Wednesday, October 30, 2002

filtered web sites

Do the owners of web sites that are being blocked by another company's filtering software have a right to know about the blocking? That's a good question, but it's not the heart of the litigation going on to allow a researcher to decrypt a software company's list of web sites filtered. Should a researcher be allowed to decrypt the protections built into filtering software to gauge how the web is being censored? Will the researcher be violating current copyright law if he makes that attempt? Would allowing others to be able to use that decryption tool be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? If the Delaware Law Office web site was on that list, I would want to know.
online activism

The last two days I've linked to a couple of articles that involve politicians using the web in their election campaigns. In a switch, I'm pointing tonight to a use of the web that helps people contact their representatives.

Alternet has an article about people harnessing the power of the web to keep informed of legislation in Washington, D.C., and to enable them to draft documents indicating their positions on the shaping of laws. The article focuses upon the TrueMajority web site which was started by one of the cofounders of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream:
TrueMajority sifts through all the stuff going on in Congress. When your voice counts to create a just and sustainable world, you get an email alert. Then just by clicking one button a fax is sent to your congressperson in your name. It takes about 2 minutes a month and it's free.
While I like the idea a whole lot in theory, the thought of activism for activism's sake doesn't thrill me. Any issue worth protesting about is worth more than two minutes time to consider.
have you registered your beer keg today?

There's a new weapon in the battle against underage drinking, and I'm still trying to figure out whether it's a good idea or a bad idea. A proposal coming out of Westchester County, New York, is calling for a state law requiring that kegs be registered, and that identification information regarding who purchased specific kegs be recorded and monitored carefully.
le grande mac

If a major fast food chain issues a warning that you should only eat at their establishment once a week and that too much fast food isn't good for you, what do you do? Imagine you're the American representative of that company, and you have to explain why the French spokesperson made such a statement. On top of that, critics brandishing the threat of litigation are eating the news up. I'd love to see more fast food restaurants come up with healthier alternatives to their standard menus. Maybe that tide is rolling in.
federal information sharing

Applying for a student loan, or some other application that involves the federal government? Any guess as to how many eyes get a peek at the information contained on the federal forms? Evidently, it's quite a few.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

software licenses no blue light specials

Kmart's attempts to sell off their internet provider, bluelight.com, has hit a major snag in the form of software licenses. An interesting thread over at slashdot looks at the Microsoft's objection to the transfer of licenses involved in the sale. I'm wondering how many corporations are reviewing the terms of their software licenses upon hearing about this. It's impossible to tell from the facts presented whether bluelight.com is a separate company in possession of the licenses, or if Kmart is the licensee.
amish safe driving manuals

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is putting together a driving safety manual for buggy drivers on Pennsylvania roadways. The focus of the booklets will be upon how to anticipate and prepare for drivers of much faster moving vehicles. The biggest challenge the Department may face is figuring out how to distribute the safety guidelines, since buggy operators don't need to go to PennDOT offices to register vehicles or secure licenses.
sea turtles find friends in costa rica

Costa Rica passed a law last week protecting sea turtles, to much celebration by the Sea Turtle Survival League. Amazing creatures.
"ought to be a law", part two

Yesterday, I wrote about an essay contest in Ohio for high school students sponsored by the Ohio State Bar Association with this name. A California legislator is holding a contest called There oughta be a law for the second straight year. Last year, the top three entries out of one hundred received were passed by the California legislature into law. With that rate of success, the contest is being held again. A companion contest, "This One's Gotta Go," accompanies it this year. I mentioned yesterday that I thought the essay contest was a good idea, worth copying in other places. The same holds true for this one.
technology and government

Business Week has a special report on in their latest online issue that shows government trying to adopt new methods, and facing new challenges while doing so. It's a six part series, and it raises a number of good questions.

The first part takes a look at whether the efficiencies of the web might help agencies save money while providing improved services.

The IRS is trying to meet a goal of having 80% of their filings be completed online by 2007, and the biggest hurdle that they face is having the public help them while being an unpopular entity. Internet filing reduces the costs associated with paying taxes by half, and speeds the process up tremendously. Will the American public help them meet that goal?

The Office of Management & Budget is responsible for coordinating the IT efforts of the federal government. Are they up to the challenge? (And, it is quite a challenge.)

Instead of targeting consumers directly, many dot com's are looking at becoming customers of the government. Is it a business model with a possibility of success?

More public records from the government are becoming available online. What is the proper balance between privacy and accessibility to public records?

Political campaigns are going online, and sometimes that's not a good thing. How will politics and internet mesh as more candidates to to the web in the future.
spam busters.... well... sort of

Verizon settles its lawsuit against a spammer. Is this like the little dutch boy? Or will it have an impact?

In addition to the criminal charges that can be brought in Delaware for such spam activities (11 Del.C. 932-938), the Delaware Code provides a particularly toothy provision which permits the confiscation of certain property of the criminal, sale and distribution of his assets by a receiver, and monetary damages that can sometimes include treble damages, and must include reimbursment of victim's attorney fees. (11 Del.C. 941)

The criminal penalties can range widely, including from 1 to 8 years in jail , and from 100 to 500 in dollars in fines. (11 Del.C. 4205, 4206).

Monday, October 28, 2002

busy day for the aclu

A post about the ACLU and two permits -- one an occupancy permit, and the other a parade permit. In one case, the ACLU is asking a court to decide whether a permit should have been issued when it wasn't. In the other case, they are questioning the need for a permit when the law is unclear, and may be unreasonable. A church was denied an occupancy permit by a borough in Pennsylvania, resulting in the filing of a lawsuit by the ACLU on behalf of the church. A suit was also filed today by the ACLU in Shrieveport, Louisiana, on behalf of a man who was fined for failure to have a parade permit when he picketed in front of a KMart. He was the only protestor.
copying dvds

Is it against the law to manufacture software that allows people to make backups of DVDs that they own? SunSpot.net takes a look at this question from the perspective of a company that makes software which allows DVDs to be copied, regardless of whether the disks have some type of copy protection or not.
corporate information on a web site

When a corporation posts information on a web site, even though they haven't publicized the presence of the information nor made it available from a link on the rest of the site, is the information public? The information was part of a third quarter report that hadn't been released to the public in the manner described by Sweden's law. The corporation has pressed criminal charges against a news service for publishing parts of that report, which they accessed at the corporation's web site.
there ought to be a law

That's the name of an essay contest sponsored by the Ohio State Bar Association for high school students in Ohio. It's good to see Bar Associations involved in activities like this one, aimed at getting students interested in learning about the law.
elections and the web

Politics will be changed by the internet. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting on How the Web is changing election campaigns. One of the sites that they point out is PoliticalWeb.info, which has some interesting lessons for politicians as well as voters.
national recognition for delaware attorney

Congratulations to Dana Harrington Conner, who recently traveled to the U.S. Supreme Court to be recognized with the 2002 Sandra Day O'Connor Award for Professional Service. She is the managing attorney of Delaware Volunteer Legal Services (DVLS) which is an organization of volunteer attorneys who provide services to low income families in a number of areas. According to the Wilmington News Journal the DVLS helped more than 1,000 low income clients in 2001. In addition to being an adjunct faculty member of Widener University School of Law as the Director of the School's Delaware Civil Law Clinic, she is also very active in the Delaware legal community:
She is a member of the American Judicature Society and the Melson–Arsht American Inn of Court in Wilmington, Delaware. She serves on the board of the Delaware State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Provision of Legal Services to Low Income People and is an adjunct professor of the Delaware Civil Clinic. Ms. Harrington Conner is frequently called as an expert witness in domestic violence proceedings and is a recognized authority on protection from abuse proceedings. She is a regular speaker at legal seminars and programs for the public.
It's good to see recognition go to someone who deserves it.
an excerpt from our revolutionary times

To the honorable the representatives of the counties of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex, in general assembly met, 14th March, 1775. The petition of the inhabitants, freemen of Kent county, most humbly sheweth:

That we conceive a well regulated militia, composed of the gentlemen freeholders and other freemen, to be not only a constitutional right, but the natural strength and most stable security of a free government, from the exercise of which a wise people will not excuse themselves even in time of peace. That happily secure in the affectionate protection of our mother country, we have for some time past been carelessly negligent of military art and discipline, and are therefore the more exposed to the insult and ravages of our natural enemies at this unhappy time, when we have lost our interest in the esteem and affection of our parent state.

We therefore pray your honors to take our case into your most serious consideration, and, by passing an act of assembly establishing a militia throughout this government, grant us relief in the premises, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
eating an elephant

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I kept reminding myself of this on last Friday. It was my first Friday on the bench at Newark's Alderman's Court. The courtroom was packed, the lobby was packed. One case at the time. That was the only way to get through it.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

delaware news

The Board of Bar Examiners of the Delaware Supreme Court have announced the names of those who have passed the bar exam in Delaware.

Judge Carl Goldstein has announced his retirement from the Superior Court of Delaware, to take effect at the end of November. His future plans may involve teaching or music. His intelligence and experience on the bench will be missed. I hope that he does start teaching. Sharing what he has learned during his judicial tenure is a great opportunity for anyone fortunate enough to be his student. Judge Goldstein also performs roots music, and is a longtime DJ for a Saturday morning radio show (Fire on the Mountain) at the University of Delaware (WVUD -- 91.3 FM).

EZ-Pass transponders are wearing out more quickly than expected, prompting the company which issues them in Delaware and New Jersey to "agree to provide 209,000 free replacement windshield transponders to New Jersey and Delaware." It sounds like the program needs some work.
justice stevens

The Associated Press wire is carrying a profile of Justice John Paul Stevens that's worth reading if you're concerned about the people behind the laws. Known as fiercely independent, and often referred to as a wild card, the Justice has been issuing a dissent in approximately one-quarter of the rulings of the Court. I'm in agreement with him that dissent is a good thing.
divorce and the disclosure of corporate information

A couple of large corporations have had closely held corporate information disclosed in divorce courts recently. One corporation involved was General Electric, and the other was accounting firm Ernst and Young. An interesting conclusion made in the article is that corporations may have to fight even harder to keep information about their companies from being disclosed in divorce cases given the current climate surrounding corporate secrecy.
can the arts reduce crime?

Juveniles in Malibu, California, are spending a couple of days away from the detention center where they've been incarcerated to act in an improv troop, in front of a paying audience. The Christian Sceince Monitor writes about the performance in an article called Thug to thespian: Young offenders take the stage. Sounds like it was a great performance too. We need more programs like this one.
poland in the eu

Within the next year and a few months, Poland will likely become a member of the European Union. Before January 1, 2004, rolls around Poland needs to implement 80,000 pages of EU treaty law. I'm wondering how much that will change Poland. And once Poland, and nine other countries become members of the Union, how will the larger Union fit in with the rest of the world?

Saturday, October 26, 2002

file sharing debate

The Oxford Union is "the most famous debating society in the world." They had a recent debate under the proposition that:
This House believes that "the free music mentality is a threat to the future of music."
Arguing for the proposition were Jay Berman, President of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI); Hillary Rosen, head of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); and Chris Wright, CEO of Chrysalis. This synopsis of the debate is an amusing look at some of the hightlights and some of the "oops" moments. (via bOing bOing).
small newspapers online

The business model isn't clear. They're losing money in many instances. But more and more small papers are migrating to the web. SunSpot.net takes a look at some of the reasons why the move is being made.
very appealing

It was good to see Howard Bashman's site How Appealing, on appellate law, named as a Blog of Note over on the front page of Blogger a couple of days ago. A recognition very much deserved.
chief moose fans

I followed the noise being made over at CNN about Chief Moose to the Chief Moose Fan Club. Very nicely done.
spooky house sales

With Halloween approaching, this topic seemed timely. What do you do when you have a ghost staying in your house, and you want to sell the property? Are you obligated to let prospective buyers know that the house is haunted?

A number of states have passed "stigmatized property laws" that don't require certain disclosures. If a house is in acceptable physical condition, there are a number of factors that might cause it to be sold for less money that it might otherwise be worth. Some of these include:

The house was the scene of a violent crime. or a suicide.
A previous owner had a serious illness of some type.
The house is haunted.

The laws involving this type of disclosure vary from state to state. You might want to find out what things a seller or a real estate agent is and isn't required to disclose when you're buying a house. An entertaining article from back in 1995, written for the Wall Street Journal called Is That a Hounted House You're Buying covers more on those laws, and introduces us to a Colorado poltergeist by the name of Ed.
escrow fraud online

Have you ever considered making a large purchase on an online auction site like eBay? eBay recommends using an escrow service when spending more than $500.00. The idea is a good one. Just be careful about the service that you choose. An article over on AuctionBytes.com called eBay Members Scammed by Fraudulent Escrow Sites is about some businesses that are causing consumers problems.

Friday, October 25, 2002

shearing sheep, shaving a ballon?

A contest being run by a bar in New Zealand is drawing a considerable amount of international attention. The Perfect Woman Competition has elicited calls from media in a number of countries around the world. It does sound like the type of contest that would be organized by a drinking establishment, but a few aspects of the contest give it a unique feel. Maybe beauty pageants should take note. The women competing come from a wide range of ages and occupations. The criteria used to find a winner?
Competition events include curling, pool, sock darning, putting a ram in the shearing position, shaving a balloon, digging in a fence post, backing a trailer-load of hay and changing a car wheel.

The finalists will have to open a beer bottle without a bottle opener, take part in a personality contest, blow a dog whistle and sing the Southern Man song.
My guess is that something similar may be imported to American television soon.
invisible spanish web?

The term "invisible web" is often used to refer to a large part of the web that often isn't indexed by search engines and contains personal home pages, databases or password protected areas.

The term might as easily be applied to at least 300 commercial web sites in Spain who are letting their screens go blank in response to a new law which requires registration with the government, the display of certain information on the sites, and considerable government control of the content of the sites. This law sounds interesting:
The statute goes even further. It says that if Spanish authorities deem something on a foreign-hosted Web site threatening to Spain's national defense, public order, consumer rights or other values, they can order Spanish operators to sever access to that site.
The law took effect on October 12th. Hopefully the protest will cause the Spanish government to reconsider how they are approaching their regulation of the web.

[October 25, 2002 -- Some other sites are writing about Spain's Law of Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce (LSSI):Radsoft suggests in their article that more of these sites should add English language versions of their protests to try to generate more attention to their plight from the internet community. The OJR agrees that a grass roots movement might help. Anyone interested in spreading the word? ]

[October 31, 2002 -- The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has added a considerable amount of information on this topic at their site on two pages. The first is The new Spanish "Law of Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce" (LSSI), and the second is on their International Data Retention page. Also, Kriptópolis (Spanish) has linked to our comment here (thanks), and to a number of other pages that are providing further information on this situation.]
judeo-christian lawyers

Plans are underfoot for Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University to open a law school. The school is scheduled to have classes begin next fall.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

attorney discipline report

The ABA has completed its report on the Delaware Attorney discipline rules and procedures. The ABA report contains 18 specific recommendations (pdf) for change/improvement. The report is to be reviewed by the Delaware Supreme Court in November. Comments and suggestions are being sought at this time.
information wants to be free

I saw a page that some of our visitors from outside of the US might like from the University of Pennsylvania Library. It's Books Online: No US Access. The page includes links to a number of texts that are in the public domain outside of the US, but are still held under copyright within the States. It's important that you heed the warning on the page:
The following books are by authors that have died more than 50 years ago, which places them in the public domain in many countries, particularly those outside the US and Europe. However, they remain copyrighted under United States law, where works copyrighted in 1923 or later can be protected for up to 95 years after publication.

Do NOT download or read these books online if you or your system are in the United States or in another country where copyright protections can extend more than 50 years past an author's death. The author's estate and publishers still retain their legal and moral rights to oversee the work in those countries. (Also, in many European countries, copyrights have recently been extended to last 70 years past the author's death.)
Fortunately, for our guests who cannot access legally access these books, the Library's site does link to books from many of these authors that are in the public domain in the United States, and are available online. Included are writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Willa Cather, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Edith Wharton, and others. Follow the links off the page for each of these authors to locate the books that US citizens are allowed to access.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

"a law like a blunderbuss"

I'm not sure what the back story is in the opinion piece Of laws and asses from the Times of Malta, but it is definitely one of the more amusing editorials I've read in a while. A snippet:
He was definitely not after filthy lucre. So why let the technicalities of a heavy handed and defective law dictate a course of action that verges on the ludicrous, if not the downright unjust? I should have thought that the concept of the law being in the service of justice, and not the other way around, was more than just a cliché. Oh, for more of that rare commodity - common sense.
I know a few laws I've voiced those words about before. Well, not exactly those words.
copy fights

If I had an Amazon wish list, the book Copy Fights would be at the top of it, from the strength of this review at Foreign Affairs called Who Owns Ideas? The War Over Global Intellectual Property. But, I don't. I won't let that stop me from picking up a copy. It sounds pretty good.
marketing group changes stance on email

The Direct Marketing Association has seen the  light  spam, and it doesn't look good. Will they be instrumental in helping to create a new federal law that bans commercial emails with forged headers? They will if they want commercial email to be allowed to include "opt-out" features under that law, rather than "opt-in."
internet under attack

Where were you when most of the internet came under attack earlier this week?

[October 24, 2002 -- and a second attack later on Monday.]
financial institutions and third party privacy law

Does Microsoft's automatic update features force banks to violate federal privacy laws?.
lessig on copyright

Copyright Law and Roasted Pig -- Copyright and the Eldred case, from Larry Lessig over at Red Herring.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

scuba privacy

What privacy rights do you have when you purchase something from a store, or pay for lessons? Should a store owner just turn over all of their records when faced with a subpoena? A scuba shop in Beverly Hills was issued a grand jury subpoena asking them to identify everyone who had been given diving lessons over the last three years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was asked for help by the store, and let the U.S. Attorney's know that it intended to oppose the subpoena in court. The subpoena was dropped.
open source pim

Do you use Outlook to receive emails and keep track of your schedule? While it has an incredible amount of features, there are some things about it that just bug me. Could an open source Personal Information Management (PIM) program replace Outlook on people's desktops? I'm willing to give the Open Source Applications Foundation's program a try. The positive responses from a lot of people at Slashdot shows that I'm not alone.
lawyers write to the chamber of commerce

Lawyers under attack? It happens. In an open letter from the American Bar Association (ABA) to the US Chamber of Commerce, the ABA writes that attacking lawyers has been "a popular sport since the time of Shakespeare." The Chamber of Commerce has an ad campaign that places the burden of high costs of products and clogged courts upon lawyers. The ABA is asking the commerce organization to reconsider its advertising, and divert its efforts towards "the real needs of its members."
the reports of internet radio's death...

...appear to have been exagerated.

"Jesse Helms killed Internet radio," was a quote from a Business Week article that described the stalling in the Senate of a last minute bill to help keep small webcasters from paying large royalty fees. But, as a Reuters article in Forbes later noted: "Smaller Internet broadcasters won a stay of execution over the weekend as musicians and record labels agreed to accept lower royalty payments that could prevent many from going out of business." I'm glad this compromise for the smaller online stations came about. The web would have been a much quieter place without it.

Monday, October 21, 2002

internet voting in delaware

The Wilmington News Journal reports that Delaware has been asked to participate in an experiment involving voting online during the 2004 presidential elections. Thirteen states would be involved in this experiment. Online voting wouldn't be available to all Delawareans. The test would only involve people filing absentee ballots, such as soldiers and Delawareans working overseas.

I'm not sure that I detect a bias for or against internet voting on the pages of Secure Poll, but they do have a good number of articles and white papers on the subject of electronic voting. Gigalaw published a lighthearted view of internet voting in January of 2001 that is worth a look.

One article I ran across that did bother me was the one entitled Internet Voting Project Cost Pentagon $ 73,809 Per Vote. Given Delaware's present budget crisis, I can't help but wonder who is footing the bill for this experiment.
google lawsuit

Google has been sued by search-portal Search King in a District Court in Oklahoma. Part of the relief requested involves the issuance of an injunction, so there may be some decisions rendered in the suit fairly soon.
free speech in the court?

Many people following the Supreme Court oral argument in the Eldred v. Ashcroft case learned something about the practices of the Supreme Court over the last few weeks. One is that notes aren't allowed to be taken by the public while watching the arguments. I'm sure that there must be some reason for that. But, I can't think of what it is. Akhil Reed Amar asks the same thing over at findlaw, in an article called Too Much Order in the Court: How The Justices Betray Their Own Free Speech Principles:
The Supreme Court bars television cameras and radio microphones from its public oral arguments. Transcripts of the dialogue between attorneys and the Justices are not posted on the Court's website until weeks have passed and the public's interest has waned. Members of the public may not even take notes in the gallery about what is being said in open court.

Meanwhile, in its opinions, the Court trumpets the importance of free speech and press access.
It may be that the greatest victory from the Eldred case might not be whether or not the copyright extension law is declared unconstitutional, but rather that the public is viewing the actions of the Court, and of the Congress much more carefully these days.

Sunday, October 20, 2002

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

Question: I am a paralegal in a law office that handles primarily plaintiff's work. I need to assemble information regarding a corporation we are about to file suit against. It will be necessary to include corporate officers in the complaint. How do I determine who they are?

Answer: If the company is publicly traded, check out www.sec.gov; you will find a list of corporate officers there. If it is publicly traded, you can always call and ask for a copy of the shareholders report. Sometimes there is a fee; most often it is free. If the company is privately held your task becomes more involved.

Initially, you would contact the State of Delaware, Secretary of State, Division of Corporations, in Dover (302) 739-3073, and obtain the DE corporate ID number. While you have the clerk on the phone, ask for that company officers listed on the previous year's franchise tax statement. If a name is available, place that to the side for future inquiry.

It is interesting to note that a name is not required when sending in the franchise tax statement. (Most people leave it blank.) Ask to be transferred to the "automated system", and you can now acquire the date of incorporation, Registered Agent information, and stock issuance information.

The Division of Corporations can also give you information on UCC filings. Note the dates of the filings. Once the debt is paid off the secured item is considered an asset of value. And, occasionally, the filing will reveal a name of a corporate officer…ask before paying for it. The Division's website is: www.state.de.us/corp/. Make a list of the names you find.

Also check with the Recorder of Deeds office in the county in which the company is located. If the company owns the property, pull copies of deeds and mortgages. You will find signatures of the principals there. You can also find federal tax liens, articles of incorporation, and other miscellaneous filings at the Recorder of Deeds office.

Most of the 2200 counties in the U.S. are online. Use Google to locate the address. New Castle County is www.ncc-deeds.com. In addition to locating corporate officers, you have added to the list of assets. Make a list of the names you find.

The local courthouse is also a tremendous resource. Copies of previous litigation, both civil and criminal, are public information. Pull the files, and note any names included in the complaint. Check all the courts. We are fortunate, here in DE, to have a Court of Chancery.

The Prothonotary also maintains copies of all fictitious name registrations. In DE, you must file the fictitious name registration in each County. The clerks in the Courts are very helpful, use your phone if you need assistance. Make a list of the names you find.

The Department of Motor Vehicles can provide a list of "vehicles by name" to you. From the list, further obtain certified title histories and observe the signatures on the title. note lien information and add to your list of assets. In addition, make a list of names you find.

The internet is a great resource as well. Search for the company name on Google. Check out business sites like www.dnb.com, www.hoovers.com, www.yellowpages.com, etc… Also a great resource is the News Journal. The web-site is www.delawareonline.com.

Remember, once your list is assembled the information will need to be verified as current. Obtain home addresses and other contact information. Serve the defendants at their place of employment and their residence. Use a private detective to assemble DOB's, SSN's, individual assets, and other personal information.

For your tougher cases, it will be necessary to employ a private detective to conduct surveillance, and interviews. Most industries are tight-nit, and the competition is information rich about the company you are inquiring about.

Surveillance, and activity checks, can identify company assets and business activities. Use DMV records to identify vehicle ownership on company property. Compare photographs obtained at the job-site, or company offices, with DMV images. Identify the players. Who is parked in the closest parking space? Who is working late, or arrives early? Interview the landlord and neighboring businesses.

If feasible, pull the trash from the dumpster, or curb. I carry a 10' x 10' tarp, and a box of rubber surgical gloves, in my trunk just for this purpose. It is absolutely amazing what people discard…..

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 DeIrish5@aol.com.
Dover Post Coming Out

Congratulations to the Dover Post for their relatively new online presence. We can now get online access to such local Dover news such as: Dover Doctor pleads guilty to sexual molestation of mental patients; An increase in the verified West Nile cases in Delaware; and hopefully, the highly anticipated story on last night's Camelot, a benefit costume ball.
white collar spies

On Friday, a New York man entered a plea in a federal court in Delaware to a charge involving a count of stealing trade secrets. The case is the first successful prosecution of an industrial espionage charge in Delaware. According to the article, only 35 cases have been prosecuted under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act (pdf).

How much money is involved in cases of industrial espionage? The prosecution above involved a contract estimated to be worth approximately $ 250 million. A Kansas City Star article from last year entitled SPY INC: In trying to be a biotech giant, KC must protect trade secrets supplies some startling numbers:
A 1995 survey of 325 companies by the American Society for Industrial Security found that almost half had experienced some form of trade theft in the previous two years. The FBI estimates that U.S. businesses lost as much as $100 billion last year alone from thefts of trade secrets.
Corporate espionage doesn't recognize national boundaries, and William S. Cohen's comments posted in an article on George Mason University's School of Law web site provides a number of examples. Here's one:
Another case in which we had a French national working for a U.S. fiber optics company sold trade secrets to the French intelligence, which then in turn passed it on to the French competitor. And in the case that Monsieur Marion was particularly proud of, the French intelligence acquired the pricing proposal from a U.S. aircraft manufacturer, which enabled its French rival to underbid it in a billion dollar contract.
The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the US Department of Justice has a page summarizing prosecutions under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act. They issued a press release last week with details of the last successful prosecution under the act before Friday's. It involved a software engineer who offered competitors of his former company the source code for that company's proprietary software.

If you haven't been to the CCIPS' site, it's worth a visit. They cover a lot of legal and policy issues, and publish some interesting reading material, such as details regarding Operation Buccaneer, which involves "cybersmuggling" or "warez." In July, they also updated their publication Searching and Seizing Computers and Related Electronic Evidence Issues and include a Field Guidance memorandum on computer crime and electronic surveillance as influenced by the USA PATRIOT Act.

Their Intellectual Property Crimes manual section on Theft of Commercial Trade Secrets gives an interesting overview of the Espionage Act, and the Department of Justice's efforts to enforce it.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Defining Organic Food Labeling

I was over checking out what's in rebecca's pocket, when I came across a post on the federally mandated labeling of organic foods. She points to an article from last Tuesday that describes a food revolution settling into place this coming week:
Next Monday, organic food will take its largest leap ever into mainstream America when the federal government puts into effect a new national system of organic food labeling.

The dramatic growth of the industry demanded formal criteria for organic production and marketing, agreed growers and regulators.

The new rules -- 10 years in the making -- set standards that growers and food companies must follow before they can call anything "organic." For the first time, organic foods will be labeled under federal regulations that ban the use of pesticides, chemicals, genetically modified organisms and other material from all products that use the label "organic."
Rebecca points out some other articles worth reading that ponder if small farms producing organic foods will suffer at the hands of big business with this change, and question what the term "organic" actually means anymore.

You'll see those labels in your grocery store on Monday.

Business Plans and Contracts on the Web

I just came across the fourth part in a series called This Web Business from A List Apart. I read through the four parts and another article by the author, and they are definitely worth reading if you run a business on the web. Here are the parts:

Part one: A Simple Plan -- on putting together a business plan.

Part two: Getting a Loan -- on the benefits and methods of financing your business.

Part three: Selecting Professionals -- on finding accountants, attorneys, financial institutions, and registered agents.

Part four: Business Entity Options -- on the benefits and detriments of different types of business forms.

In addition, the author of those articles has also written another article for A List Apart called In Praise of Contracts, which offers some really good advice.

Friday, October 18, 2002

ACLU Commercials on TV

The ACLU is trying to Keep America Safe and Free, according to a Wired magazine columnist who reports about them in an article called ACLU Acts Against Patriot Act. As part of the campaign, they've created commercials which are:
featuring a close-up of a hand cutting up and re-writing the U.S. Constitution as a voiceover charges Attorney General John Ashcroft with violating the First and Fourth amendments, which guarantee free speech and guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.
It will be interesting to see some of these on prime time TV.

One stat that I'm staggered by in the Wired article is that the Operation Tips page reports that it has resulted in more than 200,000 tips being received from the public (see the last paragraph on the TIPS page).

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Visas Denied in Digital Millennium Copyright Case

It sounds a bit like the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, but the American Counsulate in Russia denied visas to two key witnesses in a trial under the DMCA, which is scheduled to start on October 21st.

PlanetPDF broke this story originally, and has more details. No reason was given for the denial of the visas.

DMCA Compromising Computer Security in the US?

M. Claire Stewart is linking to some great articles over on Current copyright readings, quickly making her blog an indispensible source of information on subjects such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

One of the latest is a story in the Register called If I tell you that I'll have to kill you: Red Hat fights the DMCA:
Red Hat has struck a small blow against the DMCA, by publishing a security patch which can only be explained fully to people who are not within US jurisdiction. The company's position here seems to be not altogether voluntary - according to a spokesman "it is bizarre, and unfortunately something Red Hat cannot easily do much about," but like it or not Red Hat has been recruited to the campaign to make the DMCA look ridiculous.
The explanation behind the security patch details, in part, how security can be breached in the Red Hat system and how the patch addresses that problem. Because of this, it could possibly be viewed as a violation of the DMCA.

To keep the company safe from breaking the law, the explanation for the patch is only available through another link which leads to Thefreeworld's 'NO DMCA' licence, in which you have to warrant that you are not an American citizen, or within America's jurisdiction. I didn't press the button to accept the license that clearly states: "I accept the license. I am not a US citizen, nor resident in an US Territory." (Not because I'm an American citizen, within America's jurisdiction. I just don't need the patch, so I didn't have to go there.)

If you need this security patch, and its explanation, and you are an American citizen, you might want to send a comment to the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress and explain how the DMCA might be possibly compromising the security of your computer system. Unfortunately, the length of the comment period might leave your computer vulnerable to people outside of the US who have access to the Red Hat information. The patch is still available to you without the license, which applies to the explanation of what the patch does. From the license:
Note that if you are a US citizen or under US jurisdiction, circumventing this access control is a violation of the DMCA, punishable a prison term of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $500,000 per violation. On request access_log information will be provided to the law enforcement agencies from the jurisdiction where this webserver resides.
This may be something that we will have to get used to unless Congress revisits this law.

Off the Fence

Charlie.nu has a new blog on Law, Technology and Society, Politics, Humor, and Geeks called Off the Fence. He is going to be entering law school soon, and the site has hit the ground running.

Speaking of running, he has posted a link to a series from New York Lawyer magazine called Law 101: Running From the Law, about Lawyers getting out of the legal profession. Stop by, and say hello. via Ernie the Attorney)

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

New Deputy Alderman at City of Newark Alderman's Court

This morning I was sworn in as the Deputy Alderman for the Alderman's Court of the City of Newark. I shall continue in my private practice, and other business ventures, but I shall not take any new criminal defense cases.

Full Faith and Credit, and Tax Collection

A resident of Nevada, who formerly lived in California, sued a California tax collection agency because they were allegedly harassing him to pay taxes owed in California.
The Nevada court ruled that a California law declaring its immunity to such suits was trumped by Nevada's interest in punishing the sort of harassment alleged by Hyatt.
The dispute has mushroomed from a dispute over taxes to a question of the relationship between states. The US Supreme Court has decided to hear this case, California Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt, probably in early 2003.

First ADA Action Against a Web Site?

A man unable to make a plane reservation online via a screen reader may be bringing the first suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) versus a business based upon their internet access. Does the ADA apply to the internet? The federal government is required to bring accessibility to people with disabilities under Section 508. But, how accessible are your web site's pages? Take them for a spin through the Watchfire Corporation's scanner Bobby to find out.

[October 17, 2002 -- See Dive into Mark on the Myths of Web Accessibility, for some fine writing on why accessibility matters, and how it adds to a site, rather than taking anything away.]

[October 22, 2002 -- the judge hearing this case has ruled that the Disabilities Act does not cover the web. ]

Internet Censorship

This quote, from the United Arab Emirates Minister of Information and Culture, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid al-Nahayan, on the subject of the sole ISP in his country blocking certain internet addresses is encouraging:
Knowledge is the right of the citizen before it is the right of the government to prevent the citizen from the means of acquiring knowledge.
I hope that it's a sentiment that will be shared in other places where people are considering limiting access to ideas online everywhere. (via the excellent BNA Internet Law News)

From the Front Line

You've probably been pointed towards Larry Lessig's reflections on the argument he presented in Eldred v. Ashcroft, but if you haven't visited his blog and read them, they make for interesting reading. Regardless of some of the hesitations he might hold, I don't think that we could have hoped for a better voice to make the arguments that he did. Thank you, Professor Lessig.

Vàclav Havel

I'm looking forward to the time when Vàclav Havel becomes a poet and a writer of plays once more. The following is from an essay written by him and translated by Paul Wilson in the New York Review of Books called A Farewell to Politics that deserves attention:
I am saying only this: to set out on the path of reason, peace, and justice means a lot of hard work, self-denial, patience, knowledge, a calm overview, a willingness to risk misunderstanding. At the same time, it means that everyone ought to be able to judge his or her own capacity and act accordingly, expecting either that one's strength will grow with the new tasks one sets oneself or that it will run out. In other words, there is no more relying on fairy tales and fairy-tale heroes. There is no more relying on the accidents of history that lift poets into places where empires and military alliances are brought down. The warning voices of poets must be carefully listened to and taken very seriously, perhaps even more seriously than the voices of bankers or stock brokers. But at the same time, we cannot expect that the world -- in the hands of poets -- will suddenly be transformed into a poem.
His three observations, lessons learned, or perhaps just reinforced from his time in politics, at the end of the essay are ones we might all wish to consider.

Monday, October 14, 2002

More on Stanford's Center of E-Commerce

An announcement was made recently that Stanford would be starting up an addition to their Program in Law, Science and Technology. Some more details are emerging from the School:
At the center, students will learn from business leaders and practicing lawyers as well as visiting scholars, policymakers and graduate students from outside the United States.

Ballon said the program will be groundbreaking because it will bring in leading Internet practitioners, in-house lawyers from companies such as Yahoo! and NetIQ, and top professors from Stanford.

The institute will serve as a center for inter-disciplinary research and will offer student research assistantships. It will sponsor conferences, speakers and other events.

In addition, the center is currently developing a Web site to provide Internet resources to its students and also to the global community.
It sounds like an exciting time to be attending classes at Stanford. Anyone aware of any other law schools that are considering similar programs?

Copyright Comments

Have an opinion on the US copyright laws? Is there something about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (pdf) that bothers you? Should there be an exception to the law? The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress is soliciting comments (pdf) from the public on possible exceptions. As zdnet news reports, this is only the second time in five years that the law is open for comment, and the first comment period did result in a couple of exceptions to the law. What types of comments are they looking for?
This time around, the office is again asking for specific examples of cases where the law's restrictions cause "actual instances of verifiable problems occurring in the marketplace."
The Copyright Office's notice does give more information on how to get your comments to them, and includes a deadline date of December 18th for written initial comments. Electronic internet comments can be made through this page on their site.

Reply comments may also be made (comments that are replies to comments filed during the initial period) from January 21, 2003 through February 19, 2003:
In the reply comments, persons who oppose or support any exemptions proposed in the initial comments will have the opportunity to respond to the proposals made in the initial comments and to provide factual information and legal argument addressing whether a proposed exemption should be adopted. Since the reply comments are intended to be responsive to the initial comments, reply commenters must identify what proposed class they are responding to, whether in opposition, support, amplification or correction. As with initial comments, reply comments should first identify the proposed class, provide a summary of the argument, and then provide the factual and/or legal support for their argument. This format of class/summary/facts and/or legal argument should be repeated for each reply to a particular class of work proposed. The Copyright Office intends to place the comments and reply comments that are submitted in this proceeding on its website (http://www.copyright.gov/1201).
That page also leads to much more detail regarding the formats to be followed in submitting comments, and details regarding the previous rulemakings under the DMCA.

Babelizing Miranda

I was having so much fun with the Lost in Translation page which had been posted over at Metafilter that I thought I'd share it over here. The page allows you to enter a phrase in English, and then it translates it into another language, then back into English, and so on for five different languages, finally returning a result in English that often looks little like the original. The question, though, was what phrase to use.

One phrase that's very important to understand is a Miranda warning. The exact wording of the warning varies from state to state, but the basic ideas behind it remain the same in each. Not understanding a Miranda warning can be a problem, so I thought I would also look a little at how comprehension of Miranda rights might be viewed from a psychological and legal stance.

A Miranda warning used in Oregon:
1. You have the right to remain silent.

2. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

3. If you are under the age of 18, anything you say can be used against you in a juvenile court prosecution for a juvenile offense and can also be used against you in an adult court criminal prosecution if the juvenile court decides that you are to be tried as an adult.

4. You have the right to talk to an attorney before answering any questions.

5. You have the right to have your attorney present during the questioning.

6. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you without cost, before or during questioning, if you desire.

7. Do you understand these rights?

I have read or have had read to me the above explanation of my constitutional rights and I understand those rights.
The Oregon warning babelized:
1. They have the right to continue being calm.

2. Something, that one you are used legend he to being able and of the meeting of the short circuits you in one.

3. If you he are under age of 18, something, the one that the legend that he inscatoliate to be to her also used can use of the meeting you in a young continuation of the cut for an action and young person of the meeting you in a criminal continuation of the cut of the adult, if the young person is decided the cut that you must be you you examine to him you have taste of the adult to him.

4. They have the right to before speak with the ways the a that you answer all the questions.

5. They have the right to have his ways during the interrogation.

6. If you he cannot attribute ways, one demands it without costs, he emits or during the interrogation, if it is wished.

7. He include/understand these lines?

I read or I read with me my constitutional communication the here excessive line and include/understand these lines of.
In a fairly recent Delaware case (pdf), we see that the Court bases its determination on whether Miranda warnings were understood in a totality of the circumstances test. One aspect of the opinion looks at whether psychological tests were administered, and of what type. In this particular case, the test applied was Professor Thomas Grisso's Instruments for Assessing, Understanding, and Appreciation of Miranda Rights.

Another issue that is often raised is the competency of juveniles to understand Miranda warnings. A page from the Washington State Bar News called Juveniles’ Waiver of Miranda Rights: Competence and Evaluation delves into the problems that situation presents and examines how Professor Grisso's tests are used in this context.
First, the Comprehension of Miranda Rights asks the individual to paraphrase the four warnings to assess his or her general level of comprehension of the warnings. Second, the Comprehension of Miranda Rights-Recognition asks the subject to identify other statements that are "the same as" or "different from" Miranda warnings. This second test addresses the difficulty that some subjects may understand adequately but lack the verbal ability to express what they know.

A third instrument, the Comprehension of Miranda Vocabulary, assesses the subject’s grasp of the vocabulary used in the warnings. This instrument aids in the interpretation of low scores on the two comprehension tests. Fourth, the Function of Rights in Interrogation assesses the youth’s appreciation of the meanings of Miranda warnings in the context of the legal process.
There is also the possiblity of involving parents and guardians when the comprehension of Miranda rights by juveniles is a question, and a Vanderbilt Law Review article proposing to to "strengthen juvenile Miranda rights" by Requiring Parental Presence in Custodial Interrogations goes into detail on that subject.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Munchies

Even Alaskan Natives like me get the Mickie D Munchies once in a while. But we should all know that three meals a day at fast food establishments may turn us into a moose. So try out the low fat entree items!

Larry's Lunch

Friday, October 11, 2002

the aba meets ernie the attorney

The American Bar Association takes a look at weblogs from lawyers in an article called For the Tech Savvy, the Buzzword is Blawg. Not only that, but they smartly call upon Ernest Svenson, better known online as Ernie the Attorney, for some insight to the blawging phenomena. (link via metafilter).
before you close that unwanted pop-up ad...

If you haven't had the chance to visit the illegal art project, make sure that you schedule in a time to view the site soon. The first couple of times I went, I looked around at the graphics, and barely scanned the text. The pictures were compelling enough to guarantee return trips, but make certain that you read some of the words that go with them on the pages.

AND, before you close that pop-up box that shows, when you first arrive, make certain that you read the terms and conditions of use of the site. It's not your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety set of terms. I've gotten to the point where I just close pop-ups without looking at them. It was a mistake the first few times I went to illegal-art.org. They are worth reading carefully. One paragraph from the agreement:
This Website End User License Agreement accompanies the Web Pages and related explanatory materials ("Crap"). The term "Crap" also shall include any upgrades, modified versions, or repaintings of the Website licensed to you by either The Prince of Wales, a sentient washing machine, or my old Rabbi (the one who used profanity). Please read this Agreement carefully. At the end, you will be asked to accept this agreement and provide this Website with a warm, lingering, creepy hug. If you do not wish to accept this Agreement, simply click the "I do not accept" button while forcefully shoving your computer off the back of your desk ("Card Table").
It gets sillier from there.
the rave act

My nephew is young and bright and industrious, and likes music. He and a couple of his friends put together a concert in the spring, renting out a hall and booking a number of bands. They didn't lose money, but they didn't earn much either. From what I hear, everyone who attended had a good time. He would like to try to put on more shows, but there's a concern in his household that it might not be a good idea because of some of the rumors circulating about the Rave Act. He's also noticing some hestitation on the part of the churches and firehalls to allow performances from bands.

So, what is going on with the Rave Act? The House of Representatives started looking at a version of the bill within the last couple of weeks, and Delaware's Senator Joseph Biden made a presentation to the Senate this week in response to criticism leveled at the Senate's version of the bill

On October 1, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives called the "Reducing Americans Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002’’ or the ‘‘RAVE Act" (pdf). (H. R. 5519). The subtitle of the bill is:
To prohibit an individual from knowingly opening, maintaining, managing, controlling, renting, leasing, making available for use, or profiting from any place for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance, and for other purposes.
In addition to its initial presentation on the first, it was also sent to the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. On the tenth, it was forwarded to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

The Senate version (pdf) of the bill was introduced on June 1, 2002 (note: the link points to a slightly modified version of the bill, dated June 18th).

On Wednesday, October 9, Joe Biden spoke before the Senate in an attempt to address some of the criticism that has been leveled at the bill. I've reproduced some of his words below, but the text of his whole statement (pdf) is worth taking a look at.
Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, in June I introduced S. 2633, the Reducing America's Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act, also known as the RAVE Act. Since that time there has been a great deal of misinformation circulating about this legislation. I rise today to correct the record. Simply stated, my bill provides technical corrections to an existing statute, one which has been on the books for 16 years and is well established.

Critics of my bill have asserted that if the legislation were to become law "there would be no way that someone could hold a concert and not be liable" and that the bill "holds the owners and the promoters responsible for the actions of the patrons." That is simply untrue. We know that there will always be certain people who will bring drugs into musical or other events and use them without the knowledge or permission of the promoter or club owner. This is not the type of activity that my bill would address. The purpose of my legislation is not to prosecute legitimate law-abiding managers of stadiums, arenas, performing arts centers, licensed beverage facilities, and other venues because of incidental drug use at their events. In fact, when crafting this legislation, I took steps to ensure that it did not capture such cases. My bill would help in the prosecution of rogue promoters who not only know that there is drug use at their event but also hold the event for the purpose of illegal drug use or distribution. That is quite a high bar...

...The reason that I introduced the RAVE Act was not to ban dancing, kill the "RAVE scene" or silence electronic music, all things of which I have been accused. Although this legislation grew out of testimony I heard at a number of hearings about the problems identified at raves, the criminal and civil penalties in the bill would also apply to people who promoted any type of event for the purpose of drug use or distribution. If rave promoters and sponsors operate such events as they are so often advertised, as places for people to come dance in a safe, drug-free environment, then they have nothing to fear from this law. In no way is this bill aimed at stifling any type of music or expression--it is only trying to deter illicit drug use and protect kids.
While Senator Biden's statement provides some optimism concerning the bill, it's difficult not to also look at the criticism that he is attempting to address. I've collected some statements concerning the Rave Act from the media and other sources below. Click through the links for more from each:

Law May Link Rave Promoters, Ecstasy
House Members Consider Making Rave Promoters Liable for Ecstasy Use
Associated Press, October 10, 2002
Lawmakers want to go after organizers and hosts of dance parties called "raves" in an attempt to halt the fast-rising use of the drug Ecstasy, which has been linked to damage to the brain, heart and kidneys in American teen-agers.

Raves are often hot spots for the use of Ecstasy and other drugs, and a bill offered by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee, would make it easier for the government to fine or imprison business owners who don't prevent their customers from committing drug offenses on their property.
US Drug Officials Support 'Rave' Crackdown Law
By Todd Zwillich, Reuters, October 10, 2002
The law would extend current drug penalties to make it illegal for property owners to knowingly rent or maintain property that is being used to manufacture, store or use drugs. Under the legislation, property owners or managers could be fined up to $250,000 if convicted of the offense, even if they are not involved with drug dealing or distribution.
Few complaints about RAVE Act
By Collegian Editorial Board, Colorado State Collegian, October 09, 2002
But this act, as it is currently written, may go too far and may be difficult to prove. The definition of what constitutes a rave or other event may be too expansive, and it may be very difficult for prosecutors to prove that a promoter or business owner "knowingly" allowed drugs to be bought or sold on their premises or at their events.
CULTURE VULTURE: Orrin's Charge on the RAVE Scene May Have Legal Hangover
By Dan Nailen, Salt Lake Tribune Columnist, October 8, 2002
The ACLU has a point. For the RAVE Act to be fair, promoters of all types of music events would have to be held responsible for the activities of the audience. Can you imagine Clear Channel executives being arrested because someone was using drugs at a Delta Center show, or United Concerts people being handcuffed because some '60s throwback was selling acid at the Deer Valley Bob Dylan show?
"Rave Act" Action Alert
Talkleft, October 8, 2002

Chemical Warfare: The RAVE Act
By Will Doig, Metro Weekly, October 8, 2002
At the security checkpoint, a man in a windbreaker asks you to remove your jacket, your shoes and your hat. You lift your arms parallel to the floor and he frisks just about every inch of your body. Your hair is searched. He checks your piercings. You lift up your tongue so he can look underneath with a flashlight. You think, "So this is how produce feels." You pass the inspection, minus one Chapstick.

This is not the scene at airport security on a "heightened state of alert" day. This is a party, and you're in the pre-party phase. Up against the wall and spread 'em. And try to relax...
ASK THE DJ / Evolution's Jon Sutton
By Humberto Guida, Miami.com, October 3, 2002
Question:The U.S. Congress is considering the RAVE Act, which includes stiff penalties for promoters when narcotics are sold or used at their events. Many fear this will deter people from throwing parties. Would the U.K. dance community tolerate a law like that?

Answer: They tried something like that here once, a law that made it possible for police to stop any party where 10 or more people danced to a repetitive beat. That didn't last for long. But a law like that is just about shutting down dance music -- I wish they would come out and say it.
Study in Primates Shows Brain Damage From Doses of Ecstasy
By Donald G. McNeil, Jr., New York Times, (reg. req'd). September 27, 2002
The amount of the drug Ecstasy that some recreational users take in a single night may cause permanent brain damage and lead to symptoms like those of Parkinson's disease, a study in primates has found.

But critics say that the monkeys and baboons in the study were given huge overdoses of the drug and that the kind of damage the researchers found has never been found in autopsies or brain scans of humans who took large amounts.
Buzz Killed: Legendary D.C. Party Is RAVE Act's First Victim
By empathogen75, September 20, 2002
Before the RAVE Act is even passed, it's having a chilling effect on the dance music scene. It will only get worse after the bill passes. Here in DC, we're going to take the scene back underground, with warehouse parties and map-points, just like it was back in the old days. There's no way this is going to kill the scene. It's just going to put it back into places where they can't see it and they can't control it.
Rave promoters, enthusiasts defend the events
By Steven Hyden and Greg Bump, Post-Crescent staff writers, September 19, 2002
While raves started out as clandestine, Ecstasy-fueled techno music parties held illegally in warehouses in the late 1980s, they have evolved into professionally organized live music events not unlike a conventional concert, he said.

"We’re renting out venues, we’re purchasing insurance, we’re hiring professional security, we’re hiring police. It’s not really a rave, it’s a concert," said Peace, whose legal name is Adam Peterman. "But it’s just the fact that it’s techno music. Everybody has a great misconception about what techno music really is, even though they’re hearing it in car commercials."
Antirave new world
By Evelyn McDonnell, Miami Herald, September 18, 2002
A bill expected to pass the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent this fall could have a chilling effect on Florida's nightclub industry. Senate bill S. 2633, a k a the Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002, or the RAVE Act, would broaden federal standards for prosecuting venues under the so-called crack-house laws, which were designed to stamp out crack cocaine dealers. It would also add stiff civil penalties.

The bill specifically targets dance-music venues, whether they are temporary outdoor raves or established nightclubs. The RAVE Act has raised the ire of the electronic music industry, which brings tens of thousands of professionals and partyers to Miami every year for the Winter Music Conference.
ACLU Action Alert: Oppose Culture War Against Raves!
September 5, 2002
A new kind of social event that mixes an electronic music concert, light show and dancing--popularly known as raves--has been similarly stigmatized. The media often portray raves as dangerous, sinister drug fests and the people who attend them as criminals who only use the events to sell drugs to youth. Raves, however, are a legitimate cultural event just like rock concerts, art exhibitions and film screenings, and are an important outlet for youth culture today.
While I'm happy to see Senator Biden's clarification, I don't think that my nephew will be attempting to promote any concerts for a while. I think that's a shame.
what is an LLC's Operating Agreement, and where can I get one?

An Operating Agreement is critical to the planning, development, and operation of a Limited Liability Company. It should directly reflect the business plan and correctly frame the relationships, rights, duties, and authorities of the members and officers.

As it should reflect the business plan, there should be a business plan. So if you are going to create an LLC, start at the beginning and make a business plan. A business plan does not need to be much more than an improved outline of what you want to do and how you plan to get there. The process of writing it down is very helpful and may highlight problem areas for you before you experience the problem.

Here are some links to sites which can assist you in preparing a business plan:

Small Business Administration
FamilyEducation.com
bplans.com

Remember, it is the process of developing the business plan that may be as helpful as the finished product itself. Don't skip this planning process by blindly incorporating someone else's sample form, or you will have missed the point. You may find it helpful to consult with a professional during this planning phase.

Once you have your Business Plan, then we start with the drafting of your Operating Agreement. The LLC's Operating Agreement is akin to a mix between a corporation's by-laws, and a partnership agreement. The assistance of an attorney may be helpful to you at this stage to frame the concepts that you have developed in your Business Plan in the context of the formal drafting of the Operating Agreement. Forms are useful to the extent that they remind us of topics that should be addressed, but they are dangerous in that they can be misused to drive the drafting process instead of being driven by it. They are doubly dangerous because they tend to encourage people to skip the planning phase, and just "fill in the blanks". With every business endeavor, planning is critical. And anything that interferes with or prevents planning is to be viewed as an obstacle, not a help. As my Granny used to say... "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

[October, 11, 2002, 3:19pm -- Larry, another resource for putting together a business plan that I like very much is from the Online Business course at MyOwnBusiness.com. I like it so much, that I'm adding it here as an addendum to your post rather than as a comment, so that people interested in this topic can also visit over there. I think it approaches everything from a very practical perspective, which makes it worth looking at. The quizzes it includes aren't really necessary, but the insights the course provides are really good. -- Bill]

Thursday, October 10, 2002

home alone

Here's a quiz question for you...In Delaware, at what age may you let your child be alone?

Well, it is unlawful to "abandon" a child of less than 16 years of age. In this context, "abandon" means to leave a child unattended with the intention not to return (ever). (11 Del.C. 1101.)

But if you don't intend for it to be permanent, by the letter of the law you can't leave a child without supervision until they reach 18. This is a very vague section (11 Del.C. 1102.), especially with respect to this issue. In fact, it doesn't specifically talk about it at all.

In practice, there may be an informal policy by the Division of Family Services not to suggest prosecution when children are age 12 and above, except in unusual circumstances. This is a policy, however, and not available to the public, according to a helpline social worker I spoke with. Her supervisor on the other hand, offered to mail me their new policy manual when it gets revised in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, at the link above, I found that DFS has its policy manuals online. This particular policy is at page 14 of the User Manual. Don't you just love it when our government workers refuse to permit us to see a policy that effects us? Here, the policy had already been posted on the internet. I wonder if the refusal had more to do with ignorance and laziness than actual reason. I am referring here to the intial contact worker, not to the supervisor. The supervisor was appropriate and helpful. Shouldn't the line worker be that way?

What does it mean to leave a child alone? Just what it says: you can't leave a child unsupervised in your car or home while you run into the store; you can't leave a child unsupervised if you have to leave for work before they have left for school; you can't leave a child unsupervised to walk to school or wait at the bus stop; you just cannot leave a child alone period.

I suspect in this county alone that there are tens of thousands of children, every school day, who are left alone at bus stops or walk to school alone. Technically, I think this is a violation of the law on the part of the parents, guardians (or whomever has undertaken the responsibility to care for that child). Should the police arrest those tens of thousands of parents each day?

If not, where is the rule or law that we can look to so as to be able to determine what is legal and what is not legal? (I take as a given for the purpose of this limited discussion that we as parents will make our parental but not legal analysis based upon our parental judgment. And so here I am only referring to the legal analysis.)

Should we rely upon a policy of DFS? Should that policy be posted in the open at schools and other public places? Have we delegated the law making authority to the employees of a State Agency that has a huge turnover rate? Or any State Agency?

This ambiguity troubles me greatly.

I found this helpful article online. While it covers these topics using Maryland law, the general discussion is pretty good.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

law school at a distance

Can distance learning and law mix? Would you take a chance attending an online law school when the American Bar Association refuses to accredit the school? How will law firms react when a student from a virtual school applies for a position as an associate?

The South Florida Business Journal's article Virtual law school challenges norm reports that a third of Concord Law School's first graduating class will be taking the California bar exam this February. The school is based in Boca Raton, but its students and professors live all over the country. Their biggest hurdle appears to be getting American Bar Association accreditation, but it will be interesting to see how many of their students pass the California bar. The school presently has 1,100 students.
commerce online

I'm looking forward seeing what shape Stanford's Center for E-Commerce will eventually take. I like the idea of a law school looking at online business in depth, and working towards helping people to consider the legal aspects of electronic commerce. A news.com article, Stanford puts Net policies to the test, describes the focus of the school's efforts:
The new Center for E-Commerce, announced Tuesday, will be an interdisciplinary project that will try to help lawyers, business people and the general public shape policy and grapple with legal questions presented by the Internet. The center will host conferences and speaking engagements where people can hash out issues including Internet jurisdiction, intellectual property and the legal fallout of the dot-com bust.
I hope that they extend the reach of their program beyond hosting local events by building an web-based repository of articles and information.

If they need a model for what could be done, one approach that they might want to consider is the Wharton School's Knowledge @ Wharton.
disney everlasting

Imagine if you could stop the hands of time, and capture the moment, hang on it, and reap whatever riches it brings.

A couple of years back, a copyright extension act was passed by Congress. Some people who were hoping to benefit from the entry of books, music, and film into the public domain were denied that opportunity because the act added another 20 years to works protected under copyright. When those artistic endeavors were created some 70 or so years ago, there was no expectation that copyright would still be in effect and royalties would still be rolling in come the twenty-first century.

We value freedom of expression in the United States. But, we also believe in giving people an incentive to create, and in rewarding them for their artistic expressions. When you render it down to simple terms, copyright is a way of limiting expression by giving people who have created something new an opportunity to benefit from that expression. Our founding fathers limited that monopoly over expressions. People would profit from their works, and then the expressions and ideas would enter into the public domain where others could use those creations to make something new. Or, at least, that was the idea.

An argument today before the Supreme Court in the case of Eldred v. Ashcroft challenged the latest act to extend copyright which benefits companies like Disney. If the challenge is successful, the movie makers would lose some of their oldest creations to the public domain. The greatest irony, perhaps, is that Disney's most loved accomplishments were movies based upon older tales from the public domain, such as Cinderella, Snow White and the Little Mermaid.

The studio has a new movie coming out this Friday. I read a New York Times review (reg. req'd) yesterday, and a passage from that article made me think of Disney's efforts to cling so tightly to the past:
In some ways, it's the most obvious, evergreen story line around, the stuff of daydreams from Ponce de León onward. What sets "Tuck Everlasting" apart from the usual fairy-tale fantasy of immortality, however, is its dark, cautionary note about the dangers of interrupting nature's progression. "I was happy that in this seeming children's book, there was this lurking terror, not of death but of undeath," Mr. Hurt said in a telephone interview. "Most people think of life as the story of life and death. Death is a bookend. If you take that bookend away, what have you got?"
The original idea behind copyright is a good one. Provide incentives for people to create. Give them an chance to earn some money and credit for their expressions. And then, allow those ideas to enter into society were they can be used by other people to create something new. Endlessly extending copyright protection interrupts that progression of expressions, and keeps them from being the inspiration for new works.
to do list for the supreme court today:

Eldred v. Ashcroft, free the mouse!

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

administrative agencies and privacy impact statements

A new House bill (pdf) introduced and passed by voice vote on Monday, might make federal agencies more sensitive to privacy concerns. The Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act requires that agencies perform two different assessments of the impact on privacy of proposed rules.

The first would be published as an initial impact statement:
Whenever an agency is required by section 553 of this title [Title 5, United States Code], or any other law, to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking for any proposed rule, or publishes a notice of proposed rulemaking for an interpretative rule involving the internal revenue laws of the United States, the agency shall prepare and make available for public comment an initial privacy impact analysis. Such analysis shall describe the impact of the proposed rule on the privacy of individuals. The initial privacy impact analysis or a summary shall be signed by the senior agency official with primary responsibility for privacy policy and be published in the Federal Register at the time of the publication of a general notice of proposed rulemaking for the rule.
This initial statement should contain the following:
(A) A description and assessment of the extent to which the proposed rule will impact the privacy interests of individuals, including the extent to which the proposed rule
  • (i) provides notice of the collection of personally identifiable information, and specifies what personally identifiable information is to be collected and how it is to be collected, maintained, used, and disclosed;
  • (ii) allows access to such information by the person to whom the personally identifiable information pertains and provides an opportunity to correct inaccuracies;
  • (iii) prevents such information, which is collected for one purpose, from being used for another purpose; and
  • (iv) provides security for such information.
(B) A description of any significant alternatives to the proposed rule which accomplish the stated objectives of applicable statutes and which minimize any significant privacy impact of the proposed rule on individuals.
The bill also calls for a final privacy impact analysis:
Whenever an agency promulgates a final rule under section 553 of this title [Title 5, United States Code], after being required by that section or any other law to publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking, or promulgates a final interpretative rule involving the internal revenue laws of the United States, the agency shall prepare a final privacy impact analysis, signed by the senior agency official with primary responsibility for privacy policy.
Like the initial privacy anaylsis statement, a list of contents was also defined by the bill for the final statement, which should contain:
(A) A description and assessment of the extent to which the final rule will impact the privacy interests of individuals, including the extent to which the proposed rule
  • (i) provides notice of the collection of personally identifiable information, and specifies what personally identifiable information is to be collected and how it is to be collected, maintained, used, and disclosed;
  • (ii) allows access to such information by the person to whom the personally identifiable information pertains and provides an opportunity to correct inaccuracies;
  • (iii) prevents such information, which is collected for one purpose, from being used for another purpose; and
  • (iv) provides security for such information.
(B) A summary of the significant issues raised by the public comments in response to the initial privacy impact analysis, a summary of the assessment of the agency of such issues, and a statement of any changes made in the proposed rule as a result of such issues.

(C) A description of the steps the agency has taken to minimize the significant privacy impact on individuals consistent with the stated objectives of applicable statutes, including a statement of the factual, policy, and legal reasons for selecting the alternative adopted in the final rule and why each one of the other significant alternatives to the rule considered by the agency which affect the privacy interests of individuals was rejected.
This seems like a really good idea on paper. There's speculation that the Senate will follow suit, and introduce a version of this bill "at the end of the congressional session when other non-controversial bills are considered." I can't want to see the first initial impact statement on a regulation that does affect privacy.