Sunday, August 1, 2004

Hot Corner

Nipping at the heels of the newsmakers

Oh, Martha, we don't think so

Martha Stewart reportedly is trying to rearrange the furniture of her prison sentence. For lying about the insider-tip sale of her ImClone Systems stock, Stewart was sentenced July 16 to five months in prison followed by five months of home confinement. Now it seems she has floated the idea of switching the sentencing order and letting her do easy time first at her 153-acre horse-country estate in Bedford, N.Y.

Manhattan federal prosecutors reportedly are not amused. Nice try, but the plan has a few noticeable defects. After sentencing, Stewart's lawyers filed notice of appeal. Just as the rest of us don't get early warning when a stock is about to tank, would we want other criminals to serve their halfway-house time or probation first and do hard time later? Shouldn't Martha, of all people, know there is a first-things-first order to arrangements?

For all of us

A popular Web parody of "right-wing nut job" George W. Bush and "liberal sissy" John Kerry set to the tune of "This Land is Your Land" is being threatened with legal action by the music publisher that owns the Woody Guthrie song. Just one problem: Such parodies, political or even commercial, have been consistently ruled "fair use" by the courts, from 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" takeoff to albums by "Weird Al" Yankovic to Ohio's "Taft Quack" political ad that ruffled insurer Aflac's feathers. People know it's a takeoff. No harm, no foul. Still, a spokeswoman for the publisher claimed the "damage to the song is huge." Oh, please. "This Land" is big enough for all of us.

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