15 April 2008

Beware the Ides of April

Slightly late Monday Miscellany. On Tuesday. (So sue me — I need the business ;-)

  • First, let's get one thing out of the way: I know perfectly well that technically, the Ides of April does not fall on the fifteenth. It's just so appropriate, though.
  • It's pretty apparent to me that Chief Justice Roberts does, indeed, have a sense of humor. How else can one explain today's two Supreme Court opinions? Unanimity is hard enough to reach on that court; two unanimous opinions on the same day is even harder. And, best yet, they're both on taxes, and both rather easy cases.
  • Then, on the other hand, there's the leniency toward corporate misconduct that has become the trend in law since the early 1980s, and only accelerated under this Administration. What bothers me the most about the news frenzy surrounding white-collar-crime prosecutions of senior corporate officers is not the substance — even when the prosecutions seem somewhat dubious — but the self-reinforcing frenzy itself.
  • As usual, a couple of bizarre notes from the music world. First, in one of his usual rhetorical overstatements, Norman Lebrecht claims that Karajan killed classical music. (After his book of a couple of years ago, shouldn't we just give Lebrecht the executioner's axe and be done with it?) There's more than a hint of truth to this accusation, but not for quite the reasons that Lebrecht asserts: In a very broad sense, performing classical music is a collaboration, and the problem with Karajan was that he was willing to collaborate only with himself. I suppose that beats focussing on acoustic instruments, though.
  • Then there's the question of territorial rights, which tends to get both the questions and the long-term interests inverted. In the long term, it is not in authors' interests to subdivide territories for territorial rights; that only encourages Balkanization of both markets and accounting, not to mention other rights. Unfortunately, getting to the long term requires surviving the short term, so this argument is — naturally — extremely unclear.
  • I was absolutely shocked to find some decent reporting at Variety on Tim Robbins's NAB keynote address. (OTOH, the reporter isn't a Variety lifer, so maybe I shouldn't be quite so surprised.) Robbins's speech also bears some consideration in the publishing industry, but it's not going to get any.
  • Last, and far from least, the reporting of the Harry Potter Lexicon case is only making clearer that Warner Brothers' trademark interests, far more than Rowling's copyright interests, are driving the lawsuit. Although Rowling's testimony yesterday was from a copyright holder/creator's perspective, the questions from plaintiffs' counsel — representing her interests — were from a trademark and dilution/disparagement/passing-off perspective, even when put in the formal language of copyright claims.