opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, September 21, 2002
larry lessig, mickey mouse, snow white, and copyright extension
Yesterday, I had a chance to visit the Wired web site, and read Lawrence Lessig's Supreme Showdown. It's a long but very informative look at the background of the law professor. Larry Lessig is a key figure in what may become a landmark Supreme Court case. I'm not sure how much insight into the case we are going to get from his Lessig Blog, but I'll be visiting there regularly to see what thoughts he may have during the case.
The case? That would be Eldred v. Ashcroft. What's at stake in this case? How might the high profile argument about copyright extension that it focuses upon affect our lives?
If the law's challengers succeed, many of the oldest creative images in the United States will suddenly become part of the public domain. Films such as "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind" would no longer be subject to copyright protection.You may have seen references to Disney in articles about copyright extension, or the law referred to as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. Disney does have a great amount to lose if this copyright extension law is knocked down. But, if that happens, who wins? Well, the simple answer is to point to you the plaintiffs and lawyers listed on the Eldred web site.
But, the real winners are the people who could benefit from having the works in the public domain. That would be you and I. Whether we take these previous artistic efforts, and incorporate them into our own works, or just share them freely with others and discuss them. I wanted to post a Robert Frost poem on a web page, a little over a week ago. It expressed my thoughts that day, perhaps better than I could do at the time. I ended up quoting one line and linking to the poem. Somehow, I think that Frost would have liked if I reprinted his poem, and shared it with others, and discussed what it meant to me.
But, it also goes beyond web publishers being able to post older works on the net. One of the plaintiffs is a music publishing company. Just what does the copyright extension mean to music publishers, performers in schools, orchestras, and church choirs? An article subtitled They probably won't call it Luck vs. Mickey Mouse, takes a look at the case from the perspective of this plaintiff (Luck's Music Library).
The opening line to a Los Angeles Daily News article asks "Will Mickey Mouse become a free agent?". I'm hoping that he does. Maybe Snow White can join him, before they make her do too many Kung Fu movies.
Friday, September 20, 2002
inquiry regarding contingency fees
This afternoon, a person inquired as to general information regarding contingency fees. I am posting the question and response here, as I felt that it might be helpful to others:
Inquiry: Is it a regular practice for the client to be charged 40% for recovery made after filing suit? It seems high to me?.
Fee arrangements can vary greatly from state to state, city to city, and case by case. Some factors to consider when considering a fee structure are:
The experience of the attorney (both in years and in the subject matter);
The complexity of the case;
The novelty of the legal issues;
The urgency of the case;
The prevailing attorney fee rate in the community;
The amount of attorney time that will be needed;
The amount of staff time that will be needed;
Whether the attorney will be advancing costs, or not;
The attorney?s evaluation as to the likelihood that the case will succeed;
The likelihood of appeal (or whether a different fee rider is added for appeals).
When we weigh these factors for any given case you may find that 40% is just right, or even that 25% is too high, or 50% is too low. Only other attorneys within that jurisdiction and area of practice can give you a valid appraisal of the appropriateness of a fee arrangement for a particular case.
I usually suggest to prospective clients that they confer with several attorneys on any given matter, to search for the attorney and firm with which they can feel confident. For a number of other factors to consider, you may want to look at the seventeen pages on my law office site that deal specifically with information about how to shop for and hire an attorney (if you haven?t already).
jurisdiction over the internet
Can information posted on a web site in one state cause the person who posted it to be answerable for that information in a court in another state? Does it matter whether or not the person had some knowledge or intent that their information would affect someone in that other state? Denise Howell, of Bag and Baggage has published a very interesting look at a California case that is examining different aspects of that question. The article, Ready, Aim, Defend: Pavlovich v. Superior Court Nears The Finish, is about a California case that has the potential to make the issue of jurisdiction on the web more confusing than it has been in the past:
Unless the California Supreme Court reverses the decision now before it (formerly reported at 91 Cal. App. 4th 409; PDF), the question of California jurisdiction over tort claims against Web publishers no longer may be limited by considerations of the defendant's knowledge or intent. Instead, it may turn partly on amorphous concepts like "industry presence," and partly on the misapplication of spatial metaphors to the non-spatial network that is the Web.If you publish anything on the web, the decision of the California Supreme Court may be something you might want to read when it is released.
interview with david sorkin
You may have seen David Sorkin's Spam Laws page, or his page on stupid linking policies called Don't Link to Us. David Sorkin is a professor at John Marshall Law School, and was one of the first to offer classes on cyberlaw. A News.com interview with him, A cybersage speaks his mind, is a frank and compelling look at his thoughts concerning new laws evolving concerning the internet, and why he dislikes them.
swedish population problem
Sweden has a population problem, and a politician running for Parliment has a solution. I was looking for something in the article indicating that this was a joke of some kind. Maybe it was lost in the translation into english. (link via metafilter)
Thursday, September 19, 2002
jurors' questionnaires and the first amendment
A controversy before the Ohio Supreme Court involves jurors' questionnaires and the identity of those jurors. A mistrial was declared when the jury foreman informed the judge that one of the jurors supported the verdict only because "he was in a hurry to leave." The trial involved charges of rape and murder, and has not yet been retried. A local newspaper asked for the names of the jurors, and the questionnaires. The Court ruled that they could have the questionnaires, but not the identities of the jurors. Does the public have the right to know? Are the questionnaires public documents? Will disclosure hinder the accused's right to a fair trial in the future? Or the rights of other defendant's in the future? Should jurors' identities be withheld from the public?
an information commons
CBS News is reporting on an initiative that sounds promising in Building A Green Space In Cyberspace. The author of the CBS piece, Larry Magid, explains the motivations of an organization called Digital Promise, and the scope of the project that they are working towards:
The proposal is designed to do for learning what the National Science Foundation did for science. The group wants to "digitize the cultural DNA of our society" so the types of materials that are now housed in universities, libraries and museums can be made available for the enrichment and education of all.Digital Promise expands upon the information provided by Larry Magrid on their page entitled The Potential, and in a white paper on that page. I haven't had the opportunity to read through the whole white paper yet, but this does sound like it has the potential to be a very positive effort.
religious tolerance vs. religious liberty
A novelist is on trial in France for telling a reporter, "The dumbest religion, after all, is Islam." Michel Houellebecq faces a potential sentence of up to a year in prison. The first article I linked to in this post examines this situation while distinquishing between religious tolerance, and religious liberty. Another article frames it a battle between human rights supporters and those who believe in free speech.
Certainly, we should be tolerant of others. But, we should also have the freedom to talk about religion, to "preach, to criticize and to seek to influence or convert." Freedom of religious expression may result in someone making a statement like Houellebecq's above. I don't agree with his opinion. But, I firmly don't believe that he should be imprisoned for making the statement.
Wednesday, September 18, 2002
less federal government is better federal government
I was pleased to locate on Ernie the Attorney's blog, a CNN article relating to the U.S. Government backing off on federally mandated internet security issues. Good! Let's work on trimming down our federal government, and shaping it up, rather than expanding its morbid obesity.
bon jovi fights piracy
I know that a lot of people have been searching for signs of intelligence amongst the recording industry.
The best way to fight piracy is to:
I think that the plan from Island Records is a good one. Here's a portion of the press release from their web site:
Bon Jovi felt compelled with the release of Bounce to again give back to their fans and reward them for going out and purchasing the album. In addition, they wanted to address the decline in album sales which is growing increasingly more prevalent due to piracy and file sharing. The belief is that added value benefits offered through "American XS" will give Bon Jovi fans incentive to go out and get the new album legitimately. The "American XS" serialization is a benchmark offer, introducing the concept of the 'living album', giving fans a real, on-going relationship with the artist. It's a win-win situation for the consumer and the music industry - the consumer gets real value for the purchase price and the industry benefits by having consumers in record stores.I also think that these guys are just brushing the surface of what could be included with a non-pirated copy of a CD. Hopefully, this move by Bon Jovi and Island Records will inspire some creativity amongst other record labels. (link to Bon Jovi's American XS page via slashdot, which has some interesting comments worth reading on the subject.)
Tuesday, September 17, 2002
superglue against digital copying
Prelease versions of a couple of CDs sent to reviewers by Epic Records used a creative approach to try to combat piracy. The CDs shipped inside of Sony Walkman's that had been superglued shut. Headphones were also superglued into place, to prevent them from being replaced by connections to recording devices attached to the Walkmans. Advance copies of CDs are the likely source of songs from a few albums that have appeared on file trading services before the albums were actually released.
Monday, September 16, 2002
spraying windex in a mud fight
I thank Alice for bringing to my attention a recent article about the bad rap we attorneys are receiving. It is time to set the record straight. Most attorneys are hard working honest moral people. Yes, even trial attorneys. People who generalize to the contrary either don't know what they are talking about, or they are deliberately slandering the profession to further their own twisted agenda.
specially designated nationals
We are apparently prohibited from doing business with certain persons. There is a couple of unwieldy government links which reference the Executive Order Number 13224, and the list of suspected hoodlums (PDF Format). For a list which is actually usable with a search engine and disclaimers, I suggest the American Land Title Association site. I don't mind being prohibited from dealing with suspected international hooligans. It is good that someone has developed a way for us to check for these names so that it doesn't cost us more in staff time to research than the value of the intended transaction.
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a paralegal with an attorney specializing in criminal defense. One of the pieces of evidence implicating our client in a theft charge is ?GPS? data accumulated from the company truck he was driving. What is GPS, and how does it work?
Answer: The company vehicle appears to have been equipped with a AVL. Automatic Vehicle Tracking (AVL) combines computer technology with satellite tracking technology (GPS; Global Positioning Satellites). The AVL unit can be mounted covertly by the vehicle owner. This is common practice in the transportation industry. This type of surveillance system calls for three basic elements: satellites, sender/receiver units, and location decoder software.
The U.S. Department of Defense has placed a series of 24 Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites in orbit around the earth. These GPS satellites broadcast signals that contain time and identification codes. GPS receivers use an antenna to acquire these signals from multiple satellites to determine the vehicles' position, altitude, speed and direction of travel. The signal is gathered by the GPS unit every six seconds. The information is then stored in the GPS unit for further interpretation.
The heart of a GPS receiver is the ability to find the receiver's distance from four (or more) GPS satellites. Once it determines its distance from the four satellites, the receiver can calculate its exact location and altitude on Earth. The GPS receiver measures the amount of time it takes for the signal to travel from the satellite to the receiver. The receiver looks at all the signals it is receiving and uses calculations to find both the exact time and the exact location simultaneously.
There are two types of receiving systems: real time satellite tracking systems and none-real time systems. Real time tracking systems forward the received data through a cellular phone modem to the Investigators' computer. In none-real time tracking systems, the satellite signal is electronically stored. With this simpler type of system, you retrieve the unit after the surveillance and then load the data into your computer.
No matter what type of GPS tracking system is used, some sort of power supply is needed. In the typical temporary magnetic/velcro mount systems, standard battery power can be used. The typical battery unit lasts 24 hours. For surveillances of greater duration, you would hardwire the unit to a power source on the vehicle.
The decoder software converts the data received into latitude and longitude. This information is further refined with mapping software so the user can observe actual maps of the location of the target vehicle, including street names, and the duration of the signal. Not only can you determine where the vehicle traveled, but how long the vehicle remained at a certain location.
Retrievable GPS units, including mapping software can be obtained for under $500. Additional uses include employers tracking company owned vehicles, parents monitoring a childs? use of the family sedan, or overtly as a mapping tool. GPS Units have allowed the investigator to utilize unmanned surveillance techniques to gather valuable information for a very reasonable cost.
Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA. Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street,
Suite 425, P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
Or you may e-mail him at DeIrish5@aol.com.