Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Every year, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School catalogs the copyrighted movies, books, and songs which would be public domain had Congress not retroactively prolonged their copyright in 1976. This year’s crop is a good one. On January 1, 2013, Old Yeller, Minority Report, and even a James Bond book would all be free for common use; the public, having given the authors a monopoly on their works for decades, has presumably earned the right to share in these cultural landmarks by now.

But Congress, in its infinite wisdom, prolonged copyright in 1976. So now, the 1956 book Old Yeller will not be public domain until 2052. I’m sure Fred Gipson, who died in 1973, would have never written his book unless he would have a monopoly on it through 2052. I mean, he did technically write it anyway. And he died before Congress decided to incentivize him further, but I’m sure it was retroactively really great motivation. Or something.

Likewise, Ian Fleming (James Bond) died in 1964 and Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) died in 1982, but their works are still under copyright for another 40 years.

Which is great, because we definitely wouldn’t want to cheat those guys out of profiting off their works. I mean, how is Ian Fleming going to feed his family if there’s only been like five different editions of the book itself, a comic book, and a movie starring Sean Connery? And if he died nearly 50 years ago? If he doesn’t have, say, another 40 years or so to profit off his work, then he might as well have become a chimney sweep.

Published on under Legal Theory

A guy out in California wants to make a point about corporate personhood, so he put a certificate of incorporation (the closest thing to a physical presence a corporation has) in the passenger seat of his car, and drove in the carpool lane until the cops pulled him over. He says:

“If it gets there to the Supreme Court, it would be great. Large-scale corporations, they don’t go to jail for the crimes that they have committed,” the 56-year-old Marin County man said. “Personhood is one of the many absurdities we’ve given these corporations that we let run wild. It’s that kind of mind-fuck we’re asking to actually address.”

Supreme Court precedent likening a corporation to a person dates back more than a century. So for years, Frieman has been driving without a breathing passenger in the carpool lane, in hopes of being pulled over and cited. Moreover, he notes, the state Vehicle Code defines a person as “natural persons and corporations.”

Wait, for years? What is the highway patrol doing, anyway?

Also, this is doomed to fail for the same reason that driving with your wife’s birth certificate in the passenger seat isn’t the same thing as actually driving with your wife in the passenger seat. One is carpooling, the other is driving with a piece of paper.

Published on under The News

How can you tell if one of your employees has committed fraud, and is currently considering covering up their misdeeds? According to a new study published by accounting firm Ernst & Young, apparently you can start by searching for the phrase “cover up.” No, really. Here are the top 15 phrases:

  1. Cover up
  2. Write off
  3. Illegal
  4. Failed investment
  5. Nobody will find out
  6. Grey area
  7. They owe it to me
  8. Do not volunteer information
  9. Not ethical
  10. Off the books
  11. Backdate
  12. No inspection
  13. Pull earnings forward
  14. Special fees
  15. Friendly payments

I thought this was fake until I saw Ernst & Young’s name pop up eleven times on Wikipedia’s article about accounting scandals. They must be experts at this kind of thing. Via Quartz.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

In 1800, it took a month and a half to get to Chicago from New York City. My three hour bus ride back home for Christmas would have taken a full week. (Or more, depending on the snow.)

The Mother Nature Network posted a fun series of maps which show how our country’s become smaller as transportation’s become faster. In one lifetime, from 1800 to 1857, travel from NYC to Chicago went from six weeks to two days. By 1857, those six weeks got you all the way out to Seattle.

Technology is kickin’ rad.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

In the wake of America’s most recent mass murder, one New York newspaper took it upon itself to create an online map of all the gun permits issued in Westchester and Rockland counties. Silliness ensued.

Firstly, some gun owners became rather upset, as they felt their privacy was being violated. I’m not quite sure why. The New York State Penal Code §400.01, Paragraph 5 specifically states

The name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted shall be a public record.

So are they upset because the paper published public information, or because the information is public in the first place? If it’s the latter, why? If you don’t want your name and address to be a public record, get a shotgun or a rifle. New York State doesn’t require permits for those. Nobody forced you to get a pistol. (Or any gun.) Nobody forced me to become a lawyer, but you can look me up on the New York State Bar Association’s public lawyer directory. I could have become a professional chef, and you could have bought a shotgun. (Or no gun.)

Sidebar: I have to commend The Journal News for the way they carried out this map. Users can’t search for names or addresses or filter any of the entries. Users can’t interact at all with the database which the map implements. The only way to see all 44,000 names and addresses is to click all 44,000 dots. For the most part, gun owners are pretty well hidden within the noise. The obvious counterpoint is that the only folks who you don’t want to know you have a gun are your neighbors, who probably zoomed into your neighborhood and clicked on your house while I was typing this sentence.

why so serious

Secondly, why do you care if other folks know you have a gun? Isn’t the whole idea of owning a handgun self defense? If criminals can look up your house and find out that you have a permit for a handgun, are they not going to go somewhere else? Do you think burglars are motivated by the possibility of a shootout, or by the possibility of grabbing your laptop and running off into the night without being shot at? Gun owners are thusly saved the expense of buying ammunition and engaging in running/costly firefights with burglars. Bullets don’t grow on trees.

Thirdly, the State Senator representing Putnam County (the next county for which the paper plans to map gun permits) has referred to this map as casting a scarlet letter on gun owners.

Now, the actual scarlet letter was for adultery, which is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment, and also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Gun ownership is not really discussed in the Bible, and lots of people own lots of deadly machines. According to George Mason University, 133 Americans were killed by lawn mowers in 2006, but nobody’s ashamed to own a damned lawn mower. We’re not talking about publishing the names and addresses of folks with a permit to own embarrassing pornography.

So apparently, this whole kerfuffle has gotten so contentious that The Journal News has hired armed guards to protect its offices. Who’d have thought annoying 44,000 gun owners could make one fearful of violent reprisal?

Published on under The News

Do you, Dear Reader, recall when I wrote at great length about the crimes committed by Ferris Beuller in the classic movie about his Day Off? That kind of geekery is as apt for the law as it is for medicine. Now if only there were a doctor of some sort willing to learn about medicine and then use his or her education for our collective entertainment rather than the betterment of our fellow man.

Oh hey that happened yay – Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College analyzes Home Alone and the various bodily harms therein:

The set-up: Thwarted by the BB gun at the back door, Marv runs around to the basement stairwell — which Kevin has deliberately iced. Once he has stumbled his way down into the dark basement, Marv grabs for what he thinks is the light bulb cord. It’s actually a rope attached to a steam iron that is propped up on the laundry chute door. The heavy iron comes plummeting down and smacks Marv in the face.

The doctor’s diagnosis: “Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.”

Ha! Ha! “Serious disfigurement!” Oh, Kevin. You lovable scoundrel.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant