Thursday, April 14, 2005

It all goes bananas

The WTO is going to have to step in to arbitrate between the EU and Latin American countries on how its import control system, based on a blend of tariffs and quotas, should be replaced by a tariff only system.

The EU seems relatively relaxed about the challenge from Ecuador, claiming that there was a 'gentleman's agreement' to resolve matters in this way. Less relaxed are the small Caribbean with a heavy reliance on banana exports.

Relatively few bananas are grown within the EU (mainly in the Canary Islands and Greece). The tropical fruit is popular as a snack, especially in Germany which has the highest per capita consumption in the EU. When the wall came down, many East Germans came in search of bananas. There were great celebrations in Britain when supplies of the energy boosting fruit became available for the first time after the Second World War.

It's cheaper to produce bananas on large plantations owned by American multinationals in Central America, countries such as Ecuador and in Hawaii. And these companies have a lot of political clout in the US through donations to both political parties. Hence, the 2001 agreement.

The Windward Islands and Jamaica have already taken a hit. Before the creation of the common market organisation for bananas in 1993, there were 24,000 banana farmers in the Windward Islands, a figure that had fallen to 7,000 in 2001. Production in 1999-2002 was 50 per cent of the 1989-92 figure. The fall in Jamaica has been smaller, but is still substantial.

However, there have been some gainers among ACP countries. Belize, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic and Cote d'Ivorie have all expanded production and exports. In particular, Cameroon and Cote d'Ivorie benefit from low production costs comparable with those of dollar banana producers.

The EU has proposed a common tariff of €230 per tonne which leaves no one pleased. The ACP producers want a higher tariff of €275/t, while the dollar area exporters want a zero tariff or at most the €75/t level applied at present to quota imports.

The likely outcome us that the EU will have to make further concessions on the tariff and compensate disadvantaged least developed countries through the Special Framework of Assistance that is to be used in relation to the sugar regime, as well as through other EU development policies.

That way EU consumers will have a reliable supply of reasonably priced quality fruit and it will not be necessary to revive the song 'Yes, I have no bananas.' But some LDCs could go the way of Suriname whose EU exports ended in 2002 with the bankruptcy of its banana export company.Any source

Monday, April 4, 2005

"Rounders" Remanded by Ninth Circuit; Mark Talks Legal Self-Defense

April 4, 2005

In this newsletter:


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court's dismissal of a copyright infringement claim filed by screenwriter Jeff Grosso against Miramax Films (Grosso v. Miramax Film Corp., 383 F.3d 965 (2004)). Grosso claimed that the movie "Rounders" infringed his copyright in a screenplay he wrote entitled "The Shell Game." He based his claim on the fact that he had pitched his screenplay to Miramax before "Rounders" was made. The court of appeals found that the two works were not substantially similar to support a claim of copyright infringement against Miramax. The only similarities between the two works were some of the language used, which the court found to be "unprotectible poker jargon." But the court did find that the circumstances in which Grosso's screenplay was pitched to Miramax might support a state claim for breach of an implied contract. The state contract claim was originally dismissed by the district court on the grounds that federal copyright law preempted it. The court of appeals found this judgment to be in error and reversed. Copyright law did not preempt the state claim because the state claim provided for protection of "different rights from those protected by copyright." Under California state law a contract may be implied when an idea is disclosed from one party to another "under circumstances from which it could be concluded that the offeree voluntarily accepted the disclosure knowing the conditions on which it was tendered and the reasonable value of the work." There exists no similar protection under federal copyright law, therefore making preemption improper. The U.S. Court of Appeals found that the circumstances in which the idea of "The Shell Game" was disclosed to Miramax were such that the claim should survive summary judgment. The claim was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.


On April 16-17, Mark will be at UCLA teaching his popular course, "Self-Defense for Independent Filmmakers: Protecting Your Legal Rights." This two-day seminar teaches filmmakers how to anticipate problems before they arise in their negotiations with production and distribution companies. Students will learn how toand create incentives to encourage companies to live up to their agreements, including performance incentives, default penalties, and arbitration clauses. In the event of an unresolvable dispute, participants learn what remedies are available to enforce their rights. To register for the course, visit and type "Mark Litwak" in the search box.


Two of our clients are premiering their films at The Method Fest in Calabasas, California this week:

"Zooey," written and directed by our client, Sherman Lau, is an urban love story of a young prostitute and her husband trying to escape their life on the street. "Zooey" stars newcomers Sarah Louise Lilley and Xavier Jimenez. The official website is . "Zooey" screens April 4 at 9:30PM at the Edwards Cinema 3.

"Fighting Words," written and directed by our client, Paul Edwards. The film centers around a gifted poet who is discovered by an attractive publisher. The two embark on a relationship that teaches both that love is more than words. The film stars C. Thomas Howell, Jeff Stearns, Tara D'Agostino and Fred Willard. The official website is . "Fighting Words" screens April 5 at 2:00PM at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Louis B. Mayer Theater.

For more information about The Method Fest, visit .

Mark Litwak & Associates grants newsletter recipients permission to copy and distribute this newsletter and distribute it free of charge, provided that copies are distributed for educational and non-profit use, no changes or revisions are made, all copies clearly attribute the article to its author and include its copyright notice.

DISCLAIMER: While we are careful in preparing this newsletter, readers should consult with a lawyer before relying on any information. Case law and statutes are subject to change, and may not apply in all jurisdictions.

Copyright 2005, Mark Litwak

==========================================================Any source