Week In Review

By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Second Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Copyright Suit Against Jerry Seinfeld Over "Comedians in Cars" Series

The Second Circuit has affirmed the Southern District of New York's (SDNY's) grant of the defendants' motion to dismiss in a copyright case regarding the ownership of the pilot episode of the show "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." The Court agreed that the plaintiff's claims are time-barred because they accrued in 2012. Plaintiff did not sue until 6 years later, which is past the 3-year statute of limitation. The Court cites authority stating that an ownership claim accrues only once when a reasonably diligent plaintiff would have discovered that ownership was disputed. It found that the central issue is clearly a dispute over ownership, as opposed to a dispute over whether subsequent iterations of the show make use of the material in the script for the pilot. Therefore, the infringement claim is time-barred because the ownership claim is time-barred.

Everly v. Everly Copyright Case

In 1960, the Everly Brothers recorded, released, and copyrighted "Cathy's Clown" and 2 other songs, granting the copyrights to Acuff-Rose. The original copyrights listed Phil and Don as authors; both received royalties. The question before the court was when Phil in 1980 granted his ownership rights to Don in the hit song, did Don expressly repudiate Phil's status as a co-author of the song? Or did Phil retain his rights as a co-author? Phil's heirs have sought to terminate the 1980 agreement between the brothers. The district court granted Don's motion for summary judgment, finding the claim of Phil's heirs to authorship was barred by the Copyright Act's 3-year statute of limitations. The lower court concluded that Don expressly repudiated Phil's authorship right to no later than 2011, when Don filed his notice of termination of the 1960 Grant, thus triggering the statute of limitations. The Sixth Circuit has reversed, finding a genuine dispute of fact as to whether Don expressly repudiated Phil's authorship. The Court distinguished repudiation of ownership from repudiation of authorship. The Sixth Circuit sought to further the policies of the Copyright Act's termination provision.

A Setback for Quincy Jones on Payment for Michael Jackson Film

A California appellate court rejected most of the $9.4 million that Quincy Jones was awarded by a jury in 2017 after he claimed that he had been shortchanged on record sale royalties by Michael Jackson's production company. Jones produced much of Jackson's music, including the hit albums "Off the Wall" and "Thriller." A jury in Los Angeles County Superior Court found that Jones had been underpaid for his share of royalties for the use of music in the posthumous Jackson film "This Is It" and denied other profits to which he was entitled. However, a panel of the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles said that the judge who handled the trial had erred in allowing jurors to interpret producer agreements and then issue awards in 2 specific categories, as that is solely a judicial function. The panel reversed a reward of $5,315,787 in royalties on record sales and licenses. It also reversed an award of $1,574,128 for fees that Jones would have received if the production company had given him the right of first opportunity to remix Jackson's master recordings. The panel allowed about $2.5 million in damages to stand.

Filmmaker Who Lampooned Egypt's President Dies in Jail

A young filmmaker who worked on a music video that mocked Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has died in an Egyptian prison after being imprisoned without trial for more than 2 years. Shady Habash, 24, died inside Cairo's infamous Tora prison complex from "health issues not yet specified." His detention and death represent a stark reminder of the growing number of young people at risk inside Egypt's sprawling prison system. Many are detained for their work as artists, making dissenting statements against Sisi's rule or for no charge at all. There is growing concern over unsanitary and unsafe detentions, reflecting fears about the spread of COVID-19 in prisons around the world. The Egyptian authorities have been criticized for widespread and deadly medical neglect of prisoners. This case also highlights rising concerns about the lack of due process in Egypt.


Helping Black Artists, But at What Price?

A new lawsuit accuses a gallery of taking advantage of painters. Artists are claiming that George N'Namdi, one of the only black art dealers, along with his son and their related companies, cheated them and profited off of their vulnerability. In a lawsuit touching on issues of race, loyalty, and a lack of transparency in the art world, artist Howardena Pindell is seeking the return of 20 works of art from the N'Namdis, along with 3 works from a Texas-based collector, Arthur Primas, and punitive damages of "no less than" $500,000. The lawsuit was filed in January in the SDNHY and amended on April 21, alleging that accounts of sales and inventory, if provided at all, were willfully misleading and inaccurate, payments were not timely if received at all, and the identity of purchasers, as required by law, was not provided. The N'Namdis intend to move to dismiss the claims. Pindell is one of a growing number of black artists who have lately seen a surge of attention from museums, collectors, and critics after decades of neglect. They all exhibited early on with George N'Namdi. In a case that could strengthen protections for artists, it alleges that Al Loving, Herbert Gentry, and their estates also "publicly expressed their difficulties" with the galleries.

Amid Beeping Machines, Bach Wafts From iPhones

Staff at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital have begun playing music from accomplished performers--recently out-of-work chamber music players; winners of international competitions and prizes; teachers at prestigious music schools--for the coronavirus patients who struggle to survive in isolation. The musicians perform from California, Kentucky, Maine, Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York, wherever they are sheltered in space. The musicians are hoping to offer a brief moment of comfort or distraction or beauty. The Allen Hospital serves a community that is largely low income and minority, on which the toll has been particularly devastating.

Metropolitan Opera to Furlough Dozens

The Metropolitan Opera (Met) has announced that it will furlough dozens of administrators. Due to financial woes, the Met would furlough 41 members of its administrative staff and 11 others will be cut to part-time hours. The furloughed workers will receive 2 weeks pay and retain their health benefits. General Manager Gelb has said that the magnitude of the long-term damage--the immediate and long-term effects of the health crisis on the performing arts--seem graver and more challenging than they appear, and this was a hard decision that needed to be made.

Museum Creates Diversity Fund In Response to Claims of Racism

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston plans to set up a $500,000 fund for diversity and inclusion initiatives under an agreement with Attorney General Maura Healey's office, following a 2019 incident in which a group of black middle school students said that they had been subjected to racist comments while on a field trip there.

Kennedy Center Cancels Summer Lineup

The Kennedy Center announced that it is cancelling or postponing all performances scheduled through August 9 due to the spread of coronavirus.

Bankruptcy Is Expected for J. Crew

J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy, making it the first major retailer to fall prey to the pandemic. The company was forced to close 500 stores and furlough all but 2,000 of its 13,000 employees. Other companies are very likely to go under in these times. The company filed for Chapter 11, which allows a debt-laden company to reorganize and stay in business. Gold's Gym has also filed to bankruptcy, with apparently Neiman Marcus and JCPenney also in discussions with to lenders about a bankruptcy filing.

L Brands and Buyer Agree to Scrap a Deal to Acquire Victoria's Secret

L Brands Inc. and Sycamore Partners have agreed to scrap their plans to take Victoria's Secret private, dropping a pact that was reached just weeks before coronavirus forced the lingerie retailer to shut its stores. Last month, L Brands and Sycamore traded lawsuits after the private-equity firm sought to break the deal. The 2 have agreed to walk away and end the litigation. L Brands said that it still plans to split itself into 2 parts and that its longtime leader Les Wexner will step down as chief executive.


Ohio State Pays $41 Million to Settle Sex Abuse Claims

Ohio State University will pay about $41 million to settle a dozen lawsuits by 162 men alleging decades-old sexual abuse and mistreatment by a team doctor, Richard Strauss. About 350 former athletes and other men had sued the school for failing to stop the late doctor despite concerns raised during his tenure. The men can't confront Strauss, who died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him. The money will come from Ohio State's discretionary funding, not tuition or taxpayer or donor money.

U.F.C. Makes Return (Minus a Few Staples)

Last Saturday night, in a nearly empty arena in Jacksonville, Florida, U.F.C. 249 made the world's biggest mixed martial arts organization the first major North American sport ot return from an industrywide shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared pro sports an essential industry when issuing a stay-at-home order last month. With no competition from Major League Baseball (MLB) or from hockey and basketball playoffs, U.F.C. is positioned for big viewership win.

Proposal Would Give Pro Team Sports, and Las Vegas, a Way Back

MGM Resorts International, in hard-hit Las Vegas, has proposed audacious plans to the leagues to come back in a quarantined environment. Sports leagues are desperate for a safe way to start playing games again. Las Vegas has tens of thousands of empty hotel rooms and a tourism-based economy that has been wracked by the coronavirus pandemic. MGM has pitched several sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association, the Womens National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer, an audacious proposal to house their athletes and necessary support staff to hold their seasons on a quarantined block on the Las Vegas Strip. The athletes would be joined by their families, league, and broadcast media employees, as well as the staff and vendors needed to serve them, with access to lounges, spas, restaurants, and all other perks the resorts offer. Most league executives have been publicly noncommittal about their plans.

Head of the Women's Tennis Association Adds His Support for a Merger

Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief Steve Simon has said that a merger with the men's Association of Tennis Professionals "makes all the sense in the world", but that it would not take the form of "an acquisition." The tennis season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July, depriving lower-level players who depend solely on tournament winnings of the chance to earn to a living. Some top WTA players have said that they want an equal standing for the women players in a combined body. A merger of the Tours could simplify television contracts and sponsorship deals.

No Fans. No Food. No High-Fives. Play Ball!

With sports events canceled across much of the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan, which has so far kept the outbreak under control, is pushing forward with the rarest of spectacles: A professional baseball season. Sports officials are adapting the game by filling the stands with fake spectators instead of real ones, stocking locker rooms with bottles of sanitizer, and urging players and coaches to keep a distance. Players are encouraged to bump elbows rather than give each other high-fives. The restrictions have sucked some of the life out of the game, giving high-stakes matches the feel of everyday practice. The noise on a the field paled in comparison to the typical atmosphere at games in Taiwan, where baseball has been a part of the culture for more than a century, since the days of Japanese colonial rule.


Sinclair Fined $48 Million By the Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission "FCC" has fined Sinclair a record $48 million for deceptive bid for Tribune Stations, making this the largest civil fine in the federal agency's history. Sinclair agreed to the fine and entered into a consent decree to close 3 separate FCC ongoing investigations. Sinclair owns and operates more than 190 stations across the country, making it one of the nation's largest players in local TV. It sought to become even more dominant by taking over Tribune Media. The FCC blocked that bid in July 2018, saying that the company sought to deceive regulators in selling off stations in markets where it would control multiple properties. The buyers were 2 companies to which Sinclair's founding family had deep and longstanding ties. Tribune Media sued Sinclair later that summer.

With Push From Trump, Senate Moves to Install Conservative at U.S. Media Agency

Senate Republican leaders, under pressure from President Trump to install an ally who would dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration, are moving swiftly to confirm a conservative filmmaker to lead the independent agency in charge of state-funded media outlets.

A Fresh Generation Transforms News Unions

Cheered on by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others, a new generation is making gains on everything from layoff protections to gender-neutral pronouns. Nobody pays much attention to labor union elections, and the recent NewsGuild elections marked a little-noticed but powerful generation shift that is changing the culture inside newsrooms. These millennial leaders' experiences differed sharply from those of the veteran newspaper men who had long run the unions. Their sensibility was shaped not only by social media but the progressive political moment. Journalists started to see themselves as "workers" rather than "professionals." They lost faith in a single, supposedly objective, typically white and male point of view, and their message has been overwhelmingly embraced by newsrooms. The NewsGuild and its rival, the Writers Guild of America, East, have won virtually every organizing battle they've taken on, including some in Southern states with anti-union laws.

Facebook Names Board to Monitor Content

Facebook has announced the first 20 members of its Oversight Board, which is an independent body that can overturn the company's own content moderation decisions. The Board will begin hearing cases in the coming months. It will govern appeals from Facebook and Instagram users and questions from Facebook itself, although it admitted that it will have to pick and choose which content moderation cases to take, due to the sheer volume of them. Facebook announced the Board's formation in 2018. The members are a globally diverse group with lawyers, journalists, human rights advocates, and other academics. Notable members include Alan Rusbridger, former editor in chief of The Guardian newspaper, Andras Sajo, a former judge and VP of the European Court of Human Rights, and Helle Thorning-Schmidgt, a former Prime Minister of Denmark is one of the four co-chairs.

Trump Finagles a Seat at Mr. Lincoln's Feet

Citing the extraordinary circumstance of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has a federal law prohibiting events inside the Lincoln Memorial waived so he could stage a Fox TV coronavirus-focused virtual "town hall."

U.S. Escalates Media War with Beijing

New 90-day limits on work visas for Chinese journalists followed Beijing's expulsion of American journalists and raised the threat of further retaliation by the Chinese government.

Newspapers in Britain Struggle with Fewer Ads But More Readers

Heavily dependent on advertising and circulation, local and regional newspapers in the U.K. could face financial ruin as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of journalists have been put on leave. More than 50 small and regional publications have temporarily suspended producing their print or online products. For those still printing, some communities are depending on volunteers to deliver newspapers. For many, cash has all but stopped coming in. Advertising revenues have dwindled to near zero for many publications, leaving the print copies a skeleton of what they used to be. In the U.K., where home delivery subscriptions are less common than in the U.S., newspapers rely more heavily on street sales, and many newsstands and other stores are closed. Although traffic to newspapers' websites is higher than normal, relatively few have paywalls to collect digital subscriptions.

TV Giant in Philippines is Closed By Government

The leading broadcast network in the Philippines went off the air under government order last Tuesday, sparking shock over the loss of a major news provider during the coronavirus pandemic and accusations of targeting a presidential critic. The National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN Corp. to stop operating after its 25-year congressional franchise ended last Monday. The network's application for renewal has been pending in Congress, which is controlled by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, but hearings have been delayed, in part by a coronavirus lockdown. ABS-CBN is one of the country's oldest and most influential networks. Government officials denied that the closure was a press freedom issue.

General News

Supreme Court to Hear Cases By Telephone

For the first time in its 230-year history, the Court offered a live audio stream of an oral argument, going far beyond its usual protocol and giving advocates of greater transparency hope it will become a trend. The justices selected a rather technical case to begin its 2 weeks of telephone oral arguments necessitated by the pandemic, whether the hotel reservation website can trademark its name. It also wasn't the usual case, because the lawyers for both sides were women, who make up only a small percentage of the Court's advocates. For decades, the Court ignored most of the technological and transparency advancements adopted by other branches of government. Even as lower federal and state courts began livestreaming and broadcasting sessions for public consumption, the Supreme Court remained cloistered.

Justices Throw Out Convictions in 'Bridgegate', But Find Abuses

The Supreme Court has thrown out the convictions of 2 key players in the so-called Bridgegate case that rocked the administration of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. A former Christie aide and the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the George Washington Bridge, were found guilty in 2016 after a jury determined that they had shut down 2 of 3 lanes leading to the bridge, resulting in a monumental traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Elana Kagan, the Court said that federal prosecutors wrongly charged the 2 officials with violating laws that target fraudulent schemes for obtaining property. Realigning the bridge traffic was an exercise of regulatory power, not an attempt to get money or property, according to the Court. The brief opinion was a complete rejection of the prosecution's theory of the case.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments Tying a Pledge to AIDS Grants

In the roughly hour-long session, the justices heard arguments in a dispute over whether a condition for federal funding imposed on organizations fighting HIV/AIDS abroad is constitutional. Justice Elena Kagan, a former solicitor general, is recused from the case. Congress passed a law in 2003 known as the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act, which included the condition that nongovernmental organizations receiving funds under the law must "have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that the policy requirement for U.S.-based organizations violates the First Amendment. Now the justices are asked to determine whether the government can apply the funding conditions to affiliates of U.S.-based groups incorporated overseas. A federal district court ruled applying the funding requirement to those foreign affiliates is unconstitutional, and the Second Circuit agreed.

White House Asks Justices to Keep Mueller Grand Jury Secrets Hidden From House

The Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to temporarily halt an appeals court ruling that would force the Justice Department to hand over to Congress secret grand jury materials produced in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote in a brief with the top Court that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would require the government to disclose the materials. He wrote that the March decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit created "substantial constitutional difficulties." The request is the latest to thrust the justices into the middle of a partisan fight between Democrats and Republicans. The 9-member court has a 5-4 conservative majority, including 2 of Trump's own appointees.

Supreme Court Considers Latest Challenge to a Contraceptive Mandate

The justices considered whether the Trump administration may allow employers to refuse to provide free insurance coverage for birth control on religious or moral grounds.

Ginsburg Has Gallbladder Procedure

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been released from the hospital, following a non-surgical procedure related to a benign gallbladder condition. The Justice will return to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, for follow-up outpatient visits over the next few weeks to eventually remove the gallstone non-surgically. According to the Court's office of public information, Ginsburg, 87, was hospitalized to undergo treatment for acute cholecystitis.

Trump Pick Among Judges Opposing Ban on Joining Conservative Group

Judge Justin Walker joined a bevy of judges, many appointees of the president, in railing against an ethics proposal on the Federalist Society.

U.S. Unemployment is Worse Since Depression

20.5 million people lost their jobs in April, the Labor Department said last Friday. The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression, as many businesses shut down or severely curtailed operations to try to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

All 98 Environmental Rules the Trump Administration is Revoking or Rolling Back

Trump promised to deregulate environmental and climate policies, and he's delivered. Using the Congressional Review Act, 64 rules have been reversed and 34 are in progress. The majority of rollbacks have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These rollbacks haven't occurred without a fight. The National Resources Defense Council has taken the EPA to court 65 times and won 60 of its cases. The group has filed 107 lawsuits against the U.S. government's rollbacks.

White House Blocks Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reopening Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a detailed document with recommendation for how schools, religious institutions, and businesses might safely reopen, but the White House reportedly suppressed that guidance. Top White House officials suppressed guidelines from public health experts on reopening the economy for weeks, and only ordered the approval of parts of that guidance after reports exposed the delay. The document was meant to help nonessential businesses as states begin to relax coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions. However, the Trump administration quashed the guidance on April 30, saying that CDC Director Robert Redfield had not approved it and that it had not been vetted through the interagency reviewer process.

Senate Fails in Push to Curb Trump's War Power

President Trump called the measure to curb his military authority "insulting" and accused Democrats of playing politics. The Senate fell short of overriding Trump's veto of a war powers resolution that would limit his ability to initiate military action against Iran without Congressional authorization, despite garnering bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. In a 49-44 vote, supporters in the GOP-led chamber were unable to reach the two-thirds backing, or 67 senators, needed to overturn the president's veto of a resolution sponsored by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. While a rare move, it's the second time in a year that Congress has voted to rein in the president's powers related to military force.