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””

Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Simonis and Ryan

Posted on Categories Legal Profession, Marquette Law School, Public1 Comment on Congratulations to AWL Scholarship Winners Simonis and Ryan
head shot of woman named Liz Simonis
Liz Simonis (2L)
head shot of a woman named Kelly Ryan
Kelly Ryan (3L)

The Milwaukee Association for Women Lawyers (AWL) Foundation has named two Marquette University Law School students as the winners of AWL Foundation scholarships.

Liz Simonis, 2L, received the AWL Foundation scholarship. The AWL Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a woman who has exhibited service to others, diversity, compelling financial need, academic achievement, unique life experiences (such as overcoming obstacles to attend or continue law school), and advancement of women in the profession. Simonis, a Wisconsin native, received undergraduate degree in dairy science. She spent her last semester of undergrad between Beijing and Hangzhou, China, learning about dairy farming there. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she worked for as a dairy cattle nutritionist, visiting (in her conservative estimate) more than half of Wisconsin’s 9,000+ dairy farms. Being a dairy cattle nutritionist “requires an incredible amount of science and industry knowledge,” Simonis said. “It’s not like feeding your dog a scoop of dog chow.”

Simonis then transitioned to marketing product manager at a company in Iowa, where she took feeding concepts and developed them as products. However, she noted, her experience in Iowa also taught her that the world isn’t always a fair and equitable place. “In the year of our lord 2020, there are still people out there who will not respect you because of any number of ridiculous reasons. Breaking through that kind of stigma is at the core of what drew me to law school,” she said. She returned to Milwaukee to attend MULS, where is she is an active member of the student chapter of AWL and a volunteer at the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic. Simonis is also a member of the Intellectual Property Law Society, Saint Thomas More Society, and the Environmental Law Society. She plans to sit for the patent bar when she’s done with law school.

Kelly Ryan, 3L, received the AWL Foundation’s Virginia A. Pomeroy scholarship. This scholarship honors the late Virginia A. Pomeroy, a former deputy state public defender and a past president of AWL. In addition to meeting the same criteria as for the AWL Foundation scholarship, the winner of this scholarship must also exhibit what the AWL Foundation calls “a special emphasis, through experience, employment, class work or clinical programs” in one of several particular areas: appellate practice, civil rights law, public interest law, public policy, public service, or service to the vulnerable or disadvantaged. During law school, Ryan has volunteered for the Domestic Violence Injunction Clinic and the Milwaukee Volunteer Legal Clinic and was selected for the mock trial team. She’s clerked for the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and the U.S. Copyright Office of Policy and International Affairs.

Ryan is vice president of the Intellectual Property Law Society and lead articles editor of the Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review. This fall, she will intern with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office as part of MULS’ Prosecutor Clinic. She said the most interesting thing she’s experienced through her public service—interning at the county, state, and federal levels—“is seeing how profoundly law, policy, and government interact to impact people’s everyday lives.”

Simonis and Ryan will be officially honored (virtually) at AWL’s annual meeting on September 30. Congratulations to both women for outstanding service and for their representation of Marquette University Law School.

Lessons Learned in April Will Lead to Smoother Voting This Fall, Election Administrators Say

Posted on Categories Election Law, Public, Speakers at MarquetteLeave a comment» on Lessons Learned in April Will Lead to Smoother Voting This Fall, Election Administrators Say

There were upsides to the tumultuous Wisconsin election in April. At that time, there was an unprecedented flood of absentee voting, with some significant missteps related to mail service. Many of the usual polling places were closed, leading to long lines at those that were available, amid extensive precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A photo from one Milwaukee polling place of a voter holding a sign proclaiming the situation “ridiculous” circulated around the world.

So what was that upside? A lot was learned about what to do and what not to do, the challenges of running an election in today’s circumstances were clear to the public, and there is a good forecast for an election this fall that will be well run, with good options for voting and good reason to be confident the results will be reliable.

That was the picture painted Wednesday by three people involved in overseeing how the election, featuring a presidential choice, is shaping up. Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe, Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg, and Brookfield City Clerk Kelly Michaels spoke with Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, during a virtual “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program. Continue reading “Lessons Learned in April Will Lead to Smoother Voting This Fall, Election Administrators Say”

What method will Wisconsinites use to vote in November?

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Voters in Wisconsin can choose from three widely accessible means of voting. In addition to voting in person on election day, they can vote by mail or vote in-person at an early voting location. (Technically, this kind of early voting is called “in-person absentee” voting in Wisconsin.)

Historically, voting in-person on election day has been the most popular means of casting a ballot in Wisconsin. That changed abruptly when the spring 2020 election was controversially held at the height of the initial COVID-19 shutdown. Ninety percent of voters voted at their polling place on election day in the 2016 spring contest. Just 29 percent did so in 2020. Instead, 59 percent voted by mail and 12 percent voted early in person.

It’s a safe bet that absentee and mail voting will also increase in the general election this fall. President Trump has speculated on numerous occasions that mail voting will be used fraudulently—a view uniformly contradicted by Republican, Democratic, and nonpartisan election administrators alike. Nonetheless, the growing controversy over mail-in ballots may have changed some people’s minds. Continue reading “What method will Wisconsinites use to vote in November?”

Tony Evers’ Pandemic Popularity Boost is Over

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Early in the COVID-19 shutdown the Marquette Law School Poll documented an exceptional degree of unity among Wisconsin voters, as the pandemic broke through Wisconsin’s thick partisan divide. In late March, more than 8-in-10 Republicans and Independents, along with 95 percent of Democrats, supported the state’s mandatory social distancing measures. First-term governor Tony Evers benefited from this groundswell of public support. His overall approval rating jumped from 51 percent at the end of February to 65 percent a month later. Most remarkably, Evers’ approval rating grew 19 points with Republicans.

Those days are over. Continue reading “Tony Evers’ Pandemic Popularity Boost is Over”

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!

Congratulations to Marquette’s Environmental Law Moot Court Team

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I intended to write this post in March, upon returning from Spring Break, but 2020 got in the way. Better late than never, as they say; and I would be remiss not to recognize the excellent work of our 2019-20 Environmental Law Moot Court team, consisting of Caleb Tomaszewski and Adam Vanderheyden. The team (pictured here along with coach Dennis Grzezinski) competed in the 2020 National Environmental Law Moot Court Photo of the 2020 environmental law moot court team with a coach.Competition hosted by Pace University in White Plains, New York. Caleb and Adam advanced out of the preliminary rounds to the quarterfinals, where they were narrowly defeated. The team received high praise from several judges, but Caleb reported that the most gratifying aspect was “hearing the judges say that we are ready to advocate in real life.” I appreciate the significant contributions of Dennis Grzezinski, Gabe Johnson-Karp, and Professor Alex Lemann, who coached the team with me. But most of all, bravo to Caleb and Adam on achieving the best placement in years for the Law School in the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition.

Enthusiasm for voting in Wisconsin

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Here is a review of Marquette Law School polling from August 2019 to August 2020 in Wisconsin. All polls are state-wide samples of registered voters, with about 800 respondents per poll (1000 in Feb.) and a margin of error of about +/- 4 percentage points. Details of each survey and full methodology statement are available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/category/results-and-data/

Conclusion

There is very little difference in enthusiasm between Biden and Trump voters. Those who strongly approval of Trump’s handling of his job as president are a bit more “very enthusiastic” (about 8 points) than are those who strongly disapprove. Democrats are a a little more likely to say they are “very enthusiastic” than are Republicans, by about 5 points.

These results fluctuate modestly over time.

There is little evidence to support a clear enthusiasm advantage for either party.

Continue reading “Enthusiasm for voting in Wisconsin”

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.

Lafayette Crump: Success as Development Commissioner Will Mean Improved Equity in Milwaukee

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How does Lafayette Crump define success in his new job as the City of Milwaukee’s commissioner of City Development?

“I think it would be a disservice to this community if I did not view my success through the prism of how I am able to improve racial and economic equity in the city of Milwaukee,” Crump said during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program. The interview, one of the “virtual Lubar Center” programs of Marquette Law School, was posted online on Wednesday, August 26.

“I’m charged as development commissioner to promote development in the City of Milwaukee, to bring jobs here, to ensure that we lessen the impact of home foreclosures, that we assure that there is affordable housing available for people. All of that is clearly important and we will never lose sight of that as a department,” Crump said. “But we have to think about those things through the prism of how they are improving racial equity.” Continue reading “Lafayette Crump: Success as Development Commissioner Will Mean Improved Equity in Milwaukee”

Rules of Engagement

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Human Rights, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Student Contributor1 Comment 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”