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Combatting Climate Change: Corporate Disclosure and Technological Innovation

By: Emily Morris*

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Climate change has been an international talking point for several years. Business sectors are affected by climate change in varying degrees. Some sectors are affected directly, such as agriculture, energy, and insurance and others are affected indirectly, such as banking and investing. There is pressure from investors for companies and governments to acknowledge and begin planning for the effects of climate change.

In reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the economic debate arises from the trade-off between environmental protection and economic prosperity. It is argued that moving away from the use of fossil fuels will hurt economic growth, businesses, and job creation. The problem is that ignoring climate change could have an even more detrimental effect on the economy in the future. In order to address today the future effects of climate change, these risks need to be included in federal budgets and companies need to disclose the impact climate change could have on their business.

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Stand Up For Your (Copy)Right

By: Kirsten S. Dowell*

Austin Mahone, discovered on YouTube | Photo Credit: User Justinecote1 of Wikimedia Commons.

Austin Mahone, discovered on YouTube | Photo Credit: User Justinecote1 of Wikimedia Commons.

The platform from which rising artists launch their careers has changed dramatically in the last decade.  Since Justin Bieber opened the door for stars to be born on YouTube in 2008, many unknown artists are turning to social media as a way to gain free exposure.  YouTube is the world’s third most popular website, and is a natural choice for budding artists seeking fame.  One third of teens said being famous is important to them, and teens seeking fame use social media more frequently.  The Internet has changed the way people become famous.  By uploading songs and videos to YouTube, normal, everyday people, who have no connection to the music industry, have a shot at being discovered and signing a record contract.

While some of these hopefuls have become successful, other artists claim they have had their work used or copied by others without their permission.  Katy Perry was accused of stealing the idea for her music video Messages from a YouTube artist last year.  More recently, Seth McFarlane was accused of stealing the character Ted (of the movie with the same name) from a YouTube video.

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Conflict Minerals: What Are They & Why Do We Care?

By: Jefferson Whisenant

We have all heard of conflict diamonds, but conflict minerals?  While not as highly publicized as the diamonds illegally traded out of Africa to fund civil war, conflict minerals serve a similar purpose: to help finance and perpetuate conflict in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Conflict in Africa

Even with the DRC’s support from almost a dozen African countries and Israel, three of the smallest countries in eastern Africa (Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda) are able to fund a war against one of the largest countries on the continent.  How?  The rebel groups target and control the natural resource mines in eastern Congo, much of the time using forced labor, and use the proceeds to fund their conflict.  Minerals from the mines are sent to multiple proxy “corporations” and are eventually sold to a smelting business, rendering further tracing nearly impossible.  These smelters will sell the minerals up the supply chain until they are finally placed into finished products such as computers and cell phones.

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A Red Card for Qatar?

By: Afzal Karim

Every four years the entire globe follows each pass, foul, goal, and even hairstyles of the phenomenon known as the FIFA World Cup.  While fans continue to flock to stadiums and remain glued to their televisions, a small Arabian country has stolen the limelight of this World Cup without stepping a foot in Brazil.

Qatar has been selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  Many are wondering, how was a “high risk” desert country, with no infrastructure for the massive crowds, and no history in international soccer able to win the bid from the likes of the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea?  A recent article by the British newspaper, The Sunday Times, reports that the answer is bribery. The report alleges that at the time of the vote in 2010, a Qatari official paid more than $5 million to various members of the selection committee in order to award Qatar the World Cup.  If the allegations prove to be true, FIFA would strongly consider stripping Qatar of the 2022 World Cup.  Such a decision would be devastating, as Qatar has already spent $200 billion making preparations for the World Cup.  However, could Qatar challenge a ruling that would strip them of their right to host the World Cup?  Continue reading »

Modern Privacy Policies License Collection of Personal Information

By: Kathryn Helin

Photo Credit: http://tacma.net

Photo Credit: http://tacma.net

How often do consumers agree to lengthy terms and conditions online to use Internet and other telecommunications services?

More importantly, how often do they, in fact, read these terms and conditions and know what they are agreeing to?

The 2013 documentary Terms and Conditions may Apply, directed by Cullen Hoback, explores just that.  The answer is captured in San Francisco Chronicle reporter G. Allen Johnson’s response that it is, “[t]he scariest movie I’ve seen this year, a horror tale that would have been science fiction had it been made in the 1990s.”

In the post Patriot Act era, companies’ terms and conditions, most notably privacy policies, are used to “inform” users and defend companies’ practices of collecting, compiling, storing and sharing personal information about individual users.  Essentially, these companies argue because users must agree to the terms and conditions prior to utilizing the services they must know what they are signing up for.  The problem is that due to the unequal distribution of bargaining power between multi-billion dollar companies and individual users, the user has no power to negotiate the terms and conditions.  Essentially, they must agree or forego using the service.  Further, as articulated in the film, companies are disincentivized from discontinuing these practices in two ways.

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The End is Near: Why College Sports May Change Forever

By: Eli Marger

Student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived.”- NCAA Division I Manual

College athletics may look simple.  It is just another facet of the education industry—for now.

Just like any business organization, a university’s athletic department has revenues and expenses.  The money comes in via donations, ticket sales, and conference revenue sharing; it goes out via coach and staff salaries, scholarships, and operational expenses.  All of this supports the student-athletes, the ones actually playing the sports.

These student-athletes have been the center of attention recently, and not just for what they do in their respective sports.  Currently, student-athletes receive payment in the form of “grant-in-aid” (GIA) scholarships, which is generally the sum of tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and textbook costs.  While some may argue that this is more than adequate payment for student-athletes, critics of the current system—including the plaintiffs in the NCAA litigation—say that students should be able to earn money above and beyond the scholarship amount based on their monetary impact on the university. Continue reading »

Timing is Everything: Swatch Sues Target for Infringing Designs

By: Alexandra Braverman

Swatch Store

Swatch Store

As Coco Chanel once said, “Only those with no memory insist on their originality.” Regardless, fashion and accessory plagiarism is a contentious issue in today’s fashion industry.  With famous designers accusing each other of building a career off of copying, the line between “stealing” and “inspiration” becomes very blurry.  It is in the midst of this mess that we find the lawsuit under discussion.

In March of this year, Swatch filed an aggressive lawsuit against Target for blatantly copying the Swatch design for its “zebra” and “multi-colored” watches. Swatch, a Swiss company known for its fashionable plastic watches, claims that Target’s watches clearly infringe upon the aforementioned Swatch designs. Among the claims filed against Target, Swatch is asserting that first, Target has illegally copied the trade dress of the “zebra” and “multi-colored” watch lines produced by Swatch this season, and second, that the similarity of Target’s lower-quality, plastic watches, damages Swatch’s sales by stealing customers and creating confusion. In its complaint, Swatch claims, “by adopting the Zebra Watch trade dress and the Multi-Color Watch trade dress, defendants are unfairly competing.”

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The Sterling Clippers: Ousting Ownership in the Face of Outrage

By: Anastasia E. Bond

On April 9, Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, made certain racist comments to his companion, V. Stiviano.  Stiviano recorded these comments, and they were quickly publicized by TMZ.  This led to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling from the NBA for life, fining Sterling $2.5 million, and leading to a potential forced sale of Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers. 

How can the NBA force an owner to unwillingly relinquish that ownership?

When an individual or entity becomes an owner of an NBA team, that owner is subject to the rules set under the NBA Constitution.  The Constitution provides, under Article 13, for the termination of ownership if an owner willfully violates “any of the provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws, resolutions, or agreements” of the NBA, and subject to a vote of 3/4s of the Board of Governors. Continue reading »

NLRB’s Application of the Common Law Definition of Employee in the Northwestern University Football Decision

By: Stephen DeGrow*

Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) recently held that some football players at Northwestern University are university employees for the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. The “employee” designation allows grant-in-aid scholarship football players to vote for union representation. As it stands, 85 of the university’s 112 players receive grant-in-aid scholarships and will be eligible to vote.  Continue reading »

NLRB’s Distinction Between Football Players at Northwestern University and Graduate Assistants at Brown University

By: Stephen DeGrow*

Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) recently held that some football players at Northwestern University are university employees for the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. To reach this decision, the Board first looked at the common law definition of an employee. (A previous blog entry covers this aspect of the decision.) The Board then had to distinguish its decision from Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004). In Brown University, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate assistants are not employees. The NLRB based its decision on four factors: “(1) the status of graduate assistants as students; (2) the role of the graduate student assistantships in graduate education; (3) the graduate assistants’ relationship with the faculty; and (4) the financial support they receive to attend Brown University.”  Continue reading »