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Letters: NPR's special series


Time now for your letters and this correction. This week, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving the 1980 boxing film, "Raging Bull." It stars Robert De Niro as champion boxer Jake LaMotta.


ROBERT DE NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) Harder. Harder.

JOE PESCI: (as Joey) Aww, come on. You want to stop now? That's enough of that.

NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) Harder.


Paula Petrella, the daughter of the film's deceased screenwriter, is suing MGM for infringing on her father's copyright. Petrella inherited the copyright from her father. And the Supreme Court held that she can go forward with that lawsuit, a big blow to MGM.


NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) I'm going to smack you again, throw it again.

PESCI: (as Joey) Enough of that.

NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) Hey...

CORNISH: Well, don't smack us. But in our story about the decision, we said that Petrella, by statute, could obtain a maximum of $150,000 in damages. We failed to note that as an alternative, the statute also allows copyright holders to get some share of the profits. Though, in this case, MGM claimed there were none.

SIEGEL: We got some mail this week about an investigative series we've been airing. It's about the growing practice of charging criminal defendants fees that help fund the justice system. When people can't pay their fees, they can end up in jail.

In one story, we heard from Michael Day of the Allegan County Circuit Court in Michigan.

MICHAEL DAY: The only reason that the court is in operation and doing business at that point in time is because that defendant has come in and is a user of those services. They don't necessarily see themselves as a customer because, obviously, they're not choosing to be there. But in reality, they are.

CORNISH: Well, Steve Glasser of Salt Lake City, Utah reacted with this: What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

SIEGEL: Larra Douglas of Oberlin, Ohio, had a different take, though. She writes: If you cannot afford the fines don't break the law.

CORNISH: Daniel McCauley of Staunton, Virginia wrote with a more personal perspective. He writes: I have found your series interesting as the parent of a young man who faces the cost of being found guilty of offenses in several states. For him, the costs keep adding up. But as a family member, we too are asked to pay. When we send him funds for his canteen, a percentage comes off the top for the lockup facility. When he calls, we have to pay high phone fees.

SIEGEL: McCauley continues: At one time, he went to juvenile court, was represented by the public defender for the offense against me and his mom. But we, the parents, were assessed the fees for court, including the public defender fees. We had to drain our retirement accounts to make the payments and we've never been able to rebuild those funds. So, in an effort to get tough on crime more than just offenders pay.

CORNISH: Thanks to everyone who wrote in. And please, keep sending those letters. Just go to NPR.org and click on Contact. It's at the bottom of the page in tiny gray print. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.