Old gray lady
By Erin Geiger Smith
For those of you not up on your Twitterese, there is a
parody Twitter account called @nytonit that basically exists to
make fun of trend stories in The New York Times. This morning
the account was suspended after lawyers at the paper complained
to Twitter that the On It avatar, whose design is a letter t in
an Old English-style font that looks like the t in the Times,
violated the NYT's copyright. Shortly afterwards, the account
Copyright battles over parodies can irk members of the
public, who sometimes think lawyers can't take a joke. Voicing
the public's collective harrumphing today is frequent media
critic Jeff Jarvis in The Guardian. "Lawyers. God save Twitter
and the rest of us from these literal-minded twits, the kind who
plaster the world with caution signs so they can say 'we told
you so' when we fall and sue; the kind who write 40-page terms
of service not to be read but only to cover their corporate
asses; and the humorless kind who send cease-and-desist letters
to the creators of parodies, crying trademark violation."
Still, the whole thing lasted only a few hours, after which
a spokeswoman from the Times tweeted: "@NYTOnIt has been
restored without our logo and clearly labeled a parody, which is
all we asked."
Jarvis, meanwhile, raises some obvious questions: Should the
Times be stifling "speech that is clearly fair comment"? Should
Twitter have so quickly shut down a parody?
Debate away, SJ readers. And while you're at it, consider
entering @NYTOnIt's avatar contest to help the parody account
come up with something better than the current image of the
generic Twitter empty egg.
Fly by the book
By Dan Brillman
If you ever find that you're the flight attendant on a plane
carrying Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, sharpen your
tenses. Apparently the justice doesn't care for subjunctive
confusion, reports The Wall Street Journal Law Blog. Speaking at
the Federalist Society's convention Saturday, Scalia complained
about the way the airlines communicate with the public. He
especially didn't like the on-board announcement of one flight
attendant, who said it was "required that your luggage is under
the seat in front of you." Proper English, the judge said, would
mandate your valise "be" under the seat. So there.
But mile-high grammar was not the only thing on Scalia's
mind at the conservative group's annual fete. He told a rapt
audience that other than his new tome "Reading Law: The
Interpretation of Legal Texts," every American should have two
books in their stocking this holiday season: The "Federalist
Papers," the articles by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and
John Jay urging the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and
"Democracy in America," by Alexis de Tocqueville, which examines
the American system of democracy.
A work in progress
By Terry Baynes
The West Memphis Three, the three men who spent almost two
decades in prison for the murders of three boys in Arkansas,
were released last year after a long-running campaign to prove
their innocence. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie
Misskelley gained their freedom in part because of new DNA
evidence, even though Arkansas officials say the 1993 case is
technically closed. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were released
on an "Alford plea," an unusual legal maneuver that allows
defendants to plead guilty while maintaining their innocence.
Yet just being free is not enough for the three, who are now
working to clear their names and convince Arkansas State
Prosecutor Scott Ellington to reopen the case. It's a two-stage
process, said Echols's lawyer, Stephen Braga, at a screening on
Saturday of "West of Memphis," a new documentary about the trio.
First, the state would need new evidence pointing at another
suspect who could have committed the murders, which the defense
team is working to gather. Then the prosecutor would have to
agree to withdraw the Alford pleas and bring a new case, Braga
An Arkansas judge last month ruled that the state prosecutor
had an "obligation" to determine whether or not there was a
"miscarriage of justice" in the conviction of Echols, Baldwin
and Misskelley. And the prosecutor's office has said it is
investigating new evidence presented by Echols's defense team,
which includes allegations pointing to a family member of one of
"West of Memphis," which was shown at New York Law School,
was made to keep pressure on the state to not let the case rest.
The producers, who include "Lord of the Rings" director Peter
Jackson, describe the film as a "work in progress" that they
will update with any new developments. They have offered free
screenings in Arkansas and Tennessee, near where the murders
were committed, in hopes of eliciting tips from the public.
There is a $200,000 reward for any information that leads to an
arrest and conviction.
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
Police in Aurora, Colorado, who handcuffed several motorists
and held them at gunpoint while apprehending a suspect were
within their rights, a Federal Court has ruled, reports The NewYork Times.
On June 2, Christian Paetsch, a former music teacher,
allegedly robbed a Wells Fargo bank in Aurora and escaped in an
SUV. The police tracked Paetsch to a nearby intersection with a
GPS device buried in the $26,000 that Paetsch had allegedly
stolen. With little evidence of what he looked like, the police
held all 20 cars at the intersection and handcuffed several
passengers before finally discovering the money and two loaded
firearms in Paetsch's vehicle.
Paetsch's lawyer argued that the evidence obtained from the
car was inadmissible in court, as the roadblock infringed the
Fourth Amendment. In a blog post shortly after the incident,
Eugene Volokh predicted that the police might be facing 19
lawsuits, as well as one "pretty solid suppression-of-evidence
motion." Handcuffing someone generally requires probable cause,
Volokh wrote, and in the context of a brief investigative stop
like the one in Aurora, authorities need "particularized
suspicion" that the person is dangerous to the investigators.
Judge William Martinez of Federal District Court in Denver,
however, agreed with the federal prosecutors and ruled that the
evidence was admissible and that the detention of the motorists
was justified, given that a dangerous criminal was on the loose,
according to the Times. Paetsch's lawyer says he'll appeal the
ruling, while some of the handcuffed motorists are looking for
settlements with the city.
By Erin Geiger Smith
A videogame about lawyers that's evidently popular in Japan
is being turned into a feature-length film by the game's
director, according to the self-styled "Home of Geek Culture,"
CSION.org. The game, "Ace Attorney," and its superlawyer
character, Phoenix Wright, looks pretty awesome to Summary
Judgments, as does the image that CSION has on its site of
Phoenix thrusting a document in front of the court. According
to CSION, "Ace Attorney" has been around since 2001, when it was
released for GameBoy advance. In its country of origin it is
known as "Gyakuten Saiban," or turnabout trial.
So what's the plot of "Ace Attorney"? Our research (aka a
Google search) led us to gamer site Giant Bomb, which describes
it thusly: Ace Attorney follows a young lawyer as he struggles
to find his footing and live up to the legacy of his mentor.
Along the way, he encounters a cast of eccentric characters and
Move over, "Tetris" and "Words with Friends."
Tit for tat
By Caitlin Tremblay
Videogame publisher THQ is being sued by a tattoo artist
over a tattoo shown in new game based on the mixed martial arts
competition Ultimate Fighting Championship, according to Bit
"UFC Undisputed 3," released earlier this year, features a
character based on Carlos Condit, a real-life mixed martial arts
champ who happens to have a large tattoo on the side of his
torso. The Condit caricature in the game has the same tattoo,
much to the chagrin of tat artist Chris Escobedo, who runs Elite
Tattoo in Arizona. Escobedo says he inked the art on the
real-life Condit and he is the owner of the copyright. He's
suing THQ for copyright infringement and is seeking damages.
Most recently tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill, who did Mike
Tyson's face tattoo, sued Warner Bros for recreating the tattoo
on one of the characters in the movie "The Hangover." The case
was settled out of court.
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