Victims at risk
By Peter Rudegeair
Californians favor Proposition 35 -- a measure that
increases prison sentences and fines for sex traffickers -- more
than any other proposition on the ballot Nov. 6. But leading
activists and academics in the field argue that the measure
could mean that trafficking victims would have a harder time
winning damages in civil court, the Los Angeles Times reports.
After watching a TV documentary series three years ago on
the horrors of sex trafficking in the United States, financial
analyst Daphne Phung launched a grassroots movement that
eventually won the backing of California politicians and more
than $2 million in funding from former Facebook privacy chief
Chris Kelly. Proposition 35 -- known as the "Californians
Against Sexual Exploitation Act" -- would allow judges to impose
life sentences on those convicted of sex trafficking with a
minor, up from the maximum eight-year sentence that's on the
books now. The measure would also up the cap on fines for
trafficking, to $1.5 million from $100,000.
But such harsh penalties could end up shortchanging victims
of sex trafficking, critics say. Steep criminal fines could make
it less likely for victims to secure compensation in civil
court, according to John Vanek, a former official at the San
Jose Police Department who works as a consultant on trafficking
issues. What's more, he said, Proposition 35 designates that the
fines collected under the law would flow to law enforcement and
victim service organizations instead of the victims directly.
Defining a download
By Dan Brillman
A long-standing battle between Eminem's former producers and
Universal Music Group over the classification of downloaded
music has been settled prior to a damages trial, according to The New York Times.
In 2007, F.B.T. Productions, which initially signed the
megastar, sued Universal over whether songs downloaded from
iTunes and similar sources constituted a sale or a license. A
federal court ruled in favor of Universal in 2009 but was
overturned by the 9th Circuit in 2010.
Artists typically get half the royalty proceeds from a
license (when a song is used in an ad, for example) and anywhere
from 10 percent to 20 percent from a traditional, non-downloaded
sale. Depending on the artist's popularity, the difference in
the terminology could be tens of millions of dollars.
Older artists like Kenny Rogers, James Taylor and Weird Al
Yankovic have filed similar suits seeking to clarify the
difference between a sale and a license, and could benefit
tremendously through retroactive payments. Universal last year
downplayed the idea that the deal could be a harbinger for
future lawsuits. The music company told the Times in a March
2011 statement that "the ruling has no bearing on any other
recording agreement and does not create any legal precedent."
Google found liable
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A jury in Australia has found that Google defamed a local
man by linking his name to Melbourne gang crime in search
results, the BBC reports.
In 2004, Milorad "Michael" Trkulja was shot by a man in a
ski mask, according to The Independent. As a result of the
attack, Trkulja said online searches in Google Images showed his
name alongside pictures of other people involved in murders and
gang crimes. The caption "Melbourne Crime" appeared beneath
several of the photos, including one of Trkulja, which he said
suggested to readers that he was a criminal.
Trkulja said he complained to Google about the results in
2009 but that the company refused to take down the images.
Google's lawyers said the search engine merely indexed Web
pages, so the images appeared due to "innocent dissemination."
But a six-person jury in Victoria Supreme Court found Google
liable, as it did not take any steps to remove the images from
its searches even after Trkulja had contacted the company.
Supreme Court Justice David Beach is expected to deliver a
ruling on damages next week, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. In March 2012, Trkulja was successful in a similar
action against Yahoo, where he won A$250,000 ($233,000).
Questionable short sales
By Dan Brillman
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is under
investigation by the FBI for allegedly questionable real estate
deals involving multiple properties, according to The Detroit Free Press. The probe follows a report last spring that Hathaway
and her attorney husband transferred two properties to her
stepchildren in order to get the bank to allow a short sale on a
third home -- in a short sale, a home sells for less than the
borrower owes on the mortgage and typically is permitted in the
case of hardship, such as the loss of a job or a divorce. The
two properties in question, including a $1.5 million lakefront
house, allegedly were transferred back to Hathaway and her
husband after the short sale was completed.
A former Detroit-based FBI officer referred to the move in
the Free Press as a "shell game" and said it was a common
scheme. Word of the investigation comes during a
hyper-competitive judicial election in the state. Hathaway is
not up for re-election, but that hasn't stopped Republicans from
trying to pin the scandal to Democratic nominees.
Summary Judgments for October 31
Summary Judgments for October 30
Summary Judgments for October 29
Follow us on Twitter @ReutersLegal | Like us on Facebook