Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now Here Is An Interesting Lawsuit

And another reason why I think that IP law has gotten out of control. But I get ahead of myself.

Apparently, in 2000, a documentary was released titled, "Ashes to Glory". It was the product of Deborah Novak and John Witek's work into documenting the aftermath and rebirth of the Marshall University football team after the tragic crash which killed all but five members of its football team in 1970. The following year, the team was rebuilt, essentially from scratch. Amazingly, it managed to win a couple of games, the first of which was apparently a 15-13 nailbiter against Xavier University.

Now, a little bit better known, since it was a studio release last year, was the Warner Bros. movie, We Are Marshall. It covered the same story. The crash. The rebuilding. The young coach trying to ready a team for Division I-A games. The nailbiting win over Xavier on the last second pass to the end-zone.

Big deal? Actually, it apparently is. Sports Illustrated is reporting that Deborah Novak and John Witek have filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The suit alleges that Warner Bros breached a contract with Novak and Witek to have them be involved in any theatrical movie dealing with the Marshall story. The lawsuit also (the actual complaint can be found here) alleges We Are Marshall "dramatizes the events depicted in Ashes to Glory, in the same chronological order, with the identical tone, sequencing, story emphasis, principal characters, theme, and archival clips[.]"

Let's think about this. Both the documentary and the movie deal with an actual event. So, unless the We Are Marshall filmmakers wanted to take some sort of Faulkner-esque route to telling the story, how else were they going to tell it? They also say that We Are Marshall stole their method of telling the story by having the climax of the film be the Xavier game with a slow mo shot of the football coupled with flashbacks.

Well, lets think about this. How many football films have climatic nail biting games which are decided on the final drive? Off the top of my head, I can think of Friday Night Lights, the Longest Yard (both versions), The Replacements, Any Given Sunday (I think). How many of them have slow motion shots of the decisive pass, intercut with flashbacks? As I recall The Replacements has that one. All I am saying is that the elements are not exactly new in football movies or sports movies in general.

I am not defending what the movie studio did in regard to the contract, if it existed. However, as far as trying to benefit off the other portions of the complaint, specifically First and Sixth Causes of Action (in the case of the Sixth Cause of Action only as it applies to the themes and sports cliche moments), it as if they are saying that they are the exclusive the holders of the right to film anything that incorporates themes and set pieces which have been used repeatedly in sports movies.

That is just ludicrous. Or to put it another way, it would be like local Odessa newspaper suing the makers of Friday Night Lights because they had originally published the accounts of the season. Or HBO suing the makers of Miracle for presenting the story of the 1980 Miracle on Ice in the same chronological way that they presented it in their documentary.

Just another example of IP laws running amok.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Sorting Hat Speaks

Your Score: Gryffindor!

The Sorting Hat has spoken! You've got 81 House Points!

Head of House: Professor McGonagall

House Colors: Scarlett and Gold

House Animal: Lion

Gryffindor made his choices of students based on Bravery. A little knowledge, however, did go a long way with him. You are a very brave person indeed, always willing to help out a friend, or innocent bystander who is in need... or anyone who is in need mostly. I salute you. Gryffindor is known mainly for it's heroic members... HUZZAH! Great deeds await you in this house.

Some students from Gryffindor house are Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley.

Link: The Hogwarts Sorting Hat Test written by Demeratus on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

So I am Chaotic Good (Guess I won't be playing any paladin characters in D&D)

Your Score: Neutral-Good

82% Good, 46% Chaotic

Plane of Existence: Elysium, "Blessed Fields". Description: The plane of peace. Notable Inhabitants: Guardinals - noble immortal humanoids with bestial features.

Examples of Neutral-Goods (Ethically Neutral, Morally Good)

Cloud Strife (FFVII)

Boogenhagen (FFVII)

Mother Theresa


Sidhartha Gautama (the Buddha)


Bilbo & Frodo Baggins

Samwise Gamgee

Indiana Jones

The Dali Lama

Ben (O-Bi-Wan) Kenobi

Luke Skywalker

Harry Potter



Often goes along with the laws and desires of the group as being the easiest course of action, but ethical considerations clearly have top priority. May pursue quite abstract goals. Often aloof and difficult to understand.

Will keep their word to others of good alignment

Would not attack an unarmed foe

Will not use poison

Will help those in need

May work with others

Indifferent to higher authority

Indifferent to organizations

Neutral Good "Pure Good"


A neutral good [person] will obey the law, or break it when he or she sees it will serve a greater good. He or she is not bound strongly to a social system or order. His or her need to help others and reduce their suffering may take precedence over all else. Neutral good [people] do good for goodness' sake, not because they are directed to by law or by whim.

This alignment desires good without bias for or against order.

Other Alignments and Tendencies (Tendenices are what you would more often sway towards; esp. for Neutrals):

0-39% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Evil

0-39% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: Neutral-Evil

0-39% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Evil

40-60% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Neutral

40-60% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: True Neutral

40-60% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Neutral

61-100% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Good

61-100% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Good

Link: The Alignment Test written by xan81 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Following up

So as you may have noticed, I have been venting a lot lately. Partly, it has to do with my clients losing heart. Partly it has to do with opposing counsel not having brains that were issued to lemmings.

A little harsh? Well consider that when I finally was able to contact opposing counsel in this matter, their response to my numerous emails and phone messages was "We thought you meant something else."

That's right. When I tell you in no uncertain terms that my clients wish to take you up on your offer on the terms which you proposed, I am really trying to confuse you.

Since I was nowhere near a fax machine, being in a foreign country, I tell them I will send them a pdf (which is permitted under the way the document is drafted) of the signature pages. Which I send, and tell them that if they do not get them in the next hour, to email me back.

Or call.

Or send a smoke signal.

All of which gets a "O.k." from the other side.

Now, today, believing that they have received the instruments of surrender, since I have not received any message in any form to the contrary, I set about to getting back to work. Only to receive a letter accusing me of double crossing them by not transmitting the documents by fax.

Right. What part of "I have to send the documents to you by email" and you saying "O.k." told you that it would be sent by fax?!?!?!?!?!

It is probably just me, but lately, I am getting really short fused with slumlord attorneys.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

All I want to do is to surrender dammit!

So in one of my cases, the clients were all full of vim to go and fight this out to the bitter end. However, after I had gotten through rejecting the other sides offer, the clients call me back to say that "no, we really want to just end it on any terms at any price."

Alright, so those were not the exact words. But that was the gist of the message.

I did my best to tell them that this was not in their best interests. They said no, just end it.

So now I am trying to end it. And the other side won't take my phone call or return my letters.

Now I am getting to a point where I may have to tell the clients that surrender is no longer an option.

I wish there was an ethical way to put in my retainer agreements that my clients are not allowed to surrender after rejecting the other sides offer, and especially after declaring to me that they want to fight it to the bitter end. This is just happening too often.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Time Well Spent

So this afternoon, I got to spend a fair amount of time in a meeting. Now this would not have been a bad thing if there was any chance at all that something good could come out of it. I was not going to get paid for the meeting. I was not going to be able to help someone through the Bar Association's Pro Bono program. I was not even going to get the pleasure of just spending time with some friends.

Instead, it was a meeting to try and head off a client from suing yours truly.

What am I being sued for? As near as I can figure, the basis of the suit will be that I did my job well and got the client a good result. When I became involved in the case, the client had a judgment against them. The sheriff was about levy the client's bank accounts and possibly other property to satisfy the judgment. When I was through, I had obtained not only the best result possible in the situation, but also the deal which the client had previously authorized and was asking to have reinstated.

Now I believe it is everyone's right to pursue meritorious claims in court. And this case is no different. If this person is the mensch they claim to be, they will walk away from this and realize I did a mitzvah for them. I received no money for representing them. I did what no other attorney was able to do.

At the meeting, I remained mostly silent while others attempted to broker an accord between myself and this client. But what I really wanted to say was this:

"You want to sue me? Go for it. When its over, whatever lawyer handles it will have you looking like France after the last time Germany went on tour."

The Difference Is....?

In light of the recent, and sudden, rush of the U.S. and Israel to back Fatah, I thought it was important to show the difference between the two. Fortunately for me, Cox and Forkum have done a nice little visual.

Of course, some may say that this is just a knee-jerk conservative leaning artists' impression of the complexities of the Middle East. So going to the tape we have this picture of Hamas supporters...

And then we have the Fatah supporters...

Let's see. About the only difference I can tell between these groups is that one is in favor of Sharia law for all while the other is in favor of a kleptocracy. Other than that, their goal is simply the destruction of Israel, the murder of Jews, and a continuing jihad against the West in order to establish a new caliphate.

Monday, June 18, 2007

This Would Be So Much Easier Without Client Categories

So I have this person who is considering whether or not to retain me. I really think that this person's case is marginal at best. I keep telling this prospective client this, but the prospective keeps coming back with more and more questions.

To date, I have not signed this person up as a client, but I am starting to get the feeling that if this person does not make up their mind soon, I am going to start to charging just because of the amount of time I am wasting while they go through an endless-decision loop.

It makes me want to grab the prospective client and yell at him "Make up your mind!"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Man I hate it when the other side makes sense

Of course, in doing so, he has probably alienated a healthy number of registered latino voters.

What am I talking about? Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said something that should be commonsense, yet is already being referred to by activists as "so naive and out of it '.

Here's what Governor
Schwarzenegger when asked how immigrant Spanish speakers can learn English quickly, said, "You've got to turn off the Spanish television set" and avoid Spanish-language television, books and newspapers."

He did not say that they should ban anything, but just said if you want to learn a language quickly, you need to immerse yourself in it. Seems I recall being in school and told constantly that the best way to learn was through an immersion program. Of course, by tomorrow, it will have turned into an endorsement of English as the national language and an attempt to end Spanish language media.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

For Those Interested

The case of the $67.3 million pants is currently being tried. A reporter from the Washington Post is live-blogging it. Apparently the plaintiff, Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson, has dropped his demand to $54 million.

Not a Good Day for

Fatah. Looks like they are on the losing end of a fight against Hamas. I was kind of hoping that this would drag out a bit longer, but it looks like Fatah is getting the short end of the stick. Either way this ends, Israel is still facing an enemy who is not interested in any sort of real peace negotiations.

Israel. Hamas is winning (today at least). I'm wondering if it almost makes Bibi wish that Arrafat was not spinning in his grave? At least the U.N. and Human Rights Watch are not blaming Israel for the current Arab civil war in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Democracy in Lebanon. Lebanese parliamentarian Walid Eido, a critic of Syrian involvement in Lebanese affairs, was killed when someone (could it be the Syrian intelligence services) set off a car bomb. Also killed in the blast were his son, two bodyguards and three (some say 2) other passersby. Charles has an eyewitness account of the blast. (Hat tip Israellycool)

Haiti's under 17 world cup soccer team. Apparently, most of them dissappeared in New York during a stopover to the under-17 World Cup in South Korea. You would think that they would have done it after playing in the international match instead of before it.

Children. Mr. Wizard died.

The porn industry. In Iran, the parliament has voted to make the production of porn punishable by death.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Good Step In The Right Direction

So Paris Hilton is on her way back to jail. Good start for the Judge.

No the question is, why is the Sheriff not being held accountable for this by the court. It seems clear that the court's order clearly stated that she had to server her time in jail and not in some alternative custody program. It would appear to me that the Sheriff's action clearly was contary to what the court ordered and therefore the Sheriff should be held in contempt.

And now it looks like the Hilton defense team will be racking up the billables as they prepare a petition for habeas corpus as a way of appealing the court's decision. Until then, it looks like the heiress will continue to be incarcerated L.A. County's finest medical detention center.

Ms. Hilton, on the hand, has absolutely no one to blame for her situation but herself. She had three chances to avoid going to jail. It was only after the third violation of her probation terms that she was finally sentenced. She could have avoided all this if she had done three little things. First, she could have registered for her drunk driving class. Second, she could have avoided driving until she got her license back. Third, she could have remembered to not speed 70 mph in a 35 mph zone. For those interested, go take a look at the City Attorney's moving papers for the May hearing.

Now, one final word in all this, about the "medical condition" that Ms. Hilton allegedly has. Its called "Not-wanting-to-go-jail Syndrome". Nearly all first timer incarcerants have it.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Who Is Running the L.A. County Jails?

This morning, I awoke to the news that Paris Hilton was being released after three days. This of course led me to curse and start to lose faith in the justice system (and having worked on both sides of it, I've seen it work well, work ok, and work terribly, but usually coming back to close to where it should be.) According to the reports, she was being "reassigned" to house arrest for "medical" reasons. It has been speculated that her legal team put together a case that she was on verge of a nervous breakdown.

So let's see, she sheds some tears and she gets to go home to her mansion, with her only restriction that she can not leave it and has to wear an ankle bracelet. Yeah, sounds like the Pablo Escobar version of doing time sans the heavy weapons.

The answer to the question (who runs the L.A. County Jails) is that it is Sheriff Lee Baca. It was Baca, not the Superior Court nor the District Attorney's office who has control over Hilton while she is in custody. Interestingly, it was a unilateral decision by Baca's office that permitted her to leave. This after the court which senteced her stated that she had to serve her time in jail and specifically stated that she could not serve her time in an alternative program.

Now, I'm sure with cases where there is not this level of scrutiny, Baca could have transferred her without anyone realizing it. On the other hand, with everyone and their mother watching, he went and created a media frenzy.

Given the almost guarranteed coverage of Hilton leaving early, it's almost as if he wanted to thumb his nose at the court. In either event, Baca looks to be in hot water, since even his attorney, in this case the Sheriff is represented by the County Attorney's Office, is saying that if they had known about Baca's decision, they would have opposed it on legal grounds.

Fortunately, someone at the Los Angeles County City Attorney's Office was on the ball and filed a request for an order to show cause why the Sheriff should not have her reincarcerated at the L.A. County Jail. The judge, apparently, signed the order and the hearing has been set for tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

So Why Is This A Big Deal?

Two people get married back in the 1970s. The husband works. The wife works at home. They raise a family. The husband is successful in business. Husband and wife hit middle age and decide that now that the kids are out of the house, they can no longer stand each other so they want to get a divorce.

They go to the court. The court looks at everything and decides to do the equitable thing: everything accumulated as part of the marriage gets split in half.

Why is this news? Even if it resulted in the wife getting $184 million of the $368 million accumulated by the husband during the marriage, to me its still a no brainer. Apparently Illinois courts are just catching up to what California and other property states have been doing for centuries.

Can someone please explain to me the rationale of not having community property for married couples?