Folklaw: 15 December 2006

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ now not just for criminalsFollowing the passage of the Copyright Bill through the House of Representatives, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock’s department released a…

Singing Happy Birthday now not just for criminals

Following the passage of the Copyright Bill through the House of Representatives, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock’s department released a handy FAQ summary of ‘dos and don’ts’ under the new laws.

Folklaw readers will be overjoyed to hear that singing Happy Birthday in a public place “would not be enough to attract criminal liability”, and that there are “no on-the-spot fines for this conduct”. Expect to see a network of underground birthday celebrations spilling into the streets over the coming weeks, revellers singing with officially sanctioned glee.


Concerned parents amongst us will also be relieved to hear their teenage child won’t be committing a criminal offence by posting a copy of himself or herself lip-synching to a pop song on the internet.

But be warned! This heinous act may still be considered to be the making of “an unauthorised copy of a sound recording”. Just to be sure, parents are advised to ban their children from singing anything until Philip Ruddock sends another media release (except, of course, if it is Happy Birthday).

One final warning about fair use copying of CDs: “you will not be able to sell, loan or give away a copy you make to a friend, but a friend can listen to your music with you”.

The country’s chief lawmaker has displayed considerable generosity here, in what Folklaw believes to be a heartfelt encouragement by the Government of the budding social lives of young people.

Now all we need is a legion of neighbourhood spies — just as Ausralians are encouraged to become in this age of terror — to keep tabs on the movement of burnt CDs in the possession of ‘friends’ everywhere.

Lawyers Weekly Discover

Peep Show for a Gorilla

Gerald Skoning of Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Illinois, has compiled a top ten list of ‘wacky employment law cases’. Although stiff competition was offered by a woman deemed “too sexy” for promotion and a personal assistant fired for having insufficient levels of enlightenment and consciousness, the following case stood out in stark separation from the crowd. Enjoy.

Two fired caretakers for Koko, the world-famous, sign language-speaking gorilla, have sued their former bosses, claiming they were pressured to expose their breasts as a way of bonding with the 300-pound animal.

Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, both of San Francisco, claimed they were subjected to sexual discrimination and wrongfully terminated. The lawsuit against the Gorilla Foundation and its president, Francine Penny Patterson the long-time trainer of the well-known gorilla seeks damages totalling more than US$1 million ($1.27 million).

According to the complaint, on several occasions Patterson told the female handlers that exposing ones breasts to Koko was a normal component to developing a personal bond with the gorilla.

Patterson claimed that Koko had told her he was getting bored with seeing her breasts, and threatened that the handlersjob status would suffer if they refused to indulge Kokos nipple fetish.

It remains to be seen how a California jury will react to these rather bizarre allegations, but jury consultants may well urge the defence to select male jurors, who might identify with Kokos apparent interest in variety.

Toddler Power Ranger fights off robbers

When the family of four-year-old Stevie Long was accosted by an armed bandit, he relied on his television heroes to save them.

As the thief held his young sister and mother at gunpoint, Stevie slipped from the room and hurriedly changed into his Mighty Morphin Power Ranger costume, complete with padded muscles, the News and Observer reported.

Then, before the evildoer had a chance to escape, he sprung from the shadows yelling, “get away from my family!”, and wielding a plastic sword as he continued to scream “Yah! Yah!”.

The bandit turned and fled from the room, taking with him cash and other valuables. Police said Stevie’s attack may have caused the robber, and his accomplice waiting outside, to ditch their plan of taking the child’s mother to an ATM in order to force her to withdraw money.

“I scared the bad guys away,” a jubilant Stevie was quoted as saying after the ordeal.

The Kumars at No. 42 sue ING

Dutch bank ING is facing a lawsuit on grounds of racial discrimination after two Asian employees complained about being dubbed ‘The Kumars at No. 42’.

According to Personnel Today magazine, the two complainants are seeking more than £100,000 ($251,059). Meena Sagoo, 42, believes she was excluded from promotion because of the nickname allegedly given to her by boss, Richard Mutter.

Making a reference to the popular comedy show, Mutter allegedly told Sagoo that she and a Sri-Lankan colleague were the subject of an office joke. The case will be heard by an employment tribunal early next year, with Sagoo claiming race discrimination and victimisation, the magazine said. The claims have been denied by both Mutter and ING.

British barristers to receive report cards

In a move that may startle Australian silks, judges in the UK might soon be rating barristers.

According to website RollOnFriday, the Bar Standards Board has suggested the judiciary might soon be requested to grade every barrister’s performance.

The grading system is to become part of a ‘good barrister guide’, which will rate barristers in terms of their ability and experience, for the use of any future potential clients.

The initiative is intended to aid review of poor performances too. Judges will be encouraged to alert the Bar Council when a barrister’s efforts are less than satisfactory, the website said, while there may even be plans to allow barristers to report on each other should they isolate a colleague who is, in their opinion, underperforming.

Client dumps lawyer for refusing to kill

Lawyers who say they will do anything for their clients may think twice after reading the following story about South African solicitor Steve Rainey.

The senior lawyer testified to the Cape High Court during a defamation case that he was fired by a client after refusing to murder a tour sponsor of singer Whitney Houston, website RollOnFriday reported.

Rainey worked for well-known firm Deneys Reitz, where he was a partner. He said met with client Scott Hilthey, secretary of the board of trustees of the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children, in 1994. During the meeting Hilthey complained of lagging sales for Houston’s tour, and asked Rainey to “eliminate” the man he held accountable.

When an explanation was asked for, Hilthey requested that the sponsor be “terminated”. Upon a third request for elaboration, Hilthey said in no uncertain terms that he wanted the man killed. When Rainey politely refused, he was immediately sacked by his client.

Folklaw: 15 December 2006
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