By Dan Brillman
Qatari writer Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was given a
life sentence this week for writing "Tunisian Jasmine," a poem
inspired by the Arab Spring uprising. The Gulf state says the
verse insulted the emir and incited the "overthrow of the ruling
system," a charge that could have resulted in the death penalty.
The poem -- which in part reads, "we are all Tunisia in the
face of the repressive elite" -- was recited by al-Ajami on an
Internet video and he was jailed in November 2011, according to the Associated Press. His lawyer called the trial "secret,"
saying he was not allowed to defend his client openly.
Until now Qatar has been seen as a relative beacon of
progress in the region and has granted women the right to vote
ahead of many of its neighbors. The country also is home to the
news station Al-Jazeera and it provided massive media support to
the rebellions in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt last year. Its
government called for the resignation of Yemen's president, and
after the Syrian uprising it closed its embassy in Damascus
before any other Gulf nation.
By Caitlin Tremblay
A New York jury this week gave new meaning to the phrase
"put your money where your mouth is."
When rapper and producer Ryan Leslie had his laptop stolen
in Germany, he offered a reward to whomever returned it to him
because it contained a hard drive full of unreleased music. At
first Leslie offered $20,000 but then upped the reward to $1
million, announcing the change in a YouTube video.
Auto-repair-show owner Armin Augstein found and returned the
laptop to Leslie, who refused to pay the reward. Augstein sued
in Manhattan federal court and even flew to New York from
Germany to testify. Leslie and his lawyers claimed that Augstein
may have had something to do with the theft in the first place.
A unanimous jury found for Augstein, meaning Leslie now has
to pay up, according to the New York Post (hat tip: Gawker).
Leslie says he isn't ruling out an appeal but seemed at least
accepting of the verdict. He tweeted: "'Ain't no way to get
around ups & downs.' Jury of my peers rules for the plaintiff."
By Erin Geiger Smith
The legal world anxiously awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision on whether or not it will hear the plethora of gay
marriage cases hoping to make its argument list this term.
Either way, one can expect those cases to play a prominent role
in the curriculum of a new legal masters degree program in
The University of California at Los Angeles School of Law
will offer an LL.M. in Law and Sexuality, which administrators
say is the first of its kind in the country. The National Law Journal reports that the program will be open to U.S.- and
foreign-trained lawyers and will work in conjunction with the
school's Williams Institute.
The focus of the program is to prepare students to practice
in areas of the law involving gender identify and sexual
Art of the deal
By Erin Geiger Smith
New York's Museum of Modern Art announced earlier this week
that it had beat out the city's Metropolitan Museum of Art to become the permanent home of The Canyon, a 20th-century work by
the artist Robert Rauschenberg. The Canyon is made from a bunch
of different materials, including photographs, cardboard, paint
and a stuffed bald eagle whose inclusion created a legal
complication that led to the donation to the MoMa.
Those legal issues have been closely followed by Art Law Report, authored by attorneys from Sullivan & Worcester. The
inclusion of the bald eagle triggered criminal statutes which
prohibited any sale or transfer of the national bird. That
caused a problem for the owners of the painting, the children of
powerful New York art dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who inherited The
Canyon upon Sonnabend's death in 2007. The IRS valued the
artwork at $65 million, which meant Sonnabend's children would
owe $29 million in taxes and $17 million in penalties on
something they could never sell, writes ARL.
The heirs agreed to donate the painting to MoMa in exchange
for an agreement with the IRS not to claim any charitable
deduction associated with donating the painting. That's a
victory for the Sonnabend children, ARL tells us, since they now
won't have to pay taxes on the painting.
The heirs may not be out of the woods, however. ARL says
it's not yet clear (or at least hasn't been made public) why the
donation wouldn't violate criminal statutes prohibiting a
transfer. But, according to Art Law Report, there's a good
chance that statutory language that allows a transfer of the
protected bird when "it is compatible with the preservation of
the bald eagle" is the Sonnabend children's -- and MoMa's --
ticket out of trouble.
By Caitlin Tremblay
It may have seemed like a good idea to James Lane and Smash
Pictures to make a XXX adaptation of the best-selling romance
novel "Fifty Shades of Grey," but now they're being taken to
court over the flick.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fifty Shades Ltd,
which owns the rights to the book, and Universal City Studios,
which bought the movie rights, are suing the makers of "Fifty
Shades of Grey: a XXX Adaptation," claiming the film usurps
copyright and trademark and causes confusion of the source of
The complaint points to a quote Smash Pictures gave to LA
Weekly last summer, which said the porn adaptation would "stay
very true to the book," lifting exact dialogue, characters and
style from the original work.
TMZ reports that the suit calls for damages and an
injunction blocking any further releases of the film.
Summary Judgments for November 29
Summary Judgments for November 28
Summary Judgments for November 27
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