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May 31, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: A judge just sentenced me to stand in a tiny swimming pool while wearing a life jacket and handing out water safety brochures at a festival. Can he do that?

Answer: Yep! (Associated Press, Ohio pair serve time in pool for rafting offense) (via Lowering the Bar)

2) Question: I just tested positive for alcohol consumption but I haven't had a drink in years! What can explain this?

Answer: Are you perhaps a heavy user of hand sanitizer, i.e., 120 times per day for three consecutive days? That could be the problem. (Consumerist, Use Too Much Hand Sanitizer, Fail An Alcohol Test)

3) Question: I'm a NASCAR driver. Is 128 mph too fast for me to drive?

Answer: At work, no. On a residential street, yes. (Jonathan Turley, NASCAR Driver Kyle Busch Cited For Going 128 MPH on 45 MPH Street)

May 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

May 27, 2011

With Patriot Act About to Expire, Traveling Obama Uses 'Autopen' to Beat the Clock

Late Thursday night, the Patriot Act was minutes away from expiring. Although disagreements in Congress led to some members attempting to hold up legislative efforts to prepare a bill extending the Act, a bill was finally ready for President Barack Obama's signature in the waning hours Thursday night. However, there was a logistical issue: Obama was attending an international summit in France and was not in a position to physically sign the bill presented by Congress.

The Los Angeles Times reports that with minutes to spare, however, Obama found a way around this problem by directing that the bill be signed in Washington via an "autopen," thus beating the midnight Thursday deadline. The autopen is a "little-known and infrequently used device" that can hold a pen and sign a person's actual signature, the Associated Press notes. It may only be used with proper authorization of the president.

Does the use of an autopen satisfy the "Presentment Clause" of Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires that before a bill becomes law it must be "presented to the President of the United States?" Yes, according to the Office of Legal Counsel. Odd Clauses Watch wrote last month that in 2005, the Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion confirming the President's authority to sign a bill in this fashion. The opinion (pdf) states that

Reading the constitutional text in light of this established legal understanding, we conclude that the President need not personally perform the physical act of affixing his signature to a bill to sign it within the meaning of Article I, Section 7.

May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

'Hangover II' Injunction Denied, but Tattoo Dispute Goes Forward

On Thursday, the blockbuster sequel "The Hangover Part II" opened in theaters around the world as planned, despite the efforts of artist Victor Whitmill. As discussed here previously, Whitmill filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Warner Bros. alleging that he owns the rights to the well-known "Mike Tyson tattoo" and that it cannot be reproduced on anyone's body other than Mike Tyson without his permission. In "Hangover II," Ed Helms' character wakes up to find what appears to be the Tyson tattoo inked on his face.

In his lawsuit, Whitmill sought damages and an injunction on the Memorial Day weekend release of "Hangover II." In a ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry held that while she would not grant an injunction, Whitmill did have a "strong likelihood of prevailing on the merits for copyright infringement," Media Decoder reports.

Perry denied the injunction because she found that it was in "the public interest" for the film to go forward. She wrote that thousands of other non-party business people in the country would lose money if the opening was enjoined. She added, however, that Whitmill may get the last laugh, though, because "[a]lthough the intangibles he's losing can't be completely known or quantified, there is some amount of money that will come close."

In a guest post over at the Likelihood of Confusion blog, Matthew David Brozik breaks down the copyright issues, including the defendants' argument that the use of the tattoo was a form of "fair use" known as parody:

The problem is that there is no change to the work in question… only to the canvas, as it were. Perhaps for this reason (in part, anyway), Judge Perry appears not inclined to find fair use. “This was an exact copy,” she said. “It's not a parody …. This use of the tattoo did not comment on the artist's work or have any critical bearing on the original composition. There was no change to this tattoo or any parody of the tattoo itself. Any other facial tattoo would have worked as well to serve the plot device."

Read Brozik's full analysis of the "Hangover II" tattoo dispute here.

May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 26, 2011

'Loser Pays' Bill in Texas Just 3 Signatures Away from Becoming Law

The introduction of a "loser pays" system in any U.S. jurisdiction sounds like the type of pie-in-the-sky proposal that creates lots of headlines but never ends up happening. But Texas Lawyer's Tex Parte Blog reports that a "loser pays" bill in Texas was passed by the Texas House Wednesday night in a 130-13 vote and will become law if it receives three more signatures: those of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.

Groups that had taken opposing sides on the issue of "loser pays," such as Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, have reportedly "lined up in support of Committee Substitute House Bill 274." If the bill becomes law, it is set to become effective on Sept. 1, 2011.

According to Texas Lawyer, some of the key provisions of House Bill 274 include:

  • early dismissal of meritless suits, i.e., suits deemed to have "no basis in law or fact." In some cases, courts will decide motions to dismiss before hearing evidence on the claims;
  • a 45-day deadline for courts to rule on motions to dismiss;
  • an award of costs and attorney fees to prevailing parties if a meritless suit is dismissed (with an exception for the government); and
  • the Texas Supreme Court shall make rules to limit discovery costs and expedite suits through the justice system for all claims less than $100,000.

For more on Texas H.B. 274, visit this link.

May 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 25, 2011

Website Unveils Foolproof Age Verification Test

Many websites require users to verify their age before they can use the site or to register. In order to have a Facebook account, for example, users must be thirteen years of age or older. However, as the parents of many Facebook-using children can attest, it is no real challenge for underage people to sign up for Facebook or other websites. Just change the year you were born by a few years and you're in!

How, then, can websites verify the age of their users? Via Futurelawyer I see that one website has found a creative way to do so -- by forcing users to identify now-obsolete items that only people of a certain age are likely to recognize. Here's one such example:


Let's see you identify that, 11-year-olds!!

Here are a few other challenges I'd pose to test age:

1. To make sure a person is over 18 years old:

2. To make sure a person is over 30 years old:



(Answers: A roll of film; the video game "Pong")

May 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (11)

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: Someone just offered me a bribe! Is there an app for that? 

Answer: Of course! (WSJ Corruption Currents, New App Lets People 'Check In' When Bribes Are Paid)

2) Question: I'm ready to do some shoplifting at the department store. Is there a way for me to take orders from others who want me to steal something for them?

Answer: You can try text messages, but they may be used against you later in court. (WDRB Fox 41, Police say shoe shoplifter took carryout orders)

3) Question: I'm ready to burglarize a town hall but I don't know how to get there. Should I just plug the address into my GPS system? 

Answer: That will work, short-term, but see the Answer to Queston #2 -- it may be used against you later in court. (The Volokh Conspiracy, Recent Trips Programmed into GPS Device Help Prove Burglaries)

May 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 24, 2011

Facebook No Friend of Bank Robbery Suspects

To the ever-growing list of individuals tripped up by their blogs (Belly Dancing Blogs Doom Ex-Wife's Bid for Maintenance), tweets (U.S. Secret Service Becomes Latest Victim of a 'Wrong Pipe' Tweet) and other electronic communications, we can now add bank robbery suspects, in not one, but two, cases.

In the first such instance, two bank tellers and their acquaintances were indicted this month in connection with a Texas bank robbery that netted about $62,000.

Susan Carroll, writing in the Houston Chronicle, reports that "The heist had all the hallmarks of a classic bank robbery - masked suspects who appeared to be armed and terrorized bank tellers. But investigators determined that the robbery was an inside job in part because of an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip" that led them to two suspects' Facebook pages.

Two days prior to the bank robbery, according to authorities, one of the tellers posted a Facebook status update that read: "Get $$$." And two days after the crime, she posted, "IM RICH" -- followed, as the Houston Chronicle puts it, "by a rhyming expletive."

Meanwhile, the teller's boyfriend, who is apparently prone to similar celebratory online outbursts, allegedly posted the day after the robbery: "WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS." (The Chronicle reports that the man "also boasted of wiping another part of his anatomy with purloined $50 bills.")

In a similar case, Robert Snell, writing in The Detroit News, recently reported on a Michigan man who was indicted after an informant told the FBI about the suspect's Facebook account, which was registered under the name of -- wait for it -- "Anthony Mrshowoff Wilson."

According to federal court records, Wilson's Facebook photos show him wearing attire (some with Polo emblems) that matches the clothing worn by the suspect in at least two bank robberies. "I'm innocent until proven guilty," Wilson told The Detroit News. "They're basically going off my clothes. Ralph Lauren is a popular clothing line."

The Detroit News reports that Facebook gave Wilson's birth date, cell phone number, photos, messages and friends information to the FBI, which compared the Facebook photos to images taken from a bank surveillance video.

Said Wilson: "To be honest with you, it bothers me. ... Facebook could have let me know what was going on. Instead, I got my door kicked down, and all of a sudden I'm in handcuffs."

Written by managing editor Paula Martersteck.

May 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 23, 2011

Senators Renew Pressure on Google and Apple to Pull DUI Checkpoint Apps

Ars Techinca has been following an interesting issue being raised by several members of Congress: Should companies such as Apple, Google and Research In Motion stop selling or otherwise making available smartphone apps that help drunk drivers avoid DUI checkpoints?

An open letter from U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer and Tom Udall sent to these companies back in March asserted that such software is "harmful to public safety" and should not be offered. RIM quickly agreed to the senators' request, but two months later Apple is still pondering the issue. Apple's Catherine Novelli stated that there are differences of opinion on whether flagging the locations of checkpoints is inherently good or bad, Ars reports. "We are reviewing the situation and determining the best course of action in a thoughtful manner," she said.

At a Senate hearing Thursday on mobile privacy issues, Sen. Udall used his allotted five minutes to raise the issue once again, and to put the heat on Apple and Google for not removing DUI checkpoint apps such as DUI Dodger, Buzzed, Checkpoint Wingman and PhantomALERT from their stores.

Udall contends that that the apps encourage users to break the law. Apple's Novelli notes, however, that some apps offer to call a cab company for the user, for instance, which could be viewed as a "net positive." And Alan Davidson, Google's U.S. director of public policy, stated that because the DUI checkpoint apps merely share information, they do not violate the Android Marketplace policy "at this time."

Apple and Google both agreed earlier this month to conduct a review of the DUI applications to see if they violate app store guidelines.

May 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 20, 2011

U.S. Secret Service Becomes Latest Victim of a 'Wrong Pipe' Tweet

As I noted last month, law firms getting more active on Twitter need to avoid three main types of "self-destructive" tweets. First on the list was the increasingly common "wrong pipe" tweet, which occurs when the person responsible for tweeting for a company or law firm accidentally tweets from the company's account rather than from his or her individual Twitter account. As discussed in last month's post, the American Red Cross and Chrysler have already learned about "wrong pipe" tweets the hard way.

The latest victim of a "wrong pipe" tweet is an unlikely one: The U.S. Secret Service, which launched its Twitter account less than two weeks ago, on May 9, 2011. Ten days later, an unusual tweet popped up on the Secret Service's account:



The "FOX News is blathering" tweet was almost immediately deleted, and was followed by a sheepish statement by the Secret Service explaining what had happened on its new Twitter account:

An employee with access to the Secret Service's Twitter account, who mistakenly believed they were on their personal account, posted an unapproved and inappropriate tweet. The tweet contained no vulgarity, security or pertinent agency information. The tweet did not reflect the views of the U.S. Secret Service and it was immediately removed.

We apologize for this mistake, and the user no longer has access to our official account.  Policies and practices which would have prevented this were not followed and will be reinforced for all account users. We will ensure existing policies are strictly adhered to in order to prevent this mistake from being repeated, and we are conducting appropriate internal follow-up.

Moral of the story for law firms: If it happened to the U.S. Secret Service, it can surely happen to you. Let's be careful out there!


May 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (6)

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: My fiance has proposed that I sign a "Spencer Plan Agreement" before we get married? What is that?

Answer: Oh, that just means that you contractually agree to give your partner the full right and permission to spank you whenever they feel such discipline would be helpful. You will get ready for the punishment promptly when asked to do so, and you will ask for spankings when you feel you need them. (Associated Press, Va. businessman's spankings lead to charges)

2) Question: I smoke medical marijuana to deal with my arthritis. I'd also very much like to carry around a concealed weapon. Is that a problem?

Answer: Looks like no problem. (WSJ Law Blog, Oregon Woman Wins Quest To Pack Heat & Smoke Dope)

3) Question: I read your post about about men getting stuck with huge bar bills by the "B-Girls" down in Miami. Today I woke up in a Miami taxi with a massive headache, no memory of last night and a huge painting of a woman's head beside me. Could this be the same operation?

Answer: Sounds like it. Check your AmEx bill ASAP! (Deadspin, This Is The Story Of Two Elegant Latvian Women Roofying And Robbing A Weatherman In South Beach)

May 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 19, 2011

And the First-Ever LBW 'Costanza Award' Goes to ... Munich Re Executives!

"Seinfeld," Season 3, episode 12 ("The Red Dot"):

Mr. Lippman: It's come to my attention that you and the cleaning woman have engaged in sexual intercourse on the desk in your office. Is that correct?
George Costanza: Who said that?
Mr. Lippman: She did.
George Costanza: [pause] Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time.
Mr. Lippman: You're fired!
George Costanza: Well, you didn't have to say it like that.

I've dabbled in this area before ("Parents Tattoo Their Kids, Use Costanza Defense: 'Was That Wrong?'"), but some former executives at Munich Re have inspired me to create and give out LBW's first-ever "Costanza Award."

According to an article in Germany's Handelsblatt that I cannot read but which is translated/summarized by Bloomberg, a Munich Re subsidiary named Ergo Versicherungsgruppe hosted a party in 2007 to reward 100 of its top-performing insurance agents. The company brought in 20 prostitutes to the function held at the historic Gellert spa in Budapest in what it now acknowledges was a "clear violation" of company policy.

For those of you who were not at the party, let me tell you what you missed. According to Bloomberg:

Women wore color-coded armbands, the newspaper said, citing unidentified guests, with red for hostesses, yellow for those available for sexual favors and white for women reserved for executives and the very best agents. After each trip to beds set up near the thermal baths, a woman would receive a stamp on her forearm, the paper reported.

The unnamed executives responsible for organizing the party left the company "before the case was known," said a company spokeswoman. It is unclear whether these executives have ever been forced to explain their actions, but given the fact that prostitution is legal in both Hungary and Germany, I feel confident that these executives would have answered any inquiries just as Costanza did: "Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? ..."

As such, the first-ever LBW "Costanza Award" goes to these unnamed "Johan Doe" former executives from Munich Re. Glückwünsche!

May 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2011

End of the Line for the Winkelvi?

Barring a stunning grant of certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court, or perhaps a sequel to "The Social Network," we may have finally seen the last of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. On Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to grant the Winklevoss twins a rehearing, Hollywood, Esq. reports. Last month, a panel of judges on the 9th Circuit held that the Winkelvi were stuck with the cash and stock settlement (valued at over $65 million) they had negotiated back in 2008 to resolve their now-famous lawsuit against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Winkelvi claimed that Zuckerberg stole their idea while they were classmates at Harvard.

Immediately following the 9th Circuit's order Tuesday, the Winkelvi announced, predictably, that they would now appeal to the Supreme Court.  The lawyers representing the twins stated that:

Settlements should be based on honest dealing, and courts have wisely refused to enforce a settlement obtained by fraudulent means. The Court's decision shut the courthouse door to a solid claim that Facebook obtained this settlement by committing securities fraud. Our Petition to the Supreme Court will ask the high court to decide whether that door should be reopened.

Appellate experts such as SCOTUSBlog's Tom Goldstein pegged the odds of the Supreme Court hearing the appeal at "zero" because the dispute is primarily about facts rather than broad legal issues. Stanford Law school professor Joe Grundfest agreed, joking that in his view the Winkelvoss twins' certiorari petition "will not get many 'like' buttons" from the Court.

Analyzing the twins' intense pursuit of the litigation, Dr. Mark Levy, a forensic psychiatrist, told ABC News that the Winkelvi may really be looking for "a psychological, not legal, remedy" and the chance to "have their victimization witnessed on the stage of litigation." He labeled it a "theatrical desire."

May 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: I just opened a condolence card from my husband's employer expressing sorrow for the death of his wife. But I'm his wife and I am alive. Can you help clarify this situation?

Answer: Sometimes husbands pretend that their wife has cancer and receive paid time off and cash gifts (and condolence cards) from their employers. It happens. (Union Leader, Police: Greenville man used fake cancer story) (via Jonathan Turley)

2) Question: I am a female deer. My buck husband and I have been trying to have a baby deer for some time now with no success. Any suggestions?

Answer: Are you in Maryland? Do you recall ever having been shot with a tranquilizer gun, briefly captured, and then returned to the wild?  If so, you may have been one of the first "beneficiaries" of a state program providing deer with birth control injections. Don't worry, it will wear off after one year! (Consumerist, You Get Free Birth Control In Maryland If You Happen To Be A Deer)

3) Question: I am trying to purchase my medical marijuana at the pharmacy but my American Express card keeps getting declined. My AmEx account is in good standing--what is the problem?

Answer: Sorry, marijuana can only be purchased with Visa or the Discover Card. (SmartMoney, As Delaware Legalizes Medical Marijuana, Amex Just Says No)

May 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 16, 2011

AFA Gets the Last Laugh on Whether There Was Porn on the Sears Website (There Was)

Last year, I wrote here about an ongoing campaign by the "American Family Association" to get Sears to stop selling what it characterized as "graphic" and "pornographic" posters on the Sears website. As the AFA agenda also included condemning homosexuals and seeking a complete ban on the construction of mosques, I was skeptical and conducted my own review of the posters in question here.

Sears basically blew off the AFA's complaints about the posters, but now, the AFA seems to have gotten the last laugh, after discovering that, over in the DVD section of the Sears website, consumers could actually order X-rated movies such as "Lesbian Sistas 3," "Hot and Exotic" and "Snatched: Curse of the Pink Panties 2." The New York Post reports that, to prove its point, the AFA purchased a DVD called "Hot Mamas Love Young Chicks 3" from the Sears website. The AFA's director of issue analysis stated that, while he had not personally watched HMLYC3, "rest assured it is not a documentary about attractive Midwestern farmers' wives running egg hatcheries."

Sears acknowledged that the sale of such DVDs was against its policies and attributed the sale of X-rated videos to one of its vendors: "Our vendor should have never included these items on the site. Once we learned that they had been, we immediately told the vendor to have them removed."

The New York Post adds that, while most of the X-rated titles appear to have been removed from the Sears website, a few "questionable" ones, such as "Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders," were still available for purchase.

May 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (5)

May 13, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: I was a complete jerk to my ex-girlfriend while we were dating, to the point that it inspired her to write enough lovelorn songs to create a popular album. Am I entitled to some of the album's royalties for my role in the creative process here?

Answer: Novel theory, but I'm going to have to go with "no."(NME, Adele's ex-boyfriend demands '19' album royalties)

2) Question: I've just been sentenced to 20 years in prison, but I'm thinking about asking the judge to tack on four more years to the sentence so that it will be 24 years -- the same number that my favorite basketball player wears on his jersey! Awesome, right? Will the court allow this?

Answer: The court may well indulge your request to tack four more years on, but rethink this. Others who have increased their sentences to match their favorite player's number have later regretted it once they started doing hard time. (, Oklahoma inmate's tribute to Larry Bird's number 33 backfired)

3) Question: I have some thoughts for a new business, but they are inchoate. Actually, some parts of my plan are inchoate, but others are quite choate. With respect to the ones that are choate, how can I --

Answer: STOP! As Judge Posner wrote in an opinion this week, the word “choate” is a "barbarism" that, while "fairly well ensconced in the legal vocabulary," shall not be used in his court as it is "not only a sign of ignorance but also a source of confusion." LBW will similarly not entertain such a barbaric, ignorant and confusing question. (Judge Richard Posner, Bloomfield State Bank v. U.S.)

May 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 12, 2011

The D&O Diary's Kevin LaCroix Reflects on Five Years of Blogging

Last week, Kevin LaCroix offered A Blogger's Reflections on the fifth anniversary of his stellar blog, The D&O Diary. Kevin is an attorney and an executive with OakBridge Insurance Services, and his blog focuses on directors’ and officers’ liability insurance issues.

Regardless of whether you follow D&O insurance law, anyone who writes a law blog or is even considering writing one can benefit from Kevin's thoughts as he completes five years at The D&O Diary. Here are some of Kevin's observations:

  • As he has gradually acquired a large and loyal readership, these readers have become an important source of case decisions, pleadings, news articles, books, academic articles, questions, comments and queries for his blog. Kevin believes he now gets his best material from readers.
  • No one, he says, gets more out of the blog than he does. Maintaining it ensures that he stays up to speed on the latest developments in his field. More importantly, he says, the blog has allowed him "to form innumerable connections around the world. ... I have regular communications with a large number of lawyers, academics, journalists, financial analysts and regulators. I have also formed fast friendships with many of my fellow bloggers, all of whom have been supportive and helpful over the years."
  • One "recurring delight" resulting from the blog is when Kevin hears from completely unexpected sources -- strangers in Time Square or in airports who recognize him from his photo, or random guys at his golf club -- who tell him that they are readers of his blog.
  • Finally, and most importantly, Kevin says, he simply enjoys writing the blog. It is like having his "own personal Fourth Plinth," he says, where his imagination is the only limitation.

Kevin points out that blogging does come with a price. For one thing, posting the content is a lengthy process that can take "hours and hours and hours." In addition, he shares that

blog topics are not self-revealing. Occasionally, somebody has sent me something that obviously needs to go up right away. But the rest of the time, blog topics have to be hunted down in the endless ocean of information and conversation that surrounds us all. The search for blogworthy topics is never-ending – the worst part about adding a new post is that at the moment of publication the pressure to find another topic starts all over again.

In addition, Kevin points out something that most bloggers who have been at it for a while will be able to relate to -- sometimes the "demons of technology" rise up inexplicably and do dastardly things like wipe out every one of the thousands of links on your blog.

Read all of Kevin's excellent thoughts and reflections on his five years of blogging here.

May 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 11, 2011

PDF/A-Whaaaat? Preparing for the Mandatory Change in Electronic Case Filing

Last year, the federal judiciary announced that it was planning to "change the technical standard for filing documents in the Case Management and Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system from PDF to PDF/A." At the time, no target date for the change was provided, but it appears that the change may be coming soon in some jurisdictions.

Each federal court is responsible for setting its own deadline for requiring documents to be filed in the PDF/A format. In the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, for example, the court will start posting documents in PDF/A format beginning June 1, 2011, and all court ECF filings uploaded on or after Jan. 1, 2012, must be in PDF/A format.

For those of you reading this and thinking, "PDF/A-whaaat!?," here is a primer, courtesy of the PIT IP Tech Blog. In short, PDF/A is

an International Standards Organization (ISO) approved version of the popular Adobe PDF format designed for archival purposes. It is a self-contained file, which means that it does not rely on external media players or hyperlinks outside of the documents. In addition, it embeds all of the fonts used in the document inside the file, so the recipient need not have any of the fonts installed on his or her computer. It also prevents security measures of any kind (such as passwords).

By moving to the PDF/A format, PIT IP Tech Blog adds, "electronically-filed documents will be more accessible in the future and less dependent on technologies or features that may become unsupported." Other key points to note about the new format include the fact that using it will make file sizes larger, and that hyperlinking to webpages or judicial decisions will not be possible "because the file must be self-contained."

In an update on the topic this week, PIT IP Tech Blog writes that there are several resouces on the web that can help lawyers with the transition to the PDF/A format, including (a) this tutorial and webcast on the Adobe Acrobat for Legal Professionals website, and (b) the federal judiciary's FAQ regarding the PDF/A change.

May 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 10, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: I realllllly need to use the bathroom before this flight lands. What is wrong with this airplane's bathroom door? Am I going to need to bash through it with my shoulder to get it to open? And why are all these people screaming at me in a foreign language?

Answer: Stop what you are doing immediately and make sure that is the door to the bathroom, not the cockpit. (AP, Air marshal: Suspect tried to open cockpit door)

2) Question: I'm a new attorney. The judge just compared my client's discovery responses to “a standup comic who delivers the punch-lines of his jokes first” and “a plane with landing gear that deploys just after touchdown.” That's good, right?

Answer: Sorry, not good. Nor is "a discovery abuse so extreme as to be literally unheard of in this Court." (The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times, Judge Accuses D.C. of Discovery Violation 'So Extreme As To Be Literally Unheard Of')

3) Question: This is an outrage! The county allowed a road in my neighborhhod to be called Sex Change Street! How am I supposed to drive down this street with my children!?! To whom do I address my strongly worded letter complaining about this?

Answer: Is that you, Sean Connery? Calm down and look closer, sir.  Could the road possibly be called South Exchange Street ("S. Exchange Street")? (FAIL Blog, Street Name FAIL)

May 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 09, 2011

Lawsuit Claims Jay-Z's 'Big Pimpin' Violates Egyptian 'Moral Rights'

Rapper and business mogul Shawn Carter ("I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man!"), aka Jay-Z, had a smash hit in 2000 with his single "Big Pimpin." The song features a catchy loop of an Egyptian song from the 1960s called "Khosara, Khosara," which Jay-Z licensed from one of the children of the song's creator, Baligh Hamdy. The children inherited the song's copyright interests upon Hamdy's death in 1993.

"Big Pimpin," of course, turned into what Rolling Stone has called one of the top 500 songs of all time. In 2007, however, one of Hamdy's children, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, sued Jay-Z, EMI publishing and a host of others, claiming that even though Jay-Z had a license to use the song, that license only gave him  “economic rights”, i.e., the right to reproduce, perform or distribute the work “without alteration.” As Hollywood, Esq. explains, the plaintifs claim that because Jay-Z altered "Khosara, Khosara" by sampling and looping parts of it and adding his own lyrics on top of it, he violated a concept called “moral rights," which exist under Egyptian copyright code:

Egyptian copyright law also confers to owners “moral rights” over copyrighted work, which, according to the plaintiff's experts, can’t be disposed of like “economic rights.” Basically, if Jay-Z wished to “mutilate” the original song by sampling it, looping it and adding his lyrics, the plaintiff argues he needed to get the express permission of each of Hamdy's four children.

Jay-Z argued, among other things, that the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over alleged violations of Egyptian “moral rights,” but in an opinion issued on May 2, 2011, U.S. Judge Christina Snyder disagreed. The court ruled that additional fact-finding was necessary on the issue of whether the use of "Khosara Khosara" was outside the scope of the licenses at issue.

For those of you who do not already have the "Big Pimpin" loop of "Khosara, Khosara" stuck in your head, here it is. You're welcome!

May 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 06, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: I've been offered a job in a plant making computer and telephone equipment. It seems like a great opportunity, but why is the employer requiring me to sign a pledge promising not to kill myself and stating I will "treasure my life"?

Answer: Careful! Some of these plants supposedly work their employees "inhumanely, like machines." Perhaps the "no suicide" pledge is a red flag? (Consumerist, Chinese iPad Workers Forced To Sign "No Suicide" Pledge)

2) Question: All I said in front of the police officer was "get him." How can I be convicted for "intimidating an officer"?  What about the First Amendment?

Answer: Valid point, but remember that if your words immediately incite an attack on the officer by your dog, you would not have a defense under the First Amendment. (UNDERDOG, D.C. Ct. App.: Words that incite a dog's attack are not First-Amendment protected)

3) Question: We've been practicing for months for this dog show. Why is my dog so lethargic and out-of-it today?

Answer: You might want to check your dog's food bowl. Sometimes competing owners will slip drugs into the food of competing dogs. FYI, dog-drugging of this sort can be punished as misdemeanor cruelty to animals and attempted criminal damage to property. (Turley, Pixie Pills: Pennsylvania Man Charged With Drugging Dog At Competition)

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Using Social Media to Support Navy SEALs ... Pass It On!

Bradley Shear, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who writes the excellent Shear on Social Media Law blog, is trying to use social media in a different way this week. On the heels of the historic mission by the U.S. Navy SEa Air Land (SEAL) team that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Shear wishes to draw attention to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

The Navy SEAL Foundation's mission is to "provide educational and motivational support, promote health and welfare programs for the Naval Special Warfare Community, and perpetuate the history and heritage of the U.S. Naval Commandos." Specifically, it describes its role as including the following:

  • We provide tragedy assistance for families who have lost a loved one in training or combat.
  • We support family events to uphold morale and camaraderie.
  • We award scholarships and provide educational assistance to active duty personnel, their spouses, and children.

As Shear notes, "the brave men and women who worked tirelessly day in and day out tracking down public enemy number #1 are our neighbors next door, our friends around the corner, and the people whom we see at the mall and ballpark. They may even be our professors and/or mentors." Through the Navy SEAL Foundation, Shear says, people can help support the families of the SEALs who toil in anonymity to protect our country. He encourages "everyone who reads this blog to spread the news about the Navy SEAL Foundation via all social media platforms including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc..."

Thank you, Bradley, for highlighting this terrific foundation.

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 05, 2011

The Day's Three Burning Legal Questions

Here are today's three burning legal questions, along with the answers provided by the blogosphere.

1) Question: I've been watching the Raj Rajaratnam/Galleon insider trading case like a hawk. There's no way he is going to be convicted. In fact, I'd say there was at best a 25 percent chance of a conviction. How can I profit on this?

Answer: If you are willing to put your money where your mouth is, and you are correct, you could make a bundle by placing a wager on Intrade where the current betting line is 94 percent in favor of a conviction. (Intrade, Raj Rajaratnam to be found guilty of at least one count of insider trading is 94% probable)

2) Question: I just painted my kitchen with some "odorless" Benjamin Moore Natura paint. And yet my house now stinks so badly that I can't even stay in my home. How can I profit on this?

Answer: Perhaps you would like to join a class action lawsuit filed by your fellow citizens who were also surprised to have a smelly house? (Consumerist, Lawsuit: Benjamin Moore's Odorless Paint Actually Quite Stinky)

3) Question: I've been reading my ex-wife's highly entertaining blog about her adventures during the months she's been living on her boyfriend’s sailboat in the Caribbean. I'm paying her alimony -- can I use this blog to reduce my payments?

Answer: Maybe so, as this blog evidence may demonstrate that your ex-wife is now co-habitating with someone else. (Internet Cases, Blogging ex-wife gets alimony cut)

May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 04, 2011

Tattoo Law: Can 'Hangover 2' Use Tyson Tattoo on Ed Helms' Character?

In April 2010 I pointed out some examples of tattoo law jurisprudence and asked, "[t]here are blawgs out there on everything from "Law and Magic" to "Mixed Martial Arts Law" so how can there not be a blawg about Tattoo Law? Is there not an ink-loving lawyer out there who will step up here?"

I have yet to see any tattoo law blogs, but it is not too late for any of you wannabe tattoo bloggers, as the tattoo lawsuits continue to pile up. Most recently, an interesting lawsuit was filed by the tattoo artist who created the now-famous "tribal” tattoo around Mike Tyson's left eye against Warner Bros., the studio responsible for “Hangover 2.” 


OnPointNews reports that artist Victor Whitmill, who owns the intellectual property rights to the design, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Warner Bros. alleging that the tattoo cannot be reproduced on anyone's body other than Mike Tyson without his permission. In "Hangover 2," Ed Helms' character wakes up to find what appears to be the Tyson tattoo inked on his face.

Whitmill reportedly registered his copyright in April 2011 and is seeking damages and an injunction on the Memorial Day weekend release of "Hangover 2." OPN states that, to be successful, a "fair use" defense by Warner Bros. may need to show that the tattoo in the movie is a parody of Tyson's tattoo, i.e., “a new art work that makes ridiculous the style and expression of the original.” Rogers v. Koons, 960 F. 2d 301 (1992). OPN concludes that the defendant should have a "strong argument that by recreating the Tyson tattoo on Ed Helms's face, they were making an ironic or comic reference to Tyson's appearance in the original movie."

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (11)

May 03, 2011

Police Use Data Shared by TomTom GPS Users to Set Targeted Speed Traps

Companies that ask you to allow them to collect information about your use of their product may have good intentions, but sometimes purchasers of that information may have other plans.

For example,when you sign up for the TomTom GPS device service, the company asks you if it is OK if they collect "travel time information," and most users agree to this. TomTom says it uses this information to "create high quality traffic information and to route you around traffic jams and get you to your destination as quickly and safely as possible." So far, so good, right?

TomTom also sometimes makes this information available to local governments and authorities so that authorities can "better understand where congestion takes place, where to build new roads and how to make roads safer." Again, no problem.

Last week, however, TomTom's CEO Harold Goddijn wrote a letter to the company's customers letting them know that, in at least some areas, local police have used the data in an "unforeseen" way that may make TomTom users wish they had never agreed to share information: to place speed cameras where the shared TomTom data shows average speed is higher than the legally allowed speed limit. In his letter, Goddijn writes that TomTom "fully understands some of customers do not like this and we will amend the licensing conditions to stop this type of usage in near future."

PC Mag reports that TomTom started selling traffic data to governments earlier this year as a way to supplement weak earnings. After a Dutch newspaper reported that Dutch police were using the data to target speed traps, however, customers became upset, prompting Goddijn's letter.

May 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (9)

May 02, 2011

Feds Seize Domain Names for Alleged Piracy, Embed Their Own Educational Guilt-Trip Videos

Back in my day (five months ago), when the federal government seized your website's domain name for alleged counterfeiting or piracy, they just made it so that visitors to the site saw the assorted "scary eagles" in the graphics below:


Ah, but that was a simpler time, and today's website seizures now come not only with the eagle seals above but also with a mandatory serving of social media propaganda: an automatically playing YouTube video that tries to make visitors to the website feel guilty about downloading free movies (via Threat Level).

You can visit one of the recently seized domains, such as, to get the full "scary eagles + guilt video" experience (the video starts by itself about 10 seconds after you visit the site). Or you can cut out the middleman and go directly to the video below if you want a lesson from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on how downloading free movies puts (very sad-looking) Hollywood boom mic operators out of work and means that "you have no soul."

May 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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