Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12.12.13 YELLIN' OF TROY

This article originally appeared in the 12/12/13 issue of Metroland

            Well, well, well.  Copyright issues rarely rise above blog chatter and me bitchin’ about things here.  Rarely do they take center stage in a significant public forum.  But lookie here! Troy represents!

            “The Night Before Christmas”  (originally entitled “A Visit From St. Nicholas”) was first published anonymously in a Troy newspaper (The Sentinel) in 1823.   A NYC scholar named Moore claimed credit for writing it; then the descendants of a Hudson Valley farmer named Livingston said no, Livingston wrote it.  The debate has raged on ever since.

            Authorship will be finally determined, sort of, at a public jury trial at the Rensselaer County Courthouse next Wednesday, December 18, at 6 PM.  Representing Moore will be E. Stewart Jones, who for as long as I’ve been a lawyer has been the Dean of the Bar hereabouts.  To hear Stu talk in a courtroom is the lawyerly equivalent of hearing Pavarotti sing at the Met.  Representing Livingston will be lawyer, novelist, lovable rogue, parliamentarian, and singer-songwriter Jack Casey (I understand that he’s also quite the dancer!).  Jack will be ably assisted by his daughter Molly, who’s also a lawyer and who probably won’t be rocking that little black dress she wears whilst walking around to cool music on the Glenn Slingerland Situation, although hope does spring eternal.   The trial will be held in The John T. Casey Ceremonial Court, named after Jack’s dad, which kind of gives Livingston the home field advantage.

            The jury will be chosen from the spectators in the courtroom; the judge will be retired judge Bud Malone, music will be provided during jury deliberations by the great Luke Sax-o-Claus.  This is gonna be good.  Get there early.  See you there!

            Moving on.  Last time here we were talking about that Goldiblox / Beastie Boys brouhaha, were a little smart-girl toy company used a parody of a Beasties song in a YouTube that went all kinds of viral.  The same day my article ran Goldiblox announced that it had been unaware of dead Beasties Adam Rauch’s wishes that no Beasties song would ever be used in a commercial, and that in deference to him it was pulling the Youtube.  Goldiblox expressed love and admiration for all things Beastie.

            Game over, right?  Nope!  This week, the Beasties countersued Goldiblox (which had run to federal court a couple weeks ago seeking a declaration that its YouTube wasn’t infringement, but rather fair use), alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair business practices, and a violation of a New York law barring the unauthorized use of someone’s name or likeness in advertising.  It’s this last claim that I opined could be Goldiblox’s Achilles Heel.  You’re welcome Beasties.  I think.

            Anyway, the Beasties are asking for mountains of money, claiming that Goldiblox’s sales have skyrocketed because of the controversy, and that the Beasties are entitled to gazillions in profits, damages, attorneys' fees, etc. and so on.

            So, no, it’s not over.  It appears that it’s just starting.  Watch this space.

            Moving on some more.  Finally, there is some mainstream press about the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the secret negotiations with various multi-national trade organizations like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA).   The USTR has long been a corporate shill who brings home onerous trade treaties that are rammed down a willing Congress’ throat.  But it looks like the bloom may be falling off the rose.  These negotiations are always secret, but leaks indicate that the US is becoming increasingly isolated in its absurdly pro-corporate positions on things like corporate sovereignty (where corporations are deemed “corporate states” and granted equal footing with nations in trade disputes), maximalist copyright and patent laws (where developing nations lose the right to develop their own IP laws, and must protect corporate interests over the interests of their own citizens), and a host of other issues.

            This has all been under the radar since forever, but a couple of weeks ago The Holy See (speaking more or less for the new improved Vatican at a World Trade Organization conference) derided the entire process as tyrannical, as a driver of growing income inequality, and of ceding control of the world economy from countries to corporations.

            Like a lot of the wonderful things coming out of the Vatican these days (I never thought I’d ever say anything like this!), The Holy See’s comments got a lot of attention, to the dismay of the world fascist cabal. 

            Meantime, negotiations continue around the world.  In secret.  When queried this week on the need for secrecy, the USTR said, essentially, that people were generally too stupid to understand the issues or the process.

           Obama’s just started ringing the bell on income inequality.  It’s time for him walk the walk, and end the travesty that’s being carried out in our name.

Paul Rapp is a local intellectual property attorney who’s not “all ready for the holidays” and never will be.


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