When Sports and the Law Collide

Posted on Aug 22, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

When most of us catch the game on TV, we aren’t really thinking about all the legal issues surrounding sports. We’re just hoping to unwind with our favorite team. In reality, however, the law extends into athletics just as much as anywhere else. For sports-loving, would-be lawyers, that makes for a great opportunity. After all, someone has to represent those players, team owners, concession stand workers, administrators, and others when problems arise. In his description of life as a sports lawyer, professor, and director of the National Sports Law Institute, Matthew J. Mitten recounts a variety of cases he’s dealt with: representing a county during litigation surrounding an NFL club’s relocation; providing legal advice to a baseball player wanting to level a medical malpractice suit at his former team; and more than one situation sparked by intellectual property law. Mitten’s tasks run the gamut from registering trademarks to providing information about liability. He’s served sports physician organizations, coaches, referees, sports facility operators, sports broadcasters, and more. He’s had to delve into his knowledge in a variety of areas of law, including contract, labor, and intellectual property law. Sports law isn’t just for professional teams, either. Schools—both high schools and colleges—face legal issues as well. Here are just a few in recent times: College athletes wanting to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board was faced with a case involving Northwestern University scholarship football players wanting to unionize back in 2014. While initially finding in favor of the athletes, the Board stated the following year that they would not uphold their previous decision. An appeal to federal courts is still a possibility. Title IX and gender equity. Schools across the country struggle to keep up with complaints regarding Title IX issues, particular in terms of offering equal opportunities to both boys and girls when it comes to sports. Since the mid-90s, there have been about 125-150 complaints regarding Title IX infringement filed with the OCR, with half going to settlement and half ending up in federal courts.  Serving athletes with disabilities. Since the Disabilities Education Act, schools across the country have made an effort to make athletics available to students with disabilities, with varying results. In 2013, the United States Department of Education, under Arne Duncan, released a statement on schools’ legal responsibilities to provide for disabled students when it comes to athletics. Schools are required to either allow disabled students to participate with their peers or else provide participation opportunities through adapted programs. As sports law continues to develop, it provides an opportunity for those interested in a variety of both legal and athletics studies to find the places where these two areas intersect. There are plenty of situations requiring legal advice to keep the international delight with sports moving along in a fair and equitable way. Sports lawyers and others serving the athletics industry are key to making it...

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Could Pokemon Go Cause You to Break the Law?

Posted on Jul 26, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Pokemon Go is one of the first augmented reality games to gain national notoriety and be played avidly by the general public. Pokemon Go lays down its own content over a Google Maps program. This allows the players to walk around through the Pokemon Go map on their phone while walking around in the real world. In the Pokemon world, Pokemon wander around, and players need to find and capture them. There are also hotspots where players can acquire items or where Pokemon are more likely to be found. There are also gyms where players can take their Pokemon to fight. All of these reflect locations in the physical world from bus stops to coffee shops to churches. While the game has gotten lots of players out of the house and walking around their neighborhoods, the popularity of an augmented reality game like Pokemon Go raises both safety and legal issues. Police officers across the country have been issuing statements reminding people to exercise their common sense while playing the game. Don’t run into people on the sidewalk. Remember that traffic exists in the real world. Do not operate any kind of vehicle or bicycle while using the app. It’s also important to note that the game does not discriminate between public and private property when it places Pokemon and other game objects. It is important that the users and parents of young users are aware that this boundary very much exists in the real and legal world. Pokemon have been placed in businesses, churches, and private residences. “Catching Pokemon” is not a reason to enter into private spaces without permission. It is especially important to make sure children understand this boundary. Police are concerned about potential conflict or injuries from being mistaken for an intruder, as well as the repeated trespassing reports. It is also important to note that the user “assumes liability related to any property damage, personal injury or death,” including violations of laws while playing the game. This is included in the agreement users sign to begin playing the game. Nintendo, etc. are not liable for actions users take during the game. Another important reason to be aware during the game is that users can add lures to the game. Users have been known to set a lure, attract other users, and then rob...

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The Future of 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and Their Intersection With The Law

Posted on Jun 7, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

The Future of 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and Their Intersection With The Law

3D printing technology is in a fledgling state, though it has already raised many ethical and moral dilemmas. What can you print with a 3D printer? Guns? Illicit drugs? Can you print anything? Also, who controls the designs for 3D printed content? Who should own those and distribute them? These are all things that the law can answer, given time. Unfortunately, this makes answering questions about the future of 3D printing, intellectual property, and their intersection with the law difficult to hypothesize. What will the future of 3D printing laws will be, based on the current landscape? A few brave souls have attempted to answer some of these questions. In a recent YouTube video on PBS Idea Channel, host Mike Rugnetta spoke with Michael Weinburg, General Counsel and head of litigation at Shapeways, a 3D printing company. During the interview, the two spoke about the various issues concerning 3D printing technology and implementation, especially as they intersect with intellectual property and laws. 3D Printing Community Weinburg notes that the 3D printing community is currently comprised of the following groups of people: The makers, who come up with ideas and like the challenge of design. They are engineering-oriented people. Designers, who have had an awesome idea for a thing and want to use 3D printing technology as a means to create their vision. Outside of these two large groups, there are also smaller cliques like educators (who aim to use 3D printing in the classroom as an engaging way to teach science, engineering, and math), and lawyers, who are concerned with the future of 3D printing legislation and regulation. Copyright Distinction: Functional vs. Non-Functional The current state of 3D printing laws revolves around copyright violations and patent infringements. When determining copyright violations for 3D printed objects, the first question one must ask is: is this object functional or non-functional? A functional object serves a purpose (like a door knob or a part of your car’s engine), while a non-functional object might be a piece of art. Functional objects are categorically not subject to copyright laws, while non-functional objects can be copyrighted. That said, any object (even a functional object) can be protected by a patent. Embrace 3D Printing! In defense of embracing 3D printing technology on a widespread scale, Weinburg explains the process that the music industry used to approach MP3s when they first hit the market. This faulty strategy, he explains, caused the music industry to alienate many of their customers and eventually resulted in giving in to their demands: first, they sued all of their customers for downloading MP3s, then they put on digital locks to their music (which were easily broken), and then they finally embraced MP3 technology and sought to serve the market that obviously exists for digital music. This is important for the future of 3D printing design and law: people will find a way...

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Why Is Online Harassment Legislation Still Not A Thing?

Posted on May 19, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Why Is Online Harassment Legislation Still Not A Thing?

It is hard to imagine life without the Internet in 2016. While the Internet has become a huge staple of modern life, laws surrounding its use haven’t quite caught up with our rapid technological leaps forward. One question that many have in this day and age is: why is online harassment not prosecuted in the same way that harassment and assault are in the real world? Why hasn’t the law caught up with technology. In their 2014 report Online Harassment, Defamation, and Hateful Speech: A Primer of the Legal Landscape, Alice E. Marwick and Ross Miller of Fordham University do a good job of explaining just why online harassment, defamation, and hate speech are particularly troublesome to create legislation for. Some of their main points include: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides Internet service providers (ISPs), such as social media websites, blog hosting companies, etc., with broad immunity from liability for user-generated content. Limited resources tend to cause law enforcement personnel to prioritize other cases instead of Internet-related ones. The medium of the Internet can make prosecution tricky. For example, if a crime is committed between two people who live in different states or countries, which laws should be applied? For online statements to qualify as defamatory, they must be empirically false instead of simply a matter of opinion. This makes specific language crucial and often makes filing for defamation tricky. Internet speech is protected under the First Amendment. As a result, state laws regarding online speech are written to comply with these protections, requiring fighting words, true threats, or obscene speech (which aren’t protected). Therefore, many offensive online comments are actually protected speech. Beyond those difficulties, there are issues where the rubber meets the road: enforcing the law. Law enforcement and legislation are notoriously sluggish when it comes to keeping up with rapid advancements in technology. It is incredibly easy to find anonymity on the Internet today, which can sometimes make proving that one party is the culprit in a case rather dubious. Those concerned with privacy would be huge opponents of bills like this because of the technology required to actually enforce them. If you’re a victim today, ultimately you can’t do a whole lot beyond actually reaching out to social media channels or online media where these types of message are posted. However, if the messages do not violate that website’s terms of service, the message will most likely stick around, and the user will not be banned or have their account removed. In fairness, the current legal system isn’t a complete failure for victims of cyber crimes. However, filing a case and seeing it through to completion in these situations is often very expensive, time-consuming, and emotionally draining, and as a result many choose not to prosecute if they find themselves in a troublesome situation. As we become more and more familiar with...

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San Francisco Hopes to Regulate Airbnb, HomeAway Rentals

Posted on May 3, 2016 in Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

San Francisco Hopes to Regulate Airbnb, HomeAway Rentals

If you thought the housing situation in San Francisco was bad already, then you won’t be surprised to learn that the short-term-rental market in San Fran might get a little worse too. Or better, depending on your perspective. A proposed amendment to a current San Francisco law would impose regulations on Airbnb, HomeAway, and other types of private vacation rental services. The regulations would be based on the laws of the areas that the rental properties are located in. The law states that Airbnb, HomeAway, and others would be subject to the same building regulations as other similar companies in the same jurisdiction. So for the purposes of San Francisco, the companies would have to abide by San Francisco regulations. Platforms that don’t follow this mandate could faces fines of up to $1,000 a day per listing as well as misdemeanor charges against them. “Unless the hosting platforms have a role in enforcement, enforcement is not going to happen,” said Supervisor David Campos of San Francisco. “They have to have some skin in the game.” Airbnb, HomeAway, and others are quickly becoming a standard for some travelers who seek cheap lodging accommodations on their travels. It’s quite rational that the law of the land would catch up with the ways of the people. One might argue that Airbnb is feeling the heat and actively making attempts to save face, as they may fear potential blowback from some of their properties in San Francisco that don’t meet the city’s regulations. In an unlikely move to do just that, Airbnb recently began talks with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for a potential alliance. Why does the move seem bizarre? The SEIU has been one of the champions behind $15/hour minimum wage laws, which could end up costing Airbnb a lot of money if the wage were implemented throughout the country. It will be interesting to see how this proposed law turns out, as it could easily set a precedent for other major metropolitan areas across the...

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Florida Bar Results Reveal Poor Performance on First Time Bar Exams

Posted on Apr 19, 2016 in Blog Entry: Elections and Courts, Blog Entry: Spinning the Law

Florida Bar Results Reveal Poor Performance on First Time Bar Exams

The dreaded Bar Exam. Even for those unacquainted with the legal profession, pop culture has taught us that the Bar Exam is to be feared and painstakingly prepared for. But for those studying to become lawyers, this reality is all too real. A recent study from the Florida Board of Bar Examiners shows that Florida’s law school students do quite poorly on their Bar Exam the first time through. Even though these aren’t first-time test takers, the results are staggering and show just how hard taking the Bar Exam can be. Here are a few percentages for several Florida universities’ law students on their first attempt at the Bar Exam: Florida Coastal–32.7% Barry University–35.9% University of Florida–56.3% University of Miami–53.1% Florida International University–84.6% Nova Southeastern University–75.0% While not all schools performed poorly (another shout-out for Florida International University and Nova Southeastern University!), the data seems to show one common trend: the larger the testing group, the poorer the results. Does this correlate to the size of a cohort or with class sizes? Only time or another exhaustive study can provide us with the answer. Why is the Bar Exam so difficult? The results of this study, and many others, beg the question: why exactly is the Bar Exam so difficult? These are some of the reasons why students wind up doing very poorly, or even failing, their Bar Exams and and how you can avoid some common pitfalls. A simple rule of thumb to follow: you’ll pass the exam with your strengths, and you’ll fail with your weaknesses. Instead of spending a lot of time trying to turn your weaknesses into strengths (often, this is impossible or at least very unlikely), devote time to refining your strengths so that you know you’ll do your best on these sections! Stress is killer: the stress (and intimidating aura) surrounding the Bar Exam can cause students to get flustered and anxious. This can create a number of problems, including causing students to attempt to cram too much information (effectively learning nothing) and literally pushing their bodies to their limits. This naturally puts students off their A-game. While you might know the law in and out, you may not have the proper skills of showing your work and making a convincing argument. These are both skills that any successful lawyer will need to have. You don’t manage your time wisely. The Bar Exam has timed sections, and if you can’t work with those strict guidelines, you will surely fail. Studying time management skills is a great way to increase your chances of...

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