Video Games and the Law

Blog, Law and Entertainment

There’s a lot of extra time to play video games. I think I have spent the past couple of days playing Super Smash Bros. . . in fact I am playing some right now. . .

Before quarantine I wasn’t familiar with Fornite, NBA 2k or any other video game. However, it might be the end of live sports games for a while so I figured I’d grab my own personal controller and see what things are all about.

At the intersection of law and this new found love entertainment comes an exciting case out of North Carolina.

U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle of the Eastern Division of North Carolina held Michael Heidbreder must proceed his case by arbitration pursuant to the End User License Agreement (“EULA”) with Fornite developer, Epic Games.

Michael Heidbreder, a Missouri resident filed a punitive class action alleging Epic Games’ vulnerable security allowed hackers to charge fraudulent in-game purchases to his debit card between November 2018 and January 2019. Heidbreder brought both statutory and common law claims including negligence, breach of implied contract and violation of state consumer-protection and data-breach statutes.

In October, Epic Games moved to compel Heidbreder’s claims to arbitration, pursuant to the EULA. Features to the arbitration provision include: “ (1) an agreement to arbitrate on an individual basis only; (2) delegation clause granting the arbitrator the power to determine whether a specific dispute is governed by the arbitration clause; (3) a venue selection clause giving user the choice of venue between their home state or North Caroline; (4) Epic Games’ agreement to pay arbitration fees under $10,000, share costs after $10,00 and not seek attorney fee’s against users and (5) a 30 -day opt-out provision, giving users a 30 day window after agreeing to the End User License Agreement to opt out of arbitration provision.”

Heidbreder presented three compelling, yet unsuccessful arguments.

First, he asserts his minor son lacked contractual capacity to agree to the EULA. Judge Boyle rejected this argument noting “under the basic principles of principal-agent law” his son acted as Heidbreder’s agent giving him both actual and apparent authority to agree.

Second, Heidbreder argues privacy related matters are outside the scope of arbitration. According to common law, when the parties contract delegates the arbitrability question too an arbitrator, a court may not override the contract.” Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 524, 529 (2019). Therefore, the arbitrator, rather than the court, determines the scope of these provisions.

Lastly, Heidbreder claims the class action waiver, arbitration clause and class action clause are unconscionable because Epic Games is applying the agreement retroactively. Judge Boyle acknowledges yet quibbles Heidbreder’s last argument noting the terms at issue “are common terms in modern contracts that have been recently sanctioned by the courts and can hardly be considered substantively unconscionable.”

This case appears to be successful for Epic Games. However, this “game” could face a turn for the worse if parents stop allowing their children to make in-game purchases using their credit card information. However, with extending stay-at-home orders and uncertainty about school returning in the fall, I highly doubt this would happen.

What’s your favorite video game during COVID-19?

Until next time,

Lauryn <3

Comcast Corp. v. National Association of African American-Owned Media

Blog, Law and Entertainment

Earlier this year the Supreme Court issued its opinion about a racial discrimination case. The justices decided this case by a 9-0 vote.

Bryon Allen, entrepreneur and owner of Entertainment Studios Network (ESN) sought to have Comcast carry its channel. Comcast rejected this proposition, claiming bandwidth constraints and lack of demand for ESN programs. ESN alleged Comcast violated §1981(a), a statute that guarantees “all persons… the same right…to make and enforce contracts… as is enjoyed by white citizens.” The District Court dismissed the complaint for failing to show Comcast would have contracted with ESN, but-for racial motivations. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, holding ESN had a viable claim because it only needed to show race played a “sole role” in Comcast’s decision-making. In order for ESN to seek redress, it must demonstrate that, but for Comcast’s unlawful conduct, its alleged injury would not have occurred. These essential elements must stay constant through the life of the lawsuit.

In a slightly fractured unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held, that to prevail, a plaintiff must initially prove that but for race, it would not have suffered the loss of a legally protected right. Justice Gorusch acknowledged but rejected ESN’s argument that §1981 creates an exception to proving but-for causation and essential elements of a claim do not need be constant throughout the lawsuit. ESN further claims that it should overcome at least a motion to dismiss if it can plausibly show race was a determining factor in the decision. Instead, Gorusch reasoned that, statutory language along with past precedent, suggest §1981 follows the general rule. Statutory language of §1981 guarantees equal rights enjoyed by white citizens and nothing in the statute signals this test should change when confronted with a motion to dismiss. Gorusch’s examination of legal precedent and neighboring provision §1982 reveal that courts have interpreted “because of race” to be associated with but-for causation. ESN asks the court to rely on the “motivating factor” test in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with no avail. The Court reasons ESN mistakenly misplaces a process-oriented right with the motivating factor test. Thus, the court vacated the judgement of the court of appeals and remanded the case to determine the sufficiency of ESN’s pleadings under the correct legal rule.

 In a four-page opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, Ginsburg agreed but quibbled that racial violation under §1981 protects the right “to make and enforce contracts” which includes the manner in which the contract is carried out. Therefore, if race accounted for Comcast’s conduct during the contract-formation process, it should not escape liability for those injuries.

The Supreme Court held that a plaintiff alleging racial discrimination in contracts must show that the plaintiff’s race was the actual cause of the alleged injury in failing to reach agreement on a contract. 

Ultimately, this case was a set back compared to traditional in civil rights cases. As the Supreme Court continues to hear cases via teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be interesting to see how other cases may impact law and entertainment. . .

Feel free to share your thoughts below!

Until next time,

Lauryn

Law and Entertainment: Title VII

Blog, Law and Entertainment

Hi everyone! I’m back with another update in law and entertainment.

On October 8th the Supreme Court addressed whether a Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender employee Aimee Stephens.  

Here’s the rundown: Aimee Stephens was fired from her position at Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. because of her transition from male to female. Title VII prohibits discrimination “on the basis of sex.” It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether the word “sex” in the statute was intended to cover transgender individuals.

David Cole, attorney on behalf Aimee Stephens, argued Stephens was discriminated against on the basis of sex for three reasons. The employer terminated Stephens for failing to conform to the owner’s explicit stereotypes about how men and women behave. Moreover, Cole argued Stephens was fired strictly because she changed her sex and identified contrary to the sex she was assigned at birth. Anticipating questions from the justices, Cole articulates that “none of these arguments ask the Court to redefine or, in Judge Posner’s words, update sex.” Rather, “ sex means at a minimum sex assigned at birth based on visible anatomy of biological sex.”                 

If you are reading and your face is like this. Don’t worry you are not alone. These arguments are highly intricate. BUT ISN’T IT SUPER COOL!?!?!

Chief Justice Roberts’ question persisted throughout the argument.  He asks how courts should analyze these policies. Should justices analyze Title VII examining individuals of transgender status or “do you analyze it on the basis of biological sex?”

Cole quickly responds to Chief Justice Roberts asserting the argument rests on biological sex, or to be more accurate, the sex assigned at birth. Still, failing to answer the root of Chief Justice Roberts’ questions, the other justices join to provide clarification. Justice Sotomayor asked, “if a transgender person wanted to use the women’s bathroom . . . but other women were uncomfortable, what law guides judges in balancing these scenarios?” This question addressed possible mass social upheaval that may result from this decision.

Cole advocates for his client using his strongest argument, “At the end of the day, the objection to someone for being transgender is the ultimate sex stereotype. It is saying, I object to you because you fail to conform to this stereotype: the stereotype that if you are assigned a male sex at birth, you must live and identify for your entire life as a man. That is a true generalization for most of us, but it is not true for 1.5 million transgender Americans. To say we’re going to fire you because you fail to accord to a generalization about how people who are assigned a particular sex based on visible anatomy at birth have to live for the rest of their lives is sex discrimination.”

Cole continues when he presents another example. “If an employer wanted to know an employee’s gender he or she were assigned to at birth and fired any employee that failed to conform to their assigned sex at birth, this is discrimination on the basis of biological sex.” Still, Justice Kagan recognizes the ultimate dispute among the parties: whether Stephens was fired for violating the dress code or because of her status as a transgender woman. Justice Gorsuch joins the conversation asking whether Cole’s argument is one of judicial or legislative response. Cole asserts that this question is not an issue of policy but judicial review.  

John Bursch, an attorney arguing on behalf of the Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., disagrees. He argued that sex and transgender status are two independent concepts. Bursch’s begins his arguments in a rapid-fire fashion. However, Justice Breyer interrupts what he calls, “the parade of horrible argument” with some insight.  

As Justice Breyer informs Bursch that the question in this case is not whether an employee is contrary to an employers Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) or whether comparative harm  exists when sex specific policies are implemented. Rather, Justice Breyer tells Bursch that the only question in this case is whether this case is discrimination on the basis of sex, outlined in Title VII. Forced to redirect his reasoning, Bursch attempts to dismantle the other side’s argument asserting that Cole’s comparison of a transgender employee to a non-transgender employee applies a different classification to the Title VII statue that Congress had not added.

Under the questioning of the justices, Bursch stumbles to build an argument. However, he returns to the core, stating that sexual orientation and gender do not fit under the 1964 statutory language of Title VII. He further explained that if the federal courts were to “redefine the meaning of sex in federal law… it would allow biological men to identify as women and take on women’s place in sports teams.” Withstanding active questioning Bursch is able to conclude his argument in a timely manner.

In rebuttal Cole re-emphasizes that the power of this decision lies judicial review rather than legislative redrafting. This argument highlights that interpretation of “sex” has a delicate balance. The justices appear inquisitive yet divided. However, this argument reveals that the justices will make an honorable attempt to abide by text of Title VII. 

This case is sure to transform the way courts interpret gender and its application in discrimination cases. I can’t help but think about how this would impact the entertainment industry particularly when it comes to casting calls requesting women and men of certain ages.

Surely this will be a ground breaking decision and please feel free to share your thoughts.

Until next time, “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” -Garrison Keillor


A Look into the Supreme Court

Blog, Law and Entertainment

Hello everyone! I am so excited to announce a new opportunity with you!

This term I will be a journalist covering Supreme Court decisions! This is a wonderful opportunity that will allow me to be in the courtroom while the Justices hear oral arguments! On the first day I even had a chance to see notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg).

YASSSS ( I know that is not a professional caption but I cannot contain this excitement!)

The first case of the term was Kahler v. Kansas which examined whether it was unconstitutional to abolish the insanity defense in a criminal case.

Since the 1800s courts have recognized the M’Naghten Test. This test determines whether someone would be liable for a crime if they were deemed insane. The test notes that ” A person is not criminally responsible for an act when a mental disability prevented the person from knowing either (1) the nature and quality of the act or (2) whether the act was wrong.” – Black’s Law Dictionary.

Look, I’m not here to throw a bunch of legalese at you, but this test has been around for a while. Under this test, if a person were found insane they would be admitted into a mental institution rather than a prison.

Here’s the tea about this case: Kahler was married to Karen. While married, Karen had an affair with another woman. Kahler initially agreed but began suffering from depression and jealousy due to his wife’s betrayal. As a result, he lost his marriage and his employment. Then, around the Thanksgiving holiday in 2009, he traveled to Karen’s grandmother’s house killing Karen, his daughters and Karen’s grandmother. Kahler argued the insanity defense and the state of Kansas rejects this application. After much deliberation, this case made it up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

THIS ARGUMENT WAS FASCINATING!


I liked how the oral argument captured three big ideas: morality, mental culpability and mental health. When looking back on the oral argument, the hypothetical presented by Justice Breyer questioned whether two insane defendants would receive the same punishment if Defendant A killed Person 1 while Defendant B killed Person 2 due to disembodied voices prompting him to kill.  I believe this hypothetical is conditional on the definition of mental illness. There were impressive arguments on both sides challenging moral culpability and its connection to the mens rea of the crime at issue. However, I believe that the true question is: What is a mental illness? 


Although most insanity defenses fail, I couldn’t help but expect to hear more from the argument on why Kahler was seen as “insane.” Could this be a slight indication on how the law and society perceives mental illness? If there were more harmony between law and science, this question would be easier to answer. 


Thousands of people suffer from Traumatic Brain Injuries each year. In most recent years, former NFL and other professional athletes have been diagnosed with  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that alters the function and structure of the brain due to sub-concussive hits to the head while participating in sports. Neurologists, medical doctors and other scientists have shown through literature that this disease causes an altered level of consciousness or mental confusion. If we were to diminish the insanity defense, what would happen if a former athlete with CTE kills his family? Or, if CTE is linked to participation in youth, college, or high school sports, would this influence the courts rationale for defendants who commit these crimes?

As society begins to dive deeper into mental health, it will be interesting to see how scientific and behavioral studies influence criminal cases.

This is shaping up to be one interesting Supreme Court term and there are several cases that combine law and entertainment as well.

Super humbled about this opportunity and looking forward to sharing this with you all.

Until then, “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”-Garrison Keillor


I’ve been at “The Firm”

Blog, Law and Entertainment, Movies

It’s been a long time. Sorry. Let me first begin by saying that there were certain life activities that have kept me away from this blog (law school). But. . . I am back and better than ever!!

You know, Johann Sebastian Bach the German composer and musician?

Well, not better than ever. This is the best it’s going to get.

Life Update: I survived the first year of law school. Which isn’t easy. You think your life is going to like:

However, it’s more like…

Next thing you know, every human interaction is a chance to tell everyone how difficult law school is…

Now, I plan to use every human interaction to deliver great commentary on movies, shows, and plays. I know what you are thinking…

Yes, I know. But what if I tell you it is more complicated than that.

For example, The Firm, a 1993 thriller starring Tom Cruise and Jeanne Tripplehorn is a shocking tale about Mitch McDeere, a young Harvard Law who gets offered an opportunity of a life time. Recruited by all the top firms in all the top cities, McDeere decides to accept a small firm in Texas. This is no average firm. Warning there are spoilers ahead.

The firm gives him:

  • A fully furnished house
  • New car
  • Phone
  • Bar Exam preparation courses
  • Prestige
  • Happiness

For Mr. McDeere, a brilliant yet broke law student, this is better than a dream come true. Before I move on, can we take a moment to appreciate young Tom Cruise. . .


I’ll teach you about jurisdiction if we change the venue to my place


Wow

Okay…court is now back in session.

What begins as a dream come quickly changes into a living nightmare. The firm is legal counsel to the Mafia and every attorney they’ve hired has died when trying to leave. Luckily, Mr. McDeere uses his good looks intelligence to strategically defeat the firm while still following the law. It’s a tremendous thriller. Made in 1993, The Firm is a movie far beyond its time. A thriller with a sophisticated twist demonstrating how crafty one can be while still following the law.

If you are one of those people who are constantly looking for “the loophole,” you’ll find it in this film. Perfectly captured on film, director Sydney Pollack displays what it truly means to “think like a lawyer.”

To add, the movie has some pretty colorful characters. Holly Hunter plays a risqué yet clever secretary. Gary Busey plays a savvy private investigator. While David Strathairn plays McDeere’s older brother, a man convicted for committing manslaughter. The four characters create an unlikely team, making the audience laugh, cry and stay at the edge of the seat until the very end.

The film leverages on McDeere’s inability to move on from his insecurity. Growing up in a lower economic class, McDeere strived to give his wife the house, car, and stability to create the life they have always wanted. However, McDeere traded his dream for a harsh reality. His salary-driven decision did not make him happier. In fact, it got him into more trouble.

Overall this film was a classic cinematic masterpiece. A must-see for action lovers, thrill-seekers, and intellectuals everywhere. 🙂



Who’s Following You?

Blog, Law and Entertainment

The Social Media Black Market

The law has the vitality of an organism. Although it may seem like the law is developed through various social movements and stuffy political leaders, laws originate from purpose. Our social purpose. Without us spreading ideas we value most, there would be no change. Social change has many components. It involves me and you. Together, we work together to challenge the social and political dimensions– creating a direct impact on society. We may not feel it every day, but we have the power to make it happen. Today, you and I will address the issue of privacy and our social media identity. Let’s make change together.


We can all use more likes on our pictures, views on our Instagram story or just more attention in general.  But has it come to a point where we pay for it? Apparently so.

Money can’t buy you happiness but it can buy you…followers. As we will see, popularity and privacy have its price.

I know you saw the word privacy and probably thought of Facebook  or Cambridge Analytica.

Yes, your preliminary ideas of privacy may be correct. Unfortunately, there are more social media bullies out there. A lot more.

Who can blame them? In a world where we value Likes more than a spoken compliment, why wouldn’t someone develop a company to exploit our horrible priorities.

source

Sounds like great business idea….   

Imagine the moderate-to-frequent social media user. Although he or she may like the occasional picture of their favorite actor or travel page, they use social media for its fundamental purpose. To connect. Liking pictures of their best friend, partner, crush or even their ex. Hey, I’m not trying to get all up in your business about what you do on social media but Devumi does.

Devumi, a social media marketing company, advertise their unique services: selling followers, likes, and views to celebrities, Instagram influencers, your co-workers, best friend, grandmother, basically anyone that wants to look like they have friends online.

It’s social media fraud people. The worst part, according to The NY Times, Devumi often creates a duplicate profile of real users. This includes but is not limited to using the same name, hometown and other personal details of a REAL person. These automated accounts known as “Bots,” promote just about anything. From the new cafe in town, to pornographic sites, there are no limits.

YOU MAY HAVE A DUPLICATE ACCOUNT AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IT.

source

Sorry, don’t mean to scare you. But hey that’s life.

To make matters scarier, Twitter does not require its accounts to be operated by a real person. Therefore, companies like Devumi can set up these automated accounts (called “Bots”) with little to no effort and make millions.

So why did I write this article. To scare you of course. But in all seriousness, there are a bigger issue here. This appears to be mass identity theft. But, regulation of social media lies in the grey area when it comes to the law. There have been many developments in protecting the collection and sharing of our personal information through The Global Data Protection Regulation enacted in May of 2018. But continued social media fraud can be dangerous. In today’s age, it is inevitable that our social media posts, followings and pictures are a reflection of our values often evaluated by our friends, co-workers and employers.

So what’s the solution? Let’s take a sociological perspective on the current issue: Athletes, TED Speakers, actors, executives, businesses, and Instagram models now have a common denominator. They are apart of Devumi’s enormous customer base of 200,000 people.

To get to the root of the issue, we have to be real with each other. What are we accomplishing with all these followers? Have we become so obsessed that we are willing to pay someone to develop a robot to like our pictures just so we can brag to Tina at Starbucks?!

source

Newsflash Tina doesn’t care.

source

Don’t get me wrong, we can develop a space where we all care about each other’s well-being. For example, I really love fashion, healthy eating and travel (I’m basic). So I choose to follow accounts that post these things as well.

There is nothing wrong with creating a social media platform to show the world who you are and what you love. In fact, I applaud you for your self expression. But, it is critical to examine when our motives reach a bifurcation point. When do our inspiration transform from passion into fame, popularity or constant approval from others? Exploitation of our misplaced values is where companies like Devumi thrive.

What can we do today?

Changes in the law are an indicator of the complexities of social change. For now, we should use the law as a catalyst, to propagate social change where there are blatant inequalities in our privacy and protection of our identities. For now, let’s be curious about our personal and digital privacy. It’s definately worth it.


BUY ME COFFEE

Like what you read? Donate $5 to buy me coffee so I can have the fuel I need to keep producing great content! If you want to give more, feel free to up the quantity (: No Pay Pal, no worries! Click directly on your branded credit card, gift card or debit card logo and donate as a guest! If any problems arise, send an email to reelreviewbylauryn@gmail.com and you can donate through Square, Inc.

$5.00

Let’s Create Change: A New Athletic Epicenter

Blog, Entertainment, Law and Entertainment


Happy reading!

Today I thought I’d shed some light on sports. The names of top male athletes come to mind easily: Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady….the list goes on.

Not only are these athletes incredibly gifted, but they have also become the epicenter of sports and entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with it. Sports have been the focal point of entertainment since the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece.

But how many of us can easily name 10-15 top female athletes? We all know Serena and Venus Williams. That’s an easy one. But do we choose to regularly follow the careers of Sloane Stephens, Dara Torres, Allyson Felix, Lisa Leslie, Simone Biles, Paige Tapp, Missy Franklin or Naomi Osaka?

I bet there are people who follow LeBron James so closely, they know what he had for breakfast this morning. That being said, the heart of sports and entertainment is male-dominated.

I am not using this as an opportunity to bash on male athletes, cause let’s face it….they are great to watch. 😉

Instead, let’s take a chance to admire all athletes while recognizing the male-female disparity in sports. Let’s create a new athletic epicenter. One that celebrates the accomplishments of both male and female athletes.

I hate to get all Miss-America on you. But I don’t care. I write to spark conversation, not to please you. ( Okay, okay. I tried to be all tough there, but I actually hope you like these article. Thanks for reading btw, your awesome).

This Brings me to Adidas.

As one of the largest sports companies in the world, Adidas launched the Here To Create Change Campaign to showcase female athletes. Director Doug Liman, known for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity, The O.C., and Jumper collaborated with Adidas to create an amazing project that I am humbled to be a part of.

Yes, I was featured in this commercial. Sorry, had to mention it. ( Don’t worry I get to a broader point).

The Adidas: Here to Create Change commercial was released this past summer. It begins an alarming statistic: Only 4% of all athletes presented in the media are women.

I’m shooketh. As a former Division 1 Athlete and school record holder, I’ve dedicated countless hours to relentless practices, unaccommodating coaches, cutting out sugar, and pushing myself to the limit during tournaments.

For the people who go to the gym 2-5 times per week and get your sweat on, I admire your dedication to health and fitness….

Literally everyone at the gym….

But it’s not the same. Athletes, like other professionals, work diligently to perfect their craft. Therefore, all athletes should be celebrated. Both men and women.

I am proud to advocate for female athletes. In front of the camera, actors have the chance to showcase powerful messages to various audiences.

In our own lives, we cater to unique demographics. Conversing with co-workers, chatting with friends, or getting your side hustle on through Uber or Lyft, enable small, yet crucial opportunities for all of us to be actors—to advocate for what we consider to be right and challenge what we consider to be wrong.

Let’s all make this commitment to ourselves and fulfill it.

Let’s be here to create change #CreatorsUnite


BUY ME COFFEE

Like what you see? Donate $5 to buy me coffee so I can have the fuel I need to keep producing great content! If you want to give more, feel free to up the quantity (: No Pay Pal, no worries! Click directly on your branded credit card, gift card or debit card logo and donate as a guest! If any problems arise, send an email to reelreviewbylauryn@gmail.com and you can donate through Square, Inc.

$5.00

BECOME A PART OF THE REEL FAMILY