Category Archives: law

Court to Employ “Rock, Paper, Scissors” ADR

The US District Court for the Middle District of Florida today announced “a new form of alternative dispute resolution” namely, a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The game will decide who picks the location of a deposition hearing. The location of the game itself, unless the parties can agree otherwise, will happen on the courthouse steps this Friday. Let there be justice! Here’s the decision [pdf].
I’m actually surprised that the Court didn’t feel it was important to define what a “single game of ‘rock, paper, scissors'” is. While I suppose it’s universal human knowledge that rock crushes scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper covers rock (wikipedia), I would dispute whether a “single game” includes one throw or best-of-three.
My bet if for scissors on the first throw.

Another Lawyer Email Embarrassment

Another embarrassing lawyer email has been leaked to my inbox (as well as hundreds of others) and ultimately, to the press. In this exchange, a 2004 graduate declines a job offer by burning a bridge, and she just keeps throwing fuel on the fire. The Globe has the email text and some additional cringe worthy statements.
In case you enjoy these kinds of things, you may want to reminisce over past lawyer email debacles. There’s the puppies at Chinese restaurants email, the $45 Christmas lunch reimbursement request, the Jonas Blank email, and (not even going to link to this one) Tucker Max Charity Auction Debacle (not so much of a bad email, but it goes in the list).

Ludacris Cited by Seventh Circuit

In this week’s USA v. Murphy opinion from the Seventh Circuit, the court affirmed a conviction of the trial court but corrected the lower court’s spelling of the word “ho” as used in the phrase “snitch bitch ho”. The first footnote to case reads as follows:

The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch “hoe.” A “hoe,” of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden’s response. We have taken the liberty of changing “hoe” to “ho,” a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps “You doin’ ho activities with ho tendencies.”

The full opinion is here.

Open Source Organizations Gain Momentum

The Software Freedom Law Center launched today. The Center will offer pro-bono legal services to open source software developers. It has an impressive Board of Directors and has been funded initially by Open Source Development Labs (“home to Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux”). This is a big step forward for open source software, as was yesterday’s announcement that the Open Source Initiative is expanding its services.

Why Not Syndicate Rights with Content?

Martin Schwimmer has asked bloglines to remove his rss feed from their service, citing copyright violations and then explaining further. This opened a can of worms as to how legal, technological, and social regulations should affect rss feeds.
I don’t know that anyone has articulated the argument in these terms. Schwimmer is a lawyer who sees a blatant violation of his copyright rights (namely, the distribution of derivative works without license). He sees a legal remedy to the problem – the email equivalent of a cease and desist letter – and it seems to have worked.
Others think Schwimmer has made a poor business decision by limiting part of his audience. They have pointed out that Schwimmer could use rss technology to limit distribution by only releasing part of what he writes (regulate through technology). (As a practical matter, this wouldn’t work well for Schwimmer because his posts are usually very short. There’s rarely a difference between the first few sentences and the entire post.)
Finally, there are those who seem to think that the availability of an rss feed indicates an implicit license to use that feed however one wants. It’s not unreasonable to arrive at this conclusion because rss feeds are only intended to be read by machines. Why would someone share machine-readable code if they didn’t expect a machine to read it? The counter argument is simply that some machines (ie non-commercial ones) should use the feeds whereas others (ie commercial ones) should not.
I think people can make their own decisions about the business value of sharing or not sharing an rss feed. My question is this: why are we offering a machine-readable syndication feed (rss feeds) without any license information? Thanks to Creative Commons, bloggers have been the first creative group to widely adopt standardized licenses for their work. These licenses are even machine readable by design! What better place is there for a license than the rss feed, the very place where license violations are likely to occur?
If the machine-readable license was embedded in the syndication platform, tools like Bloglines, kinja, and MyYahoo would have no excuse for violating the license terms. Likewise, if bloggers wanted the benefit of being aggregated by a commercial tool like kinja, they would have a reason to license their content to kinja (or commercial services in general).
If this sounds like digital rights management, that’s because it is, but there’s nothing wrong with expressing your legal rights. There is nothing limiting the use of digital rights management to give up one’s rights or to license one’s rights liberally. Social and business ideas do not have to compete with the law in this context, and the danger of over-protection by default is dealt with nicely by Creative Commons. The next step is to make use of the standardization that Creative Commons is already providing.

Bollocks to the A**holes

Foley Hoag Partner John Welch reports on last week’s TTAB decision to deny trademark registration of the mark “A**HOLE” “on the ground that [it] comprises immoral or scandalous matter.” The applicant argued that a**hole doesn’t just refer to a detestable person but also to the anus of course. Read the opinion [pdf] for some other interesting uses and fun facts about the word “a**hole”. If you find this sort of thing amusing, you might also be interested in the now classic f-word brief.
Such legal swear word shenanigans remind me of a British case involving a particular Sex Pistol’s album title fabulously described by Richard Branson in his autobiography:

’So one of your staff has been arrested for displaying the word “bollocks”?’ said Professor Kingsley. ‘What a load of bollocks! Actually, the word bollocks is an eighteenth century name for…’

I wouldn’t want to give away the end. This is on page 162 of Losing My Virginity, which I highly recommend reading – much better than Branson’s TV show.

Google Ad Update

Google got a court victory yesterday with respect to the machine-readable use of competing trademarks in contextual targeted online advertisements. I’ve been interested in this concept because the mark is never seen by the consumer (that’s the yet unresolved part of the case). The mark is, however, used behind the scenes. It’s just that only computers can actually “see” the mark. [NYT Article]