Copyright

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Ten years before Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of super-paralegal Erin Brockovich, she gained fame for her role as Vivian, a prostitute not afraid to speak her mind, such as when she guesses (incorrectly) based on her wealthy john’s “sharp, useless look” that he is a lawyer.  Twenty-four years ago yesterday, “Pretty Woman” debuted in theaters and went on to gross an estimated $463 million. This week, On Remand looks back at one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time and the Roy Orbison song that inspired both the movie’s title and a group of controversial rappers from Florida who are no strangers to courtrooms….

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If there’s anything as labyrinthine as copyright law, it’s divorce law. Smokey Robinson, the composer of several Motown hits, is combining both.

Smokey Robinson sued his ex-wife, Claudette Rogers Robinson, seeking declaratory judgment that he may terminate and “recapture” the copyrights to all the songs he wrote during their marriage, and that she cannot claim interest in them under California community property law.

Robinson is reclaiming the rights to his pre-1978 songs from Jobete Music Co., something many artists are doing as copyright termination goes into effect. Robinson’s main problem, oddly, isn’t Jobete arguing that the songs were “work for hire,” but rather that his ex-wife (who he divorced in 1985) believes she should be entitled to 50% of whatever income these songs generate.

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* It’s apparently time to pay your fair share. Obama wants to close the pesky tax loophole that’s allowed rich professionals, like lawyers, to get away with being rich professionals for so long. [Legal Times]

* On this episode of As the Weil Turns, we take a look at the firm’s tumbling gross revenue, profits per partner, revenue per lawyer, and headcount. Don’t worry, Weil’s just “repositioning.” [Am Law Daily]

* The American Bar Association released the dirt on 1L enrollment declines at law schools nationwide, and some schools got totally massacred. Pray yours wasn’t one of them. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]hey’d probably make the school year longer and bring the cost up for each year.” We sure hope these pre-law students aren’t right about the dubious cost factor behind the two-year law degree. [The Hoya]

* Who owns the copyright to the Oscar selfie? Does it belong to Ellen DeGeneres, or Bradley Cooper? If you want to get technical about it (and you do, you’re a lawyer), check out this legal round-up. [The Wire]

If you outlaw guns, then violent, blind, drunks wouldn’t have guns… actually that sounds like a pretty good idea.

* Judge orders guns returned to blind guy. David Sedaris has a great routine where he talks about the few stupid jurisdictions that let the blind participate in gunplay. Well consider Florida stupider: this is a blind guy who previously shot 15 times at his cousin while drunk and has since killed his friend — not only while drunk, but after a “10 a.m. beer run” — and he’s getting his guns back. [Raw Story]

* An intrepid, but hopelessly clueless jailhouse lawyer is taking it upon himself to free Gucci Mane. Fight on, you hero! [Global Grind]

* Area Man Coasting By On Good Looks, Work Ethic, In-Depth Knowledge Of Virginia Real Estate Law. [The Onion]

* It seems Ray Rice took out all the aggression he feels over having Joe Flacco as a quarterback by allegedly knocking his fiancée unconscious. By “allegedly,” I mean, “I’m not saying, but it was in an Atlantic City casino and videotapes show it from every angle.” Anyway, here’s a good primer on the differences between assault, simple assault, and aggravated assault in the state of New Jersey. [The Legal Blitz]

* Speaking of Rutgers players, the merger between Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark into Rutgers-Both Law School is on track for 2015. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* So it’s a great time to go to law school! If you thought 2007 was a great time to go to law school that is. [Gawker]

* Here’s an innovative way to fight illegal music downloads: the band Gridlink is running a contest encouraging users to upload bogus versions of their songs to gum up the works in exchange for a free, official copy of the latest album. [Handshake Inc.]

* The lawyer who may topple Chris Christie is a defense lawyer who stymied the rotund Republican during his tenure as U.S. Attorney. That must be sweet. [Newark Star-Ledger]

* Passionate about public-interest law? Here’s your chance to win a paid one-year fellowship with Save the Children. (Our very own David Lat is one of the contest judges.) [BARBRI]

* The University of Pennsylvania Law School Entertainment and Sports Law Society is hosting the Penn Law Sports Law Symposium presented by the Heisman Trust this Friday, February 28th from 9:30am-6:00pm at the Law School in Philadelphia. Jim Delaney will be there to talk about how the Big Ten would go bankrupt if one cent of their billions in revenue were diverted. Tickets at the link. [ESLS]

The International Olympics Committee has this “branding” thing down cold. (No pun intended. The IOC is just as obnoxious during the Summer Olympics.) Everything that doesn’t belong to an Official Sponsor has its logo covered (including bathroom fixtures!) until the multi-ring circus of sports (and quasi-sports) folds up the last multimillion dollar tent and blows town.

The IOC is the ultimate control freak. This maniacal desire to cleanse the Games of anything not directly related to its corporate sponsors often results in the sort of behavior you’d normally associate with severe misanthropy. Hobbyist knitters get slapped with C&Ds. A 30-year-old restaurant is forced to change its nameA prominent news outlet has to build its own internal Starbucks in order to escape drinking nothing but the Official Coffee of the Olympics, which is crafted each day to the searing hot specifications of hallowed coffee mecca… McDonalds.

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This woman’s name is copyright law… I guess.

I’ve already written one piece about Cory Doctorow’s incredible column at the Guardian concerningdigital rights management and anti-circumvention, in which I focused on how the combination of DRM and anti-circumvention laws allows companies to make up their own copyright laws in a way that removes the rights of the public. Those rights are fairly important, and the reason we have them encoded within our copyright laws is to make sure that copyright isn’t abused to stifle speech. But, anti-circumvention laws combined with DRM allow the industry to route around that entirely.

But there’s a second important point in Doctorow’s piece that is equally worth highlighting, and it’s that the combination of DRM and anti-circumvention laws make all of our computers less safe. For this to make sense, you need to understand that DRM is really a form of security software.

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We’ve written plenty of times about the importance of the public domain around here, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the public domain has been Disney, a company which has regularly mined the public domain for the stories it then recreates and copyrights. Of course, somewhat depressingly, Disney also has been one of the most extreme players in keeping anything new out of the public domain, as pointed out by Tom Bell’s excellent “mickey mouse curve” showing how Disney has sought to push out the term of copyrights every time Mickey Mouse gets near the public domain.

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* D.C. litigator Bruce Klores is living a double life as a Grilled Cheese restaurateur. He’s planning some politically-themed sandwiches, like the Boehner: “maybe if someone orders it, we’ll just say no.” [Washington Post]

* Bryan Garner took to Twitter to announce that three neologisms by David Lat are joining Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). Check out which terms made the cut for the 10th edition. [Twitter]

* Oklahoma is chasing its proposal to ban all marriage with a bill to issue tickets electronically. Where’s the human touch of being harassed by the cops? [Overlawyered]

* Here are the best suitcases for an overnight business trip. [Corporette]

* We already pointed out that Quentin Tarantino is heading to court over the leaked script to The Hateful Eight. Here’s a quick rundown of the complaint. [IT-Lex]

* A riveting account, by lawyer turned journalist Adam Teicholz, of the brutal murder that shook the gay community in a small Louisiana town. [Vanity Fair]

* Crude oil is transported by rail, and those railroads have safety regulations. [Breaking Energy]

* RIP Pete Seeger. I know he was a folk singer rather than a lawyer, but he wrote a song called “New York J-D Blues,” which sums up Biglaw in this town. [Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Opera singer who can’t sing without farting sues for $2.5 million. She should try blaming it on the phantom. [Gawker]

* Speaking of Gawker, Elie has an article up about last night’s Grammy ceremony over at our new outpost in Gawkerville, the ATL Redline. [ATL Redline]

* Amazingly, adding Elie’s perspective wasn’t the worse thing to happen to Gawker this week: Quentin Tarantino has decided to sue them for publishing copies of his latest script, The Hateful Eight. [Grantland]

* Everyone’s favorite Harvard Law transcript forger cum insider trading defendant, Matthew Martoma, just can’t catch a break — the government is trying to get a couple of key defense experts tossed. [The Expert Institute]

* Should bloggers out pseudonymous commenters? No, because… free speech? Whatever, bloggers aren’t the government. [Ramblings on Appeal]

* The ABA’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education thinks schools should cut costs and prepare students for legal careers. Welcome to the ATL Family! [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* It’s an old adage but it bears repeating: if you want to win a negotiation, be prepared to go to trial. [Katz Justice]

* An update on Stephen Glass, the plagiarizing fabricating (plagiarizing suggests it was at least true when the first person said it) journalist applying for admission to the California bar. Want to know what happened to his application? Click on….

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The very first copyright law in the US was officially called ”An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.” Indeed, that was the actual stated purpose of copyright law at the time. It wasn’t supposed to be a system for protecting the revenue of artistic folks. In fact, it didn’t even cover most artistic works at the time. It was limited to “maps, charts and books.” Music? Not protected. Paintings? Not protected. Sculpture? Not protected. That’s because it wasn’t about artwork, but about the spread of knowledge through learning.

Yes, the idea was to provide a limited monopoly to incentivize the initial creation, and the exchange was that it would then be given into the public domain soon after, such that everyone could learn from it. Yesterday, we covered the importance of the public domain, and today’s topic for Copyright Week goes hand in hand with it: the idea of open access.

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