IN THE NEWS: Bryan Tuk's Editorial in The Pittsburgh Current on PA HB561

You can click here to read Bryan’s editorial in The Pittsburgh Current. Below is an excerpt:

While performing for an audience can be a thrill, it is also a job that requires professional musicians to work very hard in order to make a living.  

The economics of the local music business aren’t pretty either.  The money that is offered most local musicians for your average gig at a bar or hotel would shock people if they knew.

With all of these pressures in mind, seemingly out of left field, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Bill recently that will make the economic life of the professional musician much, much more difficult.

This odious piece of legislation is House Bill 561.   

HB561 allows liquor licensees (hotels, bars, restaurants) to hire minors to perform as musicians, but the same bill expressly prohibits any payment to those performers for their services.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The language of the Bill actually forbids payment to minors even though they are working at the establishment.  

Copyright Law Update: The "Monkey Selfie" Case Ends in the 9th Circuit

In order to understand the impact of the 9th Circuit's recent ruling in Naruto v. Slater, we have to quickly survey the history of the case.  David Slater is a photographer from the UK.  In 2011, Slater was in Indonesian jungle photographing a group of macaques.  Slater sets up a camera in a clearing to work without his presence.  

Subsequently, a macaque approaches the camera, starts to handle the camera, and in so doing presses the shutter button down, resulting in a series of images which immediately became known as the "monkey selfies".  

Slater takes those images, includes them in a book of his collected work, and begins to sell the book independently. 

That's when PETA alleged that Slater was infringing on - wait for it - the monkey's copyright in the "monkey selfie" photographs included in Slater's published collection. 

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A Rock Band Fights for Free Speech at the Supreme Court and Wins; SCOTUS Rules Part of Lanham Act Violates the First Amendment

This is case about a rock band, a dubious and inflammatory stage name, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).   It's also a matter of free speech, and the concept that speech - including offensive speech - is Constitutionally protected.  There are a lot of hot button issues in this case.  

The rock band?  The Oregon based, self styled "Chinatown dance rock" band The Slants

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Entertainment Law: More SXSW Performers Denied Entry into US

The SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas is one of the largest music festivals in the country, attracting performers from all around the world.  The event that is currently happening this week is the first edition to occur during the Trump Administration and the change to Customs and Border Patrol's scrutiny of foreign visitors.  As a result, some performers who thought they were allowed into the US with the documentation they have are getting surprised when CPB denies them entry into the US.  You can read some of the news coverage here

Quick analysis of the SXSW/visa issue:

1. The SXSW organizers are not the arbiters of US immigration law, so when artists "have a letter from SXSW" and attempt to use that as proof with US Customs and Border Patrol, the artists are asking for trouble. That's like telling the police that your friend told you it was OK borrow the car when you get stopped.

2. What the performers are attempting to rely on is either the Visa Waiver program or a tourist visa, the latter of which prohibits any kind of employment. It's pretty simple. A B-2 visa, for example, allows participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating.

3. The artists are getting either no legal advice, or bad legal advice, and that's no defense.

4. The artists should have management & legal counsel in the US that can pave the way for their entry into the US to perform. If the performers obtained the right kind of visa - a P-2 or P-3 visa - they likely would not have this problem, as the P visas authorize holders to perform at entertainment events while they are in the US.

5. The purpose of the visa has to actually be the purpose for entry into the country. Performing at a promotional showcase is arguably a commercial purpose, which is why the performers are being denied entry. Even though the artists aren't getting paid cash, they are receiving value - (the old chestnut of "exposure"), plus the event organizers are certainly making money from the performers' appearances. That touches on another short essay for later about who benefits when artists work for "free".