Not of the movie, of course. I haven’t seen it and indeed, my wife and I haven’t been to an adult film—I don’t mean porn (though BI2 may qualify), I just mean a movie that you go to without your kids—in a theater in years.
Instead, I want to focus on the interaction between the MPAA’s content ratings system and versioning—multiple versions of the same content—and windows—the time periods between releases of versions.
As every movie watcher knows, the Motion Picture Association of America has a trademarked rating system for movies: G; PG; PG-13; R; and NC-17. The trademarks are important. The NC-17 rating—for films that “most parents will consider patently too adult for their youngsters under 17”—replaced the X rating. The MPAA didn’t trademark the X and the porn industry glommed on to it with glee (XXX must be three times as good as X).
Continue reading "Basic Instinct 2: A Review" »
Justice Ginsburg recently gave a speech in which she offered a qualified defense of the practice of consulting foreign law. The speech has already received exceedingly intense criticism. In fact Supreme Court references to foreign law have produced some of the most passionate criticisms of the Court in recent years. This is itself a bit of a mystery. (Maybe some people think, wrongly, that the cautious practice that Justice Ginsburg defends will mean that the United States will "lose its sovereignty"?)
Continue reading "Consulting Foreign Law" »
I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon doing field research. Law professors do much too little of this, so I wanted to step up to do my part.
This means that I watched the end of the Boston College/Pacific game in the first round of the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, known around the world as March Madness. Of course, I watched the game over the Internet as part of MMOD: March Madness on Demand. No TV set required: just my computer and the bandwidth of the Law School’s network. That makes it research, and not just TV watching.
What did I learn in my visit to the field? (Oh, by the way, Boston College, predicted by some to win the tournament, won, but in double overtime.)
Continue reading "March Madness and Network Neutrality" »
Anup Malani’s latest paper argues that perhaps the best way to evaluate a law is to look at how the law affects housing prices and local wages. The intuition is that a good law will make the relevant community more attractive, which in turn will cause housing prices to rise and wages to fall. That is, a good law will increase the number of people who want to live in a given community, and that will drive housing prices up and push local wages down.
Malani recently asked for examples of legal rules for which this story sounds plausible, in essence looking for things that might influence a person when they choose where to live. When debating whether to live in Hyde Park or Highland Park, Anup asks, is it plausible to think that people inquire about local land use regulation, criminal enforcement, and the like? With respect to schools the answer is surely yes; but Anup wants to know if the same dynamic applies on the state level to tort law or on the local level to criminal enforcement or parking issues.
Continue reading "Housing, Wages, and Malani" »
Almost everyone thought that Brokeback Mountain would win the Oscar for Best Picture. This belief was so widespread that relevant prediction markets -- including Tradesports and the Hollywood Stock Exchange, the latter of which went 8 for 8 last year -- accepted it too. But almost everyone, including the prediction markets, was wrong; Crash won instead. What happened? And what broader lessons might be drawn for group behavior and for prediction markets?
Continue reading "Unwise Crowds and the Oscars" »
The latest humiliation in the world of standardized testing involves significant scoring errors on the October SAT. Most of the errors appear to have been small but some may have been as large as 300 or 400 points (out of 2400 on what is now a three-part exam, with each part still bearing a maximum score of 800). It is the outrage that interests me, and the potential involvement of courts and legislatures. Why is it that people hate these tests so much? Standardized tests play an important and perhaps increasing role in our society. Ideally they provise a common denominator in a world where different schools have very different curricula and grading patterns. And there is something of a free market (but only something, because in some industries rankings make it difficult for schools to ignore the standardized test scores of their applicants) in that employers, graduate schools, and others need not use or put much weight on these exams.
Continue reading "The Politics of Testing" »
Last Monday the International Court of Justice in The Hague began hearings on the merits of a case brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Montenegro. Bosnia accuses Serbia of committing genocide during the Yugoslavian civil war. If Bosnia prevails, Serbia will be the first nation to have been found guilty of genocide, and it could be forced to pay billions of dollars in reparations to Bosnia.
International lawyers eagerly anticipate this outcome, as it would, in their view, advance international human rights while bringing justice to the Bosnians, who suffered greatly during the Yugoslav conflict. It is too soon to celebrate, however. The Bosnia-Serbia proceeding may end up illustrating the limits of international law, rather than vindicating its ideals.
Continue reading "Bosnia v. Serbia" »
I recently started a paper which argues that the value of a law should be judged by the extent to which it raises housing prices and lowers wages. This may seem an odd way to assess the welfare effect of a law. After all, higher housing prices and lower wages are thought to be bad outcomes, not good ones. But the proper way to understand these changes is as signals of positive outcomes, not positive outcomes themselves. They indicate that something good has happened in the community. Housing prices go up because more people want to live there. Wages go down because more people want to work there. Phrased more formally, higher housing prices and lower wages are how markets ration an attractive local amenity. Indeed, the increase in housing prices combined with the reduction in wages provides a measure how much people are willing to give up to enjoy the amenity. Conventional economic thinking recognizes this when it comes to estimating the social value of a new park or a better school. The same logic, I argue, applies when the amenity is anything from a better tort system to smarter rules regarding capital punishment.
Continue reading "Valuing Laws as Local Amenities" »
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches.” Why did the Framers care so much about this “right” that they thought to put it into the Constitution? What was it about “searches” that generated their concern? Most obviously, a search of your house or person is intensely disruptive and humiliating. To have officers of the government ransack your home, rummage through your desk, and empty your handbag is surely unpleasant. Moreover, such a search invades your personal property in an elemental way. “Who are you to storm into my home in this way?!” Understandably, then, the Framers declared such searches by government officials constitutionally permissible only if they were “reasonable.”
Continue reading "NSA Surveillance: Why Should We Care?" »