NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 81, Number 3

June 2006
Articles

CopyFraud

Jason Mazzone

Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare’s plays, Beethoven’s piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet’s Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the “owner’s” permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

Congress should amend the Copyright Act to allow private parties to bring civil causes of action for false copyright claims. Courts should extend the availability of the copyright misuse defense to prevent copyright owners from enforcing an otherwise valid copyright if they have engaged in past copyfraud. In addition, Congress should further protect the public domain by creating a national registry listing public domain works and a symbol to designate those works. Failing a congressional response, there may exist remedies under state law and through the efforts of private parties to achieve these ends.

Agency Costs of Venture Capitalist Control in Startups

Jesse M. Fried, Mira Ganor

Venture capitalists investing in U.S. startups typically receive preferred stock and extensive control rights. Various explanations for each of these arrangements have been offered. However, scholars have failed to notice that these arrangements, when combined, often lead to a highly unusual corporate governance structure: one where preferred shareholders, rather than common shareholders, control the board and therefore the firm itself The purpose of this Article is threefold: (1) to highlight the unusual governance structure of these VC-backed startups; (2) to show that preferred shareholder control can give rise to potentially large agency costs; and (3) to suggest legal reforms that may help VCs and entrepreneurs reduce these agency costs and improve corporate governance in startups.

Tough on Crime: How Campaigns for State Judiciary Violate Defendants’ Due Process Rights

Joanna Cohn Weiss

Elected judges often run “tough on crime” campaigns, which raises concerns that they will be biased against criminal defendants once on the bench. Indeed, studies show that elected judges give harsher punishments to criminal defendants as elections near. Nevertheless, in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, the Supreme Court found that an elected judge can still be considered impartial even if he knows that his decisions throughout a case might affect his job security. This Note argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in White failed to account for a key factor complicating the election of unbiased judges: media coverage of crime and elections. The media dynamics at work in elections and the particular way judges respond to them may lead to criminal cases being heard by judges who are biased against defendants. To correct this problem, states must affirmatively act to protect criminal defendants’ right to a fair trial by adopting broad recusal requirements. States must change their codes of judicial conduct to allow for mandatory recusal of judges who run tough-on-crime election campaigns.

Essays

Transparency and Participation in Criminal Procedure

Stephanos Bibas

A great gulf divides insiders and outsiders in the criminal justice system. The insiders who run the criminal justice system—judges, police, and especially prosecutors—have information, power, and self-interests that greatly influence the criminal justice system’s process and outcomes. Outsiders—crime victims, bystanders, and most of the general public— find the system frustratingly opaque, insular, and unconcerned with proper retribution. As a result of this gulf, a spiral ensues: Insiders twist rules as they see fit, outsiders try to constrain them through new rules, and insiders find ways to evade or manipulate the new rules. The gulf between insiders and outsiders undercuts the instrumental, moral, and expressive efficacy of criminal procedure in serving the criminal law’s substantive goals. The gulf clouds the law’s deterrent and expressive messages, as well as its efficacy in healing victims; it impairs trust in and the legitimacy of the law; it provokes increasingly draconian reactions by outsiders; and it hinders public monitoring of agency costs. The most promising solutions are to inform crime victims and other affected locals better and to give them larger roles in criminal justice. It also might be possible to do a better job monitoring and checking insiders, but the prospects for empowering and educating the general public are dim.

Notes

Pluralism in America: Why Judicial Diversity Improves Legal Decisions About Political Morality

Joy Milligan

Why does the race of judges matter? This Note argues that racial diversity in the judiciary improves legal decisions about political morality. Judges play a substantial role in regulating our political morality; at the same time, race and ethnicity influence public views on such issues. In cases that involve difficult legal questions of political morality, judges should seriously consider all moral conceptions as potential answers. Racial and ethnic diversity is likely to improve the judiciary’s institutional capacity for openness to alternative views—not because judges of any given race will “represent” a monolithic viewpoint, but because of the likelihood that judges of a particular race or ethnicity will be better positioned to understand and take seriously views held within their own racial or ethnic communities. Judicial dialogue, taking place within appellate panels and across courts, serves to diffuse alternative viewpoints more broadly. Greater judicial willingness to consider disparate moral views should ultimately result in better decisions regarding political morality. Specifically, the judiciary may fashion new compromises to resolve political-moral dilemmas, judges and society may better understand the contours of such dilemmas, and the public may even arrive at new conclusions regarding basic questions of political morality.

Stopping “Winks and Nods”: Limits on Coordination as a Means of Regulating 527 Organizations

Meredith A. Johnston

The 2004 federal elections witnessed an unprecedented rise in activity by independent political organizations called “527s.” The current campaign finance regime limits how much individuals and groups may contribute to candidates, parties, and political committees, but leaves 527s virtually unregulated. As a result, wealthy donors were able to circumvent federal contribution limits by giving large amounts to 527 groups. In 2004, these groups raised millions of dollars, which they spent on highly influential advertisements and voter mobilization campaigns. The groups were so successful that they are expected to play a significant role in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and both Congress and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) have considered regulating the groups more closely.

This Note examines the role of 527 organizations in the 2004 election and proposes ways to prevent future circumvention of the campaign finance regime. It argues that Congress should address the 527 problem by passing legislation regulating coordination between outside groups and political campaigns. A statute regulating coordination presents several benefits over current proposals for 527 reform. First, it is more likely to satisfy the constitutional limits on campaign finance regulation. Second, it provides a long-term solution that is not dependent on how a group is classified under tax or campaign finance law. Third, it will encourage donors seeking to buy influence over candidates to give smaller, “hard money” contributions. Finally, congressional legislation will avoid the delay and confusion seen in recent FEC efforts to regulate coordination.