opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, June 08, 2002
get britney an eyepatch and a parrot?
Is Britney Spears a pirate? A couple of Philadelphia songwriters have made that claim, and were planning on submitting a civil suit to federal court in Philadelphia on Friday. A song they wrote and copyrighted in 1999 called "What You See Is What You Get" was submitted, with the approval of the philly pair, by Britney's agent to her producers in 1998. While they were told that she wouldn't use the song, a tune called "What U See Is What U Get," and another song on the "Opps, I Did It Again" album has the duo convinced that they were pirated. Having recently experienced long lines in front of the Daniel Herrmann Courthouse in Wilmington for the Hewlett v. Hewlett-Packard trial, I can only begin to imagine the size of the crowd lining up in Philadelphia if this case goes to trial.
broken atm machine
The Bank of Taiwan had a slight problem with an ATM machine last week. It would dispense large sums of money on its own, for no apparent reason. The machine was shut down last week when police noticed a pile of cash in front of it during a routine check of the area, and reported the problem to the bank. Videotape captured images of at least two beneficiaries of the machine's generousity during the time it was malfunctioning, and a bank vice president told the press that keeping the money is against the law.
st. anthony's italian festival begins tomorrow
A tradition, started in 1925 in Wilmington, of honoring St. Anthony of Padua with a parade has turned into an eight day long festival that has seen over 300,000 visitors each of the last few years. The web site of Wilmington's Little Italy calls it the biggest and most widely attended church festival anywhere. The times and days are: June 9 through June 16, 2002, weekends, 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 5:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m. You don't have to be an Italian, or a Catholic to attend, but it helps if you like Italian food and music. There are rides for the children, games of chance, beer and wine, and many bands.
wye oak suggestions solicited
The nation's largest white oak fell in a thunderstorm on Thursday. The tree had become one of Maryland's most treasured symbols, having survived for over 460 years. The State of Maryland is asking for suggestions on what should be done with the nearly 200 tons of lumber from the Wye Oak. In 1953, a large branch was blown off the tree during a storm, and it was carved into gavels for state judges. An effort is being made to try to clone the tree to preserve it for future generations.
metachem cleanup public meeting
An ad from today's Wilmington News Journal:
You are invited to a public meeting to discuss the cleanup of Metachem Products, LLC
[Why do these meetings all have to be on the same day at the same time? See below.]
election districts public meetings
An ad from today's Wilmington News Journal:
The Department of Elections for New Castle County will hold public meetings on the newly configured Election Districts resulting from the 2000 Census reapportionment. Interested parties may provide written comments and/or questions at these meetings. Individuals will be limited to five minutes and group representatives will be limited to eight minutes. Meetings will be held at 7 PM on Thursday, June 13, 2002 at the following locations:
Friday, June 07, 2002
The Columbia Journalism Review posted an online report a couple of months back called The FOIA Fight. The essay describes the importance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to newspapers, and how information that was once available under FOIA is becoming harder to attain since September 11th. One source of increased limits under the Act is probably the result of a memo issued by John Ashcroft in October that rephrased federal government FOIA policies. States appear to be following the federal example in seeking greater secrecy. Journalists at a March conference in Philadelphia reported that more and more FOIA requests are being refused, and that a number of the refusals involved subjects which they wouldn't expect to be denied, even with heightened concerns regarding terrorism.
In Florida, the papers joined together to take a stand on a day nicknamed "Sunshine Sunday." Twenty-five Florida newspapers published editorials on the topic that day, and ran a number of additional stories on the subject. Taking it even one step further, the Orlando Sentinel also placed a small sun logo at the top of each story that benefited from use of the FOIA. It would be great if newspapers from other states would consider something similar.
interview with denise howell
Denise Howell, the writer of one of my favorite legal web logs (or blawgs, as she calls them) is the subject of a somewhat offbeat, but very entertaining email interview on the pages of A Public Space for Self Expression. You can get a daily dose of her words and wit at her blawg - Bag and Baggage.
redefining fatherhood in california
The California Supreme Court made a precedent setting decision yesterday involving family law and custodian rights. In a dispute over parental rights, the Court ruled that a man who is not a child's biological father can be granted custody rights even if the mother objects.
when trademarks become generic
Wired Magazine's article on Sony's Walkman, and how a trademark name can pass into common usage is interesting reading. A court in Austria has ruled that "walkman" now means any portable stereo player, especially after a German dictionary defined it as such. The ruling doesn't apply to the use of the name in the US, where Sony's trademark prevents competitors from using "walkman" to describe their portable stereos.
jerry falwell parodies triumph in arbitration
Jerry Falwell is the subject of a couple of websites that he would prefer that you didn't see. The sites use his name in their domain name on the web, and poke fun at him. His lawyers sent cease and desist letters to the web master of www.jerryfalwell.com asking that the name stopped being used. The site continued, so he brought an arbitration action against the owner, claiming that he had a common law trademark in his name. Members of the World Intellectual Property Organization, acting as arbitrators, denied the complaint:
The complainant has failed to show that his name, well known as it is, has been used in a trademark sense as a label of particular goods or services. There are many well-known ministers, religious figures and academics. Are their sermons or lectures to be considered commercial goods?"The ruling also applies to another site about the Reverend, www.jerryfallwell.com.
[For more on parody web sites, see the excellent Findlaw Writ article: The Law and Politics of Internet Activism: The Yes Men, Peta, Rtmark, And The Phenomenon Of Parody Websites. ]
Thursday, June 06, 2002
iranian streaming movie site shut down
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has acted to shut down a service that was allowing people to "rent" videos online for between $1.00 to $1.50 each. The site was based in Iran, which doesn't recognize U.S. Copyright law. Their servers, however, were in the Netherlands, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) hosting the site shut it down in response to a letter sent by the Association.
amish lose battle over triangles
Twenty members of an Amish sect were each fined $95.00 for failing to display orange triangles on their buggies when traveling on public roadways. The judge in the case held that the state had an overwhelming interest in public safety that outweighed the religious objection to the plastic symbols. The group had stated a couple of weeks ago that they would go into exile to Ohio if they lost their case, rather than displaying the symbols. The law firm representing the Amish community is working with Pennsylvania legislators to try to come up with an alternative solution, by allowing them to use gray reflective tape, and red laterns instead of the caution signs currently required.
replay tv customers bring suit
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing five customers of Sonicblue's ReplayTV in a suit brought in a federal district court in California.
"These Hollywood guys want to stop me from using my digital video recorder like I use my VCR, like for watching shows when I want or zipping through commercials," explained Craig Newmark, craigslist.com community founder, ReplayTV user, and plaintiff in the case. "I want to give my nephews and nieces a break from the rampant consumerism on TV by using ReplayTV's commercial skipping feature."This replayTV seems like a great technology. The arguments being brought by the recording industry sound very much like the ones from almost twenty years ago when the VCR allowed people to record shows to watch at convenient times, and enabled them to skip over commercials. The suit is being brought in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which is the same venue where a case brought by media groups against Sonicblue is being held. The possibility exists that the consumer case could be joined with the media case against Sonicblue.
norway museum invites hackers
The Museum has an electronic archives protected by a password. Unfortunately, the person who knew the password died without revealing it to anyone. The Museum asked for assistance on national radio asking for assistance from anyone who might be able to help them crack the password. (via camworld)
[Enough responses have been pouring in to allow the museum's curator to pick and choose amongst the volunteers offering their assistance. And, Wired Magazine has a followup to this story, where the discussion switches to what a person could do to avoid the type of situation that happened at Norway's National Center of Language and Culture]
australian spam suit hits snag
I recently wrote about a company that is suing someone who complained about receiving spam from them. That Australian company, which had its internet addresses blacklisted and blocked possibly because of the spam complaint, has run into another problem. A Christian education centre claims that the addresses in question were theirs, and that the company which filed the suit was using the addresses without permission. Part of the claim of losses named in the suit was the expense of replacing the blocked addresses.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
The UK's Guardian Unlimited reported earlier today that a proposal to photograph, fingerprint, and collect detailed information from visitors to the United States is being considered by the Bush Administration. People seeking to enter the United States to live in the country are presently required to submit that type of information but visitors usually aren't. Attorney General Ashcroft's prepared statement on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System was released today.
There are teachers who make a difference. The Baltimore Sun's Sunspot.net is showcasing outstanding college instructors in an occasional and ongoing series. F. Michael Higginbotham teaches at University of Baltimore's School of Law, and is the focus of their latest article in this series. Just hearing about the type of presentation he makes in his class on Race Law makes me want to attend one of his classes. I've been blessed to have more than a couple of teachers who reached out and tried to make a difference, and I've had the chance to thank some of them. Sometimes you don't realize how much an influence a teacher has had until it's too late to do that.
roadless rule to become law?
A policy involving the National Forests that was born under Bill Clinton's presidency, may find it's way into becoming a law under George Bush. This policy is recognized as a "shift in focus of the U.S. Forest Service from extracting resources from the national forests to managing those lands for broader benefits, including environmental and recreational values."
One aspect of that policy was a moratorium on new roads being built in the 58 million acres of National Forests. There were a couple of reasons for this "roadless rule." One was that the U.S. Forest Service can't afford the upkeep on the roads which they are presently responsible for maintaining. Adding roads would provide an additional burden. Another was that it limited development in areas where roads weren't built. There's been some concern that a new set of policies is being crafted in Washington that would allow greater incursions into undeveloped areas. However, quite a few sponsors are working to turn the present policy into law before that happens.
hollywood's nightmare, broadcasting out of iran
It's an interesting problem that Hollywood finds itself faced with. A business that offers streaming movies on its website for a nominal charge has set up shop in a country that doesn't recognize U.S. Copyright laws. It appears that the owner of the business is willing to negotiate and pay copyright owners a percentage of the profits from the "renting" of the movies they show.
delaware a national leader
Sometimes it's not a good thing to lead the nation. Especially when pound-for-pound, Delaware ranks right up at the top in leading the country in the flow of toxic chemicals into the environment. While many Delawareans watched quietly as the State received national press attention over its clean indoor air act a couple of weeks ago, most of us were aware that the State had a long way to go towards actually moving in the right direction when it came to pollution. A couple of bills were announced Tuesday that are closer to target.
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
malpractice award limits?
The Delaware State Legislature is looking at a proposal to limit awards given by juries in medical malpractice cases. The cap would be $250,000 for non-economic damages such as "pain and suffering." Lost wages, the cost of medical care, and punitive damages would not be affected. The incentive behind such a move? To attract more insurance companies to provide medical malpractice insurance in Delaware. Chances are that this proposal comes too late in the legislative year to be acted upon by the Delaware Legislature, but it is stirring up a good deal of debate amongst legislators, and strong commentary from legal groups.
For all of the CSI fans out there, there are a good number of web sites that cover the subject of crime scene investigations and science used in uncovering clues about crimes. Crime and Clues has collected a large number of articles on subjects such as crime scene investigations, physical evidence, death investigations, and others. An example of one article that they link to is a comprehensive description of the Collection and Preservation of Evidence. They also link to a number of other sites on related topics, such as criminal profiling, and forensic art.
recording artists rights
A couple of years ago, Courtney Love sent a letter out to other musicians about the state of the relationship between recording artists and record labels. Two examples that she used in the letter, of artists who were earning very little even though their records were selling very well were Toni Braxton, and the band TLC. A number of west coast recording artists joined together in the last few years to form a group called the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), which allows them to share resources and information in their legal struggles against the recording industry.
Very few black musicians have become involved in the efforts of the RAC. A Village Voice article entitled Hip-Hop and R&B Artists MIA in Music Industry Struggle: Blacked Out, describes some of the reasons why.
u.s. patent and trademark office to go electronic
Approximately 2% to 3% of all patent applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are filed electronically. The Office would like to increase those numbers drastically, and speed up the amount of time it takes to handle the patent and trademark processes. The solution they've arrived at is to develop an e-filing system using commerical off-the-shelf software, and to consult with patent offices in Europe and Japan which have already made the transition.
ExitExchange is a company that specializes in ad technology on the web. They had a patent application published last week by the U.S. Patent Office for pop-under advertisements:
The filing broadly covers any systematic delivery of a window launched after another, including those on devices such as cell phones. If its application is approved, ExitExchange will have rights to collect royalties on the use of pop-under ads.Some potentially affected groups include Yahoo, Doubleclick, the New York Times, X10, Orbitz, and many others who use that type of advertising.
A class action suit may be brewing against internet search engine directory LookSmart. The suit involves how the directory sells some of its commercial listings. Thousands of companies had paid a one time fee to be listed in the directory, and LookSmart recently switched those businesses into a pay-per-click type of listing. One of the companies affected by the change was a legal staffing service, and it appears that they've recruited a large California law firm, with considerable class action experience, and a wealth of intellectual property knowledge and internet savvy to represent them.(via Cre8asite - a Yahoo group focusing upon website promotion, search engine optimization, and usability)
Monday, June 03, 2002
academic common market
I first learned about the Academic Common Market (ACM) when a neighbor's daughter wanted to go away to another state to study at a college that offered a major in Equestrian Science. The University of Delaware doesn't have a program in that field. But the ACM offered her an opportunity to afford to go to another school. The program allows people to pay in-state tuition rates for schools in participating states that offer programs not available in their own state. Delaware is one of 16 member states in the Market, which provides a win-win situation for students and schools. Students are able to pursue a course of study that they are interested in, even if it isn't offered locally. Schools are able to offer programs that might not be attractive to a large number of students otherwise.
Sixteen states, including Delaware, are part of the Academic Common Market. The others are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.Delaware joined the ACM in 1998, and more information about it can be found on the pages of the Delaware Higher Education Commission, including participating colleges, and the ability to search for a program (see the links at the bottom of their page).
a cell phone and a stolen car
A Chicago web developer used his cell phone, and some help from a friend who is a sales representative from Sprint, to locate his stolen car by looking up calls made from the phone, and using an online reverse phone number lookup to find the addresses of those phone calls. The phone had been left in the car, and the person who took the vehicle used the phone to made a few calls, which helped lead to his being found.
nissan vs. nissan
A battle over the rights to use the name Nissan as part of a web address has pitted the automobile manufacturer against a businessman who was born with the name. Uzi Nissan would like to continue using his name in his web address. A grass roots effort to help him has included a site that allows people to enter their comments in a form, and those are forwarded to a number of media figures. One of the media figures responds to the email he has received on the subject, in an article called Nissan vs. Nissan.
Sunday, June 02, 2002
would competition improve service by internet authority?
Critics of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have signed and sent a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Nancy Victory, asking that the services ICANN provides be opened up to competition for the right to administrate those services. The agreement for ICANN to run the domain name address system expires in September, and the Commerce Department has the right to renegotiate, drop the agreement, or continue it. The letter comes at a time when ICANN is reviewing their own internal structure, and considering changes to the ways in which they operate.
random drug testing in schools?
The Guardian Unlimited is predicting that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the next few days on the issue of random drug testing for U.S. pupils in public schools. They prognosticate that the Court will hold in favor of a school that allowed for random drug testing of all students who were involved in any after extra-curricular school activities in an Oklahoma school. In the past, only students who were involved in athletic activities were subject to random drug testing. The implications of such a decision are widespread, but I agree with a quote in the Guardian article that there may be no better way to alienate an entire generation than to treat them as if they were guilty until proven innocent. Yes, children and drugs shouldn't mix. But, should they be subject to random drug testing at the whim of a school administrator? Does the fourth amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures not apply to children? When the Court allowed random drug testing for students involved in school athletics, they cited a concern that children who might be engaged in sports while under the influence of drugs could pose health risks. The same can't be said for the debate society, or the math club. How should the Court rule?
protest ban lifted at capitol
The public sidewalks outside of the entrances to the House of Representatives and the Senate, in Washington, DC, have had a ban on protests enforced by Capitol police for the last 30 years. On Friday, an appellate three-judge panel lifted the ban:
No site is more attractive to protesters than the sidewalk and steps that lead to the entrances of the House and Senate chambers, where members of Congress, their staffs, lobbyists and tourists pass each day. But protesters have been banned from passing out leaflets there, holding signs or staging vocal demonstrations. They have been allowed to wear expressive T-shirts or buttons.Peaceful demonstrations are an important part of a democracy, expecially at the site where most federal laws are made.
cartoon copyright dispute
One of the biggest selling bands for record label EMI is a cartoon. Last year, the band Gorillaz sold over 4 million records. The artists who designed the group's visual appearance have had a falling out, and are fighting over copyright ownership to the images they created. No news about the dispute from the official Gorillaz fan site.
separation day celebration
In 1651, it began as a Dutch fort. A city was set up at the site in 1655. Yesterday, Delaware celebrated Separation Day in the historic town of New Castle. It's a holiday that officially began in 1976, when the nation celebrated its centennial. Delaware has continued the celebration at New Castle, which was its continential capitol. (The capitol was moved further inland after the kidnapping of the governor of the state.) Delaware was one of the first colonies to declare its independence from England, on June 15th, 1776.
The town celebrated its 350th birthday in October, last year, and has a rich history as the oldest surviving town in the Delaware Valley.