Sunday, June 30, 2002

piracy in russia

Forbes reports on the attempts in Russian to end piracy of copyrighted works, and how it faces both legal and cultural difficulties. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry "estimates that two in every three recordings in Russia is a pirated copy."
mr. potato head joins the police

In Arizona and Los Angeles, a new tool is being used to try to help victims of crimes identify suspects. It's software that uses a photographic database and facial recognition technology, and allows someone to pick and choose different features to construct an image of a face. Police in Arizona have nicknamed the system "Mr. Potato Head," for its similarity to the childhood toy. Software from the company that developed this application is being used in approximately 900 police departments in the United States.
ftc to search engines: disclose paid results

When you search at a search engine such as one of those run by AltaVista, AOL Time Warner, Direct Hit Technologies, iWon, LookSmart, Microsoft and Terra Lycos, you expect the most relevant results for your search to appear. Sometimes, though you may receive certain web sites because someone has paid a search engine to return that page when a certain keyword, or keywords are used in a query. It's difficult to tell the two types of responses apart. It's also not always clear that some or all results on a specific search engine are of the paid-for-placement variety.

A few months back, a consumer advocacy group named Commercial Alert filed a complaint with the FTC asking that the paid-for-results be more clearly identified, so that consumers could tell between web sites that were relevant responses from the search engines database, and ones that they were paid to have appear. The FTC will be asking search engines from the above companies to more clearly label search results that appear as a result of paid placement. They also asked the companies to make it easier for consumers to find out more about their pay for placement programs, so that searchers can make informed decisions regarding which sites to visit, and which search engines to use.

Saturday, June 29, 2002

cybersquatters and icann

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held meetings this past week to review their practices, and to possibly reorganize their own structure. Some issues that they were considering addressing were geared towards helping businesses and people "fight extortion by speculators, known as cybersquatters." A great number of other topics were addressed, and there is coverage on many of those in the ICANN blog and ICANN Watch. (It might take a while to wade through all of these.)
what role futurists?

When the movie Minority Report was being made, ideas were solicited from futurists on what the world would be like fifty years from now. In Russia, futurists are working to try to give the Russian Federation, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) an idea of what the Volga River will be like thirty years from now. The results of the study will likely be shared with people from other geographical regions that have major waterways running through them (such as the Delaware or the Mississippi rivers).
how much for the moon?

The ultimate gift in diplomatic circles at one time was a presentation of a moon rock by the U.S. Government to a country. A Florida business man who purchased a moon rock from someone in Honduras is being told that he has to relinquish ownership rights to it so that it can be returned to Honduras. The rock was officially a gift to the Honduran Government, but sometime during a string of changes in governance, it disappeared.

It was seized from the Florida man by the U.S. Government in 1998, and is now the subject of a petition for return of property under the case name "United States v. Lucite ball containing lunar material." During the dispute over who owns the rock, estimates about the value of the rock have been calculated to be in the millions of dollars. Should the government be selling pieces of the moon to people willing to spend such sums of money?
register for the news

More news sites are requiring registration to read their content. Is this a sign of things to come from media sites on the web? Will the cost of staying informed through online sources become the loss of privacy? (via metafilter)

Friday, June 28, 2002

death penalty in Delaware

It's been more than a couple of years now since the trial of Thomas Capano, but the case continues to spring up as a subject for books, and in the newpapers, and on television. The former Delaware prosecutor's murder case continues to attract media attention. It was most recently seen on TV in March as the subject of the pilot episode for a series on the Learning Channel called Caught.

Today, the case is again in the newspapers as the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal in the case without comment.

It's likely that a new appeal will be brought by Tom Capano's attorneys arguing the constitutionality of a judicial death penalty decision, with a nonbinding recommendation by a jury. Should the jury have made the decision as to the sentence, and not the judge? Should the decision have been unanimous? The Supreme Court appeared to be holding off on ruling on the Capano case until a determination was made in the Ring v. Arizona case.

Though it's uncertain as to how the Ring ruling might affect Delaware capital cases, Delaware's legislators have been busy deciding how to rewrite Delaware's death penalty statute. The Delaware Senate has prepared and voted on a bill which is ready to be presented to the House of Representatives. A companion Delaware bill also followed that one through the Senate, in response to the Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, and would prohibit the execution of defendants found to be mentally retarded.

The last day of Delaware's legislative sessions is Sunday, and it is possible that the House will wait until then to decide upon these bills. Are these two bills responding to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court too quickly? Is it necessary that they be decided now, before the legislature breaks?

Arguments have been made that the statutory process is being conducted without a sufficient understanding of the implications of the federal court's rulings. Yet, we had a capital murder case put on hold this last Tuesday because the trial judge felt that he couldn't go forward without more review being made of the Court's ruling in Ring.

A judicial solution would be to certify questions of law to the Delaware Supreme Court. That process could possibly take more than a year to resolve, and would likely cause any other capital cases to be stayed rather than go to trial. Will a new death penalty statute speed up the Delaware Supreme Court's review of Delaware's death penalty in light of the Ring decision? That's not certain either.

I like the idea of a special legislative session meeting this summer to decide upon the issue, rather than our representatives trying to make a decision in the last few days of the legislative season. Interestingly, that idea also surfaces in an editorial in the Wilmington News Journal which also presents an argument for abolishing the death penalty.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

new courthouse to open soon

September 3 is the date being advertised as opening day for the New Castle County Courthouse. Among the many features offered there, you may see current scheduling information being scrolled on 50 inch plasma screens in the lobby; attorneys may use wireless links from their portable computing equipment to contact their office computers; and you may rent a parking space for $150 per month.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

pledge of allegiance unconstitutional

But only in the Ninth Circuit, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. While not directly on point, this is some contrast to last year's ruling by the Sixth Circuit that Ohio's motto, "''With God, all things are possible,'' is constitutional.
delaware courts news

A Delaware Judge halted proceedings in a capital murder case on Tuesday after considering the implications of beginning the trial in the wake of the Ring v. Arizona ruling by the US Supreme Court:
"I think that this is the type of earth-shaking move in constitutional law that puts the trial court in an impossible position of going forward," Superior Court Judge Richard S. Gebelein said, according to a transcript of the conference in his office with attorneys involved in the trial.

Gebelein delayed the murder trial of Miles Brice, 19, of Newark, until the Delaware Supreme Court can review the state's law.
Jury selection was almost completed when the decision was made to stop. The Wilmington News Journal article alludes to the preparation of questions to be sent to the Delaware Supreme Court regarding the applicability of Ring to the capital case. That would be done pursuant to the Supreme Court's rules regarding the certification of questions of law to the Court.

In other news from the Delaware courts, Supreme Court Justice Joseph T. Walsh has announced that he will retire next year, after 30 years on the State Supreme Court, Chancery Court, and Superior Court. His wisdom and experience on the bench will be missed.

Volunteer attorneys have been stepping up to help the State manage its civil and criminal caseloads. Delaware is the only state in the country which has a program in place allowing volunteer prosecutors for civil and criminal cases, and we have been having some retired and inactive attorneys coming forward, and making a difference.
new nirvana song by year end?

The legal battles between Courtney Love, and the former band mates of her late husband look like they might continue for quite a while over the rights to material recorded by the band Nirvana. But, it's beginning to look like they might agree enough to issue an album before the end of the year which would include the previously unreleased song "You Know You're Right."
possible delaware business law changes

Not yet signed by Governor Minner, the following Senate Bills have made their way through the Delaware House of Representatives:

SB 361, amending the General Corporation Law
SB 362, amending the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act
SB 363, amending the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act
SB 364, amending the Delaware Revised Uniform Partnership Act

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

stretching out the dollar
Who best to stretch the dollar but a man named Greenspan. A child of the depression, he is a trusted figure in matters involving the U.S. economy. As I start to look forward to the November elections, albeit off-year elections, I recall my thoughts from the last one: please let Roth's staff remain in power; and nobody had better mess with Greenspan. They both made me feel warm and fuzzy.
can you imagine a world without murder?

I had a chance to see the movie Minority Report this weekend, and I was impressed with how good a movie it was. The special effects were special, the plot was strong, the acting was extraordinary, and I didn't leave the theatre dissatisfied like I did with Steven Spielberg's last movie, AI. I've been avoiding reading reviews of the film until after I had the chance to see it. I've read a couple of them today, and the one from echoes a lot of my thoughts regarding Minority Report. A spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet, the review does give some slight glimpses into the storyline, as I do with the title to this post.
family medical leave

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear next fall a Nevada case which deals with whether state workers can sue states for violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). States are normally immune from lawsuits by citizens, with a very few exceptions. Will a violation of the FMLA become one of them?
motorcycles v. baseball

Gilroy's Indian Motorcycles and the Cleveland Indians have found their way into a new arena -- a courthouse. The motorcycle company is having difficulties trademarking their name and logos so that they can be put on toys and clothes. The source of their problem is opposition from the Cleveland Indians and and Major League Baseball. Quiet on the controversy so far are the Atlanta Braves, indigenous Americans, and the Country of India.

Monday, June 24, 2002

here we go again

Supreme Court Justice O'Connor's dissenting opinion, in today's ruling by that Court that juries must make the decision about the death penalty, brings out observations about the practical effect that this case will have on the already overburdened criminal justice system. I suppose we must now endure another Capano penalty phase? The answer is yet unclear....

Saturday, June 22, 2002

electronic discovery

How much has email and the storage of records in electronic databases changed the exchange of information between parties to a lawsuit? Typical requests during the discovery phase of a case include such things as asking for the production of documents, depositions of parties and possible witnesses, and the exchange of written questions, or interrogatories. More and more businesses are conducting a greater share of their every day work with the use of computers.

An article on the pages of the Law Library Resource Xchange ( called Electronic Discovery - Or, the Byte that Bit does a very good job of discussing some of the issues that you might be faced with if you're an attorney receiving discovery from opposing counsel in an electronic form. Do you have the right hardware and software to read the information? Is it in a format that you can use, and on media that you can read? Will it need to be converted in some manner, and do you have the personnel with the technical skills to help? Is there hidden data, or missing data? The article is very useful, but it's three years old, which is a lifetime in internet years.

Electronic Discovery: A How-to Guide for Litigators is a special feature this month on, and it has a wider scope in its coverage of digitalized discovery than the article. For example, in the section on Responding to Electronic Discovery:
Successful electronic discovery response means more than just gathering information reactively; it means maintaining control over information creation and storage in the regular course of business. This mandates a new way of thinking for in-house attorneys, their outside counsel, and corporate IT personnel as electronic discovery preparedness becomes part of the company's business strategy, rather than simply a case-by-case reaction to pending subpoenas or document requests. In this important three-way communication, each party has an important role to play.
Some of the other issues discussed are the potentially staggering costs of retrieving information, methods that can be used to index electronic documents, and a need to possibly review and update discovery rules in this new electronic age. It's worth reading as much for the suggestions it offers as it is for the questions it raises.
death penalty cases

A decision this week from the US Supreme Court receiving a great amount of press attention is Atkins v. Virginia, where the Court held that:
We are not persuaded that the execution of mentally retarded criminals will measurably advance the deterrent or the retributive purpose of the death penalty. Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light of our “evolving standards of decency,” we therefore conclude that such punishment is excessive and that the Constitution “places a substantive restriction on the State’s power to take the life” of a mentally retarded offender. Ford, 477 U.S., at 405.
The Court, in a footnote, pointed towards the definition of mental retardation adopted by the American Association on Mental Retardation (AAMR). It will be up to the states to determine how exactly to follow the guidelines that definition describes, and there's some concern over how that will be done.

There's some speculation on the pages of Capital Defense Weekly that the decision may open the doors for other challenges to the death penalty, such as its use against juveniles:
The language of the Court's decision, however, is not tightly drawn to just the issue of mental retardation but was very sweeping and seemed to lay down the gauntlet for additional "per se" challenges. Where the Court may lead next, whether it is just to the issue of juvenile executions (diminished capacity & the rarity of such executions) or as far as Texas's Special Questions Procedure ("The practice [ ] has become truly unusual, and it is fair to say that a national consensus has developed against it.") is an issue for brighter minds & another day to contemplate.
The Capital Defense Weekly includes a great amount of information about the law involved with death penalty cases. (Amongst many others, one case that they point towards as a "must read" for litigators interested in using possibly exculpatory DNA evidence is the Mississippi Supreme Court case Brewer v. Mississippi.) Another site that includes news and information on the death penalty from the defense perspective is the Capital Defense Network. An article in the New York Times also considers the impact of the ruling, but from a slightly different vantage.

What impact will this decision have on Delaware? One consideration would be whether or not it would be used in an appeal for anyone currently under a death sentence in the State. The State of Delaware Department of Corrections' web site has a section on the History of the Death Penalty in Delaware and includes a list of defendants currently sentenced to death in Delaware. Whether or not any of them will appeal based upon this ruling is unknown. An article citing the reaction of the region's critics of the death penalty tells us that
Nationwide, the mentally retarded make up 2 percent to 3 percent of the general population, but they comprise 10 percent of the inmates on death row.
Participants in future cases will have to consider the Supreme Court's decision in Atkins and make some decisions as to how the AAMR guidelines will be followed in determining whether a defendant is mentally retarded.

An interesting analysis of Justice Scalia's dissent can be found in Howard Bashman's June 21st entry in How Appealing, and it is definitely worth taking some time to read over his thoughts on the case and the links that he provides.
less music on the internet?

The Library of Congress has set broadcasting rates for music web-casters, and both the recording industry and internet stations have admitted to disliking the way that those rates are set. Many web-based stations are concerned that they cannot afford to continue to broadcast. It would be a shame to lose stations like the excellent Live 365. While these rates apply to internet stations, radio stations do not have to pay similar fees.

The Radio and Internet Newsletter suggests that maybe it's time for recording industry representatives and web-based broadcasters to sit down together at a table and work towards a positive solution to this problem -- to enable the smaller stations to continue. I know that I've purchased at least a dozen CDs over the past two months that I heard songs from through an internet station. I don't think I'm the only one listening before buying, and I don't believe I would buy as much music if I didn't get a chance to hear a few songs first.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

be kind, please rewind

Sometimes you just have to wonder about the labels that show up on something that you purchase. Like when you buy a bag of peanuts, and it has a warning on the side telling you that it contains nuts. I thought that was the point. The web site Dumb Warnings has compiled many of the instructions, rules, and warnings that you might be surprised to see on products. I especially enjoyed their take on labels on DVDs, from a large video chain, asking that people rewind the DVD after watching:
I asked the manager of my local Blockbuster why that label would be on DVD cases, he told me, "DVDs can be rewinded like VHSes, so please rewind it, if we get a message from the central headquarters of Blockbuster stating otherwise, we will keep those labels on the DVD cases."
Sure they can. That little label they put on videotapes does get me to rewind. Warning labels can keep people from getting harmed. But, they should make sense.(via bOing bOing)
spies of the founding fathers

The new international spy museum, opening sometime in July, just made a showcase addition to their list of exhibits by purchasing a letter written by George Washington. In the document, General Washington authorizes a man in New York to set up a network of spies in the region.

This is a departure from the tales we hear of our founding fathers during our studies in grade school. How common were espionage and intrique in those days? I came across another letter online which may have been the one to influence our first president to send the spy museum's newest acquisition.

Two letters don't make a spy ring, but there's reason to believe that there was much more going on behind the scenes then we've been made aware of in our history books. According to an article on the CIA web site called The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence, George Washington, John Jay, and Ben Franklin were quite good at intelligence. Washington's specialty was the gathering of foreign intelligence. John Jay excelled at American counter intelligence. Benjamin Franklin was the master of propaganda and covert actions.

The best of the spies was a man that we may never have known about. It's said that he was the inspiration for James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Spy, even though Cooper never learned the man's name, and based his words on stories relayed to him second hand by John Jay. In 1832, at the age of 82, Enoch Crosby dictated a 12 page deposition to a county clerk in New York while applying for a federal pension. Hidden within the clerk's dry diction and difficult punctuation is the compelling tale of Crosby's life as a spy.

Crosby had made the claim that he was Cooper's Spy, shortly after the novel was published. This article disagrees, and guesses at a couple of other sources for the novel. Regardless, I'm hoping that Washington DC's International Spy Museum will tell us more about some of these revolutionary spies when it opens next month.
law library of congress

One of the sections of the Webby Award winning Library of Congress web site that I hadn't visited before tonight was the Law Library of Congress. If I had known what a great resource it was, I would have been singing this site's praises long before now. Their Guide to Law Online is excellent, and I've found a number of Delaware sites that I'm compelled to visit from their Delaware page. They also have a special feature in their gallery called A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: US Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1873. It's the place where you can find out something like "what else happened on July 4th, 1776, during the Constitutional Convention," by looking at the Journal entry for that day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

public domain images online

gray wolf

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a searchable gallery of public domain pictures for you to use. There's some really great stuff there. (via metafilter)
webby awards

The 2002 Webby Award Winners have been announced. The winners and nominees in the Government and Law category:

Webby Aware winner: Library of Congress
People's Voice Winner: NASA

Remaining nominees:

Copyright Website
Council on Foreign Relations
U.S. Geological Survey
pdf in the lawyer's office

Ernest Svenson, of Ernie the Attorney has an insightful and instructive article on called Adobe Acrobat for Lawyers, which describes how he uses the program in his daily practice.
delaware river and bay authority unveil new travel policy

On the heels of a great amount of criticism in recent weeks, the Authority has adopted new requirements regarding travel that make its members more accountable to the public. Maybe someone needs to start up a river and baywatch site. I'm thinking more like this than this.
iolta program to go before the supreme court

The Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program in Washington State will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court next fall, according to For those of you who don't know what an IOLTA program is, an explanation. Attorneys are often required to hold on to money that belongs to their clients. Sometimes the amount is large enough so that it can earn interest without the interest being swallowed up by bank fees. That money is held in an account where interest accrues, and can be turned over to the client. Sometimes the amount is fairly small, or will be held for a very short period of time. A page on the Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection of the Bar of Delaware web site tells us this about those funds:
When a client gives you a "nominal" amount of money, or you will be holding a client’s money for a "short period of time," Rule 1.15(g) states that these funds shall be maintained in a "pooled interest-bearing depository account" which is set up so that the interest the account earns will be paid to the IOLTA program administered by the Delaware Bar Foundation.

The idea behind the Delaware Bar Foundation is that attorneys often hold amounts of money for clients that are so small or will be held for such short periods of time that the interest the money could earn for the client if it were held in a separate interest-bearing account for that client would be less than the cost involved in earning or accounting for the interest. However, when these amounts of money are held in a pooled client trust bank account, they collectively can generate substantial interest. The Delaware Bar requires that this aggregate interest, which would otherwise benefit only the bank, is used to ensure that poor Delawarians have access to legal services.
(The rest of the page, Client Trust Accounting for Delaware Attorneys is a great source of information on handling client's money.) The Washington class action is claiming that the interest earned through the IOLTA program still belongs to the clients, and that the use of that money by the government is an unconstitutional taking of property "without just compensation" under the fifth amendment. The article also states that. "According to the American Bar Association, IOLTA programs represent the second-largest funding source of civil legal services in this country."

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

volokh on terrorism and the fourth amendment

Eugene Volokh, who teaches constitutional law at UCLA, and writes about law on the Volokh Conspiracy, has written a thought provoking opinion piece for Slate, called Searching for the Enemy, about when requirements of the Fourth Amendment, such as a search warrant and probable cause, are faced off against extraordinary circumstances such as the possible presence of a dirty nuclear bomb.
abandoned property

Delaware's fourth largest source of revenue last year was $163 million from abandoned property. In addition to property that gets separated from its owners, who can't be found, there's a fair amount of property that belongs to someone else, but remains on the books of a business such as uncashed paychecks, unredeemed gift certificates, and unclaimed vendor checks. While this type of property no longer belongs to the businesses, they may be the only ones who know about it. Delaware tends to receive a lot of money from businesses that hold abandoned property because of legal rulings that have stated that if a property-owner cannot be found, the money should go to the State of the creditor's last known address. If that can't be determined, or if that State doesn't provide for the escheat process, the property would then go where the business holding the property is incorporated, (see Delaware v. New York, 507 U.S. 490 ).

How is the existence of abandoned property held by businesses uncovered? Delaware often relies upon the amounts being disclosed voluntarily by businesses during the merger and acquistion process:
Companies looking to buy other companies worry that if they don't spot the abandoned items on a seller's books before the states do, they could get hit later with a huge tab, including interest and penalties for not paying up.
For more on unclaimed property, visit the pages of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
minnesota v. army

In what looks to be a bit of a battle to come, the Minnesota Historic Society is refusing to turn over a Civil War Era flag to the Army's chief of military history, Brig. Gen. John S. Brown. While I understand Virginia wanting their flag back, I sort of admire the North Star State's gumption here.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

jazz festival request

This year's Clifford Brown Jazz Festival at Rodney Square in Wilmington starts tomorrow night. There's a slightly different feel to the concerts this year. It's focus will be more on local bands the first few nights, before national acts start taking the stage on Thursday night. There's also more variety in the types of jazz being performed. According to the Wilmington News Journal, one of those national acts has a request to the crowd. John Scofield is a big fan of Clifford Brown.
In fact, Scofield is such a fan that he has an appeal to make to jazz fans in this area: He's trying to find a copy of an album Brown made with Sonny Rollins called "Live at the Beehive."

"It's not on CD, I guess," Scofield said. "Maybe somebody has a copy and can make me a cassette."
Scofield performs on Sunday, so if you have the ability and inclination to share some Clifford Brown music with him, we may see a very happy guitarist take the stage that day. Sunday's show starts at 2:00 pm. Here's the rest of the schedule.
licensing in russia

Lord of the Rings bubble gum is now on sale in Russia, joining a number of "properties" that are, or will be featured on products there, including the Simpsons, Marvel Comics, Harry Potter, and many others. The Moscow Times is reporting on official licensing in Russia, in an article called Pushing Wizards and Fighting Pirates.
inside the supreme court

While we occasionally hear about the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, very little media attention ever focuses upon staff members of the highest federal court. The Associated Press is carrying a feature on a staff attorney within the Court called, Supreme Court's 'death clerk' deals with toughest cases, which provides a glimpse of the inner workings of the Court.
on credit cards, wilmington, and debt

A long, but very readable look at the credit card industry in Wilmington, Delaware, from the Style section of the Washington Post, called Just One Word: PLASTIC, Why we owe our souls to Wilmington, Delaware. The descriptions of downtown Wilmington, and places outside of town like the Charcoal Pit are terrific.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

segway lobbies for sidewalks

Whether you call the motorized scooter by the name Ginger, It, the Segway Human Transporter, or "electric personal assistive mobility device," there's been a flury of activity by its creator and manufacturer to bring the vehicle some public visibility. Testing by mail carriers, police, and warehouse workers was only one start to its adoption as a mainstream source of transportation.

The vehicle hasn't been released yet to the public, but its manufacturer, Delaware limited liability company Segway, has been actively courting politicians. Company lobbyists have been visiting state houses, and working to convince legislators to allow use of the motorized scooter on sidewalks.

They've even been attempting to remove the ban that prohibits the use of the vehicles on sidewalks and trails paid for by federal funds. Though, there have been some concerns voiced about the use of the vehicles on federal wilderness trails.

The Center for Injury Research and Policy has compiled a considerable amount of information about the Segway, and includes links to Segway legislation pending as of March 6, 2002 in many statehouses. Twenty four states have passed laws allowing for the vehicle's use, and in four others, legislation awaits governors' signatures. provides a good list of positives and negatives relating to the use of the Segway transporter.

In Delaware, legislation on the Segway moved into the Senate Public Safety Committee on June 11, 2002. Here are some of the Delaware provisions that are part of the bill:
"Section 4198N. Operation of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices (‘EPAMD’).

Nothing in this Title of Delaware Law shall be construed to limit the operation of an EPAMD on the public highways, sidewalks, and bike ways of the State except the following:

A person operating an EPAMD shall obey all speed limits and shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and human powered devices at all times. An operator must also be given an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian. Failure to obey shall result in a warning for the first offense, $10.00 fine for the second or subsequent offense, and impoundment of up to thirty days for the third or subsequent offenses.

An EPAMD shall not require a license plate or be registered by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

An EPAMD shall be equipped with front, rear, and side reflectors; a system that when employed will enable the operator to bring the device to a controlled stop; and, if the EPAMD is operated between one-half (1/2) hour after sunset and one-half (1/2) hour before sunrise, a lamp emitting a white light which, while the EPAMD is in motion, sufficiently illuminates the area in front of the operator; provided that these provisions shall be satisfied if the operator of the EPAMD wears a headlight and reflectors on his or her person.

No proof of financial responsibility is required for the operation of an EPAMD.
The requirement to give an audible signal everytime you pass a pedestrian may leave some riders with hoarse voices after long trips.

For more news and information about the vehicle, visit Paul Nakada's Segway News, where he is blogging about the appearances of the scooter on the web. (I wish I had found his site before I started writing this post, instead of after it was almost done - his pages are a great resource on the subject)
clifford brown jazz festival

Jazz takes over the City of Wilmington next week (June 17 - 23). At least, in the evening hours it does, as the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival comes to Rodney Square. This is the 14th year for this series of free concerts, and the list of performers makes it look like it will be an incredible event. I know that I can't be there for all of the nights, but it's going to be difficult deciding which acts to see. Saturday's show starts at noon, and Sunday's kicks off at 2:00 pm. Mayor Baker's press release has more details, including some biographical data about the performers.
orange juice to replace milk as the commerce dispute beverage of choice

Milk was the king of US beverages when it came to the commerce clause. Cases like West Lynn Creamery v Healy, H. P. Hood and Sons v Dumond, and Dean Milk Co. v Madison are some of the dairy cases that have been before the US Supreme Court involving interstate commerce. It's beginning to look like orange juice might replace milk as top drink for disputes involving trade.
jurors' note in the arthur andersen case

"If each of us believes that one Andersen agent acted knowingly and with a corrupt intent, is it for all of us to believe it was the same agent? Can one believe it was Agent A, another believe it was Agent B, and another believe it Agent C?"
On the eighth day of deliberations in the criminal case against Arthur Andersen, for obstruction of justice in the destruction of documents relating to Enron, the jury came back with the above note to the Judge. That's a great question, and it says some very positive things about the level of discourse that's going on in the jury room. The judge's response came today, telling them that they "do not have to agree on who committed the crime as long as each of them believes somebody did." While the prosecution agrees with this result, the defense argues that based upon the nature of the charge, the jury would have to be able to agree upon the identity of a specific wrongdoer.
electronic fingerprints snare serial killer?

We do leave our footprints behind us when we travel through the web. Police in Illinios believe that they may have apprended a serial killer based on tracking his passage through cyberspace.

An online generated map, sent by the suspect to taunt a local paper which ran a story on one of the victims, was used to locate him.
An Illinois State Police search of online mapping companies led to an exact match between features on the newspaper-received map and one found on

On June 3, Microsoft Corp., which tracks access to that Web site, gave the FBI a computerized spreadsheet showing that only someone with the Internet Provider address days prior to the mailing to the Post-Dispatch accessed the site and searched the West Alton area. Technology even showed the person zoomed in 10 times to better define the map's location.
Was the person they captured a serial killer, involved in the deaths of at least 10 women near the Mississippi? It's uncertain. Their suspect was found hanging in his jail cell three days after his capture. It was ruled a suicide. Was he the person who committed the crimes, or might someone else have had access to the account he used to get online?

The police should be applauded for their efforts in trying to find a serial killer. But should we be worried about how they were able to track someone from traces left on the net? The Associated Press article raises the questions of how such abilities might be used in the future, and how widespread their use may become. There are a number of issues that will come up as the use of computer forensics becomes more common in criminal investigations. One that I'm thinking about is what expectations of privacy we might have in the files on someone else's computer which show our movements through their web site. Another is how evidence like that in this case would have been presented to a jury.

Friday, June 14, 2002

hair law

I liked the following quote, from a federal court opinion in Massie v. Henry:
With respect to hair, this is no more than a harkening back to the fashion of earlier years. For example, many of the founding fathers, as well as General Grant and General Lee, wore their hair (either real or false) in a style comparable to that adopted by plaintiffs. Although there exists no depiction of Jesus Christ, either reputedly or historically accurate, He has always been shown with hair at least the length of that of plaintiffs. If the validity and enforcement of the regulation in issue is sustained, it follows that none of these persons would have been permitted to attend Tuscola Senior High School.
What brought me to it was the story of a 12-year-old student who received detention because of his hair color. He was rewarded for his good grades at home by being allowed to dye his hair in his school's colors - a nice shade of blue. School officials took offense. (It also made me wonder how many school administrators out there might touch up a dash of gray with a little something out of a bottle.) A section from the Massie opinion I liked even more was this one:
So, too, we turn to the sufficiency of proof of state interest and violation of the rights of others in this case which may constitute justification for the regulation. There was no evidence that consideration of health entered into the picture; the only claimed justifications were the need for discipline and considerations of safety. We think the proof of the disruptive effect of some students having long hair was insufficient to justify the regulation and its enforcement. Proof that jest, disgust and amusement were evoked, rendering restoration and preservation of order difficult, and that there were threats of violence was insufficient. Moreover, there was no proof of the ineffectiveness of discipline of disrupters or a showing of any concerted effort to convey the salutary teaching that there is little merit in conformity for the sake of conformity and that one may exercise a personal right in the manner that he chooses so long as he does not run afoul of considerations of safety, cleanliness and decency. In short, we are inclined to think that faculty leadership in promoting and enforcing an attitude of tolerance rather than one of suppression or derision would obviate the relatively minor disruptions which have occurred.
The other case referred to, but not named, in the article about the blue-haired pupil wasn't about hair, but rather about three children who wore black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam. That case is Tinker v. Des Moines Independent, and a line that frequently is quoted from the opinion in that one is that students do not, "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

Thursday, June 13, 2002

mtv finds reality is hard

You and your spouse decide to take a vacation to Vegas. You both check into the hotel room, only to find the victim of a homicide, covered in blood. As you attempt to escape from the room, two security guards and a paramedic block your exit. An executive producer shows up, and tells you that it was just a prank, and was captured on film for future viewing on a reality show in development by MTV. The couple this happened to has filed a suit in federal court, asking for compensatory damages in the amount of $10,000,000.
religious diversity in america

There are clashes over the separation of church and state in the United States. Despite that, and maybe because of it, the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world, and the country with the most diverse mix of religions. The Voice of American has an article on America's Diverse Religious Identity that discusses how the country and churches have benefitted from keeping the two apart.
the fight over the marvel(ous) universe in delaware

While I was humbly toiling a few blocks away, the fate of the Marvel Universe hung in the balance in the courtrooms of Delaware's Bankruptcy Court, and in the lobby of the Hotel duPont. This was before Spider-Man set box office records, and in advance of the comic book company even having a modest hit with the X-Men movie last year. Ben Affleck hadn't yet tried on his tights to play blind attorney Matt Murdoch fighting crime as Daredevil. It was definitely prior to director Ang Lee agreeing to work on the Incredible Hulk.

Super-heroes and super-villains weren't the ones slugging it out. It was lawyers. Lots of lawyers. So says the author of a book called Comic Wars, about the battle for Marvel, set on New York's Wall Street, and Wilmington's Market Street Mall.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

dumb laws

The guys who run the web site Dumb Laws, which often receives 500,000 visitors a week, have written a book based upon their web site. That's not all they have to celebrate these days though. On June first, they graduated from High School. I'm glad to say that their collection of dumb laws in Delaware isn't all that large.
english only

A Georgia county issued a directive to its workers telling them that they could no longer have conversations with other county employees in any language other than English, while on the job. A number of other Georgia counties were poised to follow it with similar directives of their own. State officials convinced the county to overturn the policy in response to complaints by employees, and by the ACLU.
baseball labor primer

I'm hoping that the baseball season doesn't get interupted by a strike. The Village Voice has written an article on the subject called A Labor Conflict Primer: The Baseball Wars. Best line:
Selig is not clinically insane. An alien mind-control device has not been ruled out, however.
hazardous travel

"Not in My Back Yard" is a common phrase in the environmental law field, often shortened to the acronym "NIMBY." Chances are good that not too many Delawareans have been paying much attention to the plans to bury radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. After all, Nevada is clear across the country. Well, National Geographic points out something that many of us weren't considering. The waste has to get to Yucca Mountain before it can be buried there. You can calculate how close one of these travel routes is to your home and your place of work with an online map from the Environmental Working Group. The closest path to me is 2.5 miles. That's almost in my backyard.

Monday, June 10, 2002

dna database

Will Delaware become the 20th state to collect DNA information for all people convicted of felonies in the state? Yes, if a bill introduced to the House of Representatives makes it's way into law. Presently in Delaware, genetic information can be collected from people who are convicted of sex offenses and of crimes against children. The cost of the increased testing is estimated to be between $600,00 and $700,000 over the next three years.

Before that happens, however, there is one definite about DNA information from Delaware. It will be shared with 41 other states in a national database of genetic information. That's something that started this week.
baseball on steroids

The Senate will be investigating steroid usage in baseball after admissions by two former MVPs that they took the drugs to enhance their game play. Some of these ballplayers might want to find out how Olympic Weightlifting Champion Gerd Bonk is doing these days, or read the words of one of my newly favorite football players, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
law on tv

Does television distort viewers' expectations of the criminal justice system? Do jurors judge the prosecution's case based upon what they've seen on TV? Does the defense have to live up to the antics of the cast in The Practice or Ally McBeal? A summer series called Crime and Punishment will be coming into peoples' homes shortly, and it's a little different than Law and Order and CSI in that the cases are real, and so are the participants. Will it give its watchers a more realistic portrayal of how a court functions? That's a difficult question to answer. According to the article, every minute of action on screen is the result of 200 hours of filming. I'll probably watch at least an episode or two, but I may turn it off convinced that the only way to really let the people at home understand how the criminal justice system works is to allow cameras in courtrooms during actual trials, without any editing for artistic purposes.
mexico's first freedom of information law

Today, Vincente Fox signed Mexico's Federal law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information, which will require that public information be made more accessible to society. It looks like the internet will play a large role in the sharing of that information.
dogs can't vote

Registered as a Republican, and at a legitimate address, it wasn't discovered that Barnabas was a poodle until he received a summons for jury duty.
visa and mastercard ruling today?

The US Supreme Court will likely decide today whether it will review a decision of a federal appeals court to allow the certification of a case against Mastercard and Visa as a class action suit. The case is about whether the two companies have a monopoly when it comes to the use of debit cards at retail stores, and if the fees they have been charging retailers is too high. It was originally initiated by Walmart, but was joined by a number of other retailers, and last year an appeals court allowed it to become a class action lawsuit with nearly every retailer in the country eligible to be awarded damages. I've seen estimates of damages between $39 billion to $47 billion.

[June 10, 2002 update - The Supreme Court ruled to let the class action suit proceed forward today.]
videotaping interrogations

The Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment has issued a report with a number of proposals, including one recommending that police interrogations of suspects in homicide cases be videotaped. Good idea or bad idea? Minnesota has been videotaping all interrogations of people in custody for almost a decade. The National Governor's Association includes a list of the specific recommendations made by the Commission, and a link to the full report.
the fbi at the university of california

In the late 1950s, a question on an aptitude test for high school applicants to the University of California asked, "What are the dangers to a democracy of a national police organization, like the FBI, which operates secretly and is unresponsive to public criticism?" In response, the FBI started an investigation of the school. Now, after 17 years of litigation, the San Francisco Chronicle has received thousands of pages of FBI reports involving investigations at the University of California.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

get britney an eyepatch and a parrot?

Is Britney Spears a pirate? A couple of Philadelphia songwriters have made that claim, and were planning on submitting a civil suit to federal court in Philadelphia on Friday. A song they wrote and copyrighted in 1999 called "What You See Is What You Get" was submitted, with the approval of the philly pair, by Britney's agent to her producers in 1998. While they were told that she wouldn't use the song, a tune called "What U See Is What U Get," and another song on the "Opps, I Did It Again" album has the duo convinced that they were pirated. Having recently experienced long lines in front of the Daniel Herrmann Courthouse in Wilmington for the Hewlett v. Hewlett-Packard trial, I can only begin to imagine the size of the crowd lining up in Philadelphia if this case goes to trial.
broken atm machine

The Bank of Taiwan had a slight problem with an ATM machine last week. It would dispense large sums of money on its own, for no apparent reason. The machine was shut down last week when police noticed a pile of cash in front of it during a routine check of the area, and reported the problem to the bank. Videotape captured images of at least two beneficiaries of the machine's generousity during the time it was malfunctioning, and a bank vice president told the press that keeping the money is against the law.
st. anthony's italian festival begins tomorrow

A tradition, started in 1925 in Wilmington, of honoring St. Anthony of Padua with a parade has turned into an eight day long festival that has seen over 300,000 visitors each of the last few years. The web site of Wilmington's Little Italy calls it the biggest and most widely attended church festival anywhere. The times and days are: June 9 through June 16, 2002, weekends, 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 5:30p.m. to 10:30 p.m. You don't have to be an Italian, or a Catholic to attend, but it helps if you like Italian food and music. There are rides for the children, games of chance, beer and wine, and many bands.
wye oak suggestions solicited

The nation's largest white oak fell in a thunderstorm on Thursday. The tree had become one of Maryland's most treasured symbols, having survived for over 460 years. The State of Maryland is asking for suggestions on what should be done with the nearly 200 tons of lumber from the Wye Oak. In 1953, a large branch was blown off the tree during a storm, and it was carved into gavels for state judges. An effort is being made to try to clone the tree to preserve it for future generations.
metachem cleanup public meeting

An ad from today's Wilmington News Journal:
You are invited to a public meeting to discuss the cleanup of Metachem Products, LLC

Thursday, June 13, 2002

7:00 PM

Delaware City Fire Company
150 Clinton Street
Delaware City, Delaware

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) will discuss the cleanup of Metachem Products LLC Facility located on Governor Lea Road.

As a result of Bankruptcy proceedings, EPA and DNREC have taken over the cleanup of the facility. Officials are identifying the chemicals that may pose a risk to human health and the environment. This process is necessary before a long-term cleanup can be developed.

For more information, please feel free to contact Vance Evans of EPA at (215) 814-5526 or Marjorie Crofts of DNREC at (302) 739-4764.

[Why do these meetings all have to be on the same day at the same time? See below.]
election districts public meetings

An ad from today's Wilmington News Journal:
The Department of Elections for New Castle County will hold public meetings on the newly configured Election Districts resulting from the 2000 Census reapportionment. Interested parties may provide written comments and/or questions at these meetings. Individuals will be limited to five minutes and group representatives will be limited to eight minutes. Meetings will be held at 7 PM on Thursday, June 13, 2002 at the following locations:

Department of Elections Board Room
Carvel State Office Building - 4th Floor
(Photo ID required to enter building)
820 N. French Street, Wilmington

Alexis I. duPont High School Auditorium
50 Hillside Road, Greenville

Glasgow High School Auditorium
1901 S. College Avenue, Newark

Written Comments will also be accepted at:

Department of Elections for New Castle County
Carvel State Office Building
820 N. French Street, Wilmington, De 19801

Call (302) 577-3464 for further information

Friday, June 07, 2002

sunshine sunday

The Columbia Journalism Review posted an online report a couple of months back called The FOIA Fight. The essay describes the importance of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to newspapers, and how information that was once available under FOIA is becoming harder to attain since September 11th. One source of increased limits under the Act is probably the result of a memo issued by John Ashcroft in October that rephrased federal government FOIA policies. States appear to be following the federal example in seeking greater secrecy. Journalists at a March conference in Philadelphia reported that more and more FOIA requests are being refused, and that a number of the refusals involved subjects which they wouldn't expect to be denied, even with heightened concerns regarding terrorism.

In Florida, the papers joined together to take a stand on a day nicknamed "Sunshine Sunday." Twenty-five Florida newspapers published editorials on the topic that day, and ran a number of additional stories on the subject. Taking it even one step further, the Orlando Sentinel also placed a small sun logo at the top of each story that benefited from use of the FOIA. It would be great if newspapers from other states would consider something similar.
interview with denise howell

Denise Howell, the writer of one of my favorite legal web logs (or blawgs, as she calls them) is the subject of a somewhat offbeat, but very entertaining email interview on the pages of A Public Space for Self Expression. You can get a daily dose of her words and wit at her blawg - Bag and Baggage.
redefining fatherhood in california

The California Supreme Court made a precedent setting decision yesterday involving family law and custodian rights. In a dispute over parental rights, the Court ruled that a man who is not a child's biological father can be granted custody rights even if the mother objects.
when trademarks become generic

Wired Magazine's article on Sony's Walkman, and how a trademark name can pass into common usage is interesting reading. A court in Austria has ruled that "walkman" now means any portable stereo player, especially after a German dictionary defined it as such. The ruling doesn't apply to the use of the name in the US, where Sony's trademark prevents competitors from using "walkman" to describe their portable stereos.
jerry falwell parodies triumph in arbitration

Jerry Falwell is the subject of a couple of websites that he would prefer that you didn't see. The sites use his name in their domain name on the web, and poke fun at him. His lawyers sent cease and desist letters to the web master of asking that the name stopped being used. The site continued, so he brought an arbitration action against the owner, claiming that he had a common law trademark in his name. Members of the World Intellectual Property Organization, acting as arbitrators, denied the complaint:
The complainant has failed to show that his name, well known as it is, has been used in a trademark sense as a label of particular goods or services. There are many well-known ministers, religious figures and academics. Are their sermons or lectures to be considered commercial goods?"
The ruling also applies to another site about the Reverend,

[For more on parody web sites, see the excellent Findlaw Writ article: The Law and Politics of Internet Activism: The Yes Men, Peta, Rtmark, And The Phenomenon Of Parody Websites. ]

Thursday, June 06, 2002

iranian streaming movie site shut down

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has acted to shut down a service that was allowing people to "rent" videos online for between $1.00 to $1.50 each. The site was based in Iran, which doesn't recognize U.S. Copyright law. Their servers, however, were in the Netherlands, and the Internet Service Provider (ISP) hosting the site shut it down in response to a letter sent by the Association.
amish lose battle over triangles

Twenty members of an Amish sect were each fined $95.00 for failing to display orange triangles on their buggies when traveling on public roadways. The judge in the case held that the state had an overwhelming interest in public safety that outweighed the religious objection to the plastic symbols. The group had stated a couple of weeks ago that they would go into exile to Ohio if they lost their case, rather than displaying the symbols. The law firm representing the Amish community is working with Pennsylvania legislators to try to come up with an alternative solution, by allowing them to use gray reflective tape, and red laterns instead of the caution signs currently required.
replay tv customers bring suit

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing five customers of Sonicblue's ReplayTV in a suit brought in a federal district court in California.
"These Hollywood guys want to stop me from using my digital video recorder like I use my VCR, like for watching shows when I want or zipping through commercials," explained Craig Newmark, community founder, ReplayTV user, and plaintiff in the case. "I want to give my nephews and nieces a break from the rampant consumerism on TV by using ReplayTV's commercial skipping feature."
This replayTV seems like a great technology. The arguments being brought by the recording industry sound very much like the ones from almost twenty years ago when the VCR allowed people to record shows to watch at convenient times, and enabled them to skip over commercials. The suit is being brought in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which is the same venue where a case brought by media groups against Sonicblue is being held. The possibility exists that the consumer case could be joined with the media case against Sonicblue.
norway museum invites hackers

The Museum has an electronic archives protected by a password. Unfortunately, the person who knew the password died without revealing it to anyone. The Museum asked for assistance on national radio asking for assistance from anyone who might be able to help them crack the password. (via camworld)

[Enough responses have been pouring in to allow the museum's curator to pick and choose amongst the volunteers offering their assistance. And, Wired Magazine has a followup to this story, where the discussion switches to what a person could do to avoid the type of situation that happened at Norway's National Center of Language and Culture]
australian spam suit hits snag

I recently wrote about a company that is suing someone who complained about receiving spam from them. That Australian company, which had its internet addresses blacklisted and blocked possibly because of the spam complaint, has run into another problem. A Christian education centre claims that the addresses in question were theirs, and that the company which filed the suit was using the addresses without permission. Part of the claim of losses named in the suit was the expense of replacing the blocked addresses.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

fingerprinting visitors

The UK's Guardian Unlimited reported earlier today that a proposal to photograph, fingerprint, and collect detailed information from visitors to the United States is being considered by the Bush Administration. People seeking to enter the United States to live in the country are presently required to submit that type of information but visitors usually aren't. Attorney General Ashcroft's prepared statement on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System was released today.
outstanding teachers

There are teachers who make a difference. The Baltimore Sun's is showcasing outstanding college instructors in an occasional and ongoing series. F. Michael Higginbotham teaches at University of Baltimore's School of Law, and is the focus of their latest article in this series. Just hearing about the type of presentation he makes in his class on Race Law makes me want to attend one of his classes. I've been blessed to have more than a couple of teachers who reached out and tried to make a difference, and I've had the chance to thank some of them. Sometimes you don't realize how much an influence a teacher has had until it's too late to do that.
roadless rule to become law?

A policy involving the National Forests that was born under Bill Clinton's presidency, may find it's way into becoming a law under George Bush. This policy is recognized as a "shift in focus of the U.S. Forest Service from extracting resources from the national forests to managing those lands for broader benefits, including environmental and recreational values."

One aspect of that policy was a moratorium on new roads being built in the 58 million acres of National Forests. There were a couple of reasons for this "roadless rule." One was that the U.S. Forest Service can't afford the upkeep on the roads which they are presently responsible for maintaining. Adding roads would provide an additional burden. Another was that it limited development in areas where roads weren't built. There's been some concern that a new set of policies is being crafted in Washington that would allow greater incursions into undeveloped areas. However, quite a few sponsors are working to turn the present policy into law before that happens.
hollywood's nightmare, broadcasting out of iran

It's an interesting problem that Hollywood finds itself faced with. A business that offers streaming movies on its website for a nominal charge has set up shop in a country that doesn't recognize U.S. Copyright laws. It appears that the owner of the business is willing to negotiate and pay copyright owners a percentage of the profits from the "renting" of the movies they show.
delaware a national leader

Sometimes it's not a good thing to lead the nation. Especially when pound-for-pound, Delaware ranks right up at the top in leading the country in the flow of toxic chemicals into the environment. While many Delawareans watched quietly as the State received national press attention over its clean indoor air act a couple of weeks ago, most of us were aware that the State had a long way to go towards actually moving in the right direction when it came to pollution. A couple of bills were announced Tuesday that are closer to target.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

malpractice award limits?

The Delaware State Legislature is looking at a proposal to limit awards given by juries in medical malpractice cases. The cap would be $250,000 for non-economic damages such as "pain and suffering." Lost wages, the cost of medical care, and punitive damages would not be affected. The incentive behind such a move? To attract more insurance companies to provide medical malpractice insurance in Delaware. Chances are that this proposal comes too late in the legislative year to be acted upon by the Delaware Legislature, but it is stirring up a good deal of debate amongst legislators, and strong commentary from legal groups.
forensic science

For all of the CSI fans out there, there are a good number of web sites that cover the subject of crime scene investigations and science used in uncovering clues about crimes. Crime and Clues has collected a large number of articles on subjects such as crime scene investigations, physical evidence, death investigations, and others. An example of one article that they link to is a comprehensive description of the Collection and Preservation of Evidence. They also link to a number of other sites on related topics, such as criminal profiling, and forensic art.
recording artists rights

A couple of years ago, Courtney Love sent a letter out to other musicians about the state of the relationship between recording artists and record labels. Two examples that she used in the letter, of artists who were earning very little even though their records were selling very well were Toni Braxton, and the band TLC. A number of west coast recording artists joined together in the last few years to form a group called the Recording Artists Coalition (RAC), which allows them to share resources and information in their legal struggles against the recording industry.

Very few black musicians have become involved in the efforts of the RAC. A Village Voice article entitled Hip-Hop and R&B Artists MIA in Music Industry Struggle: Blacked Out, describes some of the reasons why.
u.s. patent and trademark office to go electronic

Approximately 2% to 3% of all patent applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are filed electronically. The Office would like to increase those numbers drastically, and speed up the amount of time it takes to handle the patent and trademark processes. The solution they've arrived at is to develop an e-filing system using commerical off-the-shelf software, and to consult with patent offices in Europe and Japan which have already made the transition.
pop-under patent

ExitExchange is a company that specializes in ad technology on the web. They had a patent application published last week by the U.S. Patent Office for pop-under advertisements:
The filing broadly covers any systematic delivery of a window launched after another, including those on devices such as cell phones. If its application is approved, ExitExchange will have rights to collect royalties on the use of pop-under ads.
Some potentially affected groups include Yahoo, Doubleclick, the New York Times, X10, Orbitz, and many others who use that type of advertising.
look smart

A class action suit may be brewing against internet search engine directory LookSmart. The suit involves how the directory sells some of its commercial listings. Thousands of companies had paid a one time fee to be listed in the directory, and LookSmart recently switched those businesses into a pay-per-click type of listing. One of the companies affected by the change was a legal staffing service, and it appears that they've recruited a large California law firm, with considerable class action experience, and a wealth of intellectual property knowledge and internet savvy to represent them.(via Cre8asite - a Yahoo group focusing upon website promotion, search engine optimization, and usability)

Monday, June 03, 2002

academic common market

I first learned about the Academic Common Market (ACM) when a neighbor's daughter wanted to go away to another state to study at a college that offered a major in Equestrian Science. The University of Delaware doesn't have a program in that field. But the ACM offered her an opportunity to afford to go to another school. The program allows people to pay in-state tuition rates for schools in participating states that offer programs not available in their own state. Delaware is one of 16 member states in the Market, which provides a win-win situation for students and schools. Students are able to pursue a course of study that they are interested in, even if it isn't offered locally. Schools are able to offer programs that might not be attractive to a large number of students otherwise.
Sixteen states, including Delaware, are part of the Academic Common Market. The others are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

The participating colleges offer 1,170 majors in the program. Delawareans have access to 290 bachelor's degree programs, 360 master's programs and 190 doctoral programs.
Delaware joined the ACM in 1998, and more information about it can be found on the pages of the Delaware Higher Education Commission, including participating colleges, and the ability to search for a program (see the links at the bottom of their page).
a cell phone and a stolen car

A Chicago web developer used his cell phone, and some help from a friend who is a sales representative from Sprint, to locate his stolen car by looking up calls made from the phone, and using an online reverse phone number lookup to find the addresses of those phone calls. The phone had been left in the car, and the person who took the vehicle used the phone to made a few calls, which helped lead to his being found.
nissan vs. nissan

A battle over the rights to use the name Nissan as part of a web address has pitted the automobile manufacturer against a businessman who was born with the name. Uzi Nissan would like to continue using his name in his web address. A grass roots effort to help him has included a site that allows people to enter their comments in a form, and those are forwarded to a number of media figures. One of the media figures responds to the email he has received on the subject, in an article called Nissan vs. Nissan.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

would competition improve service by internet authority?

Critics of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have signed and sent a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Nancy Victory, asking that the services ICANN provides be opened up to competition for the right to administrate those services. The agreement for ICANN to run the domain name address system expires in September, and the Commerce Department has the right to renegotiate, drop the agreement, or continue it. The letter comes at a time when ICANN is reviewing their own internal structure, and considering changes to the ways in which they operate.
random drug testing in schools?

The Guardian Unlimited is predicting that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the next few days on the issue of random drug testing for U.S. pupils in public schools. They prognosticate that the Court will hold in favor of a school that allowed for random drug testing of all students who were involved in any after extra-curricular school activities in an Oklahoma school. In the past, only students who were involved in athletic activities were subject to random drug testing. The implications of such a decision are widespread, but I agree with a quote in the Guardian article that there may be no better way to alienate an entire generation than to treat them as if they were guilty until proven innocent. Yes, children and drugs shouldn't mix. But, should they be subject to random drug testing at the whim of a school administrator? Does the fourth amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures not apply to children? When the Court allowed random drug testing for students involved in school athletics, they cited a concern that children who might be engaged in sports while under the influence of drugs could pose health risks. The same can't be said for the debate society, or the math club. How should the Court rule?
protest ban lifted at capitol

The public sidewalks outside of the entrances to the House of Representatives and the Senate, in Washington, DC, have had a ban on protests enforced by Capitol police for the last 30 years. On Friday, an appellate three-judge panel lifted the ban:
No site is more attractive to protesters than the sidewalk and steps that lead to the entrances of the House and Senate chambers, where members of Congress, their staffs, lobbyists and tourists pass each day. But protesters have been banned from passing out leaflets there, holding signs or staging vocal demonstrations. They have been allowed to wear expressive T-shirts or buttons.
Peaceful demonstrations are an important part of a democracy, expecially at the site where most federal laws are made.
cartoon copyright dispute

One of the biggest selling bands for record label EMI is a cartoon. Last year, the band Gorillaz sold over 4 million records. The artists who designed the group's visual appearance have had a falling out, and are fighting over copyright ownership to the images they created. No news about the dispute from the official Gorillaz fan site.
separation day celebration

In 1651, it began as a Dutch fort. A city was set up at the site in 1655. Yesterday, Delaware celebrated Separation Day in the historic town of New Castle. It's a holiday that officially began in 1976, when the nation celebrated its centennial. Delaware has continued the celebration at New Castle, which was its continential capitol. (The capitol was moved further inland after the kidnapping of the governor of the state.) Delaware was one of the first colonies to declare its independence from England, on June 15th, 1776.

The town celebrated its 350th birthday in October, last year, and has a rich history as the oldest surviving town in the Delaware Valley.