In recent years Los Angeles has experienced an unprecedented wave of mega-mansion development, which has inevitably changed the aesthetic and character of some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods.  In turn, some residents have sought aid from the courts to preserve the aspects of their communities that they cherish most.  On June 20th, a California appellate court sided with development
Continue Reading CC&R You Kidding Me?: CA Appellate Court Rules Earlier Court Misread Restrictive Covenant Prohibiting Alterations to Existing Homes

A former high school teacher and NFL cheerleader sleeps with her student.  She faces widespread scorn, including scathing Internet comments.  Despite the scorn, she becomes engaged to the student.

It sounds like the plot of a made-for-TV movie.  But these facts form the basis of a landmark defamation lawsuit that could have ramifications for any website that allows users to


Continue Reading A “Dirty” Lawsuit: How a Sex Scandal Could Impact Online Defamation Law

Since then, this goal has often been cited by the Chinese government as a reason for Internet censorship.  In Mandarin, the word “Harmonious” is pronounced héxié (the accent marks here indicate rising tones).  However, by changing the tones slightly to héxiè (a rising tone followed by a falling tone) the word changes from harmonious to “river crab” – which has
Continue Reading “River Crabbing” Chinese Search Engine Battles for Freedom of Expression in the U.S.

I recently attended a presentation by retired judge Jacqueline Connor on the effect of social media in the legal system. After listening to her talk about a number of highly amusing cases, I went online to see just how many such cases are now out there. I was shocked to find that in the month of February 2014 alone, there were over 100 legal opinions issued in the U.S. just involving Facebook. While some of these cases were more disturbing than amusing, there were a few gems that cried out to be written about.
Continue Reading Fun with Facebook

Comedian Dmitri Martin has a great joke about the expression “sort of.” Although normally a fairly meaningless expression, saying “sort of” after certain things suddenly becomes very important. Such as after the phrase “I love you,” or “You’re going to live,” or “It’s a boy.” I immediately thought of this joke after reading a recent order issued by a federal court in Illinois. The order declared that Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, 221B Baker Street, the evil Professor Moriarty, and other elements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved works have fallen into the public domain.

Sort of.
Continue Reading Federal Judge Declares Sherlock Holmes Characters in Public Domain. Sort of.

California gives you the right to profit from your own identity.  But what if you assume somebody else’s?

Rick Ross is famous for rapping about cocaine.  Ricky D. Ross is famous for selling it.  Ross (the cocaine dealer) alleged that Ross (the rapper) misappropriated his name and likeness for his own financial benefit.  Or as one person wrote: “Rick
Continue Reading “Hustlin’” to a Legal Victory: Rick Ross and the Right of Publicity

Last month, I wrote about some notable examples of film and television producers being sued or threatened for using other peoples’ creations without permission.  Examples included Emerson Electric suing NBC after Claire from Heroes stuck her hand in an “InSinkErator” brand garbage disposal; Coca Cola Companythreatening legal action against an Italian film distributor over a film in which


Continue Reading Requiem for a Ridiculous Lawsuit

Have you ever noticed how people rarely sing “Happy Birthday to You” in movies and television?  Instead, people usually sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” even though no one actually sings that song in real life.  Nevertheless, this falsification of reality happens all the time.  My favorite example was when the crew of the Enterprise


Continue Reading Happy Birthday…You’re Being Sued!

In February, I wrote about a particularly fake-haired boneheaded lawsuit that Donald Trump brought against comedian Bill Maher.  As you may recall, Trump accused Maher of breach of contract based on a joke that Maher had made on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in which he had jokingly — really, completely obviously, jokingly — offered $5 million to the charity of Trump’s choice (the Hair Club for Men was Maher’s suggestion) if the real-estate mogul-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-national-punchline could provide proof that he was not, in fact, “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”  Ignoring the scientific impossibility of humans and orangutans being capable of producing offspring, and surely torturing his poor lawyer (whom he conscripted to respond to Maher), Trump purported to “accept” this offer by sending Maher a letter enclosing a copy of his birth certificate (short form only, though!) and demanding payment of the $5 million.  When Maher did not respond to the letter, Trump went bananas and filed a lawsuit.

After recounting Bill Maher’s hilarious response to the lawsuit, I boldly joined the near-consensus of legal observers in predicting that Trump would lose the lawsuit.  And I’m here to report, I was wrong — Trump never even had a chance to lose the case, because he dismissed the lawsuit himself, perhaps as a result of his lawyers reaching the same conclusion I did.  (Or perhaps, Trump’s simian brain finally realized that the situation had evolved beyond his control.)

 
Continue Reading Bill Maher Prevails Over Donald Trump Lawsuit By Sitting and Waiting for the Donald to Figure Out to Drop It Himself

Seattle sports fans recently rejoiced when the Maloof family announced that they have (finally) agreed to sell their stake in the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-based investment group that (spoiler alert) intends to move the team back to the Emerald City.  Considering how well the former Seattle SuperSonics are doing as the new OKC Thunder, coupled with the


Continue Reading The Lakers Beat the Who?