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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dreaming up an infringement

Deep down in my secret life plan, I have thought that eventually I would write some kind of amazing book that would free me to live the life of a queen. Ok, I know that's completely unrealistic, but I still think about how maybe one day I would write. Sometimes I dream dreams that I think would make interesting stories. Recently, I dreamed a character who went by the name Dirks Bentley, but his friends called him Deke. Completely geeky, I know, but I couldn't help what my subconscious brain told me. But I thought, that's kind of a cool name for a renegade loner type character, and I filed it into my mental file for future writing reference. Then today, I found one of those Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week cards lying around in my house (where you get a free iTunes download of a song from a featured artist). The artist's name is Dierks Bentley, which means I totally did not dream that name up. Instead, I subconsciously misappropriated it as my own creation. Son of a bitch. Oh well, the man can have it. It's a nice name for a rugged guitar playing type (judging by his picture and not his song, which I've yet to download).

I wonder how often this happens, where we think we've come up with something on our own, but really we just saw or heard something somewhere and some unconscious synapse stored it away to be awakened in dreams. I bet it happens a lot. Many years ago, I was whistling a tune I thought I had made up, but it turned out to be a really well known Gershwin piece. I recently read a copyright case where this very thing happened, but the unfortunate subconscious misappropriator was Michael Bolton, who basically rewrote as his own an Isley Brothers song called "Love Is A Wonderful Thing". I'm sure it was completely unintentional. But the fun thing about copyright infringement is that it's a strict liability offense. That means you don't have to know that what you are doing is infringement in order to be liable for it. Now, there's an issue of proving that you had access to the original work, because copyright law does actually protect independent creation. So if Bolton had never heard of the Isley Brothers, and certainly never heard their song, but he wrote a song that was strikingly similar to Love Is A Wonderful Thing all on his own, he would not be an infringer, and indeed (I think) would get his own copyright in his version. But there was copious proof of access in that case, so Bolton had to pay up.

Isn't it odd, though, that you might completely unintentionally come up with something that you think is original, but really your brain picked it up unconsciously at some point and filed it away for future unintentionally infringing purposes? It is very odd to me.

In case you are wondering, there is a chance to mitigate your liability in damages in the case that you are an innocent infringer. But this requires that you have no notice that there was a copyright, and if somebody marks their work with a copyright notice (something that is NOT required to get protection, incidentally), that counts as constructive notice of copyright, even if you didn't actually see the notice. So Bolton was probably SOL on that case, although my memory fails me as to what damages he was liable for.

Now, you can't copyright a name, although you can get a trademark in a name, which, if famous, could be diluted by somebody else's use of that same name. There is also possibly a common law or statutory right of publicity for famous people, which protects against misappropriation of one's name or likeness or identity for commercial purposes. Those things could have possibly applied were I to use my dreamed up Dirks Bentley.

So, the moral of this story is watch what you write.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nothing, absolutely nothing!

Completely unproductive weekend so far. Well, not really when you consider that I spent Thursday night finishing up my copyright paper before the midnight deadline. Thursday night is like my Friday night, so normally I come home and veg in front of bad 90's TV programs, but instead I had to work. I'm feeling not too good about that paper, either. It's ok. But the more I think about it, the more I know I didn't say enough about Fair Use and I certainly didn't talk enough about the policies in copyright law, which is something we were to focus on specifically. I talked about it some, but I know not enough. It was a hard problem, and if I'm to get a mediocre or even bad grade on one of my papers, it will probably be that one. The other two so far have scored among the top three in my section, so I still think I can probably work an A out of that class. And that is the only class I feel so confident in. Yay.

The rest of my weekend has been spent doing fuck all. I saw Harry Potter 7.1 today. It was much like the book: too much wandering around in the woods doing nothing. I think when Rowling wrote that tome, she must have been unsure where she was going herself, and so she figured wandering around in the woods would be a fine way to meet her pages deadlines until she figured out how to end it -- which she did really well in the last 100 pages of the 700 or so page book. The pacing in that thing was just really off, and I hoped they would fix it in the movie, but then of course they decided to squeeze double bucks out of it by making it a two-parter, thus allowing for full coverage of all the mundane woods-wandering details. Don't get me wrong: I liked things about the movie. The look of it is nice, and I actually like the slower feel, because it feels more like the books feel -- you are more immersed, get to take your time with the development. But the utter lack of action really gets to me.

Also, we discovered that there is a Jimmy Johns sandwiches shop in Beaverton, OR, which is where we go to the movies usually. It feels almost exactly like Sandy/Fort Union in the Salt Lake valley, except that somebody took a bunch of wet spaghetti, threw it down on a piece of paper, and said, "Trace the spag, boys -- here is where we shall lay the roads!" So Beaverton is the Portland equivalent of suburbian hell, but they have a few of my chain-store favorites, like said Jimmy Johns, and like Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Whoo boy. So I had a nice JJ's sandwich today.

And that has pretty much been my weekend. I guess I have to read a bunch of pages tomorrow in light of my slovenliness. But at least next week is a three day week.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tunnel Vision

I know things are getting down to the wire when my task list in Microsoft Entourage loses its vertical scrolling bar. I only have one non-vertically-scrolling screen of assignments left in my semester before the death of finals falls upon me. In one way it's a relief: the end, as it were, is in sight. In another way it's chaos: I don't know enough, I'm not ready, I'm going to bomb everything (or I would if I had to do it all right now).

Thinking back on my previous two semesters, I'm in the same spot I was in then, as far as how prepared I feel to attack my finals. I have been on top of my assignments, and have tried to prepare them diligently. When it comes time to condense that information and internalize the knowledge, my notes are generally enough to get me there. Of course, there is the little matter that usually my exams are open book/note, and this time most of them are not. So I have to know this stuff a little colder than I knew it for my previous classes.

Ok, that's not really true. Law exams are so time pressured, generally, that you don't have a whole lot of time to consult your notes or books, so you kind of need to know that shit cold anyway. But it takes a bit of the mental pressure off to have the safety net of open notes/books. So I don't get that luxury this time around, except in the two classes that I just so happen to be least worried about anyway.

I guess it's technically time to buckle down and engage in what the Brits call "revision".

On another note, I reworked my Spring semester schedule. I was signed up to take Evidence, but I heard such heinous things about the course as taught by the professor that I decided it would be more worth my while to sacrifice a more pleasing schedule time-wise in favor of a more pleasing schedule subject-wise. So I'm taking Trademarks instead, and I also added a class in IP licensing, which will involve hands on analysis of drafting license agreements. Those will be better suited to my interests in any case.  Evidence is a bar subject, so I will have to learn it eventually, but I find that the clarity of the law, such as it is, only becomes more clouded by classroom instruction. At least, it does for me. So I'll just BarBri that crap when the time comes. 

But my spring schedule is going to be weird in that, on Mondays, I will pretty much be at school all damn day, and then on Thursdays I will only have one class but it won't start until 8:PM. Tuesday will likewise have an evening schedule of two classes, and wednesday will switch to a day schedule of three classes. It's going to be really weird and I just might hate it. But really, I think (hope, pray) that I will like the subjects better than this semester (it won't take much), and I'd much rather bitch about how I hate the crazy time madness of my life than hating the entire substance of my daily being with a fist-shaking vengeance.

Tomorrow I am getting my second to last (or penultimate, if you prefer) paper assignment for my writing intensive IP class. We are handling copyrights now. To my surprise, the copyrights unit was much more complicated than the patents unit, so I am kind of dreading what type of analysis I will be expected to fit into 1800 words this time. Sheesh.

We are now entering our trademarks unit, which is admittedly the IP subject I knew least about beforehand, so I am kind of looking forward to seeing some new things (I swear, this class is the only reason I haven't slit my wrists already [joking, really]).

The other plus side is that now my entertainment law class has finally left behind the drudgery of contract law, regulatory law, and first amendment issues and has entered the exciting domain of copyright law, as it pertains to the entertainment industry, naturally. Blessedly, I have already read several of the cases in this area for my IP class, so my reading load for that class is going to decrease.

All in all, I am actually feeling pretty chipper -- well, relatively, I guess. A little anxious doom and gloom lingers in the background and will only grow as finals near, but I am hating things less than usual, which is nice. I have been so damn hateful this semester, and even I am getting sick of it. It's not pleasant to read about all the time, and believe me, it's even less pleasant to write about and even less so to live. But everyone's life has shit in it, right? And there's certainly more fearsome shit out there than what I have to deal with.

So, hell yeah, man. Weitergehen.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

A lawyer walks into a bar...

Today I watched a documentary called A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar. It follows the stories of six JDs working hard to pass the California Bar Exam (touted as the most difficult bar exam, with only a 36-39% passage rate). True to statistics only two of the JDs end up passing. And, I must say, it was the two who I felt deserved to pass the bar on account of them being the least annoying. God, law students are so annoying.

Anyway, if you have Netflix (and really, you should, it's the best bang for your buck TV-wise these days), you can find this documentary on there. I've posted the trailer below to ensnare your interest.  Maybe this show won't interest most of you, but I found it very heartening to watch, because I see in these JDs many of the same emotions that I have been going through in my own law school adventures. Namely, manic hysteria. It makes me feel better to see other people like that too.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Vote the Spectacle

It's time to let your voice be heard on something of utmost importance: my new spectacles. Using Zenni Optical's try on feature, I have selected 13 frames that tempt my purchase, and I need your help deciding what suits me best. I should note that some of these images look rather horn-rimmed, but that is just Zenni failing to get the perspective right on the arms of the frames. I assure you the frames are not so pointy.

Notes: Some of these frames are the same but in different colors. Number 9 looks like metal, but it is actually a clear plastic half-rim. Number 10 is the only metal frame, in sort of a pinkish hue. Yes, number 4 really is orange, and yes, I'm ok with that. I think the shape of number 1 suits my face rather well, but I am coming to think that black is rather a harsh hue for me, glasses-wise.


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

One of those days...

This morning, I left my house at 10:00 as usual to get to the bus stop and make my 10:30 class. The walk to the stop takes about 7-9 minutes, depending on the beat of the song spieling out of my iPod. Not one minute into my walk, it occurred to me that I might have left my wallet, and hence my bus pass, in my other coat. Sure enough, it wasn't in my bag. Also not in my bag were my house keys. So I had locked myself out of my house with my wallet and bus pass inside my house. Scheisse. I also had no more than 60 cents on my person, and a bus ride is $2. It takes 45 minutes to walk all the way to school, but I only had 30 minutes in which to do it, or I would be late. I could have skipped class altogether, but this is the same class that I missed last Thursday because the bus was either very early or very late, so I really had to go today. And besides, where would I go otherwise without keys or money?

Speeding up my pace, I tried to look for the time, but I had grabbed my iPod Shuffle today instead of my Touch, and my phone was dead, so I didn't have a timepiece to monitor my progress. If I weren't weighted down with 15 pounds of books on my back, I probably would have thrown a physically angry fit replete with cussing, gnashing of teeth, and shaking of angry fists at the universe. My books kept me grounded.

I walked the mostly uphill trek to the halfway point when I got a single lucky break: there is a free school shuttle that travels from downtown to school, and it picks people up about halfway from my house. I managed to get to that point a few minutes before its arrival. Because of that, I was able to make it to class on time, but I was sweaty, and disheveled, and looked terrible, and felt like you feel when you have no choice but to sit back and let life shit all over you.

On Tuesdays, I usually get out of class at 3:20, and get home by about 4:10. But Tuesdays are Ian's sushi and anime nights with his coworkers, so I knew not to expect him to make it home until probably after 7, and since my phone was dead, and I'm pretty sure the on campus phone doesn't do long distance, I couldn't call him to beg him to forgo his merriment for the sake of letting me in the house. So I resigned myself to staying on campus for a few extra hours. Would have loved to sit in the Starbucks instead, but, again, wallet was at home.

I boarded the free shuttle again at 6:00, and asked to be left off at the halfway point again. One 20-minute walk later, I saw that the living room light was on, and Ian must be home.

"I'm so glad you're here," I said, as I opened the door.

"I've been here waiting for you," he said.

"Waiting? What do you mean," I asked, "How long have you been here?"

"Ever since I got off work."

"You didn't go to sushi night?!?"

"No, it was cancelled."

"Well, son of a bitch."

I could have gone home after all.

It hates me, the universe.

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