The estate of iconic hip-hop photographer Chi Modu has filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Group as owner and operator of the website UDiscoverMusic.com, alleging copyright infringement over the usage of one of Modu’s photos of Tupac Shakur in a blog post.
The lawsuit, filed last Friday (June 24) and reviewed by Billboard, was filed on behalf of the estate by its trustee Sophia Modu and points to a post titled “Best Tupac Songs: 26 Essential Tracks,” which bears the photo atop the page with a photo credit indicating Universal Music Archives. The complaint alleges that the estate sent a cease and desist to UMG and the site on Feb. 9, 2022 threatening a lawsuit, to which “Defendants failed to meaningfully respond,” it says. (It appears the original blog post was published to the site on June 16, 2019 — what would have been Shakur’s 48th birthday — and re-published on the same date in years after with slight modifications; the current publish date says June 16, 2022.)
The complaint is alleging copyright infringement by UMG and 10 unnamed co-defendants whose identities could not be determined by the estate, as well as vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement — alleging that defendants profited off the use of the copyrighted work — and that they violated 17 U.S. Code 1202 by removing Modu’s copyright information from the photograph before publishing it. The estate is demanding a jury trial and award of all profits and fees, as well as the removal of the photograph, and damages; statutory damages for copyright infringement can reach up to $150,000 per violation.
“Chi Modu’s photography captured moments of profundity and grace,” an attorney for the estate, Scott Burroughs, said in a statement provided to Billboard. “While it does not surprise me that it would appeal to Universal, we are disappointed that the company did not reach out to the Estate to procure a license before exploiting Mr. Modu’s work on its commercial website. We look forward to addressing this infringement in court.”
A rep for UMG did not respond to a request for comment; an email to the UDiscover Music website was not returned.
Modu, who died last year at age 54, rose to prominence in the 1990s as a photographer for some of the leading lights of the hip-hop world at the time, including Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop Dogg, N.W.A and more. He was a photographer for pioneering hip-hop magazine The Source for a number of years, and his work has been featured on the covers of numerous magazines; the image of Shakur in question in this current lawsuit is one that appeared in the Rolling Stone book The ‘90s: The Inside Stories from the Decade That Rocked.
A nonprofit blockchain developer sued Meta Platforms Inc in California federal court Friday, alleging a new logo adopted by the company formerly known as Facebook will cause consumer confusion with its own infinity-symbol logo.
Switzerland-based Dfinity said being associated with Meta’s “sordid” history with user privacy could hurt the non-profit’s efforts to attract people to its blockchain platform, which it wants to use to “take on Big Tech and its growing control over user data.”
Dfinity was founded in 2016. Its Internet Computer is an “infinite” public blockchain network designed to host authenticated smart contracts. It registered a federal trademark for its infinity-symbol logo in 2018.
Meta, Dfinity, and Dfinity’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Facebook Inc rebranded as Meta last October to reflect its plans to focus on the virtual-reality “metaverse.” Meta has described its new logo as a “continuous loop” that resembles both the letter ‘M’ and an infinity sign, “symbolizing infinite horizons in the metaverse.”
Dfinity’s lawsuit said Meta’s logo is confusingly similar to its logo. It also said that a Meta executive outlined plans to adopt blockchain technologies in an internal memo, which would add to the likelihood of confusion between the companies.
Dfinity asked the court to stop Meta from using the logo and for an unspecified amount of money damages.
The case is Dfinity Foundation v. Meta Platforms Inc, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:22-cv-02632.
Mater Dei High School football coaches and players referred to it as “Hell Week,” a string of twice-a-day workouts as the Monarchs prepared for football season shortly before the start of the 1987 school year.
Because of the workout schedule, and in an effort to build team chemistry, players and other students who worked with the team, managers, trainers, stat crew members, slept overnight at the Mater Dei gymnasium.
It was on one of the Hell Week nights that Patrick Callahan, a Mater Dei assistant football coach, allegedly led a 17-year-old stat girl, who was a student at the school, to the Monarchs’ nearby football field and raped her, according to a civil suit filed against Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange in Orange County Superior Court Thursday.
Callahan repeatedly sexually assaulted the girl over a period of years at different places on the Mater Dei campus, at social functions, and at local restaurants, often in the presence of other Mater Dei coaches, according to a court filing. The suit also alleges Callahan repeatedly served the girl alcohol in the presence of other Mater Dei coaches.
The suit does not state whether the other coaches were aware that Callahan was sexually abusing the girl. The suit also does not name the other coaches who were allegedly present when the girl was served alcohol.
“The significance is that another victim of abuse at Mater Dei has come forward to uncover and expose the culture of abuse and cover-up that is rampant through the athletics of Mater Dei and its community,” said Michael Reck, an attorney for the woman.
Over a period of years, starting in 1985 when the girl was 16, Callahan “sexually assaulted (the) Plaintiff countless times over the years that (the) Plaintiff was a student at (Mater Dei),” according to the lawsuit. The Orange County Register is not naming the woman because of the nature of the allegations.
Callahan when asked about the lawsuit on Thursday said, “I don’t have any comment on that.”
He denied having sex with any minor age girls while coaching at Mater Dei. Callahan, who later worked as an assistant coach at Dodge City Community College in Kansas, said he was unaware of the Orange County diocese making payments to the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Thursday.
Diocese spokesperson Tracey Kincaid said “we have not yet been formally served with the complaint and as a matter of general practice we do not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawsuit was filed against the backdrop of a Mater Dei-commissioned investigation by a Sacramento law firm into the culture of the school’s football and athletic programs.
The investigation commissioned by then-Mater Dei president Father Walter Jenkins on Nov. 30 was in response to an Orange County Register report detailing an alleged hazing incident involving the Monarchs football team. A current Mater Dei football player punched a teammate, 50 pounds lighter than him, three times in the face during an alleged hazing ritual called “Bodies” on Feb. 4, 2021, while some Monarchs players present shouted racial epithets at the smaller player, according to two videos of the altercation obtained by the Register.
The suit filed Thursday alleges negligent supervision, negligent retention and negligent supervision of the plaintiff, then a minor.
Callahan, who also worked at Mater Dei as an assistant track and field coach, later coached football and track at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, and served as an assistant football coach at Cerritos College.
Callahan was sentenced to two years in jail in 2006 for falsifying government documents in order to secure more than $150,000 in federal grants for athletes who were not eligible for the financial aid.
Callahan admitted fraudulently obtaining federal financial aid grant money for 13 Cerritos football players between July 1999 and March 2004, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
The suit alleging sexual assault was filed under a California law that allows sexual abuse victims to finally confront in court their abusers and the organizations that protected predators.
Assembly Bill 218, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 and went into effect Jan. 1, 2020, created a three-year window to file past claims that had expired under the statute of limitations. The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), also extends the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual abuse from the time a victim is age 26 to 40. The period for delayed reasonable discovery is also increased from three to five years. The law requires that plaintiffs meet a mental health practitioner and receive a certificate of merit to file under AB218. The woman has received a certificate of merit, Reck said.
Alleged survivors must file civil suits within eight years of becoming an adult or three years from the date an adult survivor “discovers” or should have discovered they were sexually abused, under current California law.
Under the 2019 law, defendants cannot be publicly identified in complaints until the judge formally accepts the case. The initial filings can list the addresses of defendants, however. The addresses of the diocese and Mater Dei are both listed for the two defendants in Thursday’s filing. Reck also confirmed that Mater Dei and the diocese are named in filings with the court.
The girl first met Callahan at a track camp on the Mater Dei campus in 1984, according to the suit. In the following months Callahan groomed her for sexual abuse, the suit alleges. Callahan allegedly began sexually assaulting her in 1985 when she was 16, Reck said.
Callahan “sexually molested, assaulted and abused Plaintiff on the premises owned, operated, and controlled by Defendants (Diocese of Orange) and (Mater Dei), including, without limitation, on the school campus of (Mater Dei),” according to a court filing.
As an assistant to Callahan and Mater Dei, the girl, the suit alleges “was forced to accompany Callahan to various athletic events of or sponsored by (Mater Dei). These athletic events were both on and off the high school campus of (Mater Dei) during the day and night, and included dinners at restaurants and other venues in California where alcohol was served to Plaintiff by (Callahan) and where other coaches and agents of (Mater Dei) were present. Often during these dinners, the PERPETRATOR sexually assaulted Plaintiff while they were sitting at the table with the other coaches and agents of (Mater Dei) present.”
“In his capacity as a track coach and/or an assistant football coach of (Mater Dei), PERPETRATOR often gave alcohol to Plaintiff, then a minor, to consume,” the suit said.
“Why did Mater Dei, why did the adults present during these times not raise a red flag?” Reck said.
The diocese has been aware of the allegations since 2011 when officials agreed to pay for the woman’s counseling, Reck said.
“Why hasn’t the diocese said anything?” Reck said.
Longtime Mater Dei head football coach Bruce Rollinson was not named in the suit. He was an assistant coach on the staff at the time.
In the latest clip, Boosie and DJ Vlad discussed knowing most millionaires to be nice people who aren’t looking to victimize others. The two also spoke about having to pay people off who have wronged them. Boosie offered an example in which he settled with an assault victim he caught trying to rob him, in addition to having to pay $200,000 to bail his friend out for beating up the thief. Check out the rest of the clip to hear more.
A former employee of a Panda Express in Santa Clarita alleges she was required to strip down to her underwear and hug a partially clad co-worker during a “cult-like ritual” at a 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite to promotion.
The 23-year-old woman is suing Panda Restaurant Group, headquartered in Rosemead, and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy in Pico Rivera for sexual battery, a hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Although the woman is named in court documents, the Southern California News Group does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault.
‘Horrific psychological abuse’
“We are looking forward to presenting this case to a jury so that a clear message can be sent to Panda Express — which owns and operates over 2,000 restaurants — that it must put to an end to its practice of requiring its employees to undergo horrific psychological abuse and harassment to be promoted,” Oscar Ramirez, the woman’s attorney, said in an email Monday.
Officials with Panda Restaurant Group said the company takes the woman’s allegations seriously and has conducted an investigation.
“Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy is a third-party organization in which Panda has no ownership interest and over which it exercises no control,” says a statement from the company. “While we always encourage personal growth and development, Panda Restaurant Group has not and does not mandate that any associate participate in Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy nor is it a requirement to earn promotions.
“We are committed to providing a safe environment for all associates and stand behind our core values to treat each person with respect,” the company said. “We do not condone the kind of behavior (the plaintiff) has alleged took place at Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, and we would not intentionally allow it to occur within or on behalf of our organization.”
In an emailed statement, Alive Seminars said its training sessions are presented with respect and dignity.
The victim says she began working for Panda Express in 2016 and was told in July 2019 by then store manager Matthiu Simuda she needed to complete a self-improvement seminar conducted by Alive Seminars.
“Eager to improve her skills and advance within the company, plaintiff signed up and paid out of pocket to attend a four-day program,” the lawsuit says. “Panda Express pushed its employees in the Los Angeles region to complete Alive Seminars training. In many cases, it was a prerequisite to promotion.”
The seminar was held in a warehouse in East Los Angeles and attended by 20 to 50 Panda Express employees from throughout Southern California, Ramirez said. Those who attended the seminar were required to provide their employee identification numbers and received intake materials with the Panda logo.
“Alive Seminars served — in essence — as an extension of Panda Express’ own Human Resources department,” says the lawsuit.
Participants isolated, treated as ‘terrorists’
The complaint alleges the seminar was bizarre and quickly devolved into psychological abuse.
At the start, attendees were told to sit down and not talk, and were left in isolation for a full hour before a man stormed in, yelling in Spanish and berating them for sitting there and doing nothing, when that is exactly what they had been instructed to do, says the complaint.
The man, an Alive Seminars employee, loudly proclaimed that the attendees were “nothing” and “don’t matter,” and berated them individually, the suit says. “The overall effect was that of a particularly nasty drill sergeant.”
Seminar participants were prohibited from using their cellphones, there was no clock in the room and the doors and windows were all covered with black cloth.
“The atmosphere resembled less a self-improvement seminar than a site for off the-books interrogation of terrorist suspects,” the complaint alleges. “The sensory isolation and intimidation was reinforced by constant yelling and verbal abuse by seminar staff, creating an atmosphere of fear in the room. Nevertheless, most attendees, including plaintiff, felt that they had no choice but to remain because they were sent to the seminar by Panda Express and told that their opportunity for promotion would depend on completion of the seminar.”
Participants required to strip
When the seminar continued on July 13, 2019, the woman allegedly was forced to strip down to her underwear under the guise of trust building.
“Plaintiff — stripped almost naked in front of strangers and co-workers — was extremely uncomfortable but pressed on because she knew it was her only chance at a promotion,” says the lawsuit. “Meanwhile, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress, smiling, and laughing.”
The exercise culminated when the victims and other participants had to stand up to yell about their inner struggles until everyone else in the group believed them.
“The last male participant had some difficulty ‘convincing’ the others and, as a result, broke down in tears,” the suit says. “Plaintiff was told to stand up and go to the middle of the room with the male participant, where they were forced to ‘hug it out,’ wearing nothing but their underwear. Plaintiff was humiliated but did as she was told.”
Seminar resembled cult ritual
As time went on, the seminar more and more resembled a cult ritual, the complaint alleges.
“Alive Seminars staff proceeded to dim the lights,” says the suit. “Plaintiff and the other attendees were instructed to stand up and close their eyes, pretending that a light from above would come down and take all the ‘negative energy’ out of them, then pretend that a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed the ‘negative energy.’ While this was happening, one of the Alive Seminars staff had a cell phone with the light on, recording plaintiff in her state of undress.”
Attendees, the lawsuit alleges, were confined in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
“If plaintiff wanted to use the restroom, someone from the Alive Seminars staff would stand outside the restroom door,” says the suit. “When another participant ran into the restroom to throw up, Alive Seminars staff ran after her. Another male participant was only given a small trash can to throw up in and was forced to do it in front of all the other attendees.”
During the July 13 session, the victim made an excuse of a family emergency and left the seminar.
The victim went to the seminar hopeful and optimistic about her future with Panda Express but left three days later “scarred and downtrodden.” Soon after, she quit her job because of emotional distress.
The suit alleges Panda Express “did not care about plaintiff’s experience at Alive Seminars or that she had been humiliated in front of her co-workers. Her chances of promotion were destroyed. plaintiff’s working conditions had become intolerable and Panda Express had no interest in addressing the situation.”
A man who sued the maker of Canada Dry ginger ale, claiming the brand falsely implied its soda had health benefits, is now $200,000 richer.
The maker of Canada Dry ginger ale settled a class-action false-advertising lawsuit filed by British Columbia man Victor Cardoso, who claimed to have spent years buying the carbonated beverage for his family thinking it had medicinal benefits based on its label promoting it as “Made from Real Ginger” and “Natural,” CTV News reported.
Canada Dry Mott’s agreed to pay $200,000 plus $18,607 in disbursements, even though the company “expressly denies liability and is not required to change its product labeling or advertising for products marketed in Canada,” court documents say.
The company also agreed it would no longer make claims that its ginger ale is “Made from Real Ginger” in class-action lawsuits also filed in the U.S., according to CTV News.
Cardoso argued in the lawsuit that Canada Dry’s product labeling aimed to “capitalize” on consumer’s perception of ginger and its health benefits, despite Canada Dry making no direct health benefit claims about the ginger ale.
“They do buy actual ginger, but then what they do is they boil it in ethanol, and that essentially destroys any nutritional or medicinal benefits,” Mark C. Canofari, a lawyer who represented Cardoso’s claim, said in a statement, according to CTV News.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division on April 24 by two plaintiffs, Maria Bromley and Pauta Kleber, who claim to have spent over $1,000 each on attending the event that was originally scheduled for March 12-20 in Austin. On March 6, organizers announced they were forced to cancel the annual festival due to a city order that prohibited large gatherings in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Following the cancellation, SXSW informed ticket and pass holders that they would not be receiving refunds. Instead, the independent festival offered pass holders free registration — equivalent to the amount they spent for the 2020 festival — that would be valid for SXSW in 2021, 2022 or 2023. They were also offered a 50% discount based on the amount they spent in 2020 for another one of those three years.
According to the lawsuit, both plaintiffs were informed that the offer expires on April 30, 2020. The complaint notes that these offers were put forth by the festival on March 12, which additionally stated that it “cannot be certain that future festivals will occur.”