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advertising

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) has introduced a bill, the “Childrens Firearms Marketing Safety Act,” that would restrict the content of gun advertising, ostensibly on the grounds of protecting children. Eugene Volokh analyzes its terms and doubts that they make much sense unless one assumes that the purpose of the bill is “is to reduce as much as possible parentally approved gun use by minors. And of course the effect of the law, if it would be at all effective, would thus be to reduce the number of children who grow up familiar with guns and open to gun ownership — thus making broader gun controls easier in the future.”

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Federal false-advertising law allows competitors (not just consumers claiming loss) to sue companies over allegedly false or unsubstantiated ad claims. Long-established result that will surprise only newcomers: big guys use the law to beat up little guys, as well as each other. “In March, a Supreme Court ruling widened the range of businesses that can sue other companies for false advertising under the federal Lanham Act, by allowing businesses that aren’t direct competitors to pursue claims.” [WSJ via Lexology]

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“A woman using a Grand Central Terminal stairwell fell and broke her ankle last year because a spooky advertisement for the [Showtime serial-killer] series startled her, a new lawsuit charges. Ajanaffy Njewadda and her husband, a former Gambian ambassador, are suing the MTA and the cable network, accusing them of placing the ad in a dangerous spot for pedestrians.” [James Fanelli, DNAInfo New York]

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Nor, the complaint adds triumphantly, is Chobani yogurt even “made by Greek nationals.” It’s made in New York! Also, it’s too sweet and not very natural. [ABA Journal]

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“Law firm apologizes to truckers for ‘serial killer’ ad” [ABA Journal] The San Antonio law firm of Villarreal & Begum had placed the ad in Maxim, but the reaction from truckers was so negative that some sellers yanked the magazine off the stands.

Food roundup

by Walter Olson on June 16, 2014

  • The federal school lunch initiative as experienced by school districts in rural New York [Sarah Harris, North Country Public Radio]
  • Europe’s Ugly Fruit movement wants to reclaim for consumers tons of food rejected for appearance, sometimes by marketers and sometimes by regulators [NYT]
  • Expect uptick in food labeling suits after Supreme Court decision approving suit in Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola [Glenn Lammi, WLF; FedSoc Blog; more, Mayer Brown]
  • “Biggest secret” of glutamic acid, of umami and MSG fame, “may be that there was never anything wrong with it at all” [BuzzFeed]
  • Cottage food win: New Jersey lawmakers unanimously back right to sell homemade goodies [Institute for Justice]
  • Celebrity-driven “Fed Up” film is “strident stalking-horse for a Bloombergian agenda” [Jeff Stier, Baylen Linnekin]
  • Young persons, especially college students, drink much more than they used to. Right? Wrong [Michelle Minton, Andrew Stuttaford]

Will China follow the U.S. lead in consumer litigation? The lawsuit’s target, or one of its targets, is former NBA star Yao Ming, who is said to have endorsed fish oil capsules whose benefits were exaggerated. [China Daily via Tyler Cowen]

April 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 30, 2014

  • “7 Reasons U.S. Infrastructure Projects Cost Way More Than They Should” [Scott Beyer, Atlantic Cities]
  • Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointments could reshape California Supreme Court [Mark Pulliam, City Journal]
  • Critics say hiring of outside counsel in Pennsylvania government is an insider’s game [WHTM]
  • Could “Bitcoin for contracts” replace legal drafters’ expertise? [Wired with futurist Karl Schroeder]
  • “Getting state out of marriage” makes for neat slogan but results would be messy in practice [Eugene Volokh]
  • Lobbying by auto body shops keeps Rhode Island car repair costs high [Providence Journal, PCIAA press release and report in PDF]
  • “Bipartisan, publicity-hungry members of Congress want the FTC to investigate Photoshopping in ads” [Virginia Postrel on this WaPo report; Daily Beast; earlier here, here, etc.]

Speak not of walkability

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2014

“From a realtor: ‘Regarding the Metro, I never putting “walk to..” on my listings because when I took my GRI classes they warned us that “walk to” might trigger a complaint of discrimination against people with disabilities.’ Sigh…” — David Bernstein, law professor and author of “You Can’t Say That! The Threat To Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

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“Even pictures of food [at schools] have to have the federal government’s stamp of approval.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]

P.S. Speaking of marketing and paternalism, here’s Ann Althouse on the latest horrible Mark Bittman column.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on December 31, 2013

  • Gee, thanks, NIH: “Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda to Show the ‘Evils’ of Private Alcohol Sales” [Michelle Minton, CEI]
  • “So this summer, under the supervision of officials from U.S. Customs, all three thousand two hundred and ninety-seven pounds of Mimolette were tossed into dumpsters and doused in bleach.” [The New Yorker, Dec. 9, subscription; S.F. Chronicle, earlier on French cheese controversy here, here, etc.]
  • FDA forced to back off FSMA regs, NYC soda ban loses twice in court, and other highlights of the year in food freedom [Baylen Linnekin] “Americans Think They Should Be Allowed to Buy Foods with Trans Fats and Caffeinated Energy Drinks” [Emily Ekins on new Reason-RUPE poll] “The Dangers of a Soda Tax” [Trevor Burrus] Linnekin podcast on FDA’s trans-fat ban [Cato, Caleb Brown interview]
  • “Annals of Closing Statements in Exploding Bottle Cases” [Kyle Graham]
  • “Minnesota says raw milk makes more people sick than recognized” [L.A. Times]
  • It’s for the children: proposals for regulating in-store food marketing [Jennifer Pomeranz via Public Citizen]
  • Federal sugar program devastated domestic candy manufacturing, as WaPo (sometimes) recognizes [Chris Edwards]

“… The FTC regulating it” [Jack Shafer, Reuters]

Jack Shafer has a few thoughts:

Schneiderman mustn’t neglect the product endorsement industry. Do those celebrity endorsers really love the product or service as much as they say they do? … Fake reviews on Yelp, properly considered, are Yelp’s problem, not the state of New York’s. Let the Yelp people clean up the sewer. And the attorney general? Aren’t there any genuine crimes in the state for him to investigate?

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That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.

My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.

According to a math teacher’s calculations, a sample yielded only 1.86 times as much filling between the chocolatey wafers, not “double.” Here’s the report, by Rachel Tepper in Huffington Post. Using comments, who would like to predict whether some law firm will file an intended class action over this problem within the next twelve months, on a scale where zero indicates “completely confident that there will not be such a lawsuit” and 10 indicates “completely confident that there will be”?

Bonus, from the article: “And Mega Stuf Oreos have only 2.86 times the creme in a regular Oreo. The prefix ‘mega’ literally means a factor of one million, which, granted, is impossible to translate to an Oreo. Still, perhaps another name could have sufficed.”

P.S. As a reminder, class action lawyers sued the Subway restaurant chain after it was reported that its “Footlong” sub was actually more like 11 inches long. And a federal judge is reconsidering a recent ruling allowing class action claims to go forward over the appearance on an ingredient list of “evaporated cane juice,” i.e., sugar.

P.P.S. Welcome Digg and Fark readers.

Update: “While I’m not familiar with what was done in the classroom setting, I can confirm for you that our recipe for the Oreo Double Stuf Cookie has double the Stuf, or creme filling, when compared with our base, or original Oreo cookie,” a spokeswoman for Nabisco told ABC News.

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“Photographs of infants are to be banned from baby formula packaging under new European Parliament rules.” [Irish Times via Stuttaford]

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Surveillance roundup

by Walter Olson on June 14, 2013

  • “Old crisis creates new leviathan” [Barton Hinkle] Some other things that maybe should happen before Snowden gets prosecuted [Bruce Schneier] “Were they here, my parents might have asked, ‘What happened to America?’” [Nat Hentoff]
  • Candidate Obama, meet President Obama; on surveillance, you’ll find you have little in common [graphic courtesy Caleb Brown, Cato at Liberty] Don’t say the president wants to be trusted with complete discretion unfettered by the other branches of government; that’s his assassination program, not his surveillance program [Jacob Sullum]
  • A different view: two leading libertarian legal thinkers, Roger Pilon and Richard Epstein, defend the NSA surveillance program [Chicago Tribune]
  • How very wrong David Simon is about the NSA’s capabilities [Clay Shirky, Guardian]
  • Tracking by advertisers just as bad? No, here’s why state surveillance is worse [Jason Kuznicki, Brian Doherty]
  • I’m not the only one wondering whether prosecution of QWest’s Joseph Nacchio relates to his non-cooperation with NSA [Michael Kelly/Business Insider, Scott Shackford/Reason, Greg Campbell/Daily Caller]
  • What would it take to bring back a Watergate-era spirit of reform? [Jesse Walker]
  • “As the NSA has made all too clear, unless we update our concept of the Fourth Amendment to fit the realities of the Internet Age, those general warrants [despised by colonists] will be back — on a far larger scale, and in secret.” [Julian Sanchez]

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on June 10, 2013

  • FBI looks at allegations Dallas DA filed fraud suit as favor to donor [Free Beacon]
  • “Suing ex-client for $500K in divorce fees led to disbarment ruling for former bar president” [Virginia; former "titan" of D.C. matrimonial bar, ABA Journal]
  • “Appeals court cuts ‘unconscionable’ estate legal bill from $44M to perhaps $3M” [ABA Journal on Graubard Miller / Alice Lawrence case, earlier]
  • Empirical puzzler: advent of lawyer advertising doesn’t seem to have had the expected fee-reducing effect [Nora Freeman Engstrom, SSRN via LEF] Law firm marketers were all over the Metro-North crash case [Eric Turkewitz]
  • “DOJ Inspector General’s report: US Attorney unlawfully leaked to discredit critic” [of "Fast and Furious" operation; John Steele]
  • “Lawyer accused of bilking real estate investors through false claims of criminal probes takes plea” [New Jersey; ABA Journal]
  • Claim: disciplinary decisions to reinstate errant lawyers should be more guided by experts [Bruce Green and Jane Moriarity, SSRN via LEF]
  • If you find it hard to believe opponents would gin up flimsy “speech-gave-offense” charges against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones, recall the earlier ginned-up (and now mostly forgotten) charges against distinguished appellate judges Dennis Jacobs and Alex Kozinski.

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