Friday, May 31, 2002

complain about spam, get sued

In a case called the first of it's kind, an Australian company that allegedly sent out unsolicited commercial email was put on an anti-spam organization's blacklist as a result of a complaint against them about spam. They are suing the individual who made the complaint.

Being placed upon a blacklist allows internet services providers who subscribe to the blacklist information to block messages sent out from a listed company's location. The Australian company,
T3 is seeking loss and damages for replacing blocked or compromised IP numbers, labor costs of technicians to establish an alternative e-mail system, the purchase of a new server computer, and loss of income it claims to have incurred over a 20-day waiting period for a new Internet connection to be installed.
Lawsuits have previously been brought by alleged spammers against companies that provide blacklisting services, but until now, not against a complaining individual.
the children's internet protection act

Public libraries were required to install filtering software on public computers having access to the internet by July 1st of this year, or risk losing federal funds. In many ways, the internet is fast becoming the world's library, and computers in a library can add a great deal to their holdings. But, the filtering software available these days isn't up to the task of distinquishing between speech that is obscene, and speech that is constitutionally protected. A federal court in Philadelphia overturned the law earlier today.
"There is no correction to the law that can be made here to save it," said Stefan Presser, the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director in Pennsylvania. "The technology cannot block simply obscene speech, or speech that is harmful to minors, without blocking an enormous amount of speech that is constitutionally protected."

The judges, who heard nearly two weeks of testimony in April, wrote that they were concerned that library patrons who wanted to view sites blocked by filtering software might be embarrassed or lose their right to remain anonymous because they would have to ask permission to have the sites unblocked.
The 195 page long opinion in the case is at (via The Shifted Librarian)
old addresses, new owners...

You go to visit a favorite web site. It might even be one that you link to on your own web page. Instead of information on your hobby, or the quirky words and witticisms of your favorite online writer, you find pornography or a gambling site or a placeholder page that informs you that the site is under development. Even worse, your child goes to one of their favorite web sites from a bookmarks' list, or a desktop shortcut, and in place of the wholesome goodness that previously existed at the address, hard-core pornography appears on the screen.

When people allow their web site's domain name registration to expire, a number of companies have jumped in to register the name, and may have the opportunity to take advantage of some of the traffic that had been going to the site previously under that name. Affected sites have included web pages such as the ones run by the "Cape Cod History Society and the International Lutheran Woman's Missionary League." Schools, churches, civic associations, and personal web pages are often not sites that have had their names trademarked, and the former owners might have difficulties under the present arbitration system getting their site's name back. Search engines and directories often don't have a chance to notice the changes in the content of the pages resulting from new ownership.

An article which describes this practice, also covers some proposals that the organization that regulates the domain name system is considering, in response to a high volume of complaints. That body is the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN regulates the system and oversee a number of companies are the "sellers" of domain names - each of which has their own business practices. While those companies, or registrars, are accredited by ICANN and have to follow certain guidelines, there is a lot of room for differences in the ways that they operate.

The best practice is for the holder of a domain name to not let their registration lapse in the first place. But, for any number of reasons, owners of a number of web sites have failed to renew their registrations. Some may not want to continue with that particular name. Many people registered their web sites under more than one name, thinking that there was a need to protect a name by registering it with different spellings, or with different suffixes - i.e.,,,

Others may not have updated the contact information that they used when they originally registered, and did not receive notices informing them that the name was going to expire. There may have been problems with the method the registrar used to contact the person who registered to inform them of the expiration. Administrative mistakes on the registrar's part could result in a premature end to the registration period. The possibility of fraudulent transfers of ownership of a domain name, though hopefully very limited in practice, also exists.

When rights to use of a domain name expire through a failure to renew, what's wrong with another person or company using the name? Isn't that why there are expiration dates - to allow others a chance to use an unwanted address? There are legitimate reasons to want to take over many web addresses. It is a possibility that some of the companies rushing in to reregister expired names are doing so to try to make a quick profit. And this profit would be made not by the traffic to the new pages under the old name, but rather by having the previous owner pay to have ownership transfered back to them:
Mary Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation governing the Internet, said there were no statistics on the numbers of hijacked websites but that the group had received many complaints.

Hewitt said the practice is not illegal, although some authorities, notably in the United States, could prosecute someone for blackmail if it could prove a site was registered with that intent.
So, can ICANN do something to avoid this type of problem, and help to make it more likely that when a domain name expires, it's because the previous owner didn't want to use the name anymore, rather than because of a failure to renew a wanted name? Last week, we included links to a couple of articles by Harvard Student Ben Edelman who wrote about the reregistration of domain names. His studies and articles are hopefully fueling a proposal to change this system to make it less likely that unintentional transfers of ownership happen:
ICANN is studying a proposal to give website owners a 30-day grace period before expired domain names are opened up to new buyers, Hewitt said.

Edelman recommends a 90-day grace period that would keep expired names out of the hands of resellers.

"The right policy lets the original registrant get the domain name back," he said.
Of course, the grace period isn't helpful unless the site's owner is provided notice of the expiration. That could mean that the person who originally registered the site needs to make certain that contact information remains up-to-date. The registrar of the site could also take the step of redirecting attempts to visit a site with an expired name to make them arrive at a page that warns that the registration has expired during that "grace period." The notice would also allow visitors to the site to contact the owner of the site, or to remove bookmarks and shortcuts from their computers. It would also enable search engines and directories to update their indexes.

Purchasing an expired name to use in a different manner than a previous owner, or to resell, can be a legitimate business practice. The transfer of those domain names should allow visitors, and the previous owners, a reasonable period of time to become aware of the expiration and the possibility of a change in the content of the site. ICANN can do this by requiring a grace period and online notification by the registrar of the domain name expiration at the address in question.

If you are interested in helping to shape the policies of ICANN, and would like to see them address this problem (or any others), they do accept comments from the public. The ICANN Evolution and Reform Comments page gives more details on how to comment, and allows you to see comments made by others.

Thursday, May 30, 2002

social dynamics of the bar
The Delaware Bar is renowned for professional courtesy, and proud of it. What is interesting to me are the tiny subcultures of the bar that develop within the different areas of practice, and how they will be affected by the construction of the New Castle County Courthouse and the rising population. Of particular contrast is the calm and orderly atmosphere of Chancery as compared to the rough and tumble emotionally charged Family Court litigants. I will be watching the new interaction of these populations as they move from their separate buildings into the crucible of the new courthouse.

My theory as to why Delaware has thus far been able to maintain a high degree of congeniality as amongst the bar, is tied to Delaware's small size and small number of attorneys. In a profession where you deal with the same small group of attorneys every day, and where the ability to deal and rely upon one another's word is important, congeniality and professionalism are traits that foster a successful career and more efficient dispute resolution for our clients. As compared with the social dynamics of a large city where the citizenry and even the members of the bar are so numerous as to be anonymous to one another, there is less incentive to mind one's manners.

As the size of Delaware and the Delaware Bar rises, I regret to predict that shades of that anonymity will enshroud us and gradually degrade that congeniality and professionalism. I regret it because the high standards that we strive in this small group are what makes practicing law in Delaware such a precious delight (if one can refer to hard work in that manner). I am not sure what impact the change in the physical structure of the new courthouse will have upon the interrelationship between the members of the bar and the litigants, but I will be watching.

Some of the courts are scheduled to begin moving into the new building in August of 2002.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

rescued eagles

Our favorite environmental group, Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, Inc. recently made the news as four bald eagles which were rehabilitated at their facility in Newark, Delaware, were released on Monday. The group is largely a volunteer organization, and their oil-spill response teams have travelled around the world helping to rescue wildlife affected by environmental crises. Around this time, every year, they have a need for volunteers to help out with a large number of baby birds that are brought to their facility. If you're interested, they are more than happy for the help. There's no experience quite like feeding birds in one of the outdoor flight cages while they are rehabilitating.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Tricks of the Trade
by Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke

Question: I am a Paralegal with a Family Law Attorney. Our client discovered a voice activated recorder connected to a spare telephone jack in one of the children’s bedrooms. It appears her husband has been taping phone calls for an unknown period of time. Could you provide me with some basic information regarding wiretapping?

Answer: Del. Code Ann. Title 11, sec. 2402(c)(4) (1999): Delaware's wiretapping and surveillance law specifically allows an individual to "intercept" (defined as acquiring the contents of a communication through a mechanical device) any wire, oral or electronic communication to which the individual is a party, or a communication in which any one of the parties has given prior consent, so long as the communication is not intercepted with a criminal or tortious intent.

However, another Delaware privacy law makes it illegal to intercept "without the consent of all parties thereto a message by telephone, telegraph, letter or other means of communicating privately, including private conversation. Del. Code Ann. Title 11, § 1335(a)(4). The wiretapping law is much more recent, and at least one federal court has held that, even under the privacy law, an individual can record his own conversations. United States v. Vespe, 389 F. Supp. 1359 (1975).

Under the wiretapping law, communications intercepted illegally, or the disclosure of the contents of illegally recorded communications, can result in prosecution for a felony and a fine of up to $10,000. Del. Code Ann. tit 11, § 2402 (b) (1999). Civil liability also can be imposed in the amount of actual damages or a fine of $100 a day for each day of violation or $1,000, whichever is more, along with punitive damages, attorney fees and litigation costs. Del. Code Ann. Title 11, § 2409 (1999).

Installing a camera or other recording device "in any private place, without consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there" is a misdemeanor, and under a 1999 amendment, the use of hidden cameras to record individuals dressing or undressing in a private place is a felony. Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 1335(2), (6) (1999)

Wiretapping is the preferred method of obtaining intelligence (for quality reasons), it involves tying in to a wire or other conductor that is used for communications. This wire can be a telephone line, a PBX cable, a local area network, a CCTV video system, an alarm system, or any other communications medium. The goal in a wiretapping is to secure high quality information, and to minimize the possibility of the eavesdropping being.

Wiretaps are broken into four primary categories (Hardwired, Soft, Record, and Transmit).

A Hardwired Wiretap, is when physical access is gained to a section of wire that the signal (ie: telephone line) travels on. A second set of wires is attached (normally through the use of an isolation or slave device), the signal is then bridged back to a secure location. This type of wiretap when discovered is fairly easy to trace back to the listening post. This type of wiretap is very popular with the police, but is usually outside the scope of most eavesdroppers. If the eavesdropper is using a "slave" or similar isolation device on a telephone the tap will be virtually impossible for anybody except a high trained or properly equipped "bug sweep" professional to find.

A Soft Wiretap, is a modification to the software used to run the phone system. This can be done at the telephone company, or in the case of a business, the PBX. A soft wiretap is a preferred method to tap a phone, easy to catch on a PBX, but tougher to find in the phone company's system. It is sometimes called a REMOBS (REMote OBServation), DATU, ESS, or translation tap. This type of tap is very popular with large law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, larger corporations, and with hackers who find it quite simple to gain access via maintenance software. This type of tap is actually very simple to find, but does require completely un-restricted access to the inner workings on the phone companies computers (which is very tough to obtain).

A Record Wiretap, is nothing more than a tape recorder wired into the phone line, very easy to find on a TSCM inspection. Similar to a hardwired wiretap, but the tapes must be changed on a regular basis. This is very, very popular with amateur spies, but they are very dangerous to use, and many eavesdroppers have been caught red-handed when they showed up to service their illicit recorder.

A Transmit Wiretap, is an RF transmitter (or "Bug") connected to a wire (often containing a microphone itself). This type of tap is very popular, however; the RF energy it produces radically increases the chance that it will be detected by a competent "Bug Sweeping" specialist. Bugs are extremely difficult to detect (if properly installed), require a very high level of technical expertise, and a great deal of equipment to locate. It is virtually impossible to detect most wiretaps with any spyshop toys, bug detectors, and other such gizmo's. Instead the TSCM specialist has to use highly sophisticated laboratory grade instruments, and perform hundreds of highly sensitive measurements.

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator,

Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
302) 427-3600.

Or you may e-mail him at DEIrish

Monday, May 27, 2002

law school applications rise

Mississippi is reporting a drastic increase in the number of students applying to law school. They estimate approximate twenty-three percent more applicants. That's a small number compared to the eighty-five percent increase reported by the University of Maryland School of Law, which received almost 5,000 applications to fill 225 spots for this year's fall classes. The Miami Herald reports of a twenty-two percent increase nationwide. They place the number of applications by late March to have been 80,795. The amount of people who registered to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) was 133,800. A couple of the articles speculate that the reason why there are so many people applying for law school has less to do with any increases in jury awards, and more to do with the weakness of the economy. I was hooked on the idea after helping a friend in law school proof read a couple of his papers. To those of you who are lawyers, or are thinking of applying, what brought you to that decision?
dna databases

Arizona is planning on having a DNA database in place by 2004 to store genetic information for all people convicted of a felony. Genetic testing and evidence had been used in Arizona in the past mostly for violent felonies such as murder, robberies and rape. It's use will be extended to all felonies in the future. The idea is that people who commit serious offenses and only leave DNA evidence behind might be caught if they commit less serious offenses, and there is a matchup of the DNA.

Virginia has been following this practice since 1999, and last year they identified 300 suspects in cases because the DNA evidence collected matched DNA information in their database. This sounds like a practice that may spread to many other states within the next few years.
an fbi agent's memo

The memorandum written by agent Coleen Rowley offers some interesting insights into how the FBI handled the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, and possibly some suggestions on how the FBI may go from being an investigative agency to a more pro-active one.
viruses, worms, and other dangers to the internet

An article entitled How to Own the Internet in your Spare Time discusses some of the viruses that have been appearing recently on the internet, and how they could have been worse. The information being shared on that page is potentially hazardous to the health of the net, and comes as a warning that something along the lines of a "cyber center for disease control" is needed to protect the net. If you've ever received an email from a friend warning you about a hoax virus, you'll understand the need for some type of reliable centralized clearing house of information that most people are aware of and can check for information about viruses. (via the daypop top 40)
memorial day in delaware

We'd like to give our thanks to all of those who have served to protect our freedoms.

One Delawarean is being recognized for his service by being admitted to the Ranger Hall of Fame, as its 165th member, joining such people as Revolutionary War hero Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, Confederate Col. John S. Mosby of Mosby's Rangers and Brig. Gen. Frank Merrill of World War II's Merrill's Marauders. Congratulations, Charles R. Laws Jr., and thank you.

For the past 68 years, Memorial Day has been recognized by a parade in Newark. This year may have been its last. I hope that tradition doesn't end.
alternative transportation

Planning for alternative transportation often needs to start on a local level. The City of Newark is re-examining their Bicycle Plan for the City, and have a workshop scheduled for June 18th, to allow public participation. If you can't attend the workshop, but have an interest in the outcome of the hearing, they also have an interactive survey to solicit opinions on biking in Newark. While I think the survey is fairly well put together, and applaud the City for holding a public workshop, I wonder if they would receive somewhat different responses if they had held the hearing while the University of Delaware was still in session. Many of the bicyclists in town are students.
new political maps for delaware

Regardless of your political party preferences, you're going to need a new map to figure out which district is which in Delaware. Here's the map, as published by the Wilmington News Journal.
electronic eavesdropping

A Boston Globe article about the Patriot Act describes the increased ability of the government to electronically eavesdrop upon people under the Act:
Surveillance tools range from subpoenas for basic subscriber information and caller ID-type tools to searches of e-mail content and real-time wiretapping.

Under the Patriot Act, agents can subpoena customer payment records to obtain the identity of a user behind an e-mail address. They can also see where people venture in cyberspace. These clickstreams can reveal what people are reading, downloading and even purchasing.

The Patriot Act also allows law enforcers to bypass Internet providers to capture e-mail addresses or even to read e-mail and wiretap conversations in real time. Any federal judge, regardless of jurisdiction, can now approve such warrants.
The writers of the article also include a reference to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) page on the USA Patriot Act. One of the documents linked to on the CDT page worth taking a peek at is the Department of Justice's manual on Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations. Note that the date on the manual is January 2001. While the Patriot Act has probably changed some of the particulars, the document is the most extensive compendium I've seen of information from the government on the subject of searches and seizures involving computers.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

buckle up, newark

Driving without a seatbelt in Delaware is against the law. But, when and how the law is enforced will depend upon where you're driving. The Newark City Council has recently made it a "primary" offense. That means that a police officer can write you a ticket for driving without a safety belt, without having stopped you for any other reason.

In the rest of Delaware, the violation is a "secondary" offense. That means that if you are caught without being buckled up, when pulled over for something else, you are subject to prosecution for failure to wear your seat belt.

Legislation is going through the Delaware House and Senate which would make driving without a seatbelt a primary offense throughout the whole State. In addition, a violation would add points to a person's driving record. A House vote passed the bill on March 27, and it was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 28th.

You might be asking yourself why a seat belt offense was ever a "secondary" offense in the first place. Is there something in the law that might create problems if the law was a "primary" offense? It's possible that there was a reason for the "secondary" offense classification.

Delaware has recently seen a "click it, or ticket" campaign, where police were conducting roadblocks and informing people who weren't wearing seatbelts that they needed to have them buckled. Since the offense was a secondary one, those caught were let go with a verbal warning. Making the offense a primary one changes that. How will the law be enforced? Will we have seatbelt roadblocks on a regular basis? Another option might be spot checks, where a driver is stopped to see if his or her seatbelt is buckled. Might there be a problem with conducting those types of roadblocks or spot checks?

I imagine that seeing whether someone is buckled up from a moving patrol car is difficult thing to do, and might be a safety risk. But, it is a possibility. An safer alternative means would be to stop people to check. There may be a problem with that approach. Using roadblocks and spot checks may raise some constitutional issues, if previous US Supreme Court cases are considered.

In a Delaware case which went before the US Supreme Court, a police officer pulled someone over to check to see if their driver's license and motor vehicle registration were valid, without any reason that he could explain for suspecting that there was a problem. The case was Delaware v. Prouse, and the Court held that:
Except where there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed or that an automobile is not registered, or that either the vehicle or an occupant is otherwise subject to seizure for violation of law, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver in order to check his driver's license and the registration of the automobile are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
That might be the reason why the "secondary" offense classification was placed upon seatbelt violations.

As part of the analysis that the Court undertook, they mentioned the possibility of conducting roadblocks:
The holding in this case does not preclude Delaware or other States from developing methods for spot checks that involve less intrusion or that do not involve the unconstrained exercise of discretion. Questioning of all oncoming traffic at roadblock-type stops is one possible alternative.
So, Prouse might allow for carefully conducted roadblocks for traffic safety reasons, to check licenses and registration. Since that part of the ruling was not part of the decision based upon the facts in the case, it is considered dicta - and not necessarily an indication of possible future decisions of the Court.

Unlicensed drivers and unregistered motor vehicles can potentially create some road safety risks. People without licenses may have had them taken away because of previous offenses, or not have a license because they are too young to drive, or may have physical or medical conditions prohibiting them from operating a motor vehicle. A car without registration could have mechanical problems which wouldn't permit it to pass inspection, and may pose a serious risk of harm to others. Reasonable roadblocks as described in Prouse may serve a very useful purpose when it comes to highway safety.

Does driving without a seatbelt create a road safety risk? There are many statistics that show that people are more likely to survive accidents when wearing seatbelts (and wearing a seatbelt is a very good idea). There are no statistics I'm aware of that show that an accident is more likely to happen if a driver isn't wearing a safety belt. An argument could possibly be made either way.

Another Supreme Court case, Indianapolis v. Edmond involved carefully conducted roadblocks used to see if someone was transporting illegal drugs. A secondary part of the stop was to check registrations and licenses. The Court held against the roadblocks:
Because the primary purpose of the Indianapolis narcotics checkpoint program is to uncover evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing, the program contravenes the Fourth Amendment.
A number of exceptions were noted in the ruling, including a possible one where the primary purpose of the stop was for highway safety related purposes. So, is driving without a seatbelt more like driving without a license or with an unregistered motor vehicle, which may create risks for other drivers, or is it "ordinary criminal wrongdoing?"
california cracked

The computerized personnel files of 265,000 California employees were accessed without authority on April 5th. The database contains names, social security numbers, and payroll information. That's more than a third of the population of tiny Delaware.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Can reporting about anti-copyright protection be a violation of the dmca?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic."

- Arthur C. Clarke

Some of the large music labels started selling CDs that can't be played on computers. The idea, simply, was to keep people from using their CD players and CD burners to make copies of the songs on the disks. The outer tracks of the CDs contained errors that kept them from playing on computers. Normal audio CD players just ignore the errors. Some bright people realized that there was a very simple way around the anti-copyright protection. Reuters reported on the means by which the protection was being circumvented in an article entitled, "'Copy-Proof' CDs Cracked with 99-Cent Marker Pen" They even reported on their own (successful) attempt using the method described.

Might Reuters be prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), since their article technically violates the Act by spreading information on how to use technology to get around the record labels' safeguards? NewsForge suggests that it is a possibility:
In yet another example of how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act could trample on the First Amendment, Reuters may have violated the U.S. law by describing in a story this week how Sony's "copy-proof" protection for CDs can be defeated with a magic marker.

Of course, that would mean dozens of publications such as and, which carried the wire service's report, also violated the DMCA, and this very NewsForge article violated the DMCA by linking to the story.

What's this quaint notion about freedom of the press in the United States? Well, under the still enforced DMCA's anti-circumvention section, it's illegal to market information to the public on how to break copy protections, and the Reuters article did just that.
NewsForge also implies that Reuters might have been looking for a fight by writing and distributing the article. Will the government charge them with a violation of the Act? They've let millions of people know how to overcome anti-copyright protection.
best buy's best spot is Delaware

The muddy waters of the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in a case about city subsidies leaves the future of a Best Buy Headquarters construction project in a quandry. We wouldn't do that in Delaware. Hey Best Buy! C'mon Down.
county clerk survives assassination attempt

This bloody story reminded me of the death threats made against me when I was Clerk of the Court. But those were just threats. These guys in Kentucky are really murdering their competition for the upcoming elections.
e-z broke

Apparently, the E-ZPass system is running in the red zone.
copyright extension and the mouse

Copyrighted materials are an exception to free speech. Copyright's protection allows the creators of artistic and literary works to profit from their endeavors, and encourages that type of activity. The authors have a limited monopoly on the expressions that they create. But, at some point the ideas expressed in copyrighted material should be allowed to enter into the public domain. A fairly recent copyright extension act is at the heart of the debate in a case captioned Eldred v. Ashcroft. The plaintiffs have a web site (designed by Matt Haughey, from metafilter), which:
collects material related to the constitutional challenge of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended by 20 years both existing copyrights and future copyrights.
One of the items on the Eldred v. Ashcroft site is the following button, which they are encouraging people to copy and display to show support for their efforts:

free the mouse

Why a mouse? Eric Eldred wanted to publish old books on the internet. With the passage of this law, his plans were dashed. He decided to fight back, which is why this lawsuit has happened. But, why a mouse on the button? A number of copyrighted materials that still have some popularity in today's culture would be available to enter the public domain, and be reproduced freely if not for the copyright extension, including Mickey Mouse:
The first Mickey Mouse cartoon was set to enter the public domain in 2003, and characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy would have followed shortly after.
There's a lot of speculation in the press that Disney had a part in the passage of the copyright term extension act (see also the findlaw article entitled The Mouse that Ate the Public Domain). The irony here is that much of Disney's success has been based upon being able to make movies using characters and stories that have fallen out of copyright protection and into the public domain such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Quasimodo.
searching the mail

Should the customs office be allowed to open mail that goes across the border, without a warrant? That question was being debated in Washington, D.C., this week. The House has said yes:
a Customs officer may, subject to the provisions of this section, stop and search at the border, without a search warrant, mail of domestic origin transmitted for export by the United States Postal Service and foreign mail transiting the United States that is being imported or exported by the United States Postal Service. (from the Customs Border Security Act of 2002 )
This provision is part of a larger bill dealing with the Custom Office's budget, and it is possible that an amendment to the bill will remove that provision.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

delaware offers money school to other states

A program started almost three years ago in Delaware has seen some significant participation, and inquiries from other states. The Delaware Money School is an offering from the State Treasurer's Office intended to improve financial literacy amongst Delawareans. Senator Tom Carper, and State Treasurer Jack Markell are responding to requests from other states to share what the State has learned from presenting the classes:
Carper and Markell traveled to New York City on Monday to pitch their idea of expanding the Delaware Money School to national media, financial educators and financial services giant Citigroup, one of the leading sponsors of the Delaware program. They said the program, with modifications, could be adopted in many states, and that several already have expressed interest.

Since its launch nearly three years ago, the program, run by Markell's office, has taught 5,200 men and women in courses ranging from saving for college to saving for retirement. The courses, most of which are free, are paid for by corporate sponsors.

Analysts, planners, economists and other financial professionals volunteer to teach classes about four times a year. Roughly 70 classes are being offered this spring, up from 20 to 30 when the program first started.
The school is a great idea, and I'm happy that it's being shared with other states.

asia suffers from realnames shutdown

There's been considerable US media coverage about the shutdown of RealNames Corp lately. One aspect of the closing that hasn't been the focus of many of those stories is the impact upon asian web sites. The internet's domain name system can't handle asian characters. RealNames was enabling people to use keywords in asian characters to find those sites. Should the domain name system be changed to recognize other alphabets? Or should private businesses continue to address that issue? The CEO of RealNames is concerned that Microsoft might be the company that tries to fill the void in Asia that the closing of RealNames will leave.

nigerian email fraud arrests

You may have received an email or two asking for your assistance in helping the writer remove large sums of money from Nigeria. Such missives have graced my inbin more than once. My last message from Nigeria had me a little confused. I couldn't tell if the sender was actually from Nigeria, or from Zimbabwe:
I have served my beloved country Nigeria as a minister of Works and Housing for some years now.
and then, a couple of paragraphs later,
Please sir, I need to be educated professionally due to my low knowledge for any investment out side my country Zimbabwe. I would like this proposal to be treated with absolute trust and honesty.
The author's confusion alone made me distrust the email. Previous similar offers made it inherently untrustworthy.

But, I hadn't heard of any actions taken against the senders of those emails. Now I have. Six people were arrested in South Africa on fraud charges this weekend. Imagine being a legitimate businessman from Nigeria trying to engage in international business. Until this type of fraud stops, it will act as a barrier to small businesses from Nigeria trying to engage in trade on a global level. Maybe this arrest is a move in that direction.

trouble in paradise

Police at a tropical island are undertaking a murder investigation that's troubling for a couple of reasons. One is that it's the first murder on the island for 150 years. Another is that they have 2600 suspects:
In an unprecedented move, police have mailed out 2600 questionnaires, 1800 to island residents aged over 10 and 800 to tourists who were on the island on March 31.

The questionnaire asks people if they knew Patton, who worked at an island hotel, whether they saw her on the day she was murdered, and to detail their movements on that fateful day.

a thanks, and domain name abuse

Thanks to Larry Kestenbaum, from Polygon, the Dancing Bear, for sending some visitors our way, and for some interesting reading. It's great to see another blog addressing legal issues. Larry is a County Commissioner from Michigan who started his weblog this month while recovering from throat surgery. The Polygon entry from May 14th on domain name abuse includes a number of links to articles about when domain names lapse through accident or inattention, and someone else takes control. I'm going to include a couple of those here, but make certain to visit the Polygon site for the analysis of the issues there.

Two of the articles linked to on Polygon are from Harvard Student Ben Edelman. The first, Domains Reregistered for Distribution of Unrelated Content: A Case Study of "Tina's Free Live Webcam" examines the subject from a statistical and economics based approach. The second article, Large-Scale Intentional Invalid WHOIS Data: A Case Study of "NicGod Productions" / "Domains For Sale", covers "large-scale domain registrations" by companies that intentionally submit inaccurate whois information. The articles have been written to help groups deciding policy issues on domain registration, such as ICANN, and contain a number of thought-provoking observations.

Again, thank you Larry, and best wishes towards a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

litigating in public

The defendants who have been sued by PanIP, LLC for trademark infringement have put together a web site. Their reason for doing so:
To provide you with more information, Dickson Supply and several of the other defendants sued by PanIP have set up this special web site containing information about the cases. The site will include a guest book / bulletin board type conversation thread. The site will also include a spot for interested parties to sign up with their e-mail address so that they may be kept informed of events in the case as we post new information. We will also have a link or links to many of the documents filed in this lawsuit, including the complaint PanIP filed and the patents that are at issue.

Let this serve as a wake-up call to the ecommerce community and the consumer who will ultimately shoulder the burden of a higher cost of goods. Action needs to be taken now to protect our current methods of business and to prevent "patent pirates" of the future from taking advantage of what they perceive as easy money situations. Any ideas or assistance that you can provide is greatly appreciated.
If you have an e-commerce web site, you might want to visit their pages and see what the commotion is about. The Discussion Forum is filled with a number of interesting ideas and suggestions.

states and the high cost of medicine

States have been joining together to bring a number of lawsuits in recent years. An action against tobacco companies was followed by a suit against Microsoft. Now 35 States are teaming up to take on the high cost of medicine, in court. An attorney for one drug company has responded that the "solution should be legislation, not legal action."

If high prices are a result of "confusion over government pricing policies," he may have a point. A couple of recent cases involving pharmaceutical companies showed that there are some industry wide practices that need to be examined carefully. That might be easier to do in a courtroom than in a legislative hall.

talk about taxes

The constitution allows for taxation for the general welfare of the republic. But it often seems like taxes are being applied in a manner which influences behavior. Some of the topics being talked about concerning taxes, include raising the tax deduction for married couples, "revitalizing poor urban communities," and giving a tax break to purchasers of hybrid gas-electric cars. These all seem like reasonable things to do. Should taxation involve social engineering?

privacy rights in dna?

DNA is a hot subject in the UK these days, where a law is being considered that would make it a crime to take someone else's DNA without permission, and analyze it, unless it was being done for medical or investigative reasons.

challenge to sex offender registration

The Supreme Court will hear a case from Connecticut regarding the requirement to register as a sex offender:
The case the court accepted yesterday, Connecticut Department of Public Safety v. Doe, No. 01-1231, began in 1999, when two Connecticut men, whose names are being withheld, sued the state in federal court, claiming that they were not dangerous to the community and that they would be unfairly stigmatized if Connecticut's law were applied to them.
A federal court judge agreed with the men, ruling that a hearing needed to be held first to determine their dangerousness, before personal data about them could be posted on a web site. The court held that the right to due process would require that inquiry. A number of other issues have come up in other states involving notification to communities of convicted sex offenders, and it's possible that the Court will also address those issues. The way that Delaware handles community notification will probably be influenced by the Supreme Court's decisions.

if you receive an email from the state department...

A virus that is grabbing the email address of the US State Department, and placing it in the "from" field of emails resulted in a large number of people receiving virus infected emails apparently from the State Department on Tuesday. Variations of the Klez virus have been around since the late 1990s, but recently have been very active. When the program infects a computer, it searches the computer for email addresses, and randomly inserts an address into the "to" field and the "from" field. It appears that someone who was on a mailing list from the State Department caught the virus, and it began to spread to other people on that mailing list. Be careful when you open those emails, regardless of whom they're from. domain for children

The internet has a new sandbox. One that will supposedly be safe for children - The US House of Representatives approved a bill on Tuesday that allows a domain to be set up specifically for children. There will be some limits imposed upon pages within
Web sites in the domain would be prohibited from linking to sites outside it, and they could not set up chat rooms, instant messaging or other interactive services unless they could certify that they did not expose children to pedophiles or pose other risks.
Also not to be included: violence, hate speech, sexually explicit material, and other topics deemed not suitable for children. As much as I like this idea, why do I think that it will bring out some strong opinions regarding what type of material is or isn't "suitable for children?"

copyright arbitration royalty panel rejected

Many internet radio stations faced the greatest threat to their continued existence today, and won. The Library of Congress, and the US Copyright Office decided not to impose royalty rates recommended by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel (CARP). New rates will probably come in June. Let's hope that they aren't as high as the ones proposed by CARP, so that many fledgling internet radio stations can have the chance to find and build their audiences.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

beyond bar codes

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags have the potential to make many jobs considerably easier. You're used to the technology if you have an EZ Pass in your car. But the applications they can be used for go far beyond making driving though toll booths less painful. In many ways, they are the next step beyond barcodes. The chips contain an identification number. They don't emit radio waves themselves, but radio waves bounced off them can go to a receiver which will match them up with other information in a database. Hundreds of tags can be read at the same time if they are within the field of a reading device.

How will they be used? Here are some potential and some present day applications:
  • The Pentagon uses the tags in their filing system. Each file has a tag. When a file moves around, its location is noted in a database. If a number of files are in a box, the whole box can be inventoried without being opened. When a file is misfiled on a shelf, it's location can be pinpointed, and it can be moved to the proper spot.
  • Railroad cars, and their contents can have tags. When a train passes a location with a transmitter/receiver, the contents of the railroad car can be inventoried immediately.
  • Garbage trucks have been fitted with RFID tags. When a truck arrives at a landfill, the driver doesn't have to stop to fill out paperwork, but rather just drives up on a scale, and the weight of the truck's contents are recorded for later billing.
  • Items in a supermarket or store can be tagged. During checkout, all of the items or groceries can be counted at once, and only certain goods, such as produce will need to be manually handled by the cashier. An inventory of goods within the store can be conducted with portable wands, and matched up against the inventory of items purchased, to identify theft and loss, and to help make reordering easier.
  • You can wave a tagged item or card in front of a gasoline pump and it recognizes you, and matches your purchase with a credit card.
  • Employee badges can have tags in them, and can be used for security purposes.
There is a potential cost to this convenience. That cost might be privacy. The Insurance Commissioner of Delaware suggested within the past year or two that motor vehicle registrations contain a RFID tag. This would allow police officers to scan for invalid registrations from the side of the road. While that wasn't adopted, it is a possibility. Another use might be to put that technology into driver's licenses, and state identification cards.

The cost of the tags is hindering their widespread use. Presently, they cost somewhere between fifty-cents to a dollar. There are predictions that the cost will drop to less than a nickle per tag within the next few years. Once they do, they may become more common than barcodes.

gas emissions and gas cans

Starting in October, the price of a gasoline container will be somewhat higher in Delaware. That's because the law requires a new kind of gas can. One that will spill less and limit the amount of fumes that escape into the atmosphere. Delaware is one of a number of states requiring the new containers.
The Alliance for Proper Gasoline Handling, based in Washington, says the little spills while gassing up lawnmowers, boats and stranded automobiles put 9 million gallons of gas - the equivalent of a supertanker - into the ground each year. The vapors from the often uncapped 78 million old cans nationwide also contribute tons of emissions daily, advocates said.

"We were just stunned by the amount of emissions," said Richard Varenchik of the California Air Resources Board, which started the movement.

The California board estimates that 70 tons a day of smog-creating emissions eventually will be removed each day in California because of the measure.
While this is probably a good idea, it feels like only a small step in the right direction.

Monday, May 20, 2002

enforcing the smoking laws

Last week, Delaware's legislature passed one of the strictest anti-smoking laws in the country. The laws in California were part of the inspiration for the Delaware law, which prohibits smoking in a number of public places. The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about a day in the life of a California Deputy Sheriff, assigned to anti-smoking duty, which we are linking to here for those who get to enforce the anti-smoking laws in Delaware.

sexual harassment and anita hill

It's been over a decade since the highly publicized, and highly-watched confirmation hearing of Clarence Thomas. Anita Hill's testimony during that hearing didn't stop the confirmation of Thomas. But it did have an effect:
In the year after the hearing, women were elected to the House and Senate in unprecedented numbers. Charges of sexual harassment skyrocketed in the years that followed. In 1982, one sexual harassment charge was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; 10 years later, there were 2,910.

Around that time, a damage remedy was added to the Civil Rights Act to ensure sexual harassment victims could get economic relief.

The ensuing years also brought sexual harassment protection for students, and served as a wake-up call for employers. Many companies adopted policies against sexual harassment and started educating managers.
The article mentions the National Women's Law Center, which contains information on a number of subjects, in addition to sexual harassment. It's an interesting site, and definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

radio, radio

Bandwidth. When it comes to radio stations, it's limited. That's why the industry is so heavily regulated. What if that wasn't true? What if the limitations on picking up a radio station were the result of the transmitters and receivers that we use? Imagine that we had more intelligent means of broadcasting and reception that could tremendously increase our choices of frequencies.
In a panel discussion and interview last week at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in Santa Clara, Reed put in plain English some of the concepts he discussed at the FCC and which he has put online at his Web site ( Simply put, he said, we have to start looking at spectrum as an almost limitless commodity, not a scarce one.

The current regulatory regime that allocates spectrum ``is a legal metaphor that does not correspond to physical reality,'' he said.

Why not? First, he said, the notion of interference has more to do with the equipment we use to send and receive signals than with the physics of radio waves.

"Radio waves pass through each other," Reed said. "They do not damage each other."

In the early days of radio, the gear could easily be confused by overlapping signals. But we can now make devices that can sort out the traffic.
If true, this has the potential to open up the broadcasting industry. It also holds implications that today's communications companies might not want to think about. Much of the regulation of airwaves is based upon the thought that it is a limited commodity. How will that change if we find that it is virtually unlimited?

And, imagine if the radio stations also broadcast metadata about the songs and speech that they were transmitting? Camworld has an article on Metadata on the Radio from last December that, combined with news about an almost infinite spectrum of bandwidth, might change around the way people think about the future of radio.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

realistic video shenanigans

As video technology improves, it becomes more difficult to trust. At MIT, they've gotten good enough at manipulating video images, that they are literally putting false words in people's mouths:
A specialist can still detect the video forgeries, but as the technology improves, scientists predict that video authentication will become a growing field - in the courts and elsewhere - just like the authentication of photographs. As video, too, becomes malleable, a society increasingly reliant on live satellite feeds and fiber optics will have to find even more direct ways to communicate.

copyrighted name

A defendant in a criminal case in St.Louis is charging authorities $500,000 everytime they use his name, on the claim that it is copyrighted. While this claim is frivilous, that the defendant is making it while defending himself pro se (with standby counsel) may cause some problems down the line.

racism at harvard

Somehow it's appropriate that debate concerning race be examined under a microscope at a lawschool. Professors and students spend so much time focusing upon the outside world that problems close-at-hand are sometimes easily ignored:
It took nerve for first-year Harvard Law student Tel Cary-Sadler to deliver a two-minute speech before 80 students during his torts class, blasting his professor for making racist comments and requesting a public apology. Students at this 180-year-old law school -- in a rare position of priviledge -- are better known for putting aside their personal needs to get the ultimate designer degree than confronting senior faculty. For Cary-Sadler, who took the chance, nervy or not, that apology will never come.
A debate regarding academic freedom and anti-harassment rules? Maybe the school is over-intellectualizing the problem. Maybe it just comes down to treating other people with dignity, regardless of their nationality, race, or gender. And if a lawschool professor doesn't understand that when he or she is spouting-off about the need to protect "academic freedom," then maybe they don't understand that any freedom at all comes with a level of responsibility attached to it.

around the law

Some articles I came across yesterday that made for interesting reading:

Net privacy bill goes to Senate floor
Senate Panel Backs Computer Security Boost
Misdial at your peril; lawsuit highlights 'fat fingers' trap for 800 numbers
The Elvis wars
Germany to grant animal rights
Why Does School Own Clone Patent?
PanIP's patent on all websites
When e-mail comes back to haunt you
Making Copy Right for All and Creative Commons
The DMCA Is the Toast of D.C.
Gummi bears defeat fingerprint sensors
The Free State Project (via kuro5hin)

Thursday, May 16, 2002

inventors and patents

The National Inventors Hall of Fame has added 16 new members. Included amongst those inductees are John Presper Eckert Jr. and John Mauchly, developers of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (more commonly known as ENIAC), an ancestor to the modern computer.

The Hall of Fame was started in 1973 by the United States Patent Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations. Their web site is nicely designed and contains information about the process of applying for a patent. They also have information about Camp Invention - intended for students in grades 2 through 6, and about the Collegiate Inventors Competition.

zero tolerance

Today, I came across a couple of thoughtful and informative articles on the subjects of school violence, media coverage, and zero tolerance policies, from Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online, and from University of Delaware Sociology and Criminal Justice Professor Joel Best. Kurtz asks the following in his article:
According to the Washington Times, "school officials defend zero tolerance as an unfortunate but necessary reaction to increased demands for school safety." But what if those demands are based upon an illusion? What if the dangerous trends that make parents tolerate the abuses inherent in zero-tolerance policies are nonexistent? What if school shootings are not on the rise? What if the bullying that supposedly contributes to these shootings is not pervasive? What if, in short, our zero-tolerance policies are based upon myth?
For answers, he points at Joel Best's article Monster Hype.

what is intellectual property in the age of PCs and the Internet?

Pamela Samuelson thinks she knows

- samuelson, in the wall street journal - 5/13/02 -

Samuelson's Argument: Intellectual-property protection must be strong enough to give people the incentive to place their creative works in the public domain but not excessively strong. If protection is too strong, it can impede innovation. Samuelson is attempting to narrow the scope of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because it currently makes it illegal to circumvent technology designed to protect copyrighted work. Samuelson is concerned that the DMCA will slow the work of cryptographers and software developers who rely on existing software to improve and create new programs.

Relevant Case Law:
1986, The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rules that creating new software based on existing software violates copyright when there is a "substantial similarity" in the "structure, sequence and organization" of the new software. Whelan v. Jaslo presented a situation where a programmer had created software for a company and then the company used that software to create and market similar software. The courts sided with the programmer and declared that the company had violated her copyright.

1990, The Supreme Court overrules the Third Circuit's ruling in Whelan with Lotus v. Borland. The court rules that no copyright infringement is present when programmers use the basic structure of existing software to create new software even when the programs share similar features and interfaces. The decision gave programmers more liberty to copy the "look and feel" of existing programs.

2000, Napster. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules that Napster, a company that had developed and maintained an Internet based peer-to-peer file swapping service, encouraged and assisted people in infringing upon copyrights held by the record industry. However, the lower courts preliminary injunction was overbroad and the appeals court placed a higher burden on the record labels to give notice to Napster as to which copyrighted works needed to be removed from their service.

2000, Corley. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a publisher of an online magazine couldn't post software used to descramble DVD encryption codes. The software in question allows DVDs to be freely copied and distributed over the Internet. Samuelson argues that the courts should further narrow the DMCA to leave room for fair-use and free speech rights.

What’s Next: Currently, Samuelson is preparing to challenge the DMCA's provisions on removing or altering technology designed to prevent music and software from being freely distributed on the Internet and provisions limiting unauthorized copying of copyrighted works. Samuelson argues that the DMCA is being used to hinder research.

Here are some related links:

Q&A with Napster creator
Court upholds ban on DVD descrambling
Wall Street Journal
Articles about DMCA
Articles about current music copyright issues
Copy protected CD's

Summary by Kevin S. Mann - Delaware Law Office Law Clerk

samuelson law - intellectual property law

Pamela Samuelson, a noted international expert in the field of intellectual property in the 21st century, was spotlighted in 2000 as a person to watch in 2001 by USA Today.

Well, she is still riding the crest of that wave. Established by a significant endowment from Pamela Samuelson and others, The Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at University of California, Berkeley, is definitely a place to surveil regardless as to how you place your opinion on the litmus.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

patents on e-commerce?

Two patents are being used to bring lawsuits against 11 companies engaged in e-business. The plaintiff and patent holder, Pangea Intellectual Properties, may bring lawsuits against many others, according to their attorney, perhaps millions.

Because the article gives you only the titles, I'm supplying the abstracts from the patents here. If you would like to read the full text of the patents, they are available online from the search pages of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. You can use the patent numbers I've listed below to find the full text of the patents.

The abstract from the first patent, # 5,576,951, an "Automated sales and services system:"
A system for composing individualized sales presentations created from various textual and graphical information data sources to match customer profiles. The information search and retrieval paths sift through a hierarchy of data sources under multiple operating programs. The system provides the means for synergistically creating and displaying customized presentations in a convenient manner for both the customer and salesperson to achieve a more accurate, efficient and comprehensive marketing presentation. Organizational hierarchies of data sources are arranged so that an infinite number of sales presentation configurations can be created. Multiple micro-programs automatically compose the sales presentations initiated by determinants derived from customer profile information, sales agent assessment data and operator's entries including the retrieval of interrelated textual and graphical information from local and remote storage sources. A similar system can be used for filing applications with an institution from a plurality of remote sites, and for automatically processing applications in response to each applicant's qualifications. Each multimedia terminal comprises a video screen and a video memory which holds co-related image-and-sound-generating information arranged to simulate the aspect and speech of an application loan officer on the video screen. The simulated loan officer is used to acquire personal loan data from the applicant by guiding him through an interactive sequence of inquiries and answers.
The second patent is 3 6,289,319 , an "Automatic business and financial transaction processing system:"
A system for filing applications with an institution from a plurality of remote sites, and for automatically processing said applications in response to each applicant's credit rating obtained from a credit reporting service comprising a series of self-service terminals remotely linked via a telephone line to a first computer at the institution and to a second computer at the credit reporting service headquarters. Each remote terminal comprises a video screen and a video memory which holds image-and-sound-generating information arranged to simulate the aspect and speech of an application loan officer on the video screen. The simulated loan officer is used to acquire loan request data from the applicant by guiding him through an interactive sequence of inquiries and answers. The terminal is programmed to acquire credit rating data relating to the applicant from the credit rating service, and to use the data to compute the credit worthiness of the applicant and the amount which may be loaned to him. The approved loan information is then transmitted to the first computer for further processing by the financial institution.
These abstracts seem like they would only apply in limited cases, rather than for millions of web sites. Both appear to only involve the issuance of loans, rather than a much broader interpretation applying to the sale of goods and services over the world wide web. But, it will be a court that ultimately decides how broadly or narrowly Pangia's patents apply.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

serial killings in Juarez

A frightening story about a large number of murders of women working in american owned factories in Mexico seems to have been getting very little attention in the United States. I don't know if anyone from the US government has offered assistance, but it's needed.

a domain transfer gone bad

A fax sent to Verisign, claiming that the owner of a certain domain name was allowing the web site name to be transferred, resulted in the domain name registration company changing the ownership of the name to the sender of the fax. But, permission wasn't given. Verisign has admitted that it was duped. Their solution to the problem? None:
The facts in this case are that VeriSign received a forged fax from a Sarah at a fake address in Berlin, stating that Leslie Harpold had given permission for the domain to be transferred to her. The domain was not itself due for renewal until June this year. The company did so, and Harpold was frozen out the domain. Upon complaining, she was told that she would have to personally contact the new owner to agree terms, despite the fact that VeriSign never checked the transfer was correct.
Without a doubt, the system for transferring names is flawed. There are other companies registering domain names with more secure methods for the transference of ownership. More on Verisign from Leslie Harpold, on Textism.

slamming claim filed against verisign

Is Verisign engaging in a practice that had a number of long distance telephone service providers on the wrong end of legal battles a couple of years back? A lawsuit brought against Verisign claims that the company has been sending out notices to people allowing them to renew their domain name registration for their web sites:
BulkRegister yesterday filed suit in a Maryland court, saying VeriSign's mailshots are false advertising, and that its practices amount to tortuous interference with contractual relations and tortuous interference with economic opportunity. The company wants an injunction and is currently investigating monetary damages.

"It's deceptive... It looks like an invoice," said Tom D'Alleva, VP of marketing at BulkRegister. He argues that unknowing recipients of the mailshot are being duped into transferring their registrations to VeriSign, thinking they are renewing with their chosen registrar, often at a higher price.
The notice does explain that it is for transfer of the domain name to Verisign, but in fine print on the back of the notice. BulkRegister's hearing for a temporary injunction was to have been heard this morning.

identity theft

One of the best sources for people interested in "borrowing" someone's identity for a short period of time might just be the government:
Dozens of law enforcement Web pages list names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, heights and weights — everything an identity thief needs to impersonate a victim. Sometimes there’s even a photo. The dossiers belong to prison inmates and wanted criminals; the sites that list them have become user-friendly shopping malls for identity thieves.
Records regarding bankruptcies may also be available online, and may include social security numbers.

corporate accountability

Delaware's local pundit Al Mascitti has an opinion piece in the Wilmington News Journal on accountability for corporate citizens, in which he talks about continuing an industry tax on corporate polluters to provide money for environmental cleanup under the superfund. The law allowing for the tax was not continued in 1995, and the money that had been collected is running out this year. Under his analysis, it does seem to make more sense for the industry to help cleanup by contributing to the superfund than having all taxpayers share in the burden.


The publisher of has asked another web site ( to remove a link from a printer-friendly version of an article that appears on the runnersworld pages. The correspondence between the two makes for some interesting reading.

Monday, May 13, 2002

neighborhood watch takes on terrorism

The Neighborhood Watch program has been around for more than 30 years, helping to get citizens involved in policing their neighborhoods to fight crime. Members of the program will be undertaking some new activities in the future:
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the need for strengthening and securing our communities has become even more critical. President Bush has announced that, with the help of the National Sheriffs' Association, the Neighborhood Watch Program will be taking on a new significance. Community residents will be provided with information which will enable them to recognize signs of potential terrorist activity, and to know how to report that activity, making these residents a critical element in the detection, prevention and disruption of terrorism.

We will be publishing information which will assist citizens in organizing Neighborhood Watch Programs, knowing what to look for in the community, and understanding what to do if they observe suspicious activity. Under the umbrella of the newly-created Citizen Preparedness Councils, the Neighborhood Watch Programs will help to distribute useful information circulated by the Councils and other agencies.
The Progressive has a slightly different view of the program, in their article entitled Amerisnitch.

cloning and the senate

How will the Senate vote on the Human Cloning Prohibition Act? An article in the Economist indicates that amongst the members of the Senate, there are five basic arguments in favor of a ban, and six basic arguments in support. The conclusion to the article? That the likely result of the Senate's vote later this month will be a two year moratorium on cloning, while research and debate continue.

student visas online

Over the next few months, tracking student visas will become possible over the web. Schools will have the ability, and the requirement, to update name changes and indicate whether a student has dropped out of school through the online system. The database will also speed up the communication process greatly:
The system will link every U.S. embassy and consulate abroad with every immigration service port of entry in the United States and all schools eligible to enroll foreign students, Hartle said.

Before foreign students can apply for a visa, they must be accepted by a school, which will enter their names and identifying information in the database. The students will pay a $95 registration fee and be issued a paper receipt. It must be presented along with the acceptance letter to a U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for a visa, he said.
This upgrade to the INS tracking system was initiated by a 1996 immigration reform law.

amish safety dilemma

A plastic orange triangle may spell exile for a group of Amish people who refuse to display the symbol on their buggies. Pennsylvania law requires that the symbols be placed upon slow moving vehicles. The bright orange sign violates an aspect of the Amish religious beliefs which refuse such gaudy displays. If they fail to succeed on appeal, they may possibly leave and go to Ohio where the law allows them to use grey reflective tape, and red laterns.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Friday, May 10, 2002

amazing spider-man artist
The artist behind the Amazing Spider-Man is engaged in a marathon this weekend. A 48 hour sketch-athon that has him alternating between Planet Hollywood and Bar/Code Galactic Circus, drawing pictures of Spider-Man, and signing them, for a fee.

John Romita, Jr.'s 2-year-old niece needs money to pay for chemotherapy, and the man holding the pencils is trying to help out with the tools of his trade. Jordan Atherton was diagnosed with cancer late last year, and is undergoing chemotherapy and stem cell transplants after surgery last November.

The "marathon benefit sketch event" would be a Guinness record if John Romita, Jr., can break the 48 hour mark. If you're in New York City, you can show your support by visiting one of the locations where he will appear. A number of other artists are showing up to cheer him on, including Scott Hana, Jim Lee, Tim Towsend, and John Romita, Sr. Additional details are available on Romita's web site.

More about his niece, and a link to streaming video of John Romita's weekend marathon can be found on a web site named Saving Baby Jordan. It is also possible to donate to the fund online. (via metafilter)
technology in the courts
Ernie Svenson of Ernie the Attorney and Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage both recently wrote about Texas Judge Curt Henderson and his webpage. While the Judge's site is not funded by the State of Texas, it enables attorneys to save time and money by using information provided on the page. It's an excellent example that other judges might want to look over.

Judge Henderson's web site is featured in an article at entitled E-savvy Judge Ups Courtroom E-fficiency which mentions that the web site is only half the story. Judge Henderson is taking advantage of a number of other technological advances to make judicial proceedings more effective. These include:
  • powerpoint presentations in the courtroom

  • displaying evidence on a screen through a projector known as an elmo

  • conference calls by phone for some arguments in civil cases

  • submission of motions by fax

  • proposed orders sent to the judge by email
It's great when a judge is willing to take steps like Judge Henderson has to use this type of technology on a regular basis. To the best of my knowledge, there are no Delaware judges who have a web page like Judge Henderson's. But, a lot of the technology that he is working with is available in Delaware. The Superior Court of Delaware, the highest level trial court in the state, has been working diligently to keep up with technology.

A number of e-courtrooms have been set up which allow digital displays of evidence before the Court through powerpoint and other presentation software. Elmo projectors can be used to show enlarged versions of evidence on a screen. Diagrams drawn by an attorney or witness, on a smartboard, can be saved electronically. Digital audio recording in the courtroom gives attorneys the opportunity to take home cds of the day's proceedings. Live time reporting of a court reporter's transcription permits real-time electronic broadcasting of testimony. A "pink noise" generator can be used to mask the sounds of sidebar deliberations from the jury. Access to the internet, to the state intranet, and to attorneys' virtual private networks can result in remote information being pulled into the courtroom. A judge can contact his or her secretary and law clerk by email without leaving the bench. Instant messaging between stations allows for silent communication between the Judge and the court clerk.

Electronic filing and docketing of documents has been a reality in Delaware for a number of complex litigation cases, involving multiple plaintiffs and defendants in civil matters since 1991. Delaware Courts are looking at software to expand that capability to all cases sometime within the next few years. Electronic scheduling will also be included in that initiative.

Briefing by CD-rom is something that has also been adopted in Superior Court. The major requirement imposed upon attorneys who would file a brief by cd is that "the CD-ROM include imaged or text copies of all legal authorities cited."

The Court also has an automated sentencing order program that allows for orders in criminal cases to be generated in the courtroom almost immediately after the pronouncement of the sentence by the judge. The orders are electronically sent to the Department of Corrections and the probation offices, and the sentencing information is available to police officers in their computer database. A Drug Court Information System allows treatment providers to send their treatment reports to the court electronically.

A number of the e-courtroom tools available to attorneys are being adopted for use slowly. To help along, the University of Delaware has held Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes for attorneys to help them integrate technology into their courtroom presentations. The classes have included a visit to a Superior Court e-courtroom.

Technology is transforming the way the justice system functions, and the way that attorneys practice law. Delaware's future may or may not include judges using their own private web sites in the manner that Judge Henderson has, but it will see many more changes as the courts and attorneys include more technology into the way that they work.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

privacy in the national zoo
Interesting news from the National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institute. A request for medical records for a giraffe who died recently was refused on the grounds that the Zoo is protecting the privacy of the animal. The response raises a number of questions, (and the article covering it starts to delve into government secrecy issues outside of the original scope of the article).

How much privacy can an animal in a zoo have? Is the privacy being protected that of the giraffe, or of the people who cared for the giraffe?
Harvard University's Laurence Tribe, who supports the introduction of legislation to permit people or certain groups to legally represent animals subject to abuse, said that the least likely designee to protect an animal's welfare is a zookeeper.

"It is sort of the fox guarding the hen house," Tribe said. "They are clearly the ones whose neglect or mistreatment might be at issue."
When we find ourselves starting to make statements about protecting animals' rights to privacy, shouldn't we begin asking ourselves whether we have a right to hold those animals in zoos?
a clearer picture of einstein, or of the fbi?
Some new details about Albert Einstein are emerging from the recesses of history. Details redacted from his FBI record (ny times, reg. req'd) are being filled in. The file is available to the public online.
no more cookies?
A cookie is the name of a type of file that can help track a person's travels across a web site. A new technology has been announced that might make cookies obsolete. The use of cookies has made many people browsing the web nervous, and concerned about their privacy rights. This new software may make them even more nervous:
It has, as the features list makes clear, great privacy-invading potential. The "sensors" it uses:
- can be individually customised for any web visitor;
- can collect information rather than return pre-downloaded data.
- can be reconfigured remotely;
- are difficult to detect and delete;
- can be used to block access to sites, documents, data, emails, etc., based on content,
- can be preferentially customised for each user.
The software is not yet quite ready for commercial release. This technology that holds the ability to bring more security and control also appears to hold the promise of more potential abuse, enabling someone to remotely monitor a web site visitor's keystrokes.
slots in maryland
A statement made in Maryland during their pending political debate over slot machines that Delawareans should consider:
If Maryland approves slots, it would likely control the machines and keep the lion's share of the proceeds, predicts state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee.

"We won't do what they did in Delaware. I'll tell you that," she said.
I'm certain that many difficult decisions were made when slot machines were brought to Delaware. They are providing much needed revenue to the State. And a private/public partnership seems like a good idea. Chances are also good that slot machines saved the horseracing industry in Delaware. But, is it time to think again about that relationship in light of statements made by politicians from our neighbor state to the south?
The last of the motions to dismiss filed by Russian software manufacturer ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., were denied on Wednesday by the District Court Judge in the case. The company has built software that enables a person to make a copy of an ebook, even though the ebook has technology built into it to stop people from making copies. Such software is illegal in the United States under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The motions argued that the DMCA
was overly vague, violated free speech rights and infringed on the established right to "fair use" of copyrighted material.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a copy of Judge Whyte's 35 page long opinion online. The decision in this case, and in any appeals that may follow it, may be very important when it comes to the balance between a creator's protection under copyright, and the freedom to share ideas under the first amendment.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

unsafe surfing
The scenerio painted in a Salon article entitled The pop-up ad campaign from hell lives up to its name. Malicious spyware, hijacked web surfers, and an internet business with questionable practices, and it all begins from a "family entertainment portal."
special domain for doctors, lawyers, and accountants
The .pro domain may become a reality soon. The price for the new domain will be approximately 10 times what most other top-level domains costs. In addition to the name, some additional security features will be available to the holders of .pro domains. These would include encrypted email and a security certificate for the site.
"The bundling of a domain name with a digital security product is a tremendous development in Internet security," Stephen Wu, co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the American Bar Association, said in a statement. "The .pro system will provide a means for professionals to conduct electronic transactions and communications that satisfy electronic signature laws and provide assurances of identity and confidentiality."
After trademark holders, then doctors, lawyers, and accountants get their chance to take domain names. Eventually, architects and other professionals will be allowed to use the suffix.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

appealing red lights
Wilmington's red light camera's have some enforcement problems it seems, from a story in today's Wilmington News Journal. Since 10 cameras were turned on in June of last year, 25,155 tickets were issued. Nearly 14,000 people have paid. A very few people appealed. All 214 people who have appealed their citations have now had their cases dropped. A number of problems came up that caused the hearings of the appeals to be delayed for an extended period of time. In response to the delay, the City has decided to drop the cases against those people.

The article details many of the implementation problems, and some objections to the program overall. It also includes the locations of the cameras. When it comes to traffic control devices like stoplights, safety should be the sole concern. Not revenues. That's an issue that the News Journal raises which I'm glad to see in print. For more on the subject, see House Majority Leader Dick Armey's page on The Truth About Red Light Cameras.
point-to-point or walkathon?
This last Sunday, Delaware was host to two different events. One was the Point-to-Point equestrian showcase held on a Dupont estate, drawing 22,000 people to a day of fun in the sun, and the other was a 14,000 person charity walkathon organized by an MBNA charitable foundation. Fortune Magazine has a feature on the timing of the events called Who's the King of Delaware?
Not since Beverly Hills was stormed by hillbillies has the world seen such a clash between the old gentry and the new. Yes, it would be easy to dismiss it as a tempest in a gilded teapot, a mere triviality in a world riven by bloody conflict on three continents. That view would be correct, of course. But then, who can resist the spectacle of a collision between what may be America's original corporate culture--Du Pont--and an upstart, mildly messianic cadre of executives with money and ambition to spare? From the invasion of blue-blood redoubts to the changing face of Wilmington's downtown; from MBNA's growing political brawn to its, well, distinctive sartorial philosophy, the credit card company is shaking the old order in the first state of corporate America.
I missed both events. Delaware really needs something like the sxsw as a counter point to such corporate sponsored events. Anyone interested in working towards one for next year?
another look at national id cards
Eric Peters, an automotive columnist for the Washingtom Times weighs in with his perspective on a new piece of legislation introduced into the House of Representatives last week. Why a writer on automobiles? Well, the law doesn't call itself a national identification system. It goes to some ends to distinquish itself from such a system.

What it calls for is biometric information being included on driver's licenses. And a means by which any transaction requiring the use of a driver's license be able to verify the identity of the person involved. This means financial transactions. The information would be kept in a database.
Though they hotly deny that their bill (and companion legislation in the Senate) would create a national-I.D. card that could be used to monitor and track the doings and affairs of every adult American, that's nonetheless exactly what Reps. Moran and Davis have set in motion. Their bill would give the federal government and its minions unprecedented access to information about our daily lives.

Every financial transaction, every trip, each time we produce a driver's license to conduct business would be noted and recorded in a government database. The encrypted microchip would also be used for voter-registration purposes — perhaps even keeping overt track of our political preferences. Our lives would become an open book for any government snoop or busybody who wants a look-see.

And with the national-ID "smart card" almost certainly being linked-at first, or after Americans get used to the idea — to our financial lives in every critical respect, there will be very little the government, its myriad agencies (including the IRS), and even "authorized" private-sector contractors won't know about us, or be able to find out.
I'm hardpressed to say how this wouldn't be a national ID system either.