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The Good Wife, The Right of Publicity, And Why Writers Should Be Scared

February 27, 2011

Tags: writing tips, The Good Wife, publicity rights

A recent episode of The Good Wife, a consistently good legal drama, focused on what I think is one of the most important issues affecting the writing and publishing industry today: the right of publicity. In the show, a character similar to Mark Zuckerberg didn’t like the way he was portrayed in a movie similar to The Social Network. He sued for defamation. Enter our hero law firm.

The lawyers realized pretty quickly that this client was never going to win a defamation case. He was a public figure, like it or not, and therefore the First Amendment squashed the defamation claim pretty cleanly. They’d have to prove actual malice, and that’s really hard to prove.

Then they got an idea. An awful idea. The lawyers got a wonderful awful idea. They’d sue under the right of publicity. How did they do it? And why is the right of publicity such a danger to writers? Let me explain.

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Fairly Legal Says You Can’t Copyright a Recipe – They’re Only Partly Right

February 21, 2011

Tags: Fairly Legal, writing tips, patent, copyright, trade secrets

I’ve found some peace with the show Fairly Legal, about a woman they call a mediator who does nothing that even vaguely resembles mediation. The way I’ve done it (because I still like the characters and the legal issues) is that I just keep telling myself she’s something new – a unique entity in the law.

In my mind, I call her a Conciliator. The weird part is, I think there’s room in the legal system for someone like this. It would be sort of a mediator, sort of an arbitrator, and sort of an investigator. There’s nothing like this now, and I suspect that this show might spark such an entity into being. She’s closest to an arbitrator, because arbitrators can investigate to some extent and in a very limited way. So I’m not writing to complain about how they went right off a cliff on the whole mediator concept.

Instead, I’m writing about a recent show involving a barbecue sauce recipe. The conciliator (I absolutely refuse to call her a mediator) made this statement: “You can’t copyright a recipe.” I shook my head, first because if she were a mediator she couldn’t give legal advice (okay, I’m going to complain a little), but second because she was wrong.

It’s true that you can’t copyright a list of ingredients. But you can absolutely copyright ...more

The “V” Defrocking - Even Priests Get Due Process

February 16, 2011

Tags: writing tips, priests, laicization, defrocking, V

Granted, the science fiction show “V” isn’t big on realism, but they committed a giant honking clunker last night when they showed their priest character getting laicized the day after he made a speech against the alien Visitors. The plotline is that Anna, the head of the Visitors, got to the Catholic Church in Rome by offering to let them send missionaries to their ships. The idea of so many new converts was appealing, no doubt. But her deal was that they had to stop priests from speaking out against them. The whole purpose was to stop one activist priest who is onto their lizardly nature and dastardly plans.

So our hero priest refuses to be cowed, makes another speech, and the next day he gets a letter that he’s been laicized. The elder priest who hands him the letter demands his collar. Bam! He’s no longer a priest.

I’m sitting there smacking my head. What the heck? As someone who was raised Catholic (lapsed), I know that they have rules and procedures for everything. They move at a glacier’s pace on any major decision. Remember all those pedophile priests they couldn’t get rid of? There’s a reason why.

So I looked it up. It took me about 15 minutes on the great wide interwebs to find out how a priest is legally defrocked. The writers could have bothered

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Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired will give you the specific and relevant advice you need to face any career-threatening situation…and come out ahead.
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