Judge Patterson in the Southern District of New York issued his opinion today in the Harry Potter Lexicon case, which involved an attempt by the defendants to convert their very popular website into print form and sell it. J.K. Rowling and the studio behind the Harry Potter films sued, and the court held that the Lexicon was not protected by fair use.
I’ve only had time to skim the decision, but my quick take is that a district court in the same circuit that decided the Seinfeld Aptitude Test case (Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publishing Group, 150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998)) would have had a hard time finding fair use here. If multiple choice questions based on “Seinfeld” infringe on the show, then encyclopedia entries based on Harry Potter probably do, too. That’s not an endorsement, just a syllogism.
The techie blogosphere is abuzz with the news that Michigan amended its private investigator licensing laws in May to add “computer forensics” to the list of activities that require a P.I. license in Michigan. This may not sound like big news, but it raises the possibility that MediaSentry, a company that gathers information on peer-to-peer filesharers for use in the RIAA’s lawsuits against online infringers, may be violating the law in several states. Given the general antipathy to the RIAA among the technorati, suddenly a large number of bloggers are interested in the arcane details of P.I. licensing requirements.
But the issues raised by the law go well beyond the RIAA lawsuits, and potentially affect any investigation of online misbehavior. Any lawsuit against an anonymous online individual begins with an attempt to identify that person. Furthermore, the definition of “computer forensics” in the Act is so broad that it includes printing out a web page for use in a lawsuit. Attorneys need to pay attention here too: the Michigan law exempts attorneys, but only if they are “admitted to practice in this state.” And other states have similar laws. So do you need a P.I. license or a bar admission in all 50 states before you can sue that defamatory blog poster?
Continue reading “Do People Who Investigate Websites Need P.I. Licenses in All 50 States?”
Dalton Conley, a sociologist at NYU, has an op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing that something novel has happened to the life of leisure: it isn’t very leisurely anymore. “[I]t is now the rich who are the most stressed out and the most likely to be working the most. Perhaps for the first time since we’ve kept track of such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do.”
Conley hypothesizes that this intriguing development is the result of greater disparity in incomes at the top end of the scale — what he calls an “economic red shift.” That is, the richer you are, the faster people at the wealth level just above you seem to be pulling away. Combine that with the fact that people usually define their socioeconomic status in relative terms — i.e., how they compare to the Joneses — and you have an explanation for why hours increase with income. Or, as Conley puts it, at higher income levels, “the opportunity cost of not working is all the greater ( … since the higher we go, the more relatively deprived we feel).” Continue reading “Lawyers and the Economic Red Shift”