Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

In the popular story “The Hobbit” there is a part where trolls turn to stone in sunlight.  It seems that the same thing might be happening to a company called Righthaven, that was suing hundreds of blogs and web sites for posting portions of articles that were published in various papers owned by another company called Stephens Media, while pretending that Stephens Media had no interest in the lawsuit.

According to the Electron Frontier Foundation (and I have not seen the actual order myself):

a federal court in Las Vegas ordered the notorious copyright troll Righthaven to pay $5,000 in sanctions and to file the court transcript containing its admonishment in hundreds of other copyright cases.

Wow!  That’s pretty heavy, but apparently the judge further stated:

In the Court’s view, the arrangement between Righthaven and Stephens Media is nothing more nor less than a law firm, which, incidentally, I don’t think is licensed to practice law in this state, but a law firm with a contingent fee agreement masquerading as a company that’s a party.

Doesn’t sound good.  Of course the attorney who is CEO of Righthaven has brushed off this, claiming that the judge has no power to sanction him or his company, and going on The Las Vegas Sun with a video saying how he believes that his attorneys will have him appeal the judge.

I think that Righthaven would do well to back down from a fight with at least one pissed federal judge, but based on their public statements, it seems that they intend to continue.

That said, I think Righthaven has helped clarify some questions about copyright laws that many people may have wondered about (for example why I have no commercial interest in this site).  It’s unfortunate that much of what we say or do online can cause repercussions behind what you might think or realize, and sadly I expect that the legal situation will only become more dire, with congress until recently having spent more time trying to increase criminal penalties for copyright related issues than it did on the budget.

I would think that many attorney’s want to be mentioned in the American Bar Association about their performance in court, but I don’t think anyone at Synergy Law Group was smiling after the way it is reported (by the ABA) that federal appeals court judges derided Joseph Kish for (allegedly) 2/3′s of his presentation where his client e360 an Illinois based spam company (that is no longer in business) sued in a U.S. court British basedSpamHaus for blocking emails from e360 as spam (because really e360 was a company that only used opt-in’s , really).

Initially Spamhaus filed a challenge to jurisdiction, because err..they are in another country, but since most U.S. court judges feels they have jurisdiction over the entire world, or at least whatever they feel like, the U.S. judge entered a judgement for 11.7 million dollars, because too many judges don’t care when attorneys just make stuff up.

When the highly respected law firm of Jenner and Block LLP, heard about the case, they offered to represent Spamhaus, Pro Bono Publico, and took up the case and the appeal, getting one appeals court to send the case back to trial (not for jurisdiction because U.S. courts do not recognize limits on that) because the damages were too high.

Another federal judge then decided well, Synergy seems to have worked hard on this case, and they are in Illinois, so they deserve something, so he threw them $27,000 thinking that anyone with Jenner and Block representing them is not going to spend money on an appeal or something like that.

But to the surprise of many judges Jenner and Block appealed the case, leading to the appeals court doing the effect of the western dancing man to gun shots to an attorney.

All in all, I would say that Jenner and Block have done a fantastic job, truly in the public interest.

 

I must say that I am a little amazed at this.  A federal judge has ruled that the Healthcare reform act is void because the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

This is pretty amazing, I think that when they passed the Act, they must have left out the severability clause (which is a crappy clause anyways as it says if any one part of an act is unconstitutional, it doesn’t effect any other portion).

Over 14 years ago, I remember playing online games (there were several different versions), the games would store information in some database and keep track of where I was. About 8 years ago, someone got a patent on this idea, now a company is suing game companies, since no one has challenged the patent for 8 years.

Of course, the lawyers love that people are suing people for infringing on ideas that were in wide usage before someone got a patent, for the rest of us it raises costs, and stifles innovation.

Lately I’ve been seeing in the news is how the evil Republicans are not willing to approve a new STARTtreaty with Russia that they were not consulted on, or included in the discussions of.  To be clear according to the Constitution, Article VI, Section 1, Clause 2 (also known as the Supremacy Clause):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding

Think about this, a treaty is on the same level as the Constitution for legal purposes, and yet when congress does it’s job, and refuses to pass a new SUPREME law of the land, they are harangued for now bowing down and licking the hand of the great leader.  To be perfectly clear, I am against almost all of these complex treaties, as I support the words of George Washington:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

I think that we would be better served by getting our own house in order, reducing military spending, and bringing the banksters in line, instead our fearless leader wants to saddle Americans with more complex agreements that we should just shut up and accept.  Sadly many people will fall for the propaganda that passes for news and think the world will end if Russia and the U.S. enter into what is a essentially a meaningless gesture for arms control (since we seem to be heading towards a conflict with North Korea, rather than Russia these days).

If it isn’t enough that Americans have accepted  war profitter Chertoff’s demands that we submit to his naked scanning machines run by stalkers,  child molestors and pedophiles (read this story about how TSA took a woman’s three year old son away for a special private patdown),  it seems that the Department of Homeland Security can now shutdown web sites without a court order or any hearing.  They just allege that some copyright violation has occured (could be a picture, or some words), and POOF your web site is replaced by:

Siezed by Homeland Security

Siezed by Homeland Security

 Even people who are for strict enforcement of copyright laws are upset (see this article),   after all it seems strange that we allow unfetered access to the United States to people who come here to kill Americans (see the recent Portland Bomber who was born in Somalia, but became a U.S. citizen, even though he had written articles about Jihad).  Of course what most Americans don’t know is that the people who travel under other than American papers in the United States are routinely given a pass by TSA, I strongly encourage people to use foreign papers for U.S. travel whenever possible, because frankly the U.S. government cares more about the rights of foreign persons than U.S. citizens.

After that article about free software, here is some software that is allegedly free, however it has been based on code that the same company that is suing Google for using their free software.  It’s called LibreOffice, ans it looks pretty good for people who don’t want use Microsoft Office (remember to read all software licenses clearly, because if you breach any of the terms of the software license you can be sued at some random point in the future).

Now, I am sure many lawyers will say that you can’t be sued indefinitely, but it seems like that at times, and people can sue you multiple times for flimsy reasons.

In any case, for the struggling students I highly recommend LibreOffice as way to write papers, do some basic charting, etc.

What I recommend is that if you send your files to anyone else export it as a PDF, I wish the people who use Microsoft products would do the same thing, but Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to create pdfs in it’s products. PDF files are the prefered method of passing documents around that are readonly and retain their print characteristics.  Remember children, save your documents as PDF’s or your teacher will use you as an example of why LibreOffice is bad, in a grant request to get money for new software and hardware for the school, but leave the students having to buy copies of Microsoft Office.

Google has had some success with it’s Android operating system (which it gives away for free).  The Android operating system has been implemented in a variety of devices including cell phones, computers and televisions.

When Google developed Android, it choose to implement a method whereby code written using the programming language called “Java” would be able to run on the Android devices.  Since Google wanted a “free” operating system, they developed a java like implementation that used features from the Apache Harmony Project. Oracle (which actually bought the company that had developed Java) states:

the source code in Android’s “PolicyNodeImpl.java” class is nearly identical to “PolicyNodeImpl.java” in Oracle America’s Java, not just in name, but in the source code on a line-for-line basis

Carlo Daffara has compared the code himself, and his results are not as “cleaned up” as what Oracle presents to the court (and the public), and seem to show reasonable differences (some of the structures are actually standards that are to implemented by common agreement).

Google could have worked from the OpenJDK code base, but instead Google wanted to avoid using what is called the GPL license for some reason.  And this is really the problem.  Google wanted to let hardware manufactures write code and not have to release it with the phone (this is explained better at End Soft Patents), by avoiding the GPL license grant on OpenJDK, Google created a special problem for itself, that it could have avoided.

Another part of that problem might be due to Google having former Sun (which developed Java originally) engineers work on reinventing Java, and they basically wrote code the same way as when they worked for Sun (before Oracle bought Sun).

In any case, Google is a big company and should be able to sort this whole thing out with the courts and Oracle.  I think the patent claims are not going to stand up well under scrutiny, but Oracle might have some arguments for Google having infringed on some copyrights.

After reading all this news about bad legal process, I have to wonder why no lawyers are being held accountable for perjury.  I guess that those laws only apply to normal people.

Actually I have seen judges don’t care if lawyer commit perjury as long they follow the correct format.  The problem with the legal system is that it’s run by and for lawyers.  They will put in rules to quell the masses, but the rules are regularly ignored for lawyers and hammered down the throats of people who represent themselves (or try and appear as themselves).  That is why it’s such a cruel joke to hear that some judges are going to hold the lawyers accountable for the crap they have been filing, like that would really happen.

I recently read an article at TechDirt where a teenager who “received” a stolen motorcycle (supposedly from someone named Skye) and as part of the probation terms he was ordered to not use many electronic means of communications or “use a computer that contains any encryption”.

Let me tell you a secret, it’s so secret that the appeals court that overturned the bulk of the other restrictions left the restriction “shall not use a computer that contains any encryption” intact even after loosening the others, all devices that people consider as computers these days have some form of encryption installed.  Windows has the “encrypting file system” (EFS) installed, and most email is sent using some encryption (for instance the common HTTPS protocol uses encryption keys to transmit information).

So since this teenager is banned from using any computer that has any encryption, if he uses any computer he can be sent to jail, all because he ended up with a stolen motorcycle (I would not disagree if people thought he was a punk).  Brilliant, judges really are the smartest and best people on the planet.

Apparently the sagging fortunes of the old media is causing some people at Associated Press (AP) (who see nothing wrong in stealing other people’s content) to think that they can get people to pay them say 20% (which is still zero in my case) for linking or using in any way, any content that AP “created”.

What this is really about is the ability to control information.  If you can’t copy the original article without paying a fee, then they can change the article to say something completely different, and the writer (for instance me) is sometimes left looking silly.

Unfortunately information on the internet is sometimes like smoke, it can drift away and leave no traces, web sites can vanish overnight for any number of reasons, and the spam of the major media organizations dominate the conversation.  For instance I was trying to find the 2007 video that CNN did on Depleted Uranium and how the Army had made training films warning of the dangers of Depleted Uranium, but all the traces of that video seem to have, err, vanished like smoke.

However, as bad as copyright laws might be, I think the usage of patents in Software is worse…but that is another topic altogether…..

I was talking to someone the other day and they didn’t seem to know that Wesley Snipes. the lead actor in the movie Blade, had been ordered to serve 3 years for failing to sign that he knew and understood his taxes completely.

I know that might seem strange, that you can be sent to jail for years for failing to sign something that you don’t completely understand, of course the IRS won it’s case, as it tends to do….because the courts are maintaining the status quo.

So where is Obama for Wesley Snipes?  Presidents pardon people all the time, why can’t Barrack Obama help out Wesley Snipes?  I mean that is a simple thing, Wesley Snipes will still have to pay the money back but he doesn’t have to go to jail.   So if Wesley Snipes goes to jail it’s because the same Obama Administration that let voter intimidation charges disappear, wants Wesley Snipes to go to jail for some reason I don’t understand.

What the saddest thing about this to me is, is that no one seems to care about Barrack Obama, who steps in to protect the human rights of foreign nationals in the United States under questionable circumstances, is perfectly willing to have U.S. Citizens killed without trials by a deliberate act on the part of government actors, forces people to resign, and send Wesley Snipes to jail.

So where are all those people who were Wesley’s fan when he was a puppet, doing what he was told, and reading the lines that others wrote for him?  Where are all those people who told Wesley how they love him?

I don’t know where they are, or if they ever really existed.   This isn’t to slight Mr. Snipes in any way, but rather to question how much of the Hollywood fake is real.  Throughout the United States (and most of the world) we look at the world as the media, both “Liberal” and “Conservative” portray it. 

However I believe that the people who control (not the public leaders) the discourse shape the conversation for the mutual benefit of a small group of people (see this article about the Koch Billions).  In other words, I don’t really trust any movement that has a “leader” any more, that’s not to say that someone like Ron Paul, Rand Paul, et al.  can’t be elected, but they shouldn’t be held up as a leader, because otherwise it becomes about their personal lives, not their values and how they have expressed their principles in life.

But for the moment I think we should just vote against the status quo, in whatever way is safe for you to do to the extent that is best.  Which probably doesn’t mean fly a plane into the IRS building like Joe Stack.

Heres the government’s latest “victory” against Wesley Snipes.

I find it so interesting that according the United States Supreme Court, the IRS can say that one position means one thing and the same thing can mean the opposite when it suits them.

From “BOEING CO. V. UNITED STATES (01-1209) 537 U.S. 437 (2003)”, so I assume that the supreme court justice is telling something supportable:

the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) itself initially read the statutory and regulatory provisions at issue here to permit precisely what Boeing asserts it is allowed to do

And yet we happily seem willing to force people to pay amounts that they attest to being figured out by them based on their knowledge and understanding of the law, and given this, just pay whatever the account and the government say to pay, not really trying to understand the law, because it can legally change what it means, and that’s okay with most U.S. residents.

So Wesley Snipes will most likely be sent to jail, while illegal alien and freed criminal Alfredo Garcia is collecting thousands of day by court order while he travels freely in the United States.

But no one really cares about Wesley Snipes, much more important is whether one idiot or another is going to be elected to a position where, even if they were a saint, they will probably not able to stop whatever the next shoe to drop is.

Freeing Wesley Snipes, on the other hand, is something that Barrack Obama could do easier and for less money than what it cost to redecorate the White House, actually it would be more likely to allow the government collect more money from Mr. Snipes.

And but then Barrack Obama does seem to have some “crimes” that he feels are worse than others, apparently Wesley Snipes is the kind of person that Barrack Obama just can’t relate to…..

While he’s been in America for years, dealing crack, defrauding social security, and stealing cars, Alfredo Garcia is now able to make thousands of dollars a day using a little known loophole that most Americans don’t take advantage of, he is suing companies for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Of course the fact that he is here illegally is not an issue for the courts that he uses, rather it only serves to emphasis his status as a victim, because after he was out  drunk and some incident that involves a tree, he has been disabled.  He really is the model of why the whole “Homeland Security” system is just a cruel hoax on the citizens of the United States.

If it was April (or March) I would think it’s a practical joke, but a small company that is called “Teachbook” is being sued by Facebook because, according to a quote in the LA Times:

If others could freely use ‘generic plus BOOK’ marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for ‘online community/networking services’ or ‘social networking services,

So for instance having an “eBook” website would be an infringment of Facebook by this reasoning.  Or SportsBook.com is an infringer.  Strange that Facebook would go after a company with almost no users but leave SportsBook.com alone.  Of course there is the fact that SportsBook.com has been in business for 14 years, compared to Facebook being in business for only 6 years, so if Facebook wins it’s case against TeachBook.com, I think that SportsBook.com can use the exact same argument against Facebook.

That would be poetic justice.

Apparently some people are getting hit for having ads on their blogs.  According to the Philadelphia City Paper, the city of Philadelphia is sending out demand notices to people who have blogs with ads on them demanding a $300 business tax, and a cut of the profits, even if the profit is as  little as $11 in 3 years.

In other words, if you have ads on your blog, you had better have a real business behind it.   Now I have long eschewed adverstising because I am aware that there is a big difference between non-commercial and commercial speech, and even having one ad on a page (or some other revenue generating scheme) associated with a blog means that you have now transitioned into commercial speech and can be regulated and litigated against accordingly.

People in Philadelphia are upset, but I think that the right answer is to NOT have advertising if you don’t want to be treated as a business.  What is the point of having advertising, if not to make some money, and if you are making some money, then it’s a business.   (Donations might be a different story).

I am not a fan of the way taxes are handled in the United States, and I think the city of Philadelphia is probably going a little too far, it could give people the option to just remove the ads and no longer have them, but once you cross into commercial speech, don’t expect to be protected (to the degree that there is any protection for speech).

According to an article at the Huffington Post, Coca-Cola has responded to a lawsuit that their vitaminwater makes unwarranted health claims that “no reasonable consumer could have been misled by vitaminwater’s labeling” into thinking that there were any real health benefits!

Of course, that might be true if people actually go and read the label, which has 33 grams of sugar, and very little vitamins.  From the judge’s order (pdf) here are the claims that are being litigated:

1.  The description of the product as a “Nutrient-Enhanced Water Beverage”;
2.  The phrase “vitamins + water = all you need” on the product label;
3.  Flavor names such as “rescue” and “defense”;
4.  The name “vitaminwater” itself;
5.  The statement “vitamins + water = what’s in your hand” on in-store advertising materials;
6.  The statement “this combination of zinc and fortifying vitamins can . . . keep you healthy as a horse” on the label of vitaminwater’s “defense” flavor;
7.  The statement “specially formulated to support optimal metabolic function with antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and vitamins necessary for the generation and utilization of energy from food” on the label of vitaminwater’s “rescue” flavor;
8.  The statement “specially formulated to provide vitamin [A] (a nutrient known to be required for visual function), antioxidants and other nutrients [that] scientific evidence suggests may reduce the risk of age-related eye disease” on the label of vitaminwater’s “focus” flavor;
9.  The statement “specially formulated with bioactive components that contribute to an active lifestyle by promoting healthy, pain-free functioning of joints, structural integrity of joints and bones, and optimal generation and utilization of energy from food” on the label of vitaminwater’s “balance” flavor;
10.  The statement “specially formulated with nutrients required for optimal functioning of the immune system, and the generation and utilization of energy from food to support immune and other metabolic activities” on the label of vitaminwater’s “defense” flavor;
11.  The statement “specially formulated with [B] vitamins and theanine.  The [B] vitamins are there to replace those lost during times of stress (physical and mental).  Theanine is an amino acid found naturally in tea leaves and has been shown to promote feelings of relaxation.  This combination can help bring about a healthy state of physical and mental being” on the label of vitaminwater’s “B-relaxed” flavor;
12.  The statement “specially formulated with nutrients that enable the body to exert physical power by contributing to structural integrity of the musculoskeletal
system, and by supporting optimal generation and utilization from food” on the label of vitaminwater’s “Power-C” flavor.

So there you go, just because the advertising for something claims that “it’s all that you need” doesn’t mean that it’s true.  In fact most of what you see and here on television doesn’t have to have any basis in reality.  The sad thing is that Coca-Cola while having lost a summary motion to dismiss could still win this case.

And that’s a sad statement about the America (so-called) justice system.  It’s really about how much money the litigants have, more than anything else (there is some judicial bias, but everyone pretends there isn’t).

It’s interesting how the courts in the United States work, if a judge dares cross a prosecutor (never mind the IRS), they can be removed in the middle of a trial.  At least that is the messsage that a recent ruling by the Federal Appellate courts seems to say when they removed a distinguished judge(not that I like any judges), James Holderman, for the “crime” of excluding evidence that he had said was tampered with.

I find this interesting because judges who say “Dont’ bring the law into my courtroom” to defendants are supported by appellate courts, and judges who make a ruling about excluding evidence that the state likes are disciplined.  In other words, if you are in court for something as a defendant (especially if you are poor) you will be ground into dust by the legal system.

In any case, the message has been sent, if a judge doesn’t dance the way the prosecutor wants, he will be punished.  Strange how that same rule doesn’t really apply to prosecutors or police.

So much for equal rights.

It seems that another U.S. Army officer hasn’t gotten the memo that the constitution is just a piece of paper.  Apparently Lt. Col Terry Lakin has decided to destroy his career of 18 years by asking questions.  He will now be investigated by a Lt. Col or higher grade officer, and then sent to court martial (the Army has no choice really).   I don’t see how the Obama birth argument will be able to be kept out of court with this.

I hope that Lt. Col Lakin fares better than Cmdr. Ward Dean did with his constitutional quest.  The sad fact is that people in the military believe they are fighting for the principles in the constitution and then find out that, like Major General Smedley Butler, they were just, as Nobel Laurete  Sir Henry Kissinger puts it, “Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.”

If you still wonder how bad laws have been passed, look no further than “Deem and Pass”, which, as the Washington Post explains:

 The House would vote on a more popular package of fixes to the Senate bill; under the House rule for that vote, passage would signify that lawmakers “deem” the health-care bill to be passed.

The tactic — known as a “self-executing rule” or a “deem and pass” — has been commonly used

There you go, if the LEADERS of a body of government declare a law to be legally passed, it is DEEMED to be constitutionally passed according to the courts.  This is why the courts ASSUME that the laws are all valid (this isn’t all courts, as some state courts have thrown out laws that were passed incorrectly, it’s just that the FEDERAL courts defer to the LEADERS of the other branches).

At least that is the excuse that federal courts have given when they don’t want to actually examine the evidence.  It’s just that finally people are paying attention, but don’t assume the corruption is something new.

I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I been close to Joe Stacks point of frustration (read his own explanation).  After seeing how the government “works” I feel, like many American’s that the American Dream might become something else if things aren’t done differently.

Instead we have a governmental system that seems to bent on self destruction, or least policies that do.

As for Chuck Baldwin’s point that Joe Stack was wrong to do what he did, where was the press time and time again when people were put in jail for asking the dangerous questions about income tax.  Questions that are the legal equivalent of challenging global warming, promising that you will lose the argument no matter if all the facts seem to support it, just because they are the government and you are not.

I don’t think anyone would have paid attention to Joe Stack if he just followed the fasting orsetting himself on fire protestors that have been ignored time and again by the media.  What really makes me shake my head is that there are some people who just don’t see how out control things have gotten.  That said, it is for that reason that I cherish each day I don’t have a literal boot in the back of my head.  So I am thankful for many of the things we take for granted, including not being in jail.

It’s about time for something to change, but when the people keep supporting the IRS in court cases (like where Wesley Snipes was convicted) rather than send the IRS packing shows how there is still substantial support for the status quo.  Which is what courts exist for, to keep things running smoothly for the people who own the show.  Courts are supposed to keep people from feeling that they have no hope of recourse.  The problem is that the courts seem to becoming much like the Montreal Police, they have their favorites, and as some people who talk about law all the time, it’s a bad sign when you can tell if a motion is going to get approved by the party whose name is one the presenting side, better than by the arguments with the parties names removed.

I once was naive and believed that judges actually read through the motions that people presented to them, but they don’t have to, they are busy, etc.  They just rule the way they always did in the past, and it’s considered to be within their discretion.  Of course you don’t know that unless you follow cases closely, and most of the time you can’t.  In one case, SCO v. Novell, you can see how the insiders can play the game, in full view of the public, and it shows how obscene the court system in America is.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a better way to “play” the system, I just haven’t seen a convincing record I can point you at where you are bullet proof, all I am is saying fighting the system is not easy to do head on.  Manual Noregia thought he was the president of a sovereign nation, but he ended up behind bars.