Posts Tagged ‘music and musicians’

To fit the crime: a social justice “Mikado”

The news that New York’s Gilbert & Sullivan Players have canceled a production of The Mikado because it was accused of purveying anti-Japanese stereotypes, and because there had been objections to Caucasian actors singing the parts, prompted me to write up a short piece in the new Weekly Standard on how the beloved operetta might be modernized for contemporary, social-justice-attuned ears:

So he decreed, in words succinct,
That all who flirted, leered, or winked,
Without consent-form double-inked,
Should forthwith be beheaded…

Correspondent Corey Bean contributed a verse:

My object all sublime
I shall erase the line —
Between micro-
aggressions and crime —
Between mere offense and crime;

The company for now is going to switch to a production of The Pirates of Penzance. “So now pirate-shaming is supposed to be okay?” Read the whole thing here.

“‘Happy Birthday’ Song Copyright Ruled to Be Invalid”

“The world’s most popular English language song is potentially free from copyright after a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that filmmakers challenging Warner/Chappell Music’s hold on “Happy Birthday to You” should be granted summary judgment.” [Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter/Billboard] We’ve covered the saga a number of times previously. More: Lowering the Bar.

September 2 roundup

  • “Lawyer Threatens Yelp Reviewer With Lawsuit, Is Wrong” [Popehat, related Ken White on cease and desist orders]
  • “Winghouse restaurants only serve chicken wing parts, not the full drummettes, flappers and wingtips combination that traditionally defines a chicken wing, a class action lawsuit claims.” [Courthouse News, links to paywalled document]
  • Claim: what really ails law schools is lack of aggressive PR push. Readers push back in comments [Caron/TaxProf, Joe Patrice]
  • I was hoping Sen. Rand Paul would take a harder line against wildcat public employee strikes [Dave Weigel on Kentucky clerk case]
  • California’s Central Valley hit by ADA mass filings: “Griffiths said the Moore Law Firm has filed [accessibility] complaints against about 200 businesses in Fresno.” [Hanford Sentinel]
  • If the “system is rigged,” it’s not in the way Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders seem to think [Cass Sunstein, Bloomberg View]
  • Up jumps the swagman, files a claim in copyright: origins and ownership chain of “Waltzing Matilda” are murky [Sydney Morning Herald via @ContentLawyer]

Happy Birthday To Me…

If one of my family members chooses to sing the familiar “Happy Birthday To You” in celebration of my birthday today, their chances of prevailing against the tenacious lawyers at Warner Music Group appear better than ever. Law librarians helped by laying hands on a copy of a 1922 songbook in which the ditty, already by then decades old, appeared with no copyright notice; Warner/Chappell applied for copyright registration in 1935. [Above the Law, ABA Journal, BoingBoing, Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica] Earlier here, here, and here.

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as intellectual property study

“In the courtroom, the quiet courtroom, the lawsuit slept for decades.” Mark Steyn on “the biggest hit ever to come out of Africa – and why its author never reaped the benefits,” with attention to the cultural appropriations of Pete Seeger et al. Earlier on unrelated litigation over one American cover of “Lion,” which figured in Ted Frank’s popular post, “The Overlawyered IMix.”

Copyright hazards of letting musicians play in your restaurant

A Shelton, Ct. restaurant has paid $18,000 to settle a lawsuit over the playing of nine copyrighted songs on its premises; an owner says he thinks a private party played them. “If a band plays a cover song for which the bar has no license, the bar is legally liable, according to BMI and ASCAP,” the two musicians’-rights consortiums that make a practice of suing venues. [Hartford Business]

“Netflix for vinyl” meets a legal stumbling block

There was much excitement about a “Netflix for vinyl” that would send music-minded subscribers a curated surprise selection of records they could listen to, then send back at their leisure for a new set of unexpected picks. No one seems to have reckoned with the part of federal law known as “section §109(b), popularly known as the Record Rental Amendment of 1984, which makes it illegal to rent records.” [Michael Nelson, Stereogum]

Ray Lehmann on “Blurred Lines” case

While musical copying, and copying lawsuits, are nothing new, Ray Lehmann finds “different” and “potentially problematic” a jury’s $7.4 million verdict “against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, asserting the pair’s 2013 smash ‘Blurred Lines’ borrowed inappropriately from the 1977 Marvin Gaye song ‘Got to Give It Up.'” [R Street Institute] More: Ann Althouse.

P.S. Tim Hulsey commenting on Overlawyered’s Facebook page (which you’ve liked, right?): “If this decision had been in force during the 1940s, nine-tenths of ‘be-bop jazz’ would never have occurred — no ‘Donna Lee,’ no Thelonious Monk, no 12-bar blues.” And @terryteachout on Twitter: “I now see that the judge instructed the jury to go by the sheet music only. If that’s the applicable standard, the verdict will definitely be reversed.” More: David Post.

Forensics and evidence roundup

  • Radley Balko begins a four-part series on the flawed science of bite mark analysis [parts one, two with Jim Hood angle]
  • Federal judge Jed Rakoff “quits commission to protest Justice Department forensic science policy” [Washington Post]
  • Disturbing, but, to those familiar with the false-memory literature, not all that surprising: “People Can Be Convinced They Committed a Crime That Never Happened” [Psychological Science on new research]
  • Exposure of faulty fire forensics leads to another release after long time served [WHP, Harrisburg; James Hugney Sr. “maintained his innocence throughout” nearly 36 years in prison following conviction in burning death of sleeping son]
  • Courts struggle with evidentiary significance of emoji [Julia Greenberg, Wired] Rap music as gang-tie evidence: “The only value it has is to scare the hell out of white juries, and it’s effective” [ABA Journal]
  • Supporters of Brian Peixoto say his Massachusetts conviction typifies problems of shaken baby forensics [Wrongful Conviction News]
  • “Allegations that NYPD cops may have planted evidence, perjured themselves and engaged in cover-ups while investigating gun cases.” [New York Times via Balko; NYDN 2011 flashback]