Author: Yasmin Youssef

‘Oh, Really?’: Privilege and ‘The Simpsons’

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. When writing this feature, the Biederman Blog editors pick a movie or television show that evokes an interesting legal issue, a piece of pop culture that so strays from legal reality that it compels analysis. Well, to Matt Groening’s credit, every episode of the Simpsons qualifies.  Whether it’s murder, sexual harassment or even copyright infringement, this series has covered it. In this season’s installment,  Love is a Many Strangled Thing, the Simpsons tackle therapist-client relations and obligations. And between the gales of laughter, there’s lot to think about, legally speaking …. After causing Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright) total public humiliation, Homer (Dan Castellaneta) finds himself in a therapy group on how to be a better dad.  After several other dads recount their tales of fatherhood, Homer feels comfortable enough to share one of his delightful stories, ending with him choking Bart.  Horrified by Homer’s nonchalant confession of child abuse, the therapist, Dr. Zander (Paul Rudd) schedules a private session with our cartoon hero.  Dr. Zander’s solution to Homer’s violent outbursts on his son? Get 7-foot-2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (voiced by himself) to make the squat Homer understand how it feels to be a scared...

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Supreme Court to tackle thorny rights revivals

Taking on what will be a key copyright case, Golan v. Hoder, the U.S. Supreme Court will answer the question: Can Congress restore foreign works previously in the public domain? In Golan, orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers, film archivists and motion picture distributors who have relied on the public domain for a living, assert that Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) (1) exceeds Congress’ authority under the copyright clause of the Constitution,  Article 1 § 8 cl. 8, and (2) violates the First Amendment. Section 514 of URAA has restored copyright protection for foreign works that were in the public domain, prohibiting plaintiffs from continuing to use them, or requiring licensing fees for continued use that are often too expensive for plaintiffs.  They claim that the U.S. government has deprived them of the free expression they would have had in what were public domain works. Congress enacted section 514 of URAA to comply with trade agreements in the  Uruguay Trade General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1994.  The agreements required the U.S. to comply with Article 18 of the Berne convention, subsequently reflected in section 514 of URAA. It provides for restoration of “copyrights in foreign works that were formerly in the public domain in the United States for one of three specified reasons: failure to comply with formalities, lack of subject matter protection, or...

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Stars gird for war over UK helmet ruling

Some of the most iconic props to come from Hollywood apparently may not have copyright protection in Britain, and, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, is not having it. After a British appellate court determined that the legendary Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars lacked copyright protection in that country, Lucas has taken the battle to Britain’s highest court. The dispute arose when Lucasfilm claimed that Andrew Ainsworth infringed on its copyrights by making and selling Stormtrooper helmets and body armour. He originally was hired on the set of the Star Wars movies to make storm trooper helmets and armor using story boards and clay models created for the film. In 2004, he made more helmets, without permission, and sold them to fans going to conventions and Star Wars events.  Lucas sued him successfully in the United States, claiming copyright infringement.  But when Lucas urged an appellate court in Britain to enforce the U.S. judgment for $20 million, Lord Justice Jacob observed: “That sum sounds strange to English ears given that [Ainsworth] only sold about $US14,500 worth” of helmets. The British court was equally nonresponsive to Lucas’ copyright infringement claim. After reviewing copyright legislation and cases, the Lord Justices determined that the Stormtrooper helmet is not a “sculpture” or a “work of artistic craftmanship”, under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act of 1988, so as to give it British copyright protection. The justices...

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The Biederman Blog is now ranked NUMBER ONE on Feedspot's Top 20 Entertainment Law blogs (May 2018). It is very exciting to top this list. We are extra proud of number six - Entertainment Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark. Mr. Firemark graduated from Southwestern in 1992, and is a top entertainment blogger and webinar presenter in addition to being a world class entertainment attorney!

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