MGM DVD Class Action

This has the potential to claim the largest class action title away from those Wal-Mart employees. According to Slashdot,

MGM logo.png

Apparently all of MGM’s ‘theatrical wide screen’ DVD releases for the last few years have been the pan-scanned versions with the top and bottoms cut off. I checked this against my copy of CQ, and it’s true. The list (PDF) of butchered movies includes almost every Woody Allen film, Silence of the Lambs, and Ghost World, just to name a few. If you own any of the eligible movies, you have until March 31 to either opt to exchange your copy for $7.10, or a new DVD from MGM, presumably in its proper aspect ratio.”

The full list of DVDs is here. It looks like it includes everything MGM has put out over the past several years.

Michael Demtschyna discusses the technical aspect of this case.

User ImageVHS and TV demand 1.33:1 images (although thankfully this is changing). The simplest way to convert a 1.85:1 or 1.66:1 movie to 1.33:1 is to simply open up the top and bottom mattes on the original film. No important information is lost (as it is with the pan and scan process), since the movie was entirely composed within the frame of the negative. The only problem is that unnecessary information is now present at the top and the bottom of the image. Information that the director and cinematographer did not want you to see theatrically. Information that could well destroy the composition of a given image. Information that sometimes inadvertently includes Mr Boom Microphone and other unwanted movie nasties.

So, yes, “widescreen” transfers of 1.85:1 movies are not wider than their full frame counterparts. They are, however, more artistically correct, truer to the director’s and cinematographer’s intent, and how these movies were shown theatrically. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe these transfers as “original theatrical aspect ratio” transfers rather than “widescreen” transfers.

So, back to the proposed class settlement. It is important to note that the quality of the DVDs under question is not at issue. The DVDs have all been correctly produced. They are not faulty. There will be no recall of the DVDs. There will be no remastering of the DVDs with a wider image – no wider image exists. They are not simply “pan and scan” DVDs which have been further cropped top and bottom. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE DVDs. The only problem is that some have taken issue with the packaging of these DVDs describing them as “widescreen” when, very much on a technicality, they are not.


The Immigration Debate

The immigration issue continues to play out precisely as I predicted here. EconoPundit links to a National Review article by John O’Sullivan.John O'Sullivan, CBE: The Independent Institute

What makes the Democrats’ task of recovery so difficult is that the issues that most concern voters — namely, national security and moral issues — fit into the popular spectrum better (i.e., the Democrats and the voters are at opposite ends of the spectrum on such issues — with the GOP in the middle). But because the Democrats take their cue from elite institutions such as Hollywood and the media, they never realize their vulnerability. And every election defeat astonishes them.


Hillary Clinton - Age, Life & Books - BiographyIf a Democrat were to outflank the GOP on an issue with a high salience on the popular spectrum, they might get back in the game. Senator Hillary Clinton has hinted she might do precisely that over illegal immigration — where President Bush is extremely vulnerable. But the Democrats’ first forays into reconsidering such sensitive policies have plainly run into the sands of timidity, dogmatism, and elite complacency.

As long as that is the case, the Democrats will continue to lose — and continue to be surprised.

The Republican party is ripe for division over this issue. As O’Sullivan points out, it is simply a matter of someone(i.e., Hillary) giving the Republicans a push over the edge. If Hillary moves to the right on this issue, you can take it to the bank that she’s throwing her hat in for ’08.

Ideoblog: A federal solution to the class action problem

Larry E. RibsteinLarry Ribstein makes the typical federalist “state laboratory” argument for keeping class actions within the states. However, he qualifies his position by stating,

[T]he federal government may have to act, as by welcoming defendants into its courts. I view this as a last resort. State competition provides the freedom in which efficient rules can evolve. But with freedom always comes a need for responsibility, including from plaintiffs’ lawyers and judges. Unfortunately, that responsibility might have to be imposed by the federal government.

Certainly this may seem to be the case, however, a study by D.C. attorneys John Beisner and Jessica Davidson Miller indicates that similar proprosed statutes may allow for both the federal government stepping in to enforce responsibility and a federalist “state laboratory” scheme.

The Class Action Fairness Act seeks to diminish class action abuse and restore the intention of the Framers by allowing large interstate class actions to be heard in federal court. However, the bill would not result in the removal of all class actions from state court, as some critics have charged. Indeed, in the states surveyed in this study, most class actions would remain in state courts. Moreover, the survey clearly indicates that the jurisdictional elements of S. 2062 are quite discriminating. The legislation would allow most large interstate and nationwide class actions to be heard in federal court, while ensuring that local disputes continue to be litigated in the state court forums where they properly belong. To be sure, the bill will move nearly all of Madison County’s class actions to federal court because the cases filed there almost all involve large interstate disputes; but in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and numerous other jurisdictions that are not magnets for nationwide class actions, most class actions would remain right where they are — in state court. Thus, the Class Action Fairness Act would “demagnetize” magnet state courts, while allowing other state courts to continue adjudicating local disputes and smaller class actions, which have a real nexus to the forum in which they are brought.

In other words, the feds will only step in in the most egregious of circumstances, while leaving states considerable room for experimentation.

According to Roll Call,(sorry no link…via Lexis-Nexis) this bill is very close to passing.

[The Class Action Fairness Act] is likely to receive approval by the Senate when it comes to the floor next week or the week after. But it’s the debate in the interim – between sponsors of the bill and opponents, including a significant number of Democrats and their allies in the consumer rights and trial lawyer lobbies – that has the potential to delay, and possibly even scuttle, the measure.

Pelman v. McDonald’s

As you may have already heard, the Second Circuit has reversed in part the trial court’s dismissal of the McDonald’s case, in which parents sued McDonald’s, “alleging that the combined effect of McDonald’s various promotional representations during this period was to create the false impression that its food products were nutritionally beneficial and part of a healthy lifestyle if consumed daily.”

Although the decision may have been an “appellate victory” for the plaintiffs, the reversal was based on a technicality, and there appears to be no indication that the lawsuit will have any further success. Of course, the case, coupled with the documentary Super Size Me, have already prompted McDonald’s to respond by removing the “super size” option from the menu. Therefore, those of us who lost our liberty to contract with McDonald’s for larger portions are the real losers.

Nod to Houston’s Clear Thinkers.

Torts Reasonable Wrongful Act Compensation Ling's market - ppt download

Re: Illinois v. Caballes

More people are taking notice of this ridiculous decision, about which I posted here.

Jacob Sullum, a senior editor at Reason, writes,

Jacob Sullum - IMDb

In short, it is simply not true that a

 drug-sniffing dog ‘discloses only the presence or absence of narcotics.’ Even leaving aside the possibility of deliberate deception or honest error by police officers eager to turn a hunch into probable cause, the dogs themselves make mistakes, responding to subconscious cues from their handlers, alerting to food or residual odors of drugs that are no longer present, mistaking items associated with drugs for the drugs themselves, and so on.

Whatever the cause of a false alert, it exposes innocent people to the inconvenience and humiliation of drug searches they have done nothing to justify. Now that the Court has said police need no special reason to bring in the dogs, provided they are otherwise complying with the law, such searches will become more common, and they need not be limited to routine traffic stops.

Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy poses this question,

Can the police send a computer virus to your computer that searches your computer for obscene images, or images of child pornography, and then reports back to the police whether such images are on your computer — all without probable cause, or even any suspicion at all? The traditional answer would have been no: the police cannot enter your private property to search even for non-private stuff. But thanks to the increasing focus on the nature of the information rather than how the information is obtained, it’s no longer so clear.

E.J. Dionne on Roberts (and Scalia)

E. J. Dionne Whois



Confirming the writer’s fear in the post below, E.J. Dionne writes,


Official roberts CJ.jpgJudge John G. Roberts could turn out to be Antonin Scalia with a Washington Establishment smile. He is almost certainly a William Rehnquist for the 21st century. And he is David Souter turned on his head — a stealth candidate whose winning personality disguises intense conservatism, not moderation.

Roberts was, in short, the shrewdest choice President Bush could have made to fill retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s Supreme Court seat. Roberts could move the court well to the right yet grin his way through the confirmation process. His advertising slogan might be: Staunchly on the Right. But With No Hard Edges.

It feels as though Dionne’s columns are written solely for the left, denying even the existence of the center and right.

Many of us would welcome the chance to have Scalia as a professor. But outside the ranks of the right wing, few Americans want their country defined consistently by Scalia’s choices.

Few Americans? It would do the WaPo columnists good to step outside their bubble.

What’s judith still doing in jail?


Has anyone asked this question? Perhaps I’m getting something mixed up here. The story apparently is that Rove was the person that leaked the name/identity of Valerie Plame. He released Matthew Cooper and, according to his lawyer, every other reporter involved from their confidentiality agreement. SOOOOOOOOOO, what is Judith Miller still doing in jail? If Rove were her only informant (if he was one at all), she would presumably be released to testify. So what’s the deal?