Friday, December 14, 2018

Corporation Infringes Copyright, Ordered to Pay $19,000

Perhaps due to the new moon, on Friday, February 15, Stock photographer Chris Gregerson won a copyright infringement lawsuit against two corporations, both owned by the same individual. Incidentally, Gregerson appeared in court pro se (without an attorney).


(one of the stolen images)

Gregerson writes: “Vilana Financial and Vilana Realty used the two photos, taken unlawfully from this website, in a series of advertisements. Vilana sued me for defamation when I claimed they were guilty of copyright infringement (a court ruled they are). They added six more causes of action, including appropriation of name and likeness for posting Vilenchik’s photo on this page. Andrew Vilenchik, the owner of both corporations, swore at trial he got the photos from a stranger he met in a sauna (the judge ruled this was a lie). A trial was held in November, 2007, and the verdict was issued on February 15th, 2008. I won, they lost, and I was awarded $19,462.00 in damages. All their claims against me were dismissed with prejudice.”


Balancing Act , A Project by Christoph Büchel

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Judge Shuts Down Website

A U.S. District Court judge ordered, an institutional critique type of website, to shut down its site and not transfer its domain name to another host. Judge Jeffrey White, in an apparent gross misinterpration of the First Amendment and prior restraint law, infuriated many legal scholars, free speech activists and web site owners when he sided with a Cayman Islands bank, The Bank Julius Baer & Co. Judge White agreed with the bank that Wikileaks should be barred from posting corporate documents that clearly exhibit unethical behavior.

Commenting on this unprecedented ruling, David Arcadia, an Internet speech expert from Harvard Law, said that a court had never before ordered an entire Web site to shut down. “This is prior restraint in the most extreme fashion,” he concluded.

For more on this, click here.


Government Owns Copyright of Public Documents

Although mostly known for college football, West Virginia brings us a case of major First Amendment and intellectual property import, which if upheld may find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the Kanawha County Tax Assessor asked the West Virginia Circuit Court of Kanawha County to force Seneca Technologies to remove maps Seneca Technologies had posted on its website. These maps are the complete county property tax maps for the state of West Virginia. Seneca had paid to obtain these maps from the West Virginia State Department of Tax and Revenue after Seneca won a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Seneca is providing these maps on its website free of charge instead of the $8 per map that all West Virginia tax assessors charge.

The County Tax assessor claims that Seneca is posting copyrighted material. Seneca counters by arguing that the maps “convey only facts and not ideas or expressions.” Buttressing this argument, Seneca argues that the Tax Assessor’s attempt to bar the internet posting of these public documents is an unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech.

Arguing for Seneca on February 8th is Public Citizen.


The Art of Redacting

Confirming our suspicion that there is a bit of art in law, an article on the crafting necessary to redact information on privileged documents has just appeared. It makes sense, especially when one thinks of the drawings and paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and Blinky Palermo, as well as the photographs of John Baldessari.

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Judge Rules for Child Porn Collage

Citing the 2002 ruling of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the New Hampshire State Supreme Court ruled that sexual images a camp photographer created by combining the faces of teenage girls with women’s bodies are not child pornography.

This ruling overturned the child-pornography conviction of Marshal Zidel, who was sentenced in June 2006 to up to seven years in prison. Zidel, 61, of Somerville, Mass., was a photographer at Camp Young Judea in Amherst, where authorities say he superimposed pictures of 15-year-old girls onto images of naked adults.

The court ruled the pictures do not violate child pornography laws, partly because they did not involve sexual acts by actual children, and partly because they were not deliberately distributed. “When no part of the image is ‘the product of sexual abuse’ … and a person merely possesses the image, no demonstrable harm results to the child whose face is depicted in the image,” Associate Justice James Duggan wrote for the court.

The First Amendment Center has more on this story. For more on virtual child pornography, click here.


Texas Pole Tax

Texas is a grand state. It always has been, and that is why we love it. After all, which other state can match this motto: “Fuck you, we’re from Texas!”

In fact, one of the main reasons we look forward to visiting this state is for its renegade status highlighted by its endless thorn bush landscape. It’s only in Texas where so-called strip bars can coexist next to Wal-Marts and waterslides, and where men, and women, can take a load off by gazing at Southern belles and olive Latinas.

Thus, and in all honesty, it’s a bit baffling to find out that Texas has just instituted a “pole tax”: a $5 surcharge to be paid by all visitors wishing to gawk at naked women. Yes, $5 bucks, but keep in mind this is during a time of economic recession and when a lone table dance can run you well into the $25 range (not that we would know). Texas legislators see this as a way to fund programs intended to support victims of sexual assaults. One expects this from California, Massachusetts, or hell, even New York. But Texas?

As The Economist rightly points out, this is a cause worthy of applause, but it rests on faulty cause-effect assumptions. Texas lawmakers were convinced, but unconvinced when a similar tax scheme for strip bars was proposed to help pay for public schools. Apparently it would have passed muster had the public schools taught strip dancing.


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