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Week in Review

By, Tiombe Tallie Carter, Esq.

Raiders File for Las Vegas, Calling National Football League's Bluff

The Oakland Raiders applied to relocate to Las Vegas, as the team stated that it was unable to find a replacement for its Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum home. For many years, the National Football League (NFL) resisted putting a team in Las Vegas, due to gambling and potential influence on the games. However, recently many stakeholders, including players, coaches and owners have softened on the idea. The move would require approval of 24 of the 32 teams who are expected to vote in late March.


Writer of Children's Books Based on Classics Is Sued

Frederik Colting, a Swedish writer, and his partner Melissa Medina publish KinderGuides, which are children's books based on classic novels. The duo is being sued in federal court on copyright infringement by Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and the estates of several authors including Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Arthur C. Clark. The major publishers and authors assert that the books are unauthorized derivative works of Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Kerouac's On the Road, Hemingway's The Old Man & The Sea and Clark's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The books are directed towards 6 to 12 year olds. The publishing couple claim that they want to make classic adult novels accessible to youth, and that they are protected by law to make literary comment on the classic novels. It is surprising to some in publishing that Colting and Medina continue to publish books based on classic novels after the 2011 settlement between J.D. Salinger Estate's and Colting, over Colting's novel, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, a sequel to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Pursuant to the settlement, Colting was required to cease all domestic sales.


Paul McCartney Sues to Get Back His Beatles Songs

Paul McCartney filed a federal lawsuit against SONY/ATV over ownership of famous Beatles songs he wrote with John Lennon. The lawsuit is based on the copyright termination rule under the 1976 Copyright Right Act, which provides the right of creators to reclaim ownership of their works from publishers after a specific time has passed. According to the Complaint, McCartney filed legal notices over the last nine years as a step to reclaim the songs beginning in January 2018, and that SONY/ATV executives suggested that McCartney did not have right to reclaim. SONY/ATV referenced the recent Duran Duran case, in which the court ruled that the band Duran Duran's publishing contract did not allow reclaiming rights based on British Law. The McCartney lawsuit seeks declaratory judgement that the termination rule applies to his songs.


An "Apprentice" Sponsor Pulls Out Over Trump

Kawasaki, a Japanese company, said that it will no longer sponsor "The New Celebrity Apprentice", a show that originated with Donald Trump in 2004. Although the new show is hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Trump retains executive producer credits, and is continuing to earn income from it. After featuring Kawasaki on #GrabYourWallet, an online campaign to boycott companies with ties to Trump, the company issued a statement that it was not informed that President Trump would continue as executive producer, and in response to concerns from its customers and dealers, it elected to pull out of the show.


Former "Apprentice" Contestant Files Defamation Suit Against Trump

Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice", filed a defamation lawsuit against President Trump. Ms. Zervos accused Trump of sexual assault in October during the presidential race, claiming that while at his New York office and a hotel in Los Angeles, he kissed and groped her without her consent. President Trump accused Zervos of lying. If the suit moves forward and Trump is required to testify under oath, the veracity of his statements may have an impact on his presidency.


Censors Delight in the World's Reliance on App Store

It started small. First, the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store. Next, the Russian government made Apple and Google remove the LinkedIn app. Now, app stores operating in China are requested to register with the government, a probable precursor to broader restrictions. These small restrictions will have a huge impact.


Obama Pardons Studio 54 Owner

Famed Studio 54 nightclub owner Ian Schrager, along with partner Steve Rubell, were charged with conspiracy to avoid paying $2.5 million in corporate income taxes, plus a misdemeanor drug offense after being caught with 24.67 grams of cocaine, during a 1978 raid. They both plead guilty for evading corporate and personal income taxes, receiving 3 ½ years in prison plus fines. After completing his sentence, Schrager rebuilt his life by becoming a hotel developer with strong ties to the community. The pardon will restore his civil liberties.


Asian American Band The Slants Takes Its Trademark Battle to the Supreme Court: Is it free speech or a Racial Slur?

The Supreme Court heard arguments last Wednesday for Lee v. Tam, No. 15-1293, a trademark dispute case involving an Asian-American band called The Slants. Simon Tam, the band's leader, filed an application to register the band name for a trademark and was denied by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The PTO refused registration on the grounds that the Lanham Act will not allow a trademark to be issued for a name that disparages people or brings them into contempt or disrepute. Tam appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which overturned the ruling, determining that the law was in violation of freedom of speech. The Justices then questioned whether the refusal by Congress and the PTO to register trademarks that can be seen as disparaging violates the First Amendment. The Slants stated that its members are not offended, that they chose the name to address the stereotyping of Asians, and did not intend to disparage anyone. The government argued that the band was not prevented from using its name, and that trademark is the government's speech and thereby immune from First Amendment attacks. The government relied on the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/supreme-court-says-texas-can-reject-confederate-flag-license-plates.html). The Slants case will be watched closely, as its outcome is expected to impact the Washington Redskins case involving an appeal of a PTO decision to revoke the Redskins trademark name as offensive to Native Americans.


Second Old Master Painting A Fake, Sotheby's Says in Lawsuit

Sotheby's seeks a refund of a fake "Saint Jerome", a painting attributed to Old Master Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola's circle called Parmigianino. "Saint Jerome" was sold for $842,500, and now Sotheby's declared the painting to be a forgery. A lawsuit has been filed against the seller Lionel de Saint Donat-Pourrieres, who received $672,000 and refuses to return the funds. Sotheby's is fully refunding the buyer. This second forgery comes on the heels of the Frans Hals painting determined to be fake last year, which required a $10 Million refund.


Qualcomm Accused of Anticompetitive Practices by F.T.C.

The chip maker, Qualcomm, is accused of anticompetitive practices by the F.T.C. In the new lawsuit, Qualcomm is accused of using "its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose onerous supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors". This is not the first time the company has faced such complaints. South Korea, China and the European Union have also accused it of antitrust practices.


Mark Zuckerberg, in Suit, Testifies in Oculus Intellectual Property Trial

Mark Zuckerberg provides a glimpse into the world of technology in ZeniMax Media's suit against Oculus, a recent Facebook acquisition. He testified that it will take another 5 to 10 years and more than $3 billion to get Virtual Reality to the masses; the ability to negotiate quickly is important in an environment with players like Google, Apple and Twitter, nothwithstanding the considerable effort spent thinking about acquisitions; and that helping potential acquisitions to understand their pain points is a useful tactic, although not Zuckerberg's main focus. The suit accuses Oculus of stealing elements of the technology that went into the Oculus headset.


Podcast Host Arrested in Shooting at T.I. Concert in Manhattan

Daryl Campbell, a/k/a Taxstone, a Hip Hop podcast host, was arrested on a federal weapons possession charge in connection with a shooting at a Manhattan nightclub last year. DNA believed to belong to Campbell was found on a handgun that was used in a shooting involving rapper Troy Ave, a long-term adversary. A bodyguard, Ronald McPhatter was killed in the shooting.


After Plagiarism Reports, Monica Crowley Will Not Take White House Job

Monica Crowley will not serve on President Trump's National Security Council, and stated that she has decided to pursue other opportunities. There have been recent reports from CNN that passages in her national best seller What the (Bleep) Just Happened? and parts of her doctoral dissertation were plagiarized. President Trump's transition team claims that the reports are politically motivated.


Governor Cuomo Nominates Rowan Wilson to New York's Highest Court

Rowan Wilson of Cravath, Swaine & Moore has been nominated to the New York Court of Appeals by Governor Cuomo. When confirmed by the NYS Senate, Mr. Wilson will be the second African-American serving on the court. Mr. Wilson is a Harvard Law graduate who began his career as law clerk for Chief Judge James R. Browning, U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Circuit). A 25-year partner at Cravath, he handles complex litigation matters and currently serves as chairman of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.


For Early "Jersey Boys' Investors, Oh, What a Run

What do a dentist, psychotherapist, a literary agent, venture capitalist and a posse of lawyers, doctors and academics have in common? They belong to that rare pool of theater investors who win big on Broadway. They were early backers of "Jersey Boys", one of the longest running musicals on Broadway. Reportedly, approximately 3 out of 4 Broadway shows fail. "Jersey Boys" is that one exception, and it has been an exceptional return for this early group. Some with as little as $12,500 have profited roughly $250,000. The show, which closed this week, is a unicorn. It won the 2006 Tony Award, has been produced in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Toronto and London, and will continue to tour nationally as well as abroad.


Justices Will Hear Challenges to Mandatory Employee Arbitration

It is expected that the question of mandatory employee arbitration will be settled this year. The U.S. Supreme Court announced a one hour panel on three cases involving Epic Systems Corp., Ernst & Young, and Murphy Oil USA. Each representative of the question as will address whether companies can use employment contracts to prohibit workers from coming together as a class to take legal action against their employer. A national standard is sought, as it is challenging for companies with employees in multiple states. For example, federal appeals courts in Chicago and San Francisco allow the class actions, while New Orleans continues to prohibit them.


Censors Delight in the World's Reliance on App Store

Farhad Marjoo points out how seemingly small restrictions on apps availability in foreign app stores shed light on the growing centralization of information, which is a departure from the Internet's early design. In the last few weeks, several apps were removed from app stores in foreign countries: Apple was compelled by the Chinese government to remove New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store, both Apple and Google were required by the Russian government to remove the LinkedIn app from their app stores, and the Chinese government now requires registration of app stores operating in China, which is seen as a beginning of further restrictions. These recent bans are the tip of increasing concern of censorship, because not only are digital users prevented access to the apps, the online infrastructure of a decentralized network is being challenged, as more publishers like the New York Times and startups invest heavily in social media and mobile apps.

The benefits of mobile apps are hard to resist, they are easier and more convenient to download from app stores, as there is less risk of malware, and creators receive a better reward. However, mobile apps are a departure from the Internet's early design of a decentralized network that upon attack, would be able to re-route itself and thereby never fail. Countries would not be able to harness or control the Internet.

Nevertheless, there is no recourse for digital users when the fight against censorship relies on the goodwill of the mega corporations who control most of the Internet and foreign governments seeking competing control.


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