May 01, 2006
Paying the Price
The Cost of Gas: Gas prices are up as a reflection of continuing, worsening instability in the Middle East and our foreign relations with oil-producing countries. People hiss "Conspiracy!" and demand relief. But the price of gas indicates that our free market economy works. So if you're a hard-core believer in capitalism, why all the bitching and moaning at the pump? Isn't that what this country is about, for some of us to get as rich as we can and to hell with everyone else?
Mission Accomplished: As for claims of conspiracy, how about an illegitimate war based on the tragedy of 9/11, a war foisted on the American people in order to settle a personal score? We have Saddam, but bin Laden and his followers are still on the loose. Iran and North Korea, known problem states, pursue their goals of nuclear power.
Iraq is in the midst of a civil war - pretending that it isn't doesn't make it so. Iraq has become an excellent training ground for Al Qaeda and other terrorists - because of us. Our invasion, our occupation, our setting loose the religious fundamentalist impulses that were kept under check during the Hussein regime, have made that possible. The United States is not into nation-building, but we believe in liberating people so that they can build their own nation. Whether that's peacefully or through civil war is for them to work out amongst themselves.
Illegal Immigration: On the radio this morning I listened as a DJ complained about his neighborhood La Fonda being closed today to express its support of immigrants who work in this country, legally or not. He warned listeners that some of our favorite eateries could be closed. He felt he was "paying the price" - that is, his neighborhood restaurant being closed - so that illegal immigrants and their supporters could go protest and make their voices known.
We all pay a price. Illegal immigrants depress the price of labor by being willing to work for less money. But their willingness to be paid under the table is what makes many products and services affordable for us.
Illegal immigrants may be illegal, but that doesn't mean they're subhuman. The accident of our birth in this country doesn't give us the right to look down on them, to be sequestered in our comfortable lives and make cheap jokes about rounding people up and shipping them off or shooting them. 'Cause that's soooo funny, right? To mock people who have to escape where they're from in order to make a better life for themselves and their families?
In my family, I am a first-generation American. My parents are immigrants. They came here, legally, for their higher educations. They could have lived decently in Thailand, but they wanted to come to the U.S. for its opportunities and they wanted their children to have good lives here. Their life has not been easy. They have been productive people. They have pursued business opportunities, with some success and some failure. In recent years they have each become a U.S. citizen.
There is no question that people should come to this country legally and take the necessary steps to pursue work and citizenship. But it costs time and money to do that - and if you are poor and jobless and your family can't sponsor you, are you simply supposed to accept that you and your family are doomed to a life of poverty and squalor? You do what you have to in order to survive.
Survival isn't some stupid reality-show concept - it's a condition of life for many, many people in this world.
Immigration reform does not mean just throwing up a fence and paying for a militia to patrol our borders. A guest-worker program is the best viable solution for dealing with the problem. Reform the system that people have to go through so that they don't sneak into this country and work undercover. There should be a penalty for people who come here illegally, but that doesn't mean something draconian. If people are in the system, they can contribute taxes, their children can go to school, they can get medical assistance instead of hoping the illness will just go away. Yes, we have to deal with this issue, as we must deal with many others, but simply because we are better off and comfortably situated - not necessarily rich - our comparatively lofty situation does not give us the right to be smug, clueless, hateful, heartless people.
January 20, 2006
Justice Dept. Legal Analysis for NSA Domestic Wiretapping
September 19, 2005
Final Report by Federal Commission on Election Reform Now Available
The commission, headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James A. Baker III, has issued its final report, Building Confidence in U.S. Elections (7.6 MB). Significant reforms have been recommended, including a uniform voter ID card, verified paper trails for electronic voting machines, and nonpartisan, independent administration of elections, among other recommendations.
I'm particularly interested by the call for a national voter ID card, considering that Georgia now has a state requirement for a valid photo ID in order to vote (Provisional ballots are available to those without ID on election day, but with a requirement to produce photo ID within the following days or else the ballot becomes invalid). Georgia's law has been criticized as a new poll tax.
September 16, 2005
ABA Katrina Disaster Resources
The American Bar Association (ABA) has set up a page containing legal information for hurricane victims and lawyers affected by Katrina.
June 14, 2005
Legal Guide for Bloggers
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) provides a legal guide for bloggers that's worth reading.
April 22, 2005
Selective information is misinformation
Democracies die behind closed doors. The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people's right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately.... When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation. The Framers of the First Amendment did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us. They protected the people against secret government.
Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, 303 F.3d 681, 683 (6th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)
March 29, 2005
Between Lawyers - "a new blog on the issues raised when technology, culture and the law intersect." Sounds right up my alley.
March 25, 2005
Another Blogger, Another Book Deal
Cindy Adams, the gossip columnist, notes the following as today's example illustrating her tagline "Only in New York, kids, only in New York."
AT Princeton Brooklyn's Jeremy Blackman wanted to write musicals for Jay Kerr, now a voice coach. Then, at Harvard Law, he began anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com wherein he managed to identify the tattered soul of the legal profession. Its contents intrigued the publisher Holt. They e-mailed to see if he would turn it into a novel. Jeremy nailed a William Morris agent and "Anonymous Lawyer," a suspenseful study of life inside a law firm, is on its way to our bookshelves.
March 24, 2005
Some Health Care Advance Planning Resources
Consumer’s Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning - Provided by the American Bar Association, specifically the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, this tool kit provides a series of forms that can help as you consider and discuss with loved ones the issues involved in preparing a living will or other comparable document.
Here are some sites offering forms for living wills that I've come across in reading news articles. I'm sure there are many others. Of course, there's the usual route of seeing an attorney for these arrangements as well.
U.S. Living Will Registry
Aging With Dignity
March 23, 2005
Just So We're Clear
I'm very troubled about the Terry Schiavo matter. I keep wondering when the right's naked grab for power is going to fall on its face, when people are going to realize just how far we've swung, in large part because of the last election.
We have a system in place. For Congress to dictate to the courts - how is that not a violation of federalism, of the separation of powers? This case has been exhaustively run through the courts. Just because some of us don't like the result doesn't mean the system has failed. There is always a losing side in a court case (see Bush v. Gore.) It doesn't mean congressional and executive activists (that would be people like Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and the President) should write up run-around legislation to get the federal court to intervene. If the Schindlers had had a strong case, then they should have been successful in the state courts.
So the 11th Circuit Court (here in Atlanta) has denied the Schindlers' appeal; they're now requesting a review by a full panel of judges (rehearing en banc). Then it could go to the Supreme Court, if it chooses to take the case. I suppose it would have to, given the bloodcry from the right-wingers. It's appalling how far this has gotten, what a circus this has become. Now we have politicians invading our personal lives and telling us what to do.
In light of this, I've been thinking about putting my legal arrangements in order. (Yeah, we both have worked in the field, so it's ironic that we don't have such things established yet.) I don't want to be comatose, lingering for forty years. I don't want to be a vegetable. If my mind is gone, then I'm gone.
January 24, 2005
French Law Allows Children To Be Given Mother or Father's Surname
Or both, even, if the parents so choose, and they can select the order of the names as well. I find naming practices and regulations quite fascinating, and French law appears to be quite complex and codifed - not a surprise, really. The following article explains some of the changes, including the institution of the double-hyphen to distinguish names given under the new law versus single-hyphenated names, which reflect one's aristocratic lineage.
December 28, 2004
Blogs Provide Raw Details From Scene of the Disaster [NYT 12/28] "The so-called blogosphere, with its personal journals published on the Web, has become best known as a forum for bruising political discussion and media criticism. But the technology proved a ready medium for instant news of the tsunami disaster and for collaboration over ways to help."
Your Blog or Mine? [NYT Mag, 12/19] Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University, explores the issue of privacy and blogging:
As Web logs proliferate -- Technorati, which tracks 5 million blogs, estimates that 15,000 are added each day -- the boundaries between public and private are being transformed. Unconstrained by journalistic conventions, bloggers are blurring the lines between public events and ordinary social interactions and changing the way we date, work, teach and live. And as blogs continue to proliferate, citizens will have to develop new understandings about what parts of our lives are on and off the record.Features appearances by Smitten (I think we met once), her fiance Alex (a former blogger, it seems), and in an uncredited role, the great Paul Frankenstein. A minor point of disagreement with Deb's remark about Washingtonienne, though. Jessica Cutler wasn't good at keeping herself anonymous. By failing to do that, to preserve her own privacy, she risked exposure of herself and the people she wrote about. Ultimately she was exposed, and maybe there are people in the Beltway who know who the others are. So far though, she appears to be the only one suffering for her stupidity and carelessness, only to be "rewarded" with a book deal and an appearance in Playboy. But that's another issue.
November 07, 2004
The Postal Service Presents...The Postal Service
Postal Service Tale: Indie Rock, Snail Mail and Trademark Law [NYT] [Bugmenot] I really, really like Give Up, the album from The Postal Service. (Thanks, mrw, for introducing me.) It didn't occur to me that this name is trademarked by the US Postal Service - the folks who deliver our snail mail. Didn't occur to the band, either. They received a polite cease-and-desist letter, but a deal was worked out. From the article:
The outcome was as unusual as the band itself: this week the United States Postal Service - the real one, as in stamps and letters - signed an agreement with Sub Pop [the band's record company] granting a free license to use the name in exchange for working to promote using the mail. Future copies of the album and the group's follow-up work will have a notice about the trademark, while the federal Postal Service will sell the band's CD's on its Web site, potentially earning a profit. The band may do some television commercials for the post office.
The group also agreed to perform at the postmaster general's annual National Executive Conference in Washington on Nov. 17. The attendees might not realize what a rare treat they are in for since the Postal Service does not play many gigs. Mr. [Jimmy] Tamborello and Mr. [Ben] Gibbard are busy with their regular bands: Dntel, with its atmospheric electronic dance music, and Death Cab for Cutie, which has become a college rock favorite for its heartfelt, jangly punk rock known as emo.
I love creative, amicable legal solutions. No, really. I think this result is awesome. So - can anyone hook me up with a ticket for the show? ;)
October 06, 2004
Celebrity Death Match: Legal Edition
Here at the Armoire, we always get a particular voyeuristic thrill out of legal gossip. Cross-reference that with the tawdry frisson of Hollywood, and well, we're just beside ourselves with unsavory glee. [Note: We bat around the royal "we" as the notion takes us. Just be glad we don't talks and lisps likes certain hobbitses corrupted by their preciousssss.]
Barry Hirsch, former chairman of big-deal entertainment law firm formerly known as Armstrong Hirsch Jackoway Tyerman & Wertheimer (now known as Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum & Morris) has left, taking several partners with him, to form his own outfit, Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman. (Whew!) This sort of thing happens all the time in the legal world - partners leave, taking associates, secretaries, paralegals and their files, all the time. But given that clients like Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Pfeiffer, both Francis and Sofia Coppola, Bernie Mac, Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson have followed their lawyer(s) to the new firm, this news makes a slightly bigger splash beyond the pages of legal periodicals.
ADDENDUM: I boldfaced the names, since this is a pretty gossipy post.
August 30, 2004
Redacting the Supreme Court
The following quotation is from a Supreme Court opinion - United States v. United States District Court for the Eastern Dist. of Mich., 407 U.S. 297, 314 (1972):
"The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect 'domestic security.' Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent."This passage was among those blacked out by the Justice Department from ACLU court filings pertaining to its lawsuit against the PATRIOT Act - for security reasons. Read more about this and see the contrasting passages, courtesy of The Memory Hole.
Justice Department Censors Supreme Court Quote [The Memory Hole]
August 18, 2004
U.S. v. Pipkins explains Pimp Code of Conduct
Or as the song goes, "Pimpin' ain't easy." (I don't actually know this song; I know it exists.) A site called Strange Legal Opinions collects "opinions that are amusing or otherwise interesting because of the manner in which they were written, the issues they address, the facts involved, or for any other reason." U.S. v. Pipkins, 2004 WL 1717660 (11th Cir. 2004) is a recent opinion decided right here in the 11th Circuit (for non-legal people, this means the federal appellate court which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida). The opinion provides insight into the prostitution subculture, explaining the complicated rules and hierarchies involved between pimps and prostitutes who operated in the Atlanta area. The opinion also mentions an industry training video called "Pimps Up Hoes Down" featuring prominent local pimps who explained, on-camera, the local rules of business to new pimps ("popcorn pimps," "wanna-bes," and "hustlers") and prostitutes ("hoes").
Horrible, yet fascinating.
August 09, 2004
X-Patents Discovered at University Library
Lawyers Unearth Early Patents [NYT] X-patents refer to the first 10,000 patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many of these are missing, the original files having been destroyed in a fire in July 1786 - ironically, while a more fireproof building was under construction. Two lawyers, researching the inventor Samuel Morey, discovered 14 of these X-patents in the Dartmouth College Library.
June 15, 2004
Think Before You Pack
Air Travel - Prohibited Items So I was curious as to what the
FAA TSA says is acceptable to have either in your carry-on or checked luggage. Chilling:
If you bring a prohibited item to the checkpoint you may be criminally and/or civilly prosecuted or at the least asked to rid yourself of the item. A screener and/or Law Enforcement Officer will make this determination depending on what the item is and the circumstances. This is because bringing a prohibited item to a security checkpoint - even accidentally - is illegal. [Added emphasis]According to the list of Permitted and Prohibited Items (as of 12/18/03), under the heading Sharp Objects, none are permitted in one's carry-on luggage. But box cutters, ice axes/picks, knives, meat cleavers, razor-type blades (excluding safety razors), sabers, pointed scissors, and swords should all be packed in one's checked luggage.
Good to know.
May 28, 2004
Burn, Bridges, Burn!
Law firm gossip, this time courtesy of a now-former attorney at Paul, Hastings. Why am I always finding out these things from Gawker? Oh well, this is too wickedly delish:
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2004 1:11 PM
Subject: FW: Goodbye...
As many of you are aware, today is my last day at the firm. It is time for me to move on and I want you to know that I have accepted a position as "Trophy Husband". This decision was quite easy and took little consideration. However, I am confident this new role represents a welcome change in my life and a step up from my current situation. While I have a high degree of personal respect for PHJW as a law firm, and I have made wonderful friendships during my time here, I am no longer comfortable working for a group largely populated by gossips, backstabbers and Napoleonic personalities. In fact, I dare say that I would rather be dressed up like a pinata and beaten than remain with this group any longer. I wish you continued success in your goals to turn vibrant, productive, dedicated associates into an aimless, shambling group of dry, lifeless husks.
May the smoke from any bridges I burn today be seen far and wide.
ps. Achilles absent, was Achilles still. (Homer)
March 22, 2004
CPA sues Search Engines for Libel
Accountant 'Googles' Himself, Sues for Libel [AP, 3/19/04] Mark Maughan, a CPA with the firm Brown & Maughan, has sued Google, AOL, Time Warner and Yahoo! for libel. Google's Page Rank system is apparently at fault for generating "alarming" information about Maughan. According to the article:
"Specifically, the search results falsely represent that plaintiffs Maughan and/or Brown & Maughan have been disciplined for gross negligence, for failing to timely submit a client's claim for refund of overpayment of taxes, and for practicing as a CPA without a permit," according to the proposed class action filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.Google's search results already show top ranking links from people and sites ridiculing this news story.
The lawsuit itself is disturbing in several ways. First, why is the tool (the search engine) the culprit? It's the information itself, not the means for finding it, that should be problematic. More worrisome is the not-unwarranted concern that average users of Google or other search engines will look at the first page of results and take the information at face value - which is what the guy is concerned about, because the perception hurts him and his firm. As librarians we continue to stress that material from the Internet is not always the best, most accurate information out there. But this is also a basic premise of surfing the Web - and yet how many people don't get that?
March 02, 2004
"Treasury Department Is Warning Publishers of the Perils of Criminal Editing of the Enemy" (Adam Liptak, NYT, National, 2/28/04) - The department has issued advisory letters to publishers warning them against the editing of material from countries under a trade embargo - the reasoning being that such activity amounts to trading with the enemy.
Specifically these advisory letters currently refer to Iran, but could be applied to countries such as "Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license." So the publishing of "camera-ready copies of manuscripts" is allowed, but not the editing of the texts or addition of illustrations.
February 23, 2004
Skadden Arps Dish
Gossip and law firms, a deliciously evil combination. Yet another incident of a lawyer, this time from behemoth firm Skadden Arps, who unwisely used e-mail to express a sharp difference of opinion, leading to furious forwarding, headers and confidentiality notices still attached. You'd think lawyers would be the most cautious about leaving documented trails.
[via Who Stole the Tarts]
February 11, 2004
Subpoenas Quashed in Iowa
Feds Drop All Subpoenas Against Peace Protesters, University
[The Iowa Channel, 2/11/04]
February 10, 2004
NYT article on Activists' Subpoenas
An Antiwar Forum in Iowa Brings Federal Subpoenas [Monica Davey, NYT, 2/10/04]:
...[T]he protesters, their lawyers and some national civil liberties advocates described the investigation into the attendance rolls and leadership lists of the lawyers' group as highly unusual in recent years. Some said it could send a chilling message far beyond Iowa, leaving those who consider voicing disapproval of the administration's policy in Iraq, or anywhere else, wondering whether they too might receive added scrutiny.
"I've heard of such a thing, but not since the 1950's, the McCarthy era," said David D. Cole, a Georgetown law professor. "It sends a very troubling message about government officials' attitudes toward basic liberties."
Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said he feared news of the subpoenas — which was spreading rapidly via e-mail on Monday among activist organizations — might discourage people from showing up to protests, attending meetings at universities or even checking out library books. [My emphasis]
"People will have to be asking themselves: will this be subject to government scrutiny?" Mr. Romero said.
February 09, 2004
Anti-war Activists Subpoenaed
Feds Win Right to War Protestors' Records [Ryan J. Foley, AP] Federal subpoenas have been issued to Drake University as well as four of the activists who attended a forum at the school back in November:
In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.Also:
The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.
Additionally, the subpoena, at least for the university, includes a gag order.
January 28, 2004
The Tyranny of Copyright?
Article by Robert S. Boynton in the 1/25 issue of NYT Magazine.
January 21, 2004
West to Outsource to East?
West, one of the giants in legal publishing, has set up a "test office" in India, where Indian lawyers are writing up case summaries and headnotes. The American editor-lawyers can make up to $100,000 a year, which is at least five times what the Indian lawyers are paid.
On business: Outsourcing hits legal services (Neal St. Anthony, Star Tribune, 1/16/04)
Now, Outsourcing to Hit US Lawyers (The Economic Times / India Times, 1/16/04)
December 24, 2003
Lenny Bruce Pardoned
Governor Pataki issues the first posthumous pardon in state history to Lenny Bruce, who was convicted in 1964 on obscenity charges - essentially for the profanity of his standup act. Good to know that the First Amendment still has some power.
December 16, 2003
Fists of Miramax
Wired article reports how Miramax sent a cease-and-desist letter to the site owner for Kung Fu Cinema regarding the "selling, distributing and/or otherwise exploiting copies of the film Hero on DVD and/or VHS."
The problem? Kung Fu Cinema only linked to a site that was selling the film, a site that had stopped selling the film as of June, meaning the movie-specific link was dead anyway. But even if it wasn't, the legal arm-twisting of the C&D letter for merely linking to the offending site is dead wrong.
"The letter served its purpose because Mr. Pollard stopped linking to the sites," said Matthew Hiltzik, a representative for Miramax. "By removing these links, he's [Mark Pollard, the site owner] making it more difficult for people to purchase these films, thereby allowing us to protect our interest in these properties."However:
Jason Schultz, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Miramax got its facts wrong when it targeted Pollard.
"Once again this shows how overzealous enforcement of copyright has an effect on free speech," Schultz said. "This guy clearly runs his website to give his opinion about movies that he loves, and links to more information on the movies, such as where you can buy them."
Links are "a part of a discussion ... you're not only writing what you think but you are providing additional information about what you think and it's all interwoven together as speech," Schultz said.
December 12, 2003
ABA article on Aggregators
Beating Information Overload with News Aggregators - Article in the current issue of Law Practice Management explains how lawyers can use news aggregators and feeds to stay current with ever-growing sources of information.
November 12, 2003
Dictionary to Keep "McJob" - The 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary added the word "McJob." This upsets McDonald's both philosophically and also because they have some sort of program which is actually called McJOBS(tm). (An article at The Register goes into the interesting history of the trademarking of the term. ["Merriam-Webster explains disappearing McJob" - 11/11, Andrew Orlowski]):
McDonald's first registered the term on May 16 1984, as a name and image for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". But the trademarked lapsed in February 1992, and was declared 'Dead' by the United States Patent Office. Following the publication of Douglas Coupland's smash Generation X in paperback edition in October 1992 (the book first appeared in 1991), which popularized the term, McDonald's restored the trademark.
The term also appears in the American Heritage Dictionary, Webster's Dictionary, and dictionary of dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary. It's safe to say that the term has entered everyday language, enough that dictionary editors have taken note. And while McDonald's will pursue its trademark rights, it can't stop how people talk.
Cory Doctorow has also posted on this at BoingBoing, and he asserts that the necessity for trademark owners to "to sue everyone who utters your trademark or risk losing it" is a legal "fairy tale." He also links to his August article about trademarks at OpenP2P. Thoughts?
October 22, 2003
Promoting the Profession
In one of my courses, the professor stressed the point that any subject was game for serious, scholarly treatment. It's just that when the outside world hears the scant details about your research, you just might be in for some ridicule.
The NY Times reports on the "sushi memo" that's going around New York legal circles - I'd hazard a guess that it's probably shot its way around the world internationally as well via email. It's the kind of absurd creation - a memo written by a paralegal at the request of a partner, researching the options for takeout sushi in midtown Manhattan - that gives the legal world a bad name. Having worked at law firms myself, I'm not surprised at something like this coming up. It was probably more of a joke than anything, albeit a well-researched, useful document with footnotes from Zagat's, but now the joke is at the expense of the people involved and their law firm, which is probably not amused at being the subject of mockery.
Currently hunting down a copy of the memo. Any leads are appreciated.
September 26, 2003
Freedom to Read, Freedom Not to Read
A school board in Texas opts not to remove Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land from a school's 10th grade Advanced Placement curriculum. However, it has instituted the policy that there must be an alternative available to a book that's been challenged. One of the afflicted students explains:
Sophomore Heather Outland said she found the books to be pornographic and offensive.
“I don’t feel that I should be carrying them around, much less be forced to read them,” Outland said. “I believe in the freedom to read. But I also believe in the freedom not to read. I don’t want to be forced to read these books if they go against my values and the values of the community. This is not censorship, this is not banning. This is freedom.”
Ah yes, freedom. Freedom to be illiterate, freedom to be uneducated, freedom to be ill-equipped to understand or discuss cultural or literary references because your values are offended. Reading a book doesn't automatically pose a danger to your values. Maybe the book forces you to think, to examine your beliefs. Maybe some ideas will change your mind. Maybe they won't. But how will you know, Heather, if you don't read the book? If your values are so desperately at risk just from reading a book, then how firm are your beliefs anyway?
September 21, 2003
OCLC sues Library Hotel for Trademark Infringement
The Library Hotel, a scant walk from NYPL's Humanities and Social Sciences Library (the one with the lions), is laid out according to the Dewey Decimal system. What the hotel didn't realize, nor did I, is that this classification system is trademarked and owned by OCLC. (Libraries that use the system have to pay annual licensing fees.) OCLC, a nonprofit organization, has sued the hotel and seeks treble the hotel's profits since its opening, or treble damages, whichever is greater.
OCLC has to protect its trademark, true. But this does nothing positive for the image of librarians.
Update: NYT has its own article on the lawsuit.
September 19, 2003
Baseless Hysteria, &c.
Government Says It Has Yet to Use New Power to Check Library Records - In the continuing saga regarding Sec. 215 of the Patriot Act, Ashcroft has released the data regarding the number of searches for records demanded of libraries and other institutions: Zero. Yes, that's zed, zip, nought. [NYT, Eric Lichtblau, 9/18/03]
Ashcroft: See, you silly librarians? You were duped, you made mountains out of molehills. Yes, we have this power accorded to us by statute, but we haven't used it, so there! Pffffffft!
Librarians: So? You just haven't used it yet. As long as this law is still on the books, your agents will still be able to demand records from libraries and librarians will still be under a statutory gag order, unable to say anything about it.
September 18, 2003
Strike That, Reverse It
Perhaps Ashcroft thought he had an easy target when he made fun of librarians. But Big Bully has decided to declassify the data indicating how often federal agents have requested records from libraries and other institutions. ["In a Reversal, Ashcroft Lifts Secrecy of Data" - NYT, Eric Lichtblau, 9/18/03]
September 16, 2003
Smackdown: Ashcroft v. Librarians, et al.
Ashcroft Mocks Librarians and Others Who Oppose Parts of Counterterrorism Law [NYT, Eric Lichtblau, 9/16/03] - The Attorney General has gone on the attack, again, in response to criticism of the Patriot Act, and this time he's got librarians in the cross-hairs. He has "accused the country's biggest library association and other critics of fueling "baseless hysteria" about the government's ability to pry into the public's reading habits." The departmental spin on his speech, of course, is that he isn't directly blasting the librarian community. It's just that the
ALA "has been somewhat duped by those who are ideologically opposed to the Patriot Act," says a Justice department spokesman.
So we librarians are merely misguided, easily driven to hysteria? So we should just shut up and shelve our books, or whatever it is librarians do? Do we become the new terrorists, because we seem to care more about our patrons' civil liberties than the Attorney General?
Sorry, my poor librarian nerves are just overwrought. I should trust my government implicitly and believe that they are looking out for my interests, my safety, my intellectual freedom. *snort*
September 10, 2003
Left Hand, Right Hand - Who's on First?
The American Library Association (ALA) is investigating whether its relationship with law firm Jenner & Block is a conflict of interest, as the firm has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in its recent efforts to gather the names of those suspected of illegal file-sharing. In a letter to ALA executive director Keith Fiels, Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA's Washington Office, said that the office has grown "very uncomfortable" with Jenner & Block's legal activities on behalf of the RIAA. ALA is seeking a letter from the firm setting forth how it would handle any potential conflict.
[via Shifted Librarian]
July 07, 2003
John Dean (yes, that John Dean) offers up commentary and analysis on the Ninth Circuit's Batzel decision.
July 03, 2003
ALA to meet with Internet Filter Vendors
Article in today's NYT: "Officials plan to meet with software makers next month to voice concern over a law that requires libraries and schools to use Internet filters or risk losing federal money." ("Libraries Planning a Meeting on Filters" - John Schwartz, NYT, National, 7/3/03)
"Bloggers Gain Libel Protection"
According to Xeni Jardin's report in Wired (7/30): "The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday [6/24] that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers."
On the one hand, great news for bloggers and other republishers. On the other, I feel badly for Ms. Batzel. Her reputation was damaged because of what someone falsely said about her in e-mail, even though the jerk supposedly didn't expect the e-mail to be published. (Yeah, right buddy.) And she's had to up and leave the North Carolina town she lived in, because people think she's the granddaughter of a Nazi, even though it's not true.
While bloggers and other republishers seem to have more protection now, what proper remedy can someone pursue when they've been falsely, purposely, maliciously maligned? Does traditional libel or slander law still offer a person a way to protect themselves in the digital age?
UPDATE: Interesting - a Wyoming man has been fired by Home Depot, apparently in connection with columns and stories he's posted on his website which are critical of the CEO. ("Web Poster Fired by Home Depot" - Tony Wilbert, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/3/03) Wyoming's in the Tenth Circuit, however, so the Ninth Circuit ruling would merely be persuasive authority. [Link via ObscureStore]
July 01, 2003
Linda Greenhouse offers an overview of the Supreme Court's just-completed term. ("In a Momentous Term, Justices Remake the Law, and the Court" - NYT, 7/1/03)
About a week old, but this article on FindLaw briefly reports on Lawrence v. Texas, the day the decision was released. Yes, ALL people have a right to privacy, whatever their sexual orientation.
As for all the hysteria about whether same-sex marriage will come to the U.S., in the wake of this court decision and the recent developments in Canada - I hope it does. If marriage is strictly a religious sacrament, then government shouldn't be involved with the institution. Let's separate religiously sanctioned marriages from the legally valid civil unions.
There's a legal component to marriage, that should not be concerned with religious doctrine. Financial, legal, medical decisions - there are benefits that flow from being a legally recognized unit. Why should this be limited to opposite-sex couples? The issue of children is always trotted out - guess what, gay people have children too, and gay relationships can be just as stable and long-lasting as hetero ones. Given the national divorce rate, it's not exactly like heteros have a great record for family stability either.
Same-sex marriage is not about anything goes, about having absolutely no standards whatsover for who can marry. To deny people who are fellow coworkers, taxpayers, citizens, who are parents, siblings, friends - people who are otherwise equal to you - to deny them from participating in a legal life partnership - that's basically government-sanctioned discrimination.
June 23, 2003
Decided: United States v. American Library Association, 02-361
The Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 in favor of internet filters in libraries as a condition for federal funding ("Effort to Equip Libraries With Internet Filters Is Allowed" - NYT/AP, 6/23/03). The opinion was written by Rehnquist and joined by O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas. Kennedy and Breyer wrote separate opinions that allow filters so long as library users have the option for the filters to be disabled. Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg dissented.
In his dissent, Stevens writes, "...a statutory blunderbuss that mandates this vast amount of overblocking abridges the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.'' The filtering software better make it much easier for librarians to disable and re-enable the software, since they'll be running from behind the reference desk every time someone new sits down to use the computer.
I wonder, does the law require that all computers have filtering installed in order for a library to get federal funding? Or can computers be set aside (filtered/unfiltered) so people can choose which to use? As if most libraries are flush enough with money that they can even set aside computers for separate users.
June 15, 2003
Said, She Said
...Which brings to mind the legal fisticuffs between the beauty queen and the cad, involving the issues of free speech and privacy ("Internet Battle Raises Questions About Privacy and the First Amendment" - Adam Liptak, NYT, National, 6/2/03). According to the article, which has comments from several lawyers and legal scholars, "such orders prohibiting future publication or prior restraints are essentially unknown in American law." The judge's ruling seems problematic - the cad, Tucker Max, who at one point dated Katy Johnson (Miss Vermont, 1999, 2001), is forbidden to write about Johnson on his site. He can't use any part of her name, her full name, or the word "Vermont." He is prohibited from "disclosing any stories, facts or information, notwithstanding its truth, about any intimate or sexual acts engaged in by" Johnson, online or offline.
Also, he cannot link to her site - quite possibly one of the stupidest portions of the order. Again from the article:
"The prohibition on linking to Johnson's site is "kooky," said Susan Crawford, who teaches Internet law at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.
"To block the ability to link," Crawford said, "is in effect to say her site is her own private property."
Clinton Fein has a lengthy, fairly evenhanded article about the case, including a copy of the order and other links at the bottom of the page. Neither party comes off winningly. What a mess.
April 11, 2003
Oh the Vanity!
Your favorite future librarian just got a nod from LibraryStuff. Thanks, Steven - I shall work on getting an RSS feed going. Now I'd better up the librariana content. [dancing a jig, before restoring some decorum]
A good overview article, entitled "Librarians Make Some Noise Over Patriot Act" appeared in The Washington Post on 4/9. And the New York Times reports that "Republicans Want Terror Law Made Permanent", noting that Orrin Hatch has written a proposal regarding the Patriot Act "that would repeal the sunset provisions and make the law's new powers permanent."
For an administration and political party that believes in less government, they seem to be awfully quick to shred civil liberties.
March 24, 2003
Isn't it ironic, don't ya think?
Supreme Court Justice Scalia received an award last week for having "consistently, across the board, had opinions or led the charge in support of free speech." He banned media coverage of the event [tv and radio].
March 13, 2003
A No Good, Very Bad Idea
What Your Clothes Say About You - "clothing designer Benetton plans to weave radio frequency ID chips into its garments to track its clothes worldwide." Anyone else think we might as well have chips installed in the back of our necks, like Agent Scully? These RFID chips are intended to make it easier to take inventory, as well as to reduce theft. However, anyone who has an RFID receiver can track people wearing Benetton clothing, "including companies that want to sell them their products." So between marketers who want to gather your data and potential thieves who can just scan your house to see if you've got anything worth really worth taking, there's more loss of privacy.
March 06, 2003
HEY! The Constitution is a
HEY! The Constitution is a living document.
United States v. American Library Association, 02-361- SCOTUS considers the validity of Internet filters in libraries. At issue - whether libraries accepting federal money must institute web filters that not only filter porn, but are so broad as to block useful information - such as health, scientific, social, and political information.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit chooses not to reconsider the ruling by a panel of its judges that determined the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional, because its current text contains the words "under God," forcing a showdown in the Supreme Court. Note to the President and Congress - not everybody is a Christian, or even believes in a God. Then again, atheists should learn early on that their belief, or lack of belief, is not going to make them popular. Stylistically, the tacked-on phrase creates a big thudding interruption of flow: "one nation, indivisible" v. "one nation, under God, indivisible." "Liberty and justice for all," means all, not just all Christians. (I can't even begin to tell them apart.)
At a mall in upstate New York, a lawyer is arrested for wearing a t-shirt that says "Give Peace a Chance." UPDATE: The mall in question has opted not to press charges.
An airline screening program, under the control of the Transportation Security Administration, would run background checks, such as credit checks, and assign to people a color that indicates their risk level as airline passengers. In today's NY Times an article details how both travel industry and privacy groups object to this program, a plan that Delta will soon test. A boycott is already underway.
Lastly, Dick Cheney has sent a letter to the owner for the satirical website whitehouse.org requesting the removal of his wife's doctored-up picture and fictitious bio. The letter requests that the site should avoid "using using her name and picture for the purposes of trade without her consent." The site owner has referred the matter to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
February 24, 2003
OUR LAWYERS CAN BEAT UP YOUR LAWYERS
This could be the firm's unofficial pitch when MoFo woos clients for business.
Potential Client: So why should we hire you?
MoFo: Well for instance, we can handle the new corporate governance requirements, 'cause we're baaaad mutha -
PC: Shut yo' mouth! We need ball-busting attorneys - you're hired!
February 22, 2003
An interesting article(?) over at
An interesting article(?) over at LawMeme: James Grimmelman's "Accidental Privacy Spills: Musings on Privacy, Democracy, and the Internet."
One hopes one's friends don't just forward private emails to people who shouldn't see them, but it's always, always possible. Although I think the above incident is more of a tempest in a teapot, then again it didn't happen to me. Just look at poor Claire Swire or the dumbass Peter Chung. Of the latter, for whom I've absolutely no sympathy, I actually received the email as it made its way around the world likely millions of times over. Interestingly, with each forward, people didn't snip headers or email addresses, so I was able to see how the email eventually got round to me at my firm at the time. On this particular thread it traveled from other major law firms or investment banks, with attached comments like "I know this guy; what a jerk, he really deserves this!" And now such material is archived on the web for all to see, forever. Yikes.
February 11, 2003
The Total Information Awareness System
The Total Information Awareness System is the key project being developed by the Information Awareness Office (IAO), under the umbrella of DARPA (grandfather of Internet) - ultimately, under the Pentagon. The objective of TIA is to uncover information about existing or potential terrorist activities through the data mining of such disparate sources as credit card, medical, school and travel records. Privacy advocates and civil libertarians are naturally a mite suspicious, especially since the overseer for TIA is John Poindexter. Perhaps you recall the name - he was a key figure with a conviction (later overturned because of an immunity deal) from the Iran-Contra affair. A recent press release indicates that "TIA has never collected, and has no plan or intent to collect privately held consumer data on U.S. citizens."
A logo had been created for the IAO. There's a pyramid, an all-seeing eye, and a Latin motto "Scientia Est Potentia" which translates to "Knowledge is Power." Criticism, ridicule or both have caused the logo to be withdrawn, or perhaps scrapped altogether. Because we Americans have a mordant sense of humor (well, some of us), especially as to Big Brother type organizations, an enterprising fellow has made available the opportunity to purchase t-shirts, caps, mugs, even thongs emblazoned with the logo. Profits are donated to the ACLU. Click here to buy something, if you dare.
UPDATE: In today's NY Times [2.12], Conferees in Congress Bar Using a Pentagon Project on Americans. According to the article, "House and Senate negotiators have agreed that a Pentagon project intended to detect terrorists by monitoring Internet e-mail and commercial databases for health, financial and travel information cannot be used against Americans. The conferees also agreed to restrict further research on the program without extensive consultation with Congress." Says Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) of the Pentagon, "They've got some crazy people over there." So TIA is in check, for now.
January 22, 2003
It's the 30th anniversary of
It's the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Now that the White House and Congress are dominated by the Republicans, they're going to make further attempts to weaken abortion rights. I don't see how others can justify dictating women's choices for something so intensely private and personal. Abortion isn't a choice to be made lightly, but if a woman makes that decision, no one else has the right to interfere. Groups like NOW and NARAL Pro-Choice America (National Abortion Rights Action League) have ramped up their efforts to raise awareness - a woman's right to choose should not be taken for granted.
What also gets me is that it seems the same people who are anti-abortion are also anti-information when it comes to sex education. Abstinence can only be promoted so much - people need to be informed about how to protect themselves, not only from unplanned pregancies, but from disease as well. Maybe we can convince teenagers and young adults to delay for a time, but come on - people are going to have sex anyway. It's vital that young people know how to take responsibility for themselves, even though parents hate to think of their kids becoming sexually active. Moreover, where's the support for women who choose to have their children, who may end up being single mothers in need of public assistance? These people who rant and rave about the preciousness of an unborn child seem to have little interest in the welfare of single mothers and their children, or the kids who end up in foster homes. It's all connected, folks.
January 15, 2003
The Supreme Court have ruled 7-2 in Eldred v. Ashcroft (01-618); so the most recent copyright extension passed by Congress is viewed as constitutional. Justices Stevens and Breyer dissented. As it stands, individual copyright lasts 70 years after a person's death; corporate copyright lasts 95 years. Guess we'll see what happens in 20 years when Mickey Mouse et al. come up for expiration again.
In better news, the music and technology trade associations have come to an agreement. The technology group will work harder to support the enforcement against digital piracy, and the RIAA won't seek government legislation requiring locking controls over entertainment devices.
Now if only I could work my CD burner properly! :-(
January 08, 2003
Looks like the writer William
Looks like the writer William Gibson has just started a blog. About time!
Illegal Art This traveling exhibit (which I just missed, damn it!), subtitled "Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age," tests the boundaries between artistic freedom and intellectual property law. For instance, a cd of copyrighted music (some of which appears without permission) is being given away at the exhibit; it's also available online. The exhibit explores the disconnect between the intent of copyright and the purpose of the public domain, and how defenses of copyright today seem to be more about protecting existing properties whose rights should have lapsed (for instance, Disney and its trademarks for Mickey Mouse), with the result that fewer works are flowing into the public domain, and new creative works are stifled in the name of copyright protection.
Copyright, according to the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 8, clause 8): To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. Copyright was designed as a protection to reward writers or other artists by allowing them to profit from their works, but also limited in time, in order to promote continued creativity in the form of new works. Currently this period lasts 95 years in the U.S., thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act. The constitutionality of this extension is up for review by the Supreme Court this term.
December 24, 2002
"Wir glauben ans Christkind"
Or, "We Believe in the Christ Child." Pro-Christkind is a group in Austria that seeks to remind their fellow Austrians that the Kristkind, the Christ child, is the true spirit of the holiday, not the more commercialized Santa Claus. The site's in German, but you can easily run it through a web translator and get an approximation of their message.
The Establishment "Claus" : A Selective Guide to the Supreme Court's Christmas Cases A "lighthearted guide to the literature concerning the Supreme Court’s analysis of the Establishment Clause as it relates to the Christmas holiday."
December 23, 2002
Linking Liability The article discusses the legal risks and proposes statutory immunity for linking. Currently, an individual could be subject to legal claims such as libel, invasion of privacy, or trademark or copyright infringement - just for providing a link.
Don't Link to Us! This blog by David E. Sorkin, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, provides "links to sites that attempt to impose substantial restrictions on other sites that link to them." Public ridicule of stupid linking policies - what a great idea.
Don't Read Us According to its description, the Office of International Information Programs (IIP):
"is the principal international strategic communications service for the foreign affairs community. IIP designs, develops, and implements a variety of information initiatives and strategic communications programs, including Internet and print publications, traveling and electronically transmitted speaker programs, and information resource services. These reach--and are created strictly for--key international audiences, such as the media, government officials, opinion leaders, and the general public in more than 140 countries around the world." [Emphasis added]The Office, part of the Department of State, provides a list and links for its publications. Its aims for cultural diplomacy include Writers on America, a recent collection of essays by contemporary writers, including four Pulitzer Prize winners, who explain how some aspect of America or being an American has influenced their writing. But don't read them - they're not for consumption by an American audience.
October 31, 2002
An article about a company essentially using its patents to squeeze money out of small e-commerce sites. Only a matter of time before they try to go after a big site like Amazon.com - but maybe they won't, because the patents might actually get challenged in court and thrown out. In the meantime, smaller companies who can't afford the litigation are being strongarmed into paying "license" fees or making settlements. Check out You May Be Next, an advocacy site which explains the details of this horrendous abuse of intellectual property rights.
This calls to mind the BT case, which involved BT suing over its patent for hyperlinks, and demanding licensing fees from ISPs (which would have certainly passed the cost down to consumers).
September 19, 2002
How about not watching?
> There's an article in today's Wall Street Journal about businesses like CleanFlicks and Trilogy Studios, who are out to sanitize movies for the prudes of America. It's fair use, I suppose, if you want to bowdlerize your own copy of Traffic for yourself or your kids (although why would you let your kids watch it if you feel it's inappropriate?), but to profit by stripping movies of their objectionable content and distributing them for sale or for rental to fellow small-minded people - hey, that's a violation of copyright, not to mention an act of censorship. One guy in the article justifies this activity by saying it's about "choice" and that "this is America." There are American laws protecting such rights - you don't have a choice of violating copyright for non-expressive purposes (i.e., parody). You can choose to view a film, as presented in final form, or not. (Hell, fast-forward for all I care.) You can wait for the sanctioned version to come out on television, but that's about all the choice you have without infringing on the rights of others to present their work as they choose.
I don't understand why people think there's a difference between splicing up a film and banning a book from a library. It's like literally ripping out pages, or blacking out lines of text. Is that really the American way?