Popular Music

     My daughter is a music major at Berkeley so I asked her what I thought was a reasonable question for someone with her expertise: “What is the world’s most popular song?”
     She had to think about it.
     Then she said: “I don’t know … probably some song in Spanish.”
     OK. That might be the right answer. But according to a class action filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles last week, the world’s most popular song is “Happy Birthday to You.”
     Really?
     World’s most annoying song maybe.
     Or maybe the song most often sung badly. Or the song you really don’t want to hear while you’re getting older.
     But most popular? How many of you have got that one on your iPod?
     I should point out that this assertion was made by a bunch of New York and California lawyers whose names appear on a class action against Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. that claims that the music company has been falsely claiming to own the copyright to the song and improperly collecting millions from people who want to use it.
     The allegation may or may not be true, but here’s a law practice tip: If you want to be convincing, don’t make an outrageous claim you can’t back up.
     That “most popular” claim comes near the beginning of the complaint. You read that and you’re either doubled over laughing or throwing the document down in disgust.
     If you can manage to hang on until page 16, there is a sort-of attribution for the statement: “According to a 1999 press release by ASCAP, ‘Happy Birthday to You’ was the most popular song of the 20th Century.”
     It was in a press release! Of course it must be true.
     I should note here, in case you don’t already know, that this isn’t the first “Happy Birthday” class action. Another one was filed in New York earlier this year. A second Los Angeles one was filed last week.
     That means there’s some serious money involved here.
     Birthdays are good for something after all.
     
     Lawyer Discipline: A word of advice for lawyers and judges going through disciplinary proceedings: Be disciplined.
     If you lose your case, fight the urge to appeal. Things will only get worse.
     Apparently, state supreme courts get cranky with miscreant lawyers and judges. I found three examples in just one day last week of people appealing and getting hit with more discipline instead of less.
     My favorite ( Florida Bar v. Scheinberg ) was the prosecutor in Florida who, during a murder trial, “exchanged 949 cell phone calls and 461 text messages” with the judge in the case.
     This ruling, increasing the guy’s discipline, was frustrating not only for the sociable prosecutor but for all of us – the court doesn’t tell us what all those talks and texts were about.
     Could it have hurt to give us just a taste of what was going on?
     If you’re going to increase discipline, wouldn’t public humiliation been a great way to do it?
     But, no, all we get if you read the ruling carefully (which, of course, I did) is a vague reference to the prosecutor’s divorce.
     Hmm. There’s got to be a movie here.
     How can a lawyer and judge resist the sexually charged atmosphere of a first-degree murder case?
     Maybe the appellant and the “former judge” can use their spare time to work on a screenplay.
     
     Hard Case: It’s way too easy and too tempting to make fun of the news report out of Delaware last week that a guy who suffered through an eight-month erection lost his medical malpractice case.
     So I’ll just repeat the best part of the story (and then make fun of it):
     “‘I could hardly dance, with an erection poking my partner,’ Metzgar told jurors at the start of the trial. ‘It’s not something you want to bring out at parties and show to friends.'”
     Or is it?
     I’m thinking there were some envious jurors.

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