Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the tag “name”

James W. Cushing, Esquire on the Law and Business Podcast: Judges and Bringing Cases to Settlement

Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Vernal Law), a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).

We sat down for a half hour to discuss the role of judges in bringing cases to settlement.

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here!

Roger Dean v. James Cameron; the Avatar Litigation Roundup

If you have been watching the news, or following this blog, you may know that there was a U.S. Federal Court case between Roger Dean (the cover artist for Yes, Asia, and other bands) and filmmaker James Cameron (famous for Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, and The Terminator).  Roger Dean sued James Cameron claiming Cameron swiped Dean’s images and concepts for his record breaking blockbuster film Avatar.  I have posted extensively on the subject as I am a rabid Yes and Roger Dean fan.

As I posted a while back, the case has now come to a close.  Now that the matter is over, I thought it would be helpful to collate all of my posts on the subject so you can see the progression of the case.  Unfortunately, Roger Dean did not come out on the winning end of the case and, hopefully, the posts below can sufficiently explain what happened and why the case wound up the way it did.

Here you go:

Comic Books, Geek Life, and Trademark & Copyright Law Pod Cast

Anthony Verna, Esquire, a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).  He recently had me on as a guest on his podcast to talk about the various intellectual property issues surrounding comic books and movies based in comic books.  This seems especially relevant as the enormous blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron is about to be released in theaters this coming weekend.  I get the feeling that I was asked onto this podcast because I am such a huge comic book nerd as opposed to any legal expertise, but be that as it may I really enjoyed my time and I think we covered a lot of interesting topics, both legal and nerdy!

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here.

Podcast: Two Ways in Which Bands are Businesses and Intellectual Property and Contract Mistakes Sink Them (featuring James W. Cushing, Esquire!)

Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Kravitz & Verna), a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).  Back on September 25, 2014 he had me on as a guest on his podcast to talk about the litigation between Yes artist Roger Dean against Avatar filmmaker James Cameron regarding Cameron’s alleged misappropriation of Dean’s images in Avatar.  You can hear that podcast here.  You can read more about Dean v. Cameron here.

Well, on October 20, 2014 Mr. Verna had be back on as his guest on his podcast (clearly he has questionable sanity!) to discuss band names and the legalities surrounding who owns the names, how those names can be used, and how one can be better prepared for the potential legalities of being a member of a band.  Notably, because I was the guest on this show, the examples and practical applications of the law centered heavily on bands like Yes and Asia, their line-up changes, and the legal issues they have had using their band names over the years.

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here!

Some [Red] Skin in the Game

I had an entirely different post for today in the hopper as recently as this past Monday, but I got engaged (sucked into?) a Facebook debate (as I am wont to do (un)fortunately) regarding the name of the renowned National Football League team Washington Redskins and the recent controversy – or at least media controversy – over that name.  I have never really thought much of the debate in the past, mainly because I do not really self-identify as a Native American and/or American Indian, but the aforesaid Facebook debate made me take a little more time to consider the issue.

Now, it seems obvious to me, a veritable so-called W.A.S.P., that the term “redskin” could not be translated to other races.  For example, I could never imagine a team called “the blackskins”; so that begs the question as to whether “redskin” has the same pejorative power as, say, calling a team or a person a “blackskin.”  

Now, I am generally of the belief that people should try to be compassionate and kind to others and do their best to “treat others as they wish to be treated.”  I also think this is consistent with Christian teaching.  So, in that spirit, if someone (e.g.: an American Indian) feels that a term is offensive or an epithet against him, then maybe we ought to reconsider using the term even if the user of the term, say the W.A.S.P. writing this blog, does not see what the big deal is.  It is the nice thing – and other-person-centric thing – to do.

When it comes to potentially “racial” team names, I think some close analysis needs to be done.  So, for example, is “Redskins” the same as “the Braves”, which is a term describing Native American warriors?  I don’t think so, otherwise we would consider other team names, like the Vikings, Spartans, or, indeed, the Warriors as also racial.  In the same way, is a nationality also racial?  For example, “the Seminoles”  and “the Blackhawks” are team names which are, of course, Indian nations but are not necessarily representative of the Native Americans as a race; however, this seems to be balanced by, perhaps most famously, the Fighting Irish, a nation of white people but not necessarily representative of the white race.  In fact, in my view, Fighting Irish seems terribly offensive as it highlights an Irish stereotype, but there seems to be no out cry for that team name to change at this time.  What about “the Chiefs”?  This seems to represent an office and not a race, much like a team name like “the Senators.”  What about team names like “the Aztecs”, who where an ancient Native American civilization?  This sort of name seems balanced by a team name like “the Celtics” who where an ancient white (European) civilization.

This leads us to the worst offender, in my view, which would be teams like the Cleveland Indians, with its big goofy Indian mascot and his absurd name “Chief Wahoo”.  The team name seems to directly implicate the entire race of Native Americans.  I could not imagine a similar team name for other races being acceptable.  Could you imagine a team like, say, the Cleveland Asians?  How about Cleveland Africans?  Or Cleveland Caucasians?  What sort of racially offensive mascots would these teams have?  I am sure you can imagine what they could be and how offensive they could be; perhaps similar to that of the existing Chief Wahoo?

Of course, when it comes to something like a team name, the issue involves not just a person but an entire ethnic group, which consists of various individuals who have various feelings toward things like a team name like “Redskins.”  How many offended American Indians are enough of a critical mass to make it appropriate to change the name of the team?  I do not necessarily have the answer to that.

Perhaps that is the difference between “blackskins” and “redskins” and some of the other names listed above  A team name like “the blackskins” would be nearly universally reviled by black people whereas Native Americans, as a whole, seem rather ambivalent on the name “Redskins.  Apparently, the name was to honor Washington’s first NFL football coach who self-identified as having Indian heritage.  Also, as it turns out, many sports teams in areas primarily populated by Indians have the name “Redskins” and they use the name with pride.  Some say the term “redskin” started its life as an epithet against Indians, yet it is reported that something like 90% of Indians do not think the term is offensive and many embrace it.  So, I suppose, there is simply not a critical mass of Indians opposed to the name to make it worthwhile changing it; indeed it could be argued that Indians do not just “not oppose” the name, but embrace it with pride.

Who am I, this W.A.S.P. from Philadelphia, to tell 90% Native Americans that they should be offended by something?  If they are offended, I am sure they will be able to say something and, thus far, only a very small percentage has said something.  Maybe then something will be done; it does not seem anything will be done now.  To bring it back to the point of this blog, the law, it is for this reason I think all of the ovations and clamoring for the government to pass a law regarding the Redskins’ name to be absurd and entirely overreaching.  First, I question the authority and jurisdiction of the government to do that and, second, I simply do not think there is a critical mass of people to warrant such a move.  The fact is, no matter what someone does or says, it is likely that someone will be offended.  That simply cannot reasonably be avoided and is an unfortunate part of life both for the offender and offendee.  Until there is a critical mass of people opposed to the name to warrant a change, I think the only thing we should do is listen to those offended and provide a simple but sincere apology.

For more on this issue check out this fantastic article from EPSN “Have the People Spoken?”  Also, here is an interesting story of one Indian tribe’s advocacy of changing the Redskins’ name: “Oneida Indian Nation Plans Symposium on ‘Redskins’ Name“.  Finally, if you have a sense of humor, but are not easily offended, check out the Onion’s take with their list of Most Offensive Team Names.

What’s In a Name?

Part of my practice is to help adults and children change their names.  Although the process for children is markedly simpler as compared to an adult, this process is much more complicated than people anticipate.

In Pennsylvania, in order to change one’s name, one has to get finger printed, secure their criminal history, a history of any judgments against him/herself, and a report of any child support owed.  Obviously, these items are not necessary to seek a child’s name change.  Although the precise documentation needed for a name change for an adult and child differs slightly, both require a hearing before a judge before the name change will be approved and both require publication of the notice for the aforesaid hearing in two (2) local newspapers.

Many people rankle at the idea of having a hearing on a name change, but the fact is someone could contest it.  Who would contest it?  There are people out there would try and change their names in order to avoid creditors, criminal backgrounds, or simply attempt to become a new person.  These are issues that a judge ought to know before entering an order approving a name change.  The issue for children is even more visceral.  Many times mothers attempt to change the last name of their children as the children bear the last name of an uninvolved and “deadbeat” father.  In this situation, the father has a right to argue against the allegations made against him and the change to the child’s last name.  Regardless of what the reason is for the name change, one must be prepared for the fact that changing one’s name requires a commitment of both time and money.

Finally, it should also be noted that unless one receives a decree from a court approving the name change, one’s name is not officially changed.  I have had clients who have somehow gotten their names changed on driver’s licenses and Social Security cards without formally changing their names.  I have no idea how or why the Department of Motor Vehicles and/or the Social Security Administration would go ahead and change someone’s name as it appears on his license and/or Social Security card without a decree changing the person’s name.  It may be due to confusion, mistake, or plain incompetence.  Regardless of the reason, it happens and I have to say that I have seen it happen a few times over the years.  In fact I have had a client who has had at least two (2) different driver’s licenses and three (3) different Social Security cards, all bearing different names.  This seems to me like a terrible security risk, a way for someone to avoid creditors and/or arrest, or, at the very least, a sure recipe for some frustration due to confusion over names in the future.  The point here is, regardless of whether one’s name has been changed informally on a driver’s license and the like, one’s name has not been officially changed until a court enters a decree to that end.

Post Navigation