Just Don’t Department

Oh No!There are countless approaches to the practice of law that will let you express your creativity and ability.  And then there are the things you just don’t do.

*Don’t comment on someone’s social media picture, even if you think you’re paying a compliment.

*Don’t leave voicemails laced with profanity and name-calling.

*Don’t hang Hitler’s portrait in your courtroom.

*Don’t get indicted for fraud.



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.

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 lawref@law.sc.edu, 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.

The NFL and the Law

NFL Socialism  Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

NFL Socialism
Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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.




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!

The Bar Exam by Will Bullas

Bar Exam Day Is Here!

Today marks the first day of the South Carolina Bar Exam. A large number of our recently graduated University of South Carolina Law students, along with students from other institutions as well as a few re-takers, will be attempting the test. For those of unfamiliar with the process, recently graduated students go straight from their last semester final exams into bar studying. They continue studying throughout the summer, many taking bar prep courses and spending 40 plus hours a week refreshing all the knowledge they learned in law school. Then, in late July (TODAY!) they begin the three-day examination in hopes of passing and receiving a license to practice law.
Almost every lawyer remembers this summer. I remember waking up early every morning, the bar exam classes, the afternoons studying in the local library, and even the magical moment I walked out of the exam. This is my actual to do list from the summer of 2009 (I just found this to doto do list extension hidden away in some remote corner of Gmail.) My Facebook posts from that time period focus only on the bar exam, with themes ranging from self-deprecating defeatism to unabashed confidence in my test taking abilities. Meals were eaten, work arranged, and vacations planned all around bar exam preparation. All I can truly say for sure about the process is that it was hard, stressful, and ultimately rewarding when I finished and subsequently passed the exam.
So, in light of this momentous occasion, here are 29 facts about the best movie ever inspired by someone taking the bar exam; my professional and personal favorite, My Cousin Vinny.


Check Out Our New Home!

As you may or may not know, The University of South Carolina School of Law is getting a new home.  We will be moving from our current location on Main St. to a brand spankin’ new building on Gervais St sometime next year.  We’re all terribly excited for a new place to stash all of our books (We’re librarians, It’s what we do.)

Moreover, you don’t just have to take my word for it.  The Law School has created a Tumblr page to track the progress of the new building.  Check it out here! It even has a webcam so you can watch the construction in real time.  Believe me, there’s nothing more fun than watching someone build you a new house.