Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Cat's Reasonable Expectation of Privacy

The privacy guru at work had his cat run away this week. He was agitated for several days, flyering the whole neighborhood, complete with maps, with color-coded sectors delineated, and team of co-workers and interns on lunch break. Inevitably, the issue came up of RFID'ing the cat (who, BTW, did not have tags). As a privacy guy, his feelings about RFID's are understandably strong, but when it came to his beloved pet, his response was: "I don't care about my cat's privacy!"

Even more inevitably, the office email thread turned up several amusing links that I'll share here on lost cats:

Cat Has Camera On So We Can See What He Does: Nuff said.

Cat Tracker: "Allows you to easily and remotely monitor the location of your cat via your cell phone/mobile phone anywhere in the world with suitable GSM coverage."

Finally, we interns played a practical joke on this particular attorney when he left for retreat by "breaking into" his office. (We had a key.) One of the interns created this brilliant lolcat for him.

Update: Forgot to mention - he found the cat!

Public Disclosure of Private Tusks

A friend of mine passed on this link from Quizlaw.com about a dentist who played a practical joke on his assistant and was sued for it.

"Meanwhile, the far more entertaining story today involves a dentist who thought it would be hilarious to stick some phony pig’s tusks in his assistant’s mouth while she was under anesthesia. He took the tusks out before his assistant woke up, but he took pictures, which eventually circulated around the office and were given to the assistant during her office birthday party. So, his assistant — who clearly has absolutely no sense of humor — quit her job and sued the dentist."

Check it out to see how the story ends!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Scan My iTunes, Please

A friend of mine introduced me to sonicliving.com, a site that will scan your iTunes and create a calender for you with the dates those artists are playing near you. Privacy issues aside (but who's gonna manually enter 458 artists?), it's brilliant.

I got a kick out of this note, seen while editing my "personal info" preferences:
"We'll never share your personal info, unless you listen to crappy music."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hot Tub

Nice article from Slate on the 9th Circuit.

"I had a law school professor who referred to California law as "hot tub law"; part of the disdain for the 9th surely derives from national skepticism of all things Left Coast."

"Now let's look at how often the Supreme Court decides that the 9th got it wrong. Last term, the Supreme Court's reversal rate for 9th Circuit cases was 90.5 percent. Yikes—that's huge! But wait, for on-the-merits cases, the Supremes reversed the 3rd and 5th Circuits all of the time last term. Cases from state appellate courts fared no better: They also had a 100 percent reversal rate. Overall, this past term the Supreme Court reversed 75.3 percent of the cases they considered on their merits. The pattern holds true for the 2004 and 2005 terms as well, when the Supremes had overall reversal rates of 76.8 percent and 75.6 percent, respectively."

Very Sick

Researched the recent Fair Housing v. Roommates.com, __ F.3d __ (9th Cir. 2007), 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 11350 decision today. Roommates.com is a house mate locater based on some criteria that likely violates the Fair Housing Act (allowing users to select whether they would live with children, or soliciting roommates based on race, for example). The issue in this case, however, was whether the website was protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 immunizes service providers like websites from liability if they are mere passive conduits for information. (Think search engines.)

In describing the site, Judge Kozinski wrote, "More friendly folks are just looking for someone who will get along with their significant other [FN10] or their most significant Other.[FN11]"

Here is footnote 10:

10 "The female we are looking for hopefully wont [sic] mind having a little sexual incounter [sic] with my boyfriend and I [very sic]."


And, to enable full Kozinski-opinion appreciation, here's FN 11:

11 "We are 3 Christian females who Love our Lord Jesus Christ . . . . We have weekly bible studies and bi-weekly times of fellowship."

Friday, July 13, 2007

UAE Black Boxes

A "whoa!" article about putting black boxes in all cars in the United Arab Emirates. The box "allows satellites to track each and every driver in the UAE and automatically issue speeding and other tickets for the slightest transgression."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blog Survey

A Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst is doing a survey on blog privacy.

The privacy terms irked me a bit:

"Your responses will be kept confidential, with any identifying information being disaggregated from survey answers. It is possible that your research record, including sensitive information, may be inspected and/or copied by the study sponsor (and/or its agent) or by federal or state government agencies, in the course of carrying out their duties. If your record is inspected by the study sponsor (and/or its agents), or by any of these agencies, your confidentiality will be maintained to the extent permissible by law."

I'm no expert, but I wish it said our information "will not be disclosed except as required by law."

As to the rest, at least she's honest.

Update: I did the survey. Nothing on it that I worried about the Feds finding out about. ::smile::


This Tuesday I jet-set down to LA to hear Erwin Chemerinsky speak for the LA Intellectual Property Law Association. I wanted to hear Erwin, because he's such a rock star in law school academia. (He's also repping Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson in their civil suit against the government.) He identified several trends in the Supreme Court: 1) The extreme decline in the number of cases the Court takes. It's usually around 100, but the decline began with Rehnquist and has dropped to new lows (68 if I recall) under Roberts. 2) The increase in the length of the opinions. One recent case spread to 160 pages. (How, he asked, was a Con Law editor supposed to edit that into a one-day assignment for students?) 3) The rise of Kennedy in the role of the Court. In some 23 5-4 decisions this term, Kennedy was the majority - the 5th vote - in every single one. A historical first.

I was thrilled to chat with Erwin afterwards, too. He's adorable! Bowl haircut like a little boy, the glasses, infinitely sweet and humble. We watched the end of the All Star game together at the hotel bar. He said he very much misses LA, until he gets on the 405.

I also wanted to do some networking, but it didn't work out as well as I planned because I got a stomach virus a few days before. Nauseous, fevered. (I'm pretty sure I did not hallucinate this odd coincidence: In another part of the hotel, I saw the sign for a conference by the Korean-American Pediatric Association on astroviruses gastroenteritis. AKA, the stomach flu.) Being a bit strong-willed I insisted on going anyway.

They seated me at a table with a law firm whose name I immediately forgot in my fevered state. But nevermind; although my image of networking is always of Spiderman shooting a random streamer of webbing, I think the process is more like that of a traditional spider: the slow building of a web, where over time the repeated exposure to the same people connects you.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What's In a Name

While researching, I stumbled across the name of a JD candidate who authored a paper. I wonder about the impact of this surname on business:

[Jane] Lawless.

Worse still, I can imagine the endless comments this poor law student receives...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Your World. Delivered. To the NSA. On the iPhone.

Title says it all...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pirate Booty

New decision out today from the 9th Circuit, Perfect10 v. Visa. The majority (Judge Kozinski dissented) affirmed a motion to dismiss on claims of secondary copyright infringement (inter alia). Perfect 10 is a website that provides adult photographs, and they have a long history in the courts of attempting to expand contributory liability. In this case, they sued Visa for copyright infringement, claiming that Visa was liable because the company processes payments for copyrighted images stolen from Perfect 10's site. The majority basically found that processing the payments was too attenuated a causal chain to support secondary liability.

Kozinski vigorously dissented, arguing that because payment was essential to the transaction, Visa was materially contributing to the infringement (here the distribution of copyright-infringing works). Or, as he eloquently put it, "If cards don’t process payment, pirates don’t deliver booty."

UPDATE: Experts where I work suggested that Kozinski's dissent was due in large part to the fact that this was a motion to dismiss. There are at least some set of facts that might allow this case to go forward.