Monday, April 30, 2012

The World's Most Lovable Video Bootlegger

It's final exam week at UConn.  That means that beginning this week, posts will become intermittent through the summer. Luckily, there is some "good" news this week allowing the Legal Studies Classroom Blog to go into summer mode on a high note.

You've got to love the NY Times article about 92-year-old Hyman "Big Hy" Strachman of Massapequa, NY.  The WW II vet spends his days ripping bootleg DVDs of first run movies which he sends free of charge to the troops in Afghanistan. According to the article, Big Hy has spent about $30,000 over the last 8 years sending the discs to military chaplains - because he knows they will give away the discs instead of selling them.

Does Big Hy know about copyright law?

What does the movie industry think of all this?

Howard Gantman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America, said he did not believe its member studios were aware of Mr. Strachman’s operation. His sole comment dripped with the difficulty of going after a 92-year-old widower supporting the troops.

Source of image:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Law Music Video: American Skin (41 Shots)

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is American Skin by Bruce Springsteen. This song was inspired by the shooting death of Amadou Diallo by NYC police in 1999. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Featured Case Update: White v. Samsung

This blog originally featured the Vanna White v. Samsung case in the post found here.  Included there is an image of the part of the Samsung ad that features the robot that implicates Vanna White 's identity.  Thanks to the website of Michigan Law Professor Jessica Litman, the full Samsung ad is reproduced below.  Thanks to Professor Litman for sharing and enriching the trove of resources available for us to use in our common educational mission.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Law Lessong: The Bonnie Ships Peerless

The next installment in the “Law Lessong” series is The Bonnie Ships Peerless.  This simple video and song from a Power Point presentation helps explain the case of Raffles v. Wichelhaus in which the doctrine of mutual mistake was declared and explained.
Learn more about Law Lessongs from the post found here.  More videos may be found at my youtube channel. Please feel free to use them in the classroom or as assignments or in any way that they work for you as an educational resource.

This song was also recently featured in the ContractsProf Blog.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Law Music Video: The Lawyer Has Been Paid

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is The Lawyer Has Been Paid by Sam Stone, Jr. Apparently, that phrase is the country music version of "The Fat Lady Has Sung." Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Warning! Not Responsible For Damages ... Because I Said So

Have you ever been behind a large construction truck bearing a sign that warns you to stay back because the construction company is "not responsible for damages."

Source of Image: HHH, Inc. :

Is this the legal doctrine of "Self-Proclaimed  Immunity?" Ostensibly, it is an attempt to publicize the existence of an inherent danger that may not be obvious to the following vehicle. And it is probably to cumbersome for the sign to read "You have been warned that construction vehicle may spew stone and rock at any time regardless of the level of care or precaution that has been exercised by the construction crew and the driver of the vehicle. So, protect yourself by staying back more than half the length of a football field or take another route home."  But I think that is what is meant. Thanks for the warning, but if you are negligent, you can't escape liability on the basis of "I told you so!"

Where is the outrage!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"No Texting While Walking" Law

For good reason, more and more states are adopting "no texting while driving" laws. But, "no texting while walking" laws, like this one adopted in Rexburg, Idaho, are still pretty rare. But if this story and the videos below are indicative of a growing trend, then there appears to be ample need for more of these laws.

Rexburg, ID:

GRAPHIC!!!! Anti-distracted pedestrian ad:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teller Sues to Protect Copyrighted Illusion

The Courthouse News Service reports that the illusionist performer named Teller of Penn and Teller has sued a Dutch performer for performing his copyrighted illusion known as "Shadows." the Dutch performer has since offered to sell the secret of the illusion. The lawsuit includes a request for injunctive relief to prevent this from happening.  The illusion is apparently copyrighted by Teller as a pantomime performance.

A video of the "Shadows" illusion follows:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lawsuit Raises Question: "Have College Professors Become Digital Pirates?"

According to an article in the Technologist Blog, a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Atlanta raises this issue. The lawsuit apparently challenges a Fair Use claim by Georgia State University's e-reserves services which allow professors to post portions of textbooks for students to read online.

See related Fair Use post here.

Below are two videos on Fair Use for educators:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Law and Society: Do the Powerful Use Law For Social Ordering?

Students sometimes express an understanding of law as immutable moral codes.  Sometimes students begin a Legal Environment class with an inherent understanding that law is a "thing"  - like a tree in the woods - it just exists in nature and grows and develops on its own. I try to expose students to consider that law is the product of humans who make value judgments and public policy decisions about what the law will be and what it will try to accomplish.  Some followers of the Sociological Jurisprudence school of thought might say that law is used as a tool by powerful elements in society to maintain a social ordering that keeps them at the top. Others have said that law is often a crude tool and cannot be wielded like a scalpel to excise only undesirable conduct.

The following clip from the Daily Show reporting the Tucson Brd. of Education's elimination of the K-12 Mexican-American Studies Program addresses some of these points.  I think that it clearly demonstrates that law is manufactured by human beings with agendas to pursue. Law is not a unversal truth or morality that exists naturally.  And in this case, the law is in fact wielded surgically to excise conduct that was not in favor with the ruling class.

Click here or on image below to see video:

The video may play directly here:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Accounting Week: The Accounting Rap

I thought that it might be worthwhile to honor the long hours and tireless efforts of the ranks of accountants as they struggle this week to meet looming tax deadlines.  Many of us teach Commercial Law course for Acounting majors covering CPA exam subjects. So perhaps one or more of this week's posts may be useful for you in your classes.

Today's post is the The Accounting Rap.  I believe the first embedded video below to be the "original" based on date of posting to youtube.  Both videos have great energy.  Kudos to both Mr. Dodds and Mr. Leman for their creativity and energy and for engaging their students.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Law Music Video: State Tooper

This week's installment in the "Law Music Videos" series is State Trooper by Bruce Springsteen. Law music videos played before your class starts will positively contribute to learning.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Federal Bureaucracy

Below is an introduction to the Federal Bureaucracy prepared by a couple of high school AP government teachers. They maintain the MyCitizenU youtube channel. You may find something else there that you can use.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Citizens United Case Gives Rich Guys a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card

Are you a rich guy being investigated for potential criminal prosecution? No worries! Exercise your free speech rights by dumping millions of dollars of corporate money at your control into a PAC to challenge the prosecutor's re-election bid. The new prosecutor, beholden to you for his job, is sure to lose interest in that prosecution.

Is this what Justice Kennedy anticipated when he opined, "The [government's] anticorruption interest is not sufficient to displace the speech here in question."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Eat More Kale" Update

Back in December, this blog posted the story of Chick-fil-A's attempt to shut down an independent tee shirt maker in Vermont who was producing "Eat More Kale" tee shirts.  The story has now moved to a new level with the report that "an examining attorney in the trademark office issued a preliminary decision that there is a likelihood that people would confuse the sources of the Eat More Kale and Eat Mor Chikin phrases, thinking they come from the same place."

The next level of this story transcends the issues of trademark and intellectual property and highlights the challenges of legal education.  How do you convince students that the law is founded upon logic and reason when there are so many inexplicably illogical and irrational decisions?  According to the website, the following factors are to be considered in determining the "llikelihood" of consumer confusion:
  • Whether or not the goods or services using the same mark compete with one another. Marks that are used on similar or related goods or services are more likely to confuse consumers as to the source of those goods or services. Even where the plaintiff's products are not exactly similar, the court may in some cases consider how likely the plaintiff is in the future to sell similar products.
  • Whether or not the goods or services are so closely related that they are being marketed through the same stores or channels of distribution.
  • Whether or not the alleged infringer intended to trick consumers in order to "cash in" on the plaintiff's business good will.
  • Whether the marks are similar in appearance, phonetic sound, or meaning.
  • How careful the consumer is likely to be prior to purchasing. The more sophisticated the consumer (e.g. business owners versus children), or the more expensive the product, then the more discriminating the consumer is expected to be, and the less likely confusion will be attributed to them).
  • Whether or not the companies are accessing overlapping customer bases. If the companies both sell largely to senior citizens, to teachers, or to home-based business owners, there is more likely to be consumer confusion.
  • The legal strength of each of the marks. The greater the public recognition of a mark as a source identifier, the more likely that similar uses will be confusing.
  • Whether there has been any actual confusion. If so, this is not conclusive evidence of likelihood of confusion, but must be weighed together with the other factors.
Even a liberal review of the evidence reveals not a single one of these factors weighing in favor of consumer confusion.  To support this decision, the reasonable consumer would have to be one who cannot distinguish between a chicken sandwich and a tee shirt; and cannot comprehend differences among words containing the letter "'k"; and who has lived in a cave so long as to be unaware of fast food culture and practices. No wonder students find the law confusing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Story of How Lawmakers Come to Make Flabbergastingly Bad Public Policy

The Trayvon Martin tragedy has been, and will likely continue to be, front page news. At the heart of the controversy is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. This law results from a statute that reverses the Common Law principles of self-defense law that had been forged in case after case over hundreds of years. The legislative interference results in a legal doctrine that undoes a Common Law rule representing the applied wisdom of judges and justices after considering thousands and thousands of factual scenarios in order to promote a safe and civilized society.  The reports:

“The law would appear to allow a person to seek out an individual, provoke him into a confrontation, then shoot and kill him if he goes for his gun,” Judge Terry Lewis said .... “Contrary to the State’s assertion, it is very much like the Wild West.”

Judge Lewis' quote in response to a case upon which he presided arising out of a killing in 2008, now rings eerily prophetic as the details of the Martin-Zimmerman interaction are revealed. So, what would cause a legislature to adopt such a stupefyingly bad public policy.  The short answer as reported by the is lobbying; lobbying riding a wave of fear mongering and public cynicism.  Read here an article detailing the efforts of past NRA president Marian Hammer to ensure passage of this bill.  Read here an editorial from the NY Times outlining lobbying efforts affecting "stand your ground" and other laws.

This story prompts us to ask students to consider where law comes from. Too often, student perceive law as some sort of immutable truth of right and wrong.  The story of this law's adoption, and the resulting tragic circumstances illustrate for students that the law is nothing more than what the lawmakers say it is.  It is not the spontaneous application of universal moral truths, but rather, can be nothing more than the result of poor decisions made by imperfect humans worried about their re-election to jobs which they poorly perform.

See also: The Legislative Process.