The workings of Law cover every aspect of life as lawyers fight defend their clients and the jury decides who is right. Law even covers the entertainment industry. Listen as John Gatti describes how different aspects of law work in entertainment.
Transcript, John Gatti – Partner at Loeb and Loeb:
Alan Olsen: Welcome to American Dreams I visiting here today with John Gatti. John, nice to have you with us.
John Gatti: Alan, appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
Alan Olsen: So, John for the listeners, you have a remarkable career in the legal field trials litigations, and specifically have a focus on the entertainment industry. But before we get into that, I’d like to roll back and give us the story. How did you get to where you are today?
John Gatti: Well, it was started way back, I probably watched way too many Perry Mason, and trial TV shows that I was just drawn to it. And I was drawn to communicating with people and problem solving. At one point, I actually was a business finance major undergrad in college. And I was thinking about going the investment banking route, I just felt that I could do a little more good for clients in the legal profession, and I liked communicating with people. And it was, it’s very much it really is a storytelling process. And it’s probably not that I ever really was an actor, but it may be a frustrated actor at some point. And I like being in front of people and telling the story. And then that’s what, a lot of times what you’re doing as an attorney, as the entertainment media side of things, I was lucky enough to meet my wife early on, and she’s a film producer. And her family was deep in the film business. And when we got married, as 20 Somethings, and I was the we would go to parties, and we’d always have our friends who were in the entertainment space. And I was always the attorney at the table. So they would always turn to me and say, Hey, what do you think? Or can you help me with this project? Or I have this movie that I’m trying to get off the ground. And so I kind of fell into it that way through through friends and family. But I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
Alan Olsen: So running through your practice, right now, let’s talk a little bit about the specialties that you have, and where the sweet spot is, what is an ideal client? What are some of the projects that you love working through in your career?
John Gatti: Sure I describe the people that my practice is really in complex business. So I’ve covered I’ve had clients in every aspect of business, like real estate clients, I have big manufacturing clients. But I have been known mostly in the entertainment and media space. And when I say that, I’m really referring to the network’s the studios, newspapers, news organizations. In the past, it’s not so much a big part of it now. But I did a lot of work in the past for CBS where we represented CBS News, and also ABC, when they did a lot of hidden camera work, where they would do investigative reporting, it was it was more of a thing in the 90s and early 2000s, where they would do investigative reporting, they’d have to go undercover. And very likely, there would be a claim from the other side when they uncovered the bad acts of somebody that was either right of privacy invasion of privacy, false light claims showing somebody in false light defamation, so I did a lot of that and got exposed to that side of news gathering and all that. And then also copyright trademark, intellectual property rights has been a big issue, especially today. In the last year, I’ve done for some very well known songwriters and musicians and also television companies and film companies. Some real cutting edge copyright issues, which have to do with fair use and fair use is a big trend right now. In fact, there’s a big case in front of the Supreme Court that’s going to be determined soon. That will give a little more guidance to what is fair use. And first, just to backtrack, fair use has to do with when you’re dealing with copyrighted material, when can somebody who is not the copyright holder, access and use parts of somebody’s copyrighted work in what we call fair use without getting a license without paying for it. And that’s been a big issue in the courts. And so a lot of my clients in the entertainment media space, that’s a very big issue for them. And so we’ve been doing that. So I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great clients, that are doing very interesting things. And that’s the nice thing about being an attorney is that you get exposed to your clients who are doing so many things. And it’s interesting from my standpoint, because to represent them properly, I need to really learn someone’s business and what their objectives are, because the the legal issues and the legal objectives and strategies need to coalesce with the business strategies. And you’re doing your client a disservice if you’re not looking out for making sure that what you’re doing on the legal side isn’t complimentary to the, to the business aspects of things. So I’m very keen on keeping track of what the business objective is and how I can support that, as opposed to just going off. And sometimes I hear from clients where some lawyers are just focused on what the legal issue is, and they really don’t tie it back to how it will impact the business side of things. So I think being a business major and finance major and having that background, I think I bring a little more of that perspective to what I do as an attorney and I think a lot of clients appreciate that.
Alan Olsen: Yeah, its a unique skill set. There’s that old saying a person can’t see the forest, but for the trees in front of them and we recently saw in the news, this is more of a sensationalism, but the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard a deal and often when things go to trial, it isn’t necessarily what’s right or wrong, but there seems to be a lot of drama played out in the courtroom. So I’d like to focus a little bit on trial preparation, keeping focus what goes into preparing a client for trial?
John Gatti: Yeah, you mentioned the Johnny Depp case, I think that’s a really good example of kind of two dynamics that you really see play out in trials. And tying to your question about trial preparation. It’s a difficult thing to go to trial, even the most sophisticated clients, the most intellectual clients, the most poised clients, you go into trial, that’s a different animal, than what most people do on a day to day basis. So you really do have to spend the time to prepare someone. And what we do is we really, I really focus on the details, because when you’re, when you’re dealing with trials, it’s all about details. And you cannot leave something unnoticed. I think the Johnny Depp case showed some examples of, some different ways, people are perceived, and I think, even getting down to appearances, how a client appears in the courtroom, how you want them to appear, what are you trying to project to your audience, which is either the judge or the jurors. What’s been interesting lately is that social media is becoming such a big deal, and has such a big influence that you now have to prepare and present your case, not only to the audience in the courtroom, but there’s a public opinion courtroom that’s going on in social media and Johnny Depp case was a prime example of I think, the Johnny Depp side of that understood that better and presented that better in a way that their clients came off with a lot of momentum being built on social media. And I think they harvested that to their benefit. A lot of times perception is reality. And so I think the more they did that in the public, I think that translated because you cannot stop even though they’re instructed not to follow social media, jurors will always follow social media. It’s just it’s just in front of everybody. So it is a way to get a an idea across or, have your client proceed in such a way outside of the courtroom that will still have an impact in the courtroom. And I think that social media has changed the way we present cases because attorneys need to now be very savvy. In the public relations area it’s not just enough to be an attorney in the courtroom, you need to understand the ramifications of how things are going to play in social media, how to use social media, to the benefit of your client. And how to protect yourself from the negatives that can be targeted towards your clients in the social media and be and be ready for that. When we prepare for trial, it starts at day one, when we first meet the client. It’s everything, you build a theme, every case has a theme. And I like to think of it as, getting back to, entertainment in media and movies. I think every case, especially when you’re talking about trials, but even in transactions, but specifically in trials, it plays out like a movie, you have to have a theme, and people have to understand why things are happening. What’s the motivation, why and in doing that, when you build a theme, everything else, all your strategies, everything you do, plays off of that theme and should support that theme. I think everyone’s so used to also dealing with social media and little soundbites, and attention spans are getting smaller, that you’d need to be very specific, and how you present your case, I mean, graphics is a very big deal, quips people are, I think jurors are becoming more visual and the way they learn and retain information. So the spoken word isn’t as good as I think we do a lot graphically and with whether it’s PowerPoint presentations, or actual graphics, that we have prepared different graphs and, and different picture themes of how your case plays out, really helps people understand the case. And they have to, people also have to understand why something is happening. And I give jurors a lot of credit, because they’re 12 people, usually off the street, who have no background on the case you’re presenting, it’s usually a very complex issue. And you have to find a way to simplify it in such a way that you can tell the story that is understandable to 12 people who have no background, and what whether I’m talking about copyright, or whether I’m talking about a real estate deal, whatever it may be, it has to get down to a very simple explanation. And I think when you come up with a theme that helps you and you carry it through all the way. That’s when you I think are most victorious and beneficial to your client. And I think, just looking again, at the Johnny Depp case, I think you saw sometimes in that case, it kind of meandered and you didn’t know really where was and I think there could have been a better definition of what the theme was, and they and they could have stuck to that better, and kept certain things outside and kept focus on the theme rather than letting things go in different directions.
Alan Olsen: You know, what a with all that said, What is one of the more difficult cases that you’ve handled?
Well, personally, I had a case that has been followed very closely in the entertainment media space, especially, then went up on the appellate court. I was the trial lead trial lawyer for a case called Whad versus Warner Brothers. And it was a leading participation case accounting case that had to do with TV licensing fees paid and how they’re allocated to a group of films that my producer client had prepared. And these are all major films, Blade Runner, chariots of fire, the right stuff, police academy movies. And the reason why it was most of the issues were difficult. It was a hard fought trials a month long trial. And a jury, we got a 12 o jury verdict in our favor. But the most difficult thing about it was my client was my father-in-law and so, as I turned to my associate at the beginning of the case, and we always, like to give a pep talk at the beginning of the trial. I turned to my associate and I said, Okay, we really need to win this case, because if we don’t win this case, Thanksgiving, it’s gonna stink for the rest of my life. We ended up winning the case in a very significant trial. And it was it was a leading case on on how allocation of licensing fees is done, also interpretation of bad faith and some contract cases that has implications to other areas of the law. And it’s it was a, it was a decision that was published and relied upon to this day. So it was it was an interesting case. But it was my most difficult Alan to really because of the dynamic the personal dynamics involved. But I did learn something there. Because, at one point, I thought, and the reason why I took the case in the first place, obviously, to help my father while but I thought it was going to be a case that would settle right away, because it should have settled. And sometimes your opposing party makes those decisions easy for you. Because during the negotiations, resolving it before litigation, it went nowhere, they offered us little or no money, basically telling us we had no chance of winning, and they should just we should just take their, you know, their very small offer. So the offer was so small, the decision to go forward was was a very easy one. And I also learned a lot from my father-in-law in that case was that sometimes I’m also reluctant to walk a client into trial, because sometimes clients will one you have to look at the economics of the deal doesn’t make sense to go into trial for what the payout will be. And also, emotionally, is it going to be worthwhile for the client? You have to look at it from that perspective, is it going to be too much of a distraction? And I give my father-in-law credit because he actually held to is his principles. And he said, No, this is not right, what they’re doing. We’re gonna go forward, I’m always a little reluctant when clients say, I’m doing this on principle, because some people sometimes they change their principles at some point. But he truly was that way. And he said, No, this needs to be given this needs to go forward. And so he he kind of gave me the go ahead to do it. And it worked out very well.
Alan Olsen: What trends are you seeing in law today?
John Gatti: Well, lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of decisions coming out of the Supreme Court. So I think we’re going to see a lot of social issues that are going to be litigated and regulated, whether it’s, you know, the recent dobs case, with social issues at stake. So I think there’s going to be a lot of areas of social interest that will be forefront for the courts. Also, technology has been a big one, we’ve been getting a lot of matters involving NFT’s, cryptocurrency, digital rights, and that cuts across many different industries, you’d be amazed at how many industries the change in technology really factors in and really what it comes down to a lot of the contracts that parties entered into, over the last, you can go back 30 years that, we litigate and deal with agreements that go back, you know, 30-40-50 years, but also even contracts that go back 10 years, did not necessarily contemplate the change in technologies. And it’s changing so fast that you have to really see if a contract was done properly to capture all the different technologies. And so we see a lot of disputes as to what actual rights a party may have, based on new formats that are being used and utilized. And who owns the rights to that. We’re also seeing in the entertainment media space, a lot of I’ll call legacy copyrighted works. Disney happens to be one that holds a lot of legacy characters, and now there’s a copyright termination process that was put in place. So you’re seeing after 35 years, the original authors have the right to terminate their rights and get a chance to claw back the rights that they have at these characters so many characters that we all know and associate with particular studios or other other IP holders are now being called back and you’re seeing that being a big trend in specifically in the entertainment area.
Alan Olsen: Yeah, John, I appreciate you being with us today. It’s it’s, you have a remarkable legacy. People can look you up on the internet, but let’s say that someone says hey, I really got to get older John. For legal issue, though, I’m going through not that you’re, you’re in want of a lot of new clients, but because of your demand, but how would a person go about finding you and contacting you?
John Gatti: Sure. I am a partner at Loeb & Loeb. We are a major national law firm, full service. I do work across the the areas of some transactions and also litigation and the like I say business litigation of all areas, but also an emphasis in the intellectual property rights and entertainment media space. And the great thing about my firm Loeb & Loeb is that I have so many talented colleagues, that I have many clients and many people come to know who I am, will contact me for a matter or an issue. If it’s something I can’t handle, I guarantee you there are my partners and colleagues at Loeb & Loeb who are specialized in all areas. So on many cases, in fact, I have one recently that I’m working on that I directed a client with a very specific issue, legal issue to a client of mine, or to a colleague of mine who’s handling it, and they’re doing an excellent job. So we work that way as well. So I’m at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles. And as I say, We’re national in scope. So we handle I handle matters all across the country and some international as well.
Alan Olsen: All right, John, thanks for being with us today.
John Gatti: Thank you, Alan. It’s been my pleasure.
We hope you enjoyed this interview; “John Gatti – Founder of Loeb & Loeb”.
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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.
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John Gatti Biography
John Gatti is a litigator with a practice focused in the entertainment, media and sports industries. John brings more than 30 years of litigation and trial experience in state, federal and bankruptcy courts as well as representing individuals and corporations in complex business and commercial lawsuits.
Widely recognized as a leader in the entertainment industry by publications such as The Hollywood Reporter, clients including studios, television networks, film financers, talent, gaming and sports entities, and independent entertainment production companies look to John as a trusted advisor. His experience includes providing counsel on actions for breach of contract; unfair competition; copyright and trademark infringement; profit participation claims; idea submission claims; and media torts, including defamation, invasion of privacy, right to publicity and use of celebrity name and likeness in all media, including the Internet.