Month: March 2012

‘Oh Really?’ Estate law and the ‘Descendants’

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise. Here’s the power of Hollywood: It can take a topic that inspires more than its share of dread for more than a few law students — estate planning — ane make it a powerful undercurrent of an Oscar-winning movie. That’s what occurs in The Descendants, a movie that won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, and was nominated for Oscars in four other categories, including best picture, best actor (George Cloney) and best director (Alexander Payne). The movie, which is just out on DVD and Blue-Ray, is based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Though its plot takes many twists, the heart of the story turns on what happens to valuable land on Kauai, left to Clooney’s character in a trust by a wealthy banker and a Hawaiian princess.  The trust is about to expire and Clooney, a property attorney, must decide whether to sell the property to a developer, enriching himself and his greedy cousins. To most viewers, the film’s depiction of estate planning provides little more than a gloss. But in this Oscar-winning production, the legal issues were thoroughly developed and fact-checked. Director Payne consulted with Randall Roth, a...

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Prof. Fagundes on ‘Pinterest, Jigidi, factor four’

David Fagundes, the Irving D. and Florence Rosenberg Professor of Law at Southwestern and at the Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute, shares a timely analysis on the applicability of the fair-use defense, factor four in particular, tackling concerns raised by online users who upload images and other content for various purposes to two websites of interest, Pinterest and Jigidi. Prof. Fagundes’ teaching and research interests span a range of property law issues, including copyright, real property and trademark. A productive writer of numerous legal publications, including books, study guides and articles, his work has been selected and presented at numerous national and international conferences. His full, thought-provoking article, cross-posted at PrawfsBlawg with permission, follows: Pinterest, Jigidi and factor four of the fair use defense One of the best things about being a law professor is that your students leave your classroom, and, if you’ve done your job right, see things in and about the world that they may not have before.  Recently, two of my copyright students wrote to call my attention to two sites that raise the same interesting emergent online copyright issue. Pinterest describes itself as an “online pinboard” that allows users to “organize and share things you love.”  Pinterest users each have a space on the site (their “pinboard”) that allows them to re-post images they like from around the internet and organize them into categories (e.g., food,...

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How lyrics, economics shaping music industry

This guest post comes from Sean Goodman (on the revenue potential in lyrics) and Shadi Sedidghzadeh (economics in the recording industry), who both recently finished the Entertainment Law and Web 2.0 miniterm class: It seems like just a blink ago that the then-dominant record companies looked up and started to notice that, due to huge changes in technology, their business model was unraveling. They responded with a tidal wave of unpopular litigation with the music industry’s very base — its fans. And ever since that legal stumble, there’s been a steady tumble in the once-enormous profits that the industry racks up — to the point now that those inside and out of the trade hunt for every source of revenue and continue to speculate as to what, fundamentally, may be wrong with a onetime money machine. Do words matter in the music business and why aren’t there spectacular profits in recording any more? Try these two takes: A change in tune: some see big dollars in lyrics  Those who pen the music and who publish it typically thought of the creation, consisting of music and lyrics, as a consolidated whole. But who knew there was substantial value in not only the works, especially the tunes, and recordings, but also in the lyrics? Song lyrics are among the most searched for items on the web and, according to at least...

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A British win for entertainment: ISPs lose suit

The entertainment industry has won a long-running battle in Britain as the High Court has rejected a lawsuit by major internet service providers against the UK Digital Economy Act. The ISPs had asserted that the act violated European Union laws governing privacy rights.  This decision came down after two years of legal challenges and appeals by BT and TalkTalk, two of Britain’s biggest ISPs. The Digital Economy Act was controversial from in its enactment in 2010, in large part because it required ISPs to take an active role in preventing copyright infringement.  Specifically, it allows copyright holders an easy way to track down infringers: It forces ISPs, without court orders, to act on claims of infringment and against those accused.  In Britain, the ISPs now must send warning letters to customers on file-share networks who the music, movie and software industries claim infringe on their copyrights. Further, the ISPs must keep a list of potential infringers; if individuals are deemed to infringe others’ works multiple times, their service may be shut off.  And for those wishing to appeal an infringement claim, they first must  pay a £20.00 ($31) fee. The High Court rejected the ISPs pleas in its March 6 decision and ordered them to begin working with rights holders to put in force the Digital Economy Act.  While the music and movie industry hailed this decision, there are doubts...

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‘Oh, Really?’ Do ‘Big Bang’ defenses fizzle?

In ‘Oh, Really?’ the Biederman Blog’s editors — voracious consumers of all matters pop culture — cast a curious, skeptical, fun and smart end-of-the-week eye on popular productions, sharing their keen observations about legal matters these raise. The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom featuring Sheldon and Leonard, best friends and socially awkward physicists, and their neighbor, the blonde waitress and aspiring actress Penny. In the episode titled   The Excelsior Acquisition, Sheldon, the eccentric, nerdy know-it-all, decides to challenge his red-light-camera ticket in court.  He presents three separate defenses for his violation: 1. He argues that the proceeding is unjust because he cannot confront his accuser (the camera) 2. He asserts the legal doctrine of necessity and 3. He simply asserts, “Penny made me do it.”  Each defense, of course, is immediately dismissed by the judge in comic fashion. But, in fact, in a real court, would a judge snicker or find merit in his geeky defenses? In arguing that his violation should be tossed because he cannot confront his mechanized accuser — the red light camera — Sheldon asserts the Constitutional Sixth Amendment right, known as the confrontation clause.  See Sixth Amendment.   However, Sheldon’s argument lacks merit because a photograph is not testimonial evidence and thus, the Sixth Amendment right does not apply.   See Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009) (holding that the confrontation clause only applies to testimonial evidence); People v....

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