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Week In Review

By Lorena Guzmán-Díaz

Edited by Elissa D. Hecker


Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Technology/Media, and General News.


Entertainment

Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Sherman Nealy, Case No. 22-1078 (May 9, 2024)

The Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Warner Chappell Music, Inc. v. Sherman Nealy, affirming the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling that, provided suit is timely filed under the discovery rule, copyright damages are recoverable for infringements occurring prior to the Copyright Act’s 3-year statute of limitations. Sherman Nealy, who created music in the 1980s, sued Warner Chappell Music for infringement he discovered while imprisoned, although the infringement happened 10 years prior. Overturning the District Court's limitation on seeking damages to within 3 years of the infringement, the Supreme Court and the Eleventh Circuit allowed for the recovery of damages beyond this period under the discovery rule. Justice Kagan wrote the majority opinion, with a dissent from Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.


In Sex Crimes Cases, New York Weighs Allowing Evidence of Prior Bad Acts

Discussion follows Harvey Weinstein's conviction reversal in New York, citing testimony from women unconnected to the trial as the reason. In response, New York legislators ponder potential bills to permit the inclusion of evidence concerning prior misconduct in sex crime cases, to demonstrate a defendant's tendency for such behavior. This legislative push seeks to streamline the application of such evidence, which could notably influence Weinstein's subsequent trial. However, worries loom that this allowance might result in unjust verdicts and shift attention away from the specific charges. Advocates for women's rights endorse this legislative shift, while legal authorities express reservations about lowering the bar for convictions on the strength of past misdeeds.


Neil Portnow Accuser Asks Court to Dismiss Her Sexual Assault Lawsuit

A woman who accused Neil Portnow, the former head of the Grammy Awards, of sexual assault has requested her lawsuit to be dismissed. The woman filed the suit anonymously in November and expressed concern about her identity being revealed in court proceedings. Her lawyers opposed a request by Portnow's lawyers to disclose her real name in the case. The woman also mentioned a dispute with her lawyers and one of them filed a motion to withdraw as her counsel, citing a deteriorated attorney-client relationship. The lawsuit, which alleged that Portnow drugged and raped her in a New York hotel room, was originally filed in New York State Supreme Court and later moved to federal court. Portnow denied the accusations, claiming that all his interactions with the woman were consensual. The woman's lawyers argued for her anonymity, citing potential harm from disclosure, but Portnow's lawyers questioned the validity of her reasons for remaining anonymous. Neil Portnow faced criticism during the #MeToo movement in 2018 and resigned from the Recording Academy. His successor, Deborah Dugan, was fired in 2020 and accused the academy of various abuses, including covering up Portnow's alleged rape accusation.


‘Someone’s Going to End Up Dead’: Settlements Over Fatal Astroworld Concert

Settlements have been reached in all but one of the lawsuits over the deaths of 10 people at the 2021 Astroworld festival in Houston. The concert organizers were accused of creating dangerous conditions to maximize profits. Evidence revealed that they knew the space was too small and ignored warnings. Lawyers argued that Travis Scott, Live Nation, and Apple, among others, were responsible for the tragedy. Despite efforts to stop the show and warnings of dangerous overcrowding, the concert continued. While some settlements have been reached, the family of a nine-year-old victim has not yet settled. The trial was expected to shed light on the decisions made during the event that led to the deadly outcome.


Spotify to Pay Songwriters About $150 Million Less Next Year With Premium, Duo, Family Plan Changes

Spotify is poised to cut songwriter mechanical royalty payments by about $150 million next year after revising premium, duo, and family plan structures. Including audiobooks enables Spotify to secure rate discounts, leading to combined payments for music and books. Billboard has estimated that mechanical royalties in the U.S. could drop significantly. Subscription bundling lowers royalties for songwriters and publishers. The National Music Publishers' Association plans to challenge these changes, suggesting they reduce songwriter income and contravene a 2022 agreement. Explorations into Spotify's bundling tactics reveal their effects on mechanical income alongside the detailed methodology for royalty rate calculations, particularly after the reclassification of Spotify's premium services. Reference is made to the Phonorecords IV settlement, an outcome of industry talks with the Copyright Royalty Board that led to adjustments in bundling rules. Spotify's updated policy has ignited concerns with possible implications for industry negotiations across the globe. The potential dip in mechanical royalties for songwriters and publishers triggered by Spotify's altered subscription models is highlighted, along with the broader economic and industry impacts.


The New Universal Music Group-TikTok Deal Explained

Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok have reached a new licensing agreement, with UMG executives stating that the deal is an improvement over the previous one. The deal includes both revenue and non-revenue features, with UMG expecting increased value from the partnership. Some of the non-revenue components include e-commerce tools, marketing campaigns, and data insights. Additionally, the deal focuses on content management and attribution, protecting artists' rights, combating infringing content, and promoting online safety. The agreement is aimed at ensuring fair value for UMG and its artists on the TikTok platform.


Disney, Hulu, and Max Streaming Bundle Will Soon Become Available

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have announced a partnership to offer a bundle of their streaming services - Disney+, Hulu, and Max. This move aims to combat the trend of consumers frequently canceling their streaming subscriptions. The bundle will be available for purchase on the respective platform websites and will offer both commercial-free and ad-supported versions. The companies are responding to the shifting media landscape, as viewers increasingly shift towards on-demand streaming, impacting traditional cable bundles. This collaboration represents a significant effort to retain subscribers and adapt to the evolving industry. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are also working on a sports streaming service together, expected to launch in the fall.


Goldman Sachs Analysts Upbeat About Music Industry After A “Turning Point” Year

Goldman Sachs analysts have reported a positive outlook for the music industry in their annual 'Music In The Air' report, highlighting factors such as streaming price increases, AI advancements, and a resurgent live music sector. The report predicts a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% for the music sector up to 2030, an increase from the previous year's forecast of 7.3%. Despite some challenges, analysts foresee new revenue streams from superfan services and anticipate improvements in ad-supported streaming revenues. The report also discusses the evolving dynamics between premium and ad-supported streaming services and the potential for higher ad monetization. Additionally, the industry is expected to continue its efforts to convert free users to premium subscriptions, especially in emerging markets. On the live music front, the report is optimistic, citing a significant rebound in revenues and growth driven by strong artist schedules.


Hong Kong Court Bans Democracy Song, Calling It a ‘Weapon’

A recent court ruling in Hong Kong banned the popular pro-democracy anthem "Glory to Hong Kong”. The decision grants the government power to restrict online access to the song, which emerged during the 2019 democracy protests. The court overturned an initial ruling and deemed the anthem a "weapon" that could undermine national security. The move raises concerns about free speech in the city and its status as an international gateway to China. The decision could compel tech companies like Google to limit access to the song, leading to potential implications for multinational companies operating in Hong Kong. Critics argue that the court's decision is unjustified and could have chilling effects on freedom of expression. The ruling has sparked discussions about the balance between national security concerns and maintaining a free and open internet in Hong Kong.


Arts

Locks of Beethoven’s Hair Offer New Clues to the Mystery of His Deafness

Locks of Beethoven’s hair were found to have high levels of lead and other toxic substances, shedding light on the mystery of his deafness and other ailments. Researchers discovered the toxic substances in hair samples believed to be his. The analysis revealed significantly elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury in Beethoven’s hair, with the lead levels being particularly high. The high concentrations of lead could explain his deafness and various health issues, including gastrointestinal problems. It is suggested that the lead exposure may have been a result of consuming wine, which often contained lead additives in 19th-century Europe. Beethoven's fondness for wine, consuming about a bottle a day, may have contributed to his lead exposure.

 

Sports

Federal Jury Orders USTA to Pay $9 Million to Player in Sexual Assault Case

A federal jury ordered the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to pay $9 million to tennis player Kylie McKenzie in a sexual assault case involving a coach at its Florida training center. Anibal Aranda, the coach accused of assault, denied the allegations. McKenzie sued the USTA in 2022 and the jury awarded her $3 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages. The USTA plans to appeal the decision. The case involved criticisms of victim-shaming tactics used by the USTA's lawyers during the trial. Former player Pam Shriver testified in support of McKenzie, highlighting issues of discouraging victims from speaking out about abuse.


Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara to Plead Guilty to Fraud for Taking Millions from Shohei Ohtani

Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani's interpreter and manager, Ippei Mizuhara, will plead guilty to charges of bank fraud, accused of stealing almost $17 million from Ohtani's accounts to cover gambling debts. Mizuhara could face a maximum sentence of 30 years for bank fraud and 3 years for submitting a false tax return. Mizuhara is expected to be deported to Japan, his home country, following the plea agreement. The fraud involved Mizuhara making numerous wire transfers from Ohtani's account without his knowledge. Mizuhara's alleged actions led to his firing from the Dodgers and potential restitution to Ohtani.


Settlement Could Cost NCAA Nearly $3 Billion; Plan to Pay Athletes Would Need Federal Protection

The NCAA and major college conferences are considering a possible settlement of an antitrust lawsuit that could cost them nearly $3 billion in damages and require revenue sharing with athletes. The settlement, related to House vs. NCAA, would involve a $2.9 billion payout over 10 years and schools in certain conferences may need to pay about $30 million annually, with $20 million directed to athletes. The NCAA and conferences may need federal protection for any new compensation model if athletes are not classified as employees. College sports leaders are seeking to prevent athletes from being deemed employees and are also facing other antitrust challenges related to compensation and transfer rules. The NCAA and conferences have been exploring revenue-sharing agreements and increased payments to athletes, with NCAA President Charlie Baker proposing a new tier of Division I where schools would have to pay athletes at least $30,000 per year. The future of collegiate athletics and athlete compensation remains uncertain, with potential legal challenges and the need for congressional intervention.


Technology/Media

TikTok Sues U.S. Government Over Law Forcing Sale or Ban

TikTok has sued the U.S. government over a new law that would force its Chinese owner, ByteDance, to sell the app or face a ban in the United States. TikTok argues that the law violates First Amendment rights by restricting user communication. The battle will likely head to the Supreme Court, with concerns over national security and free speech at the forefront. The law requires TikTok to find a non-Chinese buyer within a limited time frame or face a ban. TikTok claims that divestiture is not feasible due to technical and legal challenges. The company has made efforts to address security risks and separate U.S. user data. Legal experts suggest that the law could impact content policies and user rights. The government is expected to defend the law by calling for a sale rather than a ban, citing national security concerns. TikTok's lawsuit follows previous attempts to restrict its operations, including a Montana law and former President Trump's executive order in 2020.


A New Diplomatic Strategy Emerges as Artificial Intelligence Grows

The United States is adopting a new diplomatic strategy considering artificial intelligence's (A.I.) growing influence. U.S. and Chinese diplomats are preparing for arms control talks to navigate the use of A.I., with a particular emphasis on potential restrictions in sensitive areas, such as nuclear arsenal management. This diplomatic initiative indicates a shift towards confronting emerging technological threats, including cyberattacks and disputes over key technologies like undersea cables. The approach underlines the necessity of digital unity, with allies to confront differing visions of technology governance, notably in response to China's expanding role in the tech domain. The State Department's approach expresses unease concerning cyber weapons, state-sponsored cyber activities, and China's capacity to interfere with vital infrastructure in the U.S. and among partner nations. In essence, the U.S. government is increasingly concentrating on tailoring its diplomatic tactics to meet the challenges posed by rapid technological advancement.


AM Radio Law Opposed by Tech and Auto Industries is Close to Passing

A bill requiring all new cars to be fitted with AM radios is close to becoming law, receiving support from 60 Senators and 246 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives. The "AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act" aims to ensure that AM radios are included in all new cars sold in the U.S., citing the importance of AM radio for emergency alerts and essential communication. However, some automakers have begun to drop AM radio options, particularly in electric vehicles, citing electromagnetic interference and the availability of alternative audio options, like Internet streaming and satellite radio. Critics, including the Consumer Technology Association, argue that mandating AM radios in cars is unnecessary and could impact EV range and affordability. The debate highlights differing perspectives on the role of AM radio in providing emergency alerts and the need for innovation in vehicle communication technologies.


Senators Seek to Curb Facial Recognition at Airports, Citing Privacy Concerns

A bipartisan group of Senators, including Jeff Merkley and John Kennedy, are advocating to restrict the expansion of facial recognition technology at airports in the United States as part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. They argue that passengers should have the option to opt out of facial recognition scans due to privacy concerns. The Transportation Security Administration's plan to expand facial recognition technology to more airports has raised worries about privacy and potential misuse of personal data. Critics of the senators' proposal, like the U.S. Travel Association, contend that limiting the technology could lead to longer wait times at airports and pose national security risks. However, supporters of the amendment believe it is necessary to address civil liberties issues and prevent potential abuse of biometric data.


The Breach of a Face Recognition Firm Reveals a Hidden Danger of Biometrics

A data breach at the Australian facial recognition firm Outabox is sparking privacy concerns regarding biometric data utilization. This breach revealed personal information of users who accessed the facial recognition system at various bars and clubs throughout Australia, including facial recognition biometrics, driver's license scans, and additional personal details. A website known as "Have I Been Outaboxed" claims possession of over one million records from Outabox, allegedly shared insecurely. Privacy experts criticize the event, underscoring the dangers of widespread facial recognition technology use. Emphasizing the need for privacy reform and stringent facial recognition system controls is vital to prevent future breaches. Australian authorities are investigating the incident, and an arrest has been made in relation to the breach. The authenticity of the information on the website remains unverified, but cybersecurity specialists advise that the claims warrant serious consideration.

General News

Supreme Court Rules Against Women Whose Cars Were Seized by the Police

The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled against 2 Alabama women seeking immediate hearings to reclaim vehicles seized by the police, narrowing the path for quick property recovery in such cases. Justice Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, declared that due process does not mandate quick preliminary hearings in property forfeiture cases. The dissent, led by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Brown Jackson, underscored the negative effects of civil asset forfeiture on innocent individuals. The ruling emphasized the complex nexus between due process and civil forfeiture within the legal system, with the dissent pointing out potential misuses of forfeiture for fiscal benefits by law enforcement.


Johnson Survives Greene’s Ouster Attempt as Democrats Join G.O.P. to Kill It

Speaker Mike Johnson successfully defended his position against an attempted ousting by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, with Democrats and most Republicans voting to block the motion. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining Johnson as the speaker, highlighting a bipartisan effort to support him and reject far-right opposition. Greene's attempt to remove Johnson came after he pushed through a national security spending package that included aid for Israel and Ukraine, which Greene opposed. Greene's move marked the second time in less than a year that Republicans sought to remove their own speaker, but this time faced more resistance. Former President Donald Trump also supported Johnson, emphasizing party unity and the timing of any potential leadership changes.


Judge’s Decisions in Documents Case Play Into Trump’s Delay Strategy

Judge Aileen Cannon's handling of the case involving former President Donald J. Trump's classified documents trial is seen as playing into Trump's strategy of delaying the proceeding. Legal experts argue that Cannon has been too lenient in considering pretrial issues, leading to a backlog without a trial date. Cannon, appointed by Trump in his final days in office and with limited experience overseeing trials, has faced criticism for her slow pace and consideration of motions that some experts believe should have been dismissed quickly. The judge's decisions, such as granting hearings on unusual requests and delaying critical filings, have allowed Trump's defense team to prolong the case. The trial's timing is uncertain, with potential further delays expected due to pending issues and motions, hinting at a trial unlikely before the November election.


‘Every Dollar Counts’: Prosecutors Use Quotes From Trump’s Books Against Him

Prosecutors in Manhattan are using quotes from Donald Trump's own books against him in his criminal trial, arguing that he knew about falsified business records to cover up hush-money payments. They highlighted excerpts where Trump emphasized monitoring expenses and evaluating women's sexual potential. The defense suggested a ghostwriter's involvement in the text. Despite not being able to force Trump to testify, prosecutors are leveraging his own words to build their case. In addition to book excerpts, video clips of Trump's statements and references to his past behavior have been presented to the jury.


Trump Trial Week 4: Testy and Explicit, Then Calm Before the Cohen Storm

Week 4 of the Trump trial saw a focus on Michael D. Cohen's upcoming testimony, wherein the judge instructed prosecutors to keep Cohen from making statements against Donald J. Trump. Cohen, a key witness, is expected to provide explosive testimony related to hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels in 2016. The trial also featured testimonies from witnesses Madeleine Westerhout and Stormy Daniels, the latter of whom detailed her alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Amidst legal back-and-forth, Trump's defense aimed to counter accusations by arguing that payments were made to protect family and brand, not election outcomes.


Stormy Daniels Testifies

The trial of former President Donald Trump took a dramatic turn as Stormy Daniels, a porn star central to the case, testified about a 2006 encounter with Trump at a golf tournament. Daniels described intimate details of the encounter, including a brief sexual encounter that she felt had a power imbalance. The courtroom tension was palpable as Daniels's testimony unfolded, with the judge at one point scolding her for the explicit nature of her testimony. Despite some challenges in her testimony, Daniels detailed her motivations for coming forward and highlighted Trump's alleged criminal involvement in hush money payments. Trump's defense painted Daniels as an opportunist and raised doubts about her credibility. The trial also delved into the falsified business records allegedly used to cover up the affair. Throughout the testimony, Daniels provided a vivid account of her interactions with Trump and the aftermath of the scandal, shedding light on a significant moment in American political history.


How Republicans Echo Antisemitic Tropes Despite Declaring Support for Israel

Some Republican leaders show support for Israel while repeating antisemitic clichés. They leverage protests what they see as leftist antisemitism, yet they've been incorporating anti-Jewish rhetoric for a while. Casting themselves as Israel's and Jews' defenders, they still push stereotypes about powerful Jewish figures, with George Soros as a frequent focus. Their discourse often echoes historic antisemitic tropes, despite claims of opposing antisemitism. Activism and contentious slogans about Palestine have triggered antisemitism debates, dividing Jews and the Democratic Party and escalating related violence and rhetoric. While Republicans accuse Democrats of ignoring antisemitism, their own party is divided, with Trump and others drawing fire for invoking antisemitic ideas. The enduring conspiracy theory of a manipulating Jewish figure has transitioned from ancient stereotypes to modern "globalist" or "Soros" codewords. Republican figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Trump, through his circle of acquaintances, have been criticized for promoting these ideologies. Despite GOP disunity over addressing antisemitism, blaming Soros is seen by many as perpetuating antisemitism. Soros's foundation denies supporting protests and actively fights against antisemitism.


Trump May Owe $100 Million From Double-Dip Tax Breaks, Audit Shows

Former President Donald Trump is facing an audit that could reveal he owes over $100 million in taxes due to a questionable accounting maneuver related to his Chicago skyscraper. Trump claimed significant losses in 2008 and later used a dubious strategy to seek additional tax breaks, drawing scrutiny from the IRS. The investigation also suggests that Trump has faced financial challenges, legal battles, and potential tax evasion through aggressive accounting practices. Tax experts believe Trump's maneuvers may not withstand scrutiny, setting a precedent for wealthy individuals seeking tax benefits. The audit outcome could pose a significant financial threat for Trump, who has faced defamation and civil fraud cases, and utilized aggressive tax strategies. Delving into the intricacies of Trump's tax history, the examination uncovers how he consolidated entities and adjusted finances to report tax-minimizing losses from his Chicago Tower investment. The strategy, scrutinized by the IRS during Trump's presidency, might result in changes to his tax filings from 2011 to 2017 and potentially a tax liability over $100 million. It highlights the urgency for Congressional reform to close gaps in partnership tax laws to curb the exploitation of tax loopholes.


Schools in One Virginia County to Reinstate Confederate Names

The Shenandoah County school board in Virginia voted to reinstate the names of 3 Confederate officers to district schools, a reversal of the 2020 decision taken after George Floyd's death. This restoration, amidst enduring public debate and community division, is controversial. Proponents cite historical preservation, while critics point to racism and the Confederacy's legacy. The vote mirrors national discussions on racial history and education. Community responses are divided, with some backing the move as preservation and others deeming it regressive in combating racial inequality.


WABC Cancels Giuliani’s Radio Show Over False Election Claims

WABC radio first suspended and then canceled Rudolph W. Giuliani's talk show for perpetuating false claims about the 2020 presidential election on air. The station's owner, John Catsimatidis, made the decision after multiple warnings to Giuliani to stop discussing the legitimacy of the election. Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Trump's personal lawyer, faced legal and financial troubles related to his involvement in contesting the election results. Catsimatidis cited concerns about legal liability as the reason for the cancellation. Giuliani criticized the decision as a violation of free speech and claimed he was unaware of any policy restricting discussion of the election on air.

 

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Bannon’s Contempt Conviction

A federal appeals court upheld Stephen Bannon's contempt conviction for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6th Capitol riot. This ruling could result in Bannon serving a 4-month prison sentence. Bannon, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, is the second former Trump aide facing jail time for defying the committee's subpoena. Despite Bannon's arguments, including an "advice of counsel" defense and claims that Trump authorized his actions, the appellate court upheld his guilty verdict and sentence. Bannon's attorney plans to request a reconsideration of the ruling from the full appeals court. This decision comes after a prior pardon by Trump in a separate case. Additionally, Bannon faces state charges in Manhattan for similar offenses and is scheduled for trial later this year.

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