It's Access to Legal Information Week!

Harris County Commissioners Court recognized July 14-20 as “Access to Legal Information Week” with a July 9 resolution to encourage all to visit the Harris County Law Library to learn about the valuable resources and services available. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and the Law Library are celebrating “Access to Legal Information Week” with a week’s worth of event to raise awareness about legal research resources available to all at our downtown Houston location. Stop by the Law Library Reference Desk Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm to request a tour and learn about legal information resources available to the people of Harris County. Access to Legal Information Week events will include the following:


Sunday, July 14

Our law librarians kicked off the week in Washington, D.C. at the 112th Annual Conference of the American Association of Law Libraries to receive the inaugural Excellence in Community Engagement Award for our Harvey Recovery Resources webpage.


Monday, July 15

The Law Library will begin offering tours for patrons at 8 a.m. Stop by all week to learn about the resources and services available for legal researchers and self-represented litigants. Plan your visit with driving directions and parking information on our Contact Us page.


Tuesday, July 16

Our law librarians will be recognized at the AALL Annual Meeting with the Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award for our work on the Pro Se Litigant Handbook and Manual para Litigantes Pro Se, which connect Harris County’s self-represented litigants with current, accurate information about a wealth of local legal aid resources. Stop by the Law Library to pick up a copy or visit our Self-Help page to access the digital version.


Wednesday, July 17

Join us Wednesday starting at 8 a.m. to receive a copy of our limited edition Digital Destination Passport. The Law Library has greatly expanded the digital resources available to all legal researchers in Harris County. The Passport takes patrons on a journey through eight new resources available for free at the Law Library and provides an opportunity for public and attorney patrons to learn about all the information available at your fingertips within steps of the courthouses at our downtown Houston location. Visit our Digital Destinations Passport page to learn more.




Thursday, July 18

Join us for a Hands-On Legal Tech Training on Thursday at 2 p.m. to learn how to Find & Format Legal Forms using the free databases available at the Harris County Law Library. Each Thursday, our law librarians offers classes accredited by the State Bar of Texas to all of our patrons for free to increase access to legal resources through our Legal Tech Institute. Visit our Legal Tech Institute Course Calendar to sign up for a free session today!


Friday, July 19

Deputy Director Joe Lawson will visit the 1910 Courthouse to lead an advanced legal research class for interns of the 1st and 14th Texas Courts of Appeals. Each summer interns from the Courts and Harris County Attorney’s Office have the opportunity to sharpen their legal research skills with training sessions from the Harris County Law Library to ensure our newest legal professionals have access to the legal information they need to move our justice system forward in their careers.


Saturday, July 20

The Harris County Law Library is closed on Saturdays, but that doesn’t mean access to legal information stops. Visit our Legal Tech Institute On-Demand Learning page to find videos about legal tech topics and access to legal information. Several videos are accredited by the State Bar of Texas and there is something for everyone.

Bad Blood: Taylor Swift and Artists’ Rights to Sound Recordings

Taylor Swift in 2019.

Taylor Swift in 2019.

Earlier this week, Nashville-based record label Big Machine Label Group was purchased by music industry heavyweight Scooter Braun for a reported $300 million. This acquisition includes the master tapes for all of pop megastar Taylor Swift’s six albums released to date. The Swifties, dedicated members of the musician’s loyal international fandom, have taken this particularly hard, as Braun and Swift have been at odds over the years, leading to widespread suspicion that the purchase of the masters may have been motivated in part by personal animus.

What does this purchase mean for Swift, and does she have recourse?

The term master recordings refers to the ultimate, highest quality record of an artist’s studio session. It is the base from which all production and mixing occurs to bring a final version to the masses. “Sound recordings are inevitably derivative works as they necessarily include an audible performance of a literary, musical, or dramatic work.” §8:42 Publication of Works Other Than Sound Recordings, 1 The Law of Copyright. The right to create a derivative work is part of the so-called Bundle of Rights afforded a copyright holder, and therefore in theory the exclusive right to create a derivative work belongs to the author of the underlying work. However, authors can sell or assign rights from their bundle to others, and in the music business it is common for artists to sign their rights to master recordings over to their record labels. This was the case for Swift, who signed her deal with Big Machine Label Group at age 15. Still, because Swift retains the copyright in the underlying work, Braun would be unable, for example, to license the recordings for use in a film without Swift’s permission. These limitations on Braun’s ability to exploit the masters for monetary gain may be of some comfort to Swifties everywhere.

In the two image captures immediately below from the US Copyright Office online registration database, you can see that while Swift and others own the rights to the underlying musical work “Look What You Made Me Do,” Big Machine Label Group LLC owns the right to the “Look What You Made Me Do” sound recording.

Because her contract, as is typical of record deals, apparently did not include any right to first refusal on a deal for her master recordings, nor does it appear to have required the label to allow her to match any offer, analysis by The Hollywood Reporter indicates she has no legal recourse.

Yet, Taylor Swift has to date been about as significant a force on the business side of the music industry as she has been as an artist. It is likely that a result of this highly publicized incident will be a rise in contractual language providing artists with enhanced ability to eventually purchase back their own masters from their labels. As artists have struggled for decades to find ways to regain control of their tapes, this could well prove a pivotal moment in Entertainment Law.

Besides legal rights and the ability to commercially exploit master recordings, the owner of such recordings also must tackle issues of preservation. The recent, shocking New York Times Magazine expose of the almost 200,000 master tapes lost in the 2008 Universal Studios fire explores the repercussions of leaving cultural patrimony in the hands of for-profit institutions that may not be able to ensure preservation.

75th Anniversary of D-Day

Not Forgotten

Today, we remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who served our country in World War II. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 troops composed of U.S. and allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to fight the forces of fascism. (see Army.mil Features: D-Day). Today, 75 years later, we honor those troops who fought for the very existence of democracy across the globe.

Operation Overlord

The invasion of Normandy, named “Operation Overlord,” was the culmination of months of planning and preparation. On the morning of the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued his “Order of the Day,” commanding commencement of the operation. The order informed troops that they were “about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months” and that they would “accept nothing less than full Victory!”

Find more on General Eisenhower’s D-Day preparations and orders online from the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

An Optimistic Proclamation

Against the backdrop of anticipating the greatest battle in American history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2614 on May 3, 1944, encouraging his fellow Americans to celebrate Flag Day on June 14, 1944. He did so with knowledge of the stakes of Operation Overlord and the possibilities for failure. And yet, FDR’s optimism rings loudly, even 75 years later, in this paragraph found on the Harris County Law Library shelves in 58 Stat. 1134:

Let us then display our flag proudly, knowing that it symbolizes the strong and constructive ideals—the democratic ideals—which we oppose to the evil of our enemies. Let us display our flag, and the flags of all the United Nations which fight beside us, to symbolize our joint brotherhood, our joint dedication, under God, to the cause of unity and the freedom of men.

Happy National Space Day

As the public law library for Space City, we’ve taken a special interest in space law. And there are plenty of interesting things in Texas law about space, including the Texas Administrative Code provision pictured here on procedures for astronauts to vote from outer space! Celebrate National Space Day by taking a look at the Harris County Law Library’s accumulated knowledge of space law via the links below:

Space Laws

  • The Outer Space Treaty, the multilateral agreement that established the governance of state activities in the exploration and use of outer space, was signed by more than 100 countries. It was first proposed by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in August of 1966, making this the 50th anniversary of its conception.

Space Law Collection

Further Reading

Law Day 2019 - Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society

Today, we celebrate the rule of law.

Today is Law Day. Law Day was established by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 and subsequently codified by Congress in 1961 (see 36 U.S.C. §113) as a day for celebration of the rule of law. Each year, the American Bar Association establishes a theme to help focus our attention on an area of law that is timely and pertinent. This year, the theme is “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.”

Free Speech: A view from the bench

To honor this year’s theme, the Harris County Law Library has created an online exhibit entitled Free Speech: A view from the bench. Visit the exhibit to learn about different factors judges take into account when reviewing issues concerning freedom of speech under the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Houston Bar Association Law Week Poster Contest

Each year the Houston Bar Association holds a poster contest and encourages area K-12 students to express the meaning of Law Day artistically. The Harris County Law Library is proud to partner with the HBA to display award-winning entries throughout this week-long celebration of the rule of law.

The Mueller Report

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice released the much anticipated Mueller Report, or Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election. A copy of the Report may be downloaded from the Department’s Special Counsel’s Office webpage along with documents related to the special counsel’s appointment, expense reports, and prosecutions related to the investigation.

The Report is presented in PDF format. A free download of the Acrobat PDF Reader is available on the Adobe website.