Lawsuit Hopes Dying Cable TV Fees Might Be Resurrected In the Form of Local Streaming Fees

Harley Quinn’s rage needed for idea that local government fees be passed along to streaming

Back in August of last year, we posted a story on: New Boston, Texas Small Town (and other cities) Suing Netflix, Hulu and Others Over Local Utility Fees.

Here with an update of sorts: the battle seems only to have expanded. If it wasn’t class action time six months ago, it is now.

But let’s keep it real. What is this about, really?

Local governments smelling money in the air from big tech companies. Since they are seeing decreased fees from Cable TV providers, it’s time to look at the new source of revenue: streaming!

With little precedent, it may take years to understand the implications of these cases. Companies will likely appeal any decision, and unless the Supreme Court takes up one of the cases, states will be covered under a patchwork of lower court rulings. But an increasing number of local governments see these fees as an opportunity to recover money from the services that are slowly replacing cable TV. “They need money now, and they’ve got this law on the books,” says Bergmayer. With the status of streaming services in flux, they’ve settled on an optimistic approach: “let’s go for it and see what happens.”

The fight to make Netflix and Hulu pay cable fees – The Verge

I’m not on the side of local government on this one. Neither should anybody else that wants to see their monthly streaming fees stay low and simple. Given, Netflix and HBO Max are getting up there, but most of them are $10/month or less.

This also reminds me why I’m not a big fan of Cable TV: it’s those onerous fees, the bulk packaging of way too many garbage channels that we never watched and the painful reminder that new customers were treated to better deals than existing customers — constantly.

It’s one thing to run a promotion for brand new members, but shouldn’t loyal customers who don’t cancel and return repeatedly be treated to a better lower price over time? This would improve retention and reward customer loyalty. Instead, companies act like new customers are more important. They’re not. They’re probably less important than those who pay month after month, year after year for the service and never cancel.

I digress. A big, loud “Boooooooooo!” to this whole local fees being passed along to streaming. Glad to see Netflix and Disney (a la Hulu) lawyers are in defense mode circling this one. Deep pockets fighting back …

Conan Doyle Estate, Netflix and Legendary Settle over Enola Holmes Lawsuit

Enola Holmes ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

An update on the use of Sherlock Holmes emotions lawsuit (see: Litigious Arthur Conan Doyle Estate targets Netflix book adaptation Enola Holmes) — it’s been dismissed.

Based on the article quoted below, it seems like the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate got paid something, but how much is not clear.

Is a more emotional Sherlock Holmes protected by copyright? Although that’s dubious, the mystery remains technically unsolved as Netflix, Legendary Pictures and others associated with Enola Holmes have come to a settlement with the Conan Doyle Estate. On Friday, the parties stipulated to dismissal of a lawsuit in New Mexico federal court.

Netflix Settles ‘Enola Holmes’ Lawsuit With Conan Doyle Estate | Hollywood Reporter

Restating my comments on that post over the summer. I don’t like the idea of an estate claiming copyright infringement on an IP they aren’t actively creating new stories. If they are and I’m just missing all the Sherlock Holmes content being produced by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate, please clue me in the comments below.

Instead, they seem to be acting more like patent trolls, feeding off the lifeblood of creative people like the author of Enola Holmes. I could have this all wrong and maybe the Conan Doyle Estate is in the right here. We will never know on this particular case.

Not sure the court case being dismissed really answers any questions about whether or not this practice is legal in 2020. Will this come up in the courts in a case that actually goes to trial? Hope so. I’d like to see it challenged and copyright law speak on this subject.

Netflix Quietly Settles with Chooseco in Black Mirror Lawsuit over Choose Your Own Adventure

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A lawsuit update has come in.

In October 2019 we wrote about Netflix being the subject of a legal dispute over their interactive viewing program Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (see: Netflix Says More Viewer Interactive Movies Like Bandersnatch Are Coming).

At the time we tried to find out the status of that lawsuit with Chooseco, that owns the tradmark for “Choose Your Own Adventure” and it appeared the case was still pending.

Netflix has now reached a settlement, although the details haven’t yet been made public. The article does do some speculation, as we did as well. We promised to provide an update on the court case whenever we saw one. That day is here.

Best guesswork says that Netflix reached some kind of agreeable number for using the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark in the promotion of Bandersnatch. The real question is whether that deal includes any future use of the reference in other interactive films, or freedom to use the name “Choose Your Own Adventure” in describing the genre of interactive films Netflix is producing. If possible that would be a shrewd legal move on Netflix’s part, as Bandersnatch signaled that modern audiences are open to the novelty of interactive viewing – if done right.

Netflix Reaches Settlement In Black Mirror Lawsuit

Am not a fan of lawsuits like this where the details aren’t known. I realize no company wants to have negative publicity and maybe part of the reason the details aren’t public yet is Netflix plans to partner with Chooseco and co-brand with them for the interactive viewing genre. Suppose we’ll know soon enough.

Hopefully the interactive genre continues to expand. Only certain stories will fit this type of creative storytelling, but it’s something I’d be interested in watching more. What about you? Have you enjoyed these type shows? Or do you prefer more passive viewing that doesn’t require making decisions with your remote?

Guess it’s the gaming fan in me that likes the genre. As pointed out originally, there is a history in videogaming of interactive storytelling. Also enjoyed the books, now licensed by Chooseco. Whatever the details are, the main takeaway needs to be more of this content being created. Netflix paying license fees to Chooseco, fine, co-branding, fine, just don’t sit on a trademark and not let anybody else do anything creatively.

Perhaps a year from now or sooner we’ll know what’s happening. Feel free to chime in the comments below if you see an update with more details or to let us know if you enjoy these type of interactive viewing experiences.

A Billionaire Neighbor Allegedly Uses Gilligan’s Island Theme Song As Psychological Harassment

LOL! You just can’t make up some of this stuff.

This should be a movie where neighbors go to war, something like The War With Grandpa, except titled War With TV Show Theme Songs.

Billionaire Bill Gross, according to the story from CNN below, became embroiled in a neighbor battle over some out of code sculpture and lighting on his property. Instead of doing what most civil, reasonable neighbors would do: work out the dispute amicably, he apparently resorted to blaring the theme song to Gilligan’s Island as some sort of psychic torture.

Shortly after, Towfiq and Nakahara allege Gross began retaliating against them by harassing and disturbing them with “loud music and bizarre audio recordings at excessive levels” during various hours of the day and night — including pop or rap music, and often a series of television theme songs, according to the lawsuit, including the “Gilligan’s Island” theme on a loop.

Billionaire Bill Gross accused of blaring ‘Gilligan’s Island’ theme song on loop at his neighbor – CNN

They should have done this to Malcolm McDowell with those things that hold his eyes open in Kubrick’s famous movie A Clockwork Orange.

What other classic TV show themes could be use as veterans in psychic wars (my shameless BOC reference)? The Brady Bunch? Scooby Doo Where Are You?

Which TV show theme would drive you batty played repeatedly at excess volume?

New Boston, Texas Small Town (and other cities) Suing Netflix, Hulu and Others Over Local Utility Fees

Unsuccessful lawsuits are filed all the time.

No idea if this will be one or not, but apparently a small Texas town called New Boston wants 5% of the revenue generated from subscribers living in their town because Netflix and Hulu use internet routed through their area.

A small town in Texas is going up against streaming giants Netflix and Hulu with a class-action lawsuit over utility fees. New Boston, Texas says the streamers use broadband infrastructure to reach their residents, and should in turn pay the town 5% of the revenue generated from those residents as a fee.

Netflix and Hulu are Being Sued by a Texas Town Saying it Should be Getting 5% | Cord Cutters News

As if local utility fees aren’t onerous enough in some areas, this one seems a bit of a stretch to me, but 5% of subscriber revenue for only those who live in the town probably is a very small amount of dollars for Netflix and Hulu. I doubt, just because they don’t want to set some kind of legal precedent that they will settle.

This just in: 4 towns in Indiana are suing, too.

The Northwest Indiana Times reported the class-action lawsuit filed this month argues that Netflix, Disney, Hulu, DirectTV and Dish Network must pay a 5% franchise fee of gross revenue to the localities where their customers resid

4 Indiana cities sue streaming services including Netflix and Hulu over franchise fees

This class action lawsuit could be a dam-breaking scenario that rises the cost of all the major streaming channels. It feels a bit like the car tabs in our state that used to be inexpensive and now cost hundreds of dollars, loaded with taxes and fees. I don’t know about others, but don’t want my streaming channel bills to look like this:

$5.99 base cost
$0.30 local utility (5%)
$0.60 county ___ fee (10%)
$1.20 state ___ fee (20%)
$0.60 sales tax
= $8.69 actual monthly cost after taxes and fees

This is the kind of BS that drives up cable and satellite bills. If companies have to pay these taxes, then they should be included in their base cost and not be passing them along to consumers on top of their monthly fees, with the lone exception of sales tax. Then again, sales taxes are often toted as something that won’t be charged if there is a state income tax, and in some states there are both taxes.

Litigious Arthur Conan Doyle Estate targets Netflix book adaptation Enola Holmes

Through the years, we’ve encountered numerous stories about lawsuits over the use of Sherlock Holmes. The Arthur Conan Doyle estate can and will sue for infringement. Guess I somewhat get where they are coming from, but it’s troubling considering the author has been dead for many, many years now.

Eventually all copyrighted work should go into the public domain. I understand and agree with the concept of an author dying prematurely and heirs having some years residual stake to his/her creative works thereafter. If the author is alive and can benefit, great, pay the author, but Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate receiving licensing fees in 2020?

As it turns out the United States copyright protection on Sherlock Holmes will run out in 2023. So, if you’re sitting on a good, ripping Holmes yarn, you don’t have long to wait.

In the meantime, however, Netflix is the most current in the Doyle estatate crosshairs over the film adaptation of a book featuring a young teenage sister of Sherlock’s known as Enola Holmes.

The suit claims that, despite most of the original pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes tales have been judged to be in the public domain, the author’s last 10 stories about the character — published between 1923 and 1927 — are not. And the Doyle estate is claiming that the Enola Holmes books and movie incorporate something those only later stories included: the famously stoic detective’s emotions.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Sues Netflix, Legendary & Others Over ‘Enola Holmes’ Film

There are a whopping 10 stories that showed Sherlock Holmes had emotions and those are still not in the public domain for a few more years. That’s right, Sherlock Holmes emotions as depicted in stories some 70+ years ago, are still the subject of legal scrutiny.

While I did some searching around, my memory was that the estate also had problems with the use of Sherlock Holmes in the holodeck for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seemed like the writers were inspired by Doyle’s work and wanted to honor and respect it, not infringe upon it. This is an urban legend, however, because a license fee was paid:

…according to Jon Lellenberg, an attorney who’s served as the U.S. agent for the Conan Doyle estate, it’s not true at all. In fact, Paramount had worked with the Conan Doyle estate on the Stephen Spielberg-produced movie Young Sherlock Holmes. So Paramount’s rights department was already well aware that Holmes was not in the public domain, and they contacted the Conan Doyle estate in advance, seeking permission to dress Data as Holmes and feature Moriarty. The Conan Doyle estate was happy to agree, in exchange for a handsome payment.

The Truth About Star Trek And Sherlock Holmes

As for Netflix’s Enola Holmes movie? It’s coming in September 2020. Whether or not a license fee will have to be paid remains in dispute. Should this be a thing in 2020? That’s my question. Let me know what you think.

I think an author’s life + say 25 years is how copyright law should read. We don’t need great, great, great grandchildren financially benefiting from a deceased author’s work unless s/he has continued to create works using said characters in his/her/their lives.

Quibi Lawyers Protecting Name and Likeness from Podcast Fans

Two billion invested in Quibi to date has what in common with burning cash?

Yep, still waiting for cast to TV for Quibi.

Meanwhile, Quibi is still struggling to gain good press, while some of us that actually care can have a functional way to watch the content on the service. What’s taking their engineers so freaking long? It’s not like they’re climbing the Mount Everest of tech by hacking the cast TV blocking code inside Quibi’s innards.

Sigh. I hate it when IT departments drag their heels. But maybe it isn’t their fault, perhaps it’s somebody in management saying, “take your time on this, we want to see the way it is designed work”?

Whatever the reality, it’s not working.

And then there are problems that Quibi has which every big company with a weird name have: those that use that name without permission. Trademark infringement.

This is a rocky slope for companies: do we go after fans and insist they only use our silly, hard to spell name (Quiby, Quibee, Quibe, what is it?!) in a way that doesn’t confuse others thinking this is an “official” podcast? The legal world is pretty clear about precedents and if you do nothing then your legal claims weaken, but launch time is not the best time to threaten people that like what you’re doing and want to promote it for free.

“We’ve gotten messages from celebrities because they want to talk shit about Quibi,” Gibson said. “Everyone wants to shit on Quibi, but we’re the only ones who can do it because we don’t care about selling a show to them. Truly, the reason celebrities don’t want to be revealed is they still think, like, ‘Maybe I can sell a show to Quibi and make a little money off a sinking ship before the well runs dry.’” 

Quibi Sent These Podcasters A Cease-And-Desist, So Now They’re Out For Blood | HuffPost

Quibi isn’t technically or legally wrong in what they did to these podcasters. Frankly, using their name without permission is a bit obvious as being problematic, but the internet has a thieving side to it, sadly. We live in a cyberworld where asking for permission after the fact is more the norm than accepted practice.

Then there’s Bill Maher out there doing what he does best: skewering stupidity.

“You don’t have to tell me what Quibi is. I was sort of interested for a second but it passed,” said [Maher] of the short-form video service created by Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Let me guess, some assholes with MBAs raised a lot of money for an app that wastes teenagers’ time. My second guess just going by the name – a tiny country in the Middle East that lends money to Jared.”

Bill Maher Blasts Biden, Quibi And Americans
Who Are “Afraid Of Their Hands”

Quibi is trying to be more than an “app that wastes teenagers’ time” but that message is lost due to the obsoleted notion that you can control where people want to consume media.

Go ask the music industry how that works.

Eventually this is going to happen to movies. We’re going to cycle back around to doing something that people want to pay for. In music, that’s see artists/bands perform live. There is no way to consume that at home, they have to go out. For movies? Uh oh.

Quibi’s concept of we’re going to force you to watch it on your cell phone is so fundamentally flawed in 2020 that I’m shocked nobody raised their hand at the business table and said, “Um, we need to cast our content to televisions.” Maybe somebody internally did — or multiple people — only to be shut down by clueless senior management and executives.

We may never know. In the meantime, the clock is ticking on Quibi. Here’s some extremely helpful advice: get cast to TV functionality done and out here ASAP.

UPDATE 5/9/2020: Quibi’s co-founder Jeffery Katzenberg apologized to the podcast support team, Streamiverse:

“It was a mistake,” Katzenberg admits, but not without gently, professionally placing Quibi’s legal team under a quickly approaching bus. “It was lawyers doing what they believe they are supposed to do and protecting intellectual properties and copyrights and all of that stuff… It never made it to me until after the fact. The moment I heard it I went, ‘Oh my god, people doing what they thought was the right thing for what they thought were the right reasons.’ And it was a mistake, and I own it… It was not the way to manage or handle this.”

Well, well, well: Quibi CEO apologizes
on Streamiverse podcast for cease-and-desist

Studios To Regain Powers Due to 1948 Paramount Consent Being Overturned

Big studios dancing around with diehard moviegoers hearts … or rather their wallets and purses

Seems like the movie studios are about to get back some legal flexibility, er muscle, that was stripped from them in the 1950s.

Some are saying it’s not a question of what if, but when and how soon before the current movie theater environment will be impacted.

We’re talking about legal mumbo jumbo called the Paramount Consent, which allowed studios — with less red tape — to own their own theaters, have more ability to control and dictate minimum ticket pricing and group movies together upon release (force theaters to show duds if they want to show more prominent titles).

Why would the United States government roll back these changes that were put in place after a win in the courts against Paramount in 1948?

They say the laws are obsolete in the current environment.

It’s true times have changed. We have the internet and streaming in 2019. In 1950 most people didn’t even own one television, much less a color TV set. The internet wasn’t even a wet dream.

No Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple … yeah, the technology world was non-existent.

We shouldn’t be too panicked as moviegoers, yet, because there will be a two year sunset provision before these laws are fully rolled back.

The one shred of hope came when Delrahim explained that “antitrust enforcers remain ready to act” if studios begin engaging in behavior that harms consumers, but wiping these decrees off the books unquestionably gives studios huge freedoms to establish more dominance across the industry. I hate to be fatalistic, but if antitrust enforcers are our last line of defense against corporate greed, the future of an already dwindling industry could be more dire than ever.

Paramount Conset Decrees to Be Overturned, Altering Moviegoing – /Film

Forgive my rolled eyes for trusting government intervention.

The studios are already reeling over their own competitive environment. Disney is locking up more titles in their vault perhaps planning to release them on their own streaming service (Disney+!).

Several articles are decrying that this will most negatively impact the small, independent theater chains who may soon have an even more difficult time getting first run movies to show.

This is difficult with the laws in place now.

At a time when the average moviegoer sees 3-4 movies in theaters a year, I don’t see this rollback — yet — as the end of the world. Maybe it will create more competition among the big three theater chains (AMC, Regal and Cinemark). Let’s not forget that these industry titans were investigated for possible anti-trust violations five years ago over clearances:

…the Department of Justice will be looking to determine whether or not the three major movie chains are unfairly using their positions in collection with the film industry to prevent smaller and/or independent chains from receiving the all-important first run movies. Interviews with executives from these smaller chains in multiple states are already being carried out, and more are scheduled for the future.

3 Major Movie Theater Chains Under Investigation For Possible Antitrust Violations

The plot thickens.

Any positive outlook? Yes, maybe Netflix and Amazon will buy their own theaters and finally be able to show their own original movies like The Irishman without having to honor the 90-day theatrical window.

Business, Time and Technology Will Be The Answer

Nobody has the answer to how, if and/or when this will impact moviegoers. My 50+ year life experience tells me that business environment is dictated most by where people spend money.

Follow the money.

I’m spending more money at theaters now than ever before thanks to an unlimited movie plan from a big theater chain that didn’t exist six months ago.

Thanks to a disruptive technology startup (Moviepass, now defunct), not some dust-ridden law protecting me from big, bad corporate greed..