Law students share a common ire over the prices and frequent revision cycles of our casebooks and statutory supplements. Underneath a lot of this is the feeling that these things are rushed to market every year or so, and as any student will tell you they are riddled with typos, formatting errors, and other things a respectable national publication would not stand for.
Case in point, the supplement for my corporations class (this thing retails at $40, by the way):
There’s a very strange typo on the very cover of the supplement (at least I think it’s a typo):
Apparently my supplement isn’t for the Tenth Edition of the casebook. It’s for the “Tenth Edition.”
What does that mean? How does that typo even happen? Did the cover designer accidentally type option-shift-K while laying out the text?
The only way this could be better would be if it was a statutory supplement for a trademark class.
I’m back in DC after another lovely few weeks up in Massachusetts. I feel as though I’ve been out of touch with the world of current events, so I took a slice of my extended break to catch up on my RSS feeds. Here are a few stories that caught my eye. Once things settle down here a little bit I’ll start writing in earnest again.
Although I never wrote much about it on this blog for reasons I expressed here, I’ve been following the recent developments in the Sony v. Tenenbaum case. After the jury verdict came down and formal judgment was entered in December, much has been made of the constitutionality (and in some circles, the prudence) of the $675,000 verdict in Tenenbaum and $1,920,000 in Captiol v. Thomas. The team defending Tenenbaum have now filed a motion for a new trial on these grounds, arguing the verdict violated due process under St. Louis I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Williams and progeny. Predictably, Torrentfreak sees this as potentially diluting the lofty statutory damages used by the RIAA to scare its patrons into so many $3500 settlements, while Ben Sheffner over at Copyrights & Campaigns notes the conspicuous absence of any case that has found statutory damages(as opposedto punitive damages) to be violative of due process. UPenn was gracious enough to host an excellent back-and-forth between Sheffner and Pamela Samuelson on this exact subject, for the especially curious. Constitutional question aside, Ron Coleman over at Likelihood of Confusion gives a great wide-angle perspective on the whole affair, which I found rather refreshing.
Speaking of Mr. Sheffner, he posted up on Wired the 5 cases that defined music law for 2009. While I disagree with his analysis (I often do), he lays out exactly where we are in this field today: RIAA filesharing battles finding results with massive judgments against individuals, the MGM v. Grokster “inducement” theory finding some teeth in the Bit Torrent realm, and content creators clashing head-on with online service providers over DMCA safe harbors. (And Bridgeport v. Dimension Films is still good law, much to my chagrin.) And while we’re on the subject of Wired end-of-the-era lists, here are the top 10 cybercrimes of the decade.
Meanwhile, some law nerd circles – including the always excellent Volokh Conspiracy – are buzzing about the constitutional questions raised by the health reform legislation pending in Congress. The argument, according to those raising it, is that the mandate that all persons buy health insurance is an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power under the Commerce Clause. As I was discussing with my roommates tonight (GWU Law 2Ls, the lot of us), I just don’t see this argument flying under the modern-day Lopeztest. Nevertheless, there appears to be a lawsuit waiting for ripeness in the wings.
On the music front, my friend Sawyer Jacobs’ fantastic music collective Underwater Peoples just released their winter sampler. For those of you that missed it, they made a good splash back in June with their summer analogue, including some rare praise from Pitchfork. Fully acknowledging my bias after spending a great summer with Mr. Jacobs last year as Berkterns, I think these guys are one of the coolest collectives to hit the scene since Elephant Six. And speaking of those cats, one of the first new issues to come out of E6 in what seems like years is a new Apples in Stereo / Olivia Tremor Control side-project, Thee American Revolution. Both the UP Winter Sampler and the Thee American Revolution albums have been in heavy rotation on the ol’ iPod over the past week or so. Well, those and the annual DJ Earworm United State of Pop mashup.
My buddy (and singer-songwriter) Brian Bergeron has gone all Kerouac on me and moved from his (and Kerouac’s) hometown of Lowell, MA out to San Francisco. While out there he’s been firing up the blog and commenting on music, media, and society – subjects close to both of our hearts. I am delighted to see him take up the issue of net neutrality (which he correctly identifies as a less-flashy-than-normal cause for artists, but extremely important), and wish him all the best on his adventures out there.
For Brian and my other music industry friends: take a moment to read Bob Lefsetz’s predictions for 2010 and beyond. It’s rather 30,000 feet and raises more issues than it solves, but I suppose those are the sort of characteristics that go with the future-predicting territory. I think he was dead-on to raise the potential Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger as the most significant event on the horizon this year. I’m studying antitrust law now, in part to help me wrap my head around this beast. My fellow industry wonks may also appreciate this recent interview of Donald Passman in the Berklee Music Business Journal, marking the release of the new seventh edition of his All You Need to Know About the Music Business.
On the lighter side, way back in November Wicked Local Brookline brought us the best use of federal stimulus money I’ve heard yet: a proposal to fix the MBTA 66 Bus.
My new favorite blog is the Legal Satyricon, brought to you by IP and First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza (working in one of the most interesting places a First Amendment lawyer can work these days: the adult entertainment industry). Randazza is most recently famous for representing the owner of glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com against an attempted WIPO takedown by Glenn Beck himself. Randazza’s eventually successful response brief (PDF) has to be the funniest legal filing I have ever seen. As his casework suggests, the Legal Satyricon is a profoundly irreverent (and sometimes downright nasty) look at IP and free speech issues, delivered in a smug but intelligent way. Recently he took aim at Alan Grayson for using an anti-fraud statute to attempt to imprison the founder of an anti-Grayson website (I know. I used to like the guy too.), and totally destroyed former Representative Ted Klaudt for trying to use “common law copyright” to keep news sources from printing stories about his conviction of child rape and witness tampering.
This is loosely related to a journal article I am writing on sampling rights. I don’t think I’ll be getting as abstract as the “cultural public domain” argued here, and my conclusions might cut directly against some of mobius32′s arguments here, but his concern about copyright re-appropriation and the incoming clash between copyright law and digital sampling are certainly right up my article’s alley. And I’ll certainly be taking up the Bridgeport Musiccase mentioned in passing towards the end of the clip. This is a must-watch to understand the foundations of many of our modern discussions on sampling rights. Check it out.
Fully recognizing how weird it is to use a worldwide forum for a message targeting about 1500 kids, here’s a special message for the GW Law community: I’m on the e-board of the Cyberlaw Students Association, and we want you.
So if you’re a GW Law student and interested in cyberlaw, come to our meeting on Wednesday. There’s free food in it for you.
This is pretty far from my normal content, but my friend Jeremy wrote a piece in GW Law blog Sua Sponte on the inequalities inherenet in educational benefits distributed to veterans in the current GI bill. It’s quick, to the point, and proposes a solution which makes a lot of sense. Definitely worth a read. Check it out.
One of the cornerstone secondary sources in our legal system is the law journal. Articles in law journals are frequently cited as persuasive authority in interpretations of the law in both papers and court opinions alike, and can be tremendous catalysts for developing legal thought and policy.
Every major law school has a journal, and it may surprise some to find that these journals are actually run by law students. Naturally, the pressure is tremendous and the stakes are high for law journals to state the law accurately and make persuasive arguments in interpretation, so schools do not let every student who expresses interest to join, as they might a school newspaper. Law schools invite first year students onto the boards of their journals though a rigorous competition held sometime during the 1L year. It just so happens that for my school that competition is this weekend.
This is why I haven’t been writing here all week, and why you won’t see me here until at least after Monday. So have a good one, and I’ll be back sometime next week (when we get our well-earned spring break).
My friend Aaron reminded me yesterday of an article by GWU Law Professior Brauneis about the debated copyright status of “Happy Birthday To You.” I wrote about it last May. Long story short: there are at least three good reasons why that song is technically in the public domain – and still, millions of dollars are made annually on the licensing of the song.
Stephen Colbert sang it on the air for Lincoln’s birthday last week. The host at the restaurant I went to last night for my birthday sang it. I wonder if either of them opted to get the license.
If you have time, be sure to read Prof. Brauneis’ article (you can find it here). Hope you enjoy.
1Ls here at GWU Law have spent the better part of the past month writing motions and memos for summary judgment based on a ficticious case of a boy expelled from school because of his long hair with blue streaks. Half the class, as plaintiffs, have been arguing that the nature and manner of his expulsion offends the First and Fourteenth Amendments (allegations of freedom of speech, religion, equal protection, substantive due process, and procedural due process). The other half, as defendants, have argued that hair length and color are not protected rights, and even if they were, the school had a valid interest in restricting them under various scrutiny standards.
A critical case to one of these claims is the 1968 case of Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District (for those of you playing at home: 392 F.2d 697 (5th Cir.), cert denied 393 U.S. 856 (1968)). The facts are almost identical to every other case like it (and there are a lot of them): there is a school dress code banning male students from wearing hair past the collar of their shirts, the students wear their hair longer, the students get expelled, and the students claim a constitutional issue. In this case, however, there is the added twist that the boys are in a band: Sounds Unlimited. They claim that not only do they have a right under the Fourteenth Amendment, they would be forced to breach their contract with their managing agent, who requires:
[The band] shall maintain their dress and personal appearance in conformity with accepted STANDARDS and CUSTOMS OF ROCK & ROLL GROUPS, COMBO’S [sic] & BANDS including so called BEATLE TYPE HAIR STYLES. 329 F.2d at 698 n.2.
The Fifth Circuit, on appeal, notes fairly tounge-in-cheek that such a a contract would not be enforcable against minors, and proceeds to rule that there is no constitutional right to long hair. This marks the beginning of the Fifth Circuit’s highly conservative stance on the issue. To date, the Circuits are almost perfectly split as to whether the right to keeping one’s hair at any given length is protected under the “liberties” of the Fourteenth Amendment.
As a fascinating historical footnote (aside from the above, quite literally fascinating historical footnote) is the story of the protest song these boys in Texas wrote upon their expulsion from school. As the Fifth Circuit describes it:
At the conclusion of the [expulsion] conference in the principal’s office, the boys left the school building and proceeded to the sidewalk on the west side of the school grounds where the three boys and [manger] Mr. Alexander held a press interview, and pictures, motion pictures and sound tapes were made.
Later the three boys went to a recording studio to write and record a ‘protest’ song about the matter. The recording was completed and the record entitled ‘Keep Your Hands Off It’* was first played on the air Friday morning, September 9. For several days thereafter it was played numerous times on several radio stations. 329 F.2d at 700.
Naturally, in addition to scrutinizing the case for the purposes of my memo, I also endeavored on a quest to find “Keep Your Hands Off It” by Sounds Unlimited. I’m happy to report today that I found the elusive recording.
Sounds Unlimited – Keep Your Hands Off Of It
* – reports vary as to whether the song is properly titled “Keep Your Hands Off Of It” or “Keep Your Hands Off It.” The chorus would certainly suggest the former, but I can’t say for sure.
(no “Man-Pris” in Philadelphia, from Flickr user jasmined)
It seems every week I have to sequester myself for the sake of a legal memo will be the week the entire music-IP world shakes apart. There’s the Sony v. Tenenbaum heating up as Rule 37 sanctions fly and various parties begin filing amicus briefs on the courtroom webcasting issue, more information coming out about how bad a year it was for CDs (and from the look of it, almost only CDs) in 2008, and of course Allen Klein continuing to screw artists from beyond the grave (or rather from beyond the day-to-day control of ABKCO) – remember the Verve “Bitter Sweet Symphony” outrage? Klein did it again, this time to Lil’ John. So much to write about. So little time.
So I leave you to other blogs this weekend. Thanks for sticking around.
Should you find yourself with a severe case of insomnia and looking for something to watch tonight at midnight, may I suggest turning over to CSPAN2 to watch the rebroadcast of last Thursday’s Van Vleck Moot Court Finals, where the best and brightest oral advocates here at GWU Law argued before Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court, Judge Marsha Berzon of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
While this may sound rather dry for a large slice of my reading audience, anyone with an interest in police search and seizure of computers or the paneling of juries based on religion may find some interesting dialogue. It’s a rare glimpse into what it’s like arguing before some of the largest judicial figures in the US.