Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Henderson, Nevada executed an agreement with Developer to construct sports venues on 480 acres of federally-owned public land. The city requested the Bureau of Land Management in the Department of Interior to convey the land to Developer. After completion of the project, Developer was to transfer ownership of the land and the sports complex to the city; the city would lease back the venues to Developer. The Bureau agreed to conduct a modified competitive sealed-bid auction, so that Developer had the right to match the highest bid. After the bidding, Developer paid the balance and requested the land patent for recording. Within hours after the funds transferred to the Bureau, Developer terminated its agreement with Henderson. Henderson requested the Bureau to cancel the sale and sued Developer. The parties settled. Developer agreed to give the city $4.25 million after it recorded the patent and not to pursue any development in Henderson. The city agreed to withdraw its objection. The Department determined that the Bureau should not release a patent for the land. Developer alleged violation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by canceling the sale more than 30 days after it paid for the land. The district court held that the Secretary had plenary power to terminate the sale because its consummation would have been contrary to law, given that the Bureau had authorized a modified land auction, only because of the anticipated public benefits. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the Secretary’s action was arbitrary. The auction sale was rendered unlawful when Developer terminated the agreement; it did not suffer a due process violation because it never acquired a property interest in the land. View "Silver State Land, LLC v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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The Spectrum Act, Pub. L. No. 112-96, 126 Stat. 156, responds to the rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband services by granting the FEC authority to reallocate a portion of the licensed airwaves from television broadcasters to mobile broadband providers. The Act contemplates the repurposing of licensed spectrum through a multi-step auction process. The statutory framework governing the repacking process is set out in 47 U.S.C. 1452. This case involves a challenge to the Commission’s implementation of the Spectrum Act brought by a particular species of broadcasters - low-power television (LPTV) stations. Determining that it has jurisdiction, the court rejected petitioners’ contention that the terms of section 1452(b)(5) unambiguously compel protecting LPTV stations from displacement in the repacking process called for by the Act. Furthermore, the court concluded that the Commission’s treatment of LPTV stations in the challenged orders rests on a reasonable understanding of subsection (b)(5) for purposes of Chevron step two, and the court rejected petitioners’ arbitrary-and-capricious arguments to the same effect. Finally, the court rejected petitioners' procedural challenge. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Mako Commc'n v. FCC" on Justia Law

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IPG, representative of several copyright owners in the 2000-03 royalty fee distribution proceeding, alleged that the Board erred in determining IPG's royalty fees in the sports programming and program suppliers categories. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the orders at issue are subject to judicial review as part of the Board’s final determination and therefore, the court has jurisdiction to review the merits of the appeal. The court concluded that an evidentiary sanction that the Board imposed during the preliminary evidentiary hearing is not arbitrary and capricious where the Board reasonably responded to a blatant discovery violation by IPG; no basis exists for overturning the Board’s reasoned decision to reject IPG’s sports programming claims on behalf of FIFA and the U.S. Olympic Committee; and the court rejected IPG's contentions that the Board improperly relied on the MPAA's methodology for calculating the relative marketplace value of their claims and allocating royalty fees within the program suppliers category. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Independent Producers Group v. Library of Congress" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, large entertainment companies, sought review of the Commission's order requiring the major cable companies who were applying for merger to submit certain proprietary documents for review and proposal to make them available for examination by other players in the cable industry on an expedited schedule. The court granted the petition for review and vacated the order, concluding that the Commission has failed to overcome its presumption against disclosure of confidential information by failing to explain why VPCI is a "necessary link in a chain of evidence that will resolve an issue before the Commission." The order amounts to a substantive and important departure from prior Commission policy, and the Commission has failed to explain the departure. View "CBS Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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MVH and Holy Family Communications each applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a license to operate a noncommercial educational radio station in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York. To do so, the agency used its comparative selection criteria, which it had promulgated through a notice-and-comment rulemaking. By application of those criteria, the Commission found Holy Family had the superior application and awarded it the license. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the criterion upon which the outcome turned--the weight given to an applicant’s plan to broadcast to underserved populations-- either violated the Communications Act of 1934, which requires the Commission to distribute licenses fairly, or was arbitrary and capricious. That criterion is part of a reasonable framework for achieving goals consistent with the Commission’s statutory mandate, and because MVH offered no support for a waiver except that it came close to the threshold it needed to get the license. View "Mary V. Harris Found. v. Fed. Commc'n Comm'n" on Justia Law

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“Musical work” and the owner’s exclusive right to perform the work in public are protected by 17 U.S.C. 106(4). Broadcast of a musical work is a performance and requires a license from the copyright owner. Copyright Act amendments afford the copyright owner of a sound recording “the narrow but exclusive right ‘to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.’” The law requires “certain digital music services . . . to pay recording companies and recording artists when they transmit[] sound recordings” and provides for appointment of three Copyright Royalty Judges. If sound recording copyrights owners are unable to negotiate a royalty with digital music services, the Judges may set reasonable rates and terms. The Judges set royalty rates and defined terms for statutorily defined satellite digital audio radio services (SDARS) and preexisting subscription services (PSS). SoundExchange, which collects and distributes royalties to copyright owners, argued that the Judges set rates too low and erred in defining “Gross Revenues” and eligible deductions for SDARS. A PSS that provides music-only television channels appealed, arguing that PSS rates were set too high. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Judges of the Board acted within their broad discretion and on a sufficient record. View "Music Choice v. Copyright Royalty Bd." on Justia Law

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Michael Queen, an NBC Employee, claimed an entitlement to a portion of Ed Schultz's income from the "The Ed Show" on MSNBC based on their alleged agreement to co-develop a show. Queen sued Schultz in district court, and Schultz counterclaimed against Queen for fraud, slander, and liable. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled that neither Queen nor Schultz was liable to the other for anything. Queen appealed. The court concluded that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to Schultz on Queen's claim that he, Max Schindler, and Schultz entered into an enforceable contract to divide the profits from a potential television show 50/25/25. However, the court concluded that there existed a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Queen and Schultz formed a partnership to develop a television show and, if so, whether Schultz was liable to Queen for breach of partnership duties. Therefore, the court reversed that portion of the district court's judgment and remanded to enable Queen to present his partnership theory to a jury. View "Queen v. Schultz" on Justia Law

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GameFly filed a complaint under 39 U.S.C. 3662(a) with the Commission accusing the Postal Service of providing preferential rates and terms of service to Netflix in violation of 39 U.S.C. 403(c). When the Commission properly finds that discrimination has occurred, it is obligated to remedy that discrimination, even if it concludes that none of the parties' proposed remedies is appropriate. The court held that, in this case, even if the Commission's rejection of GameFly's proposed remedies was reasonable, its order was still arbitrary and capricious because it left discrimination in place without reasonable explanation. Therefore, the court vacated the Commission's order and remanded the case for an adequate remedy. Accordingly, the court granted GameFly's petition for review. View "GameFly, Inc. v. PRC" on Justia Law

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In January 2012, the EPA promulgated an interim final rule (IFR) to permit manufacturers of heavy-duty diesel engines to pay nonconformance penalties (NCPs) in exchange for the right to sell noncompliant engines. Petitioners requested administrative stays of the IFR, protesting that the EPA lacked good cause within the meaning of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq. The court concluded that the EPA took this action without providing formal notice or an opportunity for comment, invoking the "good cause" exception provided in the APA. Because the court found that none of the statutory criteria for "good cause" were satisfied, the court vacated the IFR. View "Mack Trucks, Inc., et al. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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TRCP filed for declaratory and injunctive relief in the district court, arguing that the Bureau of Land Management's 2008 Record of Decision regarding the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) violated the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.; that the accompanying environmental impact statement (EIS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.; and the 2000 Record of Decision violated both acts. The district court granted summary judgment for the Bureau and TRCP appealed. The court held that the Bureau considered a reasonable range of alternatives in the EIS addressing the proposal to expand natural gas development in the PAPA. That EIS sufficiently addressed the proposed action's impact on hunting in the PAPA. The record supported the Bureau's determination that the 2008 Record of Decision would prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the PAPA. Finally, TRCP's claims based on the Bureau's alleged non-enforcement of the 2000 Record of Decision were moot. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "Theodore Roosevelt Conservation P'ship v. Salazar" on Justia Law