Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SPNN Presentation

I had the opportunity the other night to cover for another attorney in a presentation at the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) regarding copyright law, release forms, and fair use in video production. I typically enjoy these programs, as I always learn new things based on the questions I receive. As I experienced when I conducted a similar presentation last year to a national association of public media, the questions were well thought-out and addressed the many of central legal issues that new comers and old hands alike run into when creating video productions. Unfortunately, many of the questions necessitated the maddeningly frustrating answer of "it depends." This a problem that aggravates many clients, because obviously if they are paying for your expertise, they expect concrete, text book response. Unfortunately, to fully resolve most people’s questions related to fair use and privacy rights requires a fuzzy answer, as various criteria must be weighed against one another and more than likely the answer is unclear absent taking the most conservative of courses. While the fuzzy answers may frustrate, they often provide a “teaching moment” for the client which can be used in the future to avoid problems. This type of educating of clients is important and clients looking to hire attorneys should look for this when working with their attorneys, so that the next time the issue comes up, they can sharpen the boundaries around some of these fuzzy legal issues.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Judge

I had the fortune to serve as an election judge last Tuesday. Even though the day is long (16 plus hours), performing that service is one that I enjoy every time I do it. Not only is having the opportunity to serve the community a positive experience, but having the opportunity to see my neighbors come through the door to exercise their civic voice is a joy that I can recommend to everyone. This year was no exception and in many ways it was even more enjoyable as the number of first time voters was high.

In many ways the outcome here in Minnesota is illustrative of the importance of exercising that civic voice. The presidential race was one in which, through the power of many first time voters, an "improbable" candidate was elected and a milestone in our nations history has been reached - regardless of your opinion of the outcome, there can be no denying that this election was different.

In contrast, even though the presidential election was decisive in Minnesota, the race for the Senate remains hinged on a scant few hundred votes. I mention this, because this result also illustrates that while your vote is often just one of many and it is easy to feel that it does not matter, the closeness of this election highlights that if just a small number of people can have an impact.