Maybe She'll Hire Atticus Finch as Her Lawyer

Author Harper Lee wrote only one novel, but it was a biggie:  To Kill a Mockingbird.  The story about small town life and racial injustice in America was an award-winning best seller that featured what many consider one of literature's most revered lawyers, Atticus Finch.

Undoubtedly, it's the continuing popularity of the 1968 novel that led people in Ms. Harper's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, to set up a museum dedicated to it.  However, Ms. Harper wasn't entirely pleased by the homage.  She sued the museum last year over a dispute in which she claimed it was selling merchandise that featured her name and the book's title and weren't compensating her for it.

According to an article in the New York Times, the novelist and the museum have settled the case.  No details are available on the settlement.

On the Good Ship Trust Account

This week, the world bid goodbye to iconic child star Shriley Temple, who passed away at the age of 85.  She left an indelible mark on Hollywood and the American public, which, during the Great Depression, found comfort in the perky little moppet's singing and dancing to such numbers as "The Good Ship Lollypop" and "Animal Crackers in My Soup."

According to an article in the Daily Mail, Ms. Temple's mother was diligent about preserving her daughter's childhood earnings, keeping the money in a trust.  The article says, of the millions she earned, during childhood, little Ms. Temple received only $13 a month as an allowance.  That must have left her with a nice chunk of change when she became an adult.

Other child stars weren't so lucky.  Jackie Coogan--possibly best remembered as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family TV show--was a child star in the silent era and starred opposite film legend Charlie Chaplin.  Unfortunately for Mr. Coogan, when he reached adulthood, he realized his parents had spent most of his earnings.  At the time, child earnings were considered the property of the child's parents.  Mr. Coogan ended up having to sue for what little remained of the money he earned in the movies.

To Mr. Coogan's credit, as a result of his experience, laws were passed to protect child performers.  The law, sometimes referred to as the Coogan Law, declares the child's earnings to be the property of the child, and it requires a percentage of the money be placed in a blocked trust accessible only to the child actor when either he becomes an adult or is emancipated from his parents.

Love off the Hook on "Twibel" Charge

A jury says singer/actress Courtney Love is not guilty of libeling her former attorney in a tweet message--so called, "Twibel."  The reason:  although the statements were untrue, Ms. Love didn't know they were untrue when she tweeted them.

The publicly posted tweet suggested the attorney had been "bought off" when she was supposed to be representing Ms. Love in a case involving the estate of her late husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.  That sparked the lawsuit, which was billed as the first "Twibel" case to go to trial.

Legal battles over defamation can be tricky business, and the standards can vary based upon who's claiming to have been defamed.  For example, public figures typically have to prove there was malice involved in the defaming statement.  However, "malice," as it's defined in this context, usually doesn't mean "ill will" but, rather, it mean the person making the statement either knew the statement was false or showed a reckless disregard as to its falsity.

Detroit Institute of Arts: No Forced Appraisal

When a city goes into bankruptcy, a lot of people get nervous.  Naturally, the creditors are concerned they're going to lose out on the money they're owed.  Retired city employees might get nervous, too -- nervous that they're pensions could suddenly go away.  And, if you're a fan of the arts in Michigan, you could get really hot and bothered over the possibility of having portions of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection sold off to pay the city's bills.

This debate has been going on almost since the City of Detroit underwent financial collapse and filed what amounts to America's biggest municipal bankruptcy.  The city, you see, is technically the owner of about five percent of the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection, and at least some creditors are drooling over the perceived value of putting those works on the selling block.

Creditors sought a judge's ruling that they be allowed to create an independent committee to appraise the DIA's holdings.  However, the judge ruled such a proposal was beyond his authority, and he rejected it.

That gives the DIA and the City of Detroit a chance to catchtheir breath and explore other proposals, including one in which a coalition pledged $330 million towards the city?s pension obligations in exchange for having the entire DIA collection transferred from the city to an independent, nonprofit museum entity.  Creditors aren't likely to be happy with that arrangement and will likely fight it.

For the Love of Twibel

What is it about digital communications that cause people to think the laws just don't apply to them?  I find myself making the counter argument again and again to people who seem to believe things such as copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and defamation just don't exist in the cyber world.  Are they equating the ethernet with international waters where no one country has jurisdiction?

Well, if you need an example that the same laws apply in cyberspace, consider that singer/actress Courtney Love is being sued by her former lawyer regarding an allegation that Ms. Love libeled the attorney in a Twitter tweet.

Call it "twibel," the news media is saying.  That's Twitter combined with Libel.

The tweet at issue involved Ms. Love's suggestion that her former attorney, Rhonda Holmes, was "bought off" from an earlier legal matter in which she represented Ms. Love.  The insinuation of bribery spurred the lawsuit.

A Los Angeles judge rejected Ms. Love's argument that the tweet was not defamatory because it was presented only as her opinion, and now the case is set to go to trial.