About Joel R. Weiner

Some of the most prominent companies in the entertainment business turn to Joel Weiner to handle disputes across a broad range of subject matter. With nearly 30 years of litigation experience and vast industry knowledge, he has been trusted by companies like NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Endemol Shine Group, Telemundo and Excel Sports Management with high-profile lawsuits involving series, films and other valuable entertainment properties.

Choosing his spots

The entertainment industry is a magnet for creative disputes. Joel represents motion picture studios, television networks, production companies and talent on the full spectrum of litigation issues. He frequently handles cases involving copyright, contract, accounting, and business tort claims, as well as personal claims against high-profile entertainers, directors and professional athletes. Some of his recent matters have involved popular reality series such as "The Biggest Loser," "Keeping Up With the Kardiashians," and "Ghost Hunters," as well as scripted series like "Heroes," celebrity talk shows like "The Wendy Williams Show," and films like "Ted" and "Machete."

Whether he's defending a studio accused of idea theft, interpreting an entertainment industry contract or asserting a producer's First Amendment rights, Joel adjusts his strategies to the particular business needs of his client. In some instances, those business needs call for avoiding the cost, risk and public attention that comes with taking a case to trial. He has won numerous anti-SLAPP motions with fee awards, motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment, and has mediated or arbitrated many disputes confidentially. In other matters, Joel stands ready to take cases all through trial and beyond, drawing on his substantial appellate experience.

Outside the entertainment industry, Joel represents clients in business litigation involving contract disputes, interference with contract, insurance issues, environmental claims, employment disputes and real estate investment fraud claims, among other areas. 

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Practice Focus

  • Entertainment industry litigation and disputes
  • Business litigation
  • Media and First Amendment law
  • Intellectual property
  • Privacy and rights of publicity
  • Employment law and litigation
  • Real estate disputes

Representative Experience

  • Defended NBCUniversal in action alleging copyright infringement and interference with contract regarding the television series Heroes. Prevailed on motion to dismiss and obtained award of attorney's fees in a published opinion. Affirmed by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Wild v. NBCUniversal, Inc. et al.
  • Resolve numerous employment wrongful termination and discrimination claims.
  • Represented Seth MacFarlane, Media Rights Capital and Universal Studios in high-profile copyright case. Plaintiff, Bengal Mangle Productions, alleged in suit filed in US District Court for the Central District of California in July 2014 that anthropomorphic teddy bear from the movie Ted was "strikingly similar" to its character, Charlie, a teddy bear from plaintiff's Web series. We obtained stipulation for dismissal of the suit, which cannot be refiled.
  • Represent defendants in action alleging copyright infringement, violations of Visual Artists Rights Act, fraud, and breach of contract against network, producers and talent involving use of artwork in a reality television series. Successfully opposed motion for preliminary injunction attempting to halt distribution.
  • Defended 10 defendants (including production and distribution companies, producers and screen writer) against claims of copyright infringement and breach of implied contact regarding a horror film. Prevailed on motion for judgment on pleadings arguing that the plaintiff's screenplay and defendants' film were not "substantially similar" as a matter of law. District court's ruling was affirmed by US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Represent defendant in action alleging breach of contract, fiduciary duty and accounting by an actor over contingent participation from a long-running TV series.
  • Represented certain defendants in action alleging copyright infringement, breach of implied contract and breach of confidence regarding a TV series. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc addressed the scope of federal copyright preemption of state law contract claims.
  • Represented certain defendants in copyright infringement action against network and producers regarding popular reality television weight-loss competition show. Prevailed on motion for summary judgment. Affirmed by Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Represented defendants in an idea theft case involving a song-contest reality television show. Prevailed on motion for summary judgment. Affirmed by California Court of Appeal.
  • Represented defendant in multiple court proceedings and arbitration challenging accountings and distribution practices in connection with a motion picture. Successfully opposed challenges to scope of arbitration agreement.
  • Represented defendants in action alleging music copyright infringement and tort claims regarding a telenovela. Prevailed on motion to dismiss foreign production company for lack of personal jurisdiction and motion to strike claims for enhanced damages and attorney's fees under copyright statute.
  • Successful mediation of confidential settlement of accidental death insurance claim, governed by federal ERISA laws and procedures.
  • Resolve consumer class action lawsuits against telecommunications carrier at pleading stages through use of state law demurrers and federal bankruptcy procedures.
  • Defended film company against allegations of fraud and breach of contract for contingent participation brought by an actor regarding a television series. Prevailed on a motion for summary judgment, including favored nations and 12 contract interpretation and accounting claims. The decision was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal.
  • Represented mortgage investment fund in appeal following Los Angeles Superior Court's denial of motion to compel arbitration. Katten successfully argued California's statutory exception authorizing trial courts to deny arbitration where lawsuit involves both arbitrable and non-arbitrable claims did not apply because threshold requirements were not met and the trial court lacked discretion to deny arbitration. California Court of Appeal reversed and ordered action to arbitration.