Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a case in which a Massachusetts court affirmed Harvard’s ownership over several slave daguerreotypes despite the horrific and now criminal conditions under which the pictures were taken. Professor Wexler argues that the double injustice of mistreating enslaved people and using them to prove a theory of their lesser-than status calls for application of transitional justice principles, not ordinary law.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to enact the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990, which gives individuals the right to sue a state for damages for copyright infringement. Dorf describes the complexity of the Court’s sovereign immunity doctrine and points out the Court’s peculiar failure to simply invalidate a portion of the statute while severing and preserving the valid portions and/or applications of it—which the Court has done in some other cases.
John Cannan, a research and instructional services librarian at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in Philadelphia, critiques a proposal by Congress to enact the Copyright Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE), which would create a copyright small claims court through which rights holders would be able to pursue small copyright infringement claims. Cannan argues that CASE would empower copyright trolls and subject nearly every American to hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of legal expenses. Cannan concludes that rather than being a sword for the creative middle class, CASE seems more like a trap for the unwary.
Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent Ninth Circuit decision rejecting an effort by PETA to bring a copyright lawsuit on behalf of Naruto, a crested macaque. Dorf points out that while the result in that case is unsurprising, the court’s reasoning raises important questions about the role of lawsuits and law more generally in furthering the interests of nonhuman animals.