The simple way to stop this is to not steal other people's work. I bet you would be upset if you fixed my drain and then I did not pay you. Your best approach would be to call them and try to negotiate something less. Gettting out of it for free says I want the benefit of you work without paying for it. You can hire a lawyer but it will likely cost you more than you can save.
You definitely need a good divorce attorney. With that length of marriage, the courts will usually give alimony. However, a divorce attorney will be able to give you the odds on the courts changing the decree 5 years later.
Your question really falls into three different areas of law - Constitutional (Free Speech), Tort (Defamation/Right to Privacy/Harassment) and Intellectual Property (Trademark).
In the U.S. you can generally say whatever you want so long as it is true or is opinion. If, however, you make false factual allegations against someone, you are asking for a defamation suit. Thus, free speech usually prevails unless a party can show that they they have been injured by false allegations of fact (...
Regardless of whether your agreement is oral or written you should proceed with suit. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to collect. You can get most of the money - up to $10k by going to small claims court. It is cheaper than hiring an attorney. However, an attorney may help move things faster.
I usually agree with Bruce, but I do not think it is as cut and dried. The test is whether the average consumer is likely to be confused into believing that the liquor company is the source of the goods. Sometimes you see the products of others used in such a way that you are pretty sure that the original maker of the product is not making the recycled product.
Get to a a good trademark attorney and have them look at the facts more carefully. At a minimum you can probably get them to come...
A fictional account seems much safer. You also have to be very careful that you do not defame the people involved. Assuming they use the legal system, instead of other obvious alternatives, you may be asking for large legal bills if anyone thinks they have been libeled or slandered.
The simple answer is that you cannot expect to get something for free. Since the Berne Convention went into effect in the late 80s, there is no longer an obligation to provide a copyright notice. Copyright protection attaches as soon as a work is created. I agree that the $500 is getting off easy. When I get calls from people who have received demand letters, it is usually several times that.
This is one of those times when common sense and the law do not necessarily align. The above are good legal answers. If it were me, I would tape it so the school did not know - keep them out of trouble - and keep the tape strictly in the family. You could asset the Sony time shifting defense if you needed to. However few copyright holders are dumb enough to sue someone for sending a video to dad on deployment. It woukd make a nice story for the 5 o'clock news.
It is possible that the lawyer was not getting paid and stopped working on the matter. It is possible that the lawyer misplaced your communication or simply is busy with other matters. It is also possible that the lawyer's client does not have the money to pursue you. However, it is also very possible that the lawyer is preparing a lawsuit or a UDRP proceeding against you. You might want to follow-up with the lawyer and determine the status. Otherwise, you can wait and hope it goes...