Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Honda has a new Super Bowl commercial for the CR-V, and has posted an extended version on the Internet. Starring Matthew Broderick, it uses multiple lines from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and basically tracks the movie in recreated/adapted scenes. (They didn't get Ben Stein, though.) As a Gen-Xer, how could I not love this commercial? It may also be a good prompt for classroom discussions of copyright. Did Honda get permission of whoever owns the rights to Ferris? Did they need to?
This isn't the cover to a new Pink Floyd album. Rather, it's a 1995 photo taken by landscape artists Jim Sanborn, from a series called “Topographic Projections and Implied Geometries.” In this series, Sanborn projected grids and other geometric shapes onto dramatic rock formations of the American Southwest and the rocky coastlines of Ireland. As the Daily Beast said, "Sanborn’s pieces hover beautifully between photography and land art and light art, while evoking the kinds of systematizations we imagine coming from computers – rather than actually appearing out in nature, thanks to a jeep, a generator, and an absurdly powerful projector."
Over at The Conglomerate, Tom Fitzpatrick has a post that may catch the eye of PropertyProfs with an interest in Real Estate Transactions. Fitzpatrick explains that banks seem to be systematically overvaluing property values prior to foreclosure sales in weak markets:
Methods used to value property just don’t work well in weak submarkets, and lenders’ valuation models are not correcting for that. It is not hard to imagine that a walk-around appraisal is a reasonably accurate way to value most property in most markets. If brokers want to find non-foreclosure sales to use as comparables, they have to reach back further in time in weak markets than they do in others, so the prices they use are more likely to be stale. Walk-around appraisals may also miss interior damage(stripped copper pipe and wire, appliances, etc.) that properties are more likely to have suffered in weak markets.
Fitzpatrick then highlights the damage that overvaluation is causing in communities around the country. Overestimating property values causes banks to set foreclosure auction reserve prices artificially high, which in turn leads to fewer sales to homebuyers. The bank ends up stuck with the property and has few incentives to take care of it, decreasing the value of neighboring land.
Jennifer Jiang (UNC - student) has nice piece coming out in the UNC law review, entitled Transfer on Death Deeds: Benefit or Burden? A Proposal for Transfer on Death Deed Legislation in North Carolina. Here's the abstract:
Real property is a unique concept upon which ideas of property ownership and testator rights have been added to form a multifaceted spectrum of law. An individual’s right to own and devise real property is rooted in common law principles and secured by expectations of testamentary freedom. In an effort to protect these rights, owners execute wills and trusts to maintain control of the distribution of their property after death. Once a will has been validated, probate ensures that justice is served by overseeing title transfers, creditor payments, and the distribution of property to beneficiaries. For better or worse, probate has historically been a fixture in property law. But the idea of subjecting one’s relatives and friends to the probate process has prompted some property owners to choose nonprobate methods of transferring real property.
(HT: Al Brophy)
Monday, January 30, 2012
I am Super-bummed to miss out on the temporary but, by all accounts, awesome transformation of downtown Indianapolis in anticipation of the Super Bowl. From the zip line down Capital Avenue to the ice wall from which beer is served on Georgia Street, the football festivities have taken over the city in a major way. The economic impact of hosting the Super Bowl remains subject to controversy, but my empirical research (which consisted of reading the Indianapolis Star and reviewing my friends' Facebook posts), reveals a much more significant benefit of hosting the Super Bowl. Sure, Indianapolis is a significant convention town and has hosted many major sporting events. Every May, over 300,000 people attend the Indy 500, and the Final Four is regularly held in Indy. But the Super Bowl is different.
I grew up in Indianapolis in the 1970s and 1980s. The city had colorful nicknames at the time -- especially "Indian-no-place" and "Naptown." Downtown closed at 5p.m. But things began to change in the mid-1980s. In 1984, we built the Hoosier Dome (I refuse to call it the RCA Dome) in the middle of downtown with fingers-crossed that a NFL team would choose to locate there. A deal with struck with Robert Irsay, and the Colts arrived in the middle of the night, in a fleet of Mayflower trucks. Making the transition from a basketball town to a football town took a few years, and probably required the particular magic of Peyton Manning, but the investment in the Dome and the Colts represented a leap of faith for the city. By the time I came back to Indy after graduating from college in 1994, downtown was already in the midst of a transformation. Circle Centre Mall opened in 1995 in the warehouse district. The Indianapolis Zoo had moved downtown in 1988 -- it was joined in 1989 by the Eiteljorg Museum, in 1996 by Victory Field (the most beautiful minor league park in America), in 2000 by the NCAA Hall of Champion, and in 2002 by the Indiana State Museum. The museums, Victory Field, and the Zoo are part of White River State Park, three blocks from the Indiana Statehouse. Beyond downtown, Indianapolis has a thriving arts district, the best children's museum in the world, great neighborhoods, restaurants, and schools.
Indianapolis is the 12th largest community in America, but the traditional inferiority-complex is hard to shake. To many, Indy has always felt like a big small town, not a big city. So while the value of hosting the Super Bowl may be difficult to quantify, I would suggest that the greatest benefit is that it put a mirror up to Indy and allowed us to see and appreciate all of the wonderful changes that have taken place over the past thirty years. Indianapolis isn't Naptown anymore. We've arrived. Enjoy the Super Bowl.
Scattered across the U.S., there are 155 national forests comprising 193 million acres of land (taken together, that's more area than the state of Texas). Late last week, the Obama administration issued a new rule to better balance wildlife protection with logging, drilling and recreational uses. The details of the rule appear rather complicated, but reports indicate there's a new emphasis on "sound science," the protection of water resources, and streamlining forest management. Taking a quick flip through the stories in the press, it appears that both loggers and environmentalists are unhappy with the new rule, which means it's probably a pretty good compromise.
Other fun facts about the national forests:
-- The makeup 8.5% of the land in the U.S.
-- Alaska accounts for 12% of all national forest land.
-- 80% of national forest land is west of the Mississippi.
-- Almost 40% or Idaho is national forest.
A fascinating article on the art of the apology offered this tidbit:
A trio of researchers . . . used the German eBay website to conduct a real-world experiment. Via e-mail, they contacted 632 customers who gave a neutral or negative evaluation of a transaction. One-third of the unhappy customers received a message that included the sentence: “I would like to apologize and ask whether you might withdraw your evaluation.” The others were offered, in place of expression of regret, either 2.5 or 5 euros “as a goodwill gesture.” Writing in the journal Economics Letters, the researchers report nearly 45 percent of those given the apology withdrew their evaluation, compared to only 21 percent of those offered cash. A direct apology: priceless.
(HT: The Daily Dish)
Thomas Margoni (Western Ontario) and Mark Perry (Western Ontario) have posted Ownership in Complex Authorship: A Comparative Study of Joint Works on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Copyright legislation, at least in its implementation, can be seen as a triumph of international harmonisation. However, in the area of joint works this is not the case. In the comparison of a North American and European country we observe very different outcomes, despite the similar statutory definitions in copyright legislation. However, the explanation for the divergence of application is not to be found in copyright law, but rather the parts of property law that deal with tenancy in common. Starting from this observation the article uses comparative analysis of rules and remedies available in both systems and concludes with recommendations towards a more fair and efficient framework.
Friday, January 27, 2012
If you find yourself in our nation's capital (say, to attend the ALPS conference), consider visiting the Smithsonian Museum of American History to view the new exhibit "Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty," which opens today. It looks fascinating. From the Washington Post review:
Standing outside of “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty,” the thematic tensions are clear. On one side of the entrance, an image of Jefferson is placed against the script of his most famous writing, the Declaration of Independence. On the other side is a reproduction of a page from Jefferson’s farm book, with slave names neatly listed.
The L.A. Times explores what happens when a tenant gives a landlord notice that he's vacating, but then changes his mind. The real estate expert for the Times writes, "When a tenant serves a written notice of termination, that notice is binding on the tenant. The tenant does not have a right to unilaterally revoke the termination. A tenant who gives notice and remains in the property beyond the time frame of the 30-day notice is no longer a lawful tenant and can be named in an unlawful detainer eviction case on the 31st day."
The Parcel and then Some: Unity of Ownership and the Parcel as a Whole (Vermont Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The U.S. Supreme Court’s “parcel as a whole” doctrine evaluates regulatory takings claims in the context of the landowner’s entire holding. The doctrine is predicated upon a largely arbitrary bifurcation, whereby the jurisprudence of regulatory takings is rooted in substantive due process, although the jurisprudence of physical takings is rooted in property law. Given its lack of a foundation in property law, “parcel as a whole” is both complex and uncabined.
The open-ended nature of “parcel as a whole” is reflected in current attempts to extend it under an asserted “unity of ownership” theory. Under this formulation, separate deeded parcels may be treated as one parcel for takings purposes, even if there is no common or overlapping ownership or common commercial enterprise as traditionally defined by property, partnership, or corporate law.
This Article asserts that the proper foundation for “parcel as a whole” is the common law doctrine of “appropriation to use.” It subsequently analyzes the “unity of ownership theory,” as it relates to coordinated development by separate owners of contiguous parcels. Under the Georgist “unity of ownership” view, value is created by society, which justifies government’s arrogation of the benefits of neighborly cooperation.
The Article concludes that “appropriation to use” clarifies analysis of the relevant parcel, and that “unity of ownership” undermines rules for determination of ownership established in real property, partnership, and business law. It thus is inimical to property rights, and, more broadly, hinders individual flourishing by depriving people of the fruits of social cooperation.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Actually, London Bridge may be fine. I don't know. But London has some bigger issues. The Palace of Westminster has apparently been slowly subsiding for some time, which has caused Big Ben to lean, and for cracks to appear in surrounding structures. (The Big Ben situation may not be a problem for 10,000 years, according to one expert.) To fix the underlying problem, engineers propose sealing off large portions of the Palace of Westminster for years, to allow them to shore up the foundation. Some MPs, unhappy about the time and expense that would be involved in saving the 140+ year old structure, propose selling it to developers and building a new home for Parliament.
Meanwhile, back in America, the New York Times reports today on efforts in NYC to reconcile historic preservation and new green building standards.
Economist James Wilcox argues in the N.Y. Times for a government-run form of insurance on home equity. He writes:
Here’s how down-payment protection could work. Homebuyers could purchase protection from the government for a one-time fee, say 1 percent of the house purchase price, or $2,000 on a house selling for $200,000. The fee could vary with the risk of house price declines in each area. The plan would be open to all buyers. At the end of three years, the government would automatically mail checks to protected homeowners if average house prices in their area were lower than when they purchased their homes.
Paul Knight writes a heartfelt defense of the grid-based urban form from charges that it's boring, environmentally damaging, and pro-developer. "A continuous grid," he writes, "can harbor everything from farms to skyscrapers. The only thing a grid plan does is subdivide territory. No town can predict what the future will bring, but if they have a grid it is easier to accommodate that future."
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
An overwhelming majority of economists agree that rent control laws are a horrible idea. But are they unconstitutional? It's possible we'll find out.
In 2005, James Harmon inherited a five-story brownstone in New York's Upper West Side. The property is subject to New York City's Rent Stabilization Law and the units currently rent at rates that are 59% below market. Harmon sued in federal court, claiming a taking under Fifth Amendment and a violation of his Due Process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Both the district court and the Second Circuit quickly dismissed Harmon's claims. Uncowed, Harmon has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court (here's the Cato Institute's amicus curiae brief). Will the Court hear the case? The only ray of hope - the Court recently requested that the opposition submit a brief on Harmon's petition (the city and state had waived their right to do so based on the strength of their victories in the lower courts). So, we can gather that there's at least one sympathetic Justice.
The New Direction of American Trust Law (Iowa Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This article is a revised version of the Shirley A. Webster Lecture in Wealth Transfer Law given by the author at the University of Iowa. The article explores the central tension in the law of trusts between the rights and interests of the settlor and the rights and interests of the beneficiaries. In navigating these, the law of trusts has at times taken a position more favorable to the settlor and at other times a position more favorable to the beneficiaries. The article offers a descriptive and normative analysis of where American trust law has been and where it is going. The article argues that American trust law, which had previously moved in the direction of favoring the settlor, is moving in a new direction, with a more balanced recognition of the rights and interests of the beneficiaries. The article further argues that this new direction is appropriate and welcome.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
For those of you that don't keep up with the fashion world, Christian Louboutin makes really, really fancy shoes. For a trained eye, Louboutins are easily identifiable because they generally have an eye-catching red sole. According to some updates from around the interwebs, the red sole is the subject of a nasty dust-up between high end fashion houses.
Louboutin is suing Yves Saint Laurent for trademark violations. YSL, it seems, has produced four shoes that are red all over, including the soles. A nice article from the New York Times (authored by Harvard prof Jeannie Suk) runs through some of the main legal points:
Louboutin has invested plenty in that red sole and successfully linked the sole’s shade with the shoemaker. Since a main purpose of trademark law is to protect one’s investment in reputation, Louboutin’s sole-saving efforts are understandable. But red; it’s a color. An interlocking LV on a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Nike swoosh on a sneaker is one thing, some say. But monopolizing a color ... just doesn’t seem right.
Suk predicts that the court will not allow Louboutin to monopolize the color red, but she thinks that Congress needs to clarify to rules surrounding intellectual property and fashion.
On the Economy of Concepts in Property (Penn Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Legal concepts, like concepts generally, help economize on information. Conventional wisdom is correct to associate conceptualism with formalism, but misunderstands the role concepts play in law. Commentators from the Legal Realists onward have paid insufficient attention to the distinction between intensions – functions from worlds to categories – and extensions – the categories themselves. Concepts that pick out the same category can differ greatly in terms of information costs. This Article applies some tools of cognitive science to explore the economics of legal concepts. As in cognitive science, we expect simplicity of description and generality of explanation to coincide. Specifically, both the mind and the law can be regarded as information-processing devices that manage complexity and economize on information by employing concepts and rules, the specific-over-general principle, modularity, and recursiveness. These devices work in tandem to produce the economizing architecture of property. The cognitive theory is then applied to longstanding puzzles like the role of baselines such as nemo dat (“one can give that which one does not have”) and ad coelum (“one who owns the soil owns to the heavens above and the depths below”), the notion of “title,” and the function of equity as a safety valve for the law. The cognitive theory also allows one to reconcile reductionism and holism in property theory as well as static and dynamic explanations of the contours of property.
Monday, January 23, 2012
In the L.A. Times, Christopher Hawthorne checks out an exhibit of the nine places that claim to occupy the center of the country:
There’s the geographical center (near Belle Fourche, S.D.); the population center (Plato, Mo.); and something called the “geodetic” center (a few miles outside Osborne, Kan.), pinpointed using a method that corrects for the curvature of the earth. Now there’s even a Google center: the point you reach if you call up a map of the U.S. on the search engine and zoom straight in as far as you can go. Depending on your browser, that’ll take you to one of two other towns in Kansas, each of which is the hometown of a Google employee.
The true appeal of the show, though, is the rich variety of themes that swirl up around its straightforward, even myopic focus. The exhibition is in many ways an exploration of the human desire to find and mark a center, a universal impulse that has gained new precision — and perhaps a new momentum — in the digital age.
(Pic: the Google center of the USA, between Coffeyville and Independence, KS)
Cavan Wilk argues that preserving old buildings is key to having affordable urban neighborhoods. He writes, "All other things being equal, old buildings are usually more affordable than new buildings. Without the latest amenities, old buildings have to charge less in order to attract tenants. A healthy supply of old buildings is therefore crucial to long term neighborhood affordability."
Matt Yglesias explains why this is a strange stance:
If you have expensive land, one way to make dwelling on the land cheap is to ensure that some of the structures built on the land are low quality. A low quality structure may be an old structure since old structures may, in Wilk's words, lack "the latest amenities." But for policy purposes it's important to be clear that it's the low quality rather than any of the more meritorious aesthetic features of old buildings that's driving the affordability here. If you go to Park Avenue in Manhattan, you'll find plenty of old buildings that aren't even slightly affordable. That's because they're not low-quality buildings!