5 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Teller’s greatest trick, a too-popular firing range, and three more strange suits in the news

The Greatest Trick of All

Magician Teller, of the duo Penn & Teller, may have just pulled off his greatest feat: Winning a copyright infringement suit over a copied illusion.

On March 20, a Nevada federal court judge ruled that Belgian entertainer Gerard Dogge violated copyright law by posting his own version of a Teller performance titled “Shadows.” While the judge explicitly said that magic tricks are not copyrightable, pantomimes are. “Indeed, federal law directly holds 'dramatic works' as well as 'pantomimes' are subject to copyright protection, granting owners exclusive public performance rights,” the judge wrote, via The Hollywood Reporter. “The mere fact that a dramatic work or pantomime includes a magic trick, or even that a particular illusion is its central feature does not render it devoid of copyright protection.”

Dogge had attempted to copy Teller’s trick, posting a Youtube video named “The Rose & Her Shadow.” He also offered to sell the secrets to the trick for $3,050. However, Teller could now receive as much as $150,000 from Dogge if a jury finds the Belgian entertainer’s misappropriation willful.

Shot in the Dark

 

Shot in the Dark

Wouldn’t you love for it to be the Fourth of July all the time? According to one homeowner ten minutes from downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., that’s what some area homeowners get to live every day. But it’s not the fireworks and cookouts that they get to experience; it’s the constant “boom” of explosions from a local firing range, and they’re growing old quickly.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, a group of residents on Elder Mountain have filed a $1.25 million lawsuit against the Firemen and Policemen Outing Club, claiming that the club does not abide by noise ordinances or gunfire regulations and operates an illegal shooting range per zoning ordinance laws. The residents say that they complained about the noise, but because the club services firemen and policemen, they received no help. “Efforts were made to solve it, but basically the neighbors got no practical cooperation,” said Stephen Duggins, an attorney for the group. “They basically felt they had reached a dead end, despite a number of attempts to work with the range.”

The club said that it isn’t designed as a shooting range, but the frequency and intensity of noises from the facility has increased following the institution of a shooting pavilion. “We haven't heard anything from anybody,” Tim Zink, treasurer of the club, said. “There is no ordinance against shooting in an R-1. The law says that if the shooting is a nuisance, basically you can call the police and they can come tell you to quit. We're not doing anything illegal.” Zink also said that the club is looking into ways to cut down on the noise, but “we have limited funds.”

Suit, Suit Baby

 

Suit, Suit Baby

Have you ever found yourself in a music store, saying, “Man, I really wish that I could listen to the sultry sounds of ‘I Wanna Sex You Up’ by Color Me Badd on the same CD as Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’?” Well, Tutm Entertainment (d/b/a Drew's Entertainment) had your back with a collection of albums with names such as Hits of the 80’s. However, there was only one problem: The songs Tutm Entertainment sold were re-recordings by the same artists rather than original songs. One consumer felt that Tutm was being deceptive in its sales practices, so she decided to file suit.

Celeste Farrell is leading a class action lawsuit against Tutm in New Jersey federal court, claiming that Tutm deceived customers with the packaging of its albums. “Instead of conveying the source of the recording to allow the consumer to make an informed purchase decision, Tutm provides no information on the Albums' cover or back label to indicate to the consumer that the songs are not the original songs,” says the lawsuit.

As pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, re-recording songs is a common occurrence due to licensing disputes with record labels or potential issues with copyright termination.

Bad Hair Day

 

Bad Hair Day

For celebrity stylist Oribe Canales, there are certain obstacles that simply cannot be overlooked. Split ends. Frizzy hair. People who never use conditioner. Oh, and business partners who violate non-compete and confidentiality clauses in order to launch their own hair product lines; that can be a bother too.

According to the New York Post, Canales has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Teyva Finger and Daniel Kaner for breach of contract. Canales says that Finger and Kaner, both part-owners of Oribe Hair Care, are threatening to sink his business by launching competing brands named V76 and R+Co. Canales claims that Finger and Kaner are selling “virtually identical” products at a lower price in an attempt to undercut him. He also said that the employees were developing the products on his company’s dollar, and that they are violating exclusivity deals he had with certain retailers such as Neiman Marcus.

Church and State

 

Separation of Church and State?

It’s always nice when past Strange Suits have a happy ending. Or, at least, plaintiffs Ronald and Jinjer Cooke are a few million dollars richer, while the sister towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, are now licking their wounds.

In January 2014, the Cookes sued Colorado City, Ariz., after claiming that the town discriminated against them because they were not members of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). According to the lawsuit, the Cookes waited three years before the city finally provided electricity to their home, and after nearly six years, they still did not have running water.

Now, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, an Arizona court agrees. The court awarded the Cookes $5.3 million for their troubles, saying that they were discriminated against by predominantly-FLDS city officials. In the trial, the Cookes called two former church members to the stand, one of whom said the church and the cities shared resources, while another testified that the church forced him to spy on the Cookes. “I’m thrilled,” said William Walker, attorney for the couple. “I’m particularly thrilled for the Cookes who have withstood this discrimination for five and half years and have finally been vindicated by a jury of their peers.”

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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