Week In Review

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:


Batiste v. Lewis (5th Cir.)

New Orleans jazz musician Paul Batiste sued hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for copyright infringement, saying that the pair digitally sampled 11 of his songs. The Court held that Batiste presented insufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to whether the defendants actually copied his music. Batiste failed to show access or that the songs were strikingly similar.

Actor Faces Threat From Doobie Brothers

A lawyer for the Doobie Brothers band is demanded that actor Bill Murray pays for using the group's hit song "Listen to the Music" in an ad for his William Murray golf wear. The "upbeat call for world peace" song was used in an ad for a $50 polo called Zero Hucks Given. In the demand letter, the lawyer also said that Murray had used songs owned by other clients without permission.


Iantosca v. Elie Tahari, Ltd. (SDNY)

Mark Iantosca is a professional photographer who photographed a digital content creator wearing the defendant's clothing. The defendant then posted the photograph to its social media pages. The plaintiff claims that the defendant did so without permission or obtaining a license to do so. The defendant challenges the copyright claim, because the plaintiff did not have a certificate of copyright registration for the photo when the complaint was filed. The defendant also argues permissible fair use, de minimus use, and credit to the photographer. The court held that reposting the photo to the brand's social media pages is not "trivial" because it is a business utilizing a professional photographer's work to promote its products. Attribution is not a defense against copyright and usage did not meet fair use test.

Coronavirus Relief Fund Raises Nearly $20 Million for Artists

A coalition of organizations administering the Artist Relief Fund - the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Aritsts - has raised nearly $20 million since launching in April and has extended grant-making through December. The initiative provides unrestricted $5,000 relief grants to artists facing financial emergencies due to the impact of the COVID-19.

Hiller v. Success Group International

A jury has concluded that Hiller, the largest home-services company in Tennessee, had a valid copyright in the Guide and that the Success workbook copied protected elements of the Guide to train its technicians. Request for declaratory relief invaliding Hiller's copyright was rejected and affirmed by the Sixth Circuit. The jury concluded that Hiller created enough original material to gain copyright protection and was correctly instructed that the Guide's incorporation of some Clockwork-copyrighted content did not invalidate Hiller's copyright in the Guide's original parts.

The Metropolitan Opera Cancels Its Entire 2020-21 Slate

The Metropolitan Opera (Met) announced that because of the pandemic, it has cancelled its entire 2020-21 season; however it also announced ambitious artistic plans for its 2021-22 season, which will open with the Met premiere of Terence Blanchard's "Fire Shut Up in My Bones". Blanchard's opera is the first by an African American composer to be performed at the Met.

The Delay of a Retrospective Has Divided the Art World

The decision by four major museums to delay until 2024 a much-awaited retrospective of the modernist painter Philip Guston is roiling the art world, with some calling the decision a necessary step back during a period of surging racial justice protests and others deeming it a cowardly avoidance of challenging works of art. The retrospective, the first in more than 15 years, was supposed to open in June at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The decision came after museums organizing the exhibition decided that Guston's familiar motif of cartoonish, haggard white-hooded Ku Klux Klansmen needed to be better contextualized for the current political movement.

Can Luxury Fashion Ever Regain its Luster?

The ground beneath the industry is heaving under the weight of a pandemic that has caused a plunge in sales, shocked global supply chains, and pushed American household names such as Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor to bankruptcy. Those shifts have prompted big questions about the business model of luxury fashion. The second quarter of 2020 was the luxury fashion industry's worst and industry growth is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023 or 2024.

Madrid Opera Shut Down by Audience Angry About Crowding

A performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" at the Teatro Real was canceled after spectators spent more than an hour shouting and clapping to protest against what they said were insufficient social distancing measures in the opera house's mezzanine levels.

Report Links U.K. Treasures to Colonialism and Slavery

93 properties managed by Britain's National Trust, the revered conservation society, cited in a recent report that they have direct connections to slavery and colonialism. The disclosure was said to have been done in an effort to shed a light on the "complex" and sometimes "hugely uncomfortable" stories behind the properties and their owners. Twenty-nine of the properties were among thousands across the country that received government payments as compensation for loss of "slave property" after Britain abolished slavery in parts of its empire in 1833. This just underscores the fact that the practice of enslaving African people was a fundamental part of the British economy in the late 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.


Finish Line in Sight, The Bubble is Holding

With the presentation of the Stanley Cup just days away, the National Hockey League will soon be able to take a victory lap for being the first of the four major North American pro sports leagues to complete a season during the coronavirus pandemic. The quality of the hockey has been solid, and the safety protocols have held, but an adaptable mind-set for all parties, from top executives to stadium workers, has been crucial for the expanded 24-team postseason to work.

Italy in an Uproar Over the Curious Case of Suárez's Language Test

Italian authorities are investigating whether Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, an Uruguay national, was illegally helped to pass an Italian language exam last week, in order to receive a European passport that could help him transfer to a new club. The test cleared the way for a fast-track citizenship approval, which would mean that Juventus could sign him without exceeding its permitted quota of non-EU players, but suspicions were quickly raised in the media that he was given preferential treatment. He passed the exam despite his tutor allegedly saying "he can't speak a word."


Russian Trolls' Star Content Provider is Trump

Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow and former FBI special agent Clint Watts has said that "the Russians in 2016 had to make false news stories or manipulated truths to power their narratives. This time they're not writing anything that's not already said in U.S. space, often by Mr. Trump himself." Russia is once again interfering in the U.S. election, but this time, instead of having to make up its propaganda, it is relying on misleading statements made by Trump in speeches and tweets.

U.S. Suit Against Google is Said to Focus on Its Dominance in Search

The Department of Justice's (DOJ) impending lawsuit decision to narrow the case against Google to its search dominance could set off separate lawsuits from states over Google's power in other business segments. The DOJ's action against Google is set to be narrower than what some states and several career lawyers in the department had envisioned. The department DOJ also investigated Google's reach in ad technology and how the company prices and places ads across the internet. However, in an effort to file a case by the end of September, the DOJ decided to pick the piece that was furthest along in legal theory and that could best withstand a potential challenge.

Social Media Protections Targeted by DOJ

The DOJ sent Congress draft legislation that would reduce a legal shield for platforms like Facebook and YouTube, in the latest effort by the Trump administration to revisit the law as the president claims those companies are slanted against conservative voices. The original law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, makes it difficult to sue online platforms over the content they host or the way they moderate it. Under the proposed changes, platforms that purposely facilitate "harmful criminal activity" would not receive the protections. Platforms that allow "known criminal content" to stay up once they know it exists would lose the protections for that content.

TikTok Files for Injunction to Stop Trump's Ban of App

TikTok's parent company ByteDance and Oracle has filed a motion to stop the Commerce Department from enforcing a ban against the popular social app, continuing its fight with the Trump administration. The ban was supposed to come into place Sunday, but after the signing of the ByteDance/Oracle deal, it was delayed by a week, with additional delays expected as the deal closes in the coming weeks. Now the company seems to be taking more aggressive action to stop the government. In its filing, the company says that it has "made extraordinary efforts to try to satisfy the government's demands" and noted that the damage of the ban could be significant before a national election.

Facebook Removes Networks Linked to Russian Disinformation

Facebook and Twitter have said that they have removed several hundred fake accounts linked to Russian military intelligence and other Kremlin-backed actors involved in previous efforts to interfere in U.S. politics, including the 2016 presidential election. Facebook's head of security policy said that "hack-and-leak" operations are "one of the threats [they're] particularly focused on and concerned about ahead of the November election in the U.S. U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia is seeking to spread disinformation that would undermine former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign.

App Makers Form Alliance to Fight Apple and Google

A number of top app makers have banded together to fight against Apple's control of its App Store and, to a lesser extent, Google's control of the Play Store. Thirteen app publishers, including Epic Games, Deezer, Basecamp, Tile, and Spotify, have launched the Coalition for App Fairness. The new organization formalizes efforts the companies already have underway that focus on either forcing app store providers to change their policies, or ultimately forcing the app stores into regulation. Epic Games is currently involved in a lawsuit against Apple over the App Store's commission guidelines. Other app makers in the group have, through public statements, previously spoken out against Apple's practices, and some have also communicated their complaints to Congress. The group details its key issues, which include anti-competitive practices and the inability to distribute software to billions of Apple devices through any other means but the App Store, as an affront to personal freedom.

Aide Recounts Being Pressed To Stop Bolton

The account by a former National Security Council official also implied that the DOJ may have told a court that this book contains classified information and opened a criminal investigation based on false pretenses. White House aides improperly intervened to prevent a manuscript by Trump's former national security adviser John R. Bolton from becoming public, said a career official. In a letter, she also suggested that they retaliated when she refused to go along. This is the latest in a series of accounts by current and former executive branch officials as the election nears, accusing the president and his aides of putting his personal and political goals ahead of the public interest.

U.S. Revoked Award to Journalist for Criticizing Trump

An inspector general's report concludes that State Department officials nixed a high-profile award out of fear of offending higher-ups--then lied about it. The Trump administration revoked a prestigious award to a Finnish journalist because she had written social media posts critical of the U.S. president, then lied to Congress and the press about the reasons for revoking her award. Jessikka Aro, the Finnish journalist, faced online harassment campaigns and death threats for exposing Russia's disinformation and propaganda machine. Aro was told by U.S. diplomats in January 2019 that she would be honored at the State Department's International Women of Courage Award. Weeks later, the department rescinded the award, telling Aro it was due to a "regrettable error."

Alphabet Settles Lawsuits Over Harassment Claims

Google's parent company, Alphabet, has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight by its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs.

Paris Suspect Says Attack Targeted Paper

The suspect in the stabbing of two people outside the former Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has confessed and said his attack was directed at the publication because it printed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. The suspect is an 18-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who arrived in France three years ago as an unaccompanied minor. Charlie Hebdo's former office was the target of a January 2015 terrorist attack that killed 12 people after the weekly first published the cartoons. The stabbing took place during the long-awaited trial of alleged accomplices in the 2015 attack. French authorities have not yet publicly confirmed the suspect's statement.

General News

President Plans to Name Amy Coney Barrett As His Court Pick

The selection of Judge Barrett, a deeply conservative jurist, kicked off an election-season confirmation fight. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on October 12th. Barrett is a former Notre Dame law professor who now sits on a federal appeals court in Chicago and is a favorite of anti-abortion activists. She served as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia and says that "his judicial philosophy is mine too...a judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they may hold." Her confirmation would cement a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court, leaving an imprint that could long outlast Trump's presidency. The nomination is expected to consume the Senate in the weeks ahead and quickly reverberate on the campaign trail, injecting polarizing issues like abortion rights into an election season already weighed down by the coronavirus pandemic and a national reckoning over racism.

Trump's Pick for Court Opens Dash to Vote

Trump's pick for the Supreme Court has compiled an almost uniformly conservative voting record in cases touching on abortion, gun rights, discrimination and immigration. If confirmed she would move the court slightly but firmly to the right, making compromises less likely and putting at risk the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade. "She is sympathetic to Justice Scalia's methods, but I don't get the sense that she is going to be a philosophical leader on how those methods should be executed" says a law professor at Vanderbilt University.

G.O.P. Unity Shows Unyielding Drive to Remake Courts

Senator Mitt Romney said that he will back President Trump's push to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only six weeks out from election, confirming a new justice would likely tilt the court decisively to the right. Although Romney has made no secret of his distaste for Trump previously, he was not about to pass up an opportunity to cement a court that could limit abortion rights, further empower business interests, and potentially strike down far-reaching federal programs.

Democrats and White House Strike Short-Term Deal to Avert Shutdown

The House approved a stopgap spending bill after Democratic congressional leaders and the Trump administration reached a deal on Tuesday to avert a government shutdown and extend funding through December 11th, agreeing to include tens of billions of dollars in additional relief for struggling farmers and for nutritional assistance.

Array of Legal Battles Concerning Voting Rules Still Face Supreme Court

Trump stacked the federal judiciary long before nominating his third Supreme Court Justice. So far, that hasn't helped him gain an advantage in 2020 voting as nearly has he might have liked. Facing a persistent polling deficit against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, Trump and his allies have undertaken an array of efforts to stop election officials from making voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic. The President fogs the air with groundless complaints of fraud while lawyers on his behalf challenge such adjustments as mail-in voting, expanded use of ballot drop-boxes, and relaxed deadlines for counting ballots that show up late. Courts in both red and blue states alike have repeatedly rebuffed them.

Remembering a Justice Who Remembered Them

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the young scholar spurned by every law firm in New York because of her gender before going on to become a champion of women's rights and a liberal icon, was honored on Wednesday by a former president, her colleagues on the Supreme Court, and long lines of everyday Americans who felt the influences of her long and storied career. For a justice who came to enjoy her improbable late-in-life celebrity, it was a modest, unassuming farewell, but one that moved many in a country polarized by politics and suffering from a horrible pandemic. Among those who waited hours to pass below her flag-draped coffin outside the Court were many women, often with daughters or mothers, who saw in Justice Ginsburg a source of personal liberation.

A Historic Tribute for Ginsburg Inside a Capitol Divided Over Replacing Her

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who won trailblazing legal victories for women's rights before ascending to the nation's highest court, broke her final barriers on Friday, becoming the first woman and the first Jewish American to lie in state in the United States Capitol. In a ceremony choreographed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give the women of Congress a leading role, Justice Ginsburg was eulogized as a persistent warrior for justice whose example had inspired generations of women and girls. The tribute took place inside a Capitol deeply divided over replacing Justice Ginsburg so close to the presidential election.

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Administration from Ending the Census Count Early

Twice in the last 15 months, federal courts have scrutinized rationales offered by the Trump administration for trying to upend key parts of the 2020 Census, and twice judges have found them wanting. In this latest attempt, a federal district judge in California ruled that the Commerce Department had "never articulated a satisfactory explanation" for its decision to end the Census months earlier than had been planned, raising questions about the administration's motives.

Trump Won't Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power

Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power if he loses the 2020 election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The Biden campaign responded, saying: "The American people will decide this election. And the U.S. government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House." The Trump campaign as pushed back on criticism of the president's answer.

Pentagon Leaders Worry That Trump Will Drag Military into Election

President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election and his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has caused deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist that they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have said that he "foresees no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process", but this has not stopped an intensifying debate in the military about its role should a disputed election lead to civil unrest.

Appeals Court Allows House to Sue Over Wall Funding

A federal appeals court has reversed course in the border wall lawsuit, delivering a potential win to House Democrats who sued over President Trump's transfer of Defense Department funds to construct the wall. The Court disagreed with the lower court over the constitutional claims in the case and sent it back for further review. The decision is a blow to Trump, who made the border wall a cornerstone of his presidency. The Court ruled that "each member has a distinct individual right, and in this case, one chamber has a distinct injury", therefore the House Democrats can challenge the President's transfer of funds to build the border wall. The Appropriations Clause requires two keys to unlock the Treasury, and the House holds one of those keys. The appeals court stated that the Executive Branch snatched the House's key out of its hands.

The Department of Justice Aids Trump in Stoking Doubt on Vote with Nine Discarded Ballots

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has released details about an investigation into nine discarded mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania in an unusual step that stoked new fears that President Trump's political appointees were using the levers of law enforcement to sow doubt about the election. FBI investigators are examining mail-in ballots from military members in Luzerne Country in northeastern Pennsylvania that had been "discarded." Seven of the nine ballots were cast for Trump. The ballots had been "improperly opened by election staff." Under Pennsylvania election law, no ballots can be opened until Election Day, even for processing. Election experts said that the announcement was highly irregular. The DOJ policy calls for keeping voter fraud investigations under wraps to avoid affecting the election outcome and the experts said it was almost unheard-of for the department to provide an update on the case and disclose the name of the candidate for whom the ballots had been cast.

Allies Skeptical of U.S. Push to Redefine Human Rights

European allies are skeptical of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's push to elevate religious liberty and property rights, which they fear could come at the expense of protecting marginalized groups. Pompeo's Commission on Unalienable Rights has come under scrutiny in recent months over fears that it could erode protections for women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The response among European nations has been very skeptical. In response, diplomats said State Department representatives had rebranded their outreach efforts and would instead ask United Nations (UN) members to affirm their commitments to a human rights document passed by the body in 1948--a core tenet of Pompeo's commission. UN diplomats and human rights experts said the effort was equally worrisome, believing it was a cryptic way to ignore decades' worth of treaties since 1948 that enshrined protections for racial minorities, same-sex couples, and women around the globe--moving backwards.

Before Virtual UN Assembly, Trump Casts China As Villain in Pandemic

In his recorded video address to the annual UN general assembly, Trump unleased a rhetorical assault on China that seemed pitched at a domestic audience. Donald Trump and Xi Jinping offered starkly contrasting responses to the coronavirus pandemic, with the U.S. president blaming Beijing for unleashing a "plague" on the world--and his Chinese counterpart casting the fight against the virus as an opportunity for international cooperation. Trump also took the opportunity to attack the World Health Organization--falsely describing it as "virtually controlled by China"--and again incorrectly claiming that the international body had said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.