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, General News, and COVID:


Moodsters v. Disney

The Supreme Court has refused to revive a copyright case filed against Walt Disney over Pixar's animated hit "Inside Out", denying a petition that urged the justices to weigh in on how fictional characters are protected. The Court denied certiorari to Denise Daniels, a child development specialist who sued Disney and Pixar, on accusations that the movie stole its central characters from her "Moodsters", a series of anthropomorphized emotions.

Minaj Pays Chapman in Suit

Avoiding trial, rapper Nicki Minaj makes an offer for illicitly using "Baby Can I Hold You", by Tracey Chapman, who accepts. The cost of taking another songwriter's work without permission and illicitly leaking a remade version is $450,000, the amount Minaj will be paying to satisfy her copyright infringement claims over "Sorry", a derivative of Chapman's song. Chapman filed the case back in October 2018. As a result, the two will not proceed to a trial later this year.

Sony Music Entertainment v. Cox Communications

The Eastern District of Virginia upheld the jury's $1 billion damages award for copyright infringement. The jury had awarded over $99,000 for each of the 10,017 works allegedly infringed on Cox's network. In its suit, the plaintiffs alleged copyright infringement by the defendants' subscribers. The plaintiffs sued Cox for contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement, claiming that infringement occurred on peer-to-peer networks. The latest order considered the number of allegedly infringing works, upheld the jury's decision, and noted that Cox's post-trial brief relied on information not provided to the jury.

Dr. Fauci Envisions Open Theatres by This Fall

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told performing arts professionals at a virtual conference last week that he believed that theatres and other venues could reopen "sometime in the fall of 2021," depending on the vaccination rollout, and suggested that audiences might still be required to wear masks for some time. Fauci sought to assure people in the industry that the end of their acute economic pain was in sight, while emphasizing that the timeline hinged on the country reaching an effective level of herd immunity, which he defined as vaccinating from 70% to 85% of the population.

L.G.B.T.Q. Representation on TV Falls for First Time in 5 Years, GLAAD Finds

An annual report found that 9.1% of characters scheduled to appear on prime-time broadcast series identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in the 2020-21 season, down from 10.2%. The number of recurring L.G.B.T.Q. characters - people who make multiple appearances in a series but are not part of the main cast - is about the same as the previous season (31 this year, compared with 30 in the prior year).

Watch Your Lyrics or Be Prepared to Return to Jail

Recent court rulings require officers to keep watch over artists' rap lyrics, which prosecutors say celebrate gangstas and violent crimes. In 2018. British rapper Digga D was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiracy to commit violent disorder, after a court case in which music videos by the masked rapper were presented as evidence. In sentencing, the judge also issued an order banning him from releasing tracks that describe gang-related violence. He must notify the police within 24 hours of releasing new music, and provide them with the lyrics. If a court finds that his words incite violence, he can be sent back to prison; parole conditions also limit what he can say publicly about his past. Introduced in 2014 and known as criminal behavior orders, the measures give judges broad powers to regulate convicted criminals' lives, such as by banning them from certain neighborhoods or by preventing them from meeting former associates. Judges have also used the orders to control some musicians' lyrics, arguing that when rappers brag about attacks on rivals, it stokes street tensions. Some are saying that this genre of hip hop, drill rap, is being targeted like how punk was in the 1970s.


Unicolors v. H&M

The years-long legal battle between H&M and pattern-making company Unicolors might land before the Supreme Court. In a petition for a writ of certiorari, Southern California-based Unicolors has sought Supreme Court intervention in the copyright case that it filed against H&M with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California back in April 2016, in which it accused the Swedish fast fashion giant of infringing one of its geometric patterns - by way of a "remarkably similar" print - for two styles of garments, a jacket and a skirt. In a Deceember 2017 jury verdict, it was found that H&M had willfully infringed Unicolor's copyright-protected pattern and awarded it $846,720 in damages, attorney's fees, and costs. H&M appealed, arguing that Unicolors was without a valid copyright registration for the fabric pattern at the center of the case, because the copyright registration issued on February 14, 2011 for a collection of works was invalid. H&M argued that because false information was included in the application that was filed with the U.S. Copyright Office - namely, that the 31 different designs covered by the single-unit registration were first published at the same time. H&M then claimed that Unicolors actually sold some of the patterns separately to different customers, thus invalidating the company's registration and its infringement cause of action. The Ninth Circuit reversed the jury verdict.

Cuomo Outlines Plan to Revive the Arts

Declaring that New York urgently needs to revive its arts and entertainment industry if it is to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the State would begin taking a series of interim steps to help to bring back some cultural events in the short term and put more unemployed artists back to work. The governor said that bringing back art and culture was crucial - not just to help artists, who have suffered some of the worst unemployment in the nation, but to keep New York City a vital, exciting center, where people will want to live and work.

Kennedy Honorees Announced

The annual Kennedy Center Honorees are choreographer and actress Debbie Allen, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, violinist Midori, and actor Dick Van Dyke.

Landmark Status Could Protect Mural

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to start the process to designate a beloved Diego Rivera mural as a landmark after the San Francisco Art Institute, which owns the $50 million painting, said that selling it would help pay off $19.7 million of debt. Designating the mural as a landmark would severely limit how the 150-year-old institution could leverage it, and public officials behind the measure say that selling it is likely to be off the table for now. Removing the mural with landmark status would require approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission, which has broad authority.


Belichick Decides to Decline Accepting Nation's Highest Civilian Honor

President Trump had planned to give Bill Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but the coach cited the violence at the Capitol in a statement announcing that he would not receive it. Belichick said that he was flattered to be nominated for the award because of its past recipients, but he also said he has great reverence for "our nation's values," represents his family and the Patriots, and has worked with his players to combat social injustice. "Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country that I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award," he wrote.

Tide Fans Risk More Than a Celebratory Hangover

The University of Alabama football team won its 18th national championship beating Ohio State in a 52-24 rout and just as in previous championship seasons, thousands of fans took to the streets outside the collection of restaurants and bars in Tuscaloosa, Ala., known as the Strip. However, Tuscaloosa city officials wanted any celebrations to be muted this year. Coronavirus cases and deaths in the state have gone up, while the availability of hospital beds has gone sharply down. Alabama has had a 30% rise in the total number of virus cases this week compared with two weeks ago, and an average of 67 deaths per day. The next few weeks could tell what the consequences of that celebration might be.

Gold Medalist Identified in Capitol-Invading Mob

Klete Keller, a champion swimmer who won two Olympic gold medals as a relay teammate of Michael Phelps, was identified by former teammates and coaches as a member of the crowd that surged into the U.S. Capitol during violent protests Wednesday. No video has emerged of Keller participating in any violent acts in the Capitol, but his mere presence in the building, if confirmed by authorities, may have placed him in legal jeopardy. Numerous people who entered the building now face federal charges that include unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.

Kentucky's Players and Coach Took a Knee, and the State Didn't Like It

A decision by Kentucky's men's basketball players and their coach, John Calipari, to kneel during the national anthem before a game has set off a backlash in the conservative state. The Kentucky players said they discussed their decision to kneel with Calipari before the game. The gesture was inspired in part by the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. The players also said they had other issues in mind. It was the first time Kentucky players had knelt for the anthem this season. At previous games, the team was not on the court for the anthem. The incident has angered many in Kentucky, including fans expressing disagreement on social media, public figures, and at least one governmental body.

Appeals Panel Lets Russians Off the Hook for Doping Cover-Up

A Court of Arbitration for Sport panel substantiated much of the World Anti-Doping Agency's finding on Russia's doping cover-up, and then let the Russians off the hook. In page after page, the report amounts to one of the starkest denunciations yet of Russia's efforts to evade antidoping rules, without major penalties.


Citing Fears of Violence, YouTube Suspends Trump

YouTube said on Tuesday that it had suspended Trump's channel over concern about "ongoing potential for violence," the latest move by one of the largest technology companies to limit the president online. The Google-owned video site said it had suspended Trump's account after one of his recent videos violated its policy for inciting violence. That meant that Trump would not be able to upload new content on his channel, which had about 2.8 million subscribers, for at least 7 days. YouTube also said it was disabling all comments on his channel indefinitely.

A Web Haven for Trump Fans Faces the Void

Parler, a chosen app of Trump fans, became a test of free speech. The app has renewed a debate about who holds power over online speech after the tech giants yanked their support for it and left it fighting for survival. Parler went dark early on Monday. Users shared conspiracy theories that falsely said the election had been stolen from Trump and urged aggressive demonstrations when Congress met to certify the election of President-elect Biden. Those calls for violence came back to haunt Parler executives, when Apple and Google removed it from their app stores and Amazon said it would no longer host the site on its computing services, saying that it had not sufficiently policed posts that incited violence and crime.

Parler Sues, Claiming That Amazon Broke the Law

Parler has sued Amazon after the beleaguered conservative social media site was expelled, filing a complaint alleging that the internet giant removed it for political reasons - and in an antitrust conspiracy to benefit Twitter. However, its own allegations, including breach of contract, are belied by evidence Perler supplied alongside the suit, which was filed in the U.S. Western District Court.

After Bans, A Scramble to Link Arms

In the days since rioters stormed Capitol Hill, fringe groups like armed militias, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and far-right supporters of Trump have vowed to continue their fight in hundreds of conversations on a range of internet platforms. Some of the organizers have moved to encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and Signal, which cannot be as easily monitored as social media platforms. After many groups were banned from mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the groups have been relegated to half a dozen apps and platforms to organize their next steps. Adding to the muddle, when Twitter and Facebook kicked Trump off their platforms last week, they made it harder for organizers to rally around a singular voice. The result is an unexpected side effect of the expulsions from mainstream social media platforms: Attempts at disruptions could be harder to predict and could stretch for days - and not just in Washington, D.C.

Twitter Sweeps for Accounts Tied to QAnon, Ousting 70,000

QAnon supporters were involved in the storming of the U.S. Congress building. Twitter has deleted accounts that "share harmful QAnon-associated content at scale." Twitter said in a blog post, "given the violent events in Washington, D.C., and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content." The accounts were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service. In 2019, the FBI issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" and designated QAnon a potential domestic extremist threat.

Cumulus Prohibits Claims of Election Fraud

Cumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities, including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro, has ordered its employees at 416 stations nationwide to steer clear of endorsing misinformation about election fraud or using language that promotes violent protests. Brian Philips, an executive vice president of Cumulus, issued the directive in a stern memo after a pro-Trump mob breached the halls of Congress.

New York Post Tells Staff to Shun Top News Outlets

As the Murdoch tabloid navigates a fraught political moment, high-level editors instructed reporters not to base articles on reporting by four news outlets that Trump has falsely labeled "fake news." CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times are among the news organizations that Trump has falsely labeled. It is common practice at The New York Post and its website,, to publish articles based entirely on other news outlets' reporting, without independent confirmation by any of its own journalists. The newspaper is not alone in following this widespread practice, and many news sites have had success by repackaging material from other news organizations. The directive at the Murdoch tabloid was unusual, in that it deemed material from certain outlets off limits.

The Federal Trade Commission Reaches Settlement with App Developer

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement with Flo Health Inc., the developer of a widely used period and fertility-tracking app, over allegations that it improperly shared personal data with Facebook and others, including whether users were ovulating. The FTC's vote on the proposed settlement was 5-0. The proposed settlement, if it becomes final following public comment, would require Flo Health to obtain an independent review of its privacy practices and get users' consent before sharing their health information. The company must also notify consumers of the FTC charges that it shared consumers' personal information without their consent.

Media Clampdown Stifles Data on Afghan War Deaths

The Ghani administration and the Taliban are fighting a public relations battle, with the government taking more drastic measures to control the flow of information. The war in Afghanistan has long been one of competing narratives. However, the government's responses to the October 22nd strike in Takhar Province signaled a shift in tactics by President Ashraf Ghani's administration: an overt declaration of its willingness to suppress and deny information on the deaths of innocent people. It also highlighted the changing political landscapes as peace negotiations continue in Qatar and the Taliban move to take advantage of the attention they are attracting on the world stage.

Uganda Blocks Facebook Two Days Before Election

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda blocked Facebook from operating in his country, just days after the social media company removed fake accounts linked to his government ahead of a hotly contested general election. Museveni accused Facebook of "arrogance" and said he had instructed his government to close the platform, along with other social media outlets, although Facebook was the only one he named. The ban on Facebook comes at the end of an election period that has been dogged by a crackdown on the political opposition, harassment of journalists, and nationwide protests that have led to at least 54 deaths and hundreds of arrests, according to officials. Museveni is running for a sixth term in office and facing 10 rivals.

Egypt Overturns Prison Terms in Case of TikTok 'Debauchery'

An Egyptian judge overturned an acquittal verdict of two young women who were jailed last year for posting "indecent" videos on the social media video app TikTok, ordering their pretrial detention for 15 days over fresh charges of "human trafficking," a judicial source said. A Cairo court has accused 20-year-old student Haneen Hossam and 22-year-old Mawada Eladhm of recruiting young women for "indecent jobs that violate the principles and values of the Egyptian society." Thursday's motion came just two days after an appeals court had acquitted the two women and ordered their release.

General News

Trump, After Inciting Rampage in Capitol is First President to Face Second Senate Trial

America will be in uncharted territory when the U.S. Senate meets for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, a case against the outgoing president that one Democrat preparing for arguments called "shockingly evident". The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on charges of incitement one week after his supporters rampaged in the Capitol following a speech in which the President urged them to fight President-elect Biden's election victory. In a 232-197 vote, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice and will likely be the first to face an impeachment trial after leaving office. Ten Republicans joined the majority Democrats in supporting impeachment, while others argued that Trump's remarks were protected by the First Amendment. Senator Mitch McConnell has said that no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on Tuesday.

Parties Debate How to Handle Trial in Senate

Senate leaders are working to agree on a dual track to try the departing president at the same time it considers the agenda of the incoming one, an exercise never tried before. Democrats, poised to take unified power in Washington for the first time in a decade, worked with Republican leaders to try to find a proposal to allow the Senate to split time between the impeachment trial of Trump and consideration of President-elect Biden's cabinet nominees and his $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan to address the coronavirus.

Biden Plan Calls for $1.9 Trillion to Buoy Economy

President-elect Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat the economic downturn and the Covid-19 crisis, outlining the type of sweeping aid that Democrats have demanded for months and signaling the shift in the federal government's pandemic response as Biden prepares to take office. The package includes more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly. Another $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls, while the plan would also include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, more generous unemployment benefits, federally mandated paid leave for workers and large subsidies for child care costs.

A Longtime Diplomat is Nominated by Biden to be Director of the CIA

President-elect Biden has nominated William Burns as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, tapping a respected veteran American diplomat who has served in posts around the world, from the Reagan to the Obama administrations. If confirmed, Burns would become the first leader in the CIA's history whose lifelong experience comes from the State Department.

Biden to Elevate Two Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Appointments

Biden, facing the rise of domestic terrorism and a crippling cyberattack from Russia, is elevating two White House posts that all but disappeared in the Trump administration: a homeland security adviser to manage matters as varied as extremism, pandemics, and natural disasters, and the first deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology. The White House homeland security adviser will be Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. For the complex task of bolstering cyberoffense and defense, Biden has carved out a role for Anne Neuberger, a rising official at the National Security Agency.

Trump's Conduct Spurs Push for Ethics Rules Tougher Than Shame

Congressional Democrats and a slew of groups are preparing to push for the kinds of ethics and governance changes not seen since the post-Watergate era. As House Democrats move toward punishing Trump with a history-making second impeachment, they are also pressing ahead with a parallel effort to try to ensure that Trump's four-year record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump's terms has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. In response, lawmakers and pressure groups are pushing for a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics laws, hoping to reconstruct and strengthen the guardrails that Trump plowed through.

Leading New Task Force, Yale Doctor Takes Aim at Racial Gaps in Care

Tapped by President-elect Biden to lead a new federal task force, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University, will address a terrible reality of American medicine: persistent racial and ethnic disparities in access and care. She has an expansive vision for the job, with plans to target medical resources and relief funds to vulnerable communities, but also to tackle the underlying social and economic inequalities that put them at risk. Her goals are ambitious, experts noted. Racial health disparities represent a vast, structural challenge in this country, made all the more stark by the raging pandemic. Black, Latino, and Native Americans are infected with the coronavirus and hospitalized with Covid-19 at higher rates than white Americans, and they have died of the illness at nearly three times the rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Nunez-Smith currently serves as one of three co-chairs on an advisory board advising the Biden transition team on management of the pandemic.

Pompeo Returns Cuba to Terror Sponsor List, Crimping Biden's Plans

The State Department designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in a last-minute foreign policy stroke that will complicate the incoming Biden administration's plans to restore friendlier relations with Havana. Secretary of State Pompeo cited Cuba's hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba's support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. The action, announced with just days remaining in the Trump administration, reversed a step taken in 2015 after President Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a relic of the Cold War. The move automatically triggers U.S. sanctions against Cuba - likely to have negligible effects, given the scale of existing American penalties against Havana. However, the action could be a symbolic deterrent for businesses.

U.S. Move to Label Houthis Terrorists May Jeopardize Food Shipments to Yemen

The Trump administration's rush to declare Houthi rebels in Yemen a terrorist organization leaves humanitarian aid workers and commercial importers vulnerable to criminal penalties, risking future shipments of food, medical supplies, and other assistance to the impoverished country. Secretary of State Pompeo said officials were "planning to put in place measures" to ensure that the aid continued. Unfortunately, that failed to assure a number of lawmakers, diplomats, and aid groups, who accused the administration of pushing through the policy before Trump leaves office next week, and said that clear-cut legal protections should have been enacted in tandem with the terrorism designation to prevent another barrier to assisting one of the world's poorest areas.

New York Police Department Finds That Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Rants

After two months of investigation, police officials have concluded that a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the NYPD wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish, and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board