May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
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There are 2034 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 205

We Forgive Selflessness, But Not Selfishness

You've probably heard of Adelphia, the cable company headquartered in Philly. It's not far from where I went to high school, so I've probably paid more attention to the story because it's about "back home."

Somewhat typical of prominent Pennsylvanians (such as Congressman Dan Flood, who was elected despite an indictment and pending criminal trials [scroll down to patronage and scandal]) they can - and do - receive forgiveness. In the Luzerne County, where my parents grew up, that election was revered, and frequently pointed to as an indication of the rewards you get for "taking care of your own."

Perhaps those winds are changing direction, though, but then again, perhaps not. Adelphia's founder, John Rigas has been convicted of fraud and a number of similar crimes. Now that it's trying to raise funds to repay creditors since it filed bankruptcy, Adelphia requested a bankruptcy judge to force Rigas and his sons to repay the $3.2 billion they allegedly took from the cable company. Adelphia alleges that the Rigases used company funds and credit to enrich themselves, and is now demanding immediate repayment, plus interest.

Long gone are the political patronage days. But the Rigas/Adelphia scandal is not about patronage. People are less sympathetic to those who get caught with their hand in the till and take care of themselves instead of others. Funny how that forgiveness thing works, isn't it?

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 at 11:11 Comments (0) |

Food Fight From New York to Dallas

You open a new, $1.5 million restaurant, and wait for the food critics. You figure all will go well. You've invested a lot of money, and you have a string of successful chains. chains and more chains.

Then, the dreaded moment arrives. Food critic Dotty Griffith arrives unannounced, and renders her opinion in the Dallas Morning News.

And the verdict is .... four out of five stars. Not bad.

Well, actually, not good enough in Phil Romano's mind. So not good enough that he had his lawyers, Fish & Richardson of Boston sue Ms. Griffith.

Typically, defamation suits that involve opinions lose. But, Mr. Romano thinks he can win. He alleges that Ms. Griffith brought a friend, Janet Cobb, to the restaurant. Ms. Cobb's family owns two competing Italian restaurants, Mi Piaci and Il Sole, in Dallas. Mr. Romano thinks that the two conspired to defame his restaurant and benefit Ms. Cobb's family restaurants.

If true, we may have a real food fight on our hands.

These restaurants compete with one another? Right. I suspect that you and I are now going to have to decide whether to get on a plane to eat at Il Mulino in New York or Il Sole / Mi Piaci in Dallas.

Maybe they'll bring back the Concorde, too.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 at 11:20 Comments (2) |

Hacking the Hackers

What's wrong with this picture? There's a sponsored Hacker's Contest in Singapore.

With prizes!

Luckily, the hackers are prohibited from using the internet. They're limited to each other's computers and a modem. Thankfully, someone had a little foresight.

The competition was held on Friday, and was officially called “BlackOPS: HackAttack Challenge 2004, organized by National Infocomm Competency Center,” a government-funded agency. Now there's a shocker. The government invited hackers to a contest and awarded them prizes.

Typically in Singapore, hackers can be jailed for up to three years or fined up to $5,810 (U.S.) under Singapore’s Computer Misuse Act. While the dollar amount is of little consequence, the jail term might make the hackers blink, but apparently not enough to vie for prizes.

Prizes, you say? Yep, a DVD burner and computer classes.

Great. Just what they need. More training how to hack. Brilliant.

Want to know the reason for the contest, according to the Singapore government? "Organizers hoped the contest would help shed light on ways to prevent actual computer attacks," according to news reports. Not that it would teach them new ways to hack, of course.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, August 23, 2004 at 11:53 Comments (0) |

Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham

Martha Graham's dance troupe wants the rights to her dances. One of Martha Graham's heirs, Ronald Protas does, too. He's not a relative, but a friend who upon her death in 1991, inherited her estate, including rights and interests in her work.

And you know that dispute led to litigation. Add to that this little drama: after her death, Protas became artistic director of the Martha Graham Center. He later got into a dispute with the Center's board of trustees, and then during a period of financial difficulty when the Center had suspended operations, Protas founded the competing Martha Graham School and Dance Foundation.

To add insult to injury, he claimed the Foundation had exclusive rights to teach and perform Martha's work. Not to be outdone, the original Center claimed that all of Martha's choreography during her 96 years was "work for hire," entitling the Center to ownership.

The artistic world held its breath. Some went down the litigation path and filed an amicus brief, signed by the heads of other major dance groups. They urged the court to exercise caution in applying the "work for hire" doctrine where not-for-profit corporations were created to foster and support creative artists.

The Second Circuit heard the case, and decided in favor of the original Center, ruling that because the Center paid Martha, her work there was "for hire" and belonged to the Center, and not to Martha. So, Protas did not inherit the works Martha Graham created, except for perhaps eight dances created between 1956 and 1966, when her primary role at the Center was not choreography. A lower court has to decide who owns seven of those. So far, Protas has one dance, and ten are in the public domain. The original Center got 45 ballets.

In case you're wondering, you can read the entire 113-page opinion here.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, August 22, 2004 at 12:40 Comments (0) |

Andrew and Jonathan Visit From Baltimore

Sometimes, it's not about the law. Sometimes, it's about two of your four nephews visiting from Baltimore. They visited briefly yesterday and went swimming in our community pool. Yes, we all had a great time, thank you very much.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, August 22, 2004 at 12:13 Comments (0) |

If a Tree Falls In A Forest, Who Hears It?

Did you ever think that loggers would oppose logging? In certain circumstances, it happens. Here, we have small commercial tree farmers against big logging.

And, interestingly enough, the Sierra Club. But you already know whose side they're on. That environmental organization, as well as the Southern Environmental Law Center are engaging small loggers to oppose the Bush administration is reversing the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a 2001 executive order by President Clinton, that prohibits road construction on nearly 60 million acres of federal forests. No roads meant no logging, mining or oil and gas development.

It also had the effect of doubling the price of wood, and helping small loggers. They can't compete against big loggers, who if they could put roads into the forests, would put many small loggers out of business.

Just as an example, here's a roadless area in California, so you can get an idea what this issue is about. You can submit your comments by email and be heard.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, August 21, 2004 at 10:21 Comments (0) |

PA Students Not Required to Pledge Allegiance

Pennsylvania elementary through high school students can no longer be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In a stunning, but perhaps legally correct decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the requirement violates students' free-speech rights and the right of private schools to "free expressive association."

Just last year the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law requiring all students to start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Act 157 went into law in late 2002, as a reaction to September 11.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that there are 29 states (free registration required to access link) that have similar laws, although PA's may be the most stringent. The plaintiff in the case, a coalition of public and private schools, complained in oral argument, "The Pledge of Allegiance is exactly what it says: a pledge, an oath" ... and it was an example of "compelled speech" that violates the First Amendment rights of students.

Does this mean witnesses in court can't be required to swear an oath to tell the truth?

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, August 20, 2004 at 10:21 Comments (2) |

File-swapping Cleared from Infringement

The Ninth Circuit has further clarified contributory and vicarious liability for copyright infringement. This time, they ruled that file-swapping software doesn't violate copyrights of music artists. Quite like the argument over banning guns - gunmakers aren't responsible for murder, criminals are.

The Court reasoned that since software developers can't directly control the actions of the people that use the software, we essentially have to assume the software will be used for legitimate means.

It's a not-too-unexpected setback for the record companies. But never fear, the record companies have their lobbyists, so they've got a bill in place to ban peer-to-peer networks. Funny enough, supposedly "secret" government documents are available for download on a P2P network.

It appears that Morpheus won't be going the way of the old Napster.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, August 19, 2004 at 14:35 Comments (0) |

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