Legal News Roundup: June 24th, 2016

24 June, 2016

Missie Frandsen

Missie Frandsen


Let’s take a look at this week in legal news.


You Missed Your Chance to Shoot that Trekkie Fan Film You’ve Been Dreaming About

CBS Entertainment and Paramount Pictures, owners of one of the most beloved science fiction franchises, have released guidelines for Star Trek fans wishing to create independent films, and they are not pretty.

Fans have always gone above and beyond for their fandoms, creating both outstandingly bad and outrageously beautiful works of fiction, art, and film. Trekkies, part of the sixth most popular fandom, have always been dedicated, but are currently under fire for crowdfunding an independent film called Axanar. While fan films have been made for decades without Star Trek rightsholders going to court (though Klingon’s copyright is under attack), CBS and Paramount have filed against Axanar’s creators citing intellectual copyright laws. Amid the lawsuit, the companies published ten conditions for future fan films and promise they won’t take legal action if productions adhere. The conditions expand beyond copyright and trademark law, infuriating and disappointing fans who feel the guidelines make it impossible for autonomous films to continue.

Supreme Court Affirms Affirmative Action

In Fisher v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of affirmative action, upholding the admissions process of the University of Texas. The University of Texas accepts the top ten percent of in-state high school seniors, but the remainder of applicants are considered with a number of factors, including race. Considering race, the University argued, brought greater diversity to their campus.

White plaintiff Abigail Fisher, an average student competing with the general admission pool, argued that she was denied admission based on her race, and the university favored less-qualified black and Hispanic students. Her rejection, she claimed, was unconstitutional, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In response, the Supreme Court delivered a 4-3 decision affirming the constitutionality of UT’s program, with Justice Kennedy stating that the “purpose or interest is both constitutionally permissible and substantial”, considering race as a factor is “necessary to accomplish that purpose.” The decision is a major win for affirmative action advocates and makes it less likely that similar policies around the country, such as Harvard’s policy, could be struck down.

Cinemark Not Liable for Colorado Theater Shooting

U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson tossed the final liability case against Cinemark for the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. The ruling comes after several similar cases, amended complaints, and motions to dismiss failed. While Cinemark has argued repeatedly that it couldn’t have known about or prepared for a mass murder, plaintiffs (those injured and victim’s family members) claimed that the movie theater giant should have provided more safety measures, including security guards and alarms on exit doors.

Shooter James Holmes took the lives of 12 and injured 70 in what Jackson called “premeditated and intentional actions”, concluding that “a reasonable jury could not plausibly find that Cinemark’s actions or inactions were a substantial factor in causing this tragedy.”

What the Sh**, China?! China Still Harvesting Organs From Prisoners

Falun Gong participate in street theatre in a protest over the Chinese government harvesting body organs from arrested Falun Gong practitioners in China

Human rights lawyer David Matas, along with journalist Ethan Gutmann and former lawmaker David Kilgour, have released a report claiming that China is (still) illegally harvesting organs from prisoners. Allegedly, doctors, hospitals, healthcare officials, the Communist Party and the Chinese government all participate in and cover up illegal harvesting, killing thousands of imprisoned minorities for transplant operations.

Remember the Falun Gong? The minority group that China claims is a “cult” engaged in “anti-China political activities”, has lost “tens of thousands” of members to prison, where the report says they were forced to undergo medical exams and tests in order to make organ matches. Human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both confirmed that China regularly detains, imprisons, and tortures minority prisoners, and Matas testified about the practice before the Foreign Affairs Committee on June 23rd. In response, Representative Chris Smith of the committee stated “The Chinese government has been trafficking in organs for profit for far too long and we have strong evidence that Falun Gong practitioners were singled out for organ harvesting.”