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What do J.R.R. Tolkien, the Oscars, and
celebrities including Tom Cruise, Jim
Cameron and Philip Seymour Hoffman
have in common?
A Primerus attorney has represented
their interests. In fact, when you look
behind the scenes of some of the latest
entertainment headlines, you'll find a
Primerus attorney.
Bonnie Eskenazi of Primerus
member firm Greenburg Glusker in
Los Angeles, California, represented
the J.R.R. Tolkien Trust when they
sought their contractual share of the
adjusted gross revenue Time Warner
Inc. made on the films based on his
works. Jeff Horst of Primerus member
firm Krevolin & Horst in Atlanta,
Georgia, represented The Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when
they sued an entertainment company
that was renting oversized statuettes
resembling Oscar. And Tony Morris
of Primerus member firm Marriott
Harrison in London, England, has since
1980 represented British music industry
titan Neil Warnock, CEO and founder
of The Agency Group, one of the world's
largest entertainment booking agencies.
(Warnock's clients over the years have
included Pink Floyd, the Rolling
Stones, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and
Michael Jackson.)
Entertainment law is one of hundreds
of practice areas represented by
Primerus attorneys and includes many
aspects, including broadcast rights,
sports safety issues, sports and recording
contracts, as well as matters involving
copyright and intellectual property law.
Eskenazi, who is listed by The
Hollywood Reporter
as one of the "Power
Lawyers," teaches entertainment law
classes at Stanford University and tells
her students there's really no such
thing as entertainment law. "There's
really no separate legal discipline
of entertainment law," she said. "It
sits at the intersection of so many
other areas of law such as contract,
tort, copyright, trademark, antitrust,
secured transactions, and applies those
disciplines to a unique industry."
Eskenazi's firm website lists celebrity
clients including Tom Cruise, Jim
Cameron, Warren Beatty, Oscar De La
Hoya, Philip Seymour Hoffman and
Hans Zimmer.
In one recent interesting and high-
profile case, Eskenazi represented the
heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien as they sought
more than $150 million in compensation
from Time Warner Inc., which made the
"Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The
Hobbit." When J.R.R. Tolkien sold
movie rights to his "Lord of the Rings"
novels 40 years ago, he was entitled
to 7.5 percent of future adjusted gross
receipts, and in fact, Eskenazi said his
Estate was never paid a penny until the
Estate sued. The case eventually settled.
"Two trusts had been set up, one for
the children and grandchildren," she
said. "They owned a one-half interest
in the receipts, but the other half of the
money from exploitation of the work
funded charities all around the world."
She said cases like this arise
because studios have no incentive to pay
royalties correctly, and it's very difficult
to get them to do so. "The worst thing
that's going to happen to the studio is
that they are going to get sued, and if
they lose they have to pay what they
owed the profit participant anyway,"
Eskenazi said. "You just have to keep
plugging along and plodding through the
system in order to try to raise people's
consciousness in Hollywood."
Eskenazi loves the law as it relates to
entertainment. "I think it's exceptionally
interesting and challenging to figure
out the ways the law protects a person's
creativity. It's difficult to do because it's
intangible," she said.
Outside of work, Eskenazi likes to
attend movies every now and then, but
she's not an "ultra consumer." She said,
"I don't go to premieres, and I don't go
on set or to parties. I am not interested in
the glitz and glamour. I'm a little bit law
nerdy. I love teaching, and I love rolling
up my sleeves and practicing law in
this area."
Meanwhile the work of Horst, a
litigator in Atlanta, made headlines in
the Los Angeles Times and other media
outlets when The Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences settled
a lawsuit against an Edwardsville,
Illinois-based events rental company for
copyright infringement stemming from
the alleged renting and selling of eight-
foot statues that look like the famous
Oscar statuettes.
Horst worked with colleague David
Quinto of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &
Sullivan, who handled the negotiation
phase of the case. In the end, the rental
company agreed to stop selling and
renting the statue and pay his client's
Primerus Entertainment Lawyers
Work Behind the Scenes for Celebrities
Around the World