Week In Review

By Ariana Sarfarazi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

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


Brooks v Dash

The Second Circuit has ruled that music mogul Damon Dash must pay damages to author E.W. Brooks for copyright infringement after Dash marketed and sold "Mafietta", a film about Brooks's female crime boss character, without her consent. In Brooks v. Dash, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's finding in favor of Brooks, ordered Dash to pay $300,000 in damages, and enjoined Dash from marketing, advertising, promoting, distributing, selling, or copying the film without Brooks's consent. Dash defended the copyright infringement suit by arguing that the film was a "joint work", meaning that he as "co-author" co-owned the copyright to the film that thus could not be liable for copyright infringement. Under federal copyright law, however, a co-authorship claimant must show that each of the co-authors fully intended to be co-authors. In this case, the District Court found, and the Second Circuit affirmed, that Brooks did not intend to be co-authors because (1) Dash was employed under the doctrine of work for hire to provide directing and marketing services for the film in return for a royalty of 50% and (2) because Brooks, as producer, retained the right to make all final decisions with respect to the film and its release. The Second Circuit also rejected Dash's argument on appeal that the parties orally agreed to a 50/50 split in ownership, finding that Dash's substantial contributions to the film did not evince a mutual intent of co-authorship, but rather reflected the provision of services for which Brooks offered to split the film's profits 50/50 with Dash. As to damages, the Second Circuit rejected Dash's argument that the District Court's award of $300,000 in damages was clearly erroneous, finding that when courts are confronted with imprecision in calculating damages, they "should err on the side of guaranteeing the plaintiff a full recovery."

Brooks v Dash.pdf

Spears's Lawyer Asks to Step Down from Court-Appointed Role

Samuel D. Ingham III, a veteran of the California probate system who has represented Britney Spears for 13 years, has asked the court to resign after Spears called the conservatorship "abusive" at a hearing last month. Ingham was assigned to represent Spears in 2008, when a Los Angeles court granted conservatorship powers to her father and an estate lawyer amid concerns about her mental health and substance abuse. At a June 23rd hearing, Spears told the court that she had been forced to perform, take debilitating medication and remain on birth control, and also testified that she had been unaware of how to terminate the conservatorship arrangement (claiming that Ingham told her to keep her concerns about the conservatorship to herself) and that she wishes to hire a lawyer of her own. In his request to resign, Ingham asked the court to assign a new lawyer to Spears, but did not elaborate on his reasons for withdrawing from the case.

Spears's Case Calls Attention to Wider Questions on Guardianship

Recent revelations to the public about Britney Spears's wish to end the California conservatorship that has bound her decision-making and finances since 2008 has drawn attention to the legal mechanisms that are intended to support those with severe disabilities and who are incapacitated and incapable of making their own decisions. Under guardianships or conservatorships, which affect about 1.3 million people in America, those subject to them often lose control over their finances as well as other aspects of their lives, such as the right to marry, vote, drive, or seek and retain unemployment. Advocates for people with disabilities, however, say that guardianships have been used too broadly for those with disabilities who do not require such intense or continuous oversight, and are imposed without considering other options, such as supported decision-making or appointing a power of attorney. Once established, guardianships are often permanent, or at the very least are very difficult to undo despite state requirements that guardianships be reviewed annually, because the mechanisms that judges rely upon to determine whether an individual should be placed in a guardianship (IQ tests, psychological evaluations or medical evaluations) are inherently flawed measurements of decision-making capability.

"Bachelor" Starts Received Pandemic Loans

Several former cast members of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have come under public scrutiny, with the public questioning why they received government loans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Several of the franchise's cast members were able to receive loans through the Paycheck Protection Program through their sole proprietorships (companies that employ no one other than the business's owner) after the Biden administration relaxed the requirement that sole proprietorships be profitable in order to qualify for the loan.


The Metropolitan Opera's Stagehands Settle on a Deal

The Metropolitan Opera (Met) has reached a tentative agreement for a new contract with Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents its stagehands, therefore increasing the likelihood that the company will reopen in September after its longest-ever shutdown. The deal, the details of which have not been made public, comes after the Met's roughly 300 stagehands had been locked out last year due to a disagreement over how long and lasting the pandemic cuts would be. The Met has also reached an agreement with the American Guild of Musical Artists, which includes chorus members, soloists, and stage managers. Negotiations with the third major union that represents the orchestra are still pending.

Diversifying Stage Management

A study recently published by the Actors' Equity Association revealed that between 2016 and 2019, 76% of stage managers employed on theatrical productions across the country were white, and only 2.63% were black. As calls increase for greater diversity of representation on Broadway and in theaters across the country, multiple new initiatives have been formed that aim to broaden the pool of stage managers of color and to introduce antiracist practices into graduate training.

Did Nazis Coerce Art Sale?

Decades after the end of World War II, it is still a matter of debate as to whether a work of art that changed hands during the Nazi persecution of Jews should be returned to the heirs of the original owner. Dutch, Swiss, and German institutions have agreed to either return or pay compensation to the heirs of original Jewish owners for art sold during Nazi persecution that wound up in their collections, but other institutions in the United States (such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art) have repeatedly rejected heirs' claims, arguing that there is not enough evidence that such art was sold under duress. Unlike in Europe, where the government makes the final decision, in the United States all decisions regarding whether to return or compensate for artwork are private and museums are free to reject or fight claims with no U.S. governmental oversight.

Charlottesville Removes Statue at Center of 2017 White Nationalist Rally

Officials have finally removed a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, along with another nearby monument to Stonewall Jackson, 4 years after a woman was killed and dozens were injured when white nationalists protested the statue's planned removal at the "United the Right" rally in August 2017. Charlottesville's City Council moved quickly to remove the statues after the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in April that the city could remove them, thereby reversing a 2019 lower court ruling, which had found that the statues could not be removed because they were protected by state law.

How 'Musical Chairs' Can Help Clear the Air

A new study has found that rearranging orchestral musicians, particularly players of "super spreader" wind instruments that aerosolize respiratory droplets, significantly reduces the health hazards imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The study found that moving wind instruments, such as trumpets, to the very back of the stage right next to air-return vents could significantly limit aerosol build up on stage, therefore allowing musicians to safely return to performance during the pandemic.

Pastor's Borrowed Words Expose Shortcut in the Preaching Life

The new leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has caused controversy for delivering sermons that contain passages from his predecessor. The controversy, known as "Sermongate", reveals a little-known reality that many pastors borrow sermons from one another. The norms around plagiarizing at the pulpit are not well-defined, with some religious leaders finding this to be an issue of morality and of Christian virtue, and others freely allowing carte blanche to borrow liberally from their works, saying that personal glory should never be the point of preaching. This may also raise issues relating to copyright.


As Games Approach, U.S. Officials and International Olympic Committee Are at Odds Over Protests

With the July 23rd opening of the Tokyo Games nearing and with a number of athletes signaling the possibility of some kind of protesting, including American hammer throw athlete Gwen Berry, American and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials are in dispute as to where to draw the line for protests by athletes to promote social and political causes. Whereas leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee have announced that they will not punish American athletes who exercise free speech rights at the Olympic Games as long as they do not express hatred toward or attack any person or group, the IOC has forbidden all demonstrations on the medals podium, on the field of playing during the competition, and at the opening and closing ceremonies. However, athletes have long been free to express political views during news conferences, on social media, or in the "mixed zone" where they speak with the news media after composition. While it remains unclear how the IOC will enforce its rules regarding protests, the U.S. has taken the position that, whatever the IOC does, it will not punish or reprimand athletes who make political statements.

Avenatti Sentenced to Prison in Nike Extortion Case

Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who once represented pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against former President Trump, was found guilty in February 2020 of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself and has now been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. At his trial last year, prosecutors said that Avenatti told Nike he had evidence of scandal from his client (a youth basketball coach), demanded that Nike pay him $22.5 million to resolve the potential claims, and threatened to hold a news conference and reveal his claims to the public if Nike did not comply.

The Liberty Pushed for Social Justice Back When It Got Them Fined

The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) has risen as the leader in activism among professional sports leagues largely due to activism by players on the Liberty team. Five years ago, the Liberty players were fined by the WNBA for wearing unapproved shirts as part of a protest against gun violence and the fatal shootings of Black men, but did not cease protesting despite the fine. The WNBA eventually rescinded the penalties, and began embracing its players' desire to speak out against social injustices, even in defiance of then-existing league norms.

Comments Cost Reporter Sideline Spot on Broadcast

In an attempt to quell a yearlong scandal regarding ESPN's handling of internal conflicts centered around race, sideline reporter Rachael Nichols was removed from covering the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals this year in wake of disparaging comments she made last year about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor. Nichols's comments came during a private phone conversation that was caught on video and uploaded to the server at ESPN's headquarters, saying that Taylor was picked to host NBA finals coverage last season because ESPN was "feeling pressure" about diversity.

In Reversal, Pentagon Lets Navy Cornerback Delay Service for N.F.L.

Cameron Kinley, a team captain and class president at the U.S. Naval Academy, had previously applied to delay his 5-year service commitment after graduating and signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent. The U.S. Navy initially denied Kinley's request to push back his military commitment so that he could pursue a pro football career, but reversed its decision and approved Kinley's request. Kinley will be enlisted in the Inactive Ready Service and is expected to serve in the Navy after his time in the National Football League ends.

China Uses Tech to Limit Teenage Gamers

China has taken a number of measures to restrict video game usage among underage players and to limit screen time and keep internet addiction in check, including imposing a cybercurfew that bars those under 18 from playing video games between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am and requiring users to use their real names and identification numbers. To prevent children and teenagers from circumventing these restrictions by using their parents' devices, the Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent will now deploy facial recognition technology in its video games, thus sparking privacy concerns about the Chinese government's increasingly paternalistic control over the internet.


App Fees Prompt States to File Suit Against Google

A group of 36 states and the District of Columbia have sued Google over antirust claims that its app store abuses market power by forcing aggressive terms on software developers, such as forcing them to use Google's own system for payments inside their products, and taking a large cut of financial transactions in their apps, such as by charging a 30% commission on top of many transactions which developers say forces them to charge higher prices for their services. Google has called the lawsuit "meritless" and has questioned why attorneys are going after Google for monopolistic practices instead of its rival, Apple.

American Tech Giant Hits Back at Hong Kong Doxxing Law

A trade group representing the largest American internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and others, is challenging broad new rules in Hong Kong created to curb doxxing, the targeted disclosure of individuals' private information. Since Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests in 2019, doxxing has been used to identify both police officers and protesters during the protests, and Hong Kong authorities have used its national security law to curb this practice. Under the new rules, websites can be taken down and anyone posting personal information intended to harass, threaten, or intimidate could face jail time and hefty fines. A trade group representing American tech companies has penned a letter to Hong Kong's government, stating that such data-protection laws could impact the companies' ability to provide services in the city, arguing that the new rules would "result in grave impact on due process and risks for freedom of expression and communication", and could give police the power to impose fines and arrest local employees if the tech companies are not responsive to the new doxxing rules.

Pentagon Cancels Deal It Awarded to Microsoft

The Defense Department will not go forward with a lucrative $10 billion cloud-computing contract with Microsoft that had been the subject of a contentious legal battle amid claims that President Trump interfered in the process that awarded the contract to Microsoft over its tech rival, Amazon. Although the Pentagon has determined that the previous contract for cloud-computing services to the federal government "no longer meets its needs", thus eliminating need for lengthy litigation, the federal government says that it will solicit bids from Amazon and Microsoft on future cloud-computing contracts.

Tennis Star Shows Power Shift in Sports Journalism

With tennis giant superstar Naomi Osaka recently declining to speak to the press at a required news conference at the French Open (and choosing to pay a hefty fine instead), guest-editing Racquet magazine, and penning a cover essay directly for Time Magazine, she has ignited a powerplay between athletes and sports journalists and has disrupted the status quo between athletes and traditional sports journalism that has existed for decades. While the media was once the main way that athletes found fame and lucrative endorsements, with the rise of social media and the ability to control one's own platform, as well as the increasingly direct access of athletes to a widening array of new media outlets, athletes like Osaka are paving the way for a new era of independent sports journalism.

Ransomware Salvo Hits 800 to 1,500 Businesses

Between 800 and 1500 businesses around the world were compromised by a cyberattack, which was the largest attack in history using ransomware, in which hackers shut down systems until a ransom is paid. A Russian-based cybercriminal organization known as REvil claimed responsibility for the attack against Kaseya, a Miami-based software maker that provides technology services to tens of thousands of organizations around the world. While the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the White House works to address the issue, the White House advised against companies paying ransomware and announced that American national security officials are in touch with Russian government officials over the attack.

Twin Hackings Tied to Russia, In Test of Biden

Two major cyberattacks by Russian hackers have occurred recently, including the hacking of a Republican National Committee contractor by Russia's S.V.R. intelligence agency (the same group that hacked the Democratic National Committee 6 years ago), and the largest global ransomware attack on record which was perpetrated by REvil, a Russian-based cybercriminal organization. The 2 attacks come only weeks after President Biden demanded that President Putin rein in Russia's cyber activities against the United States at a U.S.-Russian summit last month.

Biden Cautions Putin to Control Cybercriminals

In a call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden conveyed that if Putin continues to harbor cybercriminals on Russian soil issuing cyberattacks on the United States, then the attacks would be treated as national security threats, even if such attacks are not sponsored by the Russian state, thus provoking a far more severe response from the United States. Biden has stated that United States might attack the servers that Russian cybercriminals have used to hijack American networks (therefore knocking them offline), thus escalating a Cold War-like series of confrontations between the United States and Russia now fought in cyberspace.

Trump Sues Tech Giants over Bans On His Posts

Trump sued Facebook, Twitter, and Google and the companies' chief executives after the platforms took steps to ban him or block him from posting. Trump's legal team argued that the tech companies are state actors subject to the First Amendment and accused them of wrongful censorship in violation of Trump's right to free speech. Legal experts said that the lawsuit appears to be a major publicity stunt that has no chance of succeeding because under current law, social media companies are protected by Section 230, a federal provision that exempts them from liability for what is posted on their platforms. In the lawsuit, Trump asked the court to declare Section 230 unconstitutional and to restore his access to the sites, and even started a fundraising campaign for legal fees in the process.

New York City's Law Department Still Hobbled by Fallout From Computer Attack

After New York City's Law Department was hacked over a month ago by an intruder who used an employee's stolen password to gain unauthorized access to the agency's computer system, almost all of the agency's 1,000+ lawyers still do not have access to electronic case files, thus delaying lawsuits. While the Law Department's spokesperson claims its attorneys have resumed in person work to ensure there is minimal disruption to cases, recent court records show that the city's attorneys still regularly seek postponement in their cases, saying that they are without access to their electronic files. The Law Department hack was enabled by the Law Department's failure to comply with an April 2019 directive by the city's Cyber Command that all agencies implement multifactor authentication to improve security. After admonishment by the Mayor and reassignment of the Law Department's Chief IT Officer, a city official confirms that employees have now been given multifactor authentication.

Bezos' Exit Is Just One of Several at Amazon

In addition to Jeff Bezos's departure from Amazon this month, many of the company's vice presidents are also leaving for top jobs at public companies or high-growth start-ups, thus marking an usual level of disruption inside the business, where for years Amazon's leaders have been considered lifers.

Reining in Tech, China Reasserts That It Is in Charge

Days after the initial public offering of Didi, China's leading ride-hailing platform on the New York Stock Exchange, Chinese regulators have ordered the company to stop signing up new users, and have pulled the app from Chinese app stores over national security and data privacy concerns. Beijing's move sends a stark message to Chinese businesses about the government's authority over them, even if they operate globally and trade stock overseas, and reminds international investors in Chinese companies, including those on Wall Street, about the regulatory curveballs they may face.

For China's Big Tech Companies, There's No Escaping the Pull of Beijing's Politics

Despite the longstanding widespread belief among China's private sector that businesspeople should steer clear of politics, with the fallout from Beijing's crackdown on the U.S.-listed Chinese ride-hailing app Didi, steering clear of politics is no longer an option for China's business elites. The crackdown on Didi will have a deep impact on Chinese businesses seeking international investment, as it is a strong signal that the Chinese government will take action to discourage listings of Chinese tech companies in the United States as the countries battle for tech supremacy.

French Court Convicts 11 in Harassment of Teenager for Anti-Islam Rant in Video

Eleven men and women were found guilty in France of online harassment and issuing death threats after responding to a teenager's viral anti-Islamic rant on social media, which previously fueled fierce debates in France over free speech and religion. The case was a major test for French legislation passed in 2018 that broadened what is considered online harassment, and those convicted only posted a single tweet or sent the teenager one single message.


Biden Defends Afghan Pullout in Blunt Tones

President Biden has vigorously defended his decision to end the United States's 20-year war in Afghanistan, insisting that the U.S. has done more than enough to empower the Afghan police and military to secure the future of their own people, and asserting that the United States can no longer afford the human cost or strategic distraction of a conflict that had strayed far from its initial mission. The United States will formally end its military mission in Afghanistan at the end of August.

Biden Steps Up Mission to Rein In Big Business

President Biden has signed a sweeping executive order intended to increase competition within the economy and to limit corporate dominance, factors that have led to higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. The order reflects the administration's growing embrace of warnings by economists that declining competition is hobbling the economy's vitality.

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Turn to Scientists for Help

U.S. intelligence agencies are looking to increase their expertise in range of scientific disciplines as they struggle to answer unexplained questions, such as regarding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, potential U.F.O.s observed by Navy pilots, and a mysterious health ailment affecting spies and diplomats worldwide known as the Havana syndrome. To this end, agencies have created new positions and panels specifically to study these questions, which, according to the White House, reflects "a broader priority on science and technology" within the federal government.

White House Details Plan to Fight Voter Suppression

Facing an onslaught of state-level ballot restrictions and gridlock in Congress over federal voting-rights legislation after Republicans recently blocked the most ambitious voting rights bill, the White House announced a new plan for the Democratic National Committee to invest $25 million in voter outreach and litigation.

Biden Fires Trump Appointee as Head of the Social Security Administration

Biden has fired Andrew Saul, the Trump-appointed head of the Social Security Administration, who refused to resign as requested by the President and has vowed to fight the firing as illegal. While heads of independent executive agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, have historically enjoyed a high degree of insultation from political dismissals, such deference has eroded since the Trump Administration. Democrats have sought the ouster of Saul for months after he wanted to issue regulations meant to reduce access to Social Security disability benefits, including denying benefits to recipients who do not speak English fluently, as well as terminated a telework policy at the agency and alienated federal employee unions over work force safety planning amid the pandemic.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Won't Detain Pregnant or Postpartum Undocumented Immigrants

Under a new policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICA) officers generally will not detain or arrest undocumented people who are pregnant or nursing or who are postpartum (defined as having had a baby within the previous year). The new policy comes after advocacy groups have sued both the Department of Homeland Security, ICE's parent agency, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for their treatment of pregnant immigrants in U.S. government custody detained in 2020. The new policy does not apply to pregnant, postpartum or nursing migrants in the custody of CBP, which typically hold migrants only for a few days before transferring them to ICE custody.

Justice Department Adds Little About Rights of Detainees

The Biden Administration has pulled back from a Trump-era claim that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison have no due process rights under the Constitution, but has stopped short of declaring that noncitizens held there are covered by such legal protections. The question of whether the Constitution's guarantee of due process applies to non-American detainees at Guantanamo has been raised since the Bush administration in 2002 and has never been resolved. In a much-anticipated brief filed under seal before the D.C. Court of Appeals, the Justice Department has taken no position the question of whether Guantanamo detainees have any due process rights following internal debate among the Biden legal team.