Popeye the Sailor copyright free 70 years after Elzie Segar’s death

Popeye

“I yam what I yam,” declared Popeye. And just what that is is likely to become less clear as the copyright expires on the character who generates about £1.5 billion in annual sales.

From January 1, the iconic sailor falls into the public domain in Britain under an EU law that restricts the rights of authors to 70 years after their death. Elzie Segar, the Illinois artist who created Popeye, his love interest Olive Oyl and nemesis Bluto, died in 1938.

The Popeye industry stretches from books, toys and action figures to computer games, a fast-food chain and the inevitable canned spinach.

The copyright expiry means that, from Thursday, anyone can print and sell Popeye posters, T-shirts and even create new comic strips, without the need for authorisation or to make royalty payments.

Popeye became a Depression-era hero soon after he first appeared in the 1929 comic strip, Thimble Theatre. Segar drew Popeye as a “working-class Joe” who suffered torment from Bluto — sometimes known as Brutus — until he “can’t stands it no more”. Wolfing down spinach turned Popeye into a pumped-up everyman hero, making the case for good over evil.

For more on this breaking story see thetimesonline.com, and Happy New Year!

Court Enforces Clawback Agreement, Denies Motion to Compel

Bro-Tech Corp. v. Thermax, Inc., 2008 WL 5210346 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2008)

On the eve of trial in this case in which plaintiffs alleged trade secret theft, the court granted an extension “on urgent party request” so that additional discovery could be accomplished.  The discovery proved to be complex, and the court appointed a special master to manage the electronic discovery issues.  Thereafter, the parties negotiated a stipulation, approved by the court, which included a clawback procedure (“the Clawback Agreement”) to handle the return of privileged documents.  The Clawback Agreement provided that in the event of disclosure of a privileged document, the document was to be returned upon written demand.  If the recipient of the document wished to challenge the privilege claim, they were required to do so in writing, within five days of receipt of the demand for the document’s return.  The special master would then resolve the dispute following an in camera review.

For more see ediscoverylaw.com

‘Silo’ Thinking Let Us Down — Actions that made sense in isolation guaranteed a financial crisis when added together

By Stefan Szymanski

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Business schools set out to prepare people to manage by telling them the truth about business, so does the present crisis prove that they have failed us?

As with bankers, this is a time for business school professors to show some humility. What most business schools do best is teach disciplines, such as accounting, finance, strategy, organizational behavior, and human resource management. Strengths vary, and employers have been adept at tapping into the richest veins buried in the leading schools. Thus there is a very real sense in which the best business school thinking in finance ended up being implemented in the most creative banks, that the best business school thinking in strategy ended up being sold by consultants to the world’s leading corporations, that the best business school thinking in organizational behavior and human resource management ended up being applied to the recruitment and performance management of employees at the highest levels.

This thinking let us down. The current economic crisis is a crisis of financial analysis, a crisis of strategic thinking, and a crisis of employee management. Bankers and dealers sold products whose risks they either did not understand or did not care for; their senior managers approved strategic plans neither understanding nor caring about the risks that were being run, and the whole show was underpinned by incentive management schemes that made no sense in anything other than the very short term. These actions made sense taken in isolation, but when added together they more or less guaranteed a crisis. In other words, the coordination failure of the banks reflects a coordination failure inside business schools, a “silo” mentality in which the value of specifics with strictly limited applicability outweighs the value of a broader wisdom.

For more see businessweek.com.

Former GC: BigLaw Really Is Better

When Ron Friedmann recently derided general counsel for staying with time-worn practices in their hiring of outside counsel, even in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, he heard from one former GC who said that large companies will not be abandoning their BigLaw outside counsel anytime in the foreseeable future. With her permission, Friedmann shares her surprisingly frank comments.

Sheryl Katz is now an independent legal and technology consultant. She was formerly vice president and general counsel at 101 Communications LLC, now part of 1105 Media. She has also been a partner with Graham & James, counsel to Perkins Coie and an associate at Bryan Cave and WilmerHale. With that experience under her belt, she believes that any movement towards smaller firms is nothing more than a minor trend.

If small firms that would do the same quality work for less were truly available, I would have farmed out more work to them. In some cases former law school classmates, or former attorneys at Wilmer or other firms that I knew, were available in smaller firms to help on matters. Sometimes this resulted in good quality work and lower bills. However, small firms often don’t have the depth of staff, so some matters that are not even necessarily that big can really only be handled by a bigger firm. Also, on a lot of transactions you really need your tax lawyer, corporate lawyer and banking lawyer to be at the same firm.
There are plenty of good lawyers in firms of all sizes and “great” solo practitioners, she acknowledges. “Unfortunately,” she adds, “there is also a lot of mediocrity.” And then there is that CYA factor heard often among GC:

Going to a large firm in a lot of cases is sort of like going to a chain restaurant. You pretty much know that the minimum you are going to get is going to be acceptable. And if the firm messes up, as General Counsel, you are covered. After all, you can always say “It may be a mess but Blank, Blank and Blank is reputed to be a great firm so don’t fault me for hiring them.”

I guess we can call her chain-resturant analogy the food-poisoning theory of law department management. Better the mass-produced burger that is safe and predictable than the risk of a gourmet meal.

By Robert J. Ambrogi on December 29, 2008 at 12:42 PM

GCs Starting to Bring the Work Back Home

Leslie A. Gordon
GC California Magazine
December 18, 2008

Like many in-house lawyers, Shannon Dwyer, general counsel at St. Joseph Health System in the Southern California city of Orange, has been gearing up for the 2010 budgeting cycle. The $4 billion, nonprofit organization, which runs 14 hospitals in three states, has a “responsibility to be a good steward of the assets,” says Dwyer. But in the current economy, she’s finding that using seasoned attorneys at large law firms is quickly becoming “cost-prohibitive.”

As a result, she’s been looking to hire a new lawyer — bringing her legal department to nine attorneys — to help handle even more of St. Joseph’s legal work in house. “It’s a basic cost-benefit analysis,” says Dwyer. “Although there’s some convincing of management to be done whenever you increase [employee staffing] at the corporate level, it’s not difficult to make the business case” that adding in-house lawyers is cheaper in the long run than paying increasingly rising outside attorney fees.

Demonstrating a trend that has significant implications for law firms, a growing number of California companies are under pressure to control costs and handle more work in house, where they can come closer to paying wholesale rather than retail for legal services. According to a 2008 survey of chief legal officers, conducted by consulting firm Altman Weil, GCs like Dwyer are planning to decrease their use of outside firms, which typically constitute the largest expense of any corporate legal department. Correspondingly, chief legal officers plan to increase law department staffing over the next 12 months, according to the survey, which was conducted this past May and June.

Specifically, the survey reports that 49 percent of legal departments plan to hire additional lawyers in the next year, up from the 40 percent who said they planned on new hiring in the last survey. At the same time, 26 percent of law departments will decrease their outside counsel, up significantly from 16 percent in last year’s survey. Only eight percent of CLOs plan to increase their use of outside counsel, down from 18 percent. Not surprisingly, CLOs cited cost control as their top concern over the next three to five years.

Hildebrandt International, another legal consulting firm, conducted a similar survey, which supports the Altman Weil conclusions. Hildebrandt’s 2008 law department survey found that inside legal spending rose by five percent in the United States while spending on outside counsel increased by just two percent. Nearly a third — 29 percent — of the 223 responding companies anticipate a decrease in the number of law firms they will use.

For more see law.com.

Will Tough Economy Push Companies to Outsource Legal Work? Some companies see big savings in ‘offshoring’ legal work – But how’s the quality?

David Hechler
Corporate Counsel
December 22, 2008

Martin Shively directs the worldwide IP operations of Microsoft Corp. But he doesn’t commute to the company’s campus in Redmond, Wash., every day. The associate GC works in a remote office in New Delhi, where he’s been based for 18 months overseeing not call centers, but outsourced patent work. And his operation is saving Microsoft millions on its legal bills.

Shively’s Indian experience dates back to 2004, when he took over budget responsibility for Microsoft’s patent group. There was a lot of buzz about outsourcing legal work to India; corporations like General Electric Co. were doing it, and slashing their legal bills. So Shively figured why not Microsoft? He started with the most basic task he could think of — proofreading patent applications. Instead of paying high-priced associates to do this work at a dozen U.S. law firms that drafted Microsoft’s filings, he hired one vendor in New Delhi to do them all. It was, he says, “a safe place to have a failure.” If it flopped “we just wouldn’t tell anyone,” he laughs.

But it didn’t flop. “We went there to save money,” he acknowledges. “We stayed and expanded because we liked the quality of the work.” It wasn’t just OK, it was better.

For more see law.com.

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Bernard L. Madoff and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (S.D.N.Y. Civ. 08 CV 10791 (LLS)) SEC Obtains Preliminary Injunction, Asset Freeze, and Other Relief Against Defendants

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on December 18, 2008, the Honorable Judge Louis L. Stanton, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, entered a preliminary injunction order, by consent, against Bernard L. Madoff and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (“BMIS”).

The preliminary injunction continues to restrain Madoff and BMIS from violating certain antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Also, by consent, Judge Stanton ordered that assets remain frozen until further notice, continued the appointment of a receiver for two entities owned or controlled by Madoff in the United Kingdom (while defendant BMIS remains subject to oversight by a SIPC trustee), and granted other relief. The preliminary injunction order continues the relief originally obtained on December 12, 2008, in response to the Commission’s application for emergency preliminary relief that sought a temporary restraining order, an order freezing assets, and other relief against Madoff and BMIS based on his alleged violations of the federal securities laws.

The SEC’s complaint, filed on December 11, 2008, in federal court in Manhattan, alleges that the defendants have committed a $50 billion fraud and violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Advisers Act of 1940. The complaint alleges that Madoff last week informed two senior employees that his investment advisory business was a fraud. Madoff told these employees that he was “finished,” that he had “absolutely nothing,” that “it’s all just one big lie,” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme.” The senior employees understood him to be saying that he had for years been paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from other, different investors. Madoff admitted in this conversation that the firm was insolvent and had been for years, and that he estimated the losses from this fraud were at least $50 billion.

The Commission continues to seek, among other things, a permanent injunction, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus pre-judgment interest, and civil money penalties.