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Posts from — May 2011

Feeding the Starving Artist


Right of Privacy

by Mark Levy

A major right of citizens in America was not guaranteed or even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Can you guess which right that is? If you guessed the right to text, you are correct, but it’s not the one I am referring to. It’s the right of privacy that was not included in the Constitution.

But during the last 220 some odd years, our laws have evolved due to congressional actions and court decisions. A number of cases have relied on some form of the right of privacy, even if not explicitly stated, from actions in slander and libel and paparazzi behavior to actions relating to a woman’s right to terminate her own pregnancy.

It wasn’t until the invention of photography that cases involving the right of privacy got into high gear. With camcorders, cell phones, and the Internet (e.g., Facebook and Youtube), of course, now it’s difficult to get through a week without a scandalous case coming to light.

One of the more interesting and higher profile cases occurred in the early 1970s, when a newspaper salesman named Duncan Murray attended a St. Patrick’s Day parade wearing an Irish hat, a green bow tie, and a green pin. He was not Irish, by the way. A freelance photographer took Murray’s picture without his consent and sold it to New York Magazine. The photo was printed on the magazine’s St. Patrick’s Day cover two years later, under the title of a feature article, “The Last of the Irish Immigrants.”

Murray sued the magazine for invasion of privacy. On appeal, the case was dismissed, and here’s why.

Most states have a privacy law nicknamed “the right to be left alone.” When you take a photograph or shoot a video, you have to be concerned with the law of all states where the work might be shown, displayed, or published, not just where it was made.

The privacy law states that “any person whose name, portrait, or picture is used within the state for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade without… written consent… may [sue] to prevent and restrain the use thereof; and may also sue and recover damages for any injuries sustained by reason of such use.”

The court in the Murray v. New York Magazine case agreed that the privacy law prohibits the use of any picture for advertising or trade purposes without written consent. But a picture illustrating an article is not considered used for trade or advertising unless it has no relationship to the published article. Merely because a publisher seeks to make a profit from his newspaper or magazine or web site does not make it a trade purpose.

In this case, Murray was dressed in striking attire to celebrate the occasion. He voluntarily became part of the spectacle – part of the newsworthiness. So Murray’s right of privacy was not absolute; it was limited. The lesson is, the more outlandish the person’s clothing or actions, the safer you are photographing him or her without written consent. Similarly, you are safer photographing a well-known public figure than an unknown person.

Courts try to balance a person’s right to be left alone against the public’s right to knowledge and information. Courts call this principle a privilege that protects newsworthy subjects.

As a matter of fact, courts lean over backwards to give the public unimpeded access to news and free dissemination of truth. Only when you act in reckless disregard of the truth, or in bad faith, will you be liable for invading privacy when you photograph a newsworthy event.

Mark Levy is an attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to with Ryan Miosek (Feeding the Starving Artist), and an occasional contributor to NPR, where his comments can be heard some Saturdays at noon.

May 1, 2011   Comments Off on Feeding the Starving Artist

Casual Observer

Dole pineapples have just the right amount of burrs.


Funny Thing About Pineapples…

by Mark Levy

Quick, think of a joke about pineapples.

It’s not easy, is it?

Actually, this is one instance where the Internet let me down. After much searching, I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t find one funny joke about pineapples, and you’d think they would be crying out for humorous social commentary. Perhaps no one wants to take advantage of their odd appearance.

Sure, I found jokes about grapefruits and kiwis and mangoes and pomegranates and even tomatoes, which are fruits, even though we use them in salads. And bananas, of course. Just the word, “banana,” is funny if you’ve drunk too much fermented pineapple juice. But I found no pineapple jokes to relate that even my four-year-old grandson would appreciate, and he laughs at everything I say.

I started doing research about pineapples. There is no consensus about where pineapples originated, although a number of countries have been proposed, including Hawaii, when it was a country, Paraguay, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, and the Guadeloupe Islands in the Caribbean. Some say Christopher Columbus got in the act along the way, transporting them to Queen Isabella, and I have no reason to doubt that, although it wasn’t his most famous accomplishment.

Pineapples are awfully versatile, culinarily speaking. They are used to complement green salads and fruit salads, ham, pork chops, fried rice, pizza, fondue, and Jell-O. You can make ice cream from them, ice cream topping, sorbet, juice, smoothies, and alcoholic beverages with Spanish names.

They can be grilled and eaten by themselves or sliced into rings or bite-sized chunks and eaten with a toothpick. How’s that for simplicity?

Of course, this brings up a number of questions that are probably eating you alive, like:

How do I know if my pineapple is ripe?

What are them little, ugly burrs called, the ones that may are left in the fruit after the skin is removed?

How do I cut pineapples safely?

Is it dangerous to eat them little, ugly burrs?

How do I remove them little, ugly burrs without mangling my pineapple?

What purpose do them little, ugly burrs serve?

Can I place the peeled, outside skin in my garbage disposal?

Can I place them little, ugly burrs in my disposal?

What emergency steps should I take if I puncture myself while cutting a pineapple?

Do them little, ugly burrs have nutritional value?

Are there particular recipes to make them little, ugly burrs delicious?

Are them little, ugly burrs dangerous to my pets?

And probably a thousand other questions about them little, ugly burrs.

I’ll tell you if you haven’t guessed by now that this essay is pretty much totally about pineapples. So if you’re not intensely interested in the subject, it’s not going to get any better. You may want to pour yourself a glass of -– oh, say, orange juice — and come back in a minute.

I have a limited amount of time now, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to discuss them little, ugly burrs after all. By the way, sometimes they’re called “eyes,” but I think that’s way too anthropomorphic, don’t you?

Here’s the good news: I can tell you how to tell if your pineapple is ripe. Smell it right at the fruit stand or grocery store. If it doesn’t smell like anything or if it smells like anything other than a pineapple, don’t buy it. And if you’ve already bought it, don’t eat it. And if you’ve already bitten into it, you might decide not to savor the juice escaping from that first bite and flowing down your chin.

In case you have a bad sense of smell, there’s another way to tell if your pineapple and you should become one. If you can pull off one of the leaves from the very top of the pineapple without much effort, the pineapple is ripe. Hmmmm. Then again, it could be rotten.

Peeling a pineapple can be tricky. The important thing is not to cut yourself with a sharp knife and avoid being gored by the thing. In a way, that’s pretty much the same advice I give to aspiring bullfighters.

Mark Levy is an attorney with the Binghamton-based law firm of Hinman Howard and Kattell. He is a contributing editor to with Ryan Miosek (Feeding the Starving Artist), and an occasional contributor to NPR, where his comments can be heard some Saturdays at noon.

May 1, 2011   Comments Off on Casual Observer