Welcome to Our October Guest Blogger

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head shot of woman named Liz SimonisOur Student Guest Blogger for October is 2L Liz Simonis. Originally from Milwaukee, Liz spent five years working in agriculture around the Midwest before moving back to the Cream City. Her legal interests are primarily in intellectual property and corporate law, but after spending six months in China, she has developed an interest in water law as well, including its ability to influence international relations. Liz has recently been awarded the AWL Foundation Scholarship by the Association for Women Lawyers. Congratulations Liz!

How to Have Restrictive Contracts and Still Be “The Good Guys”

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Cover of Adventure Zone graphic novelJustin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy have built a podcast empire on being wholesome good guys. They come off to their fans as three brothers who are down-to-Earth, goofy, and will never do anything to hurt people. This has connected with podcast listeners worldwide, helping them build a massive fan base.

But at some point, businesspeople and celebrities make mistakes. For the McElroys, this mistake has come in the form of them trying to find ways to make money off the success of their podcasts. Prior to 2018, the McElroys had sold merch for their podcasts, gone on tours to do live recordings of podcasts, and had a brief TV adaptation of the podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me” on the failed streaming platform Seeso, which was owned by NBCUniversal.

Then came the graphic novel adaptation of “The Adventure Zone,” which shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller’s list. The graphic novel, while illustrated by Casey Pietsch, features a gallery of fan art at the back of every volume. Given the relationship the McElroys have with their fans, it seems reasonable they would pay tribute to the fans and the artwork they create by including a gallery of artwork tied to the events of that volume.

This fan art gallery has become the center of a bit of controversy in recent weeks. Continue reading “How to Have Restrictive Contracts and Still Be “The Good Guys””

The Challenges Facing Podcast Hosts Protecting Trademarks

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law, Legal Scholarship, Popular Culture & Law, Public, Student Contributor1 Comment on The Challenges Facing Podcast Hosts Protecting Trademarks

Cover of Adventure Zone graphic novelAmong the many technological changes in the 2010s was the rise of podcasts as a form of entertainment. Average people were able to purchase microphones and record conversations with their friends, family, or experts in a field, and then upload for people across the world to listen to.

Three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy started recording the comedy-advice podcast “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” in 2010. After that podcast’s success, they went on to record several other podcasts, including “The Adventure Zone,” in which they play tabletop role-playing games with their father, Clint. This podcast has been done in three main storylines: “Balance,” “Amnesty,” and “Graduation.”

“The Adventure Zone” appears to be the most popular podcast released by the McElroys. Thousands of fans follow subreddits and Facebook pages and groups. “The Adventure Zone” has been adapted into a best-selling graphic novel, licensed for a tabletop role-playing game, and is currently being adapted for a possible animated show for the streaming platform Peacock.

With this fame has come devoted fans, some of whom make fan art and then sell it. This practice is largely disapproved by the McElroys, although they have not taken any legal action against creators of unauthorized merchandise. Justin McElroy has implied on Twitter that he is okay with people commissioning artists to draw characters from “The Adventure Zone.” This detail is lost by the fans, who treat all fan-creations for sale as bad. While the McElroys have created a podcast, which they appear to make money from, and they have a right to protect their creation from people seek to unscrupulously profit from it, there are challenges facing them, as well as other podcast hosts.

This is the focus of my paper You Must Roll 18 or Higher in Order for Your Claims to Succeed: Common Law Trademarks, Unauthorized Merchandise, and the Podcast “The Adventure Zone,” about which I was interviewed on the podcast “Ipse Dixit” by Prof. Brian L. Frye of University of Kentucky College of Law. Continue reading “The Challenges Facing Podcast Hosts Protecting Trademarks”

Marquette Student Paper Featured on Ipse Dixit Podcast

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Former student guest blogger and current 2L Monica Reida recently appeared on Ipse Dixit, a podcast on legal scholarship that has a wide audience among law professors, to discuss their fascinating new paper, You Must Roll 18 or Higher for Your Claims to Succeed: Common Law Trademarks, Unauthorized Merchandise, and the Podcast “The Adventure Zone”. You can listen to the podcast episode here. Monica is returning to the Faculty Blog for a couple of posts about the paper, which is available now on SSRN. Congratulations Monica!

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Runs Maniak’s Blog Post

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Media & Journalism, Milwaukee, Public, Student Contributor1 Comment on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Runs Maniak’s Blog Post

August student blogger of the month and former Marine Robert Maniak (3L) recently wrote a powerful, moving post called Rules of Engagement that appeared on this blog. This morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and ran that post as an opinion piece. Congratulations to Robert. Be sure to check out Robert’s other blog posts here, here, and here.

Rules of Engagement

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Student Contributor2 Comments on Rules of Engagement

Afghanistan was hot. An almost indescribable amount of heat meant that you were constantly sweating as everything you wore became soaked, so that you were never truly dry. I was there in 2014 as part of, what we thought at the time, was the U.S.’s withdrawal from the country. The unit I was a part of had the impossible task of maintaining the operation of Camp Bastion’s flight line, providing all the logistics that kept the aircraft and crews happy, while also keeping them safe.

Contrary to public assumption, and most recruiting commercials, the U.S. Marine Corps isn’t made of just infantry and aircraft units. There is a whole ecosystem of support jobs which keep everything moving along. My job was one of the less glamorous, less flashy, less likely to be publicized ones. I maintained air conditioners and refrigerators. And the unit I was assigned to wasn’t all that exciting either. We were a support squadron of the aircraft squadrons. We did not have any aircraft to maintain. Rather, we were supplied all the less glamourous logistics for the units that did fly.

Part of that logistic support was security. After the disastrous 2012 attack which killed two Marines and destroyed millions of dollars of aircraft, the airfield, which was nested inside the larger base, was subject to increased security protocols, limiting access to only those who had business there. This meant that in addition to doing our daily jobs, like vehicle and heavy equipment maintenance, we would also be tasked to stand post at the entry points for the flight line or be on stand-by as a quick reaction force in the event that someone breached the base fence and made the one-kilometer trek to the flight line. Continue reading “Rules of Engagement”

Mental Health and Law School

Posted on Categories Marquette Law School, Public, Student Contributor2 Comments on Mental Health and Law School

I have never been particularly excited to begin a new year of school. My mom, to my chagrin, keeps a photo of one of my first days of school on the family fridge. Clad in a breathtakingly dated wind-breaker, with a full sized Marquette University Law Schoolbackpack dwarfing my elementary school frame I lean against a tree at the bus stop. Flanked by my too-young for school sister who smiles from ear to ear my mom snapped the photo. I think that photo was both for me and my mom. I got a visual reminder that my family was always going to be there for me; my mom got a picture she could use to embarrass me with, and a memento of her favorite and only son.

I was reminded of this photo as email after email bombarded my inbox explaining the new COVID procedures for the in-class semester. Any excitement for my final year in school was dampened considerably. The Law School’s Instagram post which showed what the law school looks like now, a labyrinth of blue painter’s tape and signage, showed just how much the precautionary measures had sapped the building of its warmth. The Law School is, to be frank, depressing in its current arrangement. Continue reading “Mental Health and Law School”

Palsgraf and Humanity in the Age of Covid

Posted on Categories Legal Practice, Public, Student Contributor, Tort Law3 Comments on Palsgraf and Humanity in the Age of Covid

If Covid were the subject of a suit, how would the decision describe my grandfather?

My grandfather recently passed away. It wasn’t Covid; not directly at least. A lifetime of kidney problems and other assorted ailments weren’t helped by the pandemic-induced lock-down. Rather than go out to eat or graze at the local grocery store buffet, as he normally would, he dined on pre-cooked meals and unsurprisingly his health suffered for it. So no, Covid didn’t kill him, but it certainly helped. In legal-speak it was more of a proximate cause.

In any law school tort class, students learn about proximate cause as it relates to negligence. One case, which is widely cited, is Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. In this slice of history, a remarkable and tragic chain of events took place. The plaintiff, Mrs. Palsgraf, waited for her train, at the railroad’s train station. As she waited, an employee of the train company unknowingly helped two men load explosives onto a different train. The explosives detonated, and had one of the two men been injured by that explosion this case would almost assuredly be lost to the sands of time, a simple case of negligence with a simple resolution. Instead, in the hubbub that ensued, a large scale Mrs. Palsgraf was standing near struck and injured her. The exact manner in which the scale injured her isn’t mentioned in the opinion itself.

Every law student learns about this case and its meaning. The legal rules and principles of law that the majority and dissenting opinions announced are followed to this day. But the decision doesn’t spill any ink about Mrs. Palsgraf. A terse statement of facts accompanies the majority opinion, in which Mrs. Palsgraf isn’t even mentioned by name. She is simply “Plaintiff.” Thus, she is reduced to something less than human. I thought of this case as my grandfather lay in hospice, near the end of his life. Continue readingPalsgraf and Humanity in the Age of Covid”

Welcome to Our August Guest Blogger

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Our student guest blogger for August is 3L Robert Maniak. Robert was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and after high school enlisted in the Marine Corps. He and his wife Gina were recently married in June, with relatives “Zoom-ing” into the ceremony. After graduation, he is interested in pursuing a career in civil litigation in Wisconsin. Welcome Robert!

SBA Statement in Support of BLM and Against Racial Injustice

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Criminal Law & Process, First Amendment, Human Rights, Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Milwaukee, Public, Race & Law, Student ContributorLeave a comment» on SBA Statement in Support of BLM and Against Racial Injustice

Logo of Student Bar AssociationTo Our Peers, Professors, And Administrators:

Marquette University Law School Student Bar Association writes to you today to address the tragedy that we as a community and a country have faced in the last three weeks. Not one of a pandemic, but rather the state-sanctioned murders of Black Americans. Namely, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others. Their deaths are not novel, and we would be remiss to categorize them as such. Their deaths are the tragic manifestation of a long-standing system of racial oppression that continues to unjustly claim the lives of Black Americans.

We want to be loud and exceptionally clear: SBA believes Black Lives Matter. We are an anti-racist organization, and we condemn every form of racism. We stand in solidarity with the members of the Black Law Student Association, the Black community of Marquette University, and the Black community around the world.  Continue reading “SBA Statement in Support of BLM and Against Racial Injustice”

Tort Law and Fake News

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Photo of high school student at March for Life 2019This Friday, January 24, 2020, hundreds of thousands of people will gather in Washington D.C. for the 47th annual March for Life. This year’s theme for the March for Life is “Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.” Last year’s March for Life invited additional news coverage thanks to a video that depicted Nick Sandmann, a high school student, smiling at a Native American elder as the elder beat a drum in front of the student. This initial video made it seem as if the student was mocking the elder. In the wake of this viral video and the news coverage that ensued, there was an immense backlash against the student and his high school. I recall seeing posts on social media listing the email addresses of the school’s administrators encouraging people to flood their inboxes with less than courteous emails expressing disapproval of their student’s behavior.

However, later video evidence revealed that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had been yelling racial slurs at Sandmann and his peers, and that the Native American elder approached Sandmann as a way of diffusing the situation between the Black Hebrew Israelites and the students. Moreover, it became clear that neither Sandmann nor his peers were at fault in the confrontation.

Sandmann filed a defamation suit against CNN seeking $250 million dollars for its inaccurate coverage of the confrontation and the emotional distress that he endured as a result. Earlier this month it was released that Sandmann had agreed to a settlement with CNN for an undisclosed amount. Continue reading “Tort Law and Fake News”

International Sanctions with Domestic Benefits

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As we begin a new year, it is interesting to look back on how things have changed in both our personal world and in the world at large. One interesting development that has taken place over the past two decades in the world of international politics has been the drastic increase in the use of economic sanctions. It seems as if the imposition and lifting of sanctions is the language of international diplomacy, rather than being a single tool in the diplomatic toolbox.

The efficacy of international sanctions in changing a country’s behavior is debatable. One study, as reported by World Finance, found that economic sanctions only have a 20-30% success rate in this regard. Nonetheless, even if economic sanctions may not be the most effective way of changing behavior, they can provide an economic benefit to the countries that impose them. Continue reading “International Sanctions with Domestic Benefits”

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