: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Eben Moglen

The O’Reilly Distributing the Future Podcast turned up this interesting talk at OSCON 2006 by Eben Moglen, professor of law and history of law at Columbia University. Moglen, pro bono General Counsel for the Free Software Foundation and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center is an unabashed champion of open source software development and staunch critic of patents in software. I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but found his contention that American patent law arose from immigration policy fascinating.

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Eben Moglen ~ Legal Opinions (.mp3)

Google Patents

Patent Geeks will be interested in the new search product from Google, Google Patents. Google Patents allows searching patents available through the Google interface. It’s actually kind of fun even if you aren’t a patent geek. My personal favorite – the lawsuit board game. Check out the real deal in all it’s glory.

If you didn’t know it already, Google’s mission extends far beyond search engines, to “organize the world’s information.” If you’re interested in where things might be headed in this area, I recommend John Battelle’s The Search which delves into both the theoretical and economic impact of Google’s impact on information. LexisNexis, Westlaw, watch your back.

Life without Law (for a little while at least)

We took our torts final last night so I’m beginning my slow rehabilitation to rejoin society. Today, for instance, I have focused on reminding myself that pointing out potentially negligent behavior to people is not as welcomed as one might think. Same goes for areas of potential landowner liability in people’s homes. Also, I’ve come to realize that torts-related jokes are not even funny to law students much less to the ‘normals’.

I’ve been catching up on my feeds. Brown Boy somehow broke his RSS feed, so he is now dead to me. Apparently he and Ana were talking coffee shops. Ana does a good round up of Houston’s study-conducive coffee shops. Ana likes Cafe Artiste. So does Brown Boy. Brown Boy, however, readily admits to sitting there reading torts with ear plugs. This is now exhibit A in my argument for the need for the re-socialization of law students.

I’ve been to neither Cafe Artiste nor Agora, though I’ve dutifully put them on the list of places I’ll now futilely try to remember the names and locations of the next time I’m driving around looking for a coffee joint. I see her Cafe Brasil and Empire Cafe and raise her the Empiresque but less see-and-be-seen Daily Grind on Washington and Shepherd, Julie Victoria on University and Greenbriar and Solento on Rice Blvd in the village. Incidentally, I think I’ve built up some sort of weird caffeine tolerance, since I’m having to work harder and harder for my fix, but really, it’s not a problem. I can quit any time I want.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law

Procrastination is a powerful motivator. WSJ Law Blog turned me on to The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law. While finishing up my torts outline last week in the library all of a sudden I just had to read it. Procrastination well spent though. It’s an excellent stocking stuffer for any lawyers or would be-lawyers. Hell, I’ve already read it and I’d still be pretty excited if Santa bought me one. The huddled masses in the O’Quinn Law Library may save their $25 if they care to visit KF300.H47.

My favorite parts –

On Dicta – “The holding of the case is what the trial court did. All the rest is just old men in nightgowns talking.”

On the relevance of law school exams to practice, very timely –

“Take law school exams for example. You always thought they were ridiculous; you probably still do. Cram irrelevant crap into your head for two days; spill it all out in an hour or three; forget about it, and move on to the next set of irrelevant crap. Sit back and wait while someone passes judgment on your abbreviated presentation. Surely this has nothing to do with the practice of law.”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. That process is the very essence of practicing law. What do I do when I argue a motion? Cram irrelevant crap into my head for two days; spill it all out in five minutes or thirty; forget about it, and move on to the next set of irrelevant crap. Have someone tell me if I win or lose.


Documentary Film Producers Challenge Licensing Fees with Fair Use Doctrine

Here’s an interesting case. In short, a documentary film exec. is balking at the hefty licensing fees companies are asking for use of clips, so he’s decided to use the fair use doctrine as both carrot and stick. He offers to pay companies drastically reduced fees or won’t pay them at all, relying on fair use. If his gambit works, it’s hard to see how the film clip licensing niche will work out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pretty good case come out of this as it appears to be a tenuous line between free speech and profit motive in this particular application of fair use.

“We’re taking on the fight not only with ‘Wanderlust’ but also with the upcoming ‘This Film Is Not Yet Rated,’ ” said Mr. Shapiro, referring to a clip-dependent critique of the film ratings system set for release in theaters later this year. “That was made, from the start, under the fair-use doctrine, as all of our documentaries will be from now on.”

Mr. Donaldson began contacting the studios at the Berlin film festival in February, initiating talks that dragged on for months. Accept $1,000 a title, he said, or IFC will move ahead anyway. Though Paramount held firm, 13 of the 18 copyright holders accepted the offer, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, MGM, Universal Studios, Miramax Films and Warner Brothers Entertainment, whose price was cut from $149,850 to $8,000. In the end the clips cost IFC less than $50,000. The holdouts advised IFC to rely on the fair-use argument, which, after viewing the film, they said they might legally challenge. (Mr. Shapiro is ramping up his insurance and putting away money in case that happens.)

No Free Samples for Documentaries: Seeking Film Clips With the Fair-Use Doctrine

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