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The Time the Supreme Court Ruled in Favor of 2 Live Crew

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At the peak of 2 Live Crew's popularity, their music was about as well known in the courts as it was on the radio. The Miami rap group was famous for their bawdy and sexually explicit music that occasionally led to arrests and fines under some states' obscenity laws. In 1987, a record store clerk in Florida was charged with a felony (and later acquitted) for selling the group's debut album to a 14-year-old girl. The next year, a store in Alabama was fined for selling their record to an undercover cop.

Because of the group's notorious reputation, a few counties in Florida even tried to outright ban their 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. In 1990, the Broward County Sheriff's Office arrested two of the band's members for a nightclub performance because a Federal district judge there had ruled their music to be obscene. In 1992, a circuit appeals court overturned that judge's ruling, and the Broward County court's efforts to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court failed. However, 2 Live Crew would soon be in front of the Highest Court in the Land for another issue.

In 1989, 2 Live Crew made a non-explicit version of their hit album, cheekily titled As Clean As They Wanna Be. There was only one song on that record that was not included on the explicit version: a parody of Roy Orbison's “Oh, Pretty Woman.” The unmistakable bassline of the classic remains, but the group used lyrics that were far more ribald.

2 Live Crew reached out to the publishing company that owned the original song, Acuff-Rose Music, asking for permission and promising royalties and songwriting credits. Acuff’s legal department retorted that, while they were “aware of the success enjoyed by ‘The 2 Live Crews’ [sic],” they “cannot permit the use of a parody of ‘Oh, Pretty Woman.’” (Orbison died a year before Acuff-Rose received the request.)

The band put the parody on the low-selling “clean” version of As Nasty As They Wanna Be anyway. The next year, Acuff-Rose sued.

2 Live Crew’s attorneys argued “fair use,” the legal standard allowing for some reproduction of a copyrighted work for things like criticism, parody, or teaching. A Federal appeals court disagreed, ruling that the “blatantly commercial” nature of the record precluded fair use.

After some litigious effort, the case landed before the Supreme Court. There, the question at hand was whether or not a parodist is entitled to fair use protections if they sell their work for a profit. As The New York Times reported, the Court received amicus curiae briefs from Mad Magazine and the Harvard Lampoon arguing that satirical work should be. True to form, The Capitol Steps, a group who performs political song parodies, submitted a brief in song—they sent the Justices a cassette featuring a tune outlining the history of musical parody in the U.S. Acuff-Rose, meanwhile, was backed by briefs from the Songwriters’ Guild and Michael Jackson.

Despite the fact that the Crew had grabbed headlines for their raunchy music, this case was purely based on copyright and not obscenity. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music (the Campbell in question refers to Luther Campbell, the group's leader and main producer) was argued on November 9, 1993, and decided on March 7, 1994. The Court voted unanimously in 2 Live Crew's favor to overturn the lower court’s ruling.

Writing for all nine justices, David Souter stated “that a work's commercial nature is only one element” by which to judge fair use. Souter noted the court “might not assign a high rank” to the 2 Live Crew song, but it is a legitimate parody that “can be taken as a comment on the naiveté of the original of an earlier day, as a rejection of its sentiment that ignores the ugliness of street life and the debasement that it signifies.”

In order to illustrate this, Souter included the lyrics to both songs, ensuring that the words “Big hairy woman all that hair it ain't legit; Cause you look like Cousin It" landed on the shelves of every law school library in the country.

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technology
New Jersey Outlaws Droning Under the Influence
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Drone technology is progressing faster than laws regulating it can keep up with. But New Jersey is anticipating at least one mess made possible by the rise of unmanned aircraft: droning under the influence. As Reuters reports, piloting a drone while drunk is now illegal in the Garden State.

The law was signed by Governor Chris Christie on his last full day in office. It states that the same alcohol rules applied to drivers must also be followed by drone pilots. That means anyone maneuvering a remote-controlled copter with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher faces up to six months in jail, a $1000 fine, or both. The same goes for drone pilots operating their aircraft while drugged.

Even without factoring alcohol into the mix, the list of disastrous drone incidents is long. Since they first become popular with the public several years ago, unmanned aerial vehicles have crashed or nearly crashed into planes, crowds, natural landmarks, and world leaders.

New Jersey is the first state to pass legislation that bans drinking and droning, though at least 38 states are considering passing some type of drone restrictions this year. In addition to keeping people from piloting drones while intoxicated, the law also prohibits flying them near prisons or using them to harass wildlife.

[h/t Reuters]

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Animals
Switzerland Just Made It Illegal to Boil Live Lobsters
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No, lobsters don’t scream when you toss them into a pot of boiling water, but as far as the Swiss government is concerned, they can still feel pain. The path most lobsters take to the dinner plate is supposedly so inhumane that Switzerland has banned boiling lobsters alive unless they are stunned first, The Guardian reports.

The new law is based on assertions from animal rights advocates and some scientists that crustaceans like lobsters have complex nervous systems, making death by boiling incredibly painful. If chefs want to include lobster on their menus, they’re now required to knock them out before preparing them. Acceptable stunning methods under Swiss law include electric shock and the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain (i.e. stabbing it in the head).

The government has also outlawed the transportation of live lobsters on ice or in icy water. The animals should instead be kept in containers that are as close to their natural environment as possible until they’re ready for the pot.

Proponents of animal rights are happy with the decision, but others, including some scientists, are skeptical. The data still isn’t clear as to whether or not lobsters feel pain, at least in the way people think of it. Bob Bayer, head of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, told Mental Floss in 2014 that lobsters “sense their environment, but don’t have the intellectual hardware to process pain.”

If you live in a place where boiling lobsters is legal, but still have ethical concerns over eating them, try tossing your lobster in the freezer before giving it a hot water bath. Chilling it puts it to sleep and is less messy than butchering it while it’s still alive.

[h/t The Guardian]

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