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Thursday, September 11, 2003

RIAA getting sued 

A California resident is suing the RIAA, claiming its recently instituted amnesty program for illegal file sharing is fraudulent business practice meant to open consumers up to liability.

Read the CNET.com article here.

Read the complaint here. A copy of the RIAA amnesty affidavit is attached thereto as "Exhibit C."

I think that the underlying accusation is very interesting. California's unfair business practices law has a provision that allows any member of the general public to bring a complaint under it, even if the plaintiff has not suffered any damages. This skirts the usual standing problem. The question here turns on the RIAA's intentions. The affidavit says that the RIAA will not "support or assist" any litigation against the signatory of the affidavit, so long as that person doesn't persist in illegal file sharing. It includes a promise not to share information obtained with third parties. Arguably, there is no fraud here. But if, in fact, the RIAA is really doing this as a way to facilitate future lawsuits carried out by other parties -- recording artists, for example -- then it really would be a fraudulent business practice.

The interesting issue -- and the one I think the litigation will turn on -- is whether a promise by the "RIAA" not to support litigation in any way constrains the ability of the RIAA member companies to carry out their own suits. The RIAA is, after all, an umbrella organization made up of other recording companies. All of the members of the RIAA board represent "leadership" at other record labels. See here. How does the agreement between the "RIAA" and Joe Downloader affect the ability of a record company official who also works with the RIAA to use the information obtained in the affidavit? If it doesn't, and if the RIAA never intended it to, and if the RIAA tred to lure consumers into this agreement with the hopes they could flush out more file sharers to sue, then this program might qualify as a fraudulent practice under the CA statute.



Miranda 

The Supreme Court will soon hear appeals in three cases involving a criminal suspect's right to be informed of his or her rights after an arrest and before the police begin an interrogation, pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona.

Read a CNN article here.

From the article: "'When you read someone their rights, it goes in one ear and out the other,' [Bill] Johnson [of the National Organization of Police Associations] said. 'The words have lost their meaning because they've become so common.'"

What's the solution, then? doing away with Miranda? Or finding a more effective way to inform suspects of their rights? Maybe keeping the police from performing any interrogations before the suspect has a lawyer present?



Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Way to go, RIAA 

The RIAA recently reached a $2000 settlement with a 12 year old girl over illegal file sharing. The kicker: the family bought software that gave them access to file-sharing servers, which they mistakenly believed gave them the legal right to download music.

What have we learned from this? That the RIAA can bully a 12 year old girl and her gullible, non-tech savvy family into submission. Man, this realy makes me feel more sympathetic towards the recording industry...

Read the article here.

An interesting IP question 

Can you auction a song bought through the iTunes music store on eBay?

Read the article here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Campaign Finance 

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments regarding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (a.k.a. McCain-Feingold), the most recent federal campaign finance reform legislation. At issue is whether the law violates 1st amendment free speech rights by limiting the amount of money that can be donated to political parties (i.e., placing limits on "soft money").

Read the CNN article here. An amusing quote: "'This law intrudes deeply into political life. It goes too far,' said [Ken] Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation ultimately led to President Clinton's impeachment.'"

Because when it comes to intruding too deeply into political life, Ken Starr is most certainly the authority.


Compilation of current campaign finance law, courtesy of the FEC.



Friday, September 05, 2003

Corporate Welfare 

For those who are interested in the topic the Cato Institute has published a number of studies on the topic of corporate welfare. They are available here. Fiscal policy analyst Steven Slivinski, for example, claims that "If corporate welfare were eliminated tomorrow, the federal government could provide taxpayers with an annual tax cut more than twice as large as the tax rebate checks mailed out in 2001."

The executive summary of his study, titled The Corporate Welfare Budget Bigger than Ever, may be viewed in its entirety here.



Cosmetic fixes finished 

I think all the cosmetic updates to the site have been made.



More on the death penalty 

William Saletan wrote this in a Slate article:

"Joe Scheidler, a well-known anti-abortion activist, complained that Hill had been denied a fair trial because Hill hadn't been allowed to argue that the killings were justified to save lives. "I am not morally opposed to the death penalty," said Scheidler, but 'Hill did something wrong that he thought was right. … It was not malicious in the sense that he was just trying to kill a doctor. He was doing it to save lives.'"

First off, the court probably did not allow the argument because, as a point of law, medical abortion does not constitute lethal force. Therefore, any form of a justification defense based on an attempt to prevent lethal force would have been inappropriate, and never should have reached the trier of fact.

The second point requires a bit of discussion about justification in particular. I am assuming that Scheidler is talking about the subspecies of justification commonly known as self-defense. Lethal force can generally be used to defend third parties from lethal force as well. Assuming medical abortion was lethal force, then Hill would have been justified in using lethal force to prevent the abortions...but only if the use of such force was immediately necessary to prevent the deaths.

The Dr. was killed outside the abortion clinic where he worked. I don't know whether he was entering for the day or leaving, but it doesn't really matter. Not only was the Dr. not in an immediate position to use lethal force against the fetuses of his clients, his murder could not prevent the abortions in the first place, unless he was the only Dr. there and planned to kill every doctor sent as a replacement.

All capital defendants have the right to present a defense. That doesn't mean that they have the right to present a defense that is not recognized by law.

Read the full article here.



Thank god... 

From CNN:

"NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal judge Thursday threw out a class-action lawsuit by two Bronx teenagers claiming McDonald's used false advertising and that the chain's food made them fat and contributed to their health problems."

Read the whole article here.



Thursday, September 04, 2003

Anti-competitive implications of the DMCA 

LawMeme offers the following observations about the Digital Millenium Copyright Act:

"As many critics have noted, the poorly worded DMCA gives a major stick to just about any company that wants to wield it to lock out competitors. The formula is easy: create copyrightable computer program, make use of copyrightable computer program necessary for function of device, add some sort of "protective measure" or handshake necessary before use of copyrightable computer program, instant protection from competition!"

Read the full article here.



Don't get sued for music file sharing 

From the EFF:

"The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced on June 25, 2003, that it will begin suing users of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems within the next few weeks. According to the announcement, the RIAA will be targeting users who upload/share "substantial" amounts of copyrighted music. The RIAA has stated that it will choose who to sue by using software that scans users' publicly available P2P directories and then identifies the ISP of each user. Then, using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the RIAA will subpoena the ISP for each user's name, address, and other personal information in order to sue that user. "

Read the full article here.



Updates mostly finished 

I've fixed most of the cosmetic things with the blog. As you can see, I figured out how to align the sidebars to the left. Man, it's been a long time since I last worked with html...



Titles 

I can't believe it took me this long to figure out how to do titles...



Update 

I updated the template.

I also added a comment system, thanks to BlogSpeak.

Look for minor cosmetic tweaks. I'd also like to find a way to get the sidebar to align to the left.



Death Penalty, part 2 

Also from CNN:

"A vicious murder, an anonymous psychic tip, a romantic encounter that jeopardized a plea agreement, an allegedly incompetent defense and a death sentence imposed by a purportedly drug-addled judge."

This case is responsible for a Federal Appeals Court overturning 111 death sentences in AZ. The decision to overturn was based on the fact that the AZ death penalty statute allows a judge, rather than a jury, to decide sentence.



Death Penalty 

From CNN:

"STARKE, Florida (AP) -- Paul Hill, a former minister who said he murdered an abortion doctor and his bodyguard to save the lives of unborn babies, was executed Wednesday by injection."

Hill is the first American to be executed as a result of anti-abortion violence.

Read the full article here.



Friday, August 22, 2003

New Semester 

I start classes on Monday. This semester, it's Evidence, Trial Practice, Consumer Bankruptcy, Con Law II, and an independent study. I may be dropping Con Law in favor of Criminal Procedure, thus leaving both Con Law II and my course in Professional Responsibility for the last semester of my last year. Sigh. Procrastination...



Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Handy Reference for War Crimes Issues  

If you are interested in learning about war crimes, and do not have a legal background, I wholeheartedly recommend this book:

Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know

The book is organized in aplphabetical order, with articles and case studies written by journalists, lawyers and law professors. Some of the thornier concepts are simplified somewhat for public consumption (a fact which is acknowledged in the excellent afterword), but the book is a competent introduction.



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