Midweek Recess: Horns, 'Likes' and Ice Buckets

Welcome to Law.com’s Midweek Recess, in which we round up some tasty tidbits from the week’s legal news cycle. We’ll be here every Wednesday, so grab a cup of coffee and take a little break. It’s all downhill to the weekend from here.

A Thorny Horn Problem - Massachusetts defense attorney James G. Reardon Jr. is facing an unusual challenge in an upcoming murder trial, and is trying to make sure the jury isn’t caught off guard – and potentially prejudiced – by what he describes as the “unique appearance” of his client. Reardon’s client, Caius Veiovis, is facing charges for his alleged role in a brutal triple homicide (we will spare you the truly horrible details here). His two co-defendants have been convicted in separate trials. At a pre-trial hearing, Reardon told the court that there would likely be “a serious factor of curiosity and concern,” when the jury gets a look at the defendant. You see, Veiovis has horn-like implants and a “666″ tattoo on his forehead, as well as various other piercings, tattoos and alterations. (We checked out the photos, and indeed had those reactions, along with a few stronger ones).

The attorneys and judge discussed the best way to handle the issue, and the judge decided against the idea of having a photo of the defendant up on a screen in front of the jury during voir dire. Instead, the jurors will be allowed to see a picture of Veiovis while they are being questioned individually about whether his appearance will affect their ability to be impartial. The judge did ask the attorneys (perhaps hopefully) whether a plea deal might be in the works, but things didn’t sound positive on that front. We don’t envy Reardon, the jury, or anyone involved with this trial. “Concern” doesn’t really begin to cover this whole situation.

“Like” It or Not - A dispute over a Facebook fan page for a television show has put the spotlight on the issue of the ownership of Facebook users’ “likes.” Stacey Mattocks operated a long-running fan page for the TV show, “The Game,” which was canceled in 2008 and then revived by the BET network in 2010. BET approached Mattocks to partner with them on her page, which received over 6 million likes. Amid a later contract dispute, BET blocked Mattocks’ administrative access to the page. Facebook then granted BET’s request to migrate the likes to a new, BET-maintained page. Mattocks filed contract, copyright and other claims against BET.

In a summary judgment ruling in favor of BET, U.S. District Court Judge James I. Cohn ruled that Mattocks didn’t have a property interest in the likes, and that because of their “tenuous relationship” with the creator of the page, they “cannot be converted in the same manner as goodwill or other intangible business interests.”

So, who owns our likes, according to the ruling? It seems like it’s the likers themselves. Cohn writes:

” … ‘liking’ a Facebook page simply means that the user is expressing his or her enjoyment or approval of the content. At any time, moreover, the user is free to revoke the ‘like’ by clicking an ‘unlike’ button. So, if anyone can be deemed to own the ‘likes’ on a page, it is the individual users responsible for them.”

Judge Cohn, we’re pretty sure Stacey Mattocks unlikes your ruling (no offense).

Caught in the Act - And now, a question about your personal Facebook news feed: How many people do you know who’ve recently dumped ice water on their heads while filming themselves? Given the phenomenon that is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the answer is probably “many.” The challenge has raised $88.5 million, and counting, in donations to the ALS Association. While we have tremendous admiration for the generosity and fortitude of those who have donated and self-doused, we do have a tip for those weighing whether to participate in the challenge:

You might want to sit out this cultural moment, if you’re, say, wanted for violating your parole. Omaha resident Jesean Morris’s heart may well have been in the right place when he posted his ice bucket challenge video on Facebook, but he ended up in the wrong place when someone who saw the video, knew Morris had a warrant out against him and recognized the location where the it had been taken. This Facebook “friend” (?) informed the police, who monitored the house and gave Morris a decidedly unfriendly visit.

Hopefully Morris is at least a little bit pleased by the fact that his arrest occurred as a result of dedication to a good cause – but truth be told, it’s probably pretty cold comfort.

Department of Foul - Oh, “reply all” button. You are so powerful, and so very, very dangerous – particularly when placed in the hand of an angry homophobe. Becker & Poliakoff discovered this the hard way when one of their partners, Walter Kubitz, sent the entire firm an email containing a vitriolic tirade against homosexuality. Choice quotes include a reference to “the gay plague of AIDS” and “Homosexuality, clearly condemned throughout Scripture, is especially perilous in that it tends toward the ‘reprobate mind.’”

The firm says it’s taken “‘strict and severe’ action” against Kubitz, though there’s been no word on what exactly that action was. There’s no point in dignifying this sort of thing with a point-by-point refutation, but we do think his reading of Scripture is fairly selective. Specifically, he appears to have forgotten about the whole “Judge not, lest ye be judged” thing.

Too late for that now.

 

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