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Rights Fights Over Songs Used in Political Campaigns

July 21, 2017

Check out our current display, “Rights Fights Over Songs Used in Political Campaigns,” which explores the fallout when politicians use musicians’ songs without permission. For example, Jackson Browne brought copyright infringement and false endorsement claims against John McCain for the unauthorized use of his song “Running on Empty” in a presidential campaign ad in 2008 that mocked Barack Obama’s energy policy. The case settled with Browne receiving a public apology from McCain.

The display highlights three databases to which the Burns Law Library provides access: 1) the National Law Journal, a news source that provides up-to-the-minute reporting on legal news both national and local. To access the go to NLJ,; 2) Law360: news articles report on major litigation developments in more than 20 specialized practice areas as well as developments from state, federal, and international legislatures. To access Law360, use Lexis Advance or go to; 3) the Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, which provides comprehensive news of important IP cases, statutes, trends, and other key developments. To access the P,T&CJ, use Bloomberg Law or go to

As a bonus, the display includes an actual 8-track tape (Joni Mitchell’s 1974 album “Court and Spark”) and a 45 rpm single (the song “If You Don’t Want Me,” by Norman Nardini).

Pre-1870 Copyright Records

June 15, 2017

The Jacob Burns Law Library is pleased to announce a new online collection: “Pre-1870 Copyright Records.” The collection provides access to over 2,000 pages of digitized U.S. copyright records created prior to 1870 that had generally been assumed lost. The records were tracked down and digitized by Zvi S. Rosen, currently a Professorial Lecturer in Law and Visiting Scholar at The George Washington University Law School. Rosen received his LLM in Intellectual Property in 2006 from the Law School and later served as the 2015-2016 Abraham L. Kaminstein Scholar in Residence at the U.S. Copyright Office.

According to Rosen, “until mid-1870, copyright registration duties were handled by the local U.S. District Court of the author or proprietor, while the work itself was deposited with the Department of State (until 1846), Library of Congress (1846-1859, 1865-1870), Smithsonian Institution (concurrently 1846-1859), and Patent Office (1859-1865, 1865-1870 concurrently). In 1870, all copyright responsibilities were centralized in the Library of Congress.”

Rosen notes that “for New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, whose District Courts together handled 85% of copyright activity before 1870, the Library of Congress has a complete or essentially complete set of the records. However, for many jurisdictions with a comparatively small volume of copyright activity, records may only exist for the years immediately before 1870, if at all.”  The fact that so many Federal Court records had apparently gone missing perplexed him, and he set about to discover what had happened.

Rosen says that his “ultimate hope is that the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress will digitize their holdings of pre-1870 copyright records . . . and, when combined with this project, will represent an essentially complete record of copyright (and thus literary, musical, etc.) activity in America  in its earliest days.”

The Pre-1870 Copyright Records collection is available at:

Judicial Review & Marbury v. Madison

February 24, 2017

On February 24, 1803, the Supreme Court established the rule of judicial review of Congressional legislation in Marbury v. Madison5 U.S. 37 (1803).  Chief Justice John Marshall penned the opinion, holding that the federal courts had the power to review acts passed by Congress to determine their constitutionality.  “A law repugnant to the Constitution is void.”  The opinion helped to solidify the concept of checks and balances and the equality between the executive, legislative and judicial branches under the Constitution.

Find out more about Marbury v. Madison:

Lawlapalooza Was a Winner!

February 6, 2017

Thanks to everyone who visited us for Lawlapalooza, our annual research fair, to make it a big success.

We’re pleased to announce the winners in our drawing for three Visa gift cards:

  • $100 Visa gift card:  Uche Udechukwu (LLM)
  • $50 Visa gift card:  Weizhe Liu (LLM)
  • $25 Visa gift card:  Joanne Ho (2L)

16th Amendment (1913)

February 3, 2017

Under Art. I § 9 of the Constitution, direct taxation of individuals was prohibited except in proportion to the census.  On February 3, 1916, the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified to impose an income tax, without regard to the population of any state.  The Constitution granted Congress the power to levy indirect taxes.  Prior to 1913, the federal budget relied on excise taxes, tariffs, customs duties and public land sales for most of its revenue.

During the Civil War,  Congress had enacted a flat rate tax on income to finance the war effort.  It was repealed in 1872.   In 1894, Congress again approved a flat rate income tax.  The Supreme Court declared that tax unconstitutional in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., 151 U.S. 601 (1895), ruling that it was levied without regard to population.

The Revenue Act of 1913 was passed on October 3 and provided that a tax would be levied against income, including income derived from wages, salaries, and compensation as well as interest, dividends, rents and securities.  The tax rate was 1% on couples earning over $4,000 and on individuals earning over $3,000, with higher earners to pay more.

You’re Invited to Lawlapalooza 2017!

January 30, 2017

Join us for Lawlapalooza, our annual research fair.  Ask us your tough research questions and visit with database vendors to learn about special legal information resources and how you can use them in your legal career.

  • Date:  Wednesday, Feb. 1
  • Time:  11am – 3pm
  • Where:  First Floor Lounges, Stockton Hall

GW Law students can earn tickets for pizza and prizes  See you there!

The Paris Climate Change Agreement

October 21, 2016

On October 5, 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved. The Paris Agreement will enter into force on 4 November 2016.

The Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015 at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Paris from November 30 to December 13, 2015.

The agreement enters into force 30 days after 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

The Agreement, the latest step in the evolution of the UN climate change regime, seeks to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  It seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius and strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Authoritative information on the status of the Paris Agreement, including information on signatories to the Agreement, ratification and entry into force, is provided through the United Nations Treaty Collection website, and the Depositary Notifications.  Background information on the ratification of the Paris Agreement is found on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website.

On October 21, 2016, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Climate Change Agreement receives the 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, at a ceremony presided by the King and Queen of Spain.

The European Commission Paris Agreement website provides the EU vision for the Paris Protocol, Consultative Communications and EU submissions.   The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) Paris Agreement website provides a helpful Q&A.   Stop by the 1st floor of the Library to view an exhibit highlighting the Paris Agreement.