Archive for the ‘Law’ category

Dolan Media Pre-Christmas Rush

12-17-07

Before you break out your favorite Christmas movies, here’s a delectable selection of news morsels from around Dolan Media….

green-river-formation.jpgShell Oil Company wants to extract oil from the Green River Formation, which contains one of the largest oil shale deposits in the world. According to the Colorado Springs Business Journal’s Amy Gillentine, the government’s permitting process runs on a different track than Shell’s research on how to squeeze the goo from the rocks.

Shell submitted the application a year ago, but withdrew it when the company realized that research was going to lead in another direction, said Tracy Boyd, spokesman for the Mahogany Project, the name for the oil shale research work being conducted on 17 acres in the Colorado back country near Rifle.

“But that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped anything,” he said. “It’s a delay, but other things are going on at the site. We’ve finished building the freeze wall test and it’s 100 percent online now. They’re working on heating tests elsewhere on the site.”

The next step, which requires combining both the freezing and heating elements into one big test to see if Shell can really wring oil from the rocks, is causing the delay.

“It takes about a year to process the application, and things in this research are changing so fast that knowing exactly what you want to do in a year is difficult,” Boyd said. “We’re learning a lot more all the time. We’ll resubmit the application a year or so down the road when we have better information to know exactly what kind of integrated test we want to do.”

Shell, which has secured 200 patents for oil-shale extraction technology, is the only oil firm working this problem on such a massive scale. As one might expect, the whole shale-oil enterprise has its critics and skeptics. (more…)

“Copyfraud” Steals From the Public Domain

12-13-07

Here’s something I didn’t know:

Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare’s plays, Beethoven’s piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet’s Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner’s permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

This is from a paper by Assistant Professor Jason Mazzone of the Brooklyn Law School, which was linked by the popular site Boing Boing. The full paper can be downloaded from here.

In the paper, he cites a warning notice placed on an edition of the U.S. Constitution that many law students use: “No part of this may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means…without permission from the publisher.”  The Constitution! (more…)

New Dolan Legal Blog — Not Just for Badgers

11-27-07

jean_nicolet-discovers-wisconsin.jpgOur roster of Dolan Media blogs is growing. Today, I’m pleased to point you to The Wisconsin Law Journal Blogs. What you get here are the thoughts of several area legal scholars and legal affairs reporters writing mostly, but not entirely, about matters of law in their home state.

So, for example:

Tony Anderson writes this about a state supreme court decision that would eliminate limits on how many times someone can take the Wisconsin Bar exam:

On Nov. 7, the state’s high court considered a petition from Arnold A. Moncada Jr., a Thomas Cooley Law School (Lansing, Mich.) graduate who has made five unsuccessful attempts to pass the Wisconsin bar exam. Audio of that public hearing for Petition 07-04 is available here. Moncada said that 31 states allow unlimited attempts to pass the exam. He also noted that some other professions within Wisconsin allow unlimited opportunities to pass their licensing examinations.

I understand wanting to level the playing field with Wisconsin law school graduates who receive diploma privilege. However, the solution is not to eliminate the safeguards we have in place to protect the public. Questions regarding the appropriateness of diploma privilege should be considered separately.

Note that Tony links you to both the petition and an audio recording of the hearing itself. Not too shabby.

Two other pieces cover matters that all lawyers, litigants and anyone else for that matter should find of great interest. Trial lawyer and jury consultant Anne Reed discusses recent research into the power of “gory materials” to influence juries:

Just over 100 subjects were assigned to read a summary of the murder trial. The facts were the same in each summary, but the researchers varied the amount of detail in the description of the victim’s wounds. In addition, some subjects got photographs of the victim’s wounds with their summaries, some got “neutral” pictures of the crime scene, and some got no pictures at all.

The photographs had a huge influence. Only 8.8% of the mock jurors who didn’t see pictures voted to convict the defendant, compared to 38.2% of those who saw neutral pictures and 41.2% of those who saw gory pictures. The level of verbal detail, on the other hand, seemed to have no effect. Why did the photographs make such a difference? Another finding suggests the answer: the jurors who saw gruesome pictures “reported higher levels of anger directed at the defendant” than the others.

Her post includes a link to an audio presentation of this study by its author, David Bright, an Australian graduate student in forensic psychology.

Meanwhile, Ray Dall’Osto, a criminal defense and constitutional law attorney analyzes the effect of British and Dutch government moves to shut down OiNK, a music downloading and peer-to-peer sharing service:

Wasn’t all this decided in the Napster case? Remember when Napster existed and how you could readily have a world of music brought into your home – you could download songs from Vivaldi, Johnny Cash, Crosby Stills, Nine Inch Nails and even the Bonzo Dog Band? How cool was that? In A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2001), the Ninth Circuit ruled that Napster could be held liable for contributory infringement of record company copyrights and shut the free file-sharing service down. The court rejected arguments that peer-to-peer file-sharing was a fair use or allowable personal archiving, or that First Amendment rights to free speech and association protections were implicated.

This was the first major case to address the application of newer copyright laws to peer-to-peer file-sharing. And big business got what it paid for when the copyright laws were redrafted in the 1980s, with the substantial help of the recording and cable television industries to provide Draconian civil and criminal sanctions for personal use and file-sharers.

Our Wisconsin bloggers don’t shy away from the big issues. So — if you think you can take it — check out the Wisconsin Law Journal Blogs. And, while you’re at it, go over to my blogroll and check out the other excellent and proliferating Dolan blogs on business and law. Smart commentary, breaking news, curious episodes — we’ve got it all.

 

Holiday Slices of Dolan Media

11-21-07

Well, it happened. Rachel Paulose, the controversial young U.S. Attorney for Minneapolis, has left the frozen north and will return to Washington DC. Minnesota Lawyer Blog’s Mark Cohen has been getting a lot of eyes on his insightful farewell-to-Paulose post:

I believe that Paulose made the right choice in opting to end her often stormy tenure and accept a policy job in main Justice in Washington, D.C.

It has always been my belief that it was a management situation causing the disruptions at the office. Paulose has sterling academic credentials and a highly impressive resume for her age. But she had little real management experience.

Intent on impressing her bosses and no doubt deeply believing in her priorities, she plowed ahead and redirected the office without getting buy-in from the troops. She was also reportedly sometimes dictatorial in manner and abrasive toward subordinates. These are rookie mistakes frequently made by inexperienced managers. But when that manager is in charge of 100 talented individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and operating in a fishbowl, there is little room for error.

While I am not adverse to occasionally giving an important role to a highly talented young person and giving them a chance to grow into it, such a person needs guidance and support. As far as I can tell, such support was completely lacking from the problem-riddled Department of Justice.

Read the whole thing; and go back and read Minnesota Law Blog’s coverage of the Paulose story going back the past few months. It is much more than a just footnote to the DOJ controversies of the past year….

Deon Roberts of New Orleans’ The CityBusiness Blog is irate that the Crescent City is being passed over as a presidential debate site:

Who says we are “not ready” for an event of that size?

We hold Mardi Gras, for crying out loud. What about the Sugar Bowl, Jazz Fest and Essence Fest?

We surely could handle 3,000 journalists. What are they talking about?

One of Deon’s commenters, Wendy King, speculates the Republicans put the kibosh on it because they

would have to come down here, get a guided tour of the devastated parts of the city, and explain to their supporters why this city’s recovery isn’t on a faster track.

Now, this is awkward…another Dolan Media market, Long Island, is getting a presidential debate. According to LI BizBlog, the third one will be held at Hofstra University. If it turns out to be Giuliani vs. Clinton, I think we’re all going to feel left out….

A circuit judge in Virginia has ruled that property owners near Chesapeake Airport should get compensated for the diminution of their homes’ value due to noise, according to VLW Blog….

In Maryland, a biochemistry professor is about to get very rich, according to The Daily Record.

(Lawrence R.) Sita, a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, has been working for the past eight years on a new method of making pure plastics without chemical additives.

The issue of chemical additives in plastics is a hot topic, with mounting numbers of product recalls and controversy over reform of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Suddenly, Sita, a lifelong academic, is seriously considering licensing his technology from the university and starting a company of his own.

Success would require catching the attention of the global plastics industry, including big names such as Dow, that produces 110 million metric tons of plastic each year.

That’s enough plastic to rebuild the Great Pyramid at Giza 44 times over, Sita said.

Maybe this guy will give Professor Sita a call….

benjamin-braddock-the-graduate.jpg

Happy Thanksgiving….

Friday Dolan Media on My Mind

11-16-07

Long Island Business News’ publisher John Kominicki uses the announcement of FTC fines against telemarketers that defy the Do-Not-Call list to illustrate the maxim No good deed goes unpunished:

To be honest, it’s the not-for-profits that bother me the most. My wife and I give to many causes, but we like to do it locally and as anonymously as possible. Our thanks is often a steady stream of calls asking for more.

Let that be a warning to you: Give a dollar over the phone to the vets, Civil War widows or public television and you will be hounded without mercy.

The typical call goes something like this:

“Hello, Mister … Kernacko? No, wait … Kamikoko?

“It’s Kominicki.”

“Yes, I’m calling on behalf of Channel 437. Last year, Mr. Kackinocki, you pledged $250 and we sent you the fabulous three-DVD set Judy Garland: The Demerol Years.”

“Yes, I remember that. But I already sent you $250 this year – just last month, I believe.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Kimchinicki, but you know the cost of providing wonderful, commercial-free programming like ours goes up and up and we’re wondering if you’d be willing to send us an additional $500.”

“Didn’t Ray Kroc’s widow just leave you, like, $700 billion?”

“Thank you, Mr. Komatahari. We’ll charge the credit card we have on file, and as our way of saying thank you, we’re going to send you the new Yanni CD.”

“Yanni has a new CD?”

“Thank you again for supporting Channel 437. We’ll be sure to call next year.”

Meanwhile, New Orleans City Business‘ publisher Mark Singletary warns the Orleans Parish school system, faced with a massive post-Katrina reconstruction project to “be on the lookout for the infamous New Orleans ‘consultants.’ These ‘consultants,’ woven into the fabric of nearly every New Orleans public contract, have long stifled progress and promoted corruption.” Singletary urges that the new schools to “conform to community standards–hopefully another community’s standards….”

Minnesota Lawyer Blog is following a highly politicized controversy over U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, with the most recent posts here and here. Blogger Marc Cohen’s view is Paulose’s youth and inexperience has left her vulnerable to cagey veteran prosecutors who know how to play the media to make their boss look bad. The Paulose case has become a national story, with the young prosecutor seen by the NY Times as a symbol of ex-A.G. Alberto Gonzalez’ reign….

In Portland, according to DJC, some 257 architects and designers entered the Courtyard Housing Design Competition, which is what it sounds like. To enter, you draw a design for housing that includes a courtyard. Courtyard housing is “a style deemed more attractive to families with children than stacked condos without open spaces would be.” The winners were announced Wednesday night….

The University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival was honored yesterday by President Bush, reports the IBR. The festival was one of seven winners of the National Medal of Arts. Among this year’s other honorees: Legendary jazz guitarist Les Paul. The festival goes back to 1967 and has featured jazz legends as well as a student jazz competition….

Is this normal? Next Tuesday, the University of Colorado’s Presidential Search Committee will hold a meeting in Colorado Springs, according to CSBJ blog, to find out what kind of president residents want after the incumbent retires next spring….

Today, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens celebrates his 87th birthday, reports Kimberly Atkins in DC Dicta, making him the second-oldest person to serve on the nation’s highest court. Click here to see who was older….

Judith Regan Flips the Script and Enjoys a PR Turnaround

11-15-07

simpson-and-regan.jpg

Judith Regan, one of the most successful publishers and editors in the book business, saw her career come to an ignominious end late last year after a controversy erupted about her plan to publish a peculiar memoir by O.J. Simpson, If I Did It, as well as an erotically-charged novelization of Mickey Mantle’s life. During a December 2006 conference call with HarperCollins’ attorneys about the Mantle book, Regan allegedly uttered a epithet so offensive — reportedly anti-Semitic — that HarperCollins fired her the same day.

A few months later, writer Michael Wolff published in Vanity Fair a memoir/feature about Regan, in which he reported Regan was

telling people that something has changed at News Corp. It’s not the same company anymore. Murdoch himself has changed. His third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, is part of the problem. It’s her craving for respectability that has made Murdoch weak, according to Judith. She might even be … liberal. Peter Chernin is … a Democrat. Gary Ginsberg worked for Clinton. Murdoch is forsaking his tabloid heart in the quest for mainstream, yuppie respectability. The greatest, most audacious media company of the age had become like any other—pitiably concerned about what people think. News Corp. is selling out. Judith Regan isn’t.

There might be something to this. Murdoch, over the last few years, has certainly morphed from a dark, ruthless, diabolical figure into a more complex, thoughtful, and, as he aged, vulnerable media sage.

Judith, the tabloid monster, is, in some sense, the skin he’s shed.

So, by that point, Regan had managed to pretty much destroy her reputation from a PR standpoint. She was the publisher who wanted to pay O.J. millions. Who used anti-Semitic epithets. Who was too “tabloid” even for Rupert Murdoch.

Regan’s defamation lawsuit, regardless of its legal merits, is a brilliant PR tactic, designed to replace her toxic PR image with that of someone far more compelling in this election year: The woman who knows secrets about a leading presidential candidate.

Most of the indictment is a series of who-shot-John accounts of events leading up to her firing, in which the Regan claims Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’ CEO defamed her by spreading the story of the anti-Semitic slur, which Regan denies, and by making Regan the scapegoat for the OJ Simpson book fiasco despite her claims that Friedman, Murdoch and other company executives approved its publication.

But have you read the press coverage? Here’s how the New York Times played it:

Judith Regan, the former book publisher, says in a lawsuit filed today protesting her dismissal by the News Corporation, the media conglomerate, that a senior executive there encouraged her to lie to federal investigators about her past affair with Bernard B. Kerik after he had been nominated to become homeland security secretary in late 2004.

The lawsuit asserts that the News Corporation executive wanted to protect the presidential aspirations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Kerik’s mentor, who had appointed him New York City police commissioner and had recommended him for the federal post.

In the first six paragraphs of the AP version, O.J. Simpson isn’t even mentioned:

One-time book publishing powerhouse Judith Regan filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit Tuesday saying her former employers asked her to lie to federal investigators about Bernard Kerik, the former police commissioner who was once her lover, and tried to destroy her reputation.

Regan, who worked for HarperCollins Publishers LLC, said the smear campaign stems from her past intimate relationship with Kerik, who was police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and from the political agenda of News Corp., the parent company of HarperCollins.

Regan, 54, says in court papers that News Corp.’s political agenda centers on Giuliani’s presidential ambitions. It was Giuliani, a Republican, who appointed Kerik police commissioner and recommended him to President Bush for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Kerik had to withdraw his nomination after it was revealed he had not reported the wages he paid to a nanny.

Regan says “it is now widely accepted” that one of Giuliani’s vulnerabilities is the 52-year-old Kerik. Because of Regan’s affair with Kerik, court papers say, a senior News Corp. executive told her he believed she had information about Kerik that could hurt Giuliani’s campaign and she should lie to federal investigators.

Court papers say another executive told Regan, a HarperCollins editor for 12 years, to withhold documents that were clearly relevant to the government’s investigation of Kerik.

giuliani-kerik.jpgThe Kerik-Giuliani claims are right up front in the suit to make sure you don’t miss them. The substance of the claim is that Regan told an unnamed News Corp. executive about her affair with Kerik in 2001, at which point a “covert smear campaign” was initiated against her.

In 2001.

She was fired in 2006. In between 2001 and 2006, Regan had her own TV show on the News Corporation’s Fox News Network, and was granted the opportunity to move her imprint, ReganBooks, to Los Angeles in order to expand into synergistic arrangement with other media. She also had her contract with HarperCollins renewed and compensation increased in 2005.

Regan’s suit, however, would have us believe that the News Corporation signed that contract in 2005 fully expecting to fire her before the contract ran out, having worked on a scheme to do so since 2001. (more…)

A Monday Communiqué from Dolan Media

11-05-07

Do college students like to text-message? Uh, yeah. So officials at the University of Maryland and other colleges in the state can’t figure out why so few have signed up for an emergency-alert program instituted after the shootings at Virginia Tech.

According to the Daily Record, one law enforcement official thinks students are wary of a scam:

Some students, faculty and staff might be concerned about the cost of text messages, (Robert M. Rowan of the University of Maryland) theorized. Some mobile phone or wireless service providers charge mobile users per message.

And many probably are concerned they’ll be inundated with junk messages, said Courtney Jolley, a spokeswoman at Loyola College in Maryland, where 1,400 have signed up for the text message service that began over the summer.

“We’ve made it very clear to them this is not designed for us to be able to send any announcement we want,” Jolley said. “It’s just an extra point of contact in truly grave emergency situations.”

The director of communications at the U’s College Park campus found some success by treating the emergency text program as a marketing problem.

“What we realized was we needed to do a broad-based awareness [campaign] of our various emergency notifications,” he said.

The school held a campus-wide Emergency Awareness Week last month, including the distribution of educational materials about the service and booths set up throughout campus where students could learn about the service and register on the spot.

Towson, like many of the schools, made the text message alert system part of its orientation for new students over the summer, Herring said. It also has taken out ads in its school paper, and is planning to set up an informational table at the student union.

….Up the Atlantic coast, Long Island Business News blogger Henry Powderly II continues his illustrated winery crawl with a visit to Corey Creek Vineyards. Bet you didn’t know Long Island was a wine region. (more…)