07 June 2004

While anxiously awaiting announcement of the Court's decisions this morning, we'll start off with the NYT. Unusually for a Monday—particularly a Monday that also includes reporting on the Tonys, the only major award with less intellectual integrity than the Grammys—there were three other stories of interest to authors and others in the arts.

First, the broken record story: Yet another story demonstrating the clash between First Amendment and free-expression values and failure to enforce antitrust laws. It appears that Miramax may try to leave Disney. Try, that is. Although this merger should have been rejected when first proposed (if one does the math, it was in the "suspect" zone for the HHI index— about which more some other time), the egos of the various parties, combined with their unsupportable valuations, will make deconglomerating the two difficult at best, and most likely impossble. It's not just the money; it's the long-term refusals to cooperate that will result.

Then there's the obvious alternative to agents available only to those who need no sales assistance: Hiring a lawyer instead. What this really points out, more than anything else, is that agents and lawyers have completely different sets of competencies. Very, very few lawyers are any good at all as salespeople; very, very few agents should be allowed to touch boilerplate (for the publishing company's lawyers, it's sort of like a battle of wits against the unarmed), let alone nonstandard contract terms. I've seen too many contracts, even those negotiated by "leading" agents, that have significant problems because the agents were unable to see beyond the particular clause they thought mattered. That is application of legal judgment to a situation involving representation of the legal interests of a third party. In other words, the practice of law.

Finally for now, there's more discussion of indecency in the media. And here I thought that Janet Jackson's appearance was indecent because she was singing off-key and slightly ahead of the beat…