Taking Aim at Press Freedoms

Don Blankenship was convicted of conspiracy related to a deadly mine explosion. He was sentenced to one year in prison, a day less than a felony sentence. He served his sentence in a prison where he was the only inmate in for a misdemeanor.

A rich man, Don ran for the U.S. Senate when he got out of prison. Numerous media, in error, reported he was a convicted felon. Blankenship sued the media for defamation claiming his reputation was irreparably damaged. The lower courts dismissed his suit on the basis of New York Times v. Sullivan.

Blankenship petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to hear his case and toss or modify Sullivan, asserting that Sullivan, “grant[s] the press a license to publish defamatory falsehoods that misinform[s] voters … and incite[s] unrest.” Maybe, but the requirement for that license under Sullivan is strenuous.

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Why Hunter Biden Wins His Gun Case

There is a special brand of irony that Hunter Biden, son of anti-gun President Joe Biden, will use last year’s Supreme Court decision in N.Y.S. Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen to challenge his indictment for being a drug addict in possession of a gun and lying under oath to buy that gun.

The president himself issued a statement following the Bruen decision, “I am deeply disappointed by (the court’s) ruling in (Bruen) … I urge states to continue to enact and enforce commonsense laws to make their citizens safer from gun violence.”

Yes, gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and Bruen makes it far harder for government to enforce laws aimed at reducing gun violence.

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Illinois’ Problematic Gun Law

I enjoy disparate interests. I teach Second Amendment law, and teach and write a treatise on advertising law. I was surprised that two of my legal interests coincided when Illinois House Bill 218 was signed into law by the Illinois Gov, J.B. Pritzker.

H.B. 218 is an omnibus gun safety law, and one of its prohibitions is the advertising of a gun in a way that may support, recommend or encourage a person under 18 to unlawfully purchase, possess or use a firearm in Illinois. In addition to the vagueness of this criminal statute, it has First Amendment problems. Maybe Second Amendment issues, too.

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U.S. Copyright Law Protects Only Human Works

By Guest Contributor Victoria E. Thornton

You may have seen online images that were created using artificial intelligence (AI) and wondered whether copyright law protects the artist’s efforts. In most instances, apparently not. A recent landmark decision by the United States Copyright Office holds that copyright protects only human-made works.

The Copyright Office’s February 21, 2023, published decision explains why artificially made works are not protected. “Zarya of the Dawn” is a comic book authored by Kristina Kashtanova and illustrated using Midjourney, an artificial intelligence program. See U.S. Copyright Office Correspondence to Kristina Kashtanova (Feb. 21, 2023). Though the Office granted limited registration as to the text of the work as well as the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the work’s written and visual elements, it declined to protect the artificially generated illustrations. Id. at 1.

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Why AI Developers Are Being Sued

There is no clarity of result available to artificial intelligence litigants who tread in the Land of Oz.

Plaintiffs are filing suits against AI developers at a quick pace; their grounds are that AI really creates nothing new but merely reads and copies billions of other peoples’ protected works from the Internet. Using these works, and in reaction to a user’s commands, AI combines elements of existing works into something else, whether art or prose.

The new work may be a derivative of an old, copied work for which the developer needs a license to use the old work. Many authors think so, and have joined together to sue, although for now their suits raise more questions than there are answers.

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Goodell DeVries’s IP Group Honored in Best Lawyers 2024

Congratulations to Jim Astrachan and Donna M.D. Thomas on once again being selected for Best Lawyers in America, and to Kaitlin D. Corey on being selected for Best Lawyers Ones to Watch for 2024.

Jim is named in the Advertising Law, Communications Law, Copyright Law, Litigation – Intellectual Property, and Trademark Law categories. He has appeared in Best Lawyers every year since 2006.

Donna is named in the Copyright Law and Trademark Law categories. She’s been selected for Best Lawyers annually since 2015.

Kaitlin is named in the Corporate Law; Intellectual Property Law; Litigation – Intellectual Property categories.

The Taco Tuesday Tussle

Some fast food trademarks make me hungry. Taco Bell’s recent fight with Taco John’s over Taco Tuesday® did so. But trademark battles between two fast food chains aside, I thought more interesting was how Taco Bell turned the dispute into entertaining advertising that promoted its brand more than its product. More on this shortly.

Is Taco Tuesday a proprietary trademark, a designator of a single source of a product? Is it a generic term, available for use by all sellers of tacos to describe in terms generally known to the public that tacos are eaten or a good deal on Tuesdays? The question to chew on is what has the public come to understand Taco Tuesday to represent? A designator of source, or is it merely a declaration used by many that Tuesday is a day to eat tacos? Even if it began life as a designator of source, it can become generic through use. Think shredded wheat, or aspirin. Continue reading