Monday, November 27, 2006

Roundtable Discussion: File Sharing and Copyrights

This Tuesday, November 28, at 5 pm, in Taylor A15, the society will be discussing the tension between existing copyright law and the sharing of music and movies over the internet.

Resolved: (1)File sharing encourages artistic creativity, allows new artists more access to consumers, and should be encouraged. (2) Copyright protection provides too much protection for corporations and artists, and should be amended so as to provide more access for consumers and the general public.

File sharing has grown in popularity with the spread of high-speed internet connections. Though legal per se, file sharing is most often used to share copyrighted materials such as music and movies. Recently, some record companies and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have initiated lawsuits against individuals, as their efforts to pursue the file sharing networks have largely proved unsuccessful. Record companies have argued that the advent of file sharing has hurt their profits and, by extension, the artists themselves. However this claim is up for debate. Others argue that file sharing actually enhances revenue for artists, and gives consumers a greater degree of choice. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a non-profit lobbying group which has urged the RIAA to end its lawsuits against ordinary consumers. The EFF argues the suits generate income for the attorneys involved in the litigation, but do not pass any money on to the artists themselves.

To inform our discussion, have a look at the following materials:

It should be a lively discussion. There is a wealth of material out there on this issue, so please post material you may find in the comments section.

Monday, November 13, 2006

High Five for Borat!

Donn Zaretsky's Art Law Blog has an interesting piece on litigation surrounding Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Two of the "participants" in the movie, a couple of inebriated college students from South Carolina, are bringing suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. You can view the complaint here. Incidentally, whoever drafted it needs to work on their spelling. The students, who might I say looked like complete idiots, are alleging that the production crew got them drunk, and then took advantage of their state. They were paid $200 for their participation. They are asserting causes of action for fraud, rescission of contract, false light, appropriation of false likeness, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Borat is a smart cookie, and he made the participants in the film sign a consent form, which Slate has made available here. However, there are a couple of problems with it.

First, the production company is fictional. Though there is a merger clause, there might be a case for fraud, as the participants were lied to, and were apparently given copious amounts of bud lite. Its unlikely that a California court would look very favorably on an argument that the plaintiffs were inebriated, as American courts are generally loathe to nullify contracts on that basis. Second, they were told the documentary would only be shown abroad. In the end, they didn't seem to have been forced to say anything, and its not the kind of thing I personally haven't heard a million times from inebriated fraternity brothers from South Carolina.

Anyway, have a look at the complaint, and let's strike up a discussion regarding whether these two guys have a legal leg to stand on. I do not think they have much of a case. In my view, its not totally frivolous. But the outcome these two poor South Carolinians are hoping for is to get a nice clean settlement. It's no coincidence either that the suit was filed after the movie's opening weekend. The US legal system is much different from the rest of the world in that the loser in an action seldom is required to pay the legal fees of the other party. Incidentally, Borat has earned $111 million worldwide.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Programme November-December 2006

The Legal Research Society is pleased to announce its research programme for the coming months:

Tuesday 14 November, 5pm, Taylor A15

Ole W. Pedersen (co-authored with Anne-Michelle Slater) ‘Devolved Scotland and Environmental Justice’
(moderated by Justin Borg Barthet)

Scotland has been a devolved administration since 1999. In this period environmental justice has received increasing attention from a variety of participants and stakeholders on the Scottish political scene. This paper seeks to explore and analyse the emergence of environmental justice in Scotland today. This is done by, outlining the devolution arrangements of the Scottish Parliament and touching upon the implications this has in the area of environmental law. The paper then goes on to consider the origin of environmental justice in Scotland and assesses the development of environmental justice as a concept at governmental level, by analysing the Scottish Executive’s stance on environmental justice and tracing the concept’s incorporation into legislation. The paper concludes that while a strong desire for developing an environmental justice agenda in Scotland exists this has resulted in environmental justice being interpreted to date both widely and rapidly. There is concern that this may in fact reduce the value of the concept.

Tuesday 28 November, 5pm, Taylor A15
Roundtable Discussion ‘The Internet and Musical Copyright’s Swan Song’
(moderated by Derek Fincham)

Following the success of our first roundtable discussion, we will next discuss the challenges to musical copyright posed by the internet as well as the opportunities that the electronic environment presents to stakeholders in the musical industry.

Tuesday 05 December, 5pm, Taylor A15
Dabney Evans Interpreting the right to health under the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination
(moderated by Jernej Letnar)

The study aims to develop a model for the interpretation of the obligations under Article 5(e)iv of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination utilizing normative texts on the right to health as well as public heath measures such as health disparities. The study begins with an examination of the historical development of the terminology of discrimination in general and racial discrimination in particular culminating the drafting of the Convention on the Elimination of all for of Racial Discrimination. Next the human rights treaty and normative texts relevant to the right to health are examined. The author presents a model for the interpretation of Article 5(e)iv which asserts that the familial texts of the ICESCR and CESCR General Comment 14 on the right to health should be utilized to interpret States obligations under CERD. The author suggests that health disparities between racial groups may serve as a measure of racial discrimination. Finally, the author attempts to apply the model by examining health disparities across racial groups in several country settings. The model may be a useful tool for States and international treaty bodies as they attempt to address racial discrimination and evaluate the fulfilment of State obligations under Article 5(e)iv of CERD.

Friday 08 December, 12pm, Venue TBA
Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston ‘European Citizenship and the Fundamental Freedoms: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?’

Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston will present a paper as part of the Law School’s Research Seminar Programme. The Legal Research Society is proud to have collaborated with the Law School to bring one of Britain’s foremost European lawyers to Aberdeen. Further information about the Advocate General can be viewed at the website of the European Court of Justice.