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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Justice Souter's iPod Playlist

So I'm sitting in the library today, catching up on my Copyright Law reading, and I'm reading the Supreme Court's opinion in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., written by Justice Souter. The case, decided in June, was one of those cases where the courts put the kibosh on peer-to-peer file sharing.

Basically, the Court said that Grokster and StreamCast (which distributed Morpheus) was liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement because it induced its users to make infringing copies, yada yada yada, legal analysis, whatever.

The part of Souter's opinion which jumped out at me was when the 65-year-old judge name-dropped a certain modern rock band. "Users seeking Top 40 songs, for example, or the latest release by Modest Mouse, are certain to be far more numerous than those seeking a free Decameron, and Grokster and StreamCast translated that demand into dollars." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 125 S.Ct. 2764, 2774 (2005).

Huh? Justice Souter knows who Modest Mouse is?

A Westlaw search reveals that this is the only published court opinion ever to mention Modest Mouse. Go figure.

But Souter still cannot stake a claim as the hippest judge sitting on the federal judiciary. That honor goes to Circuit Judge Terence T. Evans, of the 7th Circuit. In May, Judge Evans corrected a court reporter's transcript in a footnote in U.S. v. Murphy:

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies." U.S. v. Murphy, 406 F.3d 857, 859 n.1 (7th Cir. 2005)
Yep, that's right. He quoted "Ho." However, he did not cite the song in his footnote. How someone so careless in his bluebooking became a circuit judge, I have no idea. (I also don't know how you would cite song lyrics, nor do I care to look it up at this moment.)

See, this is the kind of stuff that needs to be on my finals. Forget about third party liability for copyright infringement; I want to study random pop music references in court opinions.

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