Paying To Play

Industry spreads subpoenas and fear over music copying.

When singer-songwriter John Hiatt performed with his band in Westbury, N.Y., this month, he did what every performer on a promotional tour does: He announced that his new CD was available in stores.

“Or,” he added with an impish grin, “you could download it from a friend.” As his audience laughed knowingly, he wagged his finger. “But be careful!”

What Hiatt was referring to, of course, was the sharing of music files over the Internet, and the controversial response of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Since June, it has sent Internet service providers and a handful of colleges more than a thousand subpoenas demanding information about individuals who allegedly infringed on copyrights. The association has said it will begin suing violators this month, and expects in time that there will be thousands of lawsuits.

The National Law Journal has the latest here.


In Brooklyn, Fixing a ‘Corrupt’ Court System

The tale starts last October: A Brooklyn mother, afraid she’d lost a custody battle, was approached by a man in a municipal building and told that with a little cash, the judge could be persuaded to see things her way.
Flash to a hidden camera in the judge’s chambers – and a lawyer allegedly giving that judge some money and a box of Dominican cigars.

In April, Judge Gerald Garson was arrested on charges of accepting “money and gifts in exchange for giving preferential treatment” to him. This week, the Kings County district attorney, Charles Hynes, brought a new bribery charge against Judge Garson. He says more indictments are coming.

Thus begins the most recent bribery scandal in the Brooklyn courts, one that’s prompted a full investigation into judicial corruption and into the borough’s Democratic machine. Ultimately, it’s expected to overhaul judicial selection in New York, and perhaps provide a model for reform nationwide.

The Christian Science Monitor weighs in on the problem here. (My earlier posts about the scandal are here.)


What The British Think of American Tort Reform

Common Good, a new body led by Covington vice-chairman Philip Howard, is aiming to kill off the claim culture in the US. Jon Robins asks: is this public spirit, or just self-interest? . . .

[W]hen The Lawyer spoke to Howard, it was a big day for the group. It has such luminaries as former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and Senator George McGovern on its board. Today another political heavyweight, Senator Mike Enzi, was to introduce legislation geared towards reducing medical malpractice litigation by allowing states to Spilot [?] new ways to compensate patients for doctors’ errors. It is legislation backed by Common Good.

This long article from the UK’s The Lawyer.com is quite interesting, noting both how the current system is perpetuated by the huge political contributions of plaintiffs’ lawyers, and how the problem doesn’t seem to exist in Britain.

UPDATE: Here’s an article about a landmark British case denying recovery to “John Tomlinson, who was paralysed in May 1995 when he ignored warning signs and dived into a lake at Brereton Heath Country Park, Cheshire. Mr Tomlinson sued Congleton borough council and Cheshire county council for failing to prevent him from diving in the lake.” (via Overlawyered.com)


Fox Sues Humorist Al Franken Over Slogan

Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase “fair and balanced” in the title of his upcoming book.

Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Penguin to rename the book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” It also asks for unspecified damages.

Fox News registered “Fair & Balanced” as a trademark in 1995, the suit says.

The AP reports it here via the Washington Post.

UPDATE: The Drudge Report is reporting that Fox’s complaint contains the following allegations:

“Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality,” according to the complaint. “He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight.”

Lawyers for Fox who filed the complaint also take issue with Franken’s book cover because it “mimics the look and style” of two books written by Bill O’Reilly

The court papers refer to Franken, who is a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer, as a “parasite”

Franken is also accused of verbally attacking O’Reilly and Sean Hannity on at least two occasions, and of being “either intoxicated or deranged”…

I can’t confirm that independantly, so take it for what it is worth. Pretty vituperative, though.

UPDATE UPDATE: If The New York Times is to be believed, Drudge was completely accurate. See here.


High Court Justice Crusades For Mercy

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a striking departure from his court’s and the Bush administration’s hard line on crime, criticized the nation’s imprisonment policies Saturday and called for the repeal of mandatory-minimum sentences for federal crimes.

“Our resources are being misspent. Our punishments are too severe. Our sentences are too long,” Kennedy said in a speech at the American Bar Association convention in San Francisco.

I couldn’t agree more. Read all about it here from the San Francisco Chronicle.


“One For the Downloaders”

Judge rejects subpoenas in music-use case

BOSTON — A federal judge rejected an attempt by the recording industry to uncover the names of Boston College and MIT students suspected of online music piracy.

U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro said Friday that under federal rules, the subpoenas, which were issued in Washington, cannot be served in Massachusetts.

The RIAA called the problem “a minor procedural issue,” Boston.com reports here. (via Drudge)


Corporate Raiding Case Settles for $5.8M

“A $5.8 million settlement has been reached in a ‘corporate raid’ case in Delaware between two office supply companies, one of which allegedly hired away a slew of employees and took confidential information from the other,” The Legal Intelligencer reports here via Law.com.


Judge: Moussaoui, Reid Have Been Writing Letters to Each Other

What the fu . . . .?

The government has intercepted several recent attempts by Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid to communicate with each other, a judge said Friday.

Agents have seized at least one letter, and U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema, in an order dealing with Moussaoui’s protest of the seizing, revealed the existence of more attempts by the two confessed al Qaeda members to communicate.

Hell, why not just get them together to hold a little tea party with cucumber sandwiches? CNN reports it here.


California Lawsuits Test Obligations To the Disabled

Should a tiny shop on a hilly San Francisco street be forced to build a costly access ramp for the disabled? Must a rustic winery pave country lanes and a parking lot to welcome visitors in wheelchairs?

California, the leader in the U.S. disability rights movement, is grappling with these issues as the disabled test the limits of the law in a growing number court battles.

Reuters has the full story here via CNN.


Perkins Coie Sanctioned More Than $624k

The Seattle law firm that represented former Jore Corp. during the Ronan company’s lengthy and contentious bankruptcy in 2001 and 2002 recently was sanctioned by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Ralph Kirscher for not disclosing it had a conflict of interest in the case.

Kirscher ordered the firm, Perkins Coie LLP, to “disgorge” – or pay back to the bankruptcy court – some $624,000 in fees and an undetermined amount of costs the firm received from the bankrupt estate. It also will not be eligible to collect other compensation it billed Jore.

Perkins Coie billed the bankrupt Jore Corp. some $1.6 million in fees for 7,161 hours of legal work and $215,765 in expenses, court records state. Some of the expenses, but none of the fees, may be reimbursed to the law firm if Perkins Coie can show it paid for work the bankruptcy court otherwise would have performed.

The Missoulian.com has the story here. (via New York Lawyer)