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Everybody Researches: Out of date contract is music to Def Leppard’s ears.

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment

It is a well-accepted fact that the law is a cautious and conservative profession.  While it is populated with intelligent people, these people also tend to be risk averse, be it with their client’s money or  their clients’ lives.  Whatever the reasons may be, there are times when the law finds itself having to play catch-up with concepts that are new to the courts.  The introduction of the cell phone is an excellent example.  For many years the laws regarding wire-tapping were clearly delineated, then along came cell phones.   Now, rather than getting a warrant for an area where the suspect has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)  law enforcement needs warrants for the individual, irrespective of the type of the phone  or type of communication (voice-mail, e-mail, etc.) he or she is using.

Wiretapping technology has advanced greatly over the years.

The criminal law field is not the only one where technological changes have left the law behind.  Copyright and property law play a part in the amusing battle between band Def Leppard and Universal, the company that holds the rights to the band’s songs.  Although Universal has rights to the songs, they do not have rights to release them digitally since at the time the contract was made (1979) digital rights did not exist.  In order to make the songs available on iTunes Universal would need the permission of the band; permission that Def Leppard is not willing to give.  Lead singer Joe Elliott discussed some of the details on a recent segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and shared the band’s plan to re-record most of its  back catalog.  As Elliott explained, until Universal is “willing to come to the table with some kind of reasonable proposal…we shall go in the studio and have a bit of fun.”

The band is taking advantage of  the compulsory license for non-dramatic musical compositions under the Copyright Act of 1976.  This  compulsory cover license allows an artist to “legally sell their rendition…of another song based on a set royalty payment scale….The terms for a compulsory cover license are established by the U.S. Copyright office rather than the artist or record label and  a compulsory cover license does not require negotiations with the original musical composition copyright holder. ”

After looking at the comparably negligible royalty fees, and realizing that that “Rock of Ages” has recently moved from Broadway to the movie screen and features at least three of Def Leppard’s songs, it is likely that this maneuver is causing a bit of Hysteria over at Universal.

The U.S.C. rocks!

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Don’t let the Machines Win – (Part II) We took the stairs!

So, if you read Part I (Don’t let the Machines Win – Take the Stairs – April 25), you know that the staff of the Professional Center Library has been involved in a ‘competition’ or (as we called it) a Team Challenge.   The library staff was divided into two teams who were challenging each other to see who could take the most ‘steps’.  Ours was a two-fold purpose or goal of wellness and team building.

Six weeks ago, we all were given pedometers, and a spreadsheet on which we recorded daily the number of steps we had taken during that day.  We had a conversion chart, so that if any of us choose to participate in some other form of physical activity (besides walking) we could convert the time spent doing that activity into ‘steps’.  So if I went biking for 1 ½ hours, I was able to multiply the minutes I had spent cycling (90 minutes) by 116, which would give me an additional 10,440 steps! There are lots of other activities on the chart, like gardening,  roller skating, tennis, canoeing, chopping wood, or even waxing  the car.

So we’ve been in a friendly competition….of sorts.  Encouraging each other, but still trying to be the one who takes the most steps.

So how did we do?  Well, all together, both teams combined took a total of 6,058,088 steps.  This comes out to about 2297 miles, or the about distance to drive to Dallas, Texas, and back.  Or, a little more than the length of the entire Appalachian Trail, from Mt. Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Well, we took a lot of steps, but how about our goals of wellness and team building? We had a number of staff members who had success stories to tell.  One told of having had 2 heart attacks 12 years ago and how the event had, until now, slowed her down.  Our Team Challenge encouraged her to start the No Boundaries training to begin preparing for a 5K.  Another told of making a lifestyle change of never sitting during commercials while watching television, choosing instead to run errands around the house, or simply run in place.  And another told of being motivated to start training for a Sprint Triathlon.  On the team building  goal, I think we had many opportunities to come together as teams to encourage one another and relate as team members.

So, are we there yet?  No, probably not.  But one step at a time towards our goal! We’ll keep stepping!

Don’t Let the Machines Win – Take the Stairs!

April 25, 2012 1 comment

Did you know that it takes approximately 2000 steps to equal one mile?  That means that if an average, inactive person takes 3000 steps in a day (which is about average), he/she is walking 1 ½ miles.  But is that enough to promote good health?

Have you seen the motivational quotes about walking have appeared around the library? Perhaps you have noticed recently that our Professional Center Library Staff are all wearing pedometers. If you haven’t noticed, well, we are. Our staff members are currently involved in a team challenge to see which team can take the most steps during a 6 week period.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield of NC has donated pedometers, we have divided out staff into 2 teams (Team Happy Feet and Team Sole Survivors) and we are competing to see who can be the top ‘step’ team.  Each day we are recording the steps we have taken and then report our weekly total to our team leaders on Monday mornings. We also have a conversion chart that multiplies the minutes we spend doing some other physical activity (like swimming, biking, yard work, etc) by a particular number to translate into additional steps.  So if your preference is say . . . scrubbing floors, you can multiply each minute you spend scrubbing floors (maybe 65 minutes)  by 174, and you get to add 11,310 steps to your daily total.

The program in which we are involved is called the PCL Step Into Spring Team Challenge and it is designed to promote teamwork, as well as physical well-being.   According to the American Psychological Association, “As many as 50 million Americans are living sedentary lives, putting them at increased risk of health problems and even early death.” We are encouraging each other to walk as much as possible, because beyond it being good for us, there are prizes involved here!

NPR recently did a piece on the health of Americans stating that we have basically ‘engineered’ walking out of our lives.  Everywhere you look, there are ways to avoid walking, or for that matter, any physical activity.  When there is an option to ride up/down in an elevator, or take the stairs, do you opt for the stairs, or do you cave and take the elevator like everyone else.  Or how about when you have to go to an event on the other side of the WFU campus.  Do you drive – or do you choose to walk because you need the exercise?  We drive up to our banks, cleaners, pharmacy, post office box, library book return, fast food restaurants, and many others which eliminates the opportunity to get out of our cars and walk inside.  And how often do we drive through a car wash, rather than get out there and do it ourselves? (Those minutes spent washing a car, by the way, would be multiplied by 87.)  We are becoming a nation of fat, flabby butterballs whose muscles are atrophying at an alarming rate!

If you’re feeling inspired and want to start walking more, find out your local WalkScore  – how “walkable” is your neighborhood? That could be something to think about when you’re looking for summer housing or even debating between jobs! Even taking a quick walk around the courtyard (or the portico, if this rain keeps up) can give you a little air, some exercise, and a fresh perspective on that exam you’re studying for. Get stepping!

Categories: Fun, PCL Information Tags: , ,

Green Scene

April 24, 2012 1 comment

From it’s humble beginnings in 1970, Earth Day has become an international event organized by the Earth Day Network. Over 190 counties participate, almost as many counties as ABA accredited law schools.  Just last year documents, photos and videos from the first Earth Week were released to the public.   The North Carolina archives has also made pictures available on Flikcr and they are worth looking at if merely to amuse yourself with the vintage the clothing and giant sideburns.  You can also view the initial Earth Day proclamation or read the 2012 proclamation.

The first  Earth Day in the U.S. was scheduled to fall on the Vernal Equinox (either March 20 or 21) and many counties still keep this date.  However,  due to a wish to maximize participation on college campuses it was determined that the “week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks…, did not conflict with religious holidays, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather.”  The late April dates are also close to when many states celebrate Arbor Day, another earth conscious holiday.

Earth Day has grown into Earth Week and activities and celebrations go on both  before and after the official day. The 42nd Earth day was this Sunday, April 22nd, but you still have the opportunity to attend the Piedmont Earth Day Fair  at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds.  It doesn’t matter if you are a fully committed green activist or just someone who struggles to remember to toss plastic bottles and paper in separate bins, there will be something for you to enjoy.  Parking and admission is FREE and there will be  exhibitors, hands-on-demonstrations, and variety of live music.  In addition to a solo folk singer, there will be bands offering everything from including  Bluegrass and Soul to the intriguingly named,  “Appalachian Punk.”  In contract to what one may expect of “fair food” you will have the opportunity to try vegetarian and vegan offerings. However, carnivores should not worry, there be plenty for you too, as well as sugary sweets.  If you happen to own any outdated electronics there will be a place in the parking lot to drop them off.   Did you know that of  the over 30 million computers discarded last year, “only 15-20% were recycled, while the rest ended up in landfills posing the threat of becoming hazardous waste?”  Cannot part from your E-waste for free?  Even if it is broken, you can resell it on eBay.

Want to do more than go to the Fair?  Visit the EPA’s website to learn how to make every day Earth Day.  Or you could treat yourself and splurge on a “prize winning light bulb” that is supposed to last 20 years; the only problem is that it costs $60.  However, there may be some opportunities for large rebates so stay alert for offers that will let you been green while still having some green in your wallet.  zif you can get away for day or two, take advantage of National Park Week and the free access to all of the national parks.  If none of these options suit you, check out some ideas provided by the Earth Day Network , sing the Earth Day anthem, or try out some of these 16 ideas  (pictures included) from wikiHow.

Worth $60?

Iceberg, right ahead!

The Titanic disaster of 1912 has long fascinated the American public, spawning thousands of historical books and documentaries, and providing the setting for a plethora of fictional stories on page and screen. But have you ever thought about all of the legal ramifications of the disaster? Here’s a look at some of the ways law has played into the Titanic story.

A print of the alleged iceberg in question

The alleged iceberg in question, titanic-iceberg.com

The earliest cases to appear in United States courts are admiralty petitions, merely captioned “The Titanic.” One from 1912 was involved with settling the estate of a passenger who went down with the ship (204 F. 295). Two more, from 1913, dealt with technical questions regarding the tonnage of the ship and the possible limitation of liability for the White Star Lines. The question of tonnage was an issue at British law, not United States law, and the judge in that case declined to declare the tonnage (204 F. 298). In the second case, the judge declined to limit White Star’s liability (209 F. 501). Exciting – such is the stuff movies are made of! Hm, or not.

Believe it or not, there is much more recent litigation involving the doomed ship. The more recent cases tend to deal with salvage issues, raised by the “salvor,” R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. Since the ship’s resting site was identified in the 1980s, rights to the property have been at issue. In 1998 R.M.S. Titanic, Inc., tried to prevent anyone else from visiting & photographing the wreckage. While the lower court’s opinion was affirmed in part, and remanded, the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court “insofar as they purport to prohibit the visiting, viewing, searching, surveying, photographing, and obtaining images of the wreck or the wreck site.” 171 F.3d 943 (4th Cir. 1999). A 2002 case, also in the Fourth Circuit, held that the salvor of the items did not have the right to sell them. (R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel, 286 F. 3d 194 (4th Cir. 2002) (see the gift shop at the R.M.S. Titanic, Inc., web site, featuring “artifact replicas,” “replica china” and “authentic coal”). While probably any authentic artifacts from the Titanic would sell at a huge price, some of what went down was already priceless. For more about the international aspects ownership of art and cultural property and salvage, see the PCL’s Art Law research guide.

Titanic on the Ocean Floor

Titanic on the Ocean Floor, from National Geographic

In addition to the maze of case law surrounding the Titanic, there were of course Congressional publications. Hearings were held in April and May, 1912 – totaling nearly 1200 pages of text, maps and tables. Six weeks after the sinking, a much shorter Senate Report investigating the tragedy was published, and includes lists of the crew and passengers, as well as speeches by two Senators. And on June 4, 1912, the captain and crew of the rescuing vessel Carpathia were officially thanked by Congress (H.rp.830), and given medals of honor (62 H.J.Res.306).

This is only a taste of the many official documents involved with the legal aspects of the Titanic disaster. Because remember – for each action, there is an equal reaction!

Flying High:

March 9, 2012 1 comment

After traveling during Spring Break you may have come back wondering “is there any way to get a decent flight; one that doesn’t make you feel like a bovine herded onto a cattle car.  For the  last minute person planning your break get away, and for all of you who will return and/or travel this summer,  you might want to visit some of these helpful travel related websites.

Do you share a name with a terrorist?  Is it  causing problems with the TSA?  If you have been placed on the “no-fly”  list by mistake, the friendly and helpful Department of Homeland Security has provided a handy “One-Stop Travelers Redress process” to allow you to fix their mistakes.  (Am I the only one who considers the term “redress” an unfortunate choice from people permitted to do body cavity searches?)  Not seeking an intimate tête-à-tête with an overenthusiastic gate agent?  Visit TSA:Travel Assistant, to discover how to dress and what to carry or not carry in order to be “checkpoint friendly.”

Do you want to increase you chances of arriving on time?  Chronically late flights is provided by the Bureau of  Transportation and contains detailed statistics compiled by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).  You can discover which flights are at least 30 minutes late 50% of the time or more, and book around them or, in the alternative, bring a long book and be prepared to read.

Ready to make your flight reservation?  While everyone has a favorite  travel site or two, at TopTenReviews  you can view side-by-side comparisons of the top travel sites and read comprehensive reviews before deciding which is the best travel site to use for your trip.

The website Hipmunk provides you with a unique way to sort your flights, by “‘agony [as] measured via a combination of price, duration and number of stops.”  Results are displayed in horizontal bar graphs that include the length of layover times.  According to one travel site reviewer “compared with older search engines like Kayak, it’s much quicker to find the right flight as the pain factor of multiple stops and long layovers is shown graphically. Intuitive filters automatically hide terrible flights to aid the decision making process.”

Once you have decided what flight to take, your next step is to choose your seat.  How do you know which ones are in front of the wing, in the emergency exit row, or close to, but not immediately in front of, the rest rooms?  Check out SeatGuru or SeatExpert to get the lowdown on best and worst seats on your flight.  Sorry, but neither site can tell you in what seat the screaming baby will be located. 

Do you  travel frequently or plan on doing some site seeing over break?  Check out Travel & Leisure’s Best websites & Apps.  This article reviews and provides links to over 30 travel websites and apps, as well as tips and technology updates.  Some apps reviewed include Room 77  that lets you choose the best hotel room according to your criteria and iFly, a comprehensive, online guide to airports including maps and parking information.

Once your trip is complete, take a few moments to share your opinion of the travel experience at Skytrax.  Describing itself as “the worlds’ leading airline and airport review site  for over 681 airlines and 725 airports,” this site lets you read other reviews of  airlines, airports, seats and seating maps as well as leave your own reviews.

So what happens when you use all these sites and, despite your best plans, your flight is late, you are groped by TSA agent, and you had to sit in the middle seat of the last row?  At that point you just have to laugh about it.  If you need help, visit Flight Humor for some airline related jokes.  And safe skies for those of you flying next week.

Leap Day!

Gilbert & Sullivan fans know that contracts can be hard to interpret if February 29 comes into play. The entire plot of the operetta The Pirates of Penzance is prompted by poor Frederick, born on leap day (like Ja Rule), and apprenticed to the pirates of the Tarantula “until his 21st birthday.” Of course, in Frederick’s 21st year his birthday does not actually occur, so the pirates – in order to keep him aboard – argue that his 21st birthday won’t occur until he is 84 years old!

Keen legal minds will probably spot some issues with that as a legal premise, but leap day does play a role in some legal disputes. Did you know that the “Twenty Ninth of February” has its own entry in Corpus Juris Secundum (86 C.J.S. Time §11)? This section explains how to calculate periods of time that include leap days. These extra days are actually counted together with the prior day, in cases where you’re counting multiple years. But if you’re counting mere days, the days are indeed counted separately.

Why on earth does this matter? Most of the cases that discuss leap days are calculating either a period of time allowed for filing a claim or response of some kind (measured in days or months) or prison sentences (usually measured in years). Like many things (including time to final exams) – it matters a great deal in the short term, but less and less in the long term!