Mississippi Ratifies the 13th Amendment – Thanks ‘Lincoln’

To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether to post this directly on the Legal Bytes blog as a news item or list it under Useless But Compelling Facts. But the news won out.

So now it is official and perhaps an illustration of how life can imitate art – in this case the motion picture “Lincoln”, directed by Steven Spielberg. You can now add to the list of things for which the film, a brilliant characterization of Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to formally abolish involuntary servitude for all time, can take credit: the correction of an oversight for 18 years and perhaps the confirmation of an act that was 130 years in the making in the state of Mississippi.

As our story begins, Dr. Ranjan Batra, an associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, decided to do some fact-checking after viewing the movie. Curiously, it seems, he discovered that Mississippi had not legally effected the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States – the Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States.

Now in case you are wondering how this could be, a little legal procedural history is in order. In December 1865, three-fourths of the U.S. states ratified the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution – a number sufficient to make the Amendment officially part of the Constitution. At the time, a number of states did oppose the Amendment – Mississippi among them. In the ensuing years after the Civil War ended, all of the remaining states eventually did vote to ratify the Amendment. Indeed, the Mississippi legislature voted to ratify the Amendment in 1995! But in order to make it official, the state was required to notify the U.S. Archivist of the passage of the resolution – and through some oversight, Mississippi never did so.

Well, Dr. Batra spoke to a colleague, Ken Sullivan, who in turn contacted Delbert Hosemann, the Mississippi Secretary of State. Secretary of State Hosemann, recognizing the oversight, sent a copy of the 1995 Mississippi resolution to the Office of the Federal Register January 30, 2013. According to published reports, on February 7, 2013, just more than a month ago, the Federal Register wrote to the state of Mississippi confirming that “with this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Now isn’t that better than an Academy Award?

U.S. Court Protects Middle Earth. Hobbits, Not Inmates, Take Over Asylum.

A United States District Court for the Central District of California has granted plaintiffs Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and Saul Zaentz – the motion picture studios and producer behind the forthcoming film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" – a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum (also known as The Asylum of Burbank), blocking the release of "Age of the Hobbits." The plaintiffs previously filed suit against Global Asylum (Warner Brothers Entertainment, et al. v. The Global Asylum, Inc.; CV 12 – 9547 PSG (CWx)), seeking an injunction against infringement and damages for trademark dilution, false designation of origin, copyright infringement, false advertising, unfair competition and violations of California’s Business and Professions Code. The Peter Jackson film, a motion picture adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic book slated to open tomorrow, December 14, continues the successful "middle earth" franchise created by the success of The Lord of the Rings film series. The motion picture epic trilogy reportedly has gleaned more than $3 billion to date.

Asylum has a history of creating relatively low-budget films with parodied titles of Hollywood blockbusters (e.g., "Snakes On A Train," "Transmorphers: Fall of Man," "American Warships"). The studios pointed out these alleged parodies are always timed to coincide with release of each major motion picture counterpart and use "confusingly similar titles."

In granting the restraining order, Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez said the plaintiffs satisfied the legal standard requiring a plaintiff to demonstrate it has a valid copyright infringement claim, that there would be imminent danger to the plaintiff if the order is not granted, that the plaintiff would suffer more and that the order would advance the public interest. The judge’s decision specifically notes that: "The evidence of the advertising and promotion for ‘Age of Hobbits,’ as well as the media coverage the film has received, provides support for Plaintiffs’ contention that Asylum intended to deceive consumers by associating its movie with Plaintiffs’ works." You can read the Order in its entirety right here, Order Granting Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application for a Temporary Restraining Order.

As always, if you need help or more information, contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum (joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com), or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

Protection of Minors Doesn’t Trample Free Speech in Online Games

In 2005, California enacted a ban on the sale or rental of violent video games (defined as a game that depicts killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being) to minors. The stimulus for the law was the stated belief that violent videogames are likely to make minors become more aggressive and violent. The penalty for retailers who violate the ban? As much as $1,000 per violation.

As you might imagine, the legal challenge started almost immediately – from publishers, distributors and sellers; and today, in a 7–2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling by an appeals court that held the California law unconstitutional. I believe (although I didn’t go back and check yet) that California now becomes the seventh state to have such a law struck down. Justice Scalia, in summarizing the decision, is reported to have said, “Our cases hold that minors are entitled to a significant degree of First Amendment protection. Government has no free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which they may be exposed"; and in his written opinion for the majority noted, "Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply."

We will try to bring you more details once we analyze the 18-page opinion handed down today, but if you have questions, feel free to call me, Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work.

Looking Ahead to 2011: If Brevity Be the Soul of Wit

A line recited by Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1602) comes to mind today. It’s the phrase "since brevity is the soul of wit . . . I will be brief." FYI, Polonius is a windbag in the play. There is also another phrase, often wrongfully attributed to Franz Kafka, that goes something like "lawyers are the only creatures that can write 1000 pages and call it a brief."

Well, here we are at the end of 2010. Those of you who have been reading faithfully know that each year, I create a Legal Bytes piece with no hypertext links to distract you; no citations; no dazzling factoids; and no breaking news stories. This time, I’ve decided to do something different. I am going to be brief. Instead of philosophy or predictions, I’m going to give you 10 words I believe may stimulate YOUR thinking about 2011. That’s it. I trust you. Most of you are sharper than I anyway.

You don’t have to buckle up or fasten your seat belts. Pull up a chair, open your BlackBerry, Kindle, Droid, iPhone, PC, Laptop, Netbook, Web-TV, PDA, Tablet or whatever your favorite Legal Bytes’ reading device might be; grab an espresso, a glass of tea (or whatever your liquid of choice might be); sit back and enjoy. Here goes:

  1. Mobile
  2. Behavior
  3. Privacy
  4. Social
  5. Cloud
  6. Neutrality
  7. Monetize
  8. Consolidate
  9. Engagement
  10. Global

That’s it. Oh, there is another word – profile – but that’s the subject of my first Legal Bytes blog for 2011. You will just have to come back for it!

 

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2011!

Pardon Me, Your Name is Showing (Perception or Reality?)

Before we moved online to a blog format, from 1996 through the end of 2008, Legal Bytes was published as a one-page, monthly newsletter. But even then we had Useless But Compelling Facts, a feature our readers tell us they like! That said, the threads of continuity continue to haunt us. Witness the following:

In March 2004, the Useless But Compelling Fact question asked how “The Doors” got its name. The answer was that Jim Morrison decided to call his band The Doors after reading The Doors of Perception (1954), a novel written by Aldous Huxley about his use of hallucinogens. Huxley was made famous by his 1932 novel, Brave New World.

Although Legal Bytes was not yet a blog back in 2008, we have digitized and uploaded Legal Bytes material from as far back as 2004! Why is this relevant? Because in 2008, Legal Bytes published a short article entitled "The Doors of Perception Can Sometimes Lead to Harsh Reality," about a false advertising case involving the use of Jim Morrison’s name, likeness or other distinctive characteristics, in advertising by a concert band that included two former members of the original The Doors. Now it seems that Jim Morrison’s fans, followers, administrative agencies and regulators continue to seem intent on protecting and restoring Mr. Morrison’s good name.

There is a joke that goes something like, “if you remember the 1960s, you probably weren’t there.” For those of you who do recall, you will remember Mr. Morrison was convicted of profanity and indecent exposure stemming from allegations he exposed himself during a concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami in 1969. At the time of his trial, other band members insisted he never actually exposed himself, but fans offered conflicting versions of what happened and he was ultimately convicted. That conviction was being appealed by Mr. Morrison at the time of his death in Paris in 1971.

Well a few days ago—more than 40 years from his conviction and at the request of outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist—the Clemency Board in Florida unanimously voted to pardon Mr. Morrison (posthumously) for his conviction. Rest in peace.

North Carolina Creates Tax Incentive for Digital Media Companies

Interactive digital media developers that are currently located in North Carolina—as well as those contemplating doing business in North Carolina—should evaluate their business activities to take full advantage of the tax benefits of a new North Carolina tax credit for companies developing interactive digital media, including video game companies and developers of online virtual worlds and interactive websites that allow consumers to create and manipulate certain digital goods (i.e., avatars in role-playing scenarios). In particular, digital media developers should consider joint ventures with educational institutions that will allow them to maximize the benefits provided by the North Carolina credit. For more information on North Carolina’s new tax credit for digital media developers, please read our full client alert, “North Carolina Creates New Tax Incentive Opportunity for Digital Media Companies,” written by Rimon attorneys Donald M. Griswold, Michael A. Jacobs, John P. Feldman and Kelley C. Miller.

Hats Off to CAP: New Advertising Codes in the UK Launched

This post was written by Christopher Hackford.

After an extensive year-long review, on March 16, 2010, the Committee of Advertising Practice in the United Kingdom announced the launch of new Advertising Codes for both broadcast and non-broadcast media, covering television standards, television scheduling, radio and text services.

Much remains nearly the same, but there are some notable new rules, including rules intended to offer greater protection for children, rules to prevent exaggerated environmental claims, and a new section dedicated to lotteries and promotions.

That said, here are two examples of some rules that have actually been relaxed. One: charities are now allowed to make comparisons with each other (competitive advertising fighting for your British Pound Sterling). Two: advertisers in the UK are now permitted to advertise condoms on television before 10:00 pm on television. Some of this may reflect the increasing contention among advertisers for share of wallet from consumers.

The new Codes did not deal with some contentious areas of British advertising, but to find out more, you will either have to plod through the Advertising Code yourself, or you could read the Rimon Advertising Technology & Media Alert, New Advertising Codes Launched, written by our ATM colleagues in the UK.

So, if you need help understanding the new Advertising Codes, or you want to hear from the authors of the alert and experts in this area, feel free to contact Marina Palomba, Christopher Hackford or Huw Morris directly. Of course, you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Outsourcing Providers Pitching Business? Be Careful What You Wish For.

As far back as May 2005, Legal Bytes reported that Europe was becoming a major outsourcing hub for a variety of reasons (Outsourcing Statistics). Well just this week, the law started catching up.

In what is certainly a major ruling and quite possibly the beginning of emboldened plaintiff-customers seeking greater accountability from outsourcing providers, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) has lost a case initiated by British Sky Broadcasting Plc (BSkyB) back in 2004, alleging that EDS, one of the leading outsourcing providers in the world, had misled BSkyB about its capabilities and expertise. For those of you who are legal research hounds, the case is cited as HT-06-311, British Sky Broadcasting v. Electronic Data Systems, although I don’t believe it has been fully published yet. The dispute arose over a services contract that was entered into by EDS and BSkyB in 2000, well before EDS was purchased in 2008 by its current owner, Hewlett-Packard (HP), for slightly more than US$13 billion.

To give you the background, BSkyB selected EDS to develop a new customer relationship management (CRM) system for its call centers in Scotland. After almost two years and failure by EDS to deliver, by March 2002, BSkyB ended the contract and took over the project itself – the frustration and events ultimately leading to the legal proceedings filed in 2004 that alleged EDS lied about its ability to undertake and complete the project. On the other side of the case, in its own court documents, EDS alleged that BSkyB simply “did not know what it wanted,” and wanted the lowest cost possible to accomplish “it.” To highlight the disconnect further, the contract with EDS was for £48 million, but according to court documents filed in the case, with all of the delays, budget over-runs, EDS’ failure to deliver, and BSkyB taking over and completing the project itself, costs had mounted to £265 million.

Justice Ramsey, writing for the British High Court, ruled that EDS misled BSkyB in making false and fraudulent misrepresentations in pitching and marketing its capabilities to BSkyB, giving rise to a claim for damages. Further, the court concluded, to the extent these representations were fraudulent, the limitation of liability clause in the contract that would have otherwise limited EDS’ liability for damages should be set aside and does not apply. While damages have not yet been fixed, in theory, if one includes the differential in costs, lost profits and other damages that are now fair game, EDS could be liable to BSkyB for well in excess of £200 million – that’s more than US$315 million at current exchange rates.

This is a major decision not only in the UK, but also for outsourcing deals around the globe, and if the beginning of a precedential trend, it could signal a radical shift in the way outsourcing deals are bid, negotiated and consummated. There is no question that anyone involved in outsourcing knows that the customer does not always have its specifications and detailed requirements buttoned up when discussions begin. Indeed, outsourcing often presents a singularity at which time enhancements, efficiencies and improvements that might have been difficult or impossible internally, can be effected by moving the operations to a third-party provider. The provider, eager to win a lucrative bid, may over-promise or over-represent its experience and capabilities. Smart negotiators know that forcing both sides to diligently and meticulously work through the “devil in the detail,” and making sure expectations, resources and capabilities are clearly set out and unambiguous, is the single most important contribution to be made in avoiding disputes, potential litigation and problems as the work and services unfold. Those of you in marketing know all too well that there is often a fine line between an actual claim and puffery. The former represents actionable representations, the latter . . . well, “you’ve tried the rest, now try the best” on every pizza box in the world.

Are you contemplating a major outsourcing initiative? Are you considering any outsourcing project, even a small one, involving critical operations – customer services, supply chain management, operations, transaction processing? Outsourcing is complicated. Need help? We wrote the book. No really, you can see for yourself: Outsourcing Agreements Line by Line: A Detailed Look at Outsourcing Agreements & How to Change Them to Fit Your Needs, written by none other than yours truly, Joseph I. Rosenbaum. Whether you check out the book or not, if you do need help, our Advertising Technology & Media law team here at Rimon has the help you need to make sure that, even if you are right, you can avoid the costly consequences and angst inherent in any legal proceedings between customers and providers. How can we help you? Call me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

UK Sports Minister Proposes Changes to Gambling Legislation

This post was also written by Laura Hicks.

Last week, Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister for Sport in the United Kingdom, announced proposals to make significant changes to the existing legislative framework under which remote gambling is regulated. Following a review of the system of online gambling regulation in Great Britain by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, a consultation is being launched with a view to introducing laws requiring all online operators to apply for a license from the Gambling Commission in order to either advertise or provide gambling services to British consumers. According to the Minister for Sport, the proposed changes were “necessary to ensure the protections in the Gambling Act – to keep gambling crime free, to ensure gambling is fair and open, and to ensure that children and vulnerable people are protected from harm – continue to be afforded to British consumers.”

Under the proposals, a license will be required even if the gambling services are offered to British consumers using remote gambling equipment from outside Great Britain. Currently, only operators based and licensed in the UK are allowed to advertise in the UK, unless the country in which they are based is either a member state of the EEA or on the government’s “whitelist.” More information on the “whitelist” is available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website, but to give you some insight, territories currently on the list are Antigua and Barbuda, Tasmania, the States of Alderney and the Isle of Man. “Whitelisting” is the process used by the UK Ministry to assess the regulatory framework for gambling in any jurisdictions outside the EEA that apply for permission to advertise their services within the UK.

As well as being obliged to share information about suspicious betting patterns with the UK’s sports governing bodies and the Gambling Commission, foreign operators would also have to comply with British license requirements concerning the protection of children and vulnerable people, and contribute to the research, education and treatment of problem gambling in the UK.

This appears to be a move by the UK government to close a loophole in the laws that protect online gamblers in the UK, and that more closely mirror the more protectionist regime in the United States. If this extension of the licensing regime is introduced into legislation, it will be interesting to see how the regulator intends to enforce the license scheme against gambling companies with no UK presence. In the United States, enforcement has involved a variety of “indirect” mechanisms, from the Department of Justice’s use of the Interstate Wire Act of 1951, which applies to sports betting to assert jurisdiction over online gaming – even though the Fifth Circuit ruled in 2002 that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting – to seizing advertising payments made to broadcast networks by advertisers seeking to promote online gambling considered illegal by the United States. Since 2006, with the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), the United States has sought to seize assets in financial institutions tied to online gambling, based on what it considers illegal activity, money laundering and a variety of other offenses. It is noteworthy that UIGEA does not make online gambling illegal per se, but rather prohibits any transfer of funds from a financial institution (as defined in the legislation) to an illegal Internet gambling site.

Once you read the UK Sports Ministry’s announcement, if you need more information, contact Laura Hicks, an associate in the Media and Technology team, in our London office. Of course, you can always contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum in New York, or Gregor Pryor in London, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work, if you need legal advice, information or support on this subject.

Happy New Year Wishes for 2010

Wishing you health, happiness, prosperity and peace in 2010

In a tradition that started almost 4,000 years ago by the ancient Babylonians – although they celebrated the new year upon seeing the first new moon after the vernal equinox – please enjoy a very happy, safe and joyous new year celebration.  Those of you who look forward to Useless But Compelling Facts can read more about the history of new year celebrations, or how the new year’s festivities, now televised around the world, began in New York’s Times Square.

New Year's Greetings
 
This is the first year we have published in a blog format, and with your feedback – mostly positive and always constructive – and more than 17,000 visitors in slightly less than 11 months, I am grateful and appreciative for your support.  Thank you for reading Legal Bytes.

–  Joe Rosenbaum