opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, September 07, 2002
ebay takes on e-gray?
Chances are that you've been to ebay's web site. It's a popular destination on the net. Now, if you're involved in producting that site, how would you feel upon visiting e-gray? Apparently, the people at ebay don't know what to do.
paypal's arbitration system
On August 30th, a federal Judge in San Jose took a look at Paypal's terms for arbitration, and allowed a class action suit to go forward against the company.
A ruling on that date overturned the requirement that disputes involving paypal must be determined in "private, binding arbitration in Santa Clara County, rather than suing in court." Considering that the cost of the arbitration fees, and of travel to Santa Clara County is probably more than most amounts in dispute, that seems like a reasonable decision on its face.
Friday, September 06, 2002
what is "doing business in delaware "?
We are asked this question 20 times a day, by persons and entities who have or want Delaware corporations. We finally have an answer...or rather...some questions to ask in response. The State of Delaware has produced a questionaire that the State will use to determine whether an entity has a nexus with Delaware for the purposes of Title 30 of Delaware Corporate Law. I am including it here in its entirety because I find it to be very useful. If we can't have a clear answer, knowing the questions that the State will ask gives us good insight into the process. Happy Nexus.
- change - The form was soooo long that we decided to link it to a page, rather than to display it here.
Delaware Nexus Questionnaire
in rem domain name actions
OK, so maybe you're a citizen of someplace outside of the United States, and live somewhere other than the States. You decide that you would like to start up a web site, and choose to register a name that has the letters "com" at the end. The site is hosted outside of the United States, or at least, outside of Virginia. (Why do I mention Virginia? I'll get to that very shortly.) You build your site, and everything is going along just fine. And then a notification comes that a suit has been filed in a Virginia Court against your domain name, for cybersquatting, or trademark infringement. As far as you know, you have no contact with Virginia. But your domain name does. That's where it is registered. And the suit has been brought against your domain name. In the US, domain names have been treated as a piece of property with a physical existence at the place of registration:
The court decisions affirming this principle were Porsche Cars v Porsche.net and others (pdf), and Harrods Limited v Sixty Internet Domain Names (pdf). You may be wondering how it is that the Plaintiffs appear to be suing domain names rather than people or companies. In an odd twist, strange at least to most non-lawyers, US law says that a domain name is a piece of property that can be sued in its own right. This is called an in rem action (Latin for 'against the thing' as opposed to in personam or 'against the person'). The consequence of this peculiar state of affairs is that all of those registrants who have a .com domain name but live outside Virginia are viewed as absentee owners of property situated there. If you injure someone by virtue of that property (we're talking trademark disputes here) then Virginia's courts will take the case.Yes, in Virginia. (links to opinions via Howard Bashman's amazing blog How Appealing)
right to bail and presumption of innocence
Delaware has a new bail law that went into effect in June. If a person is arrested and charged with a violent felony other than capital murder, they have a right to a reasonable bail. There's also a presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty.
If that person is then charged with another violent felony offense, and arrested, under the new law they are required to be held without bail, and the bail posted for the first offense is eligible to be forfeited. Previously, the only time bail was forfeited in Delaware was if a defendant failed to show up for court. It seems that the re-arrest may also have the effect of removing that presumption of innocence. Does the statute in effect take away the constitutional right to have bail set? The intent behind the law was to remove repeat offenders from the streets. But shouldn't judges be making the decision in the courtroom as to the amount of bail to be posted on a new offense when another charge or set of charges is still pending?
Most of the time, family members or friends of people being held on charges will go to a bailbondsman, and provide them with collateral in exchange for a bond to be posted with the court. This new law has the bailbonds companies reconsidering the idea of providing bonds in a number of cases:
Critics, including bail bond companies and civil rights activists, said the new law is unconstitutional, will make it tougher for many people to get bail and could result in more crowding in Delaware prisons. The new law also could mean families posting bail for defendants who are re-arrested would lose their homes or go deeply in debt, they said.Please note that the article provides quotes from Delaware's Chief Public Defender Lawrence M. Sullivan, who should not be confused with Delaware Law Office's Larry D. Sullivan.
Thursday, September 05, 2002
An eviction notice was recently pinned on the home of a couple in San Mateo County, California. They've lived there for the last twelve years. Last week, police came up to their tree, and stapled an eviction notice to it. Yes, their tree. They live in a tree. If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, I have a feeling that he would be tempted to move into the oak tree next door.
copyright study donation
Duke University's Law School has received an anonymous gift of one million dollars, which they will use to build a center studying the expansion of copyright and intellectual propety protection and try to find ways to curtail it. The gift will be officially announced at a conference in Washington, DC, tommorrow.
I fought the law...
You've probably heard about the blocked sale of Napster by a Bankruptcy Court Judge in Delaware. The file sharing service did, at one time, threaten to change the face of the internet. Its web site now holds only a good bye message to all who visit:
Napster's story is perhaps best described by the most popular downloads on its last full day of operation. The songs included Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Send Lawyers, Guns and Money by Warren Zevon, and I Fought the Law (And the Law Won) by The Clash.Another file sharing service also found itself on the downside of fortune today, as Madster, aka Aimster, will have an injunction issued against them to cease any illegal file sharing activities. It's a bit of a hollow victory for the recording industry in that the company had declared bankruptcy in March, and most of its users had already migrated to other services.
Tuesday, September 03, 2002
china, my china
On Monday, news was released that China was blocking the use of Google by its residents. Today, we learned a litle bit about Google's efforts to have that ban removed.
How was this practice discovered? It appears that researchers at Harvard Law School came up with a Real Time Test of Internet Filtering in China as part of a documentation of filtering world wide. I'm happy to say that the Delaware Law Office is still accessible in China. You can visit the Harvard site and test other pages if you like.
We had written about their report on filtering in Saudi Arabia a while back. Another group, called Reporters without Borders is also conducting research on internet filtering across the globe.
ps. Remember how important it used to be to have your web site listed with Altavista? Well, it looks as though they've been blocked by China also.
The Wilmington News Journal has a nice spread on the New Castle County Court House today, including a photo gallery. Some proceedings were put on hold while courts moved into the buidling during the past few weeks. As of today, it was business as usual.
greece not playing games
There's a new law in Greece, and it has people who play games a little worried. Actually, it has them threatened with fines and jail time:
The Greek government has banned all electronic games across the country, including those that run on home computers, on Game Boy-style portable consoles, and on mobile phones. Thousands of tourists in Greece are unknowingly facing heavy fines or long terms in prison for owning mobile phones or portable video games.The law is an attempt to prevent illegal gambling. Has it been used against people with handheld portable games? It's impossible to tell from the article, though they write that people have been "fined tens of thousands of dollars for playing or owning games."
will the wolf survive?
The federal government has been spending considerable efforts and resources to help reintroduce the the gray wolf (warning -- audio of wolf howl upon visiting the page) to the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Program. ABC has a story about how ranchers are coping with sharing leased federal land with these predators. (image via the Fish and Wildlife Service National Image Library)
Monday, September 02, 2002
picture taking in wilmington
We've written a little bit here about the people who were having their pictures taken by the police at certain street corners in Wilmington. Many people expressed outrage that the police would photograph people who weren't being arrested, possibly to intimidate them some time in the future. I've had a few people ask me what the people in the neighborhoods in Wilmington might think about the police activities there. Norman Lockman presents the answer to that question in an editorial entitled Neighbors don't object to drug sweep.
In thirteen states, it is now possible to send your child to school online. While these schools seem to be growing in popularity, they are attracting law suits, in addition to students. In Pennsylvania, a suit has been filed by 32 school districts to deny state funds to one cyber-chartered school. The Pennsylvania School Board Association is also involved in a suit against such online schools. They have a white paper about the subject, and a copy of their class action complaint online, as well as links to other cyber school litigation.
online subscription music services
I think that this article on online subscription music services hits the nail on the head when they describe what people want to see out of such a service: Compelling and innovative features that make the experience of visiting exciting and unique. The trick isn't just to make music available online, it's to make people want to return on a regular basis. There are many features such a service could use that could make such a visit worth making.
enforcing cyberstalking laws
All but six states have added laws making stalking online a crime. Yet, these laws haven't had the opportunity to be enforced, even though the activity they were meant to protect against has been happening. In Illinois this week, one of the first trials for cyberstalking will take place.
congress in new york
This week, Congress will meet at Federal Hall in Manhattan. It's the first time the body has met in New York City in 202 years. CBSnews.com has an article which focuses on what transpired during their last visit to the Big Apple, called Congress Returns To Its Roots.
If you find your curiosity piqued by their reports of that time, when the United States was still in its infancy, the Library of Congress has a wealth of materials from that time period, including the Journal of William Maclay mentioned in the CBS article. The Journal is very readable:
The very principles which actuated Dr. Rush and myself when we puffed John Adams in the papers and brought him forward for Vice-President will probably make him President. We knew his vanity, and hoped by laying hold of it to render him useful among the New England men in our scheme of bringing Congress to Pennsylvania. But his pride, obstinacy, and folly are equal to his vanity, and, although it is a common observation that fools are the tools of knaves--and I am certain weak men are often brought forward with such views--yet John Adams has served to illustrate two points at least with me, viz., that a fool is the most unmanageable of all brutes, and that flattery is the most irksome of all service.It's great that we have records of that time period like this one. MaClay's Journal gives a fascinating look at the time and the people involved in the early days of Congress.
baseball fans to cease and desist
For a while, I was happy that the baseball season didn't end prematurely with a strike. Then I had to go and read an article on the SportingNews site about cease and desist letters that went out from Major League Baseball to four fan web sites. From the article, it's impossible to tell if the sites were operating in a for-profit manner. But they do mention the following statement from the NFL which they seem to indicate ("the NFL takes a less agressive approach.") is a departure from the MLB practice:
"To the extent that it's purely a non-commercial site devoted to commentary about the team, we're supportive and happy that fans are excited about our sport," says Paula Guibault, NFL senior counsel. "It's not an issue for us."So, what exactly went into those cease-and desist letters? Chilling Effects reproduces the letter that went out to the owner of astrosdaily.com. The letter was sent in the beginning of July, and it looks as though a number of disclaimers may have been added to the page since then.
The effects of the MLB cease and desist letter to the metsonline.net web site are a bit more bitter sweet. The site has ceased publishing baseball related material rather than face off in a legal battle against the major leagues. Details of the letter, and the site administrator's reaction are still available on the site. On the positive side, the journalism student who ran the site has been called up to the big leagues himself, and is now writing stories about the Mets for Fox Sports (more here.) Big Baseball may not have read the email reactions from fans of the site, but it looks as though someone at Fox did.
Another letter recipient covering the New York Yankees reported in his site's forum that he had come to a resolution with MLB where he would change his domain name from bronx-bombers.com to something else. The site has re-emerged at bronxbombersfans.com.
The USA Today article, where I learned of the name change, indicates that letters went out to 22 fan sites. I understand the need to protect copyrights and trademarks, but it's getting awfully difficult for baseball fans to remain fans, especially ones who love the sport enough to build fan sites.
Sunday, September 01, 2002
marketers targeting students?
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has picked up on a lawsuit brought by New York's Attorney General against a marketing firm which collected information from teachers and students through a non-profit subsidiary. The organization claimed it was providing the information to "universities and colleges nationwide for financial aid and student scholarship foundations." It may have been sending that information to such institutions. But, New York's AG also believes that the data was being sold to retailers, and others through the parent company's web site. (I don't know where they are getting their information for preshoolers, but take a look at the types of information they claim they can provide for very young students.)
EPIC has more information about this topic on their page about Privacy and Consumer Profiling -- scroll about halfway down the page.