Phil M. Kelly represents leading motion picture studios, broadcast and cable TV networks, production companies, entertainment, and sports agencies, as well as individuals and companies outside of the entertainment industry in legal disputes in state and federal courts and arbitrations throughout the country.

Mr. Kelly regularly handles disputes related to profit participation, intellectual property licensing, copyrights, film and TV distribution agreements, film slate financing, securities and common law fraud, and breach of contract. Currently, Mr. Kelly is litigating several high-profile cases involving the financing, distribution, and accounting for large slates of motion pictures along with copyright infringement actions involving popular movies and TV shows. In addition to handling litigation matters for his clients, Mr. Kelly also provides substantial pre-litigation counseling and advice to help clients avoid litigation altogether.


University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, J.D., 2000

  • Order of the Coif

Pomona College, B.A., Economics, 1995

  • Pomona College Athletic Hall of Fame, Men’s Basketball

Media, Entertainment, and Intellectual Property

  • Obtained a complete defense victory in the trial and appellate courts for Paramount Pictures in a complex commercial dispute that involved overlapping issues of entertainment and securities law.
  • Secured a dismissal and public apology, as well as monetary compensation for the legendary composer Hans Zimmer and several companies in a copyright infringement claim that concerned the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years A Slave, along with its score and soundtrack album.
  • Won summary judgment for Paramount Pictures Corporation in a $40 million lawsuit related to the distribution of a motion picture.
  • Representing New Regency Productions in an $18 million breach of contract lawsuit they filed against a group of film financiers who failed to fulfill their promise to repay certain expenses for a motion picture released in 2016.
  • Representing a prominent talent agency in a $55 million lawsuit brought by producers and film financiers of motion picture projects alleging misrepresentations, fraud, and breaches of fiduciary duty.
  • Currently representing NBCUniversal in a significant dispute that is related to the sale and distribution of a slate of films that are presently owned by a hedge fund.
  • Represented Paramount Pictures in a putative class action suit that was related to the treatment of home video revenues on films produced prior to 1981 for the purposes of reporting to and paying profit participants. The case is one of several that have been brought against all of the major movie studios.
  • Represented Viacom and Viacom Media Networks in a copyright infringement lawsuit that involved the hit TV children’s show PAW Patrol.
  • Won a dismissal of a copyright infringement claim and an award of damages for his client Viacom and Viacom Media Networks, as well as the production company and producers, in a federal lawsuit that involved the hit VH1 television show Love & Hip Hop.
  • Represented Viacom Inc. and Viacom Media Networks in an action that involved numerous tort claims, including misappropriation of likeness and defamation that arose out of the production and broadcast of a reality TV program.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of Creative Artist Agency (CAA) in an action that asserted tort and contract claims that were related to a highly successful TV series.
  • Represented Wasserman Media Group in a variety of sports-and-entertainment-related disputes.
  • Represented Universal Studios in an accounting dispute with StudioCanal that was related to a series of films that were produced by Working Title Films.
  • Represented multiple defendants—a TV production company, a broadcast network, and producers—in a copyright infringement action that involved a hit reality TV series. Obtained summary judgment, after discovery, in favor of the clients concerning the copyright infringement claim.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of a broadcast network that was facing allegations of failure to pay royalties that were made by composers of background music. The claims involved the release of an episodic TV series from the 1950s to the 1970s on videocassette and DVD and the royalties for the synchronization licenses of the compositions.
  • Represented Hachette Book Group in a breach of contract action that was brought by William Paul Young, the author of the best-selling book The Shack.
  • Represented Universal Music Group before the California Supreme Court in a landmark case that involved the scope of attorney-client privilege. Mr. Kelly served as the second chair on the client’s subsequent trial victory.
  • Represented Screen Media Ventures in litigation with a major studio that concerned the parties’ former distribution relationship.
  • Represented a major studio and its broadcast network in a $100 million breach of contract dispute with its largest affiliate group.
  • Represented Paramount Home Entertainment in a dispute with Rank DMS in an alleged breach of a “most favored nations” provision in connection with distribution services for home entertainment products.
  • Represented a world famous athlete in libel and slander litigation that was brought against a prominent magazine.
  • Achieved dismissal of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, antitrust, and commercial bribery claims that were brought against a video game developer and publisher by a global sports entertainment company. The plaintiff claimed damages in excess of $100 million in an action that arose out of the alleged bribery of licensing agents and the award of a video-game license to a joint venture.
  • Litigated on behalf of Activision Publishing against a video-game developer related to the development of a phenomenally popular World War II-based video game. The case included breach of contract and fraud claims filed by both parties, all of which were settled before trial.
  • Litigated on behalf of several leading entertainment studios in a multi-billion-dollar dispute that concerned the licensing and distribution of pay TV services in Australia. The case, which involved a variety of contract and tort claims, was settled before trial.

Commercial Litigation

  • Successfully defended an online toy retailer in a multi-million-dollar breach of contract dispute that concerned a fulfillment of services agreement. After a two-week arbitration trial, the retailer received a favorable award.
  • Represented an aircraft manufacturer in a multi-million-dollar dispute that arose out of an exclusive purchase agreement with a key supplier. After a 19-day arbitration trial, Mr. Kelly defeated the claims brought against his client, which alleged improper termination of agreement, misrepresentation, promissory fraud, and theft of intellectual property.
  • Variety, Leading Lawyer, 2018 and 2019; Rising Star, 2016
  • Southern California Super Lawyer, 2018
  • Southern California Super Lawyer: Up-and-Coming Rising Stars, 2008–2012
  • Inner City Law Center, Board of Directors, 2015–present
  • Irell & Manella, LLP, 2000–2009
  • California, 2001
  • U.S. District Courts
    Central and Southern Districts of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit