The state legislature adjourned last week having abandoned a threat to seize the hit TV show “House of Cards” through the use of eminent domain, with negotiations over the extent of tax subsidies to the show still hanging in part. I’ve got an update at Cato, with specific attention to the use of eminent domain to confiscate moveable and intangible assets, as opposed to land; in earlier episodes, Maryland has gone after the Baltimore Colts football team (which escaped) and the Preakness horse race (which agreed to stay).
Kind of like Venezuela with Old Bay seasoning: “Responding to a threat that the “House of Cards” television series may leave Maryland if it doesn’t get more tax credits, the House of Delegates adopted budget language Thursday requiring the state to seize the production company’s property if it stops filming in the state. … Del. William Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat, proposed the provision, which orders the state to use the right of eminent domain to buy or condemn the property of any company that has claimed $10 million or more credits against the state income tax. The provision would appear to apply only to the Netflix series, which has gotten the bulk of the state credits.” [Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, earlier citing David Boaz]
She talked about her new book The Up Side of Down, on failure, which has many policy implications (and quotes me on “blamestorming”); her examples included Hollywood production cost overruns, New Coke, L.A.’s healthy school lunch program, and (in the book) Avenue Q. Arnold Kling contributed very illuminating comments, and my Cato colleague Dalibor Rohac moderated. More here (including audio podcast version) and at Arnold Kling’s site.
Four U.S. Senators are hectoring the Golden Globe Awards over stars’ televised use of e-cigarettes. “We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes,” wrote the humorless bossyboots in question, Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Edward Markey (Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), all Democrats. [Reuters] More: Sally Satel (“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything.”)
Speaking of glamor, don’t miss Virginia Postrel’s appearance at Cato next Wednesday to discuss her book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration. You can register here.
“A federal judge in Mississippi today ruled Sony Pictures Classics had the right to use a nine-word quote from William Faulkner’s Requiem For A Nun in Woody Allen’s 2011 film.” [Deadline.com, earlier]
“A 41-year-old actress who claimed the Internet Movie Database unfairly disclosed her real age lost a case against the site this week after a federal jury in Seattle rejected her lawsuit.” [Mashable, AP/USA Today; earlier]
“Human rights advocates claim that the depiction of torture in popular TV shows has had the effect of promoting the practice in real life, implying that the production companies may have failed to meet their responsibility to respect human rights as articulated in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” [Faris Natour, JustMeans.com; Wired on Zero Dark Thirty] “So, ban Schindler’s List?” [@susanwake]
Meanwhile, the regime in Iran says it will sue over its depiction in the movie “Argo” [CNN; more from Wikipedia on French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, whose attempts to marry imprisoned terrorist Carlos the Jackal "have been frustrated by legal issues"]
When Andrew Henderson videotaped police frisking a man about to be transported by ambulance in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, an officer confiscated his handheld videocamera, allegedly for evidence: “If I end up on YouTube, I’m gonna be upset.” Later, when Henderson sought to get his camera back, the sheriff’s office refused and instead charged him with misdemeanors. Among the notes on the citation: “Data privacy HIPAA violation.” A Stanford law professor says it would be nonsense to regard HIPAA, the federal health privacy law, as constraining the activity of bystanders like Henderson who are not legally defined as health providers. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]
The “public domain” isn’t just some hedonistic collective consumption good, but a vital resource for creators; thus Disney was able to base its golden-age animation features on literary properties and tropes that it could freely transform without permission. Among the properties we could have started freely transforming and remixing in this country had Congress not unilaterally and drastically extended copyright lengths: The King and I, Ian Fleming’s Diamonds Are Forever, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, My Fair Lady, and the novel 101 Dalmatians. [Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain via BB, similar, related]
Priceless Mayan-inspired mystical totem, or late Nineteenth Century German artifact aimed at the tourist trade? In “Indiana Jones and the Bogus Lawsuit,” Kevin at Lowering the Bar goes on the authentication trail.
Settling a prospect of litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act:
Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK), one of the world’s largest motion picture exhibitors, today announced that it is providing an audio description option for people who are blind or have visual impairments in all of its first-run theatres. …
In audio description (also known as descriptive narration) a narrator provides vocal description of key visual aspects of a movie, such as descriptions of scenery, facial expressions, costumes, action settings, and scene changes, described audibly during natural pauses in dialogue or critical sound elements.
[Lainey Feingold via Sam Bagenstos, Disability Law]
Sony Pictures has decried the suit as frivolous:
In Midnight In Paris, Gil Pender, the disillusioned Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, says, “the past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.” The rightsholder[s] say the slightly paraphrased quote could “deceive the infringing film’s viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand.”
David Olson, a professor of law at Boston College (and no relation), disputed the notion that a license was needed just because the movie was intended to make a profit. “Commercial use isn’t presumptively unfair” he said. He said no one watches “Midnight in Paris” as a substitute for buying “Requiem for a Nun.” [Deadline.com, Washington Post]
P.S. “Is the complaint written in Faulknerese?” [@jslubinski]
Attorney Donald Karpel, representing a theatergoer, plans to sue the theater in Aurora, Colo., the doctors who prescribed medications for the killer, and Warner Brothers, for “rampant violence” in its Batman movie. [TMZ] Suits against movie studios, at least, unlikely to prevail, so let’s be thankful for small sanities [Reuters] “That a cinema should prepare to repel a concerted paramilitary attack is only reasonable In Times Like These.” [George Wallace] More: Ken at Popehat.
Business fights back in the arena of public opinion against Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban. [Michael Grynbaum, NY Times "City Room"]
More: Regarding Monday evening’s “Million Big Gulp March,” “It is not about the number of ounces in the cup,” said organizer Zach Huff. “It is about the number of liberties we have left.” [Caroline May, Daily Caller]