Policy/Contributor Blogs

Legal Protection of a Digital Resurrection

Not long ago, the death of an actor also meant the death of his or her characters. If the actor died before filming was complete, there may have been no other choice but to scrap the movie altogether. Now, however, advances in technology have made it possible to digitally “resurrect” actors, thereby potentially saving both the characters and the films. Thanks to continuing improvements in computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology, when Nancy Marchand died while filming The Sopranos or when Paul Walker died while filming Furious 7, their characters were able to live on despite their deaths until the writers were able to write in a more natural exit for the character. Most recently, in December 2016, Peter Cushing virtually reprised his role of Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, despite his death in 1994. These digital resurrections are not flawless, but they are often unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Furthermore, the recent improvements in CGI quality suggest that a computer-generated actor that “will fool even experienced professionals” may not be far off. CGI technology may have a lot of positive benefits in the film industry. For example, the increasing quality of CGI technology has the potential [read more]

The Chase for 75%: The History of Steroids and Stigma in Baseball

From the seven-year old player on a Little League team to the Major Baseball League’s most decorated hitter, all baseball players have the same dream: to make it to Cooperstown, the illustrious Baseball Hall of Fame. Each year, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes on a list of eligible players for induction into the Hall of Fame. While some lucky candidates are voted in on their first time on the ballot in their first year of eligibility, many others have to wait several years, and exponentially more players never even get their name in the conversation. Here, the most difficult situation comes into play when an all-time great’s record is tarnished by their use of performance enhancing drugs during the “steroids era.” However, many of these players that were once declared forever banished from the Hall of Fame (such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) are starting to see the tides change, as each year they slowly accumulate more percentage votes in an effort to reach the required 75% for induction. This year, they both exceeded the 50% threshold on their way to the 75% required for admission—and these players should both ultimately end up in the Hall of [read more]

Are the FTC’s Regulations of Social Media Influencers Sufficient?

Using celebrities to sell products is hardly a new or innovative practice. Throughout time, celebrities have endorsed almost every product imaginable, from clothing and makeup to cars, credit cards, food, and even milk. This practice has been so consistent over time because, put simply, it is effective: brands are willing to spend whatever it takes to get the sales boost that typically comes with a celebrity partnership. Social media is extremely prevalent in today’s society (the average person spends about two hours a day, or up to nine hours a day for teens, on social media). As a result, social media advertising through influencers (individuals that have the ability to impact an audience’s behavior through their social media posts, such as bloggers and celebrities) tends to be a highly effective way to for brands to interact with their customers. It makes sense that brands are moving their product endorsements from traditional media outlets to the social media world. Consumers put a significant amount of information about themselves onto social media sites, which allows for very specific tailoring of content to individual consumers. Further, social media advertising tends to be less expensive than traditional advertising channels. According to Liz Dunn, founder [read more]

Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban – Concerning but Likely Constitutional

President Trump has recently signed an executive order, titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” that restricts visits and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran. Trump’s executive order has sparked widespread protest and backlash from Muslim support groups, and has routinely been characterized as “racist.” Some critics of the executive order argue that the immigration ban targeting solely Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional. Current United States law and court cases, however, grant the President broad authority to restrict immigration from particular countries. In the decades following the ratification of the Constitution, the Supreme Court determined that the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch had “plenary power”—absolute power— over issues concerning immigration. Since then, Congress has given away much of its shared plenary power over immigration to the Executive Branch. For example, Congress delegated to the Executive Branch the power to determine whether foreigners should be granted temporary protected status, whether a person is permitted to work in the United States, whether a person’s deportation should be deferred, and whether to grant a person permission to be in the United States when the person does not qualify for a visa. Despite the [read more]

Animal Advocacy During The Trump Administration

Many animal advocates opposed the election of Donald Trump.  The Humane Society called a Trump presidency “a threat to animals everywhere.” Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Washington Post, warned of Trump’s “anti-animal animus.” The reality is more nuanced. While Trump seems likely to roll back some legal protections for animals, the change in administration might also create new opportunities for animal advocates. First, the bad news. The Trump administration seems less interested than its predecessors in enforcing animal cruelty laws. For example, on Thursday, February 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly took down its webpage publicizing investigations of animal abuse. This move seems to signal a less zealous approach to enforcement by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The new stance is not surprising given Trump’s earlier tolerance of animal cruelty by Ringling Brothers’ Circus. A second cause for concern is the Trump administration’s goal of empowering states to regulate wildlife currently covered by the Endangered Species Act. Several state officials have declared that they would reduce populations of wolves and other predators if permitted to do so by the federal government. On January 17, a federal judge blocked the state of Idaho from using telemetry [read more]

New York’s Home-Sharing Law: An Obstacle To Combatting The Consequences Of Gentrification

Gentrification, the process of renewal and rebuilding which accompanies the migration of middle-class or affluent people into historically poor urban areas, may on its face seem beneficial for all members of a community. After all, gentrification provides numerous benefits to blighted neighborhoods – it can help stimulate economic growth, garner greater resources for public education, public safety, and other areas of public welfare through increased property taxes, and provide new job opportunities for community members. While these benefits are noteworthy, the poor and people of color rarely enjoy them. Gentrification emphasizes the interests of the middle and upper classes—frequently at the expense of the poor and communities of color. With the renewal and rebuilding of dilapidated structures comes higher property values, large corporations and businesses that target the middle and upper classes, and highly skilled workers. The result is often the displacement of poor communities of color from the neighborhoods they have lived in their whole lives and embraced as their own. Thus, while gentrification encourages economic growth, it also results in increased homelessness among the original residents who cannot keep up with the rising property values. In an attempt to combat the negative consequences of gentrification, many low-income residents [read more]

Protecting Patents from the Looming 3D Printing Storm

The current state of U.S. patent infringement law does not meet the challenges of 3D printing technology. 3D printing is a process in which a printer produces a physical three-dimensional object from a “CAD” file, which is an image file formatted for computers. Owners of the printer merely have to upload the CAD file onto the printer to reproduce the desired object. Although 3D printing has yet to gain broad use and appeal, the law may need to catch up with the technological advancement. Data indicate that 3D printing could be mainstream in even five years. The federal statute controlling the area of patent infringement (including 3D printing) is 35 U.S.C. § 271. The statute explains both direct and indirect patent infringement. Direct infringement is the act of making, using, selling, offering, or importing into the U.S., any patented invention, without permission. Indirect infringement, is any act that is not direct infringement, but which requires some knowledge and intent regarding the actual infringement. The federal statute protects against infringement in the most basic sense. In Bauer & Cie. v. O’Donnell, the Supreme Court ruled that physically reproducing a patented invention is the same as “making” a patented invention (direct infringement). [read more]

Sidelining Locker Room Talk

By Christina M. Kim In 2012, Harvard University discovered an online “scouting report” in which male soccer players ranked female players by attractiveness and suspected sexual preferences. Freshmen women players, some as young as 17, were evaluated based on their looks and sex appeal with numerical scores and offensive descriptions. The report assigned each woman a hypothetical sexual position in addition to her position on the soccer field. For example:  “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position.”  This ranking system appears to have been a and was not isolated to a few individuals. In response Harvard University suspended its men’s soccer team for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.   While it is easy to dismiss the scouting report as “locker room talk,” sex discrimination and exploitation on college campuses is not so neatly confined. Universities across the country are struggling to address sexism on and off the fields.   In 2015, more than 150,000 students at 27 universities participated in the Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct. The purpose was to “help participating universities better understand the attitudes and experiences of [read more]

The Erosion of Free Will and Its Legal Implications

By Noah Danielson The state of our knowledge about “free will” is still very unsettled. Much of the research in this field is the subject of hotly contested debate and answers to many important questions remain up in the air. However, a number of studies have corroded the edges of a previously widely accepted principal: that human decisions are the result of conscious choices. This idea is central to the retributivist theory of justice, by which a willful wrongdoer’s blameworthiness subjects them to punishment. Human Understanding of Our Conscious Choice In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, researchers found that transcranial stimulation – magnetic stimulation of the nerve cells in the brain – could impact human choices. Researchers asked participants to randomly raise their hand 50 times. Prior to stimulation, a right-handed person would select their right hand 60% of the time. After transcranial stimulation, the same person would select their left hand 80% of the time. Interestingly, participants still reported that they believed their choices had been made freely. The results suggest that the conscious mind may mistakenly believe that conscious intent is the impetus for an action, when in actuality there is an outside [read more]

Autonomous Cars: Who’s to Blame?

By Danny Ho The world may soon enter into a new era of transportation – autonomous cars. What was once a futuristic concept that people only toyed with in their imaginations is increasingly becoming a reality. These are cars that drive themselves through the use of sensory technologies such as radar, global positioning systems (GPS) and cameras. Technically speaking, passengers in such a car could sleep or even read a book while the car navigates itself to the desired location. Aside from passenger luxury and convenience, there are other advantages to a road system dominated by autonomous cars. Most importantly, the use of autonomous cars could actually reduce the occurrence of traffic collisions generally by virtually negating instances of human driving errors such as tailgating, aggressive driving, and lack of attention. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company even estimates that, if the use of autonomous cars become widespread, traffic collisions could be reduced by as much as 90% nationally. In addition, autonomous cars may provide for higher speed limits and thus smoother and shorter travel times because of a decreased need for safety gaps between cars. But despite these advantages, autonomous cars can still get in traffic accidents. In fact, [read more]