Today In History: Frederick Douglass Escapes Slavery

Frederick DouglassOn September 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass, American abolitionist, social reformer, and statesman, escaped from slavery.  Wearing a sailor’s uniform (and carrying seaman’s protection documents) provided by a friend, he embarked on a perilous journey from Baltimore to Philadelphia.  Forty years later, he wrote a riveting account of his escape; you can read it here.

Labor Day Weekend Library Hours

The Law Library will be open the following hours over the Labor Day weekend:

Friday, September 4:  7:00am-7:00pm
Saturday, September 5:  10:00am-6;00pmSunday, September 6:  1:00pm-9:00pm
Monday, September 7:  1:00pm-9:00pm

The Reference Desk will not be staffed on Monday, but the Circulation Desk will be staffed and happy to answer questions.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Spotify: How It Works, and How It’s Legal.

by Scott Beale

by Scott Beale

I have a normal routine when I get to work.  I come in, change out of my walking clothes, drink some coffee, turn on the radio, and then I can start preparing for the day.   Usually, I stream either our local NPR news station or something on Spotify.

In case you were interested, today I’m listening to Mariachi El Bronx.  I’d highly recommend, both for the music and the back story.

To me, Spotify is a strange animal.  For those of us around for the beginning of internet music, namely Spotify’s completely illegal cousins Napster and Limewire, and illegal torrent sites like Piratebay, completely legal internet streaming sites seem strange.  So, I decided it might be fun to look into exactly how these free streaming sites work.

First, Spotify is legal because it pays artists for their music.  There is no thievery going on here! Record labels, and occasionally independent artists, provide Spotify with copies of their music.  Spotify then streams the music to users via their website, downloadable platform, or application.  Then, artists receive money based on the number of times users play their songs.  How much money you ask?  Well, that’s the tricky part.

Spotify’s “artists” page says they pay different rates based on country of the user, type of user listening (free vs. subscription), subscription pricing, exchange rates, and the artists’ individual royalty rates.  Spotify states that they end up paying between $0.006 and $0.0084 to rights holders (artists).  While this might seem like a small amount of money, Spotify recently reported that a real-life artist was earning $425,000 per month in royalties for a “global hit album.”   This doesn’t give a lot of hope to smaller acts, but it does show that someone is making a lot of money from the service.

spotifyAnd where does all this money come from?  The answer is advertising and subscriptions.  Spotify’s free service uses ads to pay artists for music, while its subscription service charges users to listen without ads.  It then passes this money on to artists and stockholders alike.  In its free form, Spotify runs on a similar model to Google products like Gmail and Google Drive, which provide free services with advertisements.

So what’s the difference between Spotify and the illegal alternatives of my youth?  Not much, honestly.  Spotify is reliable and carries almost any music you could ask for.  Admittedly, some superstars like Taylor Swift and Prince have taken their music off the site.  However, generally speaking, the site works well and allows users to listen to almost anything they want without the threat of attorney letters and lawsuits.

Cocky’s Guide to the Law Library & IT

Trying to remember something that you learned during orientation about the library or IT?  We’ve compiled a guide with all the relevant information you heard: Cocky’s Guide to the Law Library & IT!

cockysguideLearn how to:

  • Reserve a study room
  • Order a book we don’t own through interlibrary loan
  • Register for the electronic research databases (Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg)
  • Get more printing credits if you run out of your $100 allotment, and
  • much more!

Of course, you can also email the Reference Desk at, call the desk at 803-7777-5902, or stop by with questions on weekdays between 8:30am and 5:00pm!


Welcome 1Ls

Today the University of South Carolina welcomes its new class of first year law students.  The students begin a three day orientation period, where they will receive introductory sessions on law school classes, professionalism, academic support, and even a tour of the library.  Obviously, the tour of the library will be the best part.

All of us here at the Coleman Karesh Law Library would like to wish our newest students the best of luck.  For those of us who teach, we look forward to meeting you in class on Friday.  Finally, as always, if you need help, information, reassurance, a high-five, or really anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask.

US Embassy Opens in Havana

The United States reopened its Cuban embassy today; it had been closed for over 54 years.  This occasion marks a huge step in the international relations between the two countries.  John Kerry, the first Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years, presided over the ceremony, calling the flag raising at the embassy a “historic moment,” but warning that the U.S. wouldn’t stop pressing for democratic change in Cuba.

In a poetic moment, the three men who took the flag down 54 years ago as young marines handed the flag over to be hoisted once more.

A New Look for HeinOnline

Most students are familiar with HeinOnline after their first year Legal Research, Analysis & Writing course as a place to find PDFs of law review articles, as well as many other resources.  After releasing its new interface this week, it’s looking a little different than you’re used to, but it still has all the same great content.

HeinThe new homepage highlights all the various libraries within Hein and allows researchers to limit the libraries by the type of materials they’re looking for.

To read up on other HeinOnline digital collections, see our coverage of these other helpful resources: Congress and the CourtsHistory of Supreme Court NominationsSession Laws Library/State Statutes: A Historical ArchiveU.S. International Trade LibraryChildren’s Law Journal,  Intellectual Property Law Collection,  State Attorney General Reports and OpinionsAmerican Indian Law CollectionWorld Constitutions IllustratedTaxation and Economic Reform in America, Parts I and IIU.S. Presidential LibraryEnglish ReportsWorld Trials LibraryU.S. Supreme Court LibraryFederal Register LibraryForeign & International Law Resources DatabaseNational Moot Court CompetitionAmerican Law Institute LibraryHistory of Bankruptcy:  Taxation & Economic Reform in America Part IIIStatutes of the RealmLegal Classics LibraryHistory of International LawU.S. Federal Legislative History LibraryPentagon PapersTreaties and Agreements LibraryCanada Supreme Court Reports/Revised Statutes of CanadaU.S. Congressional DocumentsEuropean Centre for Minority IssuesForeign Relations of the United States (FRUS)U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions, & AppealsLaw Journal LibrarySelden Society Publications and The History of Early English LawSubject Compilations of State LawsEarly American Case LawSpinelli’s Law Library Reference ShelfHarvard Journal of Law & TechnologyPhilip C. Jessup LibraryNational Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State LawsHarvard Research in International Law International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the FamilyAssociation of American Law Libraries (AALL)Association of American Law Schools (AALS)United States CodeManual of Patent Examining ProcedureBar JournalsCode of Federal Regulations,United Nations Law CollectionCataloging Online, and Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law Publications.

The NFL and the Law

NFL Socialism  Mike Licht,

NFL Socialism
Mike Licht,

Two days ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Minnesota Vikings in the annual Hall of Fame Game, effectively marking the start of the NFL preseason.  For those of you non- sports fans, each National Football League team begins each season with four uncounted games.  While these games do not count for purposes of determining season rank or championships, they are incredibly important in evaluating talent and setting the roster for the upcoming season.

For our purposes, the NFL also offers some interesting intersections between the law and popular culture, namely, the way the law treats professional sports organizations and their business activities.    So, I thought, “what better time to point out a few of these intricacies in a blog post.”

The NFL Is a Tax Exempt Organization (or at least it used to be).

That’s right. Until recently, the NFL organization did not pay taxes.  In 1942, the young sports league filed for “tax-exempt status” under what is now 21 U.S. Code 501(c)(6).  This statute provides

“exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

The NFL has recently taken a lot of heat about their tax situation.  In April of 2015, the NFL officially declared that they would no longer seek tax exempt status, stating that it was a “distraction.”  Experts state that the change in status may not have much of tax implication because most of the profits of the NFL are passed on to individual teams, which have always paid taxes on their income.

The NFL is exempt from Anti-Trust issues

Generally speaking, the law disfavors trusts, monopolies, and other anti-competitive business practices*.  However, in some unique cases, Congress will provide loopholes in certain unique circumstances.  The NFL is one of these circumstances.

The NFL is a permitted monopoly, in both the players’ union and broadcast rights.  There is a statutorily constructed exemption for labor unions in antitrust.  Unions are a type of trust or monopoly favored by the law.  The whole area actually represents a really interesting intersection between labor and antitrust law.  However, for purposes of this very simple blog post, let’s just say that courts have found the NFL player’s union is a statutory exception to the US Antitrust law.

The NFL maintains a similar exception in their broadcasts rights as well.  Typically, antitrust law disfavors the grouping of businesses in negotiation.  An age-old example is one person owning all oil production and then setting an artificial, non-market regulated price for the product.  The analogy to the NFL broadcasting is easy to see.  Thirty-two teams band together to negotiate the television rights of all of their broadcasts.  The teams combined possess much more negotiating power than they would individually.  Essentially, they can set their own price.

In any other industry, this is a textbook monopoly.  In fact, in 1953, United States v. National Football League held a contract between the NFL and CBS was held invalid for exactly those reasons. United States v. National Football League, 116 F. Supp. 319, 321 (E.D. Pa. 1953).  However, shortly thereafter, Congress responded by passing the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which effectively exempted the NFL from any anti-trust based litigation. 15 U.S.C. §§ 1291-1295 (2012).  Their reasoning centered on the fact that while the teams were competitive rivals, their interests were so intertwined that they should be allowed to work as a unit in negotiating television rights.


*I’m speaking in generalities because I am no sort of anti-trust expert.  For more and better information, see your local law professor or reference librarian.  This article is purely introductory, almost comically so, in the area of antitrust and tax.




10 Things to Do in Columbia This August

welcomebackAs students start heading back to USC from wherever their summers took them, we want to remind you of all the fun things that are going on in Columbia for you to do!  Check out our list of fun things happening in Columbia this month.

1.  Check out the Summer Sidewalk Sale this weekend (August 7-9) in the Devine Street & Five Points neighborhoods.  There’ll be sales at all of your favorite stores for tax free weekend–as well as deals at some of your favorite local restaurants!  Complimentary trolley rides will even take you around.

columbiafoodtours2.  Take the Main Street Food Tour (2pm on August 8th, $42/person).  You’ll learn about our city while trying local cuisine at 5-7 of our best local restaurants.

3.  Love art?  Check out the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces.” The exhibit runs through September 13th.  Go any day except Mondays. (Admission is free for members, $5 for students!)

4.  Take a guided tour of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home for $1 any Sunday in August (for Richland and Lexington Country residents with valid ID).  Tours start at the top of every hour between 1:00 and 4:00pm from the Gift Shop at Robert Milles, located at 1616 Blanding St.

robertmills5.  Looking for creative ways to cool down?  Have some fun at the Happy Hour History Water Balloon Battle!  It takes places on Friday, August 21st from 5:30-7:00pm.  Attendants will break into teams to learn about military tactics throughout history, and then will relax with drinks and hors d’oeuvres ($15 members, $20 general admission.)

6.  Celebrate clean water and have tons of fun at the Summer Celebration of Water (free).  It takes places on Saturday, August  22nd from 10:00am-2:00pmriverfront at Riverfront Park.  This is a kid-friendly event with hands on educational activities, paddle sports, water slides, and much more!

7.  Participate in the 7th Annual Bar Stool Classic, a 10-hole putt-putt tournament through the bars of Five Points (Friday, August 28, starting at 5:30pm).  Proceeds benefit the Babcock Center Foundation.  For more information, go here.

8.  Head down to Main Street and see at movie at our local gem, The Nickelodeon.nick

9.  Are you a classical music fan?  Check out the Argento Chamber Ensemble, playing for free on Friday, August 28th at 7:30pm, at the USC School of Music Recital Hall in Room 206.

10.  Celebrate Cromer’s P-Nuts 80th Birthday with bouncey houses, music, treats, and much more on Saturday, August 29th from 10:00am-2:00pm at Cromer’s P-Nuts on Huger Street.

Julio! Get the stretch!

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars will need a bigger limo to accommodate all of the credited writers on their wildly popular hit song, “Uptown Funk.”  Last week, they added five members of the Gap Band to the list of those entitled to share in the royalties.  The Gap Band had filed a claim against Ronson & Mars due to the similarities between parts of “Uptown Funk” and their own song, “Oops Upside the Head.”  Apparently, the quick resolution was in response to the jury verdict in the “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, which awarded Marvin Gaye writing credit on the Robin Thicke/Pharrell Williams song and $7.4 million in royalties to his estate.

“Uptown Funk” has spawned a virtual parody industry.  Fortunately genuine parody is protected fair use activity,  see Broadcast Music, Inc. v. McDade & Sons, Inc., 928 F. Supp. 2d 1120 (D. Ariz. 2013), so the parodies should not be generating any litigation.

Stop! Wait a minute!  There’s even a “Law School Funk” version.

Don’t believe me? Just watch!