You Can’t Sue Your Favorite Team for Stinking, But Can You Sue Them for Intentionally Stinking?

My wife is very excited about tonight’s Laker game.  Not because she is a Laker fan.  Indeed, any actual Laker fan (like me) knows that now is a decidedly bad time to be a Laker fan.  True, during the last off-season we acquired Superman a/k/a D12 a/k/a Dwight Howard, and two-time MVP Steve Nash season.  True, we still have the Black Mamba.  And yes, we still have (at least for the moment) Pau Gasol.  We even replaced former-coach-of-the-year Mike Brown with different former-coach-of-the-year Mike D’Antoni as our new head coach (although it meant passing on other former-coach-of-the-year Phil Jackson).  So why are the Clippers the L.A. basketball team going on franchise winning streaks, while the Lakers are a sub .500 team?  Why does the classic and hilarious Onion video about a Staples’ Center collapse scenario which mercifully brings about an early end to a Clippers game now seem like it should only apply to the Lakers?

Whatever the reason, my wife couldn’t care less.  Like I said, she’s not a Laker fan — she’s a Steve Nash fan.  It’s so bad, in fact, that she won’t even watch the game when Steve Nash is not on the floor.  She’ll just pick up her iPhone and look at cute animal pictures or surf Pinterest.com for whatever it is that people do on Pinterest.com.  Maybe looking for pictures of Steve Nash?  In short, she completely loses interest.  So I can understand her paranoia about whether Steve Nash will suit up tonight (especially given his recent trouble with injuries).

But would my wife and I ever sue the Lakers for a refund if they decided to bench Steve Nash?  Of course not.  It’s not like we live in Miami!

Because these days, people apparently do that kind of thing in Miami… Continue reading the full story . . . »


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“Where Are They Now”: Law Law Land Edition

This time last year, Law Law Land joined the hackneyed proud tradition of legal blogs offering year-end lists of cases to watch in the coming year (though in our defense, we did try to mix it up by reviewing totally absurd cases as well as totally important cases).  But “year in review” and “year to come” are cultural clichés that never held much appeal to me.  “Where are they now?” on the other hand?  That’s more my speed.  (Maybe that’s why I always adored the last five minutes of every episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, where the program would show the artist in their current, everyday life and tease the inevitable “impending comeback.”)  So what has become of those five big cases we told you to watch this year?  And did we pick good ones or not?  (Preview:  Yes, we did.  Oh shush, I don’t care if we’re biased.) Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Miss Universe Pageant Scores Big Against Former Contestant

The Quaker State can be proud of many things.  The Liberty Bell.  Andy Warhol.  Tastykake.  Trading Places.  The Immaculate Reception.  But one part of its history that Pennsylvania may wish to forget (besides dog killer Michael Vick) is the garrulous young woman chosen to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant — Sheena Monnin.  Last month, a New York arbitrator found that Monnin defamed the Miss Universe organization when she claimed that the show had been rigged and ordered her to pay $5 million in damages.  Everyone knows that beauty pageants are big business (and were even before Honey Boo Boo tragically became a household name).  But how did they suddenly become the setting for big damages awards too?

“Fraudulent, Lacking in Morals, Inconsistent, and in Many Ways Trashy”

Monnin participated in the Miss USA competition and was not one of the semifinalists selected by the pageant judges.  A different panel of celebrity judges then chose the five finalists, including the eventual Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island.

She of the $5 million judgmentMoments after learning she had not been chosen as a semifinalist, Monnin sent an email to the director of the Miss Pennsylvania USA Pageant, Randy Sanders, claiming that the contest had been “f-ing rigged Randy.”  (Wouldn’t be surprised if this phrase becomes part of the vernacular.)  Monnin resigned as Miss Pennsylvania the next day.  As her reason, she stated that the pageant system had “removed itself from its foundational principles” by allowing transgendered contestants.  That night, she publicly announced her resignation on Facebook, stating that she wanted no affiliation with an organization that was “fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy” — a sentiment that sounds like it could just as easily be a review of the clientele at many Hollywood nightclubs.

In a second Facebook post, she provided a new rationale for her resignation:  the show had been rigged.  As evidence, Monnin gave details of a conversation with another contestant who purportedly had found a list naming the top five finalists prior to the final judging. 

Not surprisingly, these comments received much media attention.  Monnin repeated her accusations on NBC’s Today Show, which is broadcast nationally. 

Given that allegations of corruption in judging are nothing new and are rarely substantiated (the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal notwithstanding), the Miss Universe officials might have let this go after Monnin ignored the group’s offer to review the judging process with her.  Forgiveness, however, was no longer on the agenda after the organization allegedly lost a potential $5 million sponsor who purportedly pulled out after expressing concern about the “rigging” allegations. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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BaZynga!

Free-to-play games are all the rage these days.  Many people while away their days playing Angry Birds, or Words with Friends before going home to watch Monday Night Football.  Nerds — and, increasingly, “normal people” — do the exact same thing, except instead of watching football, we play games like Super Monday Night Combat.  This summer, the remarkable viability of the free-to-play business model gained extra attention when Forbes reported that the most-played PC game in the world is now a free-to-play game called League of Legends.  For those of you struggling to understand the profitability part, just take a look at League of Legends character Teemo (pictured left).  I mean, seriously, who can resist purchasing all the adorable “skins” for him?!  (Clearly, not me.)

Nevertheless, the business world of free-to-play gaming is not without its dark, seedy underbelly, where even the cute and cuddly characters are forced to work in digital sweatshops and sell virtual drugs on simulated street corners just to make ends meet.  Well, ok, maybe it’s not that extreme.  But as a recent (and bitter) dispute between game makers Zynga and Kixeye demonstrates, the gaming business can be just as ugly (and fascinating) as some of the game battles themselves.

Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Three French Hens, Two Turtle Doves, and Money for My Tax Lien

With the holiday season upon us, we all have so much to be thankful for: our health, happiness, Amazon Prime shipping, and — if you’re Lindsay Lohan — an extra $100k from your Uncle Charlie* (Sheen) to help you out of your tax troubles with your Uncle Sam.

That’s right: ‘tis a season of giving and, like any holiday season, it will be filled with scrooges. The odd thing is that the scrooge Bah-Humbugging a gift is usually the giver, not the receiver. Maybe Lindsay is just not into the holiday spirit, but multiple reports have surfaced this week that Lindsay has yet to say, or even text, thank you to Charlie for his generous gift of $100,000 (maybe Charlie should have helped with her phone bill first). [Update: Lindsay finally thanked/apologized to Charlie, citing a “broken phone” and “lost contacts” for the delay — the modern social equivalent of “the dog ate my homework.”] Lindsay reportedly owes more than $200,000 in back income taxes, interest and penalties to the IRS, and Sheen had reportedly gifted Lindsay the money to help her pay off her IRS tax lien. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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The Secret World of Copyright

What do Avril Lavigne cover songs, Dish Network’s AutoHop feature, celebrity sex tapes, apartment hunting websites, and ad-serving browser skinning programs have in common?

Each of them is a window into how copyright, an 18th century concept, drafted into a 20th century law, impacts the products we use and the way we experience life in a 21st century world.

The Simplest, Most Complicated Law You Know

Non-lawyers usually think of copyright as a pretty simple and intuitive area of the law, and in many ways, it’s one of the easiest areas to break down into easy, digestible (if somewhat oversimplified) terms.  What’s a copyright?  The exclusive right to control and exploit creative works.  How do you infringe a copyright?  Copy or perform a work without permission/payment, or steal it to create your own new, too-similar work.  Putting aside people’s chronic tendency to confuse copyrights and trademarks — helpful hint:  copyrights are for creative works, trademarks are for brand name, logos, and slogans — copyright is an area of law that, at least initially, the general public can intuitively “get.”

Of course, when the breakneck speed of technological development meets the languorous pace of national lawmaking, things can get a bit more complicated. For example, when the copyright infringement case against file-sharing service Grokster finally came before the Supreme Court in 2005, the Court’s nine justices required three separate opinions and the invention of an entire new theory of copyright liability to explain why Grokster was illegal, but other, less offensive services might not be illegal.  (Headline:  “Supreme Court Rules ‘Unanimously’ Against Grokster 3-3-3.”)

To be fair, though, things started getting wacky long before the Internet was invented.  For instance, most people know that any musician can cover any other musician’s song, without permission (for a small, statutorily-defined fee).  Why?  Because in 1909, Congress created a special “compulsory license” scheme to allow player piano roll makers to sell song rolls without having to separately seek permission from the original songwriters.  Somewhere along the way, some clever lawyer figured out the law was drafted broadly enough to allow for unauthorized cover songs, and now we all have to deal with Avril Lavigne defiling John Lennon’s “Imagine” in the name of Darfur relief.  (Miley Cyrus’s evisceration of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Celine Dion’s desecration of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” were, to my knowledge, only ever performed live, and so we have a different quirk of copyright law — the proliferation of blanket “public performance” licenses  managed by performing rights organizations ASCAP and BMI — to blame for those abominations.) Continue reading the full story . . . »


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