York Court of Appeals.
  • Machine Zone in defeating putative nationwide class action suit alleging that a game constituted illegal gambling in violation of consumer protection laws and other state statutes.
  • Middle-earth Enterprises in the negotiation and drafting of video game and merchandise license agreements on behalf of The Saul Zaentz Company (d/b/a Middle-earth Enterprises), holder of film, stage, and merchandising rights in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
  • Prince in helping seal a "landmark deal" that put an end to the rock icon's 20-year battle with Warner Records by securing the musician's ownership of his master recordings, including best-selling albums such as Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, and Purple Rain, in exchange for allowing Warner Records certain licensing rights.
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