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Week In Review

By Eric Lanter Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Lizzo Notches a Win in 'Truth Hurts' Copyright Case

In Los Angeles, a federal judge dismissed an action that two individuals brought against Lizzo seeking a share of profits and royalties from her hit song, "Truth Hurts." The individuals, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, claimed that they were involved in writing the song, but the judge found that "a joint author of one copyrightable work does not automatically gain ownership of a derivative work in which the joint author had no hand in creating."

Smollett Case: Special Prosecutor Finds 'Abuses of Discretion'

A special prosecutor has found that the Cook County state's attorney's office "did not violate the law in its handling of the case" involving actor Jussie Smollett, but that it "did abuse its discretion in deciding to drop charges and put out false or misleading public statements about why it did so."

Second Circuit Affirmed Preemption Claim

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's granting summary judgment for Rick Ross, finding that a right of publicity claim under Connecticut common law was preempted by copyright law. The plaintiff, the rapper 50 Cent, had accused the defendant, Rick Ross, of violating his right of publicity when Ross released a promo for his new album featuring 50 Cent's stage name and an unaltered 30-second sample of 50 Cent's voice from his song "In Da Club."

In re Curtis James Jackson, III, Debtor; Jackson v. Roberts, 19-0480-BK.In re Curtis James Jackson, III.pdf

Hollywood Executive Ron Meyer Leaves NBCUniversal After Secret Settlement

Ron Meyer, a Hollywood executive for 40 years, stepped down from his role at NBCUniversal, where he had been the executive vice chairman. He has said that he resigned because of an attempt to "extort" him relating to a "past extramarital affair," but he did not identify who had made that attempt.

Ellen DeGeneres Tells Her Staff That Three Top Producers Are Out

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has confirmed that it has disposed of three of its producers: Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman, and Kevin Leman. The departures come amidst the show facing allegations that it has been a "toxic work culture" consisting of "racism, fear, and intimidation." Former employees and guests have provided their accounts of witnessing that work culture, but others have come to the defense of DeGeneres and the show. The investigation remains underway.

Pledging to Tell More Inclusive Stories, MGM Remakes Orion Pictures

Alana Mayo is set to lead a division at MGM, Orion Pictures, which "will release two or three films a year and focus exclusively on underrepresented filmmakers." The greenlight committee for the division will be "made up entirely of women" and will not be subject to the chair of MGM's film group as he "will not have a vote in selecting the films that Orion makes or acquires for distribution."

Cuba Gooding Jr. Accused of Rape in Civil Suit as He Awaits Groping Trial

While awaiting trial for an alleged instance of groping, Cuba Gooding Jr. has now been accused of twice raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel in 2013. That woman filed an action against the actor, and alleged that when she attempted to leave the hotel room, he "blocked her way out and eventually pushed her onto the bed and raped her." Then, when she was attempting to escape, he "raped her again, according to the complaint."

Lori Loughlin Receives Sentence in College Admissions Case

After having "resigned from her exclusive country club, downsized from her expansive Bel Air estate, and saw her acting career crater," Lori Loughlin has received her prison sentence of two months for her role in the college admissions scandal. She tearfully apologized at the sentencing and said that she "was acting out of love for her children," but the judge noted his astonishment that "someone who had what he called 'a fairy-tale life' would corrupt the college admissions system out of a desire for even more status and prestige."

Thailand Police Arrest Activists, Escalating Protest Crackdown

Human rights lawyers have identified a "mounting crackdown" by Thailand's government, which is "seemingly allergic to dissent." This week, a "member of the Thai collective Rap Against Dictatorship," was arrested for "sedition." Activists have called for reform to the monarchy's powers, and those activists have been facing charges of sedition, which carries a potential sentence of seven years. Sunday saw the largest rally in Thailand "since a military coup six years ago."


Misconduct Relating to Copyright Infringement Leads to Sanctions

The Northern District of New York has sanctioned Richard Liebowitz for fraudulent reports of attorney hours in an attempt to gouge the defendant in a copyright infringement action where Liebowitz represented the plaintiff, a photographer claiming a copyright interest in a photograph of pork that the defendant printed in its weekly advertisement for food products. Liebowitz also inflated the value of the copyright and had a history of misconduct similar to that in this matter, and the Northern District of New York has recommended to the Chief Judge that Liebowitz be removed from the roll of the Court.

AdLife Marketing & Communications Company, Inc. v. Buckingham Brothers, LLC, 5:19-CV-0796 (LEK/CFH).Adlife Marketing v Buckingham Brothers.pdf

Guggenheim Approves Diversity Plan After Staff Complaints of Racism

Several of New York's museum leaders "have taken pay cuts to offset some of the financial damage their institutions are suffering from their Covid-related closures," but one group is calling on the head of the Guggenheim to take a deeper cut "instead of continuing to target the museum's most vulnerable staff with furloughs." Additionally, the museum announced that it approved a diversity plan in response to staff complaints of racism.

SAG-AFTRA Members Complain of Changes in Health Insurance

Over 8,000 people have signed a petition seeking to reverse policy changes within SAG-AFTRA that would leave members without health insurance through the union. The current plan is intended to raise the minimum earnings per year from $18,040 to $25,950 for eligibility in the health insurance plan.

At Theaters, Push for Racial Equality Leads to Resignations and Restructuring

Theaters throughout the country are reforming themselves. One artistic director in New York, William Carden, noted: "The key to antiracism is sharing power. It takes a lot of work and a lot of humility, and it requires that white people step aside." There has been restructuring as a result of the "outcry over racial injustice this summer," and theaters throughout the country are beginning to reflect that restructuring.

Tony Awards Ceremony Will Go Ahead, Online

Administrators for the Tony Awards have announced that they will hold the awards ceremony online this fall "to honor shows that opened before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered Broadway." The 18 shows that opened before February 19th will be eligible for awards during the ceremony.

Italy Wants Its Tourists Back Unless They Sit on the Statues

Although the coronavirus pandemic has "crushed the tourism industry in Italy this year" and dealt a "significant blow to the country's economy," Italians are persisting in reminding tourists that they do not have a "free pass to run amok among the country's cultural treasures." This reminder comes after Germans "took an unauthorized dip in the Grand Canal in Venice," an Austrian "broke to the of a plaster statue of Napoleon's sister," and a "French tourist was caught red-handed using a black felt-tip pen to immortalize her stay in Florence on the city's famed Ponte Vecchio."


Court Upholds Decision to Dismiss Video in Robert Kraft Case

The owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, refused to take a plea involving his visits to a Florida massage spa, and argued that police surveillance video violated his Fourth Amendment rights. A court in Florida found that "the police improperly gathered video evidence central to the case made against Kraft and two dozen other men who were recorded visiting and receiving treatment at severan South Florida day spas."

Washington Hires Former Player as National Football League's First Black Team President

Jason Wright, who played in the National Football League (NFL) for seven years, has been hired as the first African-American team president in the league. He is set to become the president of the Washington Football Team and has no experience working at an NFL team, as he has worked for the past seven years at McKinsey & Company.

Who Should Compete in Women's Sports? There Are 'Two Almost Irreconcilable Positions'

A charged debate continues "about who should be allowed to compete in women's sports, as transgender athletes have become increasingly accepted on the playing field while still facing strong resistance from some competitors and lawmakers." Balancing "inclusivity, competitive fairness, and safety" remain the top issues for those on both sides of the debate.

Reds Announcer Is Suspended After Using Homophobic Slur on Air

The Cincinnati Reds' announcer, Thom Brennaman, has apologized for making homophobic remarks on a hot mic during a game. He immediately apologized after the remarks, and he has been suspended from announcing future games.

Kansas City Chiefs Ban Headdresses at Stadium

The Kansas City Chiefs have announced that the team will prohibit "fans from wearing ceremonial headdresses and Native American-style face paint at Arrowhead Stadium, becoming the latest organization to confront offensive symbols amid a nationwide discussion of racist imagery and iconography."

National Basketball Association Playoff Teams Feel the Pain of Bubble Injuries

Since the National Basketball Association's restart in the "bubble" at Walt Disney World, there have been "at least five season-ending injuries" as well as a number of other injuries. The injuries come after medical experts warned that players would be susceptible to injury after having a shutdown of four months and a mere three weeks of practices and scrimmages before opening the season.


Facebook and Other Top Tech Companies Continue to Face Challenges

Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Federal Trade Commission as to whether Facebook broke antitrust laws, and tech companies more broadly are facing pressure from advertisers to obtain "more control over where and how their ads show up" on media platforms. Additionally, Facebook has announced that it is developing plans to ensure that the platform cannot be used to delegitimize the election results by President Trump. Meanwhile, Apple passed a landmark by reaching a two trillion dollar valuation.

TikTok to Challenge Trump Administration Over Executive Order

TikTok, the Chinese internet company, is set to challenge the Trump administration, alleging that it has been denied "due process" by Trump's announcement that the app will be blocked within the United States. Additionally, the app contends that it has "been unfairly and incorrectly treated as a security threat."

Trump Administration Widens Huawei Dragnet

The Trump administration announced "that it was restricting Huawei's ability to buy a wider array of chips made or designed with American equipment and software, tightening the limits it has placed on the Chinese telecom giant as it looks to cripple its ability to sell smartphones and telecom gear around the world." The Commerce Department put in place the new rule, which expands a previous prohibition to semiconductors, "covering any chips made abroad with American equipment."

General News

The Democratic National Convention, a Very Different Convention, Concludes

The Democratic National Convention, which many analysts deemed an infomercial for the Democratic Party, given its many solo appearances by top members and supporters, went off without a hitch despite the unusual format. The convention lacked surprises, however, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were confirmed to be on the ticket and now start the official general election campaign. Each night, President Trump tweeted his analysis of the convention, and he attempted to take attention and votes away from the Democrats by announcing mid-convention that he was issuing a pardon of Susan B. Anthony for her crime of voting. The Republican National Convention is set to begin next week with President Trump speaking each night at the convention.

The Postal Service Faces Scrutiny as the House Approves a Funding Bill

In a rare Saturday vote, the House of Representatives approved "legislation blocking cost-cutting and operational changes at the Postal Service that Democrats, civil rights advocates, and some Republicans fear could jeopardize mail-in ballots this fall." The measure would "require the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of all election-related mail and grant the beleaguered agency a rare $25 billion infusion to cover revenue lost" during the pandemic. It is questionable whether the Senate will approve a similar bill, but the week's headlines focused on the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, having "moved swiftly to cut costs", which led to "vital mail and package services" seeing "significant delays this summer."

The Coronavirus Pandemic Continues With Pockets Flaring Throughout the U.S.

While there remain significant discrepancies between how opened up parts of the United States are--such as Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing that gyms in New York City will begin to reopen and there continuing to be no indoor dining within the City--the number of cases has stayed steady. Following gatherings, such as President Trump's Tulsa rally and the biker rally in Sturgis, there have been upticks in pockets throughout the country, which have also led many schools and universities to announce that for the fall, they will have partial or entire courseworks online. The global death toll has passed 800,000, and the United States is set to pass 200,000 deaths in the coming weeks.

Supreme Court to Hear Case Involving College's 'Free Speech Areas'

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments relating to Georgia Gwinnett College's "free speech expression areas", in which one student stood to "talk about his Christian faith" for 20 minutes "when school officials told him he had to stop or face discipline." Based on the college's rules, there are just two designed free speech areas, and attorneys for the student have argued that the college has limited free speech to a patio and a sidewalk, which consist of 0.0015% of the college campus.

GOP-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a report "totaling nearly 1,000 pages" that details the "extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country's spy services," during the 2016 presidential campaign. The report is expected to be the last word on the issue and is "one of the highest-profile congressional investigations in recent memory." The report concluded that the Russian "intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Trump's advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.

Republican Embrace of QAnon Goes Far Beyond Trump

President Trump has left little doubt that he welcomes the support from QAnon, a group that believes there is a widespread conspiracy of child sex trafficking by the world's elites and that President Trump is covertly fighting that conspiracy, and as QAnon supporters have won some primaries, the Republican Party has more broadly had to deal with its members supporting QAnon. The Texas Republican Party used a slogan, "We Are the Storm," which is "a rallying cry for QAnon adherents," but the party has announced that the slogan came instead from a poem.

Steve Bannon Is Charged With Fraud in We Build the Wall Campaign

President Trump's former adviser Stephen Bannon has been charged "with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort called We Build the Wall, which was intended to bolster the president's signature initiative along the Mexican border." Prosecutors allege that the effort raised over $25 million and that Bannon "used nearly $1 million of it for personal expenses."

Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling

In what is likely to lead to an intense legal battle, the Trump administration has announced its plan to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "to oil and gas development", which would overturn "six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States." It is believed that the refuge sits on top of oil numbering in the billions of barrels, and the refuge is home to "polar bears and migrating herds of caribou."

Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to District Attorney, Judge Rules

In the Southern District Court of New York, Judge Victor Marrero held that the Manhattan district attorney was entitled to receive President Trump's tax returns in its investigation into the President's business practices. Attorneys for President Trump have announced that they will be filing an appeal, and it is unlikely that the tax returns will be obtained before the November presidential election (even if they are, they will likely not be made public).

Judge Blocks Trump Officials' Attempt to End Transgender Health Protections

Judge Frederic Block of the Eastern District of New York "blocked an effort by the Trump administration to erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies, dealing a blow to the broader legal reasoning it has used to try to roll back transgender rights across the government." The ruling "temporarily blocks enforcement of the new rule, which was due to take effect Tuesday, while a lawsuit moved forward."

Trump Cites the Veterans Affairs as a Central Achievement, but Troubles Simmer

Although President Trump has bragged about his record on veterans affairs, there continue to be "systemic problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs", including "charges of sexism" and ineptitude. A group of workers recently accused the Kansas City Veterans Affairs of "fostering a culture of racism," and the secretary of veterans affairs continues to be "ensnared in an investigation into whether he used his authority to discredit a female veteran who said she was assaulted at a veterans health center." Additionally, an inspector general found that a new office "formed to protect whistle-blowers" has instead pursued retaliation against those whistle-blowers.

Immigrant 'Dreamers' in Search of a Job Are Being Turned Away

Although President Trump has sought to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has granted employment authorization to young immigrants, the program has remained in place. However, some large employers, including Procter and Gamble, have refused to hire DACA beneficiaries, known as Dreamers. One, David Rodriguez, has filed a lawsuit "that seeks to use civil rights law to prevent employers from turning away immigrants like himself, a legal fight that is underway even as President Trump is threatening to end the program."

'Lottery Lawyer' Is Accused of Fleecing Winners in $107 Million Fraud

Jason Kurland of Rivkin Radler, calling himself the "Lottery Lawyer," is facing charges that he stole money from "high-profile lottery winners" along with a "mob associate." The lottery winners hired Kurland, and Kurland put $107 million of his clients' money into investments that resulted in the lottery winners losing over $80 million. Additionally, Kurland and his associates "spent some of the funds on golf club memberships, yachts, private jets, a Porsche, and other luxury cars and shopping sprees at stores like Fendi."

Former Uber Security Chief Charged With Concealing Hack

Uber's former security chief, Joe Sullivan, was fired in 2017 when Uber's new chief executive came in, and now Sullivan has been charged "with attempting to conceal from federal investigators a hack that exposed the email addresses and phone numbers of 57 million drivers and passengers." The charges are thought to be the "the first against an executive stemming from a company's response to a security incident."

Pentagon Report Finds Military Surveillance Did Not Spy on Protesters

A Pentagon report has concluded that when the National Guard deployed a "reconnaissance plane in four American cities to monitor protests this spring," it did not "violate rules against the military collecting intelligence on citizens." However, the inspector general who authored the report found that the "National Guard officials failed to obtain prior approval from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to use the plans because they mistakenly believed they were not intelligence aircraft, which require high-level signoff."

Ex-Green Beret Charged With Spying for Russia in Elaborate Scheme

Prosecutors have charged a former Army Green Beret captain, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, of "providing national defense information to Russia in an elaborate spying operation that appeared to begin in 1996." He provided "sensitive military information and the names of fellow service members so Russia could try to recruit them, complained that the United States was too dominant in the world, and accepted money and gifts including liquor and a Russian military uniform."

Ex-CIA Officer Is Accused of Spying for China

The Department of Justice announced that it has charged a former CIA officer "with giving classified information to the Chinese government" in just the latest instance of "former intelligence officers" being accused of spying for China. The suspect was a CIA officer during the 1980s and then worked as a "contract translator for the FBI in the 2000s." The officer is alleged with providing to Chinese intelligence officials information relating to "CIA personnel, foreign informants, classified operations, cryptography and other methods of concealing communications" in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.

A Detailed Look at the Downside of California's Ban on Affirmative Action

Californian voters will choose this fall whether to repeal Proposition 209, which is a ballot initiative that bans "racial preferences in admission to the state's world-renowned public universities." The measure passed 24 years ago, and a study released Friday found that "by nearly every measure, the ban has harmed Black and Hispanic students, decreasing their numbers in the University of California system while reducing their odds of finishing college, going to graduate school, and earning a high salary."

Poor Planning Left California Short of Electricity in a Heat Wave Before Wildfires

Losses continue to pile up as the wildfires in California grow. The wildfires have now spread from the "Southern California deserts to the Sierra Nevada to the vineyards and movie sets and architectural landmarks." In total, the week's approximate 560 fires have burned "more than 771,000 acres." Just as the heat wave was picking up in California, "scores of power plants were down or producing below peak strength" in a "stunning failure of planning, poor record keeping, and sheer bad luck."

Most of $600 Million Settlement in Flint Water Crisis Will Go to Children

The State of Michigan announced that there has been a $600 million settlement "for the victims of the water crisis that upended Flint." Approximately 80% "of the settlement will go to people who were younger than 18 during the crisis" and a significant amount of that money will go to victims under seven years of age. The settlement still requires "a federal judge's approval," but some in the Flint community have expressed doubts about the settlement and how long payment may take.

323,911 Accusations of New York Police Department Misconduct Are Released Online

On Thursday, in a "major milestone in a long and contentious political battle to open records of police discipline to public scrutiny", records relating to over 323,000 accusations of misconduct against New York City police officers were released. The New York Civil Liberties Union has published the records in a database accessible online after obtaining those records from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which was made possible when the state legislature "repealed a law that had kept them secret."

The National Rifle Association's Next Foe Is One of Its Own

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is now facing an "adversary from within its own senior ranks," Josh Powell. While the association had previously faced attack from New York's attorney general, who is seeking to dissolve the organization, Powell is releasing a new book, which will detail the association's fraudulent and corrupt activities. Powell has been named as a defendant in the the attorney general's action, and he had been thought to be the "de facto second-in-command" within the NRA.

Navalny, Being Treated in Germany, Looms Over Russian Politics

The most prominent opposition figure in Russian, Aleksei Navalny, arrived in Berlin for treatment "after falling into a coma in Siberia in what his family and supporters suspect was a deliberate poisoning weeks before nationwide local elections." Russian officials delayed his departure from Russia, and he was admitted to "one of Germany's leading medical research facilities, where he is undergoing extensive diagnostic tests."

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