April 17, 2009
The Regulation of Video Games
Loza reviews this case rising on appeal in which California's regulation of minors' access to violent video and computer games is challenged on First Amendment grounds.
First Circuit Grants Appeal of Record Companies to Deny Webcast in Tenenbaum Case
The First Circuit has granted the request of the record companies that the proceedings in the case between the RIAA and Joel Tenenbaum not be webcast. The district judge, Nancy Gertner, had granted the request, but the recording industry had appealed. Here is a link to the ruling.
London Police Seize Tourist's Vacation Snaps
London police have seized an Austrian tourist's vacation photos in the name of national security. Specifically, they took all photos having to do with transportation (all those iconic London buses and bus stations). The Metropolitan Police indicated it is investigating the incident. The tourist, Klaus Matzka, is lodging a complaint with authorities and noted that Google Earth takes photographs "of any details of our cities on the world wide web....But a father and his son are not allowed to take pictures of famous London landmarks."
Pirate Bay Team Convicted, Sentenced
A Swedish court has convicted, sentenced, and fined the Pirate Bay website founders for copyright violations. The four men, Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde, were sentenced to a year in jail and fines of four and a half million dollars. Said one of the Pirate Bay crew, Peter Sunde, "It's so bizarre that we were convicted at all and it's even more bizarre that we were [convicted] as a team. The court said we were organised. I can't get Gottfrid [Svartholm Warg] out of bed in the morning. If you're going to convict us, convict us of disorganised crime."
The four said they would not pay the fines and will appeal the verdict. Read more here in a BBC article.
Indonesian Supreme Court Rules For Time Magazine in Suharto Defamation Appeal
Time Magazine has won a reversal of the defamation verdict against it in the Suharto case. The Indonesian Supreme Court reversed its own 2007 ruling, finding that statements in Time's 1999 article did not deviate from the Indonesian press code. However, some commentators on the ruling say that the judgment may not mean a liberalization of judicial attitudes toward the press. Read more here in an article in the Financial Times. Here's more from the Guardian.
April 16, 2009
That Amazon Glitch
Helen Popkin updates us on the Amazon.com "glitch." She says the problem was customer service.
Law Professors Sue West Publishing Over Treatise Pocket Part
Two law professors have sued West over a supplement to Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure: Law, Commentary, and Forms, which they say does not fairly represent their work. The publisher issued the 2008 pocket part, which normally contains summaries of about 150 new cases, with only three new cases in it. Professor David Rudovsky, of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Professor Leonard Sosnov of Widener Law School, did not work on the newest supplement and say that users will think less of them and their scholarship as a result. West has since sent out a revised pocket part that it believes clarifies the situation, but Professors Rudovsky and Sosnov were not mollified. Read more here in a Chronicle of Higher Education article and here in an article from The Legal Intelligencer.
Nurse Fired After She Secretly Films Patients At British Hospital
A nurse has been dismissed from her position after she secretly filmed patients at the hospital where she worked for the benefit of BBC documentary filmmakers who were doing undercover work to discover bad conditions at the institution, the Royal Sussex Hospital. Margaret Haywood said she thought the filming was in the best interests of the patients and that she had tried to bring the poor conditions at the hospital to the attention of the hospital administration beforehand. Nevertheless, an ethics panel said she had breached her duty of confidentiality to her patients. The 2005 documentary brought attention to conditions at the hospital and questions in the House of Commons. Read more here.
April 15, 2009
Judith Krug, Head of ALA's Office For Intellectual Freedom, Dies
American Apparel/Woody Allen Lawsuit Gets Ugly
The clothing company American Apparel is defending itself against a lawsuit by Woody Allen by saying that billboards using his image can't have damaged his reputation any more than he damaged it on his own. The company used a still from Mr. Allen's film Annie Hall on its billboards advertising its product lines briefly, and Mr. Allen sued. Now American Apparel is claiming that the use caused no harm to his reputation and plans to make Mr. Allen's own behavior with regard to his one-time companion Mia Farrow and current wife Soon-Yi Previn part of its defense. Read more here.
Subpoenas, ISPs, Anonymous Posters, and Public and Private Plaintiffs In Defamation Suits
The Communications Decency Act prevents victims of online defamation from suing intermediaries like Internet Service Providers and online message board operators. As a result, plaintiffs have resorted to filing John Doe lawsuits and subpoenaing Internet companies to reveal the identity of anonymous online posters as a way to silence defamatory speech. The purpose of these John Doe lawsuits is not to win a monetary judgment but instead to silence the critic through exposure. Currently, First Amendment considerations lead to distinguishing between public and private figure plaintiffs in what must be proven to win a defamation suit on the merits. This article argues that those same considerations should also lead to distinguishing between what public and private figure plaintiffs must prove to issue a subpoena to expose an anonymous online critic.
Download the article from SSRN here.
Privacy Law and Criminal Law In Hong Kong
The recent distribution of nude photos of a number of high profile Hong Kong celebrities has provoked intense discussion about the state of Hong Kong's obscenity and indecency laws. In this paper, I argue that Hong Kong's laws prohibiting the transfer of obscene and indecent information and images between consenting adults are both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. The Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance is under-inclusive in that it does not adequately criminalise grave violations of privacy. It is also over-inclusive because it is a blanket prohibition against the transfer by all parties (including consenting adults) of all forms of obscene and indecent materials. The laws unnecessarily violate the free expression rights of both the producer and consenting viewer of the offensive materials. The producer/publisher of such materials does not harm his or her audience as they willingly view such materials. The justification for maintaining a blanket prohibition against all transfers of such materials is invalid and utterly and totally out of touch with modern life in Hong Kong. The proponents of such laws have used Victorian positive morality considerations to justify continued criminalisation. These laws should be abrogated and replaced with a new piece of legislation that is narrowly tailored to deal with those types of offensive displays that are wrongful in a critical rather than a mere positive morality sense. Criminalisation should be limited to those offences that target children or use children in the production process, violate the rights of non-consenting adult audiences not to receive certain intimate information in certain public contexts, and violate privacy rights by publishing a person's private and intimate information without consent. If x obtains y's profoundly private information and publishes it without y's consent, then x violates y's privacy rights in a grave way. The violation in the right circumstances will justify a criminal law response rather than a mere civil law response. Similarly, if x and y copulate on a public bus they subject the captive audience to an offensive display which violates the non-consenting audience's right not to receive certain intimate information. I argue below that these types of privacy violations give the lawmaker a legitimate justification for invoking the criminal law.
Download the article from SSRN here.
Advisor To Gordon Brown Quits Over Emails
An advisor to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has resigned over emails that have been called "smears" of opposition party members. Civil Service head Sir Gus O'Donnell also said they breached civil rules. Damian McBride quit his position as an advisor to the Prime Minister over the weekend after the emails surfaced. Members of the Liberal Democratic party also indicated their dismay. Questions have arisen concerning the leak of the emails, which came via a website called "Red Rag." Read more here. Here's more from the Times.
"Tranquility" Gets the Nod For Node
Astronaut Sunita Williams revealed on last night's Colbert Report that NASA has decided to name the new International Space Station module "Tranquility" after the Sea of Tranquility, the original landing spot for humans on the moon. But the agency did name a treadmill after Stephen Colbert, who was the top votegetter in a recent poll. The piece of exercise equipment is called a Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill--a COLBERT. Quipped Mr. Colbert, ""I think a treadmill is better than a node ... because the node is just a box for the treadmill. Nobody says, 'Hey, my mom bought me a Nike box.' They want the shoes that are inside."
I think this compromise is both diplomatic and clever. Mr. Colbert always seems to be running for something.
April 14, 2009
Name For New ISS Module To Be Announced On "Colbert Report" Tonight
So will it be the "Colbert Chamber"? Or the "Serenity Space"? Or some other choice for the new module on the International Space Station? Astronaut Sunita Williams gets the honor of revealing the name on the Colbert Report tonight.
Louisiana's Governor To Write Book About His Life, Policies
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has signed a publishing deal with Regnery Books to write a book about his experiences and political views. The book, to be co-written with Peter Schweizer, should be out next year.
Doe, a Deer
Regulating Digital Privacy Online
In January 2009, the Camera Phone Predator Alert bill was introduced into Congress. It raised serious concerns about privacy rights in the face of digital video technology. In so doing, it brought to light a worrying gap in current privacy regulation - the lack of rules relating to digital video privacy. To date, digital privacy regulation has focused on text records that contain personal data. Little attention has been paid to privacy in video files that may portray individuals in inappropriate contexts, or in an unflattering or embarrassing light. As digital video technology, including inexpensive cellphone cameras, is now becoming widespread in the hands of the public, the regulatory focus must shift. Once a small percentage of online content, digital video is now appearing at an exponential rate. This is largely due to the growth of online social networking platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Sharing video online has become a global phenomenon, while the lack of effective privacy protection for these images has become a global problem. Digital video poses four distinct problems for privacy, arising from: de-contextualization, dissemination, aggregation, and permanency of video information. While video shares some of these attributes with text, its unique qualities necessitate a separate study of video privacy regulation. This article identifies a rationale for, and critiques suggested approaches to, digital video privacy. It argues that legal regulation, without more, is unlikely to provide necessary solutions. Instead, it advocates a new multi-modal approach consisting of a matrix of legal rules, social norms, system architecture, market forces, public education, and non-profit institutions.
Download the article from SSRN here.
Former NPR Journalist Tried On Espionage Charges
NPR reports that Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who has reported for NPR in the past, was tried in secret, according to Iranian sources, on espionage charges. The court will issue its verdict soon.
Amazon.com At the Center of a Rankings Storm
A new Amazon.com policy through which the giant online retailer is trying to make its lists of top selling books more "family friendly" is apparently backfiring with a vengeance. A large variety of books have lost their sales rank because they are categorized as having a particular sexual content, even if they are classics, such as best sellers over time like the works of novelists E. M. Forster and Gore Vidal, and the non-fiction advice book The Joy of Sex. An Amazon.com spokesperson said the loss of rankings was caused by a "glitch" and was not aimed at gay and lesbian authors or content. She said the episode was an "embarrassing and ham-fisted error." Angry customers have registered their displeasure with Amazon. Read more here in a Guardian article, here from the New York Times, and here in a CNN story.
Update: According to an AP story, the rankings are slowly coming back.