“A Goldmine of Vapidity”: McMansion Wallpaper or Copyright Lawsuit?

By: Corri Hopkins *| Guest Writer


“This image has internet meme potential,” mocked a popular internet blogger. Shortly thereafter, McMansionHell author, Kate Wagner, learned that Zillow.com was not in on the joke.

McMansionHell is a popular blog known for sarcastic commentary on “ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst.” Wagner is a twenty-three year old architecture student at Johns Hopkins University. Her blog superimposes witty commentary onto real estate listing photos “to educate the masses about architectural concepts, urban planning, environmentalism, and history by making examples out of the places we love to hate the most: the suburbs.” Think: Perez Hilton takes on an Architectural Digest tumblr. Many of the photos Wagner uses, however, come from the listing website Zillow.com.

On June 26, 2017, Zillow sent Wagner a cease-and-desist letter, which demanded that she stop using Zillow for any purpose, and that she delete all images from McMansionHell that originated on Zillow. Among other things, Zillow’s letter specifically alleged that, by using and modifying images downloaded from Zillow, Wagner infringed on the rights of the copyright holders of the images under 17 U.S.C. § 107.

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Rock Band Disrupts Intellectual Property Law

By: Andrew Homer *| Guest Writer

By This image or media was taken or created by Matt H. Wade. To see his entire portfolio, click here. @thatmattwade     This image is protected by copyright! If you would like to use it, please read this first. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By This image or media was taken or created by Matt H. Wade. To see his entire portfolio, click here. @thatmattwade This image is protected by copyright! If you would like to use it, please read this first. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cannot deny the registration of a trademark because some may find the mark disparaging or offensive. The case that led to the ruling, Matal v. Tam, upended a 70-year-old tradition of federal trademark law found in 15 U.S.C. §1052 (a) and commonly named the disparagement clause. The Court holding that the disparagement clause is unconstitutional will have broad reaching effects to other aspects of intellectual property law and the nature of the corporation.

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Funding of the Future: Family Offices Join the Fray

By: Maureen Gallagher *| Guest Writer


In an era of rising regulation, the super-rich are turning to a different vehicle to steer their massive wealth – the family office. More than just the room in the house with a computer, the family office is a way for individuals to manage their wealth and lives while operating under the radar and away from regulatory scrutiny. Family offices are proliferating and often poaching talented senior officers from big banks to run their operations. Included in these ranks are the family offices of Oprah Winfrey, hedge-fund manager William Ackman, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

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Historical Environmental Case May Proceed to Trial—And Big Oil Wants Out

By: Samantha Tracy*| Guest Writer


Amongst a background of uncertain environmental policy changes, Juliana v. United States has fossil fuel trade organizations running from the courtroom.

Businesses join trade associations for a myriad of reasons: networking opportunities, effecting change in an area or industry, and learning about new trends and developments. Businesses small and large can enjoy the benefits trade organizations offer such as invitations to meetings, access to industry publications, and occasions to market their businesses. Within the fossil fuel industry, trade associations tend to focus on promoting members’ interests in legislation, public policy, and safety. These organizations handle everything from immigration reform to labor relations, international trade policies to domestic tax codes. Several trade associations have switched their attention towards tackling a critical environmental law case … against children.

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Cautious Optimism Regarding the Proposed TITLE Act and its Effects on Legitimate and Illegitimate Formation of LLCs to Acquire Property

By: Michael Johnson*| Guest Writer

By Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)    This image was made by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) Email the author:  David R. Tribble Also see my personal gallery at Google Photos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) This image was made by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) Email the author: David R. Tribble Also see my personal gallery at Google Photos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are various reasons, both legitimate and illegitimate, why individuals buy properties through limited liability companies (“LLCs”). Property acquisitions via both legal and illegal methods affect real estate markets. Surely, we cannot sink into the naivety of believing that all individuals buying property through LLCs do so legitimately.  To what extent, however, are we willing to compromise the privacy of legitimate uses of LLCs that may inadvertently raise the market prices of real estate to expose illegitimate uses? Property transactions in the United States have historically been quasi-public in nature. The disclosures, evidenced via deeds and other public records, provide disclosure about the property’s history, value, and ownership. When a property is bought through an LLC, however, the owner of the LLC can remain “completely” anonymous. It is difficult to track the origins of an LLC because it requires research spanning multiple jurisdictions and the level of information available to the public varies widely.

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Brazilian Distributor Caught Up in the Meat of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

By: Brandon Kroll*| Guest Writer

Philip Halling [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Philip Halling [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you have ever eaten at McDonald’s, Burger King, or Outback Steakhouse, then you have probably eaten the meat of JBS, the world’s largest meat producer. JBS is a global company that was started in Brazil in 1953. Since then, the beef and chicken giant has been aggressively expanding its reaches all over the globe. However, JBS finds itself under fire for bribing politicians in Brazil, most notably Brazilian President Michel Temer. This made news after Joesley Batista, the former chairman of JBS, told prosecutors that the company had paid politicians bribes in exchange for “taxpayer-subsidized loans and other favors.”  Batista subsequently stepped down from his position in the company.

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The Merchants of Verification

By: Brad Fleming*| Guest Writer


Visa and MasterCard have built highly profitable businesses that rest on preventing competition from rival PIN and signature verification networks. When consumers use debit cards to make purchases, the consumer’s identity must be confirmed through either a Personal Identification Number (“PIN”) or signature. Both signature and PIN verifications require the transaction be sent through either signature or PIN verification networks. PIN network technology can be stored in the debit card, so merchants should be able to choose from among multiple competing network providers for processing signature and PIN transactions.

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Payless: Fighting the Label of Another Bricks and Mortar Store Gone Under

By: Jasmine Little*| Guest Writer

By BentleyMall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By BentleyMall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Another one bites the dust. Payless ShoeSource, the largest chain for footwear, recently filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in April of 2017. The chain has high hopes to avoid being labeled as one of the many bricks and mortar focused retail companies that permanently closes its doors, like Sports Authority Holdings Inc. and Wet Seal. However, the odds are not in the chain’s favor. Not only has Payless’ bankruptcy plan prompted questions from its unsecured creditors but the retail market in general is seeing a soar in bankruptcy filings and store closings. The retail industry is most susceptible to liquidating its assets and shutting down permanently after filing bankruptcy than is any other sector of the market. AlixPartners firm research study found that once a retail company files for bankruptcy, there is a about a fifty-five percent chance that it will never reopen.

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“Fearless Girl” Not Cowed by “Charging Bull”

By: Cara Katrinak*| Guest Writer

Gabriele Giuseppini [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Gabriele Giuseppini [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Big things come in small packages. After reigning over Wall Street for nearly 30 years, the 3 ½-ton bronze sculpture “Charging Bull” is facing off against a 4-foot adversary in Lower Manhattan. “Fearless Girl,” commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to commemorate International Women’s Day, features a bronze girl, hands-on-hips, blocking the path of the famous bull. While “Fearless Girl” was designed to be the Financial District’s symbol of women in leadership, Arturo Di Modica, the artist behind “Charging Bull,” wants “Fearless Girl” to promote her message somewhere else.

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Air Bagged and Sold: The Price of Nonfunctional Slack-fill

By: Ralph J. D’Agostino*| Guest Writer

By kundl (Comida Chatarra  Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By kundl (Comida Chatarra Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is one first world problem many of us habitual snackers can relate to – with wide eyes you reach for what appears to be a bag stuffed with the answers to your growling stomach’s prayers, then… pop! The air quickly pours out of the bag and the joy rushes out of your soul as you realize its contents were a mere fraction of its container. But is leaving you and the bag hopelessly deflated, a result of caveat emptor or possibly false advertisement? This is the question posed to the Southern District of New York in a case brought against Wise Foods, the maker of Wise potato chips.

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