Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Mon 11/13 - Fortnite Dance Copyright Suit, ASC 606 Here to Stay, Trump Wants TV Cameras in Courtroom and CA Bar Passage is Down
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Mon 11/13 - Fortnite Dance Copyright Suit, ASC 606 Here to Stay, Trump Wants TV Cameras in Courtroom and CA Bar Passage is Down

We have a Fortnite choreography suit revived, revenue rules are a hassle but no changes are coming, Trump wants TV cameras in the courtroom, and the CA bar passage rate takes a down turn.
Transcript

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A pencil sketch of a courtroom.

This day in legal history, November 13, 1956, marked a significant moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decisive action, upheld the ruling of the U.S. District Court in the case of Browder v. Gayle. This landmark decision affirmed that the segregation practices on Montgomery, Alabama’s public buses were unconstitutional, effectively dismantling the legal basis for bus segregation in the state.

The origins of Browder v. Gayle can be traced to the District Court, where the case was argued on April 24, 1956, and a decision was issued on June 5, 1956. This case, brought against the Mayor of Montgomery, W.A. Gayle, challenged the constitutionality of Alabama's bus segregation laws. The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to review the case allowed the District Court's judgment to stand, thus legally ending segregation on public buses in Montgomery.

This Supreme Court decision resonated beyond the courtroom. On the day of the ruling, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a key figure in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the broader Civil Rights Movement, was in court for a trial concerning the legality of the boycott’s carpools. It was during this trial that he received news of the Supreme Court's affirmation of the District Court’s decision.

Moreover, the decision held that bus segregation violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. This ruling was a significant step forward in the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in the United States. It not only supported the legal argument against segregated buses but also played a crucial role in the successful conclusion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott on December 20, 1956.

The impact of the Browder v. Gayle decision extended to prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement, including Rosa Parks, who was en route to Albany, New York, to speak when she heard the news. Her reaction to this landmark ruling was noted on the back of a program, indicating the profound significance of this moment in the struggle for civil rights.

In summary, November 13, 1956, stands as a monumental date in legal history, symbolizing a major victory in the fight against racial segregation and marking a turning point in the American Civil Rights Movement​


In a significant development in copyright law, choreographer Kyle Hanagami, known for his work with Jennifer Lopez and Justin Bieber, has successfully appealed a lower court decision in the Ninth Circuit. His lawsuit against Epic Games Inc. claims that the "It’s Complicated" dance move in Fortnite video game copied choreography from a Charlie Puth music video. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the lower court erred in dismissing the sequence as eight unprotectable "poses," stating that the two-second sequence was more complex than other short dance steps and could be copyrightable.

The case is notable for setting new circuit law, suggesting that the brevity of a dance sequence does not automatically disqualify it from copyright protection. The ruling acknowledges the complexities in choreography and challenges the traditional view that short dance sequences are not protectable. This opens new doors for choreographers to press copyright claims for short bursts of infringement, a significant development considering the rise of short dance moves in popular culture, including viral TikTok videos and Fortnite emotes.

Several lawsuits against Epic Games over Fortnite emotes have been previously dropped, including those by musician 2 Milly and actor Alfonso Ribeiro. However, Hanagami, having successfully registered a copyright for his choreography in Puth’s 2017 song “How Long,” brought his lawsuit in 2022, which the lower court dismissed.

The Ninth Circuit's decision emphasizes the importance of considering all elements of a dance sequence, such as body position, transitions, and use of space, in copyright analysis. It also rejects the notion that the length of the copied material is the sole factor in determining its protectability. The court noted that Hanagami's sequence, which appeared four times in the full routine, was the most recognizable and distinctive part, potentially falling in the middle of a continuum between copyrightable choreography and uncopyrightable dance.

This ruling has wider implications for the video game industry, particularly in how game companies incorporate dance moves. The direct link between selling emotes in Fortnite and the choreographers' work could affect claims of de minimis use and establish monetary awards. The case also raises questions about the protection of individual dance moves and their integration into larger routines.

The Ninth Circuit's reversal of the lower court's approach to choreography represents a significant change in how dance is treated under copyright law. The case, Kyle Hanagami v. Epic Games Inc., is seen as a milestone for choreography's recognition in copyright law, potentially shaping future legal boundaries in this area.

Revived Fornite Suit Could Spawn Rare Choreography Copyright Law


The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently conducted a post-mortem of its significant revenue recognition accounting standard, ASC 606, to evaluate potential needs for tweaks or clarifications nearly a decade after its publication. This standard, effective for publicly traded companies since 2018 and private companies since 2021, aimed to unify revenue recording practices across industries. However, despite its strengths in reducing complexity and providing a universal set of rules, particularly beneficial for multinational corporations, the standard has also presented challenges.

One of the major difficulties identified is the requirement for judgment calls in certain scenarios, leading to uncertainties and often necessitating consultations with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Companies, especially, are seeking clearer guidance on differentiating between being a principal (primary supplier) and an agent (arranger of sales) in transactions, a distinction that becomes particularly complex in multi-party and app-based transactions.

The Big Four accounting firms have produced extensive technical guides to address these complexities, but there's concern that these guides might become de-facto rules, potentially overshadowing the official GAAP standards. This situation highlights the nuanced challenges companies face in applying these standards in varied and evolving business contexts.

Investors and analysts are also calling for more robust disclosures to gain better insight into key decisions and judgments made by companies under this standard. They express a need for more detailed breakdowns of revenue by type and amount, and clearer information on costs related to fulfilling customer contracts.

FASB plans to review the feedback in 2024 and consider potential updates, ranging from adding illustrative examples to introducing new disclosure requirements. The overarching goal is to address the challenges posed by the complexity of transactions and the nuances of the standard itself, as acknowledged by FASB Chair Rich Jones.

Landmark Revenue Rules Vex Companies but No Major Changes Sought


Former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently a leading Republican candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination, has expressed support for televising his upcoming federal trial. Trump, facing charges related to his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, filed a legal motion endorsing media requests for live TV coverage of the trial. The trial, set for March, involves charges of attempting to defraud the federal government and obstructing Congress, particularly in relation to his unsubstantiated claims of election fraud that incited the January 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot.

In his motion, filed by lawyers John Lauro and Todd Blanche, Trump argues that the trial should be publicly broadcast to allow Americans to witness his defense against what he deems baseless and politically motivated charges. He accuses the Biden administration of attempting to conduct the trial "in darkness" and alleges that Special Prosecutor Jack Smith's team is violating his constitutional rights. Trump's filing also criticizes U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan for allegedly prioritizing political opposition over legal protections.

Smith, on the other hand, has opposed the media requests for TV coverage, citing a long-standing federal court rule that prohibits broadcasting criminal proceedings. Smith's concerns include the potential intimidation of witnesses and jurors by the televised coverage. As of now, it remains uncertain whether Judge Chutkan will permit live television coverage of the trial, which is attracting significant public and media attention.

Trump backs requests for TV coverage of his federal criminal trial | Reuters


The July 2023 bar exam results revealed a slight decrease in California's overall pass rate, contrasting with the upward trend observed in most other states. Out of the 7,555 candidates who sat for the California bar exam in July 2023, 51.5% passed, a small drop from the previous year's 52.4% pass rate. Notably, first-time examinees in California saw an increase in pass rates, reaching nearly 65%, up from 62% in the previous year.

California, which had the second-largest number of examinees after New York, was the last state to report its results for this cycle. Across the United States, 32 states reported increases in their July bar exam pass rates, while 11 states experienced decreases. Seven states had unchanged pass rates compared to July 2022.

Despite concerns that examinees who began law school during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic might underperform, many exceeded expectations. Among the largest bar exam jurisdictions, results varied significantly. Florida saw a substantial increase of 10 percentage points in its pass rate, reaching 61%, and Texas's pass rate rose by 4 percentage points to 71%. However, New York's pass rate remained steady at 66%.

Wyoming experienced the largest year-over-year increase, with its pass rate jumping 25 percentage points to 80%, albeit with a small cohort of 49 examinees. West Virginia also saw a significant increase, with its pass rate rising by 15 percentage points to 72%. In contrast, Michigan reported the most substantial decline, with its pass rate dropping from 66% in July 2022 to 55% this year.

Looking ahead, the bar exam is undergoing changes. Starting in July 2026, some states will introduce the Next Gen Bar Exam, which focuses more on legal skills and less on law memorization, and will be three hours shorter. Maryland, Missouri, and Oregon have already committed to administering this new format when it debuts. Until July 2028, states will have the option to use either the existing test or the Next Gen exam, after which only the Next Gen exam will be available.

California’s bar pass rate dipped to 51.5%, bucking upward national trend | Reuters

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at www.minimumcomp.com.