From right, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Piglet, Owl, Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin are shown in a scene from "Winnie the Pooh." (Disney )
Creator's family loses rights to Pooh Hundred Acre Wood Clan to Disney.
Walt Disney Co. has won an appeals court ruling that protects the Burbank entertainment giant's trademarks to the valuable Winnie the Pooh characters.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that blocked Stephen Slesinger Inc.'s challenges to Disney's control of the trademark for the Hundred Acre Wood clan.
The ruling appears to end a 21-year legal odyssey against Disney by Stephen Slesinger's family. Slesinger was a New York literary agent and pioneer in the marketing of cartoon characters. He was the first to see great value in promoting the befuddled bear, depressed donkey and other characters created in the 1920s by British author A.A. Milne.
Milne transferred the Pooh merchandising rights to Slesinger in 1930, and Slesinger's widow assigned them to Disney in 1961.
Over the next four decades, Disney created a multibillion-dollar merchandising empire around Winnie the Pooh, whose popularity eclipsed that of Mickey Mouse, Disney's longtime mascot. Pooh became Disney's most profitable character.
In 1983, in an attempt to settle certain contract disagreements, Slesinger's widow and daughter renegotiated the family's agreement with Disney. But soon, the Slesingers came to believe the entertainment company was grossly underpaying them royalties for Pooh products, including for sales of then-thriving videocassette tapes.
The Slesingers sued Disney in 1991 in state court, alleging breach of contract, but the family ultimately lost that case.
The federal action, over copyright claims, followed more than a decade later.
A federal judge ruled in 2009 that the family had transferred all its Pooh rights to Disney. Because of that ruling, the appeals court said Friday that the trademark office was correct to reject the Slesingers' challenge to Disney's ownership.
Disney declined to comment.
"An appeal may be appropriate," said Patricia Slesinger, daugher of Stephen Slesinger.
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from the Lionsgate movie "The Hunger Games," which filmed in North Carolina. (Murray Close)
'Iron Man 3' gave North Carolina's film industry a big lift in 2012.
The upcoming release from Walt Disney Co.'s Marvel Studios filmed throughout North Carolina, helping to produce a record level of production activity in the state this year.The third installment of "Iron Man" was among about 50 productions that collectively spent $376 million in North Carolina in 2012, eclipsing last year's record of up from 43 productions and total spending of $241 million. All told, the 2012 projects created more than 4,100 crew jobs, the North Carolina Film Office said in a statement.
"The film industry is thriving once again in our state and we must continue to build on these record-breaking numbers, creating even more opportunities for jobs and economic development," Gov. Bev Perdue said.
Other movies that shot in North Carolina this year included "Safe Haven," "The Occult," and "We're the Millers." The state, which also hosted this year's hit film "The Hunger Games," is home to the award-winning television drama "Homeland" and served as a backdrop for the hit NBC series"Revolution" and the upcoming series "Banshee" for Cinemax.
North Carolina's entertainment industry has taken off in the last two years after expanding its film tax credit. Under the program, productions receive a 25% refundable tax credit based on their in-state spending on goods, services and labor.
Unlike California's program, North Carolina does not have a cap on how much it allocates each year. The state awarded about $30 million in tax credit funds in 2011.
North Carolina has a long filmmaking tradition, serving as a location for such movies as “Blue Velvet” and “Bull Durham.” But the state lost its competitive edge when Canadian provinces and other states, among them Georgia and Louisiana, began grabbing larger shares of the business by offering generous film tax credits. Now the state’s film business is rebounding because of the popularity of its tax credit.
Wayne LaPierre, the chief lobbyist for the NRA, says Hollywood must share blame for Newtown shootings. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT / December 21, 2012)
A National Rifle Assn. official said Friday that Hollywood and video game companies are partly responsible for celebrating violence in popular culture.
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, made his remarks as the gun lobbying organization addressed last week’s massacre of 20 school children and six educators in Newtown, Pa. Rather than call for stricter gun laws, LaPierre spent much of his speech recommending that every school in America have armed guards.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
The head lobbyist for the NRA also said Hollywood and video game companies must share the blame for gun violence.
“And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence against its own people, through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.
"And here’s one: It’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?” LaPierre said in his prepared remarks, which were interrupted twice by hecklers, one of whom held a sign reading, “NRA Killing Our Kids.”
LaPierre also attacked the media for not assigning some responsibility to itself and entertainment companies.
“Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Natural Born Killers’ that are aired like propaganda loops on ‘Splatterdays’ and every day and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it entertainment.
“But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.
"A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.”
Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, issued a statement on Thursday saying that the movie studios wanted to express “our sympathy as well as our horror and outrage at this senseless act of violence. Thus, I have reached out to the administration to express our support for the president’s efforts in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. Those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation.”
A scene from from an episode of "Criminal Minds" titled "One Shot Kill." (CBS / December 21, 2012)
Violence sells films / tv / games, so getting dialog stated will not be easy.
In the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., there is a lot of attention being focused on the issue of gun control.
There are also rumblings about the role the entertainment -- movies, television and video games -- have played in coarsening our culture and desensitizing the country to violence.
But just as the gun industry and the National Rifle Assn. like to divert the discussion away from new laws that could limit the availability of certain weapons, the entertainment industry is also often loathe to consider whether it has a contributing role in our culture of guns and violence.
For example, director Quentin Tarantino took the company line when asked about the issue while promoting jis new blood-filled film "Django Unchained."
"I just think, you know, there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers," he said.
Interestingly, Jamie Foxx, the star of "Django Unchained," had a different take in one of his interviews hyping the movie.
"We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we do doesn't have a sort of influence," Foxx said to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, Motion Picture Assn. of America Chief Executive Chris Dodd, said in a statement that, "those of us in the motion picture and television industry want to do our part to help America heal. We stand ready to be part of the national conversation.”
Of course, some of the most violent television shows such asAMC's "The Walking Dead" and HBO's "Game of Thrones" are also the most loved by many critics. Fox has a highly anticipated drama coming on soon called "The Following" about a cult of serial killers that is very gory.
That makes discussing the role entertainment can play -- even if it is a small one -- in shaping culture a challenge.Jim McKairnes, who was a senior vice president of program planning and scheduling at CBS and later a development executive at CBS Television Studios, acknowledged in an interview with Company Town that having a serious talk on the subject is no easy task.
"I was never so naive when I worked at CBS as to think I was part of a nonprofit think thank or public-advocacy group," said McKairnes. "But in that I was surrounded there for so long by seemingly smart, well-intentioned people, I always landed somewhere between surprised and disappointed when it came to the lack of discussions about our role in the use of the public airwaves or our effect on viewers."
McKairnes who is an adjunct professor at DePaul and author of the book "103 Ways to Get Into TV (By 102 Who Did, Plus Me)" is not a bitter executive taking shots at his old bosses. However, he would like to see more serious discussion about the shows that go on the air and their role in shaping our culture.
After the Columbine High School massacre, McKairnes said he pitched the idea that CBS devote a week's worth of programming to the "general idea of violence in America." Shows would find their own way to address the issue but the thought was to start a dialogue. It was not unprecedented, networks have used shows to discuss drug use and drunk driving.
"I got sympathetic nods and 'yeah-we-should' but nothing came of it."
The show that really got under McKairnes' skin was the CBS drama "Criminal Minds," which is notorious for its portrayals of violence against women. USA Today critic Robert Bianco once wrote of a particular episode of "Criminal Minds" that it "plays like a how-to guide for sexual predators."
McKairnes said he raised objections to the show, which were dismissed. But when CBS was preparing to present the program to advertisers in its annual upfront presentation, one network executive warned about showing too much violence in the trailer.
"I asked why and was told the advertisers would 'freak' at it," he said. When McKairnes wondered why it was unacceptable to show advertisers but fine with viewers, "this particular executive laughed at what I presume was my naive windmill-tilting and walked off."
McKairnes recalled in 2005 when CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler was asked at a news conference about the level of violence on television in general
"We look to the audience to tell us when they've had enough," Tassler said.
As Tassler answered the question, McKairnes said he sat in the back of the room and wondered "why we in TV as a whole always seem to wait for the ratings to come in before we do anything about what we air."
Woody Harrelson, left, and Juliette Lewis in "Natural Born Killers." (Warner Bros.)
Hollywood Violence and Guns
The head lobbyist for the National Rifle Assn. said on Friday that Hollywood and video game companies must share the blame for last week's school shooting that took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six educators.
In addition to calling for armed guards at every American school, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's chief executive officer and executive vice president, singled out movies like "Natural Born Killers" and video games like "Grand Theft Auto" that "shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society."
He offered no suggestions about what Hollywood should do. Click here to take an Los Angeles Times poll on what Hollywood can do to stem game violence.
At least two games claiming to be iPhone adaptations of the game "Halo 4" have been released recently. (Apple iTunes)
"Halo 4 for iPhone/iPad is the fourth in the Halo series where Master Chief returns to battle an ancient evil bent on vengeance and annihilation," reads a summary of the game, which was priced at $4.99.
Microsoft just launched the game for Xbox in November.
Apple users who were lured by screenshots of the game and detailed descriptions were met with a rude awakening -- the game turned out to be a simple chess game, according to Gizmodo. One of the developers is listed as "Toan Tran," and the support page links to a website hosted by Weebly.
Infiltrating Apple’s usually rigorous app approval process, the apps’ iTunes displays featured hundreds of fake ratings, most of which gave the game high marks and full names complete with middle initials.
Each review requires a unique Apple ID and login, an indication of the complexity of the scam.
"I’ve been looking forward to this for awhile," one review reads. "“I'll update if I have a poor frame rate as some are claiming."
Of course, there was a critique or two sprinkled in, for good measure. "It took hours for the game to download after I paid for it," reads a review by Gordon E. Montgomery. The reviewer gave the game 5 stars.
The elaborate hoax came just ahead of Apple’s traditional app store freeze, during which developers cannot launch new apps, fix bugs or change prices. The holiday freeze period often sees some of the heaviest app store use, as gamers rush to download the latest and greatest with their newly gifted iOS devices.
The scam was almost immediately detected by gamer Kris Abel. "Found a very fake Halo 4 for iPhone/iPad released into the iTunes Store today with fake star ratings too," Abel tweeted Thursday, including a screenshot of the app.
iTunes has since removed the impostors, which were still available early Friday morning, replacing them with a message that says the offending apps are not available in the U.S. store. An Apple spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
A former senior engineer at Apple told Business Insider earlier this year that the company's app review team is understaffed. "People have this idea that there are 100 people in India doing app reviews," Mike Lee told the publication in July. "Like every other part of Apple, they can't get enough really good people."
Rupert Murdoch's publishing unit had a tough year. (AFP/Getty Images / December 21, 2012)
Rupert Murdoch's publishing empire, which includes the Wall Street Journal, would have recorded a $2.08-billion loss during its recent fiscal year if it had been a stand-alone company.
The loss was due to write-downs, declines in newspaper advertising sales and legal expenses stemming from government investigations into the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.'s British newspapers.
News Corp. made the disclosure in regulatory filings Friday as the company prepares to cleave itself into two separate, publicly traded companies: the new News Corp., which will include newspapers and HarperCollins book publishing; and the Fox Group, which will boast the lucrative television networkand movie studio properties.
The break-up of News Corp., announced in June, is being designed to unshackle the more profitable side of the company from the declines in publishing. The split is expected to be completed next summer and current investors will get shares in both companies.
The filing provided investors with an outline of the financial health of News Corp.'s publishing business. If it had been a stand-alone company, the publishing unit would have generated $8.65 billion in revenue for fiscal 2012, down from $9.09 billion in fiscal 2011.
News Corp. had previously disclosed the impairment charges without shedding much light on which newspaper titles were particularly hard hit. The company said it recorded non-cash impairment charges of $2.6 billion during its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended June 30.
"These impairment charges were primarily the result of adverse trends affecting several businesses in New News Corp.'s News and Information Services segment, including secular declines in the economic environment in Australia," Friday's filing said.
News Corp. owns national, regional and dozens of community newspapers in Murdoch's native Australia. "Australia in particular has experienced weakness in newspaper advertising reflecting a combination of a softening economy and declines in paid circulation."
The filing also said that Robert Thomson, 51, who just stepped down as editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, would make a base salary of $2 million in his new position as chief executive of the new publishing company. The Australian native also will be entitled to an annual bonus, with the target amount of $2 million.
Murdoch, 81, will serve as executive chairman of the new company, and will also be entitled to a salary. That compensation hasn't been decided, according to the report. Murdoch will also serve as chairman and chief executive of Fox Group.
"We expect that his overall compensation for both roles will increase modestly compared to his current total compensation," the filing said.
Murdoch collected $30 million during Fox's past fiscal year, a 10% cut from the previous year. His compensation was clipped because of the phone hacking scandal in Britain.