Sunday, September 29, 2002

Spam Vigilantes

An article came out a couple of weeks ago suggesting an idea for handling spam that sounds like it just might work.

It's an opinion article from Larry Lessig called A Bounty on Spammers. The basic plan is as follows:
Imagine a law that had two parts—a labeling part and a bounty part. Part A says that any unsolicited commercial e-mail must include in its subject line the tag [ADV:]. Part B says that the first person to track down a spammer violating the labeling requirement will, upon providing proof to the Federal Trade Commission, be entitled to $10,000 to be paid by the spammer.
The first part would make it easy to filter unwanted emails.

The second part would allow people who are good at identifying the source of spam to make a profit at it. A lot of these people are working on setting up blocklists and filtering systems that every once in a while cause more harm than good. It may just also make the first part actually work.

Good idea? Bad idea?

If you said good, then what about vigilantes acting in other places on the net? Like the recording industry? Lessig addresses their use of self-help also.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Bottle Deposit Laws

This is not an especially earth-shaking topic. On a scale of sexiness, it probably ranks really low. As an ethical concern, there are matters like what to do with radioactive waste and other hazardous materials that are probably more pressing. This is one of those mundane subjects that we probably don't really give much thought. Every one of us buys food and beverages, consumes the products, and throws away the containers.

Our trash can be found in landfills, along public and private lands, and maybe in recycling centers. Some materials are easier to recycle than others, and there have been local initiatives in many places to try to make that recycling happen. Bottle deposit bills have seen some success in getting people to return some of these more easily recycled materials to manufacturers. Should the practice be more widespread? Should the federal goverment get involved?

In twelve states in the US, you pay extra money as a deposit when you buy some beverages in supermarkets and convenience stores. A story in today's Boston Globe called Fewer find state bottle law is worth the nickel takes a look at the process in Massachusetts. Frankly, I'm a little upset over what they are doing with unclaimed deposits:
In 1990, the Legislature passed a law directing that all unclaimed bottle and can deposits be turned over to the state. The state's initial take was $8 million, but with Massachusetts residents now failing to redeem nearly one out of every three containers, the so-called Clean Environment Fund took in more than $37 million last year. This year most of that money has gone to plug budget gaps instead of recycling efforts.
The justification for a bottle deposit is to reduce pollution, and not to act as a tax on people who drink beer and soft drinks. If that money went to address environmental issues, I would probably feel better about the state collecting those unclaimed deposits.

There are grass roots movements to get bottle deposit laws enacted in other states, such as Virginia and Alabama. Some New Yorkers are pushing for an expansion in the types of bottles that are covered under New York's laws. People in Vermont are asking for an increase in the amount of the deposit there, which has remained at a nickle since the introduction of the law in 1972. The US House is looking at a bill to implement a nation wide system for recycling bottles. The legislation which was introduced this summer is the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002 (pdf), which was presented to the Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials on July 29th.

There are also consumer advocacy groups like the GrassRoots Recycling Network sharing information about bottle bills and corporate responsibility for using recycled materials. One of the things they state is that:
The beverage industry knows what works: the 10 states with ‘bottle bills’ requiring deposit-return systems recycled more containers than the other 40 states put together.
They have some good links for more information on the national bill. There are some interesting things going on with the bill, like the ability of manufacturers to opt-out of the deposit requirement if they can show that 80 percent of a particular brand is being recycled.

We have a bottle bill in Delaware that returns five cents for each bottle redeemed. Is that too little? Is that too much? Should the law be expanded beyond carbonated products and beer to some of the newer popular beverages such as fruit drinks and bottled water? Does a bottle bill make a difference? Should corporations play more of a part in the post-consumer usage of the containers their products are sold within, and governments less? Should the federal law pre-empt state laws?

Yes, it's a pretty mundane topic. But it involves a lot of bottles. And, post consumer recycling can make a difference.

Copyright Law for Ezines

Brian Alt, over at ezine-tips, has a nice multiple part introduction to copyright law for ezines, that's worth a look if you publish an ezine. While he's not a lawyer, he does have experience with the form, and does a very nice job of explaining fundamentals from a practical stance. Here are the parts: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

[A similar article, called Copyright For The Webmaster, covers many of the same aspects of copyright on the web as the ezine article, but adds a little more about javascripts and digital watermarks.]

Personality Traits by Birth Order

Do you try to understand what makes people tick? I do. I have a number of theories, like my favorite, the caveman theory. In today's News Journal there is an article about another theory.... personality trait by birth order. I find it to be intriguing. Maybe you will too.

Friday, September 27, 2002

We DO Police Our Own

Or is it over-policing. I go back and forth on the issue. Here is an attorney who is immediately suspended from practice (presumably cannot now receive his normal paycheck) although the constitution declares that he is at this moment in time innocent. I don't know the fellow. I am making no comment about the validity of the charges. I can see where the Supreme Court wants to protect the integrity of the profession. I am with that.

But how does ignoring the constitutional theory of being innocent until proven guilty improve our ethical posture when we are sworn to support the constitution? Another reason for immediate suspension of attorneys is to protect the clients. I am way with that too. But as far as I can see from the news article, even if the allegations are true, it had nothing to do with clients or a fiduciary responsibility.

I just can't fall off of the fence on this one. Someone give me a shove.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Inquiry Regarding the Ethics of Attorney Specialization

This morning, a person made an inquiry to my firm that I will display here, as I feel that it might be helpful to others:

Inquiry: Is it legal and/or ethical for an attorney to take/accept a case that is not within his field of specialization?

Attorney Response:

First, we have to be careful about the word “specialization”. In Delaware, there is no mechanism for an attorney to be certified as a “specialist” except in some rare circumstances. What we should say is…”our usual area of practice”. Or some such other language.

The official comment to the Delaware Rule of Professional Conduct (the attorney ethics rules) 1.1 clearly sets out that an attorney may undertake a case with which she has absolutely no experience. What that attorney must do, however, is take the necessary steps to bring herself up to speed so that she can provide competent legal advice.

Having said that, it is something that should be monitored, and applied with caution and planning.

Automated Parking at the New Courthouse Understands Welsh?

The new courthouse in Wilmington has an automated parking payment system. When you leave, you can use a machine to pay your parking fare. It's a pretty convenient setup, if a bit on the expensive side for Delaware. The machines can be operated in a couple of languages other than English. But the choices of languages is somewhat perplexing. Spanish makes sense, as one of the fastest growing languages in the United States. But Welsh?

I wanted to make certain that I wasn't missing something, so I did a little research on the net. I'm unaware of a large contingent of people from Wales in Delaware, even though there is a Welsh Society of Delaware. It's possible that the machines were manufactured in Wales, and the choice is a default setting that hasn't been changed. So, if you need to visit the new courthouse, be careful about which buttons you push when you're paying for parking. Welsh just doesn't look like an easy language to learn or understand.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

You may or may not have been following the controversy regarding America's top secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The Court is used by the government to get permission for wire taps and other surveillance measures when foreign intelligence issues arise. If you haven't heard of it, that's not surprising. They've only released one opinion that wasn't classified. And that document was disclosed to the public by the House Judiciary Committee last month during an inquiry into efforts by the Department of Justice and the FBI to combat terrorism, while still protecting the rights of citizens.

The government has appealed that decision of the Court, and a court that had never met before was called into action to review the decision of the FISC. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review will make a ruling based upon that appeal. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has joined with the Center for National Security Studies (CNSS), and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to file an amicus brief (pdf) with the Review Court, to convince them to affirm the decision that the FISC made. From the brief:
In the court below, the government sought a judicial ruling that FISA can be used where the primary or even exclusive purpose of surveillance is to gather evidence of criminal conduct. Appropriately, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”) rejected the government’s attempt to invoke FISA for electronic surveillance that for over thirty years has been governed by an entirely different statute, Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (“Title III”), 18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq., which applies to wiretaps in criminal investigations. As the FISC noted, the government’s construction of FISA would allow an end-run around ordinary Fourth Amendment requirements. Neither the text of FISA as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act (“Patriot Act”), Pub. L. No. 107-56, 115 Stat. 272 (Oct. 26, 2001), nor twenty years of judicial interpretation supports this result. While FISA now allows coordination, consultation and information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement officials, it does not authorize surveillance whose primary or exclusive purpose is law enforcement. Indeed, expanding the scope of secret surveillance under FISA would violate the Fourth Amendment and the Due Process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment, and would jeopardize the First Amendment right to engage in lawful public dissent.
If the Department of Justice needs surveillance for a law enforcement investigation, they can turn to courts other than the FISC with requests for warrants authorizing the use of such equipment. The standard a judge reviews such a request under would be one of probable cause. The FISC requires a lesser standard -- a less rigorous burden to meet than probable cause.

How will the Review Court rule? Hopefully, they will support the decision of the FISC. Regardless of how they decide, chances are good that an appeal to the US Supreme Court will follow.

Privacy Disclosure Notices Under Gramm-Leach-Bliley

A privacy law passed in 1999, called the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, requires banks and other financial institutions to send out notices informing their clients how information gathered about them will be shared with affiliates and other third parties. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is insisting that lawyers are also required under that law to send such privacy disclaimer notices to their clients.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has brought a law suit against the FTC to question the authority of the agency to govern confidential communications between lawyers and their clients:
"This federal statute that was intended to regulate banks is being used to muddy the waters with respect to the simple rules governing attorney-client confidentiality -- rules which virtually everybody understands," said ABA president Alfred P. Carlton Jr.
Every state already has extensive rules regarding attorney-client communications.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Paid Family Leave in California

California has made it official. The bill authorizing up to twelve weeks a year of paid family leave was signed on Monday. One reaction to the law:
"This is one more burden that a California employer has that no other employer in the country has to share in that cost," said Allan Zaremberg of the California Chamber of Commerce.
I have the feeling that other states may follow suit, making that complaint a short-lived one. When I last checked, over twenty other states had similar bills being discussed by legislators.

South Dakota Reporters Look into Open Records

Just how open are public records to the public? Should someone have to identify themselves before gaining access to records? There's no denying that closed government proceedings are potentially very harmful. But, how accessible should records be? The press in South Dakota conducted a survey of county tax records, city and school records, and information gathered by law enforcement:
Reporters, editors and other staff of South Dakota's 11 daily newspapers and The Associated Press visited city, county and school offices in all county seats on June 26 to check whether records are available to the public.

''We ran a test. Does it work? If Joe Blow comes off the street to get information - a salary or property tax information, whatever it might be - is the public able to access that information?'' said Kim Dohrer, editor of The Daily Republic in Mitchell and president of the South Dakota Associated Press Managing Editors.
The information chosen wasn't selected because it was newsworthy. The news was whether the information would be given at all. And, if it was, what procedures someone from the public would have to go through to receive it. Because of that, the surveyors didn't identify themselves as reporters.

The results of the survey appear to be more positive than negative. But, in an interesting twist, a reporter who was to take part in the survey developed a reason to seek out records a few days before the survey started. Her broken-down car was stuck on the side of a road when it was hit by someone who was later found to be driving while intoxicated. Her endeavors to gain access to information were much more difficult. In an article entitled What records can mean to a crime victim, the reporter points to the type of difficulties that the surveyors might not have discovered. How much of a right to information does a victim have?
federal death penalty ruling

For the second time this year, a Federal District Court Judge has found the death penalty unconstitutional. Judge William Sessions' decision arrives at that ruling in a unique manner, taking a look at the presentation of charges in an indictment to the grand jury. The opinion (pdf) considers the rights of the defendant during the grand jury phase of a capital case.

The earlier federal District Court decision this year declared that capital punishment itself is unconstitutional. And, Arizona vs. Ring, before the US Supreme Court a few months ago, involved the sentencing aspect of a death penalty case. This case is distinquished from those because it looks at what might be required during grand jury proceedings:
Fell's lawyer, Alexander Bunin, called the ruling a landmark that could jeopardize cases against every defendant facing the death penalty, including that of Sept. 11 conspiracy suspect Zacarias Moussaoui.

Paul Martinek, editor of Lawyers Weekly USA, said a higher court will have to agree with Sessions before that happens.

But Martinek added, "The intellectual implications for influencing what other judges might do, potentially influencing what the Second Circuit (Court of Appeals) and maybe the Supreme Court might do, are pretty big. It's a new idea about how to challenge the federal death penalty.''
Other federal judges in Pennsylvania and Virginia have upheld the constitutionality of the Federal Death Penalty Act earlier this year.
Delaware Legislature teams up with DSBA

In a characteristicly cooperative manner, the Delaware House of Representatives, in House Resolution 91 (pdf), has formed a committee to team up with the Trusts and Estates Section of the Delaware State Bar Association to review our Trust and Estate laws, and to keep them current for all Delaware Trust entities. It is this type of annual maintenance and attention to detail that keeps Delaware Trust and Corporate Law on the cutting edge.
Enron for some, opportunity for others

A Canadian firm seeks to boost their ownership in Alliance natural gas pipeline production which runs from Ft. St. John, B.C. to Chicago. The Enron debacle has lowered prices to make this expanding acquisition attractive.

Monday, September 23, 2002

silence is copyrighted?

Great googly moogly. If the concept of copyrighting a minute of silence is a valid legal process, am I not liable for damages if I miss a day on my blog? This British lawsuit settled out of court, in 6 figures, for copying silence. Splain this to me, Lucy.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

jury nullification

The New York Times includes some interesting commentary on the subject of jury nullification (reg. req'd) in an article about a possible amendment to South Dakota's constitution.
What are we really doing here, anyway?

Sometimes we reach out over the internet for answers to who we are and where we are going. I typed the title of this blog into a google search, and uncovered this unusual site. It didn't give me any answers but it helped me to move on.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

larry lessig, mickey mouse, snow white, and copyright extension

Yesterday, I had a chance to visit the Wired web site, and read Lawrence Lessig's Supreme Showdown. It's a long but very informative look at the background of the law professor. Larry Lessig is a key figure in what may become a landmark Supreme Court case. I'm not sure how much insight into the case we are going to get from his Lessig Blog, but I'll be visiting there regularly to see what thoughts he may have during the case.

The case? That would be Eldred v. Ashcroft. What's at stake in this case? How might the high profile argument about copyright extension that it focuses upon affect our lives?
If the law's challengers succeed, many of the oldest creative images in the United States will suddenly become part of the public domain. Films such as "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind" would no longer be subject to copyright protection.

Many of the works of Robert Frost, Agatha Christie, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and others would belong to the public, not the writers' estates.
You may have seen references to Disney in articles about copyright extension, or the law referred to as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. Disney does have a great amount to lose if this copyright extension law is knocked down. But, if that happens, who wins? Well, the simple answer is to point to you the plaintiffs and lawyers listed on the Eldred web site.

But, the real winners are the people who could benefit from having the works in the public domain. That would be you and I. Whether we take these previous artistic efforts, and incorporate them into our own works, or just share them freely with others and discuss them. I wanted to post a Robert Frost poem on a web page, a little over a week ago. It expressed my thoughts that day, perhaps better than I could do at the time. I ended up quoting one line and linking to the poem. Somehow, I think that Frost would have liked if I reprinted his poem, and shared it with others, and discussed what it meant to me.

But, it also goes beyond web publishers being able to post older works on the net. One of the plaintiffs is a music publishing company. Just what does the copyright extension mean to music publishers, performers in schools, orchestras, and church choirs? An article subtitled They probably won't call it Luck vs. Mickey Mouse, takes a look at the case from the perspective of this plaintiff (Luck's Music Library).

The opening line to a Los Angeles Daily News article asks "Will Mickey Mouse become a free agent?". I'm hoping that he does. Maybe Snow White can join him, before they make her do too many Kung Fu movies.

Friday, September 20, 2002

inquiry regarding contingency fees

This afternoon, a person inquired as to general information regarding contingency fees. I am posting the question and response here, as I felt that it might be helpful to others:

Inquiry: Is it a regular practice for the client to be charged 40% for recovery made after filing suit? It seems high to me….

Attorney Response:
Fee arrangements can vary greatly from state to state, city to city, and case by case. Some factors to consider when considering a fee structure are:

The experience of the attorney (both in years and in the subject matter);
The complexity of the case;
The novelty of the legal issues;
The urgency of the case;
The prevailing attorney fee rate in the community;
The amount of attorney time that will be needed;
The amount of staff time that will be needed;
Whether the attorney will be advancing costs, or not;
The attorney’s evaluation as to the likelihood that the case will succeed;
The likelihood of appeal (or whether a different fee rider is added for appeals).

When we weigh these factors for any given case you may find that 40% is just right, or even that 25% is too high, or 50% is too low. Only other attorneys within that jurisdiction and area of practice can give you a valid appraisal of the appropriateness of a fee arrangement for a particular case.

I usually suggest to prospective clients that they confer with several attorneys on any given matter, to search for the attorney and firm with which they can feel confident. For a number of other factors to consider, you may want to look at the seventeen pages on my law office site that deal specifically with information about how to shop for and hire an attorney (if you haven’t already).
jurisdiction over the internet

Can information posted on a web site in one state cause the person who posted it to be answerable for that information in a court in another state? Does it matter whether or not the person had some knowledge or intent that their information would affect someone in that other state? Denise Howell, of Bag and Baggage has published a very interesting look at a California case that is examining different aspects of that question. The article, Ready, Aim, Defend: Pavlovich v. Superior Court Nears The Finish, is about a California case that has the potential to make the issue of jurisdiction on the web more confusing than it has been in the past:
Unless the California Supreme Court reverses the decision now before it (formerly reported at 91 Cal. App. 4th 409; PDF), the question of California jurisdiction over tort claims against Web publishers no longer may be limited by considerations of the defendant's knowledge or intent. Instead, it may turn partly on amorphous concepts like "industry presence," and partly on the misapplication of spatial metaphors to the non-spatial network that is the Web.
If you publish anything on the web, the decision of the California Supreme Court may be something you might want to read when it is released.
interview with david sorkin

You may have seen David Sorkin's Spam Laws page, or his page on stupid linking policies called Don't Link to Us. David Sorkin is a professor at John Marshall Law School, and was one of the first to offer classes on cyberlaw. A interview with him, A cybersage speaks his mind, is a frank and compelling look at his thoughts concerning new laws evolving concerning the internet, and why he dislikes them.
swedish population problem

Sweden has a population problem, and a politician running for Parliment has a solution. I was looking for something in the article indicating that this was a joke of some kind. Maybe it was lost in the translation into english. (link via metafilter)

Thursday, September 19, 2002

jurors' questionnaires and the first amendment

A controversy before the Ohio Supreme Court involves jurors' questionnaires and the identity of those jurors. A mistrial was declared when the jury foreman informed the judge that one of the jurors supported the verdict only because "he was in a hurry to leave." The trial involved charges of rape and murder, and has not yet been retried. A local newspaper asked for the names of the jurors, and the questionnaires. The Court ruled that they could have the questionnaires, but not the identities of the jurors. Does the public have the right to know? Are the questionnaires public documents? Will disclosure hinder the accused's right to a fair trial in the future? Or the rights of other defendant's in the future? Should jurors' identities be withheld from the public?
an information commons

CBS News is reporting on an initiative that sounds promising in Building A Green Space In Cyberspace. The author of the CBS piece, Larry Magid, explains the motivations of an organization called Digital Promise, and the scope of the project that they are working towards:
The proposal is designed to do for learning what the National Science Foundation did for science. The group wants to "digitize the cultural DNA of our society" so the types of materials that are now housed in universities, libraries and museums can be made available for the enrichment and education of all.
Digital Promise expands upon the information provided by Larry Magrid on their page entitled The Potential, and in a white paper on that page. I haven't had the opportunity to read through the whole white paper yet, but this does sound like it has the potential to be a very positive effort.
religious tolerance vs. religious liberty

A novelist is on trial in France for telling a reporter, "The dumbest religion, after all, is Islam." Michel Houellebecq faces a potential sentence of up to a year in prison. The first article I linked to in this post examines this situation while distinquishing between religious tolerance, and religious liberty. Another article frames it a battle between human rights supporters and those who believe in free speech.

Certainly, we should be tolerant of others. But, we should also have the freedom to talk about religion, to "preach, to criticize and to seek to influence or convert." Freedom of religious expression may result in someone making a statement like Houellebecq's above. I don't agree with his opinion. But, I firmly don't believe that he should be imprisoned for making the statement.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

less federal government is better federal government

I was pleased to locate on Ernie the Attorney's blog, a CNN article relating to the U.S. Government backing off on federally mandated internet security issues. Good! Let's work on trimming down our federal government, and shaping it up, rather than expanding its morbid obesity.
bon jovi fights piracy

I know that a lot of people have been searching for signs of intelligence amongst the recording industry.

The best way to fight piracy is to:
  1. Superglue shut advance copies of CDs in Sony Walkmans'

  2. Produce CDs that don't play on computers, and can crash some computer systems.

  3. Sue everybody

  4. Give people something with their purchased CD that they can't get with a pirated copy, or a download.
And the winner is Bon Jovi, with D. Give people something with their purchased CD that they can't get with a pirated copy, or a download.

I think that the plan from Island Records is a good one. Here's a portion of the press release from their web site:
Bon Jovi felt compelled with the release of Bounce to again give back to their fans and reward them for going out and purchasing the album. In addition, they wanted to address the decline in album sales which is growing increasingly more prevalent due to piracy and file sharing. The belief is that added value benefits offered through "American XS" will give Bon Jovi fans incentive to go out and get the new album legitimately. The "American XS" serialization is a benchmark offer, introducing the concept of the 'living album', giving fans a real, on-going relationship with the artist. It's a win-win situation for the consumer and the music industry - the consumer gets real value for the purchase price and the industry benefits by having consumers in record stores.
I also think that these guys are just brushing the surface of what could be included with a non-pirated copy of a CD. Hopefully, this move by Bon Jovi and Island Records will inspire some creativity amongst other record labels. (link to Bon Jovi's American XS page via slashdot, which has some interesting comments worth reading on the subject.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

superglue against digital copying

Prelease versions of a couple of CDs sent to reviewers by Epic Records used a creative approach to try to combat piracy. The CDs shipped inside of Sony Walkman's that had been superglued shut. Headphones were also superglued into place, to prevent them from being replaced by connections to recording devices attached to the Walkmans. Advance copies of CDs are the likely source of songs from a few albums that have appeared on file trading services before the albums were actually released.

Monday, September 16, 2002

spraying windex in a mud fight

I thank Alice for bringing to my attention a recent article about the bad rap we attorneys are receiving. It is time to set the record straight. Most attorneys are hard working honest moral people. Yes, even trial attorneys. People who generalize to the contrary either don't know what they are talking about, or they are deliberately slandering the profession to further their own twisted agenda.
specially designated nationals

We are apparently prohibited from doing business with certain persons. There is a couple of unwieldy government links which reference the Executive Order Number 13224, and the list of suspected hoodlums (PDF Format). For a list which is actually usable with a search engine and disclaimers, I suggest the American Land Title Association site. I don't mind being prohibited from dealing with suspected international hooligans. It is good that someone has developed a way for us to check for these names so that it doesn't cost us more in staff time to research than the value of the intended transaction.
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke

Question: I am a paralegal with an attorney specializing in criminal defense. One of the pieces of evidence implicating our client in a theft charge is “GPS” data accumulated from the company truck he was driving. What is GPS, and how does it work?

Answer: The company vehicle appears to have been equipped with a AVL. Automatic Vehicle Tracking (AVL) combines computer technology with satellite tracking technology (GPS; Global Positioning Satellites). The AVL unit can be mounted covertly by the vehicle owner. This is common practice in the transportation industry. This type of surveillance system calls for three basic elements: satellites, sender/receiver units, and location decoder software.

The U.S. Department of Defense has placed a series of 24 Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites in orbit around the earth. These GPS satellites broadcast signals that contain time and identification codes. GPS receivers use an antenna to acquire these signals from multiple satellites to determine the vehicles' position, altitude, speed and direction of travel. The signal is gathered by the GPS unit every six seconds. The information is then stored in the GPS unit for further interpretation.

The heart of a GPS receiver is the ability to find the receiver's distance from four (or more) GPS satellites. Once it determines its distance from the four satellites, the receiver can calculate its exact location and altitude on Earth. The GPS receiver measures the amount of time it takes for the signal to travel from the satellite to the receiver. The receiver looks at all the signals it is receiving and uses calculations to find both the exact time and the exact location simultaneously.

There are two types of receiving systems: real time satellite tracking systems and none-real time systems. Real time tracking systems forward the received data through a cellular phone modem to the Investigators' computer. In none-real time tracking systems, the satellite signal is electronically stored. With this simpler type of system, you retrieve the unit after the surveillance and then load the data into your computer.

No matter what type of GPS tracking system is used, some sort of power supply is needed. In the typical temporary magnetic/velcro mount systems, standard battery power can be used. The typical battery unit lasts 24 hours. For surveillances of greater duration, you would hardwire the unit to a power source on the vehicle.

The decoder software converts the data received into latitude and longitude. This information is further refined with mapping software so the user can observe actual maps of the location of the target vehicle, including street names, and the duration of the signal. Not only can you determine where the vehicle traveled, but how long the vehicle remained at a certain location.

Retrievable GPS units, including mapping software can be obtained for under $500. Additional uses include employers tracking company owned vehicles, parents monitoring a childs’ use of the family sedan, or overtly as a mapping tool. GPS Units have allowed the investigator to utilize unmanned surveillance techniques to gather valuable information for a very reasonable cost.

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 in DE and PA. 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

Saturday, September 14, 2002

big brother in the UK

A chilling article from the Guardian Unlimited on the monitoring of emails, internet habits and mobile phone usage in the UK:
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), introduced in 2000, handed them extensive powers to intercept communications. Obtaining the content of phone calls or emails still requires a warrant from the home secretary and can only be done on grounds of national security, investigating serious crime or safeguarding economic wellbeing. However, Ripa allows police, the security services, customs, and the Inland Revenue to access communications records on their own authority for a much broader range of purposes, from national security to the collection of taxes.
They further report on even more intrusive legislation that has passed through the legislature since September 11th, 2001. Paranoia, or an accurate portrayal of the state of privacy in the United Kingdom? The collection of useful links at the bottom of the Guardian article do lead to some interesting pages. One is to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which I found to be fascinating.
suing weight watchers?

Back in May, Salon ran an article called Can we sue our own fat asses off? The author wrote that victories over the tobacco industry might lead activists to fight obesity by going after the sellers of junk food in a similar manner.

There might be some problems with that type of litigation. One of the most successful strategies in getting public opinion shifted against the tobacco industry was to focus upon the harm to people suffering from "second hand" smoke. Not the people who used cigarettes, but rather the ones who were forced to put up with the smoke. The Salon article painted a reasonable picture of the difficulties of legislating or litigating away the problem of obesity.

But, what if the sellers of junk food are the wrong targets? Susie Orbach, who is the author of a best-selling anti-diet book from 1978 called Fat Is a Feminist Issue, is claiming that the diet industry is to blame for obesity:
Fat Is A Feminist Issue author Susie Orbach has identified two main reasons for the Western world's obesity crisis ... a sense of guilt and the diet industry.

Orbach is now looking for ways to take legal action against Weight Watchers, similar to that faced by the tobacco industry in America.

'We want to show that that organisation knows a huge proportion of diets fail,' she told the Sunday Herald. 'Its profits depend upon that, and the recidivism rate is absolutely crucial to them.'
Of course, threats of a legal nature aren't the same as filing a complaint in court. And, the cynic in me says that publicity over threats of legal action against the diet industry might be aimed towards making the author's newest book a best seller, too. Regardless of that suspicion, maybe she has a point.
us solicitors general

Just who is the US Solicitor General, and what does he do? And, even more importantly, what was he and five previous US Solicitors General doing at the J. Reuben Clark Law School on Thursday and Friday?

I thought that this quote, from an excellent History of the Solicitor General (found on the pages of the Office of the Solicitor General) was an interesting job description:
The Solicitor General is the only officer of the United States required by statute to be "learned in the law." He is one of only two people (the other being the Vice President) with formal offices in two branches of government. And perhaps more than any other position in government, the Solicitor General has important traditions of deference to all three branches.
So, what does this government officer do, in the position that Thurgood Marshall is quoted (on that history page) as being "the best job I've ever had?"
new bail law to be argued

Delaware's new bail law, which I wrote about here last week, is unique. And some have claimed that it's unconstitutional. The controversy surrounding the law was the focus of a proceeding today in Superior Court. The judge hearing the case has requested written arguments, and attorneys, including one representing a bailbond company, have four weeks to be file them with the Court.

The defendant has pending drug and weapons charges, and was released from jail on bail for those charges. He was brought into Court today on a new drug charge. Under Delaware's law, the bail for the previous pending charge is revoked because of the new charge. The defendant is required to be held without bail. The law also gives the State the right to seize the bail posted on the original case. The bail law applies to "violent" felonies. A number of drug charges in Delaware are classified as violent felonies.
scoobydoo, the uk, and domain name disputes

How does the UK handle a dispute over a web site's address when a trademark infringement complaint has been made over the use of the domain's name? Just what is an abusive registration? The case Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc -v- Graeme Hay gives us a little insight into internet law in the United Kingdom.

I found the appeal decision for the case through the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., which sends out a free email on weekdays called BNA’s Internet Law News. I've received copies the last three days, and I'm impressed. If you're interested in legal matters on the net, it's worth spending a couple of minutes and subscribing. I signed up after reading a post about the service by Donna Wentworth over at copyfight. Thanks, Donna!

Friday, September 13, 2002

google in china

Information is power these days. The recent blocking of Google and Altavista by the Chinese government has the potential to deprive researchers of information that they might need. But those search sites also have the capacity to bring information to people who aren't in power. Information that the government might not want them to see.

Is the blocking politically motivated? News came out towards the end of last week that visits to Google were being redirected to Chinese search engines. Was the idea to boost ad revenue for those sites, and to try to get Chinese internet visitors to use China-based internet services? Maybe both motivations played a part.

This Washington Post article is the most detailed analysis on the blocking of the engines that I've seen so far. They report that Google was accessible again this morning. One of the interesting aspects of the report was the description of how China's computer network is set up, and how that enables them to have some control over access to sites that Chinese citizens can visit:
China's control over the flow of information owes much to the unique architecture of its computer networks. The Internet is a global web of interlinked computers that swap information, but China's government has limited the places where its networks can link to those in other countries. Only nine such networks are allowed to connect via satellite and undersea cables to the computer systems of the rest of the planet. The rest of China's Internet service providers are dependent on buying wholesale links from one of these giants.

Sixty to 80 percent of China's Internet traffic is carried by just one of these large players: ChinaNet, which is operated by the state telephone company, China Telecom. When China's content minders want to shut down access to something, they can easily use one of these major choke points. They simply program the routers -- which function something like railroad switches -- to reject data from certain sites.
An article called The Internet and Power in One-Party East Asian States (pdf) from The Washington Quartery this summer also addresses some of the practices that the Chinese government follows in attempting to control what people see and do with the internet.
game law ruled overbroad and unconstitutional

I feel a little guilty when I spend too much time sitting at the computer playing solitaire or other games. Between July 30th, and yesterday, I could have gone to prison or have been faced with a hefty fine if I was playing one of those games in Greece. A law there, meant to stop illegal gambling, was declared unconstitutional because it included playing electronic games that didn't involve gambling. An article from last week went into more detail about the types of games in question. The ruling applied to two cases involving three defendants, and didn't have the effect of overtuning the law. Hopefully, the law will be. Otherwise, the following exchange might actually take place: "What'd they lock you up for?" "Ummm, solitaire."
the death penalty in a "hybrid" state

Another Delaware death penalty case has been put on hold by the Delaware Superior Court. This time it's the Thomas Capano case:
Capano's direct appeal of his death sentence and murder conviction was upheld in August 2001. He could next elect to ask the Superior Court to review whether he was provided an adequate defense at his trial. But everything is on hold for him until attorneys petition Henley to reactivate Capano's post-conviction proceedings, or Henley does so automatically, according to the order.
One of the interesting documents that accompanies this story in the Wilmington News Journal is a transcript (pdf) between a Superior Court Judge and attorneys in another one of the cases in question. Just what do you do when you're a "hybrid" state that the US Supreme Court may or may not have addressed in a recent ruling?

[update - September 13, 2002 - An administrative directive has been issued by Superior Court's President Judge which puts all Delaware capital cases on hold until Delaware's Supreme Court answers "constitutional questions about Delaware's death penalty law." ]

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

falwell parodies and personal jurisdiction

Back in June, I wrote about the owner of two sites parodying Jerry Falwell who had success against a legal challenge by the Reverend in arbitration. Within a few weeks after that defeat, Jerry Falwell's lawyers filed a complaint in a federal court in Virginia. This article, Falwell parody site preaches free speech, is an update on the status of the proceedings. Defendant Gary Cohn's attorney works for Public Citizen, which issued a press release Monday about the case. The release provides a link to the brief filed in support of their motion to dismiss, and to another page which contains some of the other documents filed during the lititgation. Part of their argument focuses upon the lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants. As for in rem jurisdiction over the domain names themselves, the brief also addresses that particular issue.
happy belated birthday BackRub

Since we've been talking about birthdays here, I like to offer belated best wishes to the creators of the search engine formerly known as BackRub. Four years ago, on September 7th, a couple of young programmers who had developed the search engine BackRub, created a corporation for their business. They may or may not have wanted to create a corporation at that time, but the check they had received for $100,000 as an investment from Andy Bechtolsheim at Sun Microsystems was made out to a business name, rather than to either of them. And, it was burning a hole in one of their desk drawers for two weeks before they actually created the business. The check was made out to Google, Inc. (link via Kim Krause over at cre8pcblog) (some pictures of how Google celebrates)
partying for music

You know, it's events like the EFF Music Share-In Festival 2002, being held this Saturday, that makes me wish sometimes that I lived on the west coast. It sounds like quite a party at the Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse Bandstand in support of the Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE). CAFE is the organization that's overseeing the EFF Open Audio License and other projects. If you have the chance to attend, have a good time. And, if you attend and write something in your blog about it, please send us a link. We really need to encourage some events like the EFF's party here in Delaware...

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

gender and golf

The Augusta National Golf Club is a private men's club. It also hosts one of the largest public golf tournaments held in the country -- the Masters. Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has been lobbying support amongst sponsors of the event, and the media, to try to get the club to open its membership to women. Her efforts have been listened to, and it appears as though the tournament will be played next year without commercial sponsorship on television. (I'm not sure that I've ever seen a major sporting event on the small screen that hasn't been interrupted by commercials.) The UK's Guardian frames this as a battle between the first amendment right to assemble versus a moral obligation to not descriminate based upon gender, in an article called Par for the Course. By their account, Martha Burk is winning by a large margin.
quality of life

The Village Voice looks at three books about transitory art and New York City in a review called American Graffiti. Is graffiti art, or is it a scourge upon society? Maybe that depends upon who is holding the aerosol can. I liked this quote from the review:
But everyone seems to agree that graffiti's perpetual removal catalyzes innovation and ingenuity. Its countless deaths generate countless rebirths. Austin points out that when the MTA repainted its entire fleet in 1973, it launched a golden age of style. In graf's status hierarchy, piecers who don't bomb barely rate. ESPO sums up the ethic nicely: "Illegal work has to say 'fuck you.' It can't say 'hello,' or 'how ya doing?' " In other words, what makes graffiti an art form is the ability to dangle itself over the abyss—and occasionally fall in. Graffiti needs to be championed, its practitioners seem to say, but it doesn't need to be saved.
It's possible that every mayor who is ever elected into office in NYC will make graffiti removal their own personal mission. Even when the city was going through bankruptcy a few years back, 20 million dollars was found to remove the work of subway artists. Do random acts of art lead to random acts of violence? Is the Broken Window Theory described in the article on the right track? How many artists were inspired by the drive-by spray paintings of graffiti creators?

Monday, September 09, 2002

Happy Birthday Everyone!
having cake without eating it

This Week

It's difficult to celebrate the first birthday of this blog this week. The initial entry, on September 10th of last year, was something that Larry wrote about filing documents in Family Court of Delaware called Deficient Practice of Advisory Notices of Deficiency.

The second blog entry was made a little more that two weeks later, and was a question and answer session written by Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke, who contributes some really interesting material to the blog under the title Tricks of the Trade, approximately once a month.

After a week or so into October, I joined Larry in posting to the blog. We hadn't figured out yet how to have more than one person use their own logons to get to the site in Blogger. I didn't think to differentiate the postings I made from the ones that Larry was making by writing my name above the poster name stamp that blogger inserts (i.e., posted by Larry Sullivan at 6:16 PM). ( We weren't trying to mislead anyone. We were just tying to use a technology that we didn't quite understand fully at the time. Bloggers' documentation has gotten better.) A little later, when I realized that might be misleading, I started signing my name to the posts I made as part of the body of the post. When Larry switched to Blogger Pro, about a month or so later, that was a lot clearer on how to write a blog as a "team."

So, while tomorrow is the first birthday of this blog, it wasn't very active for at least a month. Instead of writing about what happened last September 11th, we sort of put the blog aside. I think that both of us were more than a little staggered by the events of that day. And when we did start writing, we both engaged in a bit of "defiant normalcy," as I've seen someone else describe it, by not focusing or writing about terrorism, or warfare, or our government's response. To a large degree, we've avoided those topics. It gets harder to do, and harder not to think about as the anniversary of that date approaches. I started to go through the BlawgRing (set up by jca at Sua Sponte -- thanks jca!) tonight, and the first blog I came across ( began with a thoughtful and expressive post from Saturday, called 911 Commentary, which is very much worth a visit.

We probably won't focus too much on those topics this week, and will continue with our "defiant normalcy." This blog was intended to be about a law practice in Delaware, and about news, information, and web sites that we found interesting. There have been a lot of other weblogs that started up over the last year or so which include legal issues, and we've received an incredible amount of amusement, information, and inspiration from the authors of those sites. We've added a number to our links list on the page, and will probably be adding more in the days to come.

Larry had espressed a desire to celebrate by having cake, and treating the day like a birthday. I'll join in, but I won't just be celebrating the birth of this blog, but also the sites of the many other people out there who spend part of their day sharing their thoughts, their experiences, and their insights online. Thanks to you all. You're a very large part of what makes this interesting and fun.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

ebay takes on e-gray?

Chances are that you've been to ebay's web site. It's a popular destination on the net. Now, if you're involved in producting that site, how would you feel upon visiting e-gray? Apparently, the people at ebay don't know what to do.
paypal's arbitration system

On August 30th, a federal Judge in San Jose took a look at Paypal's terms for arbitration, and allowed a class action suit to go forward against the company.

A ruling on that date overturned the requirement that disputes involving paypal must be determined in "private, binding arbitration in Santa Clara County, rather than suing in court." Considering that the cost of the arbitration fees, and of travel to Santa Clara County is probably more than most amounts in dispute, that seems like a reasonable decision on its face.

Friday, September 06, 2002

what is "doing business in delaware "?

We are asked this question 20 times a day, by persons and entities who have or want Delaware corporations. We finally have an answer...or rather...some questions to ask in response. The State of Delaware has produced a questionaire that the State will use to determine whether an entity has a nexus with Delaware for the purposes of Title 30 of Delaware Corporate Law. I am including it here in its entirety because I find it to be very useful. If we can't have a clear answer, knowing the questions that the State will ask gives us good insight into the process. Happy Nexus.

- change - The form was soooo long that we decided to link it to a page, rather than to display it here.

Delaware Nexus Questionnaire
in rem domain name actions

OK, so maybe you're a citizen of someplace outside of the United States, and live somewhere other than the States. You decide that you would like to start up a web site, and choose to register a name that has the letters "com" at the end. The site is hosted outside of the United States, or at least, outside of Virginia. (Why do I mention Virginia? I'll get to that very shortly.) You build your site, and everything is going along just fine. And then a notification comes that a suit has been filed in a Virginia Court against your domain name, for cybersquatting, or trademark infringement. As far as you know, you have no contact with Virginia. But your domain name does. That's where it is registered. And the suit has been brought against your domain name. In the US, domain names have been treated as a piece of property with a physical existence at the place of registration:
The court decisions affirming this principle were Porsche Cars v and others (pdf), and Harrods Limited v Sixty Internet Domain Names (pdf). You may be wondering how it is that the Plaintiffs appear to be suing domain names rather than people or companies. In an odd twist, strange at least to most non-lawyers, US law says that a domain name is a piece of property that can be sued in its own right. This is called an in rem action (Latin for 'against the thing' as opposed to in personam or 'against the person'). The consequence of this peculiar state of affairs is that all of those registrants who have a .com domain name but live outside Virginia are viewed as absentee owners of property situated there. If you injure someone by virtue of that property (we're talking trademark disputes here) then Virginia's courts will take the case.
Yes, in Virginia. (links to opinions via Howard Bashman's amazing blog How Appealing)
right to bail and presumption of innocence

Delaware has a new bail law that went into effect in June. If a person is arrested and charged with a violent felony other than capital murder, they have a right to a reasonable bail. There's also a presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty.

If that person is then charged with another violent felony offense, and arrested, under the new law they are required to be held without bail, and the bail posted for the first offense is eligible to be forfeited. Previously, the only time bail was forfeited in Delaware was if a defendant failed to show up for court. It seems that the re-arrest may also have the effect of removing that presumption of innocence. Does the statute in effect take away the constitutional right to have bail set? The intent behind the law was to remove repeat offenders from the streets. But shouldn't judges be making the decision in the courtroom as to the amount of bail to be posted on a new offense when another charge or set of charges is still pending?

Most of the time, family members or friends of people being held on charges will go to a bailbondsman, and provide them with collateral in exchange for a bond to be posted with the court. This new law has the bailbonds companies reconsidering the idea of providing bonds in a number of cases:
Critics, including bail bond companies and civil rights activists, said the new law is unconstitutional, will make it tougher for many people to get bail and could result in more crowding in Delaware prisons. The new law also could mean families posting bail for defendants who are re-arrested would lose their homes or go deeply in debt, they said.
Please note that the article provides quotes from Delaware's Chief Public Defender Lawrence M. Sullivan, who should not be confused with Delaware Law Office's Larry D. Sullivan.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

wilderness living

An eviction notice was recently pinned on the home of a couple in San Mateo County, California. They've lived there for the last twelve years. Last week, police came up to their tree, and stapled an eviction notice to it. Yes, their tree. They live in a tree. If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, I have a feeling that he would be tempted to move into the oak tree next door.
copyright study donation

Duke University's Law School has received an anonymous gift of one million dollars, which they will use to build a center studying the expansion of copyright and intellectual propety protection and try to find ways to curtail it. The gift will be officially announced at a conference in Washington, DC, tommorrow.
I fought the law...

You've probably heard about the blocked sale of Napster by a Bankruptcy Court Judge in Delaware. The file sharing service did, at one time, threaten to change the face of the internet. Its web site now holds only a good bye message to all who visit:
Napster's story is perhaps best described by the most popular downloads on its last full day of operation. The songs included Give it Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Send Lawyers, Guns and Money by Warren Zevon, and I Fought the Law (And the Law Won) by The Clash.
Another file sharing service also found itself on the downside of fortune today, as Madster, aka Aimster, will have an injunction issued against them to cease any illegal file sharing activities. It's a bit of a hollow victory for the recording industry in that the company had declared bankruptcy in March, and most of its users had already migrated to other services.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

china, my china

On Monday, news was released that China was blocking the use of Google by its residents. Today, we learned a litle bit about Google's efforts to have that ban removed.

How was this practice discovered? It appears that researchers at Harvard Law School came up with a Real Time Test of Internet Filtering in China as part of a documentation of filtering world wide. I'm happy to say that the Delaware Law Office is still accessible in China. You can visit the Harvard site and test other pages if you like.

We had written about their report on filtering in Saudi Arabia a while back. Another group, called Reporters without Borders is also conducting research on internet filtering across the globe.

ps. Remember how important it used to be to have your web site listed with Altavista? Well, it looks as though they've been blocked by China also.
new courthouse

The Wilmington News Journal has a nice spread on the New Castle County Court House today, including a photo gallery. Some proceedings were put on hold while courts moved into the buidling during the past few weeks. As of today, it was business as usual.
greece not playing games

There's a new law in Greece, and it has people who play games a little worried. Actually, it has them threatened with fines and jail time:
The Greek government has banned all electronic games across the country, including those that run on home computers, on Game Boy-style portable consoles, and on mobile phones. Thousands of tourists in Greece are unknowingly facing heavy fines or long terms in prison for owning mobile phones or portable video games.
The law is an attempt to prevent illegal gambling. Has it been used against people with handheld portable games? It's impossible to tell from the article, though they write that people have been "fined tens of thousands of dollars for playing or owning games."
will the wolf survive?

preparing wolf for transport to Yellowstone National ParkThe federal government has been spending considerable efforts and resources to help reintroduce the the gray wolf (warning -- audio of wolf howl upon visiting the page) to the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Program. ABC has a story about how ranchers are coping with sharing leased federal land with these predators. (image via the Fish and Wildlife Service National Image Library)

Monday, September 02, 2002

picture taking in wilmington

We've written a little bit here about the people who were having their pictures taken by the police at certain street corners in Wilmington. Many people expressed outrage that the police would photograph people who weren't being arrested, possibly to intimidate them some time in the future. I've had a few people ask me what the people in the neighborhoods in Wilmington might think about the police activities there. Norman Lockman presents the answer to that question in an editorial entitled Neighbors don't object to drug sweep.
K-12 online

In thirteen states, it is now possible to send your child to school online. While these schools seem to be growing in popularity, they are attracting law suits, in addition to students. In Pennsylvania, a suit has been filed by 32 school districts to deny state funds to one cyber-chartered school. The Pennsylvania School Board Association is also involved in a suit against such online schools. They have a white paper about the subject, and a copy of their class action complaint online, as well as links to other cyber school litigation.
online subscription music services

I think that this article on online subscription music services hits the nail on the head when they describe what people want to see out of such a service: Compelling and innovative features that make the experience of visiting exciting and unique. The trick isn't just to make music available online, it's to make people want to return on a regular basis. There are many features such a service could use that could make such a visit worth making.
enforcing cyberstalking laws

All but six states have added laws making stalking online a crime. Yet, these laws haven't had the opportunity to be enforced, even though the activity they were meant to protect against has been happening. In Illinois this week, one of the first trials for cyberstalking will take place.
congress in new york

This week, Congress will meet at Federal Hall in Manhattan. It's the first time the body has met in New York City in 202 years. has an article which focuses on what transpired during their last visit to the Big Apple, called Congress Returns To Its Roots.

If you find your curiosity piqued by their reports of that time, when the United States was still in its infancy, the Library of Congress has a wealth of materials from that time period, including the Journal of William Maclay mentioned in the CBS article. The Journal is very readable:
The very principles which actuated Dr. Rush and myself when we puffed John Adams in the papers and brought him forward for Vice-President will probably make him President. We knew his vanity, and hoped by laying hold of it to render him useful among the New England men in our scheme of bringing Congress to Pennsylvania. But his pride, obstinacy, and folly are equal to his vanity, and, although it is a common observation that fools are the tools of knaves--and I am certain weak men are often brought forward with such views--yet John Adams has served to illustrate two points at least with me, viz., that a fool is the most unmanageable of all brutes, and that flattery is the most irksome of all service.

June 23d.--Attended at the Hall a little after ten. Came into the Senate chamber. There was nobody here but Mr. Adams. He was in the great chair. When I came in he left it; came and sat near me until he read a newspaper; shifted to the chair next to me; began a discourse on the subject of Pennsylvania. Said they were "the best republicans in the Union. Their adoption was unequivocal. This could not be said of Boston, New York, or Virginia." Surely there was a meaning in this. I replied that we had, no doubt, our faults; but certainly the virtues of plainness, industry, and frugality would be allowed to us in some degree; that Federalism was general, but there was a general abhorrence of the pomp and splendid expense of government, especially everything which bordered on royalty. Several members came in and joined us.
It's great that we have records of that time period like this one. MaClay's Journal gives a fascinating look at the time and the people involved in the early days of Congress.
baseball fans to cease and desist

For a while, I was happy that the baseball season didn't end prematurely with a strike. Then I had to go and read an article on the SportingNews site about cease and desist letters that went out from Major League Baseball to four fan web sites. From the article, it's impossible to tell if the sites were operating in a for-profit manner. But they do mention the following statement from the NFL which they seem to indicate ("the NFL takes a less agressive approach.") is a departure from the MLB practice:
"To the extent that it's purely a non-commercial site devoted to commentary about the team, we're supportive and happy that fans are excited about our sport," says Paula Guibault, NFL senior counsel. "It's not an issue for us."
So, what exactly went into those cease-and desist letters? Chilling Effects reproduces the letter that went out to the owner of The letter was sent in the beginning of July, and it looks as though a number of disclaimers may have been added to the page since then.

The effects of the MLB cease and desist letter to the web site are a bit more bitter sweet. The site has ceased publishing baseball related material rather than face off in a legal battle against the major leagues. Details of the letter, and the site administrator's reaction are still available on the site. On the positive side, the journalism student who ran the site has been called up to the big leagues himself, and is now writing stories about the Mets for Fox Sports (more here.) Big Baseball may not have read the email reactions from fans of the site, but it looks as though someone at Fox did.

Another letter recipient covering the New York Yankees reported in his site's forum that he had come to a resolution with MLB where he would change his domain name from to something else. The site has re-emerged at

The USA Today article, where I learned of the name change, indicates that letters went out to 22 fan sites. I understand the need to protect copyrights and trademarks, but it's getting awfully difficult for baseball fans to remain fans, especially ones who love the sport enough to build fan sites.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

marketers targeting students?

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has picked up on a lawsuit brought by New York's Attorney General against a marketing firm which collected information from teachers and students through a non-profit subsidiary. The organization claimed it was providing the information to "universities and colleges nationwide for financial aid and student scholarship foundations." It may have been sending that information to such institutions. But, New York's AG also believes that the data was being sold to retailers, and others through the parent company's web site. (I don't know where they are getting their information for preshoolers, but take a look at the types of information they claim they can provide for very young students.)

EPIC has more information about this topic on their page about Privacy and Consumer Profiling -- scroll about halfway down the page.