Merry Christmas to all! Our posts will be slowing down, though not disappearing, over the next week or so. You can read some highlights from past Overlawyered coverage of the holiday here.
From this summer: Playwright Matthew Lombardo’s comedy “Who’s Holiday!,” a raunchy tale set in the world of the Grinch years after the original story, wins a Second Circuit ruling as protected parody against the copyright claims of the Dr. Seuss estate [Greg Evans, Deadline Hollywood]
Do something nice for your neighbors this Christmas and refrain from taking them to court. An attorney who resides in Hayden, Idaho, has gotten into “a miserable four-year war with his neighborhood” over holiday displays at his house [Daniel Walters, Inlander]
Lenore Skenazy, Paul Detrick & Alexis Garcia video and commentary on the annual alarmism of WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm)(earlier), which this year is out against fidget spinners as well as other popular playthings:
Also on this year’s list is the Wonder Woman Battle Action Sword, which, the WATCH team says, encourages young children “to bear arms”—as if you get a Wonder Woman toy and immediately deploy to Yemen. They also say that the “rigid plastic sword blade has the potential to cause facial or other impact injuries.” Yeah…and so does a fork. In fact, so does a candy cane, if you suck it to a sharp point.
Yesterday’s Thanksgiving celebration was accompanied by a fair bit of commentary about how the November holiday is a “day of indigenous mourning,” a symbol of the theft of the United States from its pre-Columbian population. Yet as I wrote in 2011 in the Schools for Misrule chapter on Indian land claims, the historical premise that Indian land in the U.S. was by and large stolen by the white man is false:
In 2005 a young UCLA law professor, Stuart Banner, published How the Indians Lost Their Land, an extensively researched work that does much to correct the portrayal of white-Indian relations as a mere catalog of thefts, conquests, and usurpations. As Banner demonstrates, the actions and attitudes of white Americans and their institutions have shown a full range of shadow and light, from extreme wickedness and ignorance to as much grace, goodwill, and foresight as could have been expected under the circumstances. Tracing the many twists and reverses of federal Indian policy, Banner notes that it was usually anything but obvious which proposed measures would truly serve the interests of aboriginal inhabitants, that nearly all major changes in policy enjoyed support among some Indians and Indian-friendly white reformers, and that most of the major disasters to afflict America’s Indian population were either unforeseen or not well controllable by the central government.
I also quote the leading 20th Century scholar of Indian law, Felix S. Cohen, architect of the “Indian New Deal” and one of the most progressive law professors and FDR appointees of his era:
Fortunately for the security of American real estate titles, the business of securing cessions of Indian titles has been, on the whole, conscientiously pursued by the Federal Government, as long as there has been a Federal Government. The notion that America was stolen from the Indians is one of the myths by which we Americans are prone to hide our real virtues and make our idealism look as hard-boiled as possible. We are probably the one great nation in the world that has consistently sought to deal with an aboriginal population on fair and equitable terms. We have not always succeeded in this effort but our deviations have not been typical.
It is, in fact, difficult to understand the decisions on Indian title or to appreciate their scope and their limitations if one views the history of American land settlement as a history of wholesale robbery.
- California initiative that would expand rent control draws on magical thinking [Steven Greenhut]
- “Because of the vast scope of current law, in modern America the authorities can pin a crime on the overwhelming majority of people, if they really want to.” [Ilya Somin]
- “82-year-old sues Red Lobster over getting drunk and breaking hip” [Fox News]
- “Chefs react angrily as federal appeals court upholds California ban on foie gras” [Maura Dolan, Jenn Harris, and Geoffrey Mohan, L.A. Times]
- NYC: “Anti-Boozy Brunch Lawsuit Is Bogus, State Says” [Stefanie Tuder, Eater New York, earlier]
- “Courts have consistently pointed to the unique nature of haunted houses to prevent those injured from recovering” [Randy Maniloff, USA Today]
Kmart's knock-off banana costume just doesn't have the same a-peel, designer says https://t.co/x2B16jmea1
— Keith Robinson (@wkeithrobinson) October 2, 2017
The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands on cheerleader uniforms has generated new uncertainty as to where a line falls between useful aspects of apparel, which are not copyrightable, and decorative aspects, which are. “The ruling is widely expected to lead to increased litigation in the fashion industry.” A lawsuit against Kmart over its sale of a banana costume “could be the first in a wave of copyright lawsuits over fairly generic Halloween costume designs.” [Timothy Lee, ArsTechnica; Bill Duhart, NJ.com; Polly Mosendz and Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg]
Not quite an Overlawyered topic, but: The crazies who defaced the Francis Scott Key statue in Baltimore the other day weren’t just lawless goons — they were wrong about the song too. I explain at National Review.
I might have added countless other examples of songs, poems, and nationalist rhetoric in which “slave” was employed 1) as an epithet, 2) to signify subjection to kingly or other un-republican authority, or 3) both, everywhere from Patrick Henry’s famous speech to Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell to Rule, Britannia! to La Marseillaise. Suffice it to say that the word’s occurrence in a poem — even one penned by a slaveholder — needs to be read in context to determine whether American chattel slavery was the intended reference, and in the case of the third verse of the national anthem, there are plenty of reasons to think it was not.