It’s been a busy day for legal geeks. Over Justice Breyer dissent, the Supreme Court has stayed the simultaneous webcasting of the the highly anticipated Prop 8 challenge, pending further review (Wired | Above the Law). You may remember webcasting of trials being an issue in the Tenenbaum trial almost exactly a year ago (which went all the way up to Justice Souter in his capacity as Circuit Justice, and was denied).
Meanwhile, Billboard notes that a the Circuit Court of Appeals for DC on Friday displayed some skepticism over the FCC’s authority to regulate Internet service providers in the name of network neutrality. One of my friends was at the hearing, so I hope to hear more from him on this point. This also is probably a good time to note that the always excellent Future of Music Coalition has come out with a new tool for artists to comment FCC net neutrality regulation. There’s an interesting tension in the music industry here, as Billboard seems to hint at net neutrality being a bad thing (as it hinders the ability of P2P filtering and other ideas record companies and some artists support), while the FMC has come out strongly in support of neutrality as an equalizing force in the industry.
Billboard also has a music-centered rundown of CES for the curious. Billboard notes an increased use of music celebrities (Ms. Gaga, Mr. Dre, Mr. Diddy, Mr. Rock, and Ms. Swift) to promote consumer electronics from Monster Cable, Qualcomm, Sony. Billboard treats this as an indication that consumer products budgets are loosening up, which may be a good sign for the music economy (and the economy in general).
Techdirt is hosting an interesting discussion over the use of the Obamas to sell things and its implications under misappropriation law, after a billboard showing the President wearing a Weatherproof jacket was erected in Times Square and PETA circulated a picture of Michelle Obama as an anti-fur wearer, both without the Obamas’ consent. Long story short, as Paul Alan Levy puts it, the White House probably has no legal ground to complain, but that doesn’t mean the action is without risk: this presents be an opportunity for Michelle to complain about PETA’s more extreme elements, or for the President to comment on whether or not he though Weatherproof actually made a good jacket. So far, this one has been all sound and fury.
Oh, and on the Massachusetts front: a kid from my hometown learned a hard lesson about fire safety the Fourth Amendment, and Councilor Mike Ross (still) doesn’t care about college people. I have to dispute UHub’s tally on the Ross cases of taking hard anti-college student stances, however. I count three: the 2004-05 attempt to force all off campus students to register private information with the BPD as a matter of law, the now-infamous no-more-than-four-students-per-unit regulation, and this new attack on Northeastern for accepting 3.9% more students than anticipated (though it sounds like there may have been some form of agreement on that last one).
Happy 2010, all.
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 opposed to 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 Lopez test. 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.
- Another excellent blogger is my friend and former coworker Chris Devers, who has been combining his various Internet presences into a Posterous blog which I’ve been following recently. A recent highlight was his writeup of the last day of the Zeiss Projector at the Boston Museum of Science’s planetarium. Half the fun of going to the planetarium was seeing that mutant steampunk barbell in action. I hope the new projector can live up to its predecessor.
- And finally, while I’m as excited as the next tech-minded 20something about the new Apple tablet, I share Mr. Colin Ashe’s well-honed and succinct skepticism about its ability to singlehandedly save the publishing industry.
It’s good to be back. Here’s to a successful new year in all of our endeavors.
This is a slightly more whimsical (and short) approach to a topic I spilled a great deal of ink on last week. I saw this bumper sticker on a traffic pole yesterday:
Clearly, a sticker done in homage to:
Is this good? Bad? Acceptable? Infringement? Legally fine but artistically dubious? Artistically clever but legally questionable? An unfair use of Bad Brains’s design to imply support from Bad Brains or their fans? A strategically bad decision of iconography, considering how different Bad Rabbits and Bad Brains are? Totally fine and rather cute or amusing?
I’m torn. All I know for sure is I checked them out because I thought they may be similar to Bad Brains, but they turned out to be entirely different (and I see very little crossover between these fan bases). I also think I may know some people in Bad Rabbits – at least a few went to Northeastern – so I should be careful before I rip on them too much.
Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer posted a cute little writeup on her hometown of Lexington, MA on the AFP Blog. One of the highlights of her writeup was the obligatory mention of the gratuitous number of Dunkin’ Donuts in this neck of the woods. In her town of roughly 30,000 there are six Dunks, which she maps out here.
I can certainly relate; I grew up in the same county, about five or six towns over. In my tiny town of roughly 9,500, we have 2:
It’s interesting that both Lexington and Townsend have roughly one Dunks for every 5,000 people. I wonder if that’s the target saturation ratio for Fred the Baker.
(Alf and Bukowski. Fantastic. From Flickr user Jashir)
And you can celebrate on this website.
Thanks to Lara, who recommended this poem by Beckett. As I wrote last year, my old standby is this Bukowski standard.
Today is also another important holiday. Here’s a list of the best April Fool’s Day pranks played by the interwebs today. My favorite was definitely this headline: Warner Bros. Acquires The Pirate Bay.
(Still better. From Flickr user dailyinvention.)
*** A few small spoilers follow. Caveat lector. ***
So like many I saw Watchmen this weekend (and by “weekend” I mean “midnight Thursday night with over a dozen friends”). Overall I was pleasantly surprised by how well they handled the story, which readers of the novel will tell you is a very impressive feat. The biggest fear of mine – whether the script would do justice to the ending of the book – was more or less placated; it was not exactly as it is in the book, and I say without hesitation that the book ending is far superior, but the modified ending does justice to the spirit of the book’s ending. Aside from a few groan-worthy love dialog bits, it’s worth the watch (provided you can stomach the content, which is not for the faint of heart).
My single biggest gripe about the movie is the music. Getting the music right in Watchmen should have been easy: nearly every chapter of the book ends with a song quote, and many scenes in the book explicitly state what Alan Moore had envisioned playing in the background. But these were dismissed, for licensing reasons, cross promotion considerations with Warner artists, or otherwise (Wired has a somewhat accusatory read on that subject), and instead we got bad Leonard Cohen covers, bad Leonard Cohen originals, and freakin’ “99 Luftballoons.” So much was missed by not including Iggy Pop, Devo, and Elvis Costello – all of which were in the book.
So, in the spirit of righting a wrong, here’s Elvis Costello’s “The Comedians” off of Goodbye Cruel World. I would have substituted it in place of the scene using “99 Luftballoons” in a heartbeat.
Elvis Costello – The Comedians
Update: seems that my friend Taylor posted a review of Watchmen within seconds of my own. We come to many of the same conclusions on the movie, which is very comforting to me, as the flicks are most certainly Taylor’s domain. In the past this might have sparked a blogagauntlet, but for now it’s just good comparison reading.
Since about 6AM this morning, on the 200-something RSS feeds I stay on top of, there have been maybe 15 new posts in total. Normally, you’d expect upwards of 75 on a Sunday morning. Then again, one of them did include the phrase “the wheels of justice have caught up to hamsters,” so I’m not counting it as a total wash.
Here, I’ll add something interesting to the Internet I found from the Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
I just wrote above that my experience with my feeds this morning was not a “wash.” To use wash in this way is to hearken back to WWI US Naval slang, where to “wash-out” an order was to declare the mission a failure or a neutralized position (i.e. the net benefit does not prevail). This both refers to what can happen to objects on deck when a wave hits a ship, but is thought to be more accurately derived from the method by which orders were transcribed on ships at sea. As orders that were taken from radio message or signal flags from the shore or other boats, the orders were taken down on a slate. When an order was cancelled, it would be washed off that slate, hence the order being a “wash-out.” At first it was used as a verb (e.g. “a lot of the new recruits were washed-out from basic training,”) and later became used as a noun.
There. Now go impress your trivia night friends.
I had a dream last night that I was writing a novel, and the star of my novel was an anti-hero character, whose claim to fame up to this point had been that she was the hand model on kitchen supply infomercials who does the inept “before” shot where the person is having a terrible time cutting an onion, or cooking in non-stick cookware, or trying to peel potatoes and failing. You know, the person at the opening of this infomercial:
Or the poor, pathetic potato peeler:
Or the person flailing at the opening of the Snuggie infomercial:
In my dream I had developed this somewhat amusing backstory, about how she really wanted to be a deadpan comic (or perhaps an author) and how a long series of sad events had taken her from sarcastic in a Sinfeld way, to sarcastic in a Steven Wright way, to straight out depressed, and that her colleagues only thought it made her better as a “before” lady and did not see the inner turmoil (I’m using “before lady” as a placeholder for a better faux-industry term for the person in the shot I’ve yet to develop – my thought was to play something off of how they always show that person in black and white at the opening – the “monochromer” or something). I don’t remember what she actually did in the story; I just remember this character.
At any rate, I don’t anticipate I’ll be writing any novels anytime soon, so if any of my friends want to work with me in developing this character for their own purposes, let me know. I’ll leave you with my favorite “monochromer” I found while doing some character research this morning:
“Where did I park my car? oooh noooo…”