Thursday, April 16, 2009
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.
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.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
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.
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.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The jury deliberating in the murder trial of record producer Phil Spector has found him guilty of second degree murder in the death of Lana Clarkson. Members of the panel rejected the option of finding him guilty of a lesser charge. The trial was the second for Spector; an earlier proceeding ended in a mistrial. More here from MSNBC.com.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
An American University college radio station student ended up giving his sound card to a Veterans Administration public affairs officer who objected to his interview of an attendee at VA Town Hall meeting. Things deteriorated from there. Nevertheless, Mr. Schultz is getting his sound card back. Read more here. Here is a link to a letter that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press sent to Erik Shinseki, Secretary for Veterans' Affairs and Fernando O. Rivera, director of the medical center at which the incident took place.
A second TMZ photographer has filed a complaint over an altercation with actor Woody Harrelson, this time out of an event at La Guardia Airport. Mr. Harrelson and his daughter were returning from filming of the actor's new movie Zombieland. Mr. Harrelson says he was still feeling his character and thought the photographer was a zombie. Here's a link to more from TMZ.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Rapper Kanye West told the AP that the satiric show South Park had enough of an effect on him to cause a reality check. Something about not always telling people how dope he is. Read more here, and check out his blogpost on the subject, where he expresses his new resolutions.