Celebrities v the Law in 2014
2014 was another busy year for the world’s celebrities (and their lawyers). From wig design disputes to a love letter from a juror, here’s a sample of the celebrity lawsuits that made headlines this year…
The year kicked off with Kanye West’s lawyers sending a cease and desist letter to some developers who created ‘Coinye’ – a digital currency with West’s face on it. The dispute was finalised by default in July, with some developers settling earlier and others failing to respond to West’s lawyers.
Director Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker Media for publishing the script for his latest film project, The Hateful Eight.
Meanwhile, the lawyer who let slip that JK Rowling was actually the author of Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling was fined 1,000 pounds and given a warning by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Five Michael Jackson fans were awarded damages for the emotional suffering they experienced following the singer’s death in 2011. The French court awarded symbolic damages of €1 to each plaintiff.
Nicki Minaj was sued by her former hair stylist, who alleged that the rapper had sold wigs based on his designs without his permission.
A former Stratton Oakmont stockbroker sued the producers behind The Wolf of Wall Street, claiming that he was the inspiration for the character Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff, and that the film’s portrayal of him was defamatory.
California man Charles Nicholas Sarris sued the company ShowFX Inc after he was injured working on a giant tongue-shaped slide for a Miley Cyrus tour.
Singer Rickey Spicer sued US Vogue magazine over a behind-the-scenes video of its photo shoot Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and baby North. Spicer claimed that the Kanye West track that can be heard in the video used one of his songs without permission.
US clothing company Lucky 13 sued Taylor Swift over her own clothing range, which has also used the number and the phrase ‘lucky 13’ on some items. The clothing brand claimed that the overlap confused the market.
Snoop Dogg was sued by three of his former bodyguards, who claimed that they had been underpaid and that they were unfairly dismissed after complaining about their working conditions.
After actress Lisa Kudrow lost a court dispute with her former manager, she received a letter of apology from one of the jurors, who suggested that the jury had erred in its decision and alleged that there had been issues with the jury’s deliberations. In the letter, the jury foreman expressed his regard for the Friends star and said that he felt her pain. Based on the letter, Kudrow demanded a new trial.
The Beastie Boys took home US$1.7m after winning its copyright violation case against Monster Energy drink company, which used one of their songs in a video without permission.
Scarlett Johansson won a defamation suit against a French novelist whose book chronicled the affairs of a fictional character who looked like the Hollywood actress.
In what may be the most awkward celebrity lawsuit of the year, Duran Duran sued its own fan club in relation to a dispute over royalties from the sale of merchandise and memberships.
Adele and her husband won a lawsuit against Corbis Images on behalf of their son over paparazzi snaps of the toddler that were taken and published without his parents’ permission.
Ricky Martin and Sony Music were sued by a contestant who submitted an entry to the SuperSong competition to find the new song for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Luis Adrian Cortes Ramos claimed that the organisers promised that the composer would be recognised for their work on the track, but said that the track Vida was released without his knowledge or permission.
James Cameron successfully fended off another copyright claim over Avatar. Artist William Roger Dean had claimed that Cameron had used parts of his paintings as the basis of the landscape of Pandora.
Meanwhile, a chauffeur company sued Taylor Swift over losses arising from its cancelled contract with the singer.
The descendants of a member of the band Spirit are suing Led Zeppelin over the opening of Stairway to Heaven, which they claim is a copy of the Spirit track Taurus. In October, Led Zeppelin’s motion to have the case dismissed was unsuccessful.
The Rolling Stones were in court again this month, fighting insurers for lost profits from their Australian and New Zealand tours, which were cancelled earlier this year, following the death of Mick Jagger’s girlfriend L’Wren Scott.
Lawyers for Sydney paparazzo Jamie Fawcett sent Katy Perry a letter requesting that the singer delete tweets posted during her Australian tour, which the photographer claimed were defamatory.
50 Cent’s bank accounts were frozen after he failed to pay damages to Sleek Audio. A court had previously ordered him to pay $17.2 million to the company, which claimed that he stole their headphone design and released it on his own, instead of endorsing the headphones to be released by Sleek Audio. 50 Cent’s lawyers are planning to appeal the decision.
Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the Survive Law weekly newsletter for more.