Give Me an F!

I love it when an appellate ruling poses more fascinating questions than answers. I have a fine example for your enjoyment this week: a 21-page ruling from a federal judge in Pennsylvania that can be added to your collection of “what were they thinking?” tales of litigation.

This is a quick summary of what happened: A cheerleader did some swearing in a Snapchat post to her friends, a coach’s daughter ratted her out, the coach suspended the cheerleader, and the cheerleader’s parents ended up suing.

What was anyone thinking?

There’s much to unpack here. I won’t spoil it all for you, but there are a few questions I can’t help pointing out.

For example, how does a junior varsity cheerleader get 250 Snapchat friends? I ask this because I’m extremely jealous and have no friends.

The coaches claimed they needed to suspend the plaintiff “to ‘avoid chaos’ and maintain a ‘team-like environment.’”

Chaos? What does cheerleader chaos look like? Wouldn’t we all enjoy seeing that? It could make games much more interesting.

The most astonishing part of this, though, may be that the Manahoy Area School District as part of its defense hired an expert to offer opinions on “how communities view cheer squads in general” and “how the conduct in which B.L. displayed (sic) impacts the interscholastic nature of sportsmanship and team bonds in a sport like cheerleading.”

I’m assuming this expert has a degree in advanced cheerleading.

I’m not an expert, but I’m predicting a significant increase in off-campus swearing in Pennsylvania in the wake of this ruling that extends First Amendment protection to the cheerleader.

A paws for thought.  Here’s a boring hypothetical question for you. If someone created a painting that looked similar to a photo of a celebrity and used the painting for an ad, would there be a case of action for copyright infringement? Would it matter that the clothes and pose are slightly different?

I’m not going to answer those questions. Instead, I want you to examine the following two photographs:

Lucy
Tinkerbelle

That’s right — a federal judge in New York last week issued a ruling on whether the painting of “Lucy” in an ad infringed the copyright in a photo of “Tinkerbelle.” It did not go well for Tinkerbelle, even though the judge acknowledged that she (the dog, not the judge) was “a dog of some reported repute.”

The ruling is perfectly reasonable — and it’s 19 pages long with some extensive description of the differences between the dogs so it’s well worth reading (particularly footnotes 5 and 6). This includes: “while Lucy’s smirk extends broadly from pupil to pupil, Tinkerbelle’s pout does not even extend to the near corners of her eyes.”

There’s also this: “While the Tinkerbelle picture is a photograph of an actual dog, the Lucy picture merely depicts a fake dog through paint.”

René Magritte would have approved.

Passing thought. Our collective imagined concept of robots is wrong. We shouldn’t make them look like humanoids.

This occurred to me the other day after reading an article on artificial intelligence that noted how some humans are having conversations with computers and computer-like objects. We all want love and companionship, so it’s obvious our AI’s should come in dog or cat form.

Imagine having a dog that really does fetch your paper (or display the day’s news on a screen covered by retractable fur).

There are so many other uses for appropriately built robots. My favorite is the thought of lawyers showing up in court with chimpanzee assistants toting briefcases.

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