Tag Archives: law

Broken process

Big Tech Squashes New York’s ‘Right To Repair’ Bill

The law would have required tech companies to provide information about how to repair devices, but big tech companies including Apple and Cisco blocked it from even coming to a vote. Similar measures have been blocked in Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, and previously in New York.

[Damon Beres/The Huffington Post]

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A “young lawyer working on a manual typewriter in the back seat of a car” helped create the modern class action lawsuit.

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Class action lawsuits have been used to drive meaningful change for civil rights and against sexual harassment in the workplace. They’ve also been used for seeming frivolities, like Milli Vanilli fans who were irked that the duo was only lip-synching other people singing, and ticket-holders feeling ripped off by the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield bite fight.

The Planet Money podcast

Can you spot the difference between these tins? It’s the basis of a class action — a lawsuit, filed by a few people, on behalf of millions.

Class actions have been around for centuries. But the modern version was created in the 1960s — in part by a young lawyer working on a manual typewriter in the back seat of a car. At the time, class actions were seen as a way to advance the civil rights movement.

Today, thousands of class actions are filed every year. Some of them are still about civil rights. But they’re also about things questions like: Is there enough pepper in this tin of pepper?

In this episode, we ask how we got here, and whether this is a good way to do things.

Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them. It is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.

A statement from Bruce Springsteen on North Carolina [The Official Bruce Springsteen Website]

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A new law passed by the LA city council prohibits homeless people from owning more belongings than can fit in a 60-gallon trashcan with the lid on, and allows police to summarily confiscate any tents that are still standing on public property during daylight hours.

The law is a response to Los Angeles’s epidemic of homelessness — a rise in homelessness that’s clocked in at 20% of two years.

Of course, homelessness isn’t like smoking, a lifestyle choice that can be disincentivized given enough government arm-twisting. Homelessness is a human rights crisis, brought on, in part, by Bill Clinton’s cruel and vile “welfare reforms” (which were passed by adding “compromises” that allowed state governments to be even crueller, an arrangement that came home to roost when the Tea Party started electing governors who ran on a platform that demonized poor people, and subsequently began to literally starve the poorest people in their states).

There are many reasons that people become homeless, but all homeless people share one plight: they don’t have a home. Shelter is a human necessity, only one up from food on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But the property bubble has converted shelter from a human right to an asset class, driving governments to go to extraordinary lengths to make shelter more expensive: imagine if governments’s surest path to re-election was to make food more expensive.

LA’s new rule: homeless people are only allowed to own one trashcan’s worth of things [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

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If I’m reading this right, the lawsuit says Uber’s fundamental business model is based on illegal price-fixing.

Jonathan Stempel on Reuters:

Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc, failed on Thursday to win the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit accusing him of scheming to drive up prices for passengers who use the popular ride-sharing service.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan said Kalanick must face claims he conspired with drivers to ensure they charge prices set by an algorithm in the Uber smartphone app to hail rides, including “surge pricing” during periods of peak demand.

Passengers led by Spencer Meyer of Connecticut claimed that drivers conspired with Kalanick to charge fares set by the algorithm, with an understanding that other Uber drivers would do the same, even if they might fare better acting on their own.

Also:

“In creating Uber, Kalanick organized price-fixing among independent drivers who should be competing with one another on price,” [Meyer’s attorney, Andrew Schmidt] said. “Today’s decision confirms that apps are not exempt from the antitrust laws.”

Uber CEO must face price-fixing lawsuit by passengers: U.S. judge [Jonathan Stempel – Reuters]

Cops already plotting how to get around Supreme Court ruling requiring a warrant to search cell phones

Notice how the focus is on figuring out more ways to search phones, not more ways to make sure they obey the law. This doesn’t make me feel any safer. Quite the opposite.

Law Enforcement, DOJ Already Plotting How To Get Around Supreme Court’s Warrant Requirement To Search Phones

Goldman Sachs wants a judge to order Google to delete an email from its recipient’s inbox

Goldman asked a US judge to order Google to delete an email from a Gmail inbox, after a contractor accidentally sent confidential documents to that address.

The breach occurred on June 23 and included “highly confidential brokerage account information,” Goldman said in a complaint filed last Friday in a New York state court in Manhattan.

Goldman (GS.N) did not say how many clients were affected, and wants Google’s (GOOGL.O) help in tracking down who might have accessed the data. The Wall Street bank also said Google “appears willing to cooperate” if there is a court order.

The contractor meant to email the report containing confidential client data to a “gs.com” account, but instead sent it to a similar, unrelated, gmail.com account.

The judge should deny this request. The items of an inbox are the property of the recipient. One the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. If we start granting this request, the floodgates will open.

Goldman says client data leaked, wants Google to delete email

Marijuana legalization hits bumps

Legalized marijuana in Colorado is leading to problems for beginners who take too much, too quickly, and freak out. Including The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd:

The caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar looked so innocent, like the Sky Bars I used to love as a child.

Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop.

What could go wrong with a bite or two?

Everything, as it turned out.

Not at first. For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.

But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.

Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude – NYTimes.com.

Dowd goes on to describe pot-users who murdered family members under the influence. Maybe Reefer Madness wasn’t crazy.

The marijuana industry needs to put in place sensible programs for education and labeling. And if the industry doesn’t do it, government needs to step in.

Marijuana should be legal everywhere, but let’s remember that the alcohol and  gambling industries have not exactly proven unalloyed benefits for society.

Law professor Tim Wu had an epiphany at an Atlanta strip club that led to developing the principle of net neutrality

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He was working for Silicon Valley networking company Riverstone Networks, which cooperated with Chinese authorities on censorship technology. And that was only part of the problem at Riverstone, which came under SEC scrutiny for scheming to defraud investors. Wu’s immediate boss, Andrew Feldman, pled guilty to felony charges, and Feldman and four other Riverstone executives settled SEC complaints.

It all crystallized for [Wu] on Sept. 12, 2001 — the day after the 9/11 attacks. He was stranded in Atlanta at a trade show with other company employees. Their business engagements were canceled because of the attacks, and, with no other plans, his colleagues decided to go to a strip club. On such a solemn day, the tawdry revelry repelled him.

“I wondered how I’d gotten there,” he recalls. “I realized that what we’d been doing all those months was abhorrent.” He had been living in a world based on nothing but money, he said, and saw that “the idea that the private sector, the free market, on its own has all the solutions is just a myth.” He added: “When it’s just about money, there are no values.”

He looked for a way out and got a job teaching law at the University of Virginia. But the Internet preoccupied him. “I thought of it as a kind of perpetual frontier, the place where everyone gets a shot, where the underdogs have a chance. The Internet has been that. And I wanted some principles that would keep it that way.”

He got back in touch with [mentor Lawrence] Lessig, who encouraged him in May 2002 to put his thoughts down on paper. The result was a sparkling memo, “A Proposal for Network Neutrality,” that asked: “What principle can balance the legitimate interests of broadband carriers in administering their networks with the danger of harm to new application markets? And how can such a principle be translated into both clear legal guidelines and the practice of network design?” The answer was in the title: a new creation called network neutrality. Mr. Lessig began sending the paper to his contacts the next month.

Defending the Open Internet

Why the US Supreme Court was wrong to uphold public prayer at government meetings

The problem is that the town of Greece, N.Y., wasn’t opening with a generic prayer addressed to “God,” “the Almighty,” or “the Supreme Being.” It as an Easter prayer, stressing “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross” in a town with synagogues and mosques within its borders.

I’ve been listening to a history of the English Civil War, which was fought in part over religious establishment. Fighting war over religion, particularly civil war, is absolutely insane. The Founders were wise to establish religious freedom, not just because it protects individual rights but also because it keeps the state from getting ripped apart with ridiculous disputes about nothing. Let everybody worship whatever God they want, in whatever way they want, and as long as everybody pays their taxes and obeys the law, everything runs smoothly. The government keeps the roads paved and the trash picked up, and leaves people’s souls to other authorities.

It’s best to be loose about church-state separation. For example, Christmas decorations in City Hall are technically a flagrant violation — but what the heck, it makes people happy and does nobody any harm, particularly if City Hall also makes some acknowledgement of other people’s religious celebration. But opening a city council meeting with an Easter benediction goes too far.

Amazingly, the Supreme Court is currently made up of six Catholics and three Jews, two groups who have historically suffered religious persecution, the Catholics in the US, Jews seemingly everywhere else in the world.

The Founders—so backward in their attitudes on race—launched the republic on the basis of religious tolerance. Benjamin Franklin believed in prayer but stressed the importance of ecumenical “public religion.” Thomas Jefferson did not include his service as president of the United States on his tombstone but requested that his authorship of the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom be included. James Madison believed that “religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” With God unmentioned in the Constitution, the Founders set a course that allowed, over Madison’s objections, for chaplains offering prayers at public meetings. But the tradition has favored deistic references (“God,” “the Almighty,” “the Supreme Being”) over sectarian specifics. “The Founders wanted to keep it general because theological disputes led to political upheaval,” says Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel.

In his majority opinion, Kennedy tried to argue that the court was merely upholding that ecumenical tradition. “Willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs,” he wrote. But the prayers before town meetings in Greece, New York, were not about a “higher power,” which is a standard and unobjectionable prayer that would not have merited an appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, the ministers in that New York town—who not once gave way to rabbis or imams, though they had Jewish and Muslim congregations nearby—opened a public meeting by stressing, “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We draw strength, vitality, and confidence from his resurrection at Easter…”

A Supreme Religious Injustice – Yahoo News

MIT Tech Review: Proposed net neutrality rules are already hurting innovation

Some venture capitalists at the cutting edge of Internet innovation say they will shun startups requiring fast connections for video, audio, or other services, mindful that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission may let ISPs charge extra fees to major content providers.

MIT Tech Review: Proposed Net Neutrality Rules Already Hurting Innovation – Technology – Boston.com

A modest proposal for fixing copyright

First 12 years are free, followed by several elective renewal periods that require paying an increasing percentage of royalties. All copyright terminates after 46 years.

Now we have de facto perpetual copyright. Every time Mickey Mouse is near to entering the public domain, Disney lobbies Congress to extend copyright. Ironically, Disney itself is built on the public domain, including Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, the Swiss Family Robinson, Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland.

The author of the proposal is R Street Associate Fellow Derek Khanna, who was fired from his job as a Republican Congressional staffer after authoring a paper calling for copyright reform.

“We have clear evidence that, rather than serving as an incentive to create, excessively long copyright actually hinders creation,” said Khanna. “New artists, directors and writers are unable to create derivative works without paying fees that can be so high as to make the cost of derivative works prohibitive or even impossible.”

In addition to hindering new creation, perpetual copyrights lead to a host of other problems, including historical works being unavailable to future generations, the growing number of “orphan works,” limitations on digital archiving and derivative works, higher transaction costs and a limited volume of publicly available content.

“When historical clips are in the public domain, learning flourishes,” said Khanna. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is rarely shown on television because the speech is not in the public domain.”

R Street paper calls for shortened copyright terms and examination of international treaties

Via Cory Doctorow – thanks!

Should Steve Jobs be in prison today if he weren’t dead?

Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law

He flagrantly violated antitrust laws that carry explicit criminal penalties. 

Of the three instances cited in this article:

The ebook case is just stupid. Apple was simply not a monopolist in the ebook market. Amazon came closest to that title by that time, and the federal prosecution of Apple arguably sealed Amazon’s monopolist status. So, thanks, Justice Department!

The options backdating scandal was like cheating on taxes — wrong, but I can’t get worked up about it. 

But the no-poaching agreement among Silicon Valley tech firms that resulted in depressed salaries — that was shameful and a blot on Jobs’s legacy. 

Steve Jobs had a famous reality distortion field; he believed the rules of the world did not apply to him. That allowed Apple to create brilliant, impossible products. But reportedly the cancer that killed Jobs is actually fairly straightforward to fix, but Jobs believed the laws of medical science did not apply to him. He thought he could heal himself using quack dietary cures, and by the time he learned better, it was too late. If that is the case, then Jobs fits the classic archetype of the tragic hero, a great man whose greatest strength is also his fatal flaw. 

 

Attorney: Tech advances make courtroom cellphone ban unconstitutional

The pencil and pad of yesterday has been replaced by the iPhone and iPad of today…. By the state court banning the modern tools of the First Amendment, this case would be similar to one where a state court bans all writing instruments. It would be unthinkable, yet here we are

– Michigan attorney Philip Ellison

The present ban on recording devices in courtrooms dates back to 1965, when they were far more obtrusive than today.

Attorney: Tech advances make courtroom cellphone ban unconstitutional | MLive.com.