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Opinion: Impact of Sony’s Decision to Cancel the Theatrical Release of The Interview


Constitution_We_the_People

By: Afzal Karim* | Staff Writer

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.”  These strong remarks by President Obama came in response to the decision of Sony Pictures to drop the release of its highly anticipated comedy, The Interview.   The movie focused on a comical plan to assassinate the leader of North Korea.   However, a group of North Korean hackers known as the “Guardians of the Peace” did not find the plot amusing and threatened “9/11 type attacks,” on theaters that screened the movieFacing threats of violence and terrorism, Sony canceled the movie’s theatrical release.  Almost immediately, the decision was met by widespread criticism from all sides of the political spectrum.  Many called Sony’s decision to pull the comedy as a blow to our nation’s First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and creativity and a win for terrorists worldwide. Continue reading »

A Lawyer Explains 5 Weird Tax Laws on the Books

Arkansas has a tattoo tax.

Arkansas has a tattoo tax.

By: John Hodnette* | Staff Writer 

The IRS are not the most popular chappies in existence, but there is always a certain logic to what they tax and what deductions they allow.  The taxpayers understand this logic generally, and so they take advantage of some of the common advantages, such as the Home Interest Deduction, which encourages home ownership, and the Charitable Deduction, which encourages people to be generous to charities.  Taxpayers also enjoy the benefits of marriage based on the favorable tax brackets when filing your taxes “married filing jointly.”

However, some of the state tax laws that still exist may leave you scratching your head.  A recent article by Yahoo! Finance lists some of these peculiar taxes, and now a bona fide tax lawyer (yours truly) will help explain what gives.

1)   Maryland’s Flush Tax:  $60 per year.
Maryland had a problem:  how to raise money to improve its treatment plants and simulataneously protect the Chesapeake Bay.  Solution?  Tax everyone in the area for flushing your toilets.  The tax is applied by adding $5 per month to customers of the St. May’s Metropolitan Commission, which operates public water and sewer systems.  Though the tax sounds ridiculous, it is really just a general tax on use of the public water system.  I would be curious to see if anyone stopped flushing to avoid the tax—I think it is worth it to just pay. Continue reading »

The Road to an Open Internet

FCC Logo

FCC Logo

By: Emily Morris* | Staff Writer 

Net neutrality and “open Internet,” as the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) calls it, has been a topic of debate since the advent of the Internet.  Open Internet is when “consumers can make their own choices about what application and services to use and are free to decide what lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others.” Open Internet is important because it fosters competition and encourages investment and innovation. The FCC released an Open Internet Order in 2010 that was challenged in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The D.C. court affirmed the Commission’s authority to regulate broadband Internet access.

On February 4, 2015 Chairman Tom Wheeler announced on the Wire that he would be circulating an open Internet proposal to the other members of the Federal Communication Commission.  He says that this proposal is one of the strongest Open Internet protection proposals the FCC has ever submitted. The proposal ensures the “right of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the right of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”  Continue reading »

Time to Trademark: Athletes Capitalize on Phrases, Nicknames

Beast Mode Apparel Hat

Beast Mode Apparel Hat

By: Blaydes Moore* | Staff Writer

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”  This statement from Marshawn Lynch, aka “Beast Mode,” dominated the weekly ESPN news cycle leading up to the Super Bowl.  Mr. Lynch responded to all twenty-nine questions posed to him at Super Bowl Media Day with these eight words.  The NFL saw this as an improvement over last year when he did not even attend the event.  The Pro-Bowl running back from Seattle, famous for his attachment to Skittles, won even more fans by refusing to engage in the hoopla surrounding arguable the biggest event in sports. Continue reading »

Let the Rights to “The Wheel of Time” Ride Again on the Winds of Time

WoT01_TheEyeOfTheWorldBy: Blaydes Moore* | Staff Writer

On Monday, February 9, 2015, a strange thing happened.  The comedy-centric television channel FXX aired the pilot of a television show at 1:30 AM.  Normally these pilots air in primetime accompanied by fanfare nauseating to even a casual viewer of the station in question, but this pilot was a rush job by a studio that paid for the show to air on TV.

The pilot show, titled Winter Dragon and starring Billy Zane, was the latest ploy in a battle of intellectual property rights epic enough to rival the fantasy contained therein.  Winter Dragon is based on the prologue of The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time, a series of epic fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  With the recent success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic novels, studios have been searching high and low for the next big thing, and Wheel of Time could be it.

Fans speculated that Winter Dragon was a hurried production intended to preserve the rights to Wheel of Time, and they were right.  Red Eagle Entertainment LLC claims to have struck a deal with James O. Rigney (Robert Jordan being a pseudonym) for the film and television rights to Wheel of Time.  Following a string of less-than-ideal agreements and productions including video games and comic books, the company tried to make a deal with Universal, but it fell through.  Later Red Eagle pursued a deal with Sony Pictures, but that deal failed to materialize as well.  Fearing that the rights would revert back to Bandersnatch Group, Inc., run by Mr. Rigney’s widow, Harriet McDougal, Red Eagle rushed the production and put out Winter Dragon, in all its glory, in order to preserve the film and television rights. Continue reading »

2014-2015 JBIPL Editors Discuss Positions

Development Editor

Caitlin Hale

1. What are the pertinent qualifications? Familiarity with the blog; ability to edit short articles for grammar and content on a weekly basis; ability to brainstorm topics for blogs; ability to use WordPress (very easy to learn).

2. Why did you apply for this position? I was on the blog as a 2L and really enjoyed having the opportunity to write short articles about topics that were interesting to me. I wanted to be involved with the Journal but not in a position that was extremely time-consuming.  Continue reading »

Princess Property: A Consideration of Copyright Laws and the Alteration of Disney Princesses

800px-Disneyland_2012-02-14_Princess_and_Princesses_b

By: Katie Ott* | Staff Writer

Imagine: the Disney princesses, childhood heroes for many young American girls, featured topless with skin and scars for all viewers to see. Viewers of the art have described the images as “disgusting,” “terrifying,” and “propaganda.” But these critics miss the essential point: the princesses’ scars support breast cancer survivors with similar scars from the mastectomy procedure used to treat the deadly disease. The artist, AleXsandro Palombo, explains the paintings honor a woman’s pain connected to “the acceptance of [a woman’s] body mutilated by a mastectomy [which] is one of the devastating moments that is part of the disease.” Continue reading »

Court Approves MacBook Cord Settlement After Slashing Attorneys’ Fees

apple

By: John Hodnette* | Staff Writer

As is often the case in a settlement, there is no great noise accompanying the final approval of the settlement with Apple, Inc. by the large class of plaintiffs who claimed that Apple’s Magsafe power adapters were faulty.  This lawsuit was first filed in 2009 and alleged that the Magsafe power adapters were prone to fraying at the ends.  This fraying tendency created a possible fire hazard and so the plaintiffs claim that Apple was negligent in their design.  In November 2011, Apple agreed to a settlement offer by the lawyers of the class action, and agreed to pay consumers up to the price of a new adapter each, depending on how long ago the consumer bought the adapter.  Consumers were contacted and filed their information to receive the settlement using a website specifically created for this purpose: adapterssettlement.com.  Apple was explicit on this website, in saying under the frequently asked questions section that “Apple denies all allegations and has asserted many defenses. The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.”  Continue reading »

Spotify: Just “Shake It Off”

 

Spotify_logo_vertical_blackBy: Katie Ott* | Staff Writer

The recorded music industry, affluent throughout the 90s, has dropped dramatically in value the past 16 years, now pricing at only half its 1999 peak of $40 billion.  David Pakman, a cofounder of the Apple Music Group and CEO of eMusic, largely attributes the industry’s decline to the advent of streaming websites such as Spotify and Deezer.

Largely, music artists have responded to the new streaming medium through allowing streaming sites access to their music; the sites then compensate the artists roughly $.006 per song play.  This measly reimbursement has frustrated artists. Taylor Swift, one of the most powerful voices in the music industry, explains her frustrations: “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable.  Valuable things should be paid for.  It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.  I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”  To prove her point, Swift pulled her music from Spotify, joining the small group of artists boycotting the streaming process.  Their decision, criticized as both unreasonable and inadequate, marks the only artist kickback to seriously rifle the music streaming industries. Continue reading »

Digital Life After Death

By: Alec Roberson* | Staff Writer

In an age of social media and instant communication via emails, most people may not consider what will happen to their online accounts after death. Currently, there are roughly 30 million Facebook accounts still active that belong to people who are deceased. Likewise, it is estimated the about 1.5 million Facebook users and close to the same amount of Twitter users die each year. The question that lingers is what actually happens to these digital assets when you die and how can you transfer them properly to preserve your digital legacy?

The reason this is such an interesting question is because each state has their own set of laws governing the transfer of these types of assets and each email/social media provider likewise has their own set of proscribed rules governing access on death. This issue came to a head in 2005 when John Ellsworth wanted access to his deceased son, Justin Ellsworth’s, Yahoo! email account in order to recover emails and photos sent and received during his son’s military duty in Iraq. Yahoo!’s terms state that a user’s email account and all of its contents terminate at death with no right of survivorship or right of transferability. John was able to receive his son’s email contents only after a probate court in Michigan made the order.

Different providers have different terms though. Google allows you to designate who can access your account (including Google Plus, Gmail, etc.) or whether you want your data deleted after three, six, or twelve months after death. Facebook does not give access to anyone but allows family members to contact Facebook so that the deceased’s account can be memorialized, meaning no one can login, add or delete friends, and that person will not be suggested to other people to add as a friend nor will their birthday show up as a notification to others. Twitter allows the deceased’s family to request for the account to be deactivated as long as they can show a death certificate and details that show the account belongs to the deceased. In theory, any family member or friend that has the ability to get or knowledge of the deceased’s passwords could log on to those accounts themselves; however, under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act this may violate federal law and the Stored Communications Act may prevent someone from sharing the deceased’s information available on these digital assets. Continue reading »