Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Virtues

On the advice of someone I greatly respect, I just finished reading Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. It’s a short but fascinating book which I should have read years ago, On the negative side, Franklin must have been the nation’s first self-promoter and he controlled  the media of his time. He was also a racist and something of a misogynist. On the other hand, his clarity of vision, industry and self-motivation are as compelling today as they were nearly three centuries ago. 
I was struck by the fact that Franklin conceived of “The Virtues” as a kind of blueprint for living a good life. He carefully perfected and studied this list and then tried to work on one of the items every day. In that sense, besides his other inventions, Franklin probably created the self-improvement book genre. He was the Tony Robbins of the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, I found this list rewarding and I thought that it might be an interesting exercise to reproduce it here. Thus, here are Benjamin Franklin’s virtues:


            1.         Temperance

            Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

            2.         Silence

            Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

            3.         Order

            Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

            4.         Resolution

            Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

            5.         Frugality

            Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

            6.         Industry

            Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

            7.         Sincerity

            Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

            8.         Justice

            Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

            9.         Moderation

            Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

            10.      Cleanliness

            Tolerate no uncleanliness in bodies, clothes or habitation.

            11.      Tranquility

            Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

            12.      Chastity

            Rarely use venery[1]but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness or injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

            13.      Humility

            Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

[1]I had to look this one up.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Small Claims Copyright Court

I just read that  the proposal for a Small Claims Court for copyright violations is gaining traction.  This is a bi‑partisan effort to create an entity called the Copyrights Enforcement Board which would allow a "fast track Small Claims Court for copyright owners seeking damages of up to $30,000.00" according to Digital News.

I was initially skeptical of this idea but now I think it has merit.  Not all copyright infringement cases exist on the same level as the "Blurred Lines" case.  For example, some of the copyright infringement cases I have handled include:

            1.         A photographer for who found his work done for a nonprofit agency used to advertise a radio station.

            2.         Another photographer who saw her self portrait used on a billboard.

            3.         A publisher of legal forms whose work was copied and sold by a small-time competitor.

            4.         On the defense side,  I once represented a record company owner who was sued by a music publisher for copyright infringement based on a song found on a long deleted album.  The plaintiff could only prove that onecopy of the album was available for sale and so he was awarded damages for that one copy.

Each of these cases (except for perhaps the last one) were very real and very important to the litigants but none of them could justify the cost of Federal Court litigation and really couldn't be properly handled without cutting corners, fees, etc.  It would be really useful if content creators had a lower cost way to protect their intellectual property.

I don't know all the details of the proposed Small Claims Court.  Participation is said to be voluntary – meaning that a defendant could opt out of this system and use the traditional Federal Court system.  I also don't know how the appeals process would work – would an appellant follow the usual Rules of Appellate Procedure or would one obtain a trial de novo as is the case in our Tennessee State Courts? There is additional criticism of the proposal in that it might further encourage copyright trolls. Would such a system encourage more frivolous lawsuits?

Either way I think this is an interesting idea which should be thoroughly explored