Wednesday, July 08, 2015

7.9.15 Hodgery Podgery

This article originally appeared in the 7.9.15 issue of Metroland.

A while back I wrote about these hideous lawsuits brought by porn producers against people whose internet accounts where identified as being used to download porn torrents.  It was the ultimate shake-down: they demanded thousands of dollars or else the internet account holder would be named in a federal lawsuit, even though there was no proof that the account holder was actually the person who downloaded the porn.

            Most of these suits have been thrown out by judges smart enough to see through the scam.  And now there’s word that the FBI is investigating Prenda Law, a law firm that represented many of the porn producers.  Apparently there’s some suspicion that Prenda Law or someone acting on its behalf initially put the porn films up for download; Prenda waited for nature to take its course, and then started busting people.  Urgh.  Prenda Law’s been sanctioned by several courts for other types of unethical conduct, and now it looks like there might be some jail time coming, too.  Good.

            In other silly news, Lionsgate Studios is in litigation with Ameritrade.  Why?  Because Ameritrade ran a commercial that featured a cartoon guy holding a cartoon piggy bank in the air while an announcer says “Nobody puts your 401(K) in a corner.”  Lionsgate (which has a history of absurdly overaggressive legal behavior) has decided that this infringes its copyrights (or trademarks, or something) in the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” and wants Ameritrade to pay up.  Like seven figures’ worth. Really?  Lionsgate could really use some adults on its legal team.

            A few weeks ago I mentioned that my little town was going to be part of a cooperative effort to bring universal broadband service to rural Western Massachusetts.  This sort of thing will be a growing trend, not just in rural areas but also in cities where the populace gets tired of being terrorized and ripped off by the likes of Comcast and Time Warner.  But not if some Republican state attorneys general have their way.  The AGs of North Carolina and Tennessee have just sued the FCC seeking to overturn the FCC’s recent rulemaking that outlaws state statutes that forbid local publicly-owned broadband companies.  On what theory?  Well, states’ rights, dummy!  The same theory that justified slavery!   Let’s see a real justification for this, other than fascist greed. 

            Dateline Finland!  Finland just passed a law that requires concert promoters refund ticket money if a concert sucks.  The law has its genesis in a 2013 concert by, of all people, Chuck Berry, where he was reportedly fatigued.  Chuck Berry, who just happened to pretty much invent rock and roll, was at the time 86 years old.  The threshold for refunds is when a show is determined to be “well below reasonably expected standards.”  By whom?  By a “generally agreed standard.”  What could possibly go wrong here?  Watch out, Kanye!

            Speaking of wacky Europeans, the European Union is considering doing away with a legal right I didn’t even know was a thing: the right of panorama.  Essentially the EU is considering a measure that will make it an infringement to post photographs that include public sculptures or buildings or anything that has copyright protection.   The sponsor of the bill is angry that big American corporations like Facebook are making money by allowing people to post snapshots of famous images.  Well, this is going to work out just dandy.

            This confederate flag deal is just breath-taking isn’t it?  Rarely in our lifetimes have we witnessed anything move so fast.  Removing the flag from government institutions is a no-brainer, but the corporate reaction is stunning.  There’s a lot of talk of “bans,” the First Amendment, and political correctness, but private companies are free to do what they want, and the collective and immediate actions of Amazon, E-Bay, Apple, Wal-Mart, etc. in dropping the racist symbol were remarkable.  NASCAR has banned official use of the flag and asked race patrons to not display the flagged, with predictable results.  The cable network TV Land dropped its twice daily airing of “Dukes of Hazzard,” which caused a massive internet shitfit.  As if there’s anything more sad than watching the “Dukes of Hazzard” in the middle of the afternoon.

            The thing that made me sit up and say howdy was when a friend posted the announcement that Lynyrd Skynyrd was dropping the confederate flag from its staging and merchandise.  I had the unfortunate experience of seeing Skynyrd about 20 years ago and it did look and feel a little bit like a Klan rally.  Then I came to find out that the announcement was 3 years old!  Skynyrd member Gary Rossington explained in 2012 that the imagery of the flag had been “kidnapped by racists and skinheads” so that it was no longer the symbol of pride and heritage it once was.  Which isn’t exactly true, but no matter; Skynyrd did the right thing long before corporate America did and good for them.

Paul Rapp is an IP attorney and proud Northerner who is going to see the Rolling Stones next week.


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