May 20, 2019

Photographer Sues Clorox and its Ad Agency For Copyright Infringement

By Marc Jacobson

A prominent photographer was engaged by the defendants to create images to use in a certain specified manner. At the conclusion of the term of the license agreement, the defendants continued to use the images beyond the scope of the license, and for purposes not contemplated in the agreement. The defendants were warned by the plaintiff's lawyer that the continued use constituted willful infringement, and it appears that such use continued after the warning. The photographer brought suit in federal court for infringement, as well as for breach of contract. The defendants are scheduled to file an answer or move to dismiss on or before June 10, 2019. (Greenberg v. Dentsu McGarry Bowen, LLC & The Clorox Company, USDC SDNY, 1:19-cv-3364 (Broderick, J.)) The plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, and recovery of "Statutory damages, Actual Damages, Licensing fees, Direct and indirect profits and/or Punitive damages" arising out of the infringement.

The plaintiff alleges direct infringement, contributory infringement and vicarious infringement against the defendants, as well as "inducing infringement." Further, the plaintiff also alleges breach of contract.

The defendants approached the plaintiff to create images, consistent with her reputation and skill. The plaintiff alleges that she designed the platform on which the images were to be created. They were created, and a license agreement was executed, specifying the uses to be made of the images, specifically stating, for example, that no videos could be created based on these images.

After the expiration of the agreement, the defendants continued to use the images, including, for example in unauthorized videos. The defendants allegedly offered the images for permanent download as mobile wall paper, and other permanent uses, not specifically contemplated by the license agreement.

The plaintiff put the defendant on notice of its infringement, demanding that the use cease and desist. When that apparently didn't happen, the plaintiff filed suit.

The defenses to this claim will be interesting. My recollection is there is case law that suggests when a licensee uses an image beyond the scope of the license, that such use is not always a copyright infringement claim, but may only be a breach of contract claim, and that there is no copyright claim. If such a defense is successful here, since all the plaintiffs and the defendants have offices in New York, there will be no diversity of citizenship for the federal court to retain jurisdiction. Then this copyright case will be dismissed.

It appears, however, that the plaintiff's pleadings establish uses not just beyond the scope of the license, but also in a manner in which the copyright issue remains in the forefront. If so, then the issues for the defense revolve around fair use and related issues.

It will be an interesting case to follow.

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Conan O'Brien Settles Lawsuit Alleging Joke Theft

Conan O'Brien announced that he has settled a lawsuit against a freelance comedy writer "who had accused the late-night host of stealing jokes." With a trial looming on May 28th, the parties settled for terms that have not been disclosed, and O'Brien wrote that he "decided to forgo a potentially farcical and expensive jury trial in federal court over five jokes that don't even make sense anymore." The writer, Robert Alex Kaseberg, filed the lawsuit in 2015 based on the taking of jokes that he posted on his blog and Twitter account.

Felicity Huffman's Guilty Plea Could Bring Four Months in Jail

Actress Felicity Huffman has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She acknowledged that she paid $15,000 to arrange for a proctor to correct her daughter's SAT as she left the testing facility. It is unclear what penalty she will face come September when she is sentenced, as the conspiracy charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors have previously said that they would recommend four months for Huffman as well as a fine of $20,000 and a year of supervised release.

Judge in Bill Cosby Case Disputes Grounds for Appeal

The judge in Pennsylvania who presided over Bill Cosby's sexual assault case has rejected Cosby's attorney's arguments that Cosby did not receive a fair trial. Judge Steven T. O'Neill's decisions at trial, 11 of which Cosby's legal team have challenged on the basis that they factored into the jury's finding, will be reviewed by the higher court. One of the key factors to be reviewed was the judge permitting testimony from five additional women who testified that Cosby intoxicated and sexually assaulted them.

Russians Meddle With Vote in Children's Singing Contest

In Russia, "The Voice Kids" is a popular talent show for children to take the national stage and show their singing abilities. On Thursday, the channel that hosted the show announced that it would be canceling the result of the show's last season because of a "massive automated SMS spamming" that led 10-year-old Mikella Abramova to win. The full investigation has yet to conclude, but a preliminary investigation has shown that over 8,000 text messages from 300 phone numbers went into the automated system as votes for Abramova.


The Landmarks Commission May Give Landmark Status to Six Buildings Based on Historical Significance in the LGBTQ Community

New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission (Commission) is weighing landmark status for six sites throughout the city, including a storefront where the city's first gay theater sat, as well as the former home of writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The Commission's mission has grown from not just preserving buildings for their aesthetics but also to save and recognize them based on what occurred inside. The Commission is set to decide whether to begin the formal process for the sites, which would include public hearings and votes on official designation.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis

Following the steps of museums, such as the Tate Modern in London and the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) has announced that it will "stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin." Thus comes to an end the tie "between one of the world's most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties." The Met currently does not have plans to remove the Sackler name from the galleries, as protesters have demanded, but the announcement may spur other institutions to stop accepting gifts from the Sackler family as well.

Proposed Fur Ban Pits Animal Rights Advocates Against Black Ministers

Although the Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, has called for banning the sale of fur within the city as the "moral thing to do," there is a challenge to the proposal coming from black pastors and Hasidic leaders. They argue that the prohibition would "fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition." Joining their calls are the predictable "fur shop owners and garment manufacturers," but on the other side of the argument are the vocal animal rights advocates. With both sides having celebrity power and sway in the community, it is unclear whether the ban will come to pass. Regardless, it will have an impact on the fashion industry.

Caught in the Middle of #MeToo: Unions That Represent Accusers and Accused

Amar Ramasar, who was fired from the New York City Ballet for "sharing vulgar texts and sexually explicit photos of a dancer, has returned to work to the dismay of some women in the company. However, the same union represents them and has "a duty to protect the rights of members accused of misconduct", which has led some to argue that unions do more "to protect the jobs of the accused than the women who were their targets." When some women have tried, in the collective bargaining process, to advance their interests, they have been called traitors and accused of "betraying the union or solidarity."

Czech Culture Minister Resigns After Firing Museum Directors

Antonin Stanek, the Czech Republic's culture minister, has resigned after growing dissent toward his firing of the leaders of two museums. As a result of "lost confidence," he terminated the directors of the National Gallery in Prague and the Olomouc Museum of Art and accused the directors of financial mismanagement. The firings have caused international outcry as well with the heads of the Met and the British Museum denouncing the firings.


Robert Kraft Wins Critical Ruling: Video Evidence Is Thrown Out

The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, has achieved a victory in his Florida case involving two charges of solicitation of prostitution: the judge "threw out key evidence obtained in surveillance videos and a traffic stop." He has refused to accept a plea deal and has maintained that he did not commit an illegal act, even refusing to pay a fine and perform community service. The video, which police have said showed Kraft receiving sex acts, would have prejudice his trial, according to Kraft's lawyers, and the judge found the video evidence to be "seriously flawed" and thus not admissible.

Maximum Security's Owners Take Their Derby Fight to Court

Gary and Mary West, the owners of Maximum Security, have filed a lawsuit in federal court following the colt's disqualification in the Kentucky Derby. They allege that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and its stewards erred when they deemed the horse's apparent jumping of a puddle to be grounds for disqualification. As damages, the plaintiffs allege that they suffered an "emotional setback" and were deprived of the inevitable value increase that winning the Kentucky Derby would have brought to Maximum Security (which they have estimated the value jumping to approximately $20 million).

Jim Jordan Claims Vindication, but Inquiry Shows Rampant Abuse at Ohio State University with Team Doctor Sexually Abusing 177 Students

Investigators have found that coaches such as Jim Jordan, now a Republican congressman, knew of team doctor Richard Strauss' sexual abuse of nearly 200 students over the course of decades. Ohio State University's president called the findings "shocking and painful to comprehend," but Representative Jordan saw it as a clearing of his name. Jordan had previously come under fire for being a coach at the University during the years when the doctor was abusing students, and there were significant questions as to whether Jordan knew or should have known about the abuse. Wrestlers who worked with Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s continue to assert that Jordan knew of Strauss' predatory behavior.

Tiger Woods' Success Promised to Diversity Golf, But It Didn't

When Tiger Woods first won the Augusta National in 1997, it was predicted that he would bring more diversity to the sport of golf. Now, with a total of 250 active players on the PGA Tour, three are of African-American descent. While there has been a slight uptick in the diversity of NCAA golf players, it has not translated to professional golfers, and Woods recently opined that there are many other activities that can grab children's attention and take them away from golf.

Horse Deaths at Santa Anita and Pimlico: Same Day, Same Track Owner

At two tracks owned by the Stronarch Group, there have been horse deaths in recent days. One occurred just 100 yards after the finish, and the second was a euthanization that occurred after a shoulder injury. The chief operating officer of the Stronarch Group has vowed that the comapny is looking to improve the sport in any way possible, but the deaths come at a time when Californians are gathering signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would ban horse racing. One statistic that supports the ban is that, in 2018, nearly 10 horses a week died on average at American racetracks.

Manchester City Facing One-Season Ban from Champions League

The Champions League has been investigating whether Manchester City, the winner of this year's Premier League title, has violated financial monitoring rules, and it was announced that the club may face a one year ban for its lack of cooperation with investigators. The club released a statement claiming to have "comprehensive proof" that it did not violate the rules, but the Champions League organization has continued its investigation into whether Manchester City disguised "the source of revenue from sponsorship deals tied to the club's owners in Abu Dhabi" as there are cash limits for contributions and a concern that sponsorship deals may have been inflated beyond the fair market rate.


Supreme Court Allows Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple to Proceed

The Supreme Court allowed an antitrust class action against Apple to proceed. The Court, through its majority opinion authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, found that "consumers should be allowed to try to prove that the technology giant had used monopoly power to raise the prices of iPhone apps. While the action still faces obstacles for proceeding, it may affect Apple's App Store as well as rivals' stores as the action claims that Apple's taking of a 30 percent commission plus barring developers from selling their apps on other platforms constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.

Trump Pardons Ex-Media Mogul Conrad Black

President Trump signed a pardon of the former media mogul Conrad Black, who in 2007 was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. Black spent three and a half years in prison for the crimes after having previously been the head of an international newspaper empire. The charges came after he was involved in a scheme to "siphon off millions of dollars from the sale of newspapers owned by Hollinger Inc., where he was chief executive and chairman." He paid $4.1 million in restitution, and following his pardon, he expressed hope to rebuild his fortune.

Trump's Latest Move Takes Straight Shot at Huawei's Business

The Commerce Department has announced restrictions on Huawei's access to American technology in what amounts to the most direct shot that the Trump administration has taken against the Chinese telecommunications company. If Huawei is cut off from its suppliers, a partner at a prominent law firm and an assistant secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama has warned, it would be "the trade equivalent of a nuclear bomb." It is not yet known how the new regulations will affect Huawei's business, but the company will be forced to get the Commerce Department's special permission to "buy American components and technology."

Trump Wants Tales of Social Media Censorship

The Trump administration unveiled a website on Wednesday that asks people to share their contact information and stories about being censored on social media. The move is seen as an escalation of the "conflict with the tech industry" but also an opportunity to further the president's "data-gathering operation that could help him mobilize potential supporters during his re-election campaign." When users submit their stories, they are prompted to provide their first and last name, age, ZIP code, phone number, and citizenship status.

Accused of 'Terrorism' for Putting Legal Materials Online

The State of Georgia sued Carl Malamud for posting the Official Code of Georgia Annotated online, claiming that it was part of a "strategy of terrorism." Malamud, believing in open access to government records, has asked the Supreme Court to review the case after a federal appeals court ruled against Georgia. The case presents a far-reaching impact, as approximately 20 "other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted," and Malamud's group, Public.Resource.Org, has argued that citizens must have access to "the raw materials of our democracy."

San Francisco Police Raid on Journalist Alarms Free Press Advocates

When Bryan Carmody revealed a police report "about the mysterious death" of San Francisco's public defender, he did not expect that a dozen police officers would break down his door with guns drawn and handcuff him for six hours as they searched his home and seized "laptops, phones, and hard drives." The raid has caused free press advocates to question how police obtained the search warrant, which was purportedly to recover "stolen or embezzled" property, and why two FBI agents were present for the raid on Carmody's home. Carmody has indicated that he will pursue an action against the city's police department and has requested that all of his equipment be returned to him. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco has taken a stand against the abuse of technology when it comes to facial recognition software by voting to block its use by "police and other agencies."

Sweden Reopens Rape Case Against Julian Assange

The Swedish government has announced that it is reopening its investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently serving a prison term in Britain. As the United States has been seeking to extradite Assange, a process that is expected to be "prolonged and complex," British officials will have to determine whether to extradite Assange to Sweden or the U.S.; however, even Sweden could not send Assange to the U.S. without Britain's consent.

Your 5G Phone Will Not Hurt You, but RT America Wants You to Think Otherwise

With many analysts calling 5G, or fifth generation, a technology that will bring a huge competitive edge for nations that use it, the Russian network RT America has been airing segments that link the signals from 5G devices to "brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors and Alzheimer's disease." There is no scientific support for any of these claims, and the message is coming from an organization that U.S. intelligence agencies have identified "as a principal meddler in the 2016 presidential election."

General News

Trade Dispute Between U.S. and China Deepens

The trade dispute between the United States and China continues to intensity despite roiling the markets. Last week Beijing said that it would increase tariffs on approximately $60 billion of American goods, and the Trump administration has detailed its plan to tax "nearly every sneaker, computer, dress, and handbag that China exports to the United States." President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping are set to meet in Japan in June, but the stakes for the negotiations appear to only be rising as their meeting date approaches. In a sign that the Trump administration has recognized the harm to the economy and therefore the chances for re-election in 2020, President Trump lifted metal tariffs and delayed the imposition of levies on automotive companies.

Viktor Orban, Hungary's Far-Right Leader, Gets Warm Welcome From Trump

One of Europe's leading nationalists, Viktor Orban, the authoritarian prime minister of Hungary, received a warm welcome at the White House from President Trump. While Orban typically receives a "chilly reception" from European leaders, Trump's embrace was an affirmation of Orban's "alternative to liberal democracy." Trump has received other world leaders who have been known as strongmen, including "autocrats from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines," Kazakhstan, and North Korea. Orban has been known to be playing a "double game" when it comes to supporting Israel and even Hungary's own Jewish population. In November, he announced that the country would donate $3.4 million to fight anti-Semitism in Europe, but the following day he refused to criticize a magazine that depicted the leader of Hungary's largest Jewish organization "showered with bank notes."

Tempers Fraying, Justices Continue Debate on Executions and Split Over Power of Precedent

The Supreme Court overturned a 40-year-old precedent and ruled "that states may not be sued in the courts of other states." While the effects of the ruling are not likely to be consequential, "as most states already grant sovereign immunity to other states," the decision had the conservative justices in the majority and prompted Justice Stephen Breyer to write: "Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next." Additionally on Monday, the Justices "continued a heated debate on how to handle last-minute requests in death penalty cases." Several of the Justices released opinions about recent death penalty cases, particularly relating to the permission of spiritual advisers in the death chamber, and many have disagreed about how to deal with "inexcusably late stay applications."

Trump's Immigration Crackdown Has Blunted Police Efforts to Be Tough on Crime

While President Trump has touted his immigration reform efforts as being effective at rooting out crime, law enforcement officials have said that "by worsening major delays in a visa program that is intended to help the police pursue violent criminals," his program "has undercut his own tough-on-crime agenda." The U visa program, which was created in 2000, allows undocumented immigrants temporary residency and a path to citizenship "if they cooperate with law enforcement officials after being a victim or a witness to violent crimes." As a result of the backlog in the immigration system, however, "immigrants could be deported as they wait for their visas," and fewer immigrants are applying for the visas.

Justice Department Seeks to Appeal Emoluments Case Against Trump

The Department of Justice has moved to challenge a district court judge's ruling that permitted congressional Democrats "to proceed with a lawsuit claiming that President Trump had violated the Constitution by profiting from his businesses while in office." As the case involves legal questions of "extraordinary significance", according to Judge Emmet Sullivan, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will review the case before it proceeds into the discovery phase.

House Panel Investigates Obstruction Claims Against Trump Lawyers

The Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives is investigating whether President Trump's lawyers and family "helped obstruct the panel's inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony." One of the origins of the inquiry is Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, who testified before Congress and may have given false testimony to Congress at the direction of Trump's attorneys. In recent weeks, the Intelligence Committee has sent document requests to four lawyers tied to President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., the Trump Organization, and Ivanka Trump. While the attorneys thus far have "balked at the committee's requests, the chairman, Adam Schiff, is "prepared to issue a subpoena to compel cooperation if necessary." Regardless, those in the Trump inner circle have continued to argue that Congress cannot "pursue an unauthorized 'do-over'" of Robert Mueller's investigation or any other Department of Justice investigation.

Judge Signals Skepticism About Trump's Bid to Block Subpoena for Financial Records

In a hearing in the district court of the District of Columbia, Judge Amit Mehta expressed sharp skepticism about President Trump's personal lawyer attempting "to block a congressional subpoena seeking years of financial records from Mr. Trump's accounting firm" and suggested that a decision could be handed down as early as next week. The case is just one of the many venues where Trump has vowed to "systematically stonewall" all of the subpoenas and document requests that congressional Democrats have pursued. According to Trump's attorney in the hearing, the Constitution does not allow Congress to "investigate potential presidential corruption, because determining whether someone broke the law is a function reserved for the executive branch," a logic that Judge Mehta pointed out would lead "many famous historical congressional oversight investigations" to be illegitimate.

Barr Assigns U.S. Attorney in Connecticut to Review Origins of Russia Inquiry

Attorney General William Barr has assigned John Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. President Trump had called for the investigation despite law enforcement officials arguing that scrutiny of the Trump campaign "was lawful" and justified. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice continues its separate investigation into whether investigators improperly used "wiretap applications and informants" and "whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions." According to a source familiar with the investigation, Durham will only be reviewing the origins of the investigation and has not opened any criminal inquiry.

Justice Department Stops the Food and Drug Administration From Regulating Death-Penalty Drugs

Opening the door for states to import death-penalty drugs, regardless of approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Justice has declared that the FDA does not have "legal authority to regulate drugs that are used to carry out lethal injections." The basis for the decision, coming from Steven Engel, the head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, is that death-penalty drugs are not a "drug" or "device" as defined in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Previously, based on prior court decisions, the FDA had impounded shipments of the drugs that Arizona and Texas had sought to import.

Senate's Churn of Confirmations Brings Complaints of a 'Legislative Graveyard'

The United States Senate has confirmed its 40th Circuit Court judge and has nearly passed the milestone of appointing a quarter of the Circuit Court system with conservative leaning judges under President Trump. Critics of the Republican majority Senate, such as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have characterized the Senate's focus on nominations as a derailing of "the Senate's legislative agenda" and a diminishment of "the legacy of the upper chamber" of Congress. Given that the House of Republicans is held by Democrats, it is unclear whether the two chambers could achieve compromise and effectively legislate, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has vowed that so long as he is the majority leader, he gets "to set the agenda."

House Equality Act Extends Civil Rights Protections to Gay and Transgender People

The House of Representatives has passed legislation that "would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity." The bill was passed after the Trump administration has taken steps to undo the policies of the preceding administration toward gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, such as "barring transgender recruits from serving in the military or formally rejecting complaints filed by transgender students who are barred from restrooms that match their gender identity." It is virtually guaranteed that the Senate and the White House will reject the bill.

Left and Right Agree That on Criminal Justice They Were Both Wrong

There is a new bipartisan consensus on criminal justice: "the old consensus was wrong." Prominent Democrats and Republicans alike have begun to have a reckoning with the old system, as it led to people of color being "many times more likely than white people to be incarcerated." Many on both sides have now sought to reduce or abolish mandatory minimum sentences, eliminate cash bail, and impose alternatives to prison for nonviolent crimes.

Alabama Governor Signs Abortion Ban Bill as Missouri's Lawmakers Pass Bill Criminalizing Abortion at About 8 Weeks

The Republican-controlled legislature in Alabama passed a bill prohibiting abortions at every stage of pregnancy, leaving the only exception as when a woman's health is at "serious" risk and rejecting the customary exceptions of rape and incest. The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has signed the bill into law. If the inevitable challenge in court fails and the law stands, doctors "could be charged with a felony and face up to 99 years in prison for performing the procedure." Meanwhile, in Missouri, lawmakers passed after heated debate a bill prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. It is expected that there will be imminent legal challenges to these new laws.

Former CIA Officer Sentenced to 20 Years After Spying for China

Kevin Patrick Mallory, a former CIA officer, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison "for passing secrets to China in return for $25,000." He had faced life in prison, but Judge T. S. Ellis III determined that it was too harsh, despite the fact that he had "endangered the lives of specific human assets who put their own safety at risk for our national defense." The jury convicted him after a nearly two-week trial in Alexandria, Virginia. At the time when he was recruited, he was in debt and behind in paying his mortgage, and shortly after being recruited he traveled to China and received a phone that allowed him to securely communicate with his Chinese counterparts. Prosecutors found classified documents on his phone and confirmed that he had transmitted multiple documents to the Chinese.

SAT's New 'Adversity Score' Will Take Students' Hardships Into Account

The College Board has announced that it will not only assess students' math and verbal skills, but also their "educational and socioeconomic backgrounds" at a time when the fairness of testing has come under scrutiny. The company, which administers the SAT tests nationwide, will have a new rating called an adversity score, which rates the students on 15 factors, such as the quality of their high schools and the crime rates and poverty levels of their neighborhoods. It will not affect the test scores, but be reported to college admissions officials as part of the data set for the taker.

Eric Garner Death Was 'Not a Big Deal' to Police Commander

Upon learning of the death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July 2014, a police lieutenant replied that it was "Not a big deal", as the police were "effecting a lawful arrest." There were gasps when the texts were read allowed during a "police disciplinary hearing for Officer Daniel Pantaleo", who is accused of recklessly using a chokehold that led to Mr. Garner's death after he was detained on the suspicion that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.

The National Rifle Association is Becoming a Sputtering Cash Machine

The New York Times obtained tax records of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which show that the longtime chief executive, Wayne LePierre, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury men's wear while the "largely ceremonial president, Oliver L. North, had a contract worth millions of dollars a year." The organization has increasingly relied on "cash infusions" totaling over $206 million since 2010. The New York State Attorney General Letitia James is in the process of investigating the NRA's tax-exempt status in New York State and has ordered the organization to maintain all relevant records.

Their Islands Are Being Eroded, and So Are Their Human Rights

Last week the United Nations received "a landmark claim" that argues that, "Australia, by failing to take adequate steps to reduce carbon emissions, has violated" the "fundamental human rights" of natives, "including the right to maintain their culture." The argument is the first attempt to put the weight of the United Nations behind "such a climate claim," even as other litigants have sued governments arguing that there was a "fundamental duty to ensure a livable environment." One key difference between the two approaches is that on islands like Masig Island, where natives live north of mainland Australia, there is erosion that is forcing them to relocate the graves of their ancestors, some of which go back six generations. The action calls for Australia "to help fund sea walls and other infrastructure that might save" the islands.

May 13, 2019

Week In Review

By Lisa Ornest
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


The Little Dutch Boy

If you want to see Louis C.K. (LCK) perform live, besides paying the consideration of money, you are now also party to a contract that states that he owns every single aspect of his performance, and you'd better not attempt to record the performance, commit any form of infringement, or else. The question is, or else what? While it's not only understandable but legally and morally correct to want to control the dissemination of one's art, it's also not clear the extent to which the "contract" would be enforceable. Further, is LCK really going to pay an average of $400 an hour for around the clock lawyers to chase alleged "infringers" against whom he can't prevail? Apparently many other comedians have already banned cell phones; LCK is just going a step farther.


Art with a Conscience

The Turner Prize, Britain's most "high-profile" award, has canceled the sponsorship of the Stagecoach Company, whose chairman is apparently a big homophobe. The Tate Museum has already stopped accepting financial donations from the Sacklers, of big pharma. They will have to make up the money elsewhere.

Artifact Repatriation

In 1958 repairs were done at Stonehenge to raise up one of the "trilithons" (a standing stone), that had fallen. In order to do this, they drilled ring-shaped holes in the stone, resulting in three three-foot cylinders. One of the guys working there took his home to Florida. Some time later, on the eve of his 90th birthday, he called England, and they sent someone to pick it up. England would love to get the other two back as well, if you know anything.

The Gilded Ages

The museums were started by the robber barons, not by the starving artists, and subversion has never been well funded. The art and artifact world is all about cutthroat craziness and obsession. Can it also be socially aware?§ion=Art%20%20Design

Our Lady

Some things can be put back together again; the question is, how?§ion=Arts

Public Service

Gucci, whose corporate owner pledged €100 million to help rebuild Our Lady, has also agreed to pay €1.25 billion to settle its tax bill with Italy. But I guess they had to reduce their income a little first.


New Rules for Intersex Athletes

In "women's" races, the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has ruled that women whose bodies produce excessive testosterone must regulate their testosterone levels for six months prior to and at the time of a race. They are tested. Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya is fighting this ruling, claiming that it hurts intersex athletes. She was born female and identifies as a woman, but her body produces more testosterone than most women. The CAS agrees that the ruling is discriminatory, but believes that such a rule is necessary for ultimate fairness. Semenya feels that the CAS has done nothing but try to impede her. However, it's not clear what her next legal step will be.

Maximum Security Breached

There were too many horses on the field. Twenty instead of fourteen. So Maximum Security got in another horse's way, they say. It was declared a foul, and for the first time in 145 years, they stripped a horse of its win. The owners, Gary West and his wife Mary, appealed, but the judges did not change their minds. The horse who ran second, Country House, was given the win at 65-1. There are photos, but it's hard to tell. The Wests may sue.

A New World Record

Originally Guinness was not going to give it to Jessica Anderson because she was wearing nurse's scrubs, and not a dress as stated in the rules, but it changed after protests ensued. Guinness has now awarded Anderson "fastest marathon wearing a nurse's uniform" for her time in the London Marathon on Sunday April 28th (3 hours, 8 minutes and 22 seconds). You see? People can change their minds.

Throw Back the Big Ones

An aspiring sports agent and an Adidas employee were convicted of conspiring to commit bribery, by paying college basketball coaches to funnel promising players to them. However, these guys were very small potatoes, hardly even in the business.

Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods

Appearance of rewarding a business partner? Some people think so.

The Rain in Spain

It's one thing to teach new minor-league players English. It's another thing to make the big league players learn Spanish. Nevertheless, Derek Jeter has instituted Spanish lessons for his team, the Florida Marlins, which he also attends. It's making everyone like each other a little better. Jeter has also introduced life skills classes, like cooking and financial planning. They should give him Betsy Devos' job.§ion=Sports

I'm Late!

Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA who has been banned from soccer for six years, apparently left about 200 watches in his office, which he wants them back. FIFA won't give them to him; or rather, it gave back only about 120. The watches are worth from $5,000 to $20,000 each. Blatter kept them there because, he says, he thought they would be safer in the well guarded FIFA offices than at his apartment in Zurich. FIFA claims that it gave back everything and that Blatter signed a receipt to that effect. Apparently there is also a vintage Mercedes in the downstairs parking garage left there by Chuck Blazer, who is now deceased. Blatter says that FIFA owes him $12 million, but he'll forego that if it returns his watches. Watches seem to be a lingua franca of bribery, and players have been forced to return them to the gifters.


Federal Trade Commission Wants to Protect Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission wants Congress to regulate tech companies' mining of our private data for their own financial gain. Hah.

Deep Throat

A U.S. intelligence analyst is being prosecuted in the U.S. for leaking alleged secrets to the press. The article doesn't specify what information, just that this is the third case where someone was prosecuted since George W. Bush, and that the number of leaks accelerated under Obama. Although it doesn't quite say the prosecution of leak cases. Daniel Everette Hale is the Air Force officer at issue. He must have been deeply concerned about something.

War is Peace

"'Privacy is for everyone,'" says Google. It is touting "incognito mode," which limits the amount of shared information of browsers, but incognito mode was actually added about a decade ago, and will not be the default. Users have to work to get it. It's really not clear that anything will change except the user's impression of having more privacy.

Europe Policing Online Speech

It's a slippery slope. At what point does legitimate dissent become characterized as hate speech or terrorism and intellectuals and other non-violent protesters end up in jail?

Not As I Do

Aung San Suu Kyi was the daughter of Myanmar's founding general and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest, making her a symbol of "resistance to tyranny". Now she is the country's "civilian leader", and she herself is trying to eradicate dissent by jailing anyone who disagrees with her (as well as committing other atrocities). The Nobel Committee may want to demand its prize back. Anyway, I'm glad the two released reporters look healthy, but this is not likely to remove the dangers facing journalists in that country.

Madame X

Geoffrey Rush won his defamation action against Murdoch's Nationwide News. He's already been awarded $600,000 and could be in for a few millions more. Nationwide is now appealing on the basis that testimony from the actress Yael Stone was not heard, and that she wasn't even identified, but only referred to as "witness X." She has a few things to say. Sounds like Rush was a jerk. Stay tuned.


A 22 year old man was arrested in Kazakhstan for holding up a blank sign. He was released, but this was despite the fact that the law supposedly grants the right to "'peacefully and without arms assemble, hold meetings, rallies and demonstrations,'" etc. In the U.S., if he was black, he would likely be dead.

What Orwell Didn't Know

There is a book with the above title. As I recall, it was kind of beside the point, like supercilious graduate students who try to dis Einstein. Yet there is one thing Orwell really didn't know, which was that the government wouldn't have to install surveillance, that we would just bring it into our homes, and then buy whatever soap powder it told us to. Now so many of us have installed Alexa and her ilk, whose electronic memory of every single thing about us is available to law enforcement, not to mention the aforementioned soap powder manufacturers.

General News


Trump asked Comey to "go easy," and that didn't work. Now the President of the United States has ordered other White House "officials" to ask Donald F. McGahn II, Trump's first White House counsel, to state publicly that he never believed that Trump obstructed justice, as he supposedly did in testimony to Mueller's office. That isn't working either. Even after they "asked" a second time, and now Giuliani is bad-mouthing McGahn. The thing is, it doesn't matter what anyone, even McGahn, believes. What matters is evidence. So, pursuant to the White House's advice, McGahn is also refusing to turn over documents demanded under one of the House subpoenas.

The Three Branches

Spurned when they tried to be polite, and unsure of prevailing on the Teapot Dome scandal-time provision (Section 6103), five House committees have now simply served subpoenas. The response (or lack thereof) to those subpoenas can be addressed by the courts. I wonder if it would have been more effective to have a particular, uh, irregularity in mind prior to issuing process. Courts don't usually approve of fishing expeditions. Anyway, we'll see.

Pass the Buck

First Trump said Mueller should not testify and Barr said he could. Then Don Jr. was subpoenaed. Then Trump said that he had no objection and that it would be up to Barr, the same Barr whom the House Judiciary Committee has voted to hold in contempt. The House also does not believe that who testifies is up to Barr. It is up to the House, whether Barr is Mueller's "boss" or not. Democrat Jamie Baskin (a former law professor) has suggested that Trump doesn't really understand about separation of powers. Republican Steve Scalise accuses the Democrats of running a "kangaroo court". Speaker Pelosi agrees with Jerry Nadler that the country is in a "constitutional crisis". It would be a joke, if only it weren't so real.

Blame Obama

If the House votes to hold Barr in contempt, the Justice Department will advise Trump to invoke executive privilege over the redacted portions. It's Rosemary Woods all over again, except that in those days, Congress was not also a bunch of wanna-be Nixons. McConnell blames it all on Obama for allowing an "emboldened" Kremlin.

Nyeah Nyeah (or is it Nyet, Nyet)

The House voted to hold Barr in contempt, so Trump invoked executive privilege regarding the redactions. Politics at a very sophisticated level.

Remedial Classes

Barr accuses the FBI of "spying" on the Trump campaign. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, has offered to give Barr a private seminar in the origins of the investigations and the lawful wiretap of Carter Page, and the difference between spying and investigating.

A Tisket, a Tasket

So apparently Trump didn't really lose a billion dollars, he was only pretending. It was just claimed business "losses" and "write-offs," you know, like all real estate developers pretend to have. "Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the ten years" from 1985 to 1994. Nice history with charts and graphs that itemize the losses.

Shanahan as Pentagon Chief

You know, the guy whose company put 737s in the air; whose "Dreamliner" plane may not be safe; who wants to use defense money to build a wall; and who wants to have his agency, the Pentagon, push for lower standards in the drinking water? Another brilliant appointment.

Bon Voyage Ukraine Trip

Well, he changed his mind.

The Scarlet Letter, Ban on Abortion After Six Weeks

This does not deserve rational discussion. It is irrationality, scapegoating, the politics of vengeance and vindictiveness, viciousness, resentment, hypocrisy, hysteria, and hatred, all cloaked in a veil of faux sanctity. It's about punishing women for their sexuality and that is all.

Admitting Privileges

The Center for Reproductive Rights is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a Louisiana law requiring every doctor performing abortions to have admitting privileges, like the law struck down in Texas three years ago. Louisiana is down to three clinics as it is, and it's difficult to get an appointment, especially since there is a 24 hour waiting period.

Women Who Actually Want Children Can't Even Obtain Sufficient Pre-Natal Care

In the U.S., African-American, Native American, and Alaska Native women die during pregnancy at a rate three times higher than white women. So says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Never Mind Coal: Plenty of Jobs in the Asbestos Industry

Despite memos from scientists, which deplored the Environmental Protection Agency's review as "seriously flawed" and urged an outright ban of asbestos, Trump's "EPA" has decided that asbestos is not really that bad, and if you have a legitimate business purpose and want to use asbestos, just ask. We're here to help. Asbestos is no longer manufactured in the U.S., but it is in fact imported to be used in making things like household bleach, bulletproof vests, and electrical insulation. I didn't know that. Pretty soon it will be back in our crawlspaces. Wanna bet?

Iran Sanctions

Trump is seeding wars everywhere.

China Trade Sanctions

These are going to hurt U.S. consumers pretty badly.

Venezuala Sanctions

Pompeo offering to lift sanctions against officials who abandon Maduro. Yet how would that work exactly?

Driving While Black

Traffic stop for failing to signal ends in the arrest and death of the driver, an African-American woman. The video apparently shows the officer acting like a hopped-up sadistic maniac.

No Soup for You/Let them Eat Chobani

Well, I think they've changed their minds by now and have decided not to publicly shame and humiliate students over the fact that their parents can't pay their lunch fees. From what I remember about school lunches, you couldn't give them away. Yet Chobani is going to pay the bill, which could start a trend.

The China Syndrome

They are shutting down the last still operating reactor at Three Mile Island, not out of social conscience and intelligence, but just because it's not earning its keep. Many jobs will be lost, but you know what? There are plenty of things that need doing in this country to keep everyone busy without having nuclear power plants. The plant will take "decades" to cool down, and the real dismantling won't begin until 2074.

Bring Your Sun Screen

The U.S. pressured the Arctic Council, a group made up of representatives from eight Arctic countries and regional indigenous groups, to issue a statement regarding the state of things in that neck of the woods that makes no mention of climate change or the Paris Agreement. This, despite the fact that a majority of the Council believes that climate change is actually a real problem, particularly in the rapidly heating Arctic. Nevertheless, when Pompeo spoke, it was regarding his concern about "expanding Chinese influence in the region," and not dying polar bears.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

A U.N. report finds that as many as one million species are currently in danger of extinction. The report also finds that nature "provides some $24 trillion of non-monetized benefits to humans each year," in the way of, e.g., absorbing carbon dioxide, purifying drinking water, and plants that are the source of medicines. Not to mention food and beauty. Things are so bad that "piecemeal efforts" won't be enough. BTW, ivory poachers killed nearly 7,000 elephants in Mozambique between 2009 and 2011 alone. It's all happening so fast.

Tyger Tyger Burning Bright

The polar bears and penguins are not going to make it, and neither are the few remaining Bengal tigers, whose native habitat is marshland where the sea level is inexorably rising. Of course, they may be hunted to extinction first.

Let Those Without Sin . . .

The Sultan of Brunei states that the government will not execute homosexuals and adulterers by stoning them to death, although there is still the possibility of whipping and amputation. The Sultan says the moratorium against such shenanigans will continue despite the fact that the laws were formally renewed last month. BTW, the Sultan owns the Dorchester in London, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Hotel Bel-Air, so plan your trips accordingly. The Sultan himself lives in a 1,788 room palace, and he runs the country as an "absolute monarchy". So, you know, he could change his mind at any time.

May 6, 2019

Week In Review

By Chantelle A. Gyamfi
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Sundance Founder Pleads Guilty to Child Sex Abuse

Sterling Van Wagenen, a founder of the Sundance Film Festival, pleaded guilty in Utah County to one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The case came to light after he was recorded apologizing to a man he admitted having groped more than 25 years ago. Mr. Van Wagenen, 71, was charged with molesting a young girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015 - when she was between 7 and 9 years old. This was not the first allegation of child sexual abuse against him - Sean Escobar, who was friends with two of Mr. Van Wagenen's sons, said that Mr. Van Wagenen had touched his genitals during a sleepover at the director's house in the early 1990s. Mr. Van Wagenen eventually admitted to a Salt Lake County sheriff's detective that he had touched the boy inappropriately, but the authorities dropped the case after Mr. Escobar's parents said they did not want to press charges. Last year, Mr. Escobar reached out to Mr. Van Wagenen, who agreed to meet with him. Mr. Van Wagenen apologized for what he had done, and said that nothing like it had happened before or since. Mr. Escobar recorded the conversation on an iPhone he had hidden and then released the recording to the Truth & Transparency Foundation, an investigative website that focuses on religious reporting, thinking it might spur any other victims to come forward. Shortly afterward, the girl did.

HBO Argues with Jackson's Estate Over Film

Two months after HBO broadcast "Leaving Neverland," which detailed allegations of child molestation against Michael Jackson, Jackson's estate has said HBO's broadcast of "Leaving Neverland" violated a 1992 agreement. The 1992 agreement was made between Mr. Jackson and HBO for a concert film from Mr. Jackson's tour, in which HBO agreed that it "shall not make any disparaging remarks" about him. In response, HBO called the estate's petition a "poorly disguised and legally barred posthumous defamation claim" and stated that not only had the deal expired, the film was protected by the First Amendment. John Branca, a longtime lawyer for Jackson and one of the executors of the estate, said the estate was considering legal action against Dan Reed, the director of the film, but gave no details about the legal grounds for such a suit because technically, a dead person cannot be defamed under the law.


Court Lets Museum Keep Nazi-Looted Painting

United States District Court Judge John Walter ruled that a Spanish museum can keep an Impressionist painting, rejecting a claim by relatives of a German Jew who was forced to sell the painting before fleeing the Nazis. The federal court held that ownership was governed by Spanish law, which allows buyers to retain works they purchased if they did not possess "actual knowledge" the works had been stolen, a position held by both the Madrid museum possessing the painting, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the prior owner. In the ruling Judge Walter stated that "although the 'red flags' should have raised the baron's suspicions, they fall well short of demonstrating the baron's actual knowledge, i.e. that the baron had certain knowledge that the painting was stolen, or that there was a high risk or probability that the painting was stolen".

Chicago Symphony Ends Its Longest Strike

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has ended the longest strike in the orchestra's 128-year history. The strike, which lasted almost seven weeks, ended because of the resolution of a major issue for the musicians - their pension plan. The orchestra's musicians and board agreed to a new contract that will shift the players from their defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution plan, similar to a 401(k). The orchestra's management had said that the existing pension plan had grown too costly. The players countered that the proposed alternative, in which the orchestra would put a set amount of money into individual retirement accounts, would shift investment risk to the musicians.
The two sides compromised and the orchestra's management said that when current players switch to the new defined-contribution plan and agree to invest their retirement accounts prudently, the orchestra will guarantee that their benefits at retirement will be the same as what they would have earned under the old pension plan, which is being frozen. However, this option will not be available to future players. Those hired after July 1, 2020, will immediately move into the new plan, in which 7.5 percent of their base salary will be placed into retirement accounts.

Mayor of Wildwood, NJ Says the Town Will Still Play Racist's Song

The town of Wildwood, NJ has a daily ritual - every morning at 11am, the boardwalk's loudspeakers blast "The Star-Spangled Banner'' followed by singer Kate Smith's famous version of "God Bless America.'' While the ritual is a beloved local tradition, it has come under scrutiny after recent revelations that Smith's recording catalog featured racist songs. Smith, who died in 1986, was one of the most popular singers of her time. She recorded almost 3,000 songs during her career but was most closely associated with "God Bless America", which was written by Irving Berlin during World War I but was first performed by Smith on her radio show in 1938. Starting in 1969, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team began playing Smith's "God Bless America," substituting it for "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games. Smith also performed the song live at many Flyers games, including the one in which the team won its first Stanley Cup in 1974. Her association with the team became so strong that the Flyers erected a statue of the singer in front of their arena in 1987. The mayor of Wildwood, Ernie Troiano Jr., says that the town does not intend to change tradition because "It is one of the most patriotic songs that was ever recorded". This vastly differs from the stance taken by the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers to stop playing Smith's version of the song at their games after each team learned about the offensive songs, which were recorded in the 1930s. Mr. Troiano stated in response to the backlash "I'm not the Flyers, and I'm not the Yankees. . . .I'm the city of Wildwood."

Whitney Artists Call for Board Member to Step Down

Several artists connected to the Whitney Museum of American Art -- including more than half of those selected for the coming Biennial -- have called for the resignation of a museum board member whose company sells tear gas that activists and the art publication Hyperallergic say was used on migrants at the Mexican border. 75 artists, including Dread Scott, Barbara Kruger, Cameron Rowland, Nan Goldin, Yvonne Rainer, Hans Haacke, Andrea Fraser and Laura Poitras, whose work is owned or has been exhibited by the Whitney, have signed a letter published this month by scholars and critics who urged the museum to remove Mr. Kanders from his position as a vice chairman of the board.

Baltimore's Mayor Resigns Amid Children's Book Scandal

Catherine Pugh, the mayor of Baltimore, has resigned amid the scandal involving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of children's books that she wrote and that the University of Maryland Medical System paid for while she was serving on its board of directors. Her resignation comes days after the Baltimore City Council proposed amending the city charter to make it possible to remove her, and after the F.B.I. raided her two homes and her office at City Hall. Pugh came under scrutiny in March, when The Baltimore Sun reported that she was one of nine members of the board of the University of Maryland Medical System who had profited personally from contracts with the hospital system.


South African "Hero" Runner Fights Hormone Testing on a Global Stage

South African runner Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympian and a celebrity in international sports, has spent years challenging proposed limits on female athletes. Semenya was only 18 when she won gold in the 800-meter race at the 2009 world track and field championships in Berlin. But she faced questions over her gender and was barred from competition and subjected to "sex tests" at the request of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field's world governing body. South African officials and others condemned the tests as racist and sexist, and the organization's handling of the matter was widely criticized. Last year, Semenya announced that she would challenge the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest court in international sports, to block a rule limiting permitted testosterone levels in female athletes, calling the rule "discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable." The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against her and held that female athletes who, like Semenya, have elevated levels of testosterone must take hormone suppressants to compete in certain races (more than 400 meters), arguing that the high levels of testosterone give athletes an unfair advantage.

Medical professionals have stated that since testosterone builds muscle - skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle - it may give a performance advantage even despite the fact that more than 10,000 men and boys running 400-meter races beat the best times the three female athletes who were the fastest 400-meter runners in history - and were not injecting testosterone - ever ran.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Fines Wynn Resorts

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission levied a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts but allowed the company to keep its state casino license and open its Boston-area resort as planned after executives failed to disclose years of allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn. Regulators also fined CEO Matthew Maddox $500,000 for his "clear failure" to investigate at least one misconduct complaint. Nevada regulators, after an investigation similar to Massachusetts' earlier this year, levied a $20 million fine on the company but also allowed it to retain its casino license. The Massachusetts commission in its report stated in part that the evidence "does not rise to the level" of revoking the company's license or calling for other major changes.

Video Showing Kraft at Spa Won't Be Released Before Trial

Judge Joseph Marx, a circuit court judge in Florida, broadened a previous order from another judge, who last week temporarily blocked the release of videos involving New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft and 24 other men charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Judge Marx's order covers videos of all 25 men in the case and surveillance videos taken last fall outside of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, however, still photographs are not covered by the order. Judge Marx said the videos can be released once one of these conditions occurs: trial juries are sworn in each case; the cases are resolved by plea agreement; the state drops the charges; or at a time when the judge finds the fair trial rights of the men are not at risk.

Federal Judge Overturned Ex Penn-State President's Child Endangerment Conviction

Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick overturned the misdemeanor child endangerment conviction of Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State, for his actions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, one day before Mr. Spanier was scheduled to report for a two-month prison term. Mr. Spanier is one of three university officials prosecutors sought to punish for failing to go to law enforcement after being told of Mr. Sandusky's conduct. In his appeal, Mr. Spanier argued that he was improperly charged under a 2007 law for events that occurred in 2001, when he learned of a complaint about a boy showering with Mr. Sandusky. Judge Mehalchick held that prosecutors must use a 1995 version of the law, which was in place at the time of the incident in 2001, not the 2007 law. Prosecutors have three months to retry the case.

Apparent Derby Winner Disqualified

For the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby, the first horse to cross the finish line is not the winner. Never before had a foul voided an apparent win at the Derby. The horse, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference and stripped of his title, making Country House the winner. Three stewards at Churchill Downs made the difficult decision to disqualify Maximum Security for interfering with other horses after a 20-minute replay of the race. By all appearances, Maximum Security had outrun the field, remaining unbeaten and giving a hard-knocking trainer from the Mid-Atlantic, Jason Servis, and his up-and-coming jockey, Luis Saez, their first Derby victories. However, Maximum Security had jumped a puddle on the rain-soaked track and slid to the outside, not only impeding the progress of a rival, War of Will, but also forcing that colt's rider, Tyler Gaffalione, to squeeze his knees and wrangle the reins just to stay aboard.


Facebook Set to Create Privacy Positions as Part of Federal Trade Commission Settlement

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is negotiating a settlement with Facebook that would create new positions at the company focused on strengthening its privacy practices. Facebook has agreed to create a privacy committee to protect its users' data, as well as an external assessor who would be appointed by the company and FTC. The proposed commitments are part of negotiations between the FTC and Facebook to settle privacy violations that stemmed from claims that Facebook violated a 2011 privacy consent decree. Facebook has announced that it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the FTC, in what would be a record financial penalty by the United States against a technology company.

Facebook Bans Louis Farrakhan and Others it Deems to Be "Dangerous Individuals"

Facebook has banned seven of its most controversial users - including Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, and other "extremists" - claiming that they violated its ban on "dangerous individuals." Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Laura Loomer, along with Jones' site, Infowars, were also banned and the bans apply to Facebook's main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. The ban also prohibits anyone else from praising or supporting those who are banned, but Facebook claims that people can speak positively about the banned individuals if what they say otherwise complies with Facebook policies. Many of the users barred by Facebook remain active on YouTube and other social platforms.

WikiLeaks Founder Sentenced to 50 Weeks and Still Faces U.S. Charges

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been sentenced by a British court to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail when he took refuge in Ecuador's Embassy in London seven years ago. The United States is seeking Assange's extradition for prosecution, and an initial hearing on that request is pending. Officials in Sweden have left open the possibility that he could face criminal charges in that country as well. Assange was arrested on April 11th, after the Ecuadorean government withdrew its protection of him and allowed the police to take him out of the embassy in London. The same day, he appeared in court and was convicted on the charge of skipping bail. Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to hack into a Pentagon computer network; a federal indictment accuses him of helping an Army private to illegally download classified information in 2010, much of it about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which WikiLeaks then made public. Assange, who is being held in Belmarsh Prison in East London, argued that he should not be jailed for the offense, because he was effectively imprisoned in the embassy.

Assange Appears in Court for U.S. Extradition Hearing

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared via video in Westminster Magistrates Court in London from Belmarsh Prison for an initial hearing on whether he will be extradited to the United States to face prosecution in connection with one of the most serious leaks of classified material in American history. The U.S. indictment against him stems from a leak in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, mostly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange told the judge that he did not wish to surrender himself to be prosecuted in the United States for what he called "journalism that has won many awards." His next hearing is scheduled for May 30th.

Annapolis Newsroom Killer Pleads Insanity

Lawyers for Jarrod W. Ramos, the man accused of fatally shooting five people in the newsroom of The Capital Gazette, have entered an insanity defense (in addition to the July not guilty plea), saying that he should not be held criminally responsible for the shooting because of a mental disorder. Ramos faces five charges of first-degree murder for the shooting at the Annapolis, Md., newsroom. The attack is considered the deadliest attack against journalists in United States history. Before the attack, authorities said Ramos sent a number of letters, including one to The Capital Gazette's lawyer that said he planned to go there "with the objective of killing every person present."

New York City Board of Elections Removed Voter Data from Public Site

After fierce criticism and claims of privacy concerns, the New York City Board of Elections has removed the voter enrollment books that it had posted online, which had included every registered voter's full name, party affiliation and home address. The books were quietly posted in February, the first time they had been available on the Board of Elections website. Michael Ryan, the board's executive director, said that the board had made the decision during a conference call, partly in response to public outrage following the media reports.

New York Times Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Cartoon, then Disciplines Editor and Cancels Cartoon Contract

The New York Times has apologized for an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the newspaper's international edition depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind and skullcap-wearing U.S. President Donald Trump. A tweet from the New York Times Opinion account said that the image "was offensive, and it was an error in judgment to publish it." Following the backlash, the newspaper canceled its contract with CartoonArts International, the syndicate that provided the cartoon, and disciplined the editor (the editor has not been named) from The Times's Opinion section who decided to publish it. The New York Times also decided to update its bias training to include a focus on anti-Semitism, and the paper will no longer run syndicated cartoons created by artists who have no direct ties to it.

Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media Access After Easter Sunday Attacks and then its President Lifts It

The Sri Lankan government announced a block on social media - i.e. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram - following the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, citing the spread of misinformation and inflammatory content online as the reason for the block. Sri Lanka's defense ministry said the shutdown would extend until the government wraps up its investigation into the bomb blasts. This isn't the first time Sri Lanka has blocked social media. Last March, the government imposed a weeklong ban because of concerns that WhatsApp and other platforms were being used to fan anti-Muslim violence in the country's central region. The NetBlocks observatory said post-attack blackouts can be ineffective because a block "can add to the sense of fear and can cause panic" while also making it difficult for people to connect with their family and friends.

Then Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, called for the "immediate" lifting of a temporary ban on several social media networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It's still unclear how effective it was.

China Unlikely to Yield on Control of Data

It's been a year since Trump declared a trade war on China. As the two countries engage in trade talks and attempt to come to a trade deal, it seems increasingly unlikely that China will give ground in a crucial area that could determine which country wins the technology race. The United States and China are headed toward an agreement that could end the trade war and lift tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of products. China is offering to strengthen its laws surrounding intellectual property, direct large purchases of American goods, and reduce barriers for foreign companies in industries like finance and agriculture. It has also proposed giving foreign cloud computing companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple greater ability to operate independently in China. However, Chinese negotiators have so far refused to relax tight regulations (the "Chinese Firewall") that block multinational companies from moving data they gather on their Chinese customers' purchases, habits, and whereabouts out of the country.


Trump and Democrats Agree to a $2 trillion Infrastructure Plan

Trump and Democratic Congressional leaders agreed to work toward a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild roads and bridges, provide clean water, and extend broadband coverage. However, they have not agreed on how to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was "good will in the meeting" -- a marked departure from the last White House encounter between Trump, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which ended with Trump walking out in a huff. Pelosi said of the meeting, "we did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold".

Judge Rules That Emoluments Suit Against Trump Can Proceed

Washington District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that a group of Democrats in Congress can proceed with a lawsuit against Trump, alleging that his businesses violate a constitutional ban against gifts from foreign governments. Judge Sullivan ruled that Democrats' claims that Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the constitution provide a valid "cause of action" against the president.

Trump Administration Files Formal Request to Strike Down All of Obamacare

The Trump administration formally declared its opposition to the entire Affordable Care Act, arguing in a federal appeals court filing that the signature Obama-era legislation was unconstitutional and should be struck down. Democrats wasted no time responding to the filing - Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, a Democrat, said: "The Trump administration chose to abandon ship in defending our national health care law and the hundreds of millions of Americans who depend on it for their medical care. Our legal coalition will vigorously defend the law and the Americans President Trump has abandoned." Oral arguments in the appeals court are expected in July, with a possible decision by the end of the year, as the 2020 presidential campaign gets going in earnest. Whichever side loses is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Department of Labor Says That Workers at a Gig Company Are Contractors

The Department of Labor decided that one company's workers were contractors, not employees. Thus, the unidentified company -- whose workers, it appears, clean residences -- will not have to offer the federal minimum wage or overtime, or pay a share of Social Security taxes. While the decision officially applies only to that company, legal experts said that it was likely to affect a much larger portion of the industry. Under the Obama administration, the Labor Department issued guidance suggesting that gig workers (i.e. drivers for Uber and Lyft) were likely to be employees, a position it rescinded several months after Trump took office. David Weil, the administrator who issued the guidance under President Barack Obama, said in response, "it is outrageous for the Department of Labor to set policy in such an important area through the device of an opinion letter. . . .The Obama administration discontinued opinion letters precisely because they are a capricious tool for settling complicated regulatory questions."

William Barr Threatens Not to Testify Before House

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, threatened on to subpoena Attorney General William P. Barr if Barr refused to testify, a move that could lead to a major escalation of the long-running feud between the White House and Congressional Democrats over testimony and access to documents. Barr objected to the Democrats' proposed format for questioning him, and the dispute spilled out into the open on when Democrats revealed that Barr was threatening to skip the session if they did not change their terms. Rep. Nadler said they have no intention of doing so, stating "the witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period. . . .if Mr. Barr does not show up, then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena."

Mueller Objected to Barr's View of Investigation's Findings

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March to Barr, objecting to the latter's early description of the Russia investigation's conclusions that appeared to clear Trump on possible obstruction of justice. In the letter, Mueller "expressed a frustration over the lack of context" in Barr's presentation of his findings on obstruction of justice. In the investigative report, Mueller, after explaining that he had declined to make a prosecutorial judgment, citing as a factor a Justice Department view that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, detailed more than a dozen attempts to impede the inquiry. He also left open the door for charges after Trump leaves office.

Barr Defends Actions on Mueller Report

Attorney General Barr defended himself against criticism of his handling of the special counsel investigation. He denied misrepresenting the investigation's conclusions despite a newly revealed letter written by Special Counsel Mueller, protesting the initial summary of its findings. Barr dismissed the letter as "a bit snitty" and the controversy over it as "mind-bendingly bizarre." Democrats have accused Barr of deceiving Congress and acting as a personal agent for Trump rather than a steward of justice. Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie K. Hirono compared Barr to Trump's personal lawyer and the White House counselor. She stated in part: "Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office".

Pelosi Says Barr Lied to Congress - and It's a Crime

U.S. House of Representatives' Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Attorney General Barr of lying to Congress, telling reporters, "That's a crime." Shortly after Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Pelosi accused him of lying to lawmakers about interactions with Mueller after the special counsel ended a 22-month investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump's candidacy. Democrats say that Barr mislead Congress by testifying that he was unaware of any concern by the special counsel's team about Barr's initial characterization of the Mueller report, which led Trump to claim full exoneration. Barr failed to mention a letter he got from Mueller complaining that Barr's account did not "fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office's work." Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has threatened to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he does not provide a full, unredacted copy of Mueller's report and the underlying evidence.

Deputy Attorney General to Step Down

Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announced his resignation in a letter to Trump after serving only two years in the position.
Rosenstein had previously signaled that he would leave after the completion of the Mueller report. A large part of his tenure was overshadowed by the investigation and Rosenstein faced harsh criticisms from the left and the right. His resignation is to be effective as of May 11, 2019.

Trump Imposes Fees on Asylum Seekers

Last week, Trump took another step towards reshaping asylum law. In a memo sent to Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, and Attorney General Barr, Trump ordered new restrictions on asylum seekers at the Mexican border -- including application fees and work permit restraints -- and directed that cases in the already clogged immigration courts be settled within 180 days. The restrictions do not take effect immediately - Trump gave administration officials 90 days to draw up regulations that would carry out his order - but there was nothing in the memo indicating how the plans would be carried out in immigration courts.

Trump Sues Banks to Block Compliance With Subpoenas

Trump, along with his three oldest children, Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Jr., and his private company have filed a federal suit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One, seeking to prevent compliance with subpoenas issued by Democratic House committee leaders. The suit alleges that the subpoenas are "a broad overreach" and have been issued to "harass" Trump. The House's Intelligence and Financial Services Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions seeking a long list of documents and other materials related to Deutsche Bank's history of lending and providing accounts to Trump, his business, and his family. People with knowledge of the investigation said it related to possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Over two decades, Deutsche Bank lent Trump billions of dollars, and among the records it holds are internal corporate documents, descriptions of the value of Trump's assets, and portions of his personal and business tax returns - which he has fought vigorously to keep private throughout his presidency and campaign. Bank officials have said that they were eager to provide the materials to Congress and the heads of the two committees that issued the subpoena, Representatives Maxine Waters and Adam B. Schiff. The Representatives called the suit "meritless" and an attempt to obstruct Congressional oversight.

National Rifle Association's Chief Exececutive Asked to Resign, but Prevails in Power Struggle

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was asked to resign but refused. At the forefront of the power struggle is Oliver L. North, the recently installed president and employee of the NRA's most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen (McQueen). There is an ongoing legal battle between the NRA and McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the NRA is chartered, to investigate the group's tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the NRA is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings. North asked LaPierre to resign and said that the former had also created a committee to review allegations of financial improprieties that threaten the 's status as a nonprofit organization. LaPierre responded by sending a letter to NRA's board, in which he accused North of threatening to leak damaging information about him and other NRA executives unless he stepped down. LaPierre wrote: "yesterday evening, I was forced to confront one of those defining choices -- styled, in the parlance of extortionists -- as an offer I couldn't refuse. . . .I refused it."

House Votes to Keep U.S. in Paris Climate Pact

The Democratic-controlled House approved a bill that will prevent Trump from fulfilling his 2017 pledge to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement by 2020 and ensure that the U.S. honors its commitments under the global accord. The measure was approved, 231-190, and now goes to the Republican-run Senate, where it is unlikely to move forward. Trump has said that he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, was the target of an F.B.I. investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The conversation took place at a London bar in September 2016. A woman - going by the fictitious name Azra Turk - had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. However, she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant; during the conversation, she asked Papadopoulos this question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia? The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign's links to Russia. The F.B.I.'s decision is under scrutiny as part of an investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general.

Trump Will Not Nominate Moore for Federal Reserve Board Seat

Stephen Moore, the second of Trump's potential picks for a seat on the Federal Reserve board, has been withdrawn as a nominee by Trump because of concerns about his views and attitudes toward women. This is the second time in recent weeks that one of Trump's picks was forced to withdraw over concerns about his views and attitudes toward women. Herman Cain, a former pizza magnate, bowed out as well, as he battled previous accusations of sexual harassment that ended his 2012 presidential campaign. It is unclear who Trump will nominate next.

Military Reports a Surge of Sexual Assaults in the Ranks

According to a survey released by the Defense Department, there has been a marked increase in sexual assaults in the military. The Department of Defense's annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimated that there were 20,500 instances of "unwanted sexual contact" in the 2018 fiscal year, based on a survey of men and women across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. That was an increase of 38% from the previous survey in 2016. The current survey found that while assaults on men in the military remained flat, assaults on women recorded their biggest increase in years. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, called the survey results "unacceptable" and has proposed a list of actions, including better tracking and training, and a new program to identify repeat offenders even if their victims do not want to come forward.

Measles Outbreak Cases Surpass 700

Health officials fear that measles will get a foothold in the U.S. again after outbreaks across the country exceed 700 cases. The Center for Disease Control and Protection reported that, as of last week, more than 500 of the 704 cases recorded were in people who had not been vaccinated. A large portion of the outbreaks have been linked to Orthodox Jewish communities. In particular, the outbreak in New York has been concentrated in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County. Officials in New York City have closed seven Orthodox schools for failing to comply with vaccination orders; five have reopened after providing records showing that they were turning unvaccinated students away. The city has also issued summonses to 57 residents of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood -- where more than 80% of the city's cases have occurred -- for refusing to get themselves or their children vaccinated.

Judge Rules That Confederate Statues Are Protected by State Law

Judge Richard E. Moore of the Charlottesville Circuit Court held that the statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson can be viewed as both monuments to the war and as symbols of racism, but only because both sides in the case agree that they depict Confederate military leaders, which inherently makes them war memorials. The legal battle started the after the City Council of the City of Charlottesville voted to remove the Lee statue. The white nationalist rally in August 2017 was organized to oppose the City Council vote. It resulted in the death of a counter-protester and two state troopers. This drew renewed attention to the presence of dozens of Confederate monuments across the country - many of which were taken down following the protest.

"Hard Work" - and $6.5 Million Dollars - Helps Get You into Stanford

A 2017 YouTube video of Yusi Zhao - yet another student whose parents are implicated in the college admissions scandal - has resurfaced, in which she claims to have "tested into Stanford through my own hard work." The video stands in sharp contrast with recent news: that her parents paid $6.5 million to William Singer, a college consultant at the center of an international college admissions scheme, who tried to get Zhao recruited to the Stanford sailing team, providing a fake list of sailing accomplishments and making a $500,000 donation to the sailing program after she was admitted. The payment to Singer was by far the largest known in the case, and the disclosure immediately added Zhao and her family, pharmaceutical billionaires from China, to a cast of powerful figures swept up in the scandal.

Check out the video here:

Teachers, Guns, and Race Collide in Florida Ruling to Let Teachers Carry Guns in School

The Florida State House passed with a vote of 65-47 the "school guardian program", which will allow school teachers to carry firearms. This has raised many concerns over the safety of black and Latinx children. Representative Shevrin D. Jones, a Democrat who is African-American, tried unsuccessfully to pass a pair of amendments on the House floor aimed at protecting children from the possibility that an armed teacher in a chaotic situation could assume that a black student was a threat. One amendment would have required any teacher who volunteers for the so-called school guardian program to be trained in implicit bias, or stereotypes that could unconsciously affect spur-of-the-moment decisions. The other would have prohibited a teacher who shoots a student by mistake in a situation with an active shooter on campus from claiming self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The guardian program was created after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and 17 wounded. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in response: "Arming teachers is not the right approach to keep our children safe. . . .this program would place students, teachers and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our students safe and making schools places where they feel they belong."

New York Legislature Makes a Big Shift on Trials

The New York State Legislature passed a law last month that will require district attorneys to turn over most of their evidence to the defense within 15 days of a defendant's first court appearance. Before this overhaul, New York was one of only 10 states that let prosecutors wait until the eve of trial to hand over witness names and statements and other crucial evidence to the defense - a practice that forced many defendants to decide whether to plead guilty without knowing the strength of the case against them. Before the bill passed last month, New York was behind conservative states like North Carolina and Texas in overhauling its discovery law, and its rules were only slightly less restrictive than those in red states like Wyoming, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The law, written largely by public defenders, will fundamentally transform how trials are conducted in New York.

"Sesame Street" is Now a Legit Intersection in New York City

In honor of "Sesame Street's" 50th anniversary, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made Sesame Street a real-life street at the intersection of West 63rd Street and Broadway. The show has been headquartered in New York City since 1969 and has always been based between West 63rd and West 64th Streets. An intersection was temporarily renamed 10 years ago but this time, it's permanent.

North Korea Revives Old Playbook in Weapons Test

In the weeks before North Korea fired rockets and guided weapons Trump countermanded the Treasury Department, reversing an announcement that it was tightening economic sanctions against the country because, according to his press secretary, "President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary." North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is now turning to a "well-worn playbook" written by his father and grandfather - testing how much the President will tolerate, and how far trust can stretch.®ion=Footer

China's Detention of Muslims Unspoken in Trade Talks

As negotiations between the United States and China come to their final stages, human rights groups are expressing their discontent with China's detention of up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in large internment camps in the country's northwest region of Xinjiang. The Trump administration has avoided rattling China by not raising the topic during the trade talks, viewing it as an impediment to securing what Trump has said could be "the biggest deal ever made." Activists are now pushing American officials to insert the crisis in Xinjiang into the trade talks or to impose sanctions to pressure China to end persecution in the region.

New Video Reveals That ISIS Leader is Alive

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared leader of ISIS, has reappeared after five years. Al-Baghdadi was rumored to be missing or dead, and even though he is one of the most wanted men on the planet, his whereabouts remain a mystery. Al-Baghdadi appeared in a video seeking to rally his followers after ISIS lost territory in Iraq and Syria and after the Easter terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. Analysts say that the message he intended to send is very clear: ISIS is alive and well, he is still the leader, and together they will continue to execute terrorist attacks across the globe.

U.K. Police Requires Crime Victims to Hand in Phones If They Want Their Crimes Prosecuted

Crime victims and witnesses in the United Kingdom will now be asked to sign a consent form allowing the police to extract data from their electronic devices. Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for criminal justice, stated that "Police have a duty to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry. . . .those now frequently extend into the devices of victims and witnesses as well as suspects -- particularly in cases where suspects and victims know each other." This has raised both privacy concerns and concerns about the potential risk of discouraging people from reporting crimes, particularly offenses like sexual assault that are already underreported because victims fear being treated like the guilty ones.

Center for Art Law Case Law Updates

The following case selection first appeared in this week's Center for Art Law newsletter:

Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Found., No. 05-CV-03459 (C.D. Cal. April 30, 2019). Spain's Thyssen-Bornemisza has won ownership of the long-disputed Camille Pissarro painting, "Rue St. Honoré, Après Midi, Effet de Pluie" (1882). ( The original owner, Lily Cassirer, was forced to sell the painting while fleeing from the Nazis, and her heirs have been struggling to reclaim the work in U.S. federal court for the past 14 years. Judge John Walker wrote that had U.S. law been applied in the case, the Cassirers would have successfully claimed ownership because thieves cannot pass good title, even if purchased in good faith. ( However, the case was determined using Spanish law which holds that since the painting was purchased in good faith, the ownership was valid. ( This decision is available upon request.

The People of the State of N.Y. v. Sorokin, No. 02441/2018 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. April 25, 2019). Anna Sorokin, a/k/a Anna Delvey, was found guilty for eight counts, including three counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, for convincing investors that she was a German heiress attempting to raise money to establish an art foundation. Sorokin is expected to be sentenced on May 9, 2019. (,,

Mercedes Benz USA LLC v. Daniel Bombardier, No. 2:19-cv-10951 (E.D. Mich. filed on March 29, 2019). Mercedes Benz USA LLC (Mercedes) is seeking a declaratory judgment to validate its use of a street mural created by artist Daniel Bombardier, also known as DENIAL. The feud started over Instagram when the company posted a series of pictures featuring its G 500 Series truck in front of the Detroit mural. The street artist threatened Mercedes with a copyright lawsuit, to which it replied that it "respect[s] artists and the arts" and that "it regularly partners with cultural institutions and supports art festivals to advance the arts." Complaint available here:

U.S. v. Rohana, 2:18-cr-00100 (E.D. Pa. 2019). The case against Michael Rohana ended on April 12, 2019, in a mistrial due to a jury split on acquittal. ( The case was brought after an incident that occurred in December of 2017, when Rohana attended an ugly sweater party at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Apparently drunk and disoriented, Rohana entered a closed terracotta warrior exhibition and broke the thumb off of one of the statues, subsequently keeping the thumb in his desk drawer. Rohana was charged with two federal crimes: theft and concealment of a cultural heritage item. Rohana's lawyer argued that the law used to prosecute his client was established for art heists and thieves, not drunken misdeeds. Order available upon request.

Portland Museum of Art v. Germain, No. CV- 17-299 (Me. Super. Ct. Cumberland County Ct., 2018). The Portland Museum of Art (PAM) in Maine is suing Anne Marie Germain, the caretaker of art collector and museum donor Eleanor G. Potter. ( Until 2015, the museum was Potter's primary beneficiary of $2 million. However, in 2015, Potter amended her will, leaving the bulk of her estate to Germain. Potter subsequently passed away in March, at the age of 89. The museum has accused Germain of elder abuse and claims that she manipulated Potter into changing her will. Germain maintains that she was a friend of Potter and was without ill-intention when acting on her behalf.

Lindgren v. State of Iowa, 4:2018-CV-00404 (S.D. Ind. Nov.1, 2018); Leonard Gregory et al. v. State of Iowa, CVCV-057085 (S.D. Ind. filed Sep. 26, 2018). Two lawsuits have been brought against the State of Iowa challenging a state statute passed in 2018, which banned materials containing sexually explicit or nude images. ( While the law was passed to ban pornography from prisons, the statute is overbroad and deprives Iowa prisoners of access to mainstream publications, such as National Geographic, The Art Newspaper, and Medical Journals. Therefore, the prisoners claim that the law has violated their First Amendment rights. (, Judge Rosenberg, presiding over the Gregory suit, determined on April 3, that there would be a hold on the enforcement of the ban for material containing "mere, non-sexually explicit, nudity." (

The Center for Art Law strives to create a coherent community for all those interested in law and the arts. Positioned as a centralized resource for art and cultural heritage law, it serves as a portal to connect artists and students, academics and legal practitioners, collectors and dealers, government officials and others in the field. In addition to the weekly newsletter (, the Center for Art Law subscribers receive updates about art and law-related topics through its popular art law blog ( calendar of events ( The Center for Art Law welcomes inquiries and announcements from firms, universities and student organizations about recent publications, pending cases, upcoming events, current research and job and externship opportunities. To contact the Center for Art Law, visit our website at: or write to

April 29, 2019

Week In Review

By Angela Peco
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Hollywood Writers Say Wall Street Is at the Core of Their Dispute with Agents

The labor union representing Hollywood writers and the Association of Talent Agents have been in a standoff ever since the decade-old contract that governed their working relationship expired. Hollywood writers argue that an obscure set of financial arrangements has created conflicts of interest for their agents and squeezed their earnings. They also say it is Wall Street investments that helped set the scene for this dispute. When talent agencies, backed by Wall Street funding, started investing into movie productions, it put the agencies in a position where they were both negotiating on behalf of writers and also hiring them, a dynamic that has had financial consequences for the writers.

Harvey Weinstein's Pretrial Hearing Closed to the Public

Media lawyers had argued there was no need to override the constitutional presumption of press and public access to court proceedings, but a Manhattan judge closed the pretrial hearing earlier last week over concerns of jury impartiality and the defendant's right to a fair trial. The hearing was held to determine who among the many women who accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment will be allowed to testify at his June trial.

Robert Durst Alleges That HBO's "The Jinx" Manipulated His Confession

Estate heir Robert Durst is heading to trial for the alleged murder of Susan Berman in 2000. Ahead of the trial, attorneys for Durst are accusing the filmmakers of manipulating Durst's confession in HBO's 2015 documentary series "The Jinx". Portions of the documentary transcript were filed showing that his remarks "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course" were not consecutive and were edited together from separate sound bites.

Tara Reid Drops $100 Million Lawsuit Against "Sharknado" Producers

The actress sued Asylum Entertainment and SYFY Media Productions last December, claiming that they illegally profited off her image. It is now being reported that she filed court documents to dismiss the case in its entirety. Reid had accused the producers of misappropriating her likeness and image for a commercial purpose without her consent after her face appeared on Sharknado slot machines. Her contract reportedly barred them from including her on any items related to tobacco, alcohol, gambling or sexual material.

Director John Singleton's Family Fights for Control of his Affairs After Stroke

John Singleton remains hospitalized after suffering a stroke earlier this month. The director's mother is seeking to be appointed his temporary conservator and claims that Singleton was engaged in several business deals and would face financial loss if a conservator is not appointed. Her court filings included a declaration form attesting to his impaired state but did not specify whether he was in a coma, a condition that his children continue to dispute.

Bill Cosby Asks to be Released on Bail as His Appeal is Being Delayed

Bill Cosby has filed a bail application, arguing that bail is justified given his advanced age and the strong likelihood that his conviction will not stand on appeal. He also accused the judge of purposely denying his right to appeal by delaying his opinion that would explain his decision to convict Cosby of sexual assault. Cosby has been behind bars for seven months, serving three to 10 years.


Displaced Artists Open a New Front at the Brooklyn Army Terminal

ArtBuilt Brooklyn is the largest non-profit project to offer artists space in the city. The venue is intended to provide physical stability to artists working in New York by offering below-market, long-term rents. The project has a 10-year lease with the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the studios were constructed using a combination of private investment and support from the city.

Construction on the Long-Delayed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Moves Ahead

According to an interview with the director of the Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, construction of the Frank Gehry designed museum is on track and the museum could open in the next few years. Although first announced in 2006, the project was repeatedly delayed and has attracted criticism from both human rights activists and artists protesting the working conditions of thousands of foreign migrant laborers involved in the development.

Notre Dame Investigators Identify Possible Causes of Fire

More than a week after the fire that devastated the Notre Dame cathedral, investigators are converging around two theories of what may have caused the fire: negligence by workers carrying out renovations, or a short-circuit near its spire, possibly caused by electrified bells.

France Starts Task Force on Nazi-Looted Art

After years of criticism that its restitution efforts were not proactive enough, the task force has been given a broader mandate to search for and return artwork that was looted or sold under duress during the Nazi occupation of France. French authorities estimate that Nazis looted or forced the sale of about 100,000 objects in France. Only this task force has the power to investigate restitution claims, which it can then refer to a compensation commission that examines claims from victims of France's wartime anti-Semitic laws.


National Basketball League and Sacramento Kings Launch Joint Investigation into Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Luke Walton

Kelli Tennant, a former college volleyball player and sports broadcaster, has filed a lawsuit accusing Luke Walton of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2014. The allegations emerged shortly after Walton was named head coach of the Sacramento Kings after three serving three years as head coach of the Lakers. Both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Kings are investigating the allegations.

Kansas City Chiefs Suspend Tyreek Hill After Audio Alleging Child Abuse Surfaces

The criminal case against Kansas City Chief's wide receiver Tyreek Hill and his fiancée has been reopened after audio surfaced of the two of them discussing their son's broken arm. In the clip, Hill is accused of punching the three-year-old in the chest and hitting him with a belt when he cries. The Chiefs announced that Hill has been indefinitely barred from team activities. In the context of the National Football League's draft and Hill's troubling past, the team says that it has not changed the way it vets potential players.

Former Arizona Athlete Awarded $999K Settlement

Baillie Gibson, a former discus thrower and shot-putter for the University of Arizona, has been awarded a $999,000 settlement by the state of Arizona. Her former coach, Craig Carter, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting Gibson in 2015. The settlement ends a civil lawsuit that Gibson filed that same year, alleging that coaches and top athletic officials at the university failed to protect her against acts of rape, assault, inappropriate sexual conduct, and abuse.

Virginia Men's Basketball Will Not Visit the White House

The team announced it would decline an invitation to celebrate its championship at the White House. The move was significant when considered in the context of Trump's response to the 2017 white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, the team's hometown.

University of Texas Tennis Coach Admits That He Took a $100K Bribe

Michael Center is the third coach to plead guilty in the nationwide college admissions scandal after admitting that he took a $100,000 bribe from parents whose children should not have been tennis recruits. Former coaches at Yale and Stanford have already pleaded guilty, and Laura Janke, former assistant women's soccer coach at the University of Southern California, is now cooperating with prosecutors.

College Basketball Trial Reveals Cash-Filled Shoe Box and Other Ploys

According to testimony in a federal bribery trial this week, would-be agents and shoe company consultants went to great lengths to help land top college basketball recruits. The objective was not only to steer players from grass roots programs to a college sponsored by Nike or Adidas, but also to direct them to a place where the agents could continue relationships that would extend to the NBA. In addition, the agents cultivated relationships with college coaches, offering them cash in exchange for directing their players to retain the services of certain financial advisors.

WNBA Games to Air on CBS Sports Network as Part of New Deal

CBS Sports Network will air 40 regular season games when the WNBA season kicks off next month. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. WNBA's existing television deal with ESPN is about $25 million annually and includes 16 regular season games and up to 19 playoff games. In comparison, the NBA earns over $2.6 billion annually. It will be a year of change for the WNBA in a period marked by leadership turnover and looming collective bargaining negotiations as players opted to terminate the CBA after the 2019 season.

A Second Judge Rules to Keep Robert Kraft Videos Private

In a decision that favors the defendant's right to a fair trial over the public's right to know, Judge Hanser temporarily sealed a video that allegedly shows Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaging in illegal sexual activity in a Florida massage parlor. Kraft is charged with two counts of soliciting another to commit prostitution and the surveillance video will not be released until trial juries have been sworn in or the case is concluded by some other means (i.e. a plea agreement or if the state drops the charges).

Tennis Commentator and Coach Justin Gimelstob Given Three Years Probation

Justin Gimelstob pleaded no contest to a felony battery charge that arose from a physical altercation between Gimelstob and a former friend. The charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and he was sentenced to three years' probation and 60 days of community labor. Gimelstob remains on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) board of directors and is on a leave of absence from the Tennis Channel.

Canadian Women's Hockey League to Cease Operations in May 2019

Citing financial reasons, the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) announced that it will discontinue operations on May 1st. As a non-profit organization, it is legally bound to liquidate all assets and this week the CWHL launched an auction website to try to cover its debts by selling off valuable items. Players are using the CWHL's collapse to launch discussions on the game's future and to question whether the investor-backed, U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) is itself a sustainable business model. The NWHL already announced it is expanding to Toronto and Montreal next season.

Relevent Sports Sues U.S. Soccer, Escalating Fight Over Sanctioning

Soccer promotion company Relevent Sports filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming that the governing body "has exhibited a pattern and practice of violating its own policies and procedures, dissuading the staging of international competitions in the U.S." Relevent, owned by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, hosts international friendlies in the U.S. It alleges that its two recent proposals to host international matches were rejected without good reason.

Old and Faulty Oxygen Equipment Poses Safety Concerns on Everest Trail

Nepal's government announced a ban on oxygen cylinders used on Everest expeditions if they are older than 10 years. Several expeditions have reported equipment failures, accusing the largely unregulated climbing industry of using old and malfunctioning equipment to drive up profit.


Man Charged with Making Threatening Calls to Boston Globe Employees to Plead Guilty

Robert Chain was arrested in 2018 after repeatedly threatening to shoot employees of the Boston newspaper in the head. The calls started after the Boston Globe announced that it would publish a coordinated editorial response to political attacks on the news media, and Chain would use the phrase "enemy of the people" during his calls. A California resident, he was charged with seven counts of making threatening communications in interstate commerce, and faces a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Facebook Expects to be Fined up to $5 Billion by Federal Trade Commission for Privacy Violations

In its quarterly financial results, Facebook estimated a one-time fine of $3 billion to $5 billion, citing an ongoing inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The expected penalty is the result of Facebook violating a 2011 privacy consent decree. The FTC's biggest fine to date was $22 million against Google in 2012 for misrepresenting how to it used online tracking tools.

Global Regulators are Circling Facebook

With a potential settlement between Facebook and the FTC on the horizon, regulators across the globe are scrutinizing Facebook's practices, including its content moderation policies, and considering new restrictions on social media. Canadian regulators, for instance, plan to take Facebook to federal court for violating national and local laws in allowing third parties access to private user information.

Big Tech Faces Specter of Limiting Speech Online

Facebook's public messaging about regulating harmful internet content seems to have been targeting overseas regulators. The company's top lobbyists tell conservative groups that it is not Zuckerberg's intention to encourage new limits on speech in the U.S.

Six Employees of Turkish Newspaper Return to Jail in Terrorism Case

Employees of Turkey's oldest independent newspaper were taken into custody to serve the rest of their sentences after an appeals court upheld their convictions. Following a trial, which many considered to be politically motivated, they were found guilty of serving the interests and aims of three terrorist organizations by changing the newspapers' editorial line.

New Irish Republican Army Apologizes for Killing of Journalist

Journalist Lyra McKee was killed by a bullet fired at police during a riot in Northern Ireland. The paramilitary group that calls itself the New IRA admitted responsibility and apologized for the shooting. McKee grew up in Belfast, was a prominent supporter of gay rights, and an accomplished author and journalist, whose work often probed the legacy of violence in the region.

Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media, Fearing More Violence

Sri Lanka took the extraordinary step of blocking several social media networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp, out of fear that misinformation about the attacks and hate speech could spread, inciting even more violence. Other countries have previously blocked social media during waves of violence linked to the platforms, but Sri Lanka's move came before any violence was linked to social media activity.

Myanmar's Highest Court Upholds Convictions of Two Reuters Journalists

The court upheld the journalists' convictions for violating a state secrets law after the reporters uncovered the massacre of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers. The reporters argued that the evidence in the case was planted by police when they were handed documents just moments before their arrests. They were sentenced to seven years in prison and have been in custody since 2017.


Supreme Court Ruling Deals Blow to Class Arbitration

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that companies can use arbitration provisions to bar both class actions in court and class-wide arbitration proceedings.

Supreme Court to Consider Whether Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Workers

The Supreme Court announced it would rule on whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against gay and transgender employees. The Trump administration disagrees with an earlier decision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, arguing instead that the legislation cannot fairly be read to apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

The Supreme Court Appears Likely to Support Census Citizenship Question

The Court's conservative majority seems poised to uphold the Trump administration's directive to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census. Commerce Secretary Ross has defended the directive by arguing that the Justice Department needs the data to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Lower courts blocked the plan because the question would violate the provision in the Constitution that calls for a count of the population, regardless of citizenship status. The data could negatively affect congressional representation in states with large numbers of immigrants who may then be less likely to participate in the census.

Chief of Staff Reportedly Warned Secretary Nielsen to Avoid Discussing 2020 Election Security with Trump

Mick Mulvaney reportedly warned Secretary Nielsen that President Trump still equates discussion of Russian election interference with questions about the legitimacy of his win. It is being reported that Nielsen became increasingly concerned with Russia's continued attempts to disrupt elections, but gave up on her effort to organize a meeting of cabinet secretaries to discuss next year's elections.

Environmental Protection Agency Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Groundwater

Yielding to pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency amended a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by certain toxic chemicals that are commonly used at military bases. The so-called cleanup standard originally set a threshold for when immediate removal action was required. The revised guidelines now recommend longer-term remedial actions in instances where the government has confirmed that drinking water supplies have been contaminated.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Rule on Abortion Referrals

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Washington State issued a national injunction last week temporarily blocking a Trump administration rule that would bar organizations that provide abortion referrals from receiving funding under the federal family planning program called Title X. Judge Bastion found that the harmful consequences of the rule would "uniquely impact rural and uninsured patients."

Trump Businesses Sue House Democrats Over Accounting Records

Donald Trump's businesses have sued the chairman of the House Oversight Committee to prevent a subpoena of Trump's financial records. The lawsuit argues that the chairman had no legitimate legislative reason to subpoena an accounting company tied to the president. Lawyers are also seeking a court order blocking the accounting firm from handing over information.

Herman Cain Withdraws from Consideration for Federal Reserve Board

Questions of harassment and sexism have plagued both of Trump's expected nominees to the Federal Reserve Board. Cain's impending nomination caused concern that his background check would resurrect past sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that first surfaced during his 2012 presidential campaign. Another potential candidate, Stephen Moore, also faces objections because of a series of magazine columns in which he laments women's involvement in athletics (and other spheres of life).

National Rifle Association President Steps Down Amid Infighting and an Inquiry into Its Tax-Exempt Status

Hours after the gun rights group's president stepped down, New York's attorney general opened an investigation into the NRA's tax-exempt status. The organization is chartered as a tax-exempt group in New York State and the inquiry is expected to look at whether its financial and accounting practices have violated non-profit laws.

Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Abortion Rights

The court blocked a 2015 law banning second-trimester abortion, ruling that the state's constitution protects the right of personal autonomy that "allows a woman to make her own decisions regarding her body, health, family formation and family life - decisions that include whether to continue a pregnancy." State law cannot override that right by challenging a woman's exercise of self-determination.

Judge is Charged with Helping an Immigrant Escape From Immigrant and Customs Enforcement at Massachusetts Courthouse

A state judge and court officer are facing charges for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant escape an Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer by exiting the courthouse through the basement. It is another example of the clash between federal authorities and state governments that resist a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement. The State Attorney General characterized this as a politically motivated attack, saying that federal prosecutors should not interfere with the operation of state courts. The local American Civil Liberties Union also commented on the impropriety of having judges assist ICE in apprehending someone who is coming to court to be heard.

In Their Legal Fight Over Religious Freedoms, Native Americans Find an Ally in the Trump Administration

The Ramapough Lenape Nation owes more than $4 million in fines to the Township of Mahwah, New Jersey. The tribe accuses Mahwah of using zoning rules to violate its religious freedoms by issuing citations for its use of a plot zoned for residential purposes. The Justice Department has filed a letter in support of the tribe, saying that the town's behavior has significantly chilled the tribe's use of the land for religious purposes, in violation of federal protections.

One Person Dead in Synagogue Shooting Near San Diego

A gunman opened fire inside a California synagogue on the last day of Passover, killing one person and wounding three others with an A.R. 15-style gun. The man was taken into custody and is believed to have written a manifesto filled with racist slurs and white nationalist conspiracy theories. Local officials called the shooting a hate crime.

Are Trump's Acts Impeachable? Lessons from the Nixon and Clinton Administrations

Adam Liptak of the New York Times looks at the two most recent impeachment proceedings and discusses whether President Trump's conduct could justify his removal from office.

Rudy Giuliani: It Is Acceptable to Use Hacked Information from a Foreign Adversary

President Trump's personal lawyer insists that there is nothing wrong with taking information from the Russians and using it against a political opponent. The comments came in part as a rebuttal to questioning about the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Trump campaign aides met with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Juul's Lobbying Runs Counter to its Pledge to Curb Youth Vaping

Juul's lobbyists regularly fight proposals to ban products that are popular with teenagers. They also push legislation that denies local governments the right to adopt strict vaping laws. These efforts to defeat tobacco control proposals stand in stark contrast to the company's carefully crafted image as a public health advocate.

New York City's Board of Elections Makes Voter Enrollment Data Public

For the first time in history, the Board of Elections has posted voter enrollment data for free on its website. The data contains the names, addresses, and party affiliations for all of the city's 4.6 million registered voters. While this information is considered a public record, the Board usually produces a voter enrollment book, which it was not able to do this time around, opting instead to post the information online.

Houston Cancer Center Dismisses Three Scientists Over Fears of Chinese Espionage

Following an investigation into possible foreign attempts to take advantage of American-funded research, two scientists resigned and another was fired from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The researchers failed to disclose international collaborators and at least one confidential grant application was sent to a scientist in China in violation of federal policy.

Tropical Deforestation Still Severe in 2018

According to an analysis of satellite images released by Global Forest Watch, about 30 million acres of tropical forest were lost in 2018. Although not a record year, the losses were significant, and the overall trend is still upwards. Forest health is linked to climate in two ways - trees remove about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, and dead trees add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, releasing them when the trees are burned or decompose.

U.S. Ends Sanctions Waivers for Importing Iranian Oil

The Trump administration will not reissue the waivers that exempt Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China, and India from U.S. sanctions when importing Iranian oil. The White House signaled that it wound end the 180-day waivers that were meant to give eight countries time to find other suppliers while preventing a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude. Three of the eight - Italy, Greece, and Taiwan have stopped importing oil from Iran.

Following Summit, Putin Supports North Korea on Nuclear Disarmament

Following his summit with the North Korean leader, Putin reiterated Russia's backing of a gradual process of trading nuclear disarmament for sanctions relief. This position is in contrast to the American proposal of lifting economic sanctions in return for a quick and complete elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Sri Lanka Suicide Bombers Include Sons of Spice Tycoon

At least 250 people died in the coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka, believed to have been the work of a local cell loyal to ISIS. Two sons of one of Sri Lanka's wealthiest spice barons were among the eight suicide bombers and their father is now in custody.

Chinese Surveillance Technology is Being Used Globally

Ecuador is one example of how surveillance technology built for China's political system is being applied in other states, giving rise to concerns of a tech-driven authoritarian future.

World Health Organization Says Limited or No Screen Time for Children Under 5

The World Health Organization issued a new set of guidelines stating that infants under one year old should not be exposed to electronic screens. Those between the ages of two and four should not have more than one hour of sedentary screen time each day.

April 22, 2019

Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:


Hollywood Writers File Suit, Escalating Their Fight With Talent Agents

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has sued the four major talent agencies in Hollywood after negotiations between the WGA and the agencies fell apart last week. The WGA accuses the agencies of putting their interests ahead of the writers' and states that the agencies are violating their fiduciary obligations in doing so. One target of the lawsuit is so-called "packaging fees", which is a sum of money that studios pay to the agencies when they package their clients, such as a writer, director, and actor, into one package for a deal. The WGA has argued that despite the rise of streaming and more series being written and produced than ever before, the writers' pay has decreased in recent years.

National Rifle Association Sues Contractor Behind NRATV

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has sued one of its largest contractors, Ackerman McQueens, an Oklahoma ad firm that operates NRATV, alleging that the agency has hidden details about how it spends the approximately $40 million it receives from the NRA every year. It is unclear whether NRATV will remain active as an organization given the fact it is "the group's incendiary online media arm", and it was previously reported that two NRA board members expressed concern about NRATV straying far beyond the issue of gun rights into areas including "race wars" and "calling for a march on the" FBI.

R. Kelly's Protegee May Testify Against Him

The musician Sparkle was once a protegee of the singer R. Kelly but also had testified against him in 2008 when he was arrested for child pornography charges. In that case, she testified that the man in an obscene video was Kelly and that a girl with whom he was interacting was Sparkle's 14-year-old niece. Now, with Kelly's arrest in February on charges involving four additional alleged victims, Sparkle may be called to testify against Kelly regarding a new piece of tape that may involve Sparkle's niece and Kelly.

Kim Foxx Worried That Her Office Was Too Hard on Jussie Smollett, Messages Show

Chicago's top prosecutor, Kim Foxx, the day after a grand jury indicted actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts for his faking of a hate crime, wrote in a text message to a colleague that she was recused from the matter but concerned about the 16 felony counts being evidence of overcharging cases. The text messages have been released this week to show that despite her recusal, Foxx may have been closely engaged with the working of the case. While Smollett has maintained his innocence, the case has led to widespread debate about what the consequences of his actions should be.

Insurer Settles Suit with Another Cosby Accuser

American International Group (AIG) has settled a sexual-battery lawsuit brought by Chloe Goins against Bill Cosby, which was rooted in his alleged assault of her in 2008. Through his publicist, the incarcerated entertainer released a statement that the settlement was "unauthorized" and that "AIG continues to act egregiously by settling these heinous claims without my knowledge and/or consent." AIG also settled claims of defamation that seven women brought against Cosby in a Massachusetts federal court after he accused them of falsely accusing him of sexual assault.

As Hollywood Embraces Diversity, Jobs for Female Directors Remain Sparse

With female filmmakers and their supporters having called for more opportunities in Hollywood, "studios as a whole continue to rely overwhelmingly on men to lead productions." While studios provide a number of reasons for the disconnect and vow to do more, one smaller studios, STXfilms Motion Picture Group, reported that it would have a third of its films released by the end of the year with female directors.

Radiohead Calls for Safety Measures as Inquest Into Stage Death Concludes

On Thursday, a Toronto jury concluded that the death of a technician on Radiohead's tour in 2012 was accidental. The jury proposed 28 recommendations to prevent similar incidents, and the band released a statement expressing disappointment with the conclusion as "the stage collapse was shown to be preventable" but called for adoption of the jury's recommendations to ensure that similar accidents do not happen.

India Halts Downloads of TikTok Video App

The Chinese video app TikTok, which has become viral through one of its "lip-synced dance clips", has been removed from the Google and Apple app stores in India. The country's Supreme Court declined to reverse a lower court's order halting downloads of the app on the basis that it "spreads pornography and threatens the well-being of children." The app, which has over 500 million users worldwide has become popular as it is "easy to record, share, and watch short videos", but has faced scrutiny as it allows users to post objectionable content.


Fire Mauls Beloved Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

In Paris on Monday, a fire broke out in the Notre-Dame cathedral, further disheartening "a city already back on its heels after weeks of violent protests." While by 11 p.m. Paris time hundreds of firefighters had been able to declare that the structure was "saved and preserved as a whole," the spire and two-thirds of the roof had already been destroyed. By the following day, French billionaires had committed hundreds of millions of euros to rebuilding the cathedral, which dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and brings in around 13 million visitors each year. By the end of the week, the funds raised was likely to breach the one billion euro mark. During the chaos, a chaplain and firefighters, who had prepared for this very event, rescued a significant number of statues and pieces of art out of the burning cathedral.

A Vulgar Term Goes Unmentioned During Its Day in Court

The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving a line of clothing being denied federal trademark protection that brought the government to call the name of the clothing line "a word equivalent of the past participle form of the paradigmatic profane word in our culture." The owner of the clothing line, Erik Brunetti, has said that FUCT stands for "Friends U Can't Trust," but the Justices did not appear persuaded that it had such an innocent explanation. Regardless, it is unclear whether the Court will uphold the Patent and Trademark Office's denial on the basis that it is "immoral, deceptive, or scandalous."

Peter Max's Studio is Sued by a Longtime Seller of His Art

Park West Gallery, a Michigan gallery that has had a longstanding relationship with pop artist Peter Max, has sued Max alleging breach of contract and misconduct in the sale of "several thousand works of art by Max for several million dollars." At the heart of the action, according to Max's attorney, is a set of artwork that he had "specifically reserved for himself and his children", which Park West Gallery has alleged was part of a contract to buy his works.

City Ballet Ordered to Reinstate Male Dancers Fired Over Inappropriate Texts

An arbitrator has ruled that the New York City Ballet overstepped "when it fired two principal male dancers accused of sharing sexually explicit photos of female dancers." Many dancers were shocked with the news as the case "upended City Ballet, one of the world's premier dance companies," and it illustrated the delicate balance that safe workplaces must achieve between maintaining that safety and recognizing the rights of workers. While one of the fired dancers declined to return to the company, the second will return "after receiving mandatory counseling."

Natural History Museum Will Not Host Gala for Brazil's President

On Monday, the American Museum of Natural History announced that it would not host an event that would have honored Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in part of because of his environmental policies. The museum was the subject of scrutiny in the media as its prominence as an institution would have "served as a platform to recognize someone who has proposed environmental deregulation and opening more of the Amazon rainforest to mining and agribusiness."

Aung San Suu Kyi Has a New Target: Political Satire

In Myanmar, there is a tradition of a "satirical slam poetry known as thangyat" that is typically delivered in public, and poets came together in the country's largest city recently to deliver subtle digs to the military and political life in the country, all while "chanting over a drumbeat." While the practice was banned for decades, it was permitted again in 2016. However, with the arrest of four members of a performance that was streamed on Facebook, Myanmar's government is beginning to send signals that it will no longer permit political satire so freely. In arresting the performers, the government used a telecommunications law that has also been used to justify arresting journalists and government critics and carries a "maximum prison term of three years."


Judge Stops Prosecutors From Releasing Kraft Surveillance Video for Now

A Florida judge has ruled that police surveillance videos of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and 24 other men charged with soliciting prostitutes shall not be released yet. Kraft and many of the men have not accepted a plea deal and argued that "the video and other pieces of evidence were improperly obtained." The men who have accepted deals agreed to fines, community service, and a presumption of guilt in exchange for no jail time and dropped charges. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, and by the end of the month, it is expected that the judge will determine whether the video of Kraft and others may be released.

Leaders in Horse Racing Industry Move to Limit Medication Use

On Thursday, the three tracks that host the Triple Crown races formed a coalition "to seek a ban on race-day medication for all of their 2-year-old races beginning next year." The move came as a result of pressure from animal-rights groups and brings the United States closer to standards existing in Europe, Australia, and Hong Kong. One medication that is regularly used on race days, Lasix, is a diuretic that can bring a horse to lose 30 pounds and increases the chance of "catastrophic injury to a horse's thin legs."

NCAA Proposal to Curtail Graduate Transfers is Voted Down

The NCAA Division I Council has voted down a proposed rule that was aimed at "restricting the movement of graduate transfer athletes by levying penalties on the colleges that accepted them." The proposal would have applied to football and basketball programs and would have "docked teams a scholarship for an additional year if a graduate transfer did not earn his or her secondary degree within one year." While in men's basketball the proportion has been small, about 3%, of players, graduate transfers like Texas Tech's Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens reached the basketball championship game this month.

Sylvia Hatchell is Out at the University of North Carolina After Inquiry Supports Team's Complaints

The longtime women's basketball coach at the University of North Carolina (UNC) has stepped down after it was revealed in a probe that she made "racially insensitive" comments and "pressured injured players to compete." While she did not address the accusations against her, such as that she told players that a bad loss could lead to "nooses", she noted that she had been contemplating retirement since she received a diagnosis of leukemia several years ago.

Breanna Stewart Shows the Toll of Pro Women's Basketball's Never-Ending Grind

Known as the WNBA's most valuable player, it was a blow when Breanna Stewart was carried off the floor when playing a Euroleague championship game in Hungary. She had ruptured her Achilles' tendon, and many say that the risk for doing so was increased because of the intense schedule that women's basketball athletes face: because WNBA players earn somewhere between $41,265 and $120,000 each year, with the base salary not exceeding $53,537, over 100 players go to Europe and Asia to play during the WNBA off season. With no break and endless seasons, the players experience "a physical, psychological, and emotional toll" with which the men's basketball athletes, with their multi-million dollar contracts, do not have to deal.


After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain

The Islamist group Hezbollah has been known for posting threatening videos on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but they have changed their message recently from threatening to surveilling. Rather than show "gun-toting militants practicing an ambush to kidnap Israeli soldiers", their videos now show "close-up footage of Israeli soldiers on patrol". While the United States classifies the group as a terrorist entity, Hezbollah has discovered a way to emit its messages on social media platforms in a way that does "not set off the alarm bells".

General News

The Mueller Report Released to the Public

On Thursday, the Mueller report was released to Congress and the public with significant redactions but fairly clear conclusions: President Trump may have committed obstruction of justice, and there was insufficient evidence (perhaps due to the obstruction of justice) to conclude whether a conspiracy between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government occurred. While some had hoped that the Mueller report would bring the warring divisions in politics to come together, the fight rages on as Republicans and the Trump administration attempt to deflect the report's conclusions and Democrats grapple with the possibility of beginning impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

White House and Justice Department Officials Discussed Mueller Report Before Release

Prior to the release of the Mueller report, it has come to light that Justice Department officials had "numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions" contained in the report. The talks "aided the president's legal team" as it was preparing a rebuttal to the report and allowed the team an advantage in determining how to deal with spinning the report's findings in the media.

Supreme Court Will Soon Consider Census Citizenship Question

Next week, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case that will determine whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the 2020 "short form" questionnaire for the census. With the result of the census controlling "how congressional seats are allocated and where hundreds of billions of dollars of federal money are spent", the stakes are high for oral argument, as nobody is seriously disputing that the question "will cause fewer people to participate" and therefore "will undermine the basic constitutional goal of counting everyone."

Federal Communications Commission Chair Plans to Block China Mobile From US Market

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has said that he would oppose China Mobile's application to provide cellular service to Americans based on national security and law enforcement concerns. The full commission is set to vote on the application in May, but Pai's statement is a strong indicator of how the FCC will vote, as three of the five commission seats are filled by Republicans, including Pai. If the application is not approved, it will heighten the tension between the United States and China in the technology and telecommunications industry.

U.S. Scholar Who Advises Trump Says China Blocked His Visa Application

Michael Pillsbury, director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute and an advisor to President Trump on China, said that he was denied a visa to attend a conference in Beijing as "apparent retaliation for American restrictions on visas for visiting Chinese scholars." He raised the issue of the visa denial with a Chinese government official, who pointed him to a recent New York Times article detailing the FBI's denial of "long-term visas of some Chinese scholars."

In Attacking Ilhan Omar, Trump Revives Familiar Refrain Against Muslims

During the 2016 campaign, President Trump had developed a habit of stigmatizing Muslims in his speeches including calling for a moratorium on Muslims traveling to the United States and saying to Anderson Cooper: "I think Islam hates us." With his recent attacks on Representative Ilhan Omar, it appears that he is seeking to rally his base around the same theme as he did during the 2016 campaign. A 2016 campaign aide, Sam Nunberg, recently noted that his attacks on Omar give "the president a chance to expand his support closer to 50 percent."

Trump Administration Announces New Restrictions on Dealing With Cuba

Last Wednesday, the Trump administration announced that it was imposing new restrictions on dealing with Cuba, including limiting non-family travel and how much money Cuban-Americans may send to family members in Cuba. Additionally, the regulations would allow for exiles "to sue for property seized by the Castro government". The move comes after weeks of lobbying by Canadian and European officials who predicted a "torrent of proceedings against companies".

Justice Department Investigated WikiLeaks After Secretly Indicting Assange

The Department of Justice continued its investigation into WikiLeaks last year even after it secured a secret indictment of Julian Assange, the founder of the site. The Justice Department had been communicating with two individuals even after indicting Assange on accusations of computer hacking in an effort to build its case against WikiLeaks for "disseminating state secrets," which is a charge that "spoke directly to the group's main enterprise but would also thrust the Justice Department into a thorny fight over First Amendment rights."

In New Effort to Deter Migrants, Barr Withholds Bail to Asylum Seekers

Attorney General William Barr issued an order that may keep thousands of migrants seeking asylum jailed indefinitely "while they wait for a resolution of their asylum requests." It is the latest move, and a significant one at that, by the Trump administration to discourage migrants from seeking asylum in the United States. The order directs judges to deny "some migrants a chance to post bail", and it will not be in effect until 90 days after it is issued. While immigration lawyers have argued that it will "undermine the basic rights of people seeking safety", the order is virtually guaranteed to be challenged in a federal court.

Monica Crowley, a Fox News Fixture, Is Said to Get a Top Treasury Job

Longtime Fox News commentator Monica Crowley appears likely to receive a job offer from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to be his top communications official, succeeding Tony Sayegh, who has been planning to leave the Treasury. The hiring of Crowley would be just the most recent demonstration of the close relationship between "Fox News" and the Trump administration, but Crowley will have to overcome the same hurdle that stopped her from joining the National Security Council and becoming the White House press secretary: there are allegations that she plagiarized passages in her 2012 book, What the (Bleep) Just Happened?, from Wikipedia and news articles.

When the Glaciers Disappear, Those Species Will Go Extinct

Throughout North America, the glacier-fed ecosystems, which are delicately balanced, are undergoing a massive change, as glaciers are receding at a record pace. Given how the glacial meltwater is so closely linked to the diets and lifestyles of the wildlife in the area, it is expected that entire communities of organisms, from the micro level to insects to fish, may be eliminated, as they have difficulty accessing fresh water or cannot cope with rising temperatures.

How Banning Abortion in the Early Weeks of Pregnancy Became Mainstream

Ohio Right to Life is the state's largest and oldest anti-abortion group, and recently, it has taken a turn in how it handles legislative proposals: While preciously it had declined to pursue a bill that would ban abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy because such a bill would inevitably be challenged in court and likely found to be unconstitutional, with the shift in the Supreme Court's makeup, the organization has now supported this type of legislation. Last week, the bill was signed into law, and while the court challenge is inevitable, the organization's board has more faith that it will be found to be constitutional once it goes on appeal, potentially to the Supreme Court.

France and Belgium Refuse Support for New Trade Talks With the U.S.

On Monday, France and Belgium announced that they would not support renewed trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States, further illustrating "divisions over President Trump's trade and climate policies." While their announcement is not enough to stop negotiations, it is unheard-of, as trade "measures like this normally pass unanimously."

How China is Using Artificial Intelligence to Profile a Minority

While it has long been known that the Chinese government has cracked down on ethnic Muslims called Uighurs in the western region of China, the extent of the surveillance is becoming clearer: Authorities are "using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control" them. Experts say that it is "the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling" and may be "ushering in a new era of automated racism."

Peace Conference Derailed as Taliban Object to Afghan Delegation

Although a peace conference in Qatar was meant to bring together Taliban officials and Afghan government officials to negotiate a peace, the conference has now been postponed indefinitely, as the Taliban "objected to the large number of Afghan officials included in the country's delegation." While it was rumored that the sides had come close to a deal, the postponement is a major setback to American efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.

April 19, 2019

Association of Talent Agencies Threatens Writers Guild of America With an Action Based on the WGA's Undertaking to Pay Lawyers and Managers Who Negotiate Agreements

By Marc Jacobson

We recently posted a blog regarding the Writers Guild of America's (WGA) undertaking to pay managers or agents who negotiate agreements on behalf of writers, during the period in which writers have discharged their agents, as suggested by the WGA, as a result of the conflict of interests that agencies seem to have. See, posted April 17, 2019.

Now, trade publications are noting that the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA), in a letter to its members, is suggesting that the WGA is offering to "pay third parties to violate a law that has protected writers for 80 years..." (Emphasis in original)

As mentioned in the original post, it seems that the issue about whether a lawyer is entitled to earn a fee only arises when the writer objects to the payment. If the writer doesn't object, and pays the lawyer, neither the lawyer nor the writer faces any exposure. Only the Labor Commissioner in California can address this issue, and that will only arise when the writer is disgruntled. Similarly, the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City will have the same kind of authority. Again, why would the WGA agree to pay the manager or lawyer, on behalf of its member who is disgruntled with the representation?

This letter writing campaign has not yet resulted in litigation, possibly for that reason. The WGA did file suit against the ATA and its members, with regard to this conflict of interest, and that case is pending. Yet this issue, although of great interest to lawyers who represent writers, has not yet resulted in litigation.

I think, and it seems that many of our colleagues agree, that the better result is an amendment of the statute in both New York and California. However, as set out in the ATA letter, the ATA is taking the position, as presented by Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins, that "there are multiple decisions from the California Labor Commissioner holding that no one other than a licensed talent agent -not a manager, not an attorney--can procure employment on behalf of an artist."

For me, this highlights the need for legislation.

April 17, 2019

Writers Guild of America Agrees to Pay Lawyers Representing Writers Who Fired Their Agents

By Marc Jacobson

In a very unusual move, in support of its writer members, during this period when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has asked its members to fire their agents, the WGA last night agreed to pay to managers and lawyers of writers, the fees that are due to such managers and lawyers for negotiating the agreements for the writers.

As part of their negotiating strategy with the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) over the issue of agencies accepting packaging fees from production companies and production of content by the agencies, the WGA asked its writer members to fire their agents. The agents are accused of not operating as fiduciaries for their writers who are WGA members, because the agencies receive packaging fees from the production companies or the agencies, through affiliated companies or directly, and invest in the productions for which their writer clients provide scripts or teleplays. The WGA determined that this is an unacceptable conflict of interest. While the WGA Basic Agreement, and other collective bargaining agreements remain in effect, the WGA wants the agencies to maintain a strict fiduciary relationship to the writers. (Query: why would the WGA support the payment of fees to a manager or lawyer, when the client actually seeks to reject the obligation to pay the representatives? Further query: What about management companies that finance production of shows written by their clients?)

The need to make sure the writers pay their representatives arises because of the operation of the Talent Agencies Act (TAA) in California, and the myriad decisions under it which enforce the provision that anyone who procures or assists in the procurement of employment in California for writers and others, must be licensed as a agent under the TAA. While the members of the ATA are so licensed, if those agents are discharged, the negotiation of these agreements will fall to managers and lawyers, or other agencies which do not accept packaging fees, or do not invest in productions in which their clients are participants. Until that occurs, however, managers and lawyers who negotiate for writers are at risk for not keeping their compensation.

There are many cases issued by the Labor Commissioner finding that managers were acting as an agent without a license. Most recently, in a 2013 case brought by an on-air sportscaster against his lawyer for assisting in the procurement of employment, by following his client's instructions in negotiating the renewal employment agreement, the Labor Commissioner found that the lawyer was acting as an agent without a license and would therefore be obligated to disgorge any fees paid and not receive compensation. Solis v. Blancarte,

The New York statute governing licensing of talent agencies is very similar. NY General Business Law §171.8-a defines who must be represented by a Theatrical Employment Agency, which includes writers. NY Arts & Cultural Affairs law §37.01.3 exempts managers from the licensing requirement in certain instances. The General Business Law requires that in New York City, enforcement of that statute falls to the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). At a panel presentation for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (City Bar) in 2014, at which I was present, I posed the Solis v Blancarte fact pattern to the representative there from the DCA, and asked whether an investigation would ensue, if those facts were reported to her. She confirmed that an investigation would be launched, but of course could not opine whether the result would be the same.

As a result, the Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law (EASL) Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) prepared draft legislation and a supporting memorandum (NYSBA - EASL Atty Exemption memo -SHR Revision - 111915[1][1][1].pdf), which would amend the relevant New York Statutes to exempt attorneys from the requirement to register as a talent agent. The proposed legislation was unanimously approved by the Executive Committee of the NYSBA, and plans are to see that the legislation is introduced this session. The legislation was endorsed by the Entertainment Law Committee of the City Bar, and tracked similar legislation proposed by the Beverly Hills Bar Association to the California Legislature.

We will keep you updated on this issue.

First Amendment Protects Sports Commentators

By Barry Skidelsky, EASL Section Chair

In the wake of this year's exciting NCAA March Madness, a federal court in Kentucky last month dismissed a NCAA basketball referee's lawsuit against a sports radio network and its on-air talent. The complaint alleged multiple causes of action: Intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, tortious interference with a business relationship, negligence, harassment, engaging in harassing communications, and civil conspiracy.

The broadcast, internet, and social media content that gave rise to these claims, involved intense criticism about the plaintiff's performance in refereeing a 2017 college basketball game between the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina (UNC). UNC won. So did the defendants, who won a dismissal with prejudice on First Amendment grounds relating to freedom of speech and matters of public concern.

The judge expressly indicated that he gave no consideration to whether the plaintiff has a claim for defamation against the defendants, as that cause of action was not pleaded in the complaint. The judge also made clear that his opinion did not hold that all speech on matters of public concern is protected from tort liability, as each case is unique and requires a review of the content, form, and context of the speech in the circumstances at issue.

For more info, including details of a nearly unbelievable chain of consequences that (believe me) you cannot possibly imagine, read the opinion in Higgins v. Kentucky Sports Radio here: Higgins v. KSR.pdf

Barry Skidelsky, a former radio broadcaster, is an attorney and consultant in private practice with particular interests and expertise in entertainment, media, telecommunications and technology, who works with clients and other attorneys on a diverse range of matters. Barry can be contacted at 212-832-4800 or