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Week In Review

By Chris Helsel

NOTE: This is my final installment of Week in Review. It has been a pleasure writing these recaps over the past several months, and I would like to thank you, loyal readers, for taking a few minutes out of your day to parse through them. I hope that you have found the stories interesting, informative and insightful. I have certainly learned a great deal, and can only hope that you have enjoyed reading the Week in Review half as much as I have writing it.

Major League Baseball and Players' Union Agree to New Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy

For the first time, Major League Baseball (MLB, league) and its players' union, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA, union) have come to terms on a comprehensive joint policy regarding domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. This agreement comes in the wake of numerous high-profile domestic incidents involving National Football League (NFL) players and the intense public debate and legal wrangling regarding that league's handling of those cases.

The MLB and MLBPA announced the new policy in a joint press release last Friday. The two sides say the agreement was created to protect the legal rights of players, hold players accountable through appropriate disciplinary measures and provide resources for the intervention and care of victims, families and the players themselves. The agreement covers not only MLB players, but also Minor League players and everyone employed by MLB clubs at all levels, including front office executives. The league office and union also pledged to implement similar domestic abuse policies covering their internal staffs.

Under the new policy, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to place a player accused of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while the allegations are investigated. At the end of that period, the commissioner may discipline the player immediately, reinstate the player and defer any disciplinary action until after any criminal charges are resolved, or, under certain circumstances, may suspend the player with pay until legal proceedings are completed. That paid suspension may later be retroactively converted to an unpaid suspension. Importantly, the commissioner's authority to discipline a player (or other league, club or union employee) is not dependent on a finding of guilt in a court of law, but rather is governed by a "just cause" standard.

Additionally - and this is somewhat surprising, given the NFL's recent troubles with suspensions being reduced or vacated by federal courts - there are no minimum or maximum penalties outlined in the new policy. As a result, the severity of punishment will be decided on a case-by-case basis by Mr. Manfred. Individual teams are prohibited from issuing discipline on their own unless the commissioner defers his authority to the club. Players disciplined under the policy retain the right to appeal the decision before a three-person arbitration panel.

In an effort to prevent these issues from arising in the first place, the policy calls for players to be educated about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in English and Spanish at regular intervals. In fact, these procedures have already begun, as all MLB players participated in education sessions during this past spring training (pre-season) and all Minor League players have received training organized by their clubs throughout the season.

Commissioner Manfred, who took office in January of this year, said in statement, "Major League Baseball and its Clubs are proud to adopt a comprehensive policy that reflects the gravity and the sensitivities of these significant societal issues. We believe that these efforts will foster not only an approach of education and prevention but also a united stance against these matters throughout our sport and our communities."

The union echoed Mr. Manfred's sentiments. MLBPA executive director and former MLB player Tony Clark said, "Players are husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends. And as such want to set an example that makes clear that there is no place for domestic abuse in our society. We are hopeful that this new comprehensive, collectively-bargained policy will deter future violence, promote victim safety, and serve as a step toward a better understanding of the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse."


Michael Jordan Awarded $8.9 Million in Name/Likeness Lawsuit against Defunct Supermarket Chain

A federal jury awarded retired basketball star Michael Jordan $8.9 million this week in a suit brought against the defunct supermarket chain Dominick's. Mr. Jordan, who earned over $100 million in endorsements in 2014, accused the company of using his identity in an advertisement in Sports Illustrated without his permission.

The advertisement in question appeared in a 2009 special issue of the magazine commemorating Mr. Jordan's election into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It read, "Congratulations Michael Jordan, 23 (his uniform number). You are a cut above." Below that message was an offer for $2.00 off Rancher's Reserve steaks.

Mr. Jordan, who has shrewdly capitalized upon his worldwide fame in the years following his retirement by carefully marketing his personal brand, testified at trial that he would "never" have agreed to the Dominick's advertisement, which essentially compared him to a piece of meat. Rather, he said, he only signs long-term deals expected to be worth $10 million or more.

Before the case went to trial, the court ruled that the chain (which is now owned by Safeway) was legally liable for running the advertisement without Mr. Jordan's permission. The trial itself was therefore exclusively to determine damages. Mr. Jordan sought $10 million, but Safeway argued that it should pay just $126,000. That figure was reached by an expert hired by the chain, who determined that a "hypothetical deal" between the two sides could have been reached for that amount.

After deliberating for six hours, the jury concluded that the improper use of Mr. Jordan's brand would cost far more than that. Speaking outside the courthouse after the award was announced, Mr. Jordan said, "It is my name, and I've worked hard for it for 30-something years, and I'm not just going to let someone take it." He added, "It's not the type of court I like to win at. But unfortunately we ended up in this court, and I'm very happy with the result."


Jay Z/Timbaland "Big Pimpin'" Flute Sample Lawsuit Scheduled for Trial

A lawsuit brought against rappers Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z) and Timothy Mosley (aka Timbaland) in 2007 in California federal court over the duo's use of a flute sample in a hit song has finally been scheduled for trial. The suit, brought by Osama Fahmy, the heir of Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, alleges that the pair improperly sampled a flute tune composed in 1957 for the film "Khosara, Khosara" in their chart topping 1999 hit, "Big Pimpin'."

The flute sample was introduced to the track by Mr. Mosley, who initially believed that it was in the public domain. Upon learning of his mistake, Mr. Mosley entered into an agreement with EMI Music Arabic, which holds the rights to the film, in 2001. Under the terms of that agreement, Mr. Mosley paid the company a lump sum of $100,000, which "granted the right to exploit the 'Big Pimpin'' composition, to the extent it used 'Khosara.'"

At the time, Mr. Hamdi's descendants received distributions from that payout. Now, however, the family believes it is entitled to substantially more money. According to Mr. Fahmy's attorney, the family did not realize the importance of the flute track to the song at the time of the agreement. Further, Mr. Fahmy contends that he "wasn't aware of the settlement at the time" and now seeks "fair compensation."

At trial, Mr. Fahmy's attorneys intend to call as a witness musicologist Judith Finell, who testified in support of Marvin Gaye's family in the "Blurred Lines" case earlier this year.

In support of his claim, Mr. Fahmy's attorneys allege that 80% of the 400 people who bought Jay Z concert tickets they surveyed said they hoped to see him perform "Big Pimpin'." Lawyers for the artists have disputed the relevance of this unscientific survey, calling it "beyond speculative - it's farcical."


ISIS Beheads Archaeologist, Destroys 2000-Year-Old Temple

In what has become an all-too-familiar story, Syrian authorities announced this week that the Islamic State (ISIS) has destroyed yet another ancient and irreplaceable piece of history. The latest victim was the Temple of Baalshamin in the ancient city of Palmyra, which archaeologists believe dates back to the year 17 AD. In addition to the temple, the extremist group allegedly beheaded 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, an archaeologist who had overseen Palmyra's ruins for four decades. Mr. al-Asaad is said to have heroically refused to reveal to the militants where certain treasures were hidden, in an effort to save them. He paid for his bravery and conviction with his life.

The Temple of Baalshamin is the latest of a growing number of historically significant antiquities in the desert city of Palmyra to be destroyed by ISIS. The extremist militant group considers any shrines, statues or other artifacts implying the existence of any deity other than Allah to be sacrilege and unacceptable idolatry, which must be destroyed.

Palmyra, located central Syria, is considered an especially special cultural site because the ancient city had a culture unlike any other of its time, with a unique set gods as well as a style of art and architecture entirely its own. The city is a Unesco World Heritage site and has been under ISIS control since May of this year.

The recently destroyed temple itself had been a shrine to the ancient Phoenician god of storms and fertilizing rain. It was considered especially remarkable for how well it had stood the test of time, remaining almost completely intact for nearly two thousand years. Exeter (UK) University professor Emma Loosey, who lived near Palmyra for three years, told the BBC, "I can't think of another temple as beautifully preserved as the Temple of Baalshamin." It was especially renowned for its cella, or inner area. According to Ms. Loosley, the ancient building's cella was "pretty much perfect" until ISIS laid it to waste.


New Mayor of Venice Ignites Controversy With Ban on Children's Books Aimed at Fighting Prejudices and Stereotypes

Upon taking office recently, Venice's new conservative mayor Luigi Brugnaro created quite a stir when he announced his intention to ban 49 children's books from the city's preschool libraries due to their supposedly subversive content. The books had been added to a reading list by a panel of university professors and preschool experts under the previous administration in order to aid educators in their quest to teach children about the dangers of prejudices and stereotypes.

The new mayor apparently disagreed with that agenda and declared that the books were not fit for children. He defended this action by insisting that preschool children would struggle with some of the mature concepts that the illustrated books conveyed. Among those salacious stories banned were one involving a princess who dreamed of being a soccer player and another depicting a little boy's struggle to cope with a physical disability. An especially egregious tale, according to Mr. Brugnaro, was the (true) story of the penguin egg hatched and adopted by two male penguins. Said the enlightened politician, "Of course I protested. What would happen if my 3-year-old daughter came home and asked me, where is the other daddy?"

Mr. Brugnaro was quick to insist that while he has "no problem with homosexuals," a line must be drawn between rational adults who can choose for themselves and impressionable children, whose decisions require parental approval. After all, he said, there are still plenty of other books for children to read. "We're not about to eliminate Pinocchio. That's not it. It's about a situation with two fathers and explaining that to the 3-year-olds."

Mr. Brugnaro's announced ban prompted an outcry from residents, authors, publishers, and librarian associations. Even Amnesty International appealed to the new mayor to reconsider. Thankfully, Mr. Brugnaro ultimately relented, narrowing his list of banned children's books down to two. The pair of books still prohibited from the preschool reading list both depict same-sex families living happily, and have been derided by some national news outlets as "gay fairy tales." The mayor explained, "Even today, you technically still need a man and a woman to have a baby. These books risk confusing children."

Italy as a whole has been frighteningly slow to adapt to the idea of equal rights for all persons regardless of sexual orientation, especially as compared to its European neighbors. The country has struggled to pass laws condemning homophobia, and is one of only a handful of major European countries that does not legally recognize same-sex unions. Just last month, the European Court of Human Rights declared that its failure to legally recognize same-sex couple constituted a human rights violation.

According to bookseller Nicola Fuochi, who was involved in the initiative to add the books to the preschool curriculum, the issue transcends political parties and cuts to the very core of modern Italian culture. "It's not a problem of left or right, it's an issue drummed up to ingratiate the electorate." Mr. Fuochi is especially disheartened by his belief that "children's literature has become an arena for political collision."

Others, including Francesca Pardi, who wrote the story of the adoptive penguin dads, believe that the backlash against adding progressive literature to the preschool curriculum is spurred by a fear that doing so would erode the Roman Catholic church's hold over social issues. "In Italy, it's as if morality is the prerogative of the church," she said, "and so some principles are never put into discussion." She believes that to the entrenched establishment, a book teaching children that there is "room for all becomes very threatening."

Despite the reluctance of national lawmakers to address the issue and the actions of local politicians like Mr. Brugnaro, progressive Italians like Ms. Pardi have vowed to fight on. "Education isn't about teaching how or what to think, but to pass values. Kids won't become gay if they read a book about two moms, but they will be happier if that is their family situation."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 26, 2015 10:27 AM.

The previous post in this blog was How Do I Get My Rights Back: Termination Rights Under U.S. Copyright Law.

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