A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Opinion

You Don’t Own E-nything

Kindle

By Ryan Morrison

With news breaking last month that Amazon has a patent to resell e-books, consumers smiled and authors worriedly reviewed the contents of their savings accounts. Earlier this month, attorney and bestselling author Scott Turow wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times stating that the practice of reselling such an item will most likely be “ruled illegal.”

I share his optimism.  But only because our laws are so far behind Europe’s.

If a realm existed more poorly regulated and filled with bad law than the internet, I’d love to see it. We have reactionary legislation from people who don’t know how to turn on their computer, case law decided by judges perplexed by futuristic terms like “modem,” and an army of users content to make up their own interpretations of the law and let it spread like wildfire. This misinterpretation of the law is then repeated on various online forums until it is recited with more bravado than Gaston, mocking any who dare to disagree, even when the dissenters are correct.  Well, get on your chuckle boots, internet, because you’re about to be educated.

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Quite Possibly, a Bad Rap

Ryan Leslie

By Ryan Morrison

Ryan Leslie is a lot of things. He’s a Harvard University alum who completed his schooling at age 19. He’s a record producer, an R&B singer, and a rapper with a large and loyal fan base. He’s even the founder of a successful media company. One thing he is not, however, is an attorney.

So when his backpack was stolen during a tour in Cologne, Germany, in 2010, he probably should have consulted a lawyer before uploading not one, but two YouTube videos offering rewards for his lost property. First, Mr. Leslie offered a $20,000 reward for the return of his bag containing a hard drive and laptop with beats and recordings invaluable to the musician. With no results, he upped the reward to $1,000,000.

When a German auto shop owner out on a dog walk found the bag containing the computer and the hard drive and demanded his million dollar reward, Mr. Leslie refused to pay because, he said, none of the information on the hard drive was retrievable. This started an offer/acceptance problem that would make a law student scream his mother’s name and pass out during a contracts exam.

Our legal system, in its infinite wisdom, takes a problem too complex for most lawyers and asks twelve individuals with no legal training to figure it out. And in a Manhattan federal court last November, a jury ordered Mr. Leslie to pay Armin Augstein, the man who found the hard drive, the full $1 million. Later, the court ordered Mr. Leslie to an additional $180,000 for interest that accrued between the finding of the laptop and the court’s decision. Various newspapers, most notably the New York Post, have ruthlessly mocked Mr. Leslie for trying to get out of paying what he promised.

We wrote about the case in November of 2011 and came to the conclusion, after reading the media headlines, that Mr. Leslie had to pay up.  But we’ve since had the opportunity to learn more about the case.

We talked to David DeStefano, the attorney for Mr. Leslie, and we’re not certain the correct decision was reached.

…But let’s take a look together, shall we?

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Gay Teen, Bullied, Suicide — Again

Kid Being Bullied

By Meghan Lalonde

Just days have past since President Obama made history by becoming the first president to announce his support for “our gay brothers and sisters” in his second inaugural speech, but it’s clear there’s still a long way to go. It’s been over two years since names like Tyler Clementi and Jamey Rodemeyer made headlines, gay teenagers who committed suicide. Now there’s another name to add to the list: Jadin Bell.

Jadin was a 15-year-old high-school sophomore from La Grande, Oregon, and like many other gay teens, he was bullied both online and in school. Friends remembered him as “an amazing young man” who loved cheerleading and volunteering at a home for senior citizens. Last March, we reported the hopeful news that a group of gay students in Minnesota had settled a lawsuit over their school’s policy that had prohibited teachers from providing help to students affected by bullying. The news of Jadin committing suicide last week reminds us just how painful bullying can be — and sadly, still is.

My father always told me, “Suicide is such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I believe that’s what the bullying problem is: temporary. But for now it exists. There’s more work to be done beyond legally recognizing gay marriage (thank you, Rhode Island). We have to make it better for everyone.

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Presidential Concern

Obama playing football

By Ryan Morrison

On January 16, President Barack Obama made it clear that if he had a son, he would have to think “long and hard” before he let Junior play football. This isn’t an attack on the sport, it’s our nation slowly coming to terms with just how dangerous and damaging the game can be to its players.

As a relatively new journalist, I often feel overwhelmed and helpless. There’s so much wrong that needs righting, so much news that need telling, and so much time and energy wasted in shock and awe because Beyonce-lipsyched-the-national-anthem.

So it is extraordinarily inspiring to realize that one journalist, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, is responsible for effectuating change in a behemoth as powerful as the NFL. Starting with just basic math that no one took the time to check (or that they chose to ignore), Mr. Schwarz painstakingly analyzed the rate of brain injuries in ex-NFL players, versus the rate in the general population.  He wrote story after story.

And the stories led to Congressional hearings, NFL rule changes, and a reworking of our nation’s mindset as we opened our eyes to the true horror story that are concussions.

In this age of cost cutting at every (still extant) newspaper across the country, we’re fortunate to have amongst us dogged investigative reporters like Mr. Schwarz, and his employer, the New York Times.

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An Unfortunate Update

Junior Seau

By LASIS Staff

Back in May, the world was shocked to hear that Junior Seau, former Pro-Bowl linebacker for the NFL, most famous for his time with the San Diego Chargers, had committed suicide.

LASIS has written about the evidence that contact sports are resulting in non-reversible and life threatening brain injuries to players. (see here and here).

Now this:  An autopsy has revealed that Mr. Seau had been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the brain disease that has been linked to and numerous professional athlete’s homicidal attacks suicides, as well as cases of dementia and other mind altering diseases.

The news is tragic — and did not even make the front page of the major newspapers. For shame.

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