Week In Review

By Eric Lanter

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


ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. Files SDNY Action Against Coda Publishing, Inc.

This week, ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. filed a suit in the Southern District of New York alleging that Coda Publishing and others infringed copyright in various musical compositions, master recordings, and films by using the works in documentaries featuring The Rolling Stones, Elton John, U2, ABBA, Nirvana, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in what amounted, according to the Complaint, to "nothing more than a delivery system for intentionally infringed materials."

Weinstein Trial Begins with Judge Not Recusing and New Charges of Rape Are Filed

Harvey Weinstein's last ditch effort to delay his trial in New York has failed: Justice James Burke will not recuse himself on the basis of bias as evidenced by his warning Weinstein that he may face prison for the remainder of his life for violating an order to refrain from phone use in the courtroom. Meanwhile, with the trial getting underway, in Los Angeles, prosecutors have unveiled their case against Weinstein in relation to an alleged rape and threat of murder in 2013.

Sonos Sues Google as Alphabet Legal Officer Steps Down

Sonos has sued Google in two federal courts "seeking financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google's speakers, smartphones, and laptops in the United States" based on Google's alleged infringing on five of Sonos' patents, "including technology that lets wireless speakers connect and synchronize with each other. The alleged incident that caused the infringement occurred in 2013 when Sonos had worked with Google to design Google's music service. During that collaboration, Sonos sent Google effectively its blueprints for its speakers, and while that seemed innocent enough, Sonos' executives now say they were naive in expecting that Google, a technology company, would not take those blueprints and make speakers itself.

Bill Cosby Files New Appeal Citing #MeToo Bias

Bill Cosby's attorneys have now asked Pennsylvania's highest court to hear an appeal of the actor's 2018 sexual assault conviction on the basis that the trial judge erred "on a number of issues, including allowing testimony from five other accusers." A spokesman for Cosby stated that a review of his case was necessary given "the vital important questions about the impact of #MeToo hysteria" on his case.

Hollywood Assistants Are Fed Up and Not Afraid to Say So

Over 100 assistants in Hollywood gathered on a recent Sunday to have a "town-hall-style discussion" about their work horror stories and the low wages that they had received working in the industry. They said that the industry increasingly "works against people who do not have outside financial backing, meaning that low-level jobs tend to go to people who can afford to take them." Many in the group have started the hashtag #PayUpHollywood in an attempt to bring attention to the poor pay that the assistants receive, which is in stark contrast to the executives in the industry.

Oprah Pulls Out of Documentary on Music Mogul Russell Simmons

On Friday, Oprah Winfrey announced that she was cutting ties with a documentary "centered on women who have accused the music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct." The film was set to have premiered at Sundance Film Festival this month and focuses on an executive, Drew Dixon, who accused Simmons of rape, which Simmons has denied. Winfrey's departure also brings the departure of the distributor of the documentary, Apple TV Plus, which had agreed to put the documentary on its streaming platform.

Former Nets Arena Now Home to NBC Drama

The Meadowlands Arena closed in early 2015, but it has since been used by NBCUniversal as a soundstage. The company has invested over $750,000 and has been home to several shows such as the upcoming show, "Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector," and it has been a revitalization of the arena that was vacated when the National Basketball Association team, the Nets, moved to Brooklyn.

Golden Globe Winners Take the Stage

The Golden Globe awards were last week, and Sam Mendes' "1917," a World War I epic, took the honor for best drama with Mendes receiving best director. In his speech, he noted that the film should be viewed on a big screen in a movie theater in a swipe at Netflix, which had 34 nominations, including six for "Marriage Story" and five for Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman."

Peak TV Hits 532 Scripted Shows

The estimated number of scripted television shows in the United States has hit a high: 532 shows. These include comedies, dramas, and limited series "that were broadcast or streamed, according to the research department of the cable network FX, which tabulates and releases the figure every year. The 2019 total is over 50% higher than the number of shows that existed in 2013 (349 shows), and it's a 153% jump over the 210 shows that were on in 2009.


Musicians' Pension Plan Seeks to Cut Benefits

The American Federation of Musicians and Employers' Pension Funds, the largest pension plan in the United States for musicians, is pursuing a cut to retirement benefits "that have already been earned by thousands of musicians, in an effort to keep the plan from running out of money." The fund has calculated that it faces a shortfall in the billions of dollars in the long term, and its trustees have announced that they will cut benefits that have already been earned by the participants in the plan, stoking those participants' outrage.

Romance Writers Cancels Awards Program Amid Upheaval

The Romance Writers of America is in disarray: its president and executive director have resigned in the wake of a racism dispute relating to a new book in the industry. Writers and agents within the industry had called for the resignations based on the handling of the dispute, and since then, the Romance Writers of America announced that the awards program would be cancelled, given the situation and controversy.

He Left a Museum for Promotion After Women Complained

Joshua Helmer, a former manager at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, had a reputation at the museum for approaching his subordinates in ways that made them uncomfortable, and those employees shared their concerns with managers at the museum as early as the beginning of 2016. He resigned in early 2018, and the employees learned that he had taken the job of director at the Erie Art Museum in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he soon behaved the same way: he texted a college student working at the museum and asked her to come to his house for coffee. She sent a screen shot to the New York Times showing that after she rejected his offer, he told her that "You're the most useless intern we have."

Britain Moves to Regulate Its Art Trade

Britain's "art market participants" are now subject to regulations when they are in transactions "worth more than 10,000 euros." Those regulations include registering with the government's tax agency and identifying the "ultimate beneficial owner" before entering into the transaction. Parliament ratified the legislation in December, and it is expected that European Union countries will enact counterpart laws in the near future.

A Victim's Account Fuels a Reckoning Over Abuse of Children in France

The French writer Gabriel Matzneff has always been open about his engaging in sex with "girls and boys in their early teens or even younger", even writing numerous books about his pursuits and boasting about them on television. Rather than face consequences for his actions, however, he won awards for his writing. Now, France is grappling with its history of being lax "toward sex with minors" as shown through its laws, which do not have statutory rape laws for those who are underage; rather, it is illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor under 15 but "not automatically considered rape."


Judge Signals Approval of the University of Southern California's $215 Million Settlement With Ex-Gynecologist's Patients

A judge in Los Angeles has approved settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the University of Southern California in the amount of $215 million. The settlement will see over 18,000 women receiving between $2,500 and $250,000 for the sexual misconduct involving hundreds of patients during Dr. George Tyndall's tenure as campus gynecologist.

Olympic Protest Rules: No Kneeling, but Tweets Are Fine

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has published its guidelines for what statements competitors may make at the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. It has clarified that competitors are not permitted to kneel, use "politically motivated hand gestures," disrupt medals ceremonies, or use "political messages on signs or armbands." These are the first unambiguous guidelines that have come from the IOC.

Top Jobs in National Football League and Elsewhere Go To White Men

In a league where approximately "three-quarters of the players are black," it is striking that the coaches are overwhelmingly white: when five National Football League (NFL) teams replaced their head coaches, only one, Ron Rivera, was not white. While many owners, such as John Mara, the co-owner of the New York Giants, have said things like a particular white coach "just has a certain presence about him," which some have viewed as encapsulating "the flawed processes and thinking that many of the country's elite institutions, the NFL included, follow when evaluating candidates for top positions."


Google Files Supreme Court Brief in Action Against Oracle

Last week, Google filed its brief with the United States Supreme Court in Google's action against Oracle regarding copyright infringement. The questions that the action raises are "whether copyright protection extends to a software interface" and "whether, as the jury found, petitioner's use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use."

YouTube's Children Privacy Policies Change After Settlement with Regulators

YouTube has announced its new children privacy practices after its parent company Google's settlement with federal investigators. In the agreement with the Federal Trade Commission and New York State's Attorney General, YouTube agreed and has now begun to introduce its changes, which include limiting the collection of personal information about who watches children's videos, not advertising to those viewers based on browsing or online activity, and requiring producers of those videos to clarify whether their videos are made for children.

Facebook Executive Warns Not To Tilt Scales Against Trump as It Vows to Ban "Deepfakes"

With the 2020 presidential election approaching, Facebook has announced that it will ban "deepfakes," or videos that appear to be real but are in fact manufactured with the intent of making the viewer believe that a person has said something he/she/they never did. However, Facebook, in congruence with its hands-off approach to speech issues, announced that it will not ban political ads that contain blatant lies, despite an outcry from activists who have called for some filter to be put into place, given the ease with which disinformation may spread on Facebook.

Major TikTok Security Flaws Found

The smartphone app TikTok has become a favor by teenagers throughout the world with hundreds of millions of users, but Check Point, a cybersecurity company, has announced that it has "serious vulnerabilities that would have allowed hackers to manipulate user data and reveal personal information." The flaw allows for users to receive messages carrying "malicious links" that, when clicked, would allow an attacker to take control of accounts "including uploading videos or gaining access to private videos."

CNN Agrees to Pay $76 Million to Settle Allegations of Labor Law Violations

The National Labor Relations Board announced Friday that CNN has agreed to pay $76 million in back pay "to settle allegations that it violated federal labor law when it replaced hundreds of unionized broadcast technicians more than 15 years ago." The dispute began in 2003 when CNN terminated a contract with a company, Team Video Services, and hired employees to perform the same work "without recognizing or bargaining with the two unions that had represented the Team Video Services employees."

BBC Underpaid Female TV Host, Tribunal Rules

BBC television host Samira Ahmed had received approximately $565 for each episode of "Newswatch" that she hosted; that is compared to the host of another program called "Points of View" hosted by Jeremy Vine, who received approximately $3,850 per episode. A tribunal has ruled that the difference in pay "was striking" and that she would receive back pay in an amount to be decided. She wrote that she was "glad it's been resolved" and that she is "looking forward to continuing to do [her] job" as "[n]o woman wants to have to take action against their own employer."

General News

Tensions Rise and Fall Between the U.S. and Iran

The United States and Iran had a tumultuous week: it began when the United States killed Major General Qassim Suleimani in a drone strike. With the funeral shortly thereafter, Iran's government announced that it would seek revenge against the United States, which has initially taken the form of 16 ballistic missiles launched against at least one base in Iraq containing American soldiers. While Iran's government initially announced that it had resulted in casualties, that has not been corroborated. Since then, it was revealed that one missile struck a Ukrainian passenger plane leaving Tehran's airport, killing all aboard including scores of Canadians. Iranians have taken to the streets protesting their government following the missile strike, and the tensions with the United States have calmed at least temporarily.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says She No Longer Has Pancreatic Cancer

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has announced that she is cancer-free and has "resumed an active schedule." She disclosed this development during a "wide-ranging interview" on CNN, and it comes after doctors discovered a tumor in July during a routine test.

Senate Prepares for Trial as Bolton Says He Is Willing to Testify

The United States Senate is preparing for the impeachment trial of President Trump. While the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had delayed in sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in the hope that she may obtain concessions from Senate Republicans in the conducting of the trial, she announced that she would send the articles without any concessions having been obtained from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thus, the trial will begin with a question as to which witnesses may be called in addition to those heard during the hearings in the House of Representatives, even as John Bolton, the former advisor to President Trump, announced that he would be willing to testify.

Pelosi Announces Vote to Limit Trump's War-Making Power Against Iran, and House Passes It

The House of Representatives, "sharply divided," voted on Thursday to "force President Trump to come to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran. The vote comes as a response to President Trump's "ratcheting up of hostilities with Tehran without the explicit approval of the legislative branch." Democrats have vowed to check the President's power following the strike ordered against Major General Qassim Suleimani, Iran's top security commander, which was a "major provocation taken without informing Congress that has had a cascade of consequences."

Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020

As the 2020 presidential election nears, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have issued a warning that Russian hackers are "growing stealthier" and are planning to make an impact on the result of the election or international events. For example, Russian hackers have been found "boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain--hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc." Voting officials are now being expected to learn about "bots, ransomware, and other vectors of digital mischief" in preparation for the election.

Trump's Move Against Landmark Environmental Law Caps a Relentless Agenda

The Trump administration announced that it would "roll back clean air and water protections by proposing stark changes to the nation's oldest and most established environmental law that could exempt major infrastructure projects from environmental review." The National Environmental Policy Act is set to be revised to strip away regulations "to the consternation of conservationists" and comes "in the middle of a foreign-policy crisis and on the cusp of an impeachment trial in the Senate."

Defamation Suit Against Trump Survives Motion to Dismiss Stage

Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the writer E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit against President Trump has survived a motion to dismiss, as Trump had failed to provide any evidence "to support his position beyond his lawyer's statement that 'the President of the United States has resided in the White House for the past three years.'" Additionally, Justice Ling-Cohan ruled that discovery may proceed, denying Trump's request that it be stayed.

Court Rulings Buoy Construction of Border Wall

The Trump administration saw a victory in two federal courts when they ruled that the administration may use $3.6 billion in military construction funds for "construction of the border wall" near the United States' border with Mexico and that a restraining order was being lifted "on a private group allied with President Trump that wants to build its own barriers on private land." The rulings make it more likely that the administration will be able to deliver on its promise to "build 450 miles of border wall by 2021."

Trump Administration Says Obamacare Lawsuit Can Wait Until After Election

When the Trump administration began, one of the clearest objections was the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. When Republican-leaning states tried to throw out Obamacare in a lawsuit, "the administration agreed that a key part of the law was unconstitutional," but defenders of the law have now asked the Supreme Court to resolve the case quickly even though administration lawyers "say they are in no particular hurry", as it would have "major political implications because the results sought by the Republican states and the Trump administration would cause substantial disruptions", including leaving millions more Americans without health insurance.

Inside the Billion-Dollar Battle Over .Org

Ethos Capital, a private equity firm, announced two months ago that it was planning to buy the rights to the .org "cyber neighborhood." The deal "met with a fierce backlash", as critics saw that the "less commercial corner of the internet should not be controlled by a private-driven private equity firm, as a matter of both principle and practice." Now, online petitions and letters of concern have come in "from hundreds of organizations" and "thousands of individuals" calling for the .org domain to remain independent.

American Consumers, Not China, Are Paying for Trump's Tariffs

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's economist Mary Amiti has written in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper that "US tariffs continue to be almost entirely borne by US firms and consumers" rather than China or its consumers. This writing comes after President Trump has announced his trade war with China and imposed tariffs on trade with China and undermines the President's claim that the United States would be "taxing the hell out of China."