17 November 2006

Lyrics in legal articles

An interesting article - more a diary piece - in the Law Society Gazette this week reveals that an academic in the States has surveyed scholarly legal writing and analysed the use of lines from songs. I am not in the least surprised that Bob Dylan comes top of the list: a court in the States, needing to say something about the fact that expert evidence was not always necessary, borrowed the line "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows". Of course it did: a better way to express that proposition would be hard to imagine. (But should it be Weatherman with a capital W? Who remembers either the political or the musical group of that name? Did Dylan mean them when he wrote the line? Certainly, the left-wing organisation was active at that time.)
I used a quote from Dylan in the heading of a chapter of my book on Copyright, years ago, though it was his introduction to a song on the great live album of 1966. Other writers in the survey seem to resort to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and The Grateful Dead (which reminds me, in the episode fro the first season of The West Wing that we watched last night, some six or seven years late, a flag hanging on Sam's office wall bore the motto "Don't tread on me" - which appeared in uncle John's Band). This, the writer suggested, tells us a great deal about who is writing these articles, which is not much of a revelation.
I tore the article out, because Tony - who wrote an article on trade mark dilution under the title "I hear you knocking but you can't come in", or perhaps just adapted it for the purpose - should see it. He will have ideas infinitely more recondite. I recently dug out my 1995 article on the motor vehicle distribution block exemption, "Whatevershebringswesing" (I'd better put in a link to help explain that), and of course I gave my copyright book the sub-title "A Question of Balance".
There's enormous scope here. Ben Price and I carried out a short conversation in the summer using Fairport Convention song titles - well, at least one was of a Dylan cover: "I'll keep it with mine", his response to me when I asked him for some money he owed me. How did I phrase the request? "Now be thankful" came into the exchange at a later stage. Little wonder he occupies top spot.
Another sign that winter is here is that Fairport play the 100 Club this evening: and for the third year running, I'll be there - with Ben, and Tony, and others. I'll be looking for inspiration.
The Gazette also carried a story about a trainee solicitor who had run the Athens Classic Marathon and who, it transpires, works nearby. I sent him an e-mail to congratulate him and to invite him to join us for lunchtime runs in the Royal Parks. That makes up, in a small way, for my failure to cultivate my fellow passengers.

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