This winter, two of Fordham’s moot court teams triumphed in media and international law competitions.
On March 17, Fordham’s team won the national championship in the Cardozo/BMI Entertainment and Media Law Moot Court Competition. The issues were centered on two questions: 1) Is a website featuring a user-submitted photograph immune from state right of publicity claims under the Communications Decency Act, and 2) Is the act of embedding a copyrighted work a violation of the copyright holder’s exclusive right of display under federal law?
2Ls Lisa Cordara (captain) and Dorothy L. Newman argued a total of six rounds, guided by faculty coach Professor Maria L. Marcus and student editor Vikram Paul. They argued on the side of the respondent, the owner of the copyrighted photo, that if the state’s right of publicity cannot be used against websites, it may as well not exist, and on the second issue, that technicalities invisible to the user should not be deployed to deprive copyright holders of their exclusive display rights. The subject matter was particularly challenging because it was so dependent on technical terminology, and Cordara noted, “These topics can be difficult to explain in a persuasive manner because they are either too complicated or too dry.”
The team prepared for the competition by conducting over 30 moots, all organized and advised by Paul. Said Newman, “Each moot was an opportunity for us to refine our arguments, improve our style, and solidify our command of the relevant law.”
“They never ducked a hypothetical,” said Professor Marcus. “Hypotheticals are thrown at teams, and sometimes, they have nothing to do with what actually happened in the competition problem.” Cordara and Newman prevailed by acknowledging how these tangential issues related to their case before skillfully directing things back to the argument at hand. Particularly after the semifinal and final rounds, Marcus said, “I knew right away that they were going to win. And they did.”
A Fordham Law team also made the finals in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.
This year’s issue concerned a herd of yaks that migrates between a developing country and an industrialized one. The indigenous tribes in the developing nation hunt the yak as they have for generations—for sustenance and in accordance with their religious beliefs. Meanwhile, scientists in the industrialized nation have discovered an enzyme in the yaks’ gallbladders that can be developed into a powerful diabetes treatment, and the industrialized nation has begun to hunt the yak to produce the medicine. Both sides have agreed to submit their dispute to the International Court of Justice.
Team members Michael Taylor Bruno (captain), Nigel Frank, Gregory Jacobs, and Katherine Anne Boy Skipsey (all 2L students) argued and filed briefs on opposing sides of the case, but worked together as a cohesive team to proceed to the finals and secure the second place position and to win the coveted best brief award. Marcus added that they very clearly brought to the fore the heart of each side of the matter while conforming to page- and word-count limitations. “A good argument isn’t a speech that’s shouted at judges—it’s a conversation,” Marcus noted. “It’s a conversation between intellectuals about a really interesting topic that is wide open on every side.”
Their success as oralists lay in their research and lengthy daily moots—aided by their editor, Taylor Norton, researcher, Nicole Price, and coach, Professor Marcus—ensuring the team was prepared for any and all issues that could be thrown at them in competition. Michael Taylor Bruno put it simply, saying, “We are a family. We have worked together on this problem since September and spent hundreds of hours making sure our memorials and oral arguments are perfect. We support one another and push each other to be better.”
The Jessup is the world’s largest moot court competition, hosting participants from law schools in over 100 countries worldwide. Arguing in the White & Case International Rounds in Washington D.C. on April 1-4, 680 teams from all over the world competed. Fordham’s team placed in the top 32 putting them in the top 4.7 percent among the teams competing.