Entries Tagged as 'Legal'

Fair Use

The fact that the US Copyright Laws are in a major need of an overhaul isn’t something that only the masses of ordinary users understand; but to some extent John McCain is also painfully aware.

A little back ground.

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, John McCain launched a number of political advertisements on YouTube, many of those advertisements used copyrighted material (for which he had not obtained a use license for).  Those advertisements were pulled from YouTube to comply with US Copyright Law (not the McCain had much choice — YouTube was required to pull the advertisements under the DMCA — an act which McCain supported).

In mid October 2008 McCain suggested to YouTube in a letter that “VIPs” shouldn’t be bound by the same fair use rules as others.

What can you expect from an elitist… he only sees the problem for himself, not for the general public.  A man with eleven homes and thirteen cars and uncounted wealth simply doesn’t feel he can afford to pay for the use of copyrighted material when the use of that material has obvious and substantial personal gains for himself, but it’s fine that a minimum wage mother should have to pay for the use of an old tune in the background of her child’s birthday video.

When put like that it’s easy to understand why member of Congress have one of the best health care plans in the world (for life) but they don’t feel the average American should have much choice.

Or perhaps we should consider TSA treatment of the average American who is subjected to searches and harassment and humiliation while members of Congress bypass the entire process.

Wait I digress.

Maybe, though, on copyright, we’ll have a little more luck holding politicians to the exact same standards that you and I must be accountable to.

Something more akin to one of the results of the confirmation hearing for Judge Robert Bork.  It resulted in the passage of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (because our member of Congress were afraid their video rental records might be revealed to the public — not because they were worried about you and me).

There are permitted uses of copyright material which do not require any license payments; it may not be required to completely scrape the existing laws; all we may well need is the statement added that when an individual is not likely to substantially profit through the use of the material, it is covered under fair use.

US Copyright Office – Fair Use

Originally posted 2010-01-20 01:00:37.

Florida Ban On Gay Adoption — ILLEGAL

The Third District Court of Appeals three judge panel has ruled that a Florida law prohibiting gays from adopting children is unconstitutional.

The rational is based on the fact that Florida is the only state which has a law that forbids gays from adopting children; and is the only class of individual forbidden in Florida from adopting — convicted criminals, those with a past history of substance or child abuse are considered on a case-by-case basis.

For thirty three years this Florida law stood on the books; almost from the time of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay stand.

For me it’s hard to believe that lies propagated by the religious right have been enforced as laws to enforce a morality that has not basis in fact.

I don’t consider it progress; I just consider it a mile stone in bigotry.

Originally posted 2010-09-22 02:00:07.

Retail Transactions and Privacy

I purchased a couple pairs of shorts the other day (Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and to my surprise the retailer ask me if I’d like them to record my driver’s license number to make any return easier (by swiping the information into the terminal).

WTF?

Last time I checked retailers were not entitled to the information on my driver’s license.

And this was particularly eerie to me because a group of my friends and I had been discussing an issue concerning the collection of personal data on consumers as part of the return process.

Of course, there’s not federal law that limits the amount of information a retail establishment can request (well — unless that transaction has to do with health care, and the HIPAA would require that you be provided with a privacy policy covering how the information could be used — but they can still ask).

To me, the moment the Patriot Act was signed American freedoms and privacy quickly started to spiral down the toilet; and I said it a decade ago and I’m still saying it — the law needs to be repealed.

I personally do not feel that retail stores are entitled to any personal information; that they should be required to honor their return policies as clearly posted; and that in order or collected and store personal information they must obtain a signed release at time of sale, and understand that they and their agents are fully and completely liable for any misuse of that information not explicitly contained in the signed release.

And while I don’t generally jump up and down about federal laws we need — we definitely need uniform consumer protection across this country.

Some states have a patchwork of laws that partially protect consumer privacy; but even in those states business have abused the laws because consumers don’t have a clear, consistent understanding of them — and I’ll point out that with more and more consumer transactions involving interstate commerce, only a federal law would really be able to insure consumer privacy.

Originally posted 2012-11-24 12:00:45.

Due Process Dies

On Monday 17 May 2010 the Supreme Court of the United States of America handed down a 7-2 decision that affirms the ability of the federal government to hold inmates they deem as “sexually dangerous” in the future indefinitely.

Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin surely stir in their graves at the finally winning the wars they started so long ago.

In the last decade American have lost civil right after civil right; legal protection after legal protection — all in the name of making ourselves “safe”… but in fact all we are doing is making ourselves slaves.

Let me point out that in the United States, a person is found guilty by a trial of their peers, and a judge passes sentence for the crime… when the period of internment expires the criminal has paid his “debt” to society.  Apparently we now believe that the United States government [though the Department of Justice] has the ability to adjust the term of a sentence indefinitely.

How long is it until the United States government just dispenses with the formality of a trial all together, and locks away individuals who they say are a threat… oh wait, that’s already happening — at Guantanamo Bay!

NOTES:

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the court’s majority opinion stating that it is “a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”

The judgment reversed a lower court ruling that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of prisoners considered “sexually dangerous.”

“The Federal Government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby [and other] communities from the danger such prisoners may pose.”

In order to do it, however, the government must prove the following:

1. The individual has previously “engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation.”

2. He/She currently “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder,”

3. The prisoner “as a result of” that mental illness, abnormality, or disorder is “sexually dangerous to others,” in that “he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.”

A hearing, during which the individual would remain incarcerated, would then determine whether or not he/she could be released.

“If the Government proves its claims by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ the court will order the prisoner’s continued commitment,”

Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented.  Justice Thomas argues that Congress can only pass laws that deal with the federal powers listed in the Constitution (States Right) and stated that nothing in the Constitution “expressly delegates to the Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal goverment with such a power.”

The Supreme Court ruling upholds the Adam Walsh Chile Protection and Safety Act signed in 2006 by George W Bush.

Originally posted 2010-05-19 02:00:33.

Federal Express is a SPAMmer

Yesterday evening I received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE, aka SPAM) from Federal Express in violation of the California Professions and Business Code Section 17538.45.

Apparently Federal Express has taken to harvesting email addresses used in requesting tracking services and subscribing them to their marketing mailings lists without obtaining the permission of the owner of the email address (California law prohibits OPT-OUT policies, and requires that advertisers use OPT-IN methods).

Not only have I send a demand to Federal Expresses marketing campaign company and Federal Express demanding immediate payment of the fifty dollar fine specified by California Law; but I will no longer do business with Federal Express PERIOD.  That means I do not ship via FedEx, and I do not accept packages via FedEx, which means I don’t deal with vendors that use FedEx.

Originally posted 2009-02-19 01:00:25.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a real problem, and credit bureaus make it all to easy for individuals who get a little bit of information about you to get your entire life’s story — and use your name (and credit) to make their life better and your life a living hell.

While there’s been improvements in legal recourse for identity theft, your best bet is to guard against it.

To make yourself a harder target, try some simple things like:

  • Elect on-line delivery of banking and credit card statements; utility bills; and anything else you can.  It’s safe, it’s good for the environment, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.
  • Use on-line bill payment or pay bills with your credit card; it’s safe, convenient, and it reduces the likelihood of mail theft.  Using your credit card may give you additional rights, and cash back.
  • Destroy paper items that have any personal information on them; cross-cut or confettie shreaders are the best, a fire place, or just mark it over and tear it by hand.
  • Destroy old credit cards, drivers licenses, passports, etc — make sure nothing with personal and confidential information on it goes in the trash.
  • Don’t give out your name or address to any one or on any site or on any phone call unless you know who you’re dealing with and there’s some advantage for you to do so.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists, refuse delivery of mail you didn’t request (that will cost the sender money generally and is more likely to get your name expunged from the list they use).
  • Put a “freeze” on your credit report.  Click here for info
  • Report scammers, spammers, and phishers to law enforcement. Click here for info

 

There are lots of great sites online that are free (free of advertising), and full of information… here’s one of them:

          http://www.consumersunion.org/

Originally posted 2008-11-08 08:00:50.

Stonewall

President Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgenders Pride Month, citing the rights that began at Stonewall Inn, 51 &53 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, United States of America on 29 June 1969.

Forty years since the event that is generally considered to be the beginning of the gay civil rights movement (though there were previous efforts at gay civil rights) President Obama makes a token gesture of recognition of the inequity individuals who are not part of the heterosexual majority suffer on a daily basis, but fails to mention that their is still no protection of sexual orientation in the United States and that many states have on the books laws which effectively attempt to make illegal same sex relationships (or at least sexual activities between same sex — and some anything considered deviant sexual activities even between legally married individuals).

Simply put, it is time for the United States of America to recognize and provided equality to each and every American regardless of their age, sex, creed, national origin, ancestry, race, color, sexual orientation, political affiliations, religion, beliefs, physical limitations, or marital status.

Plain and simple, all Americans are Americans and they deserve to be treated equally.

NOTE: June 1999 the US Department of the Interior designated 51 and 53 Christopher Street, the street itself, and the surrounding streets as a National Historic Landmark.

Let it forever be remembered that here—on this spot—men and women stood proud, they stood fast, so that we may be who we are, we may work where we will, live where we choose and love whom our hearts desire.
· John Berry, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior

Originally posted 2009-06-01 02:00:39.

Voter ID Requirements

Since roughly 1750 the phrase “taxation without representation” has been used in the country as a rallying phrase for action.

In the Revolutionary War, it reflected on the British Crown taxing citizens in the colonies without providing them any voice in Parliament.

In Washington DC it became the motto of citizens pointing out that they had no representation in the House of Representatives of the Senate (and was a slogan used on Washington DC license plates — you may recall President Bill Clinton having those put on the White House limosines, and President George W Bush having them removed).

Now my questions is… if the states who have implements “tough” new voter identification requirements (even though voter fraud has never been shown to be a substantial issue) disenfranchise American citizens from their Constitutional right to vote; should they be required to pay taxes?

People who choose not to vote are one thing; but people who are denied their right to vote is entirely another…

I fear another messy election is going to be on us in 2012, much as it was in 2000 — perhaps it’s time for the United States to use international observers to insure that elections are conducted in a way that insures they comply with not only the letter of the law, but the intent of the law.

Originally posted 2011-11-06 02:00:59.

Privacy Violation

Mid 2006 AT&T, Bell South (soon to be part of AT&T), and Verizon all turned over their phone call database to the National Security Agency just because they ask.  Qwest refused, indicating to the NSA that they were required to obtain a subpoena before such information could be release.

Section 2702 of Title 18, part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, provides that “a provider of … electronic communication service [including telephone service] to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service … to any governmental entity” without the customer’s consent or a subpoena or court order. Under section 2707, carriers face civil liability, including minimum damages of $1,000 per violation, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. Government employees who participated in a violation also may face administrative discipline.

My questions is, since the NSA obtained such information illegally, why haven’t the telcos been fined, the information obtained by the NSA been destroyed, and the NSA employees who requested (and authorized the requests) been terminated?

I personally am tired of waiting for the restoration of my civil rights; the new administration has been in the White House for a year now, the honey moon is over — let’s stop hearing rhetoric, and start seeing action.

Originally posted 2009-12-31 02:00:15.

Microsoft Office 2007

Today a new version of Microsoft Office 2007 should be available.

One 22 December 2009 Microsoft got an early Christmas present; and injunction on the sale of Microsoft Office 2007 went into effect with the loss of a patent case involving a company named i4i located in Toronto, ON, CA.

The patent in this case, No. 5,787,449, was issued in July 1998.

i4i alleged, and successfully defended the assertion that Microsoft infringed on a patent by including a custom XML feature in Word 2007 which allowed it to open .XML, .DOCX, or .DOCM files.

An injunction issued in August 2009 was delayed until the ruling was issued on 22 December 2009.

Reuters estimated that Microsoft will have to pay about $290 million US ($200 million awarded in damages by the jury, and about $90 million in fees and interest).

Microsoft responded to the court ruling in a public statement:

While we are moving quickly to address the injunction issue, we are also considering our legal options, which could include a request for a rehearing by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals en banc or a request for a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kevin Kurtz, director of public affairs for Microsoft

In separate announcements, Microsoft confirmed that the code used in Microsoft Word 2007 would be changed, and a new version would be available on 10 January 2010.

Ruling

Originally posted 2010-01-10 01:00:27.