Posts Tagged: The Law

Who Will Save the Airbnb Faithful?

In October, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena to Airbnb, ordering it to turn data about its 15,000 registered hosts in New York over to the state. While neither Airbnb nor its hosts pay the 15 percent lodging tax that most New York City hotels are subject to—no small part of the reason why startups like Airbnb have been able to "disrupt" the established hospitality industry—the attorney general's primary concern was not the stream of potential tax revenue trickling past the state's coffers. (Airbnb kindly offered to induce its users to pay the tax, which would amount to some $21 million.)

Rather, [...]


House Ghosts


The day my friends and I moved into the warehouse, we found cat shit in the corners and a cat skeleton in the sub-basement. The former tenant’s graffiti tags covered every conceivable surface, and the anarchists who lived upstairs made strange sounds, rendered uninterpretable by their floorboards, our ceiling. Whenever they dropped a heavy object (what were they doing up there?), a fine film of dust drifted down onto our heads. The door of my new room was red, and someone had spray-painted it with dripping, silver letters: SLUT ROOM.

None of us had ever smudged a house before, but this one seemed in dire [...]


Your Favorite Internet App Doesn't Come with Privacy Rights

Judge ruled against me on standing, on intervention, and on the subpoena. So uh Twitter is compelled to hand over @destructuremal's tweets

— Malcolm Harris (@BigMeanInternet) April 23, 2012

In the strange case of the Manhattan D.A. subpoenaing Occupy Wall Street arrestees' Twitters, so far we've come to a place where the state can request copies of three months of the things that people have published on the Internet. That seems… reasonable! Not very chilling! (The Internet being the Internet and all!) What is bizarre is to see the D.A. prepare such a labor-intensive assault in the matter of a violation—these charges [...]


Louis Vuitton Struggles to Protect Its Sacred Trademark

Today Louis Vuitton had its Paris show (it was train-themed! They built a giant train! All the models had (non-union) porters!). Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton's "director of civil enforcement for North America" is real mad at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Intellectual Property Group. They're holding a symposium later this month on fashion law and copyright, which is very fascinating! And their poster drew the ire of Vuitton, incorporating and parodying as it does their trademarked material. Vuitton's claim that the poster's "dilution" of their trademark is bizarre, and what's amazing about these discussions now is how willfully everyone wants to misread copyright law. And now I am [...]


On Copyright, Fair Use and Photography

An incredibly important story about fair use and copyright.


The Murderer and the Fourth Circuit

For the last 41 years, Jeffrey MacDonald, formerly a surgeon in the Green Berets, has been saying that he did not kill his wife and children. You may remember him from either the commissioned assassination performed by Joe McGinniss in Fatal Vision or perhaps the uncommissioned and far more articulate assassination of McGinniss in Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer. In a decision yesterday by the Fourth Circuit (PDF), MacDonald has been granted the right to present new evidence in federal court—a rather clear right, it seems, that the lower court didn't feel like extending. The sheer amount of time that has passed means that MacDonald's "new" [...]


All Your Accounts Will Be Verified

How can the future have a government-regulated reputation market if you can't express copyright in your online persona(e)? California leads the way starting this brave new year, in which all your accounts are verified: it's now illegal to impersonate people online for nefarious purposes. Specifically: one is a criminal if one "knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person." I think the trick will be in the issue of "harm"? And possibly "defraud"? I mean the good news is that bad things will [...]


Jacob And His Mother Are Wanted In Court

Pam has come to dependency court on behalf of Jacob, who is four years old. Pam wants the judge to arrest Jacob’s mother.

Pam is a volunteer in the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in juvenile dependency court in California. These CASA volunteers are independent advocates for the child during any court procedure.

“Children’s lives are ripped apart here,” Pam told me, just before the day’s session.

Jacob’s mother, let's call her Tina, is 28.1 She has a decade-long crystal meth addiction. It's kept her bouncing in and out of court-mandated rehab beds and jail cells.

When Jacob was two, Tina’s probation drug test came up [...]


A Letter from the Theater Community Regarding David Adjmi's "3-C"

On June 6th, David Adjmi's play 3-C opened Off-Broadway, and the same day, he received a cease-and-desist letter. Without legal counsel, he felt compelled to agree that the run of the play could not be extended—and that it would never be performed again. In this open letter, a group of playwrights, theater professionals and performers explain why this is so wrong.

Playwright David Adjmi, whose play 3-C just closed a run at Rattlestick Theatre, has received a threatening "Protest Letter" from the law firm of Kenyon & Kenyon, which represents DLT Entertainment, the owners of the long defunct TV sitcom "Three's Company." The letter accuses him of [...]


The Ninth Circuit: "Lying on Social Media Websites Is Common" (and Not Criminal)

Thank the atheist Cylon God once again for the Ninth Circuit: in US v Nosal, yesterday they ruled (PDF) that, among other things, the ridiculous user agreements that we all "sign" online aren't really something that should be crimes if we violate them. That's not crazy: up until quite recently, the court points out, minors couldn't even "legally" use any Google product. On Facebook, it would have been "illegal" for any user to give another his password. The dissent—and other courts—claim their conclusion is silly, because just because the government can prosecute something doesn't mean they will. But that's not really how America works: "The government assures [...]


Developers Should Rejoice: Goldman Sachs Programmer Freed from Prison

I've always worried about the Sergey Aleynikov case. Convicted 15 months ago and sentenced to eight years in prison, Aleynikov's crime, while employed at Goldman Sachs, was uploading chunks of software to an encrypted server for storage—possibly accidentally including proprietary code while trying to retain open-source stuff. (For a good description of what happened, there's this account.) Some of the problems with this case include that juries and judges are crazily out of their depth in figuring out what his actions mean and which are customary and ordinary for programmers, and also the media is way worse: most of the headlines called him a "spy," which is [...]


Pacified America So Much Less Murderous

“The last three years have been a contrarian’s delight—just when you expect the bananas to hit the fan." —Oh my God, right? Although in this case specifically, that is UC Berkeley law professor Frank Zimring, expressing his pleasure that violent crimes are hugely down in the U.S., despite massive unemployment and recession and fewer (well, comparatively fewer) people in prison. Yes it's true! The people are finally satisfied with the reality TV programming, so now there be less hurting of everybody up in here. Speaking of! The two NYC police officers on trial for rape? The case is now on the fifth day of jury deliberations, and [...]


Redskins Owner Says He'll Sue Some Newspapers: How and Why?

Really quite terrible Redskins sports team owner Dan Snyder claims he is preparing to sue Washington City Paper over a particularly marvelous profile. But apparently they might also sue the Washington Post, for linking to it? "Snyder's attorneys contacted The Post last week and asked the newspaper to preserve e-mails between Post sports blogger Dan Steinberg and [Dave] McKenna," who wrote the City Paper piece. "The attorneys said they intend to explore whether there was any agreement between McKenna and Steinberg to cross-promote McKenna's pieces on Snyder." Dear lawyer friends: can you make some sense of that for us? We assume that is just setting up the [...]


The Feel-Good, Feel-Bad Story of the Year

This is a lovely holiday story, about Jabbar Collins, who seems to have been quite clearly set up for a murder conviction by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office. He may not have! Time will tell! Because we'll hear more about this story in another Christmas or two, which will likely end when Collins gets a really big, big payout for the 15 years he spent in prison.


The Future Of Biohacking In The Age Of Patent Trolls

The Bottlenose, a prototype by Grindhouse Wetware, receives sonar, UV, wi-fi and thermal information and translates it to a magnetic field.

We stand at a strange moment in human history, when lawyers and corporations wage war amongst each other over one question: who owns your body? Off to the side, biohackers—the freaks, geeks, rebels, and punks who do biotechnology experiments in garages and basements—must decide whether to abide by the outcomes.

Maybe you’ve heard about this argument in the context of the Myriad Genetics Supreme Court case; that corporation had patented a part of the natural human genome, the “breast cancer gene.” Some versions of the [...]


Are You Smarter Than a Legal Rockstar? Obamacare at the Supreme Court

"Perhaps," Ezra Klein wrote last week, "the Supreme Court will surprise us on this one"—meaning the Court might not overturn the part of the Affordable Care Act that would require nearly all Americans to maintain at least some amount of healthcare insurance. "But if they don’t, I think the right question will be why so few in the legal academy saw it coming."

The list of constitutional law scholars who have stated publicly that the individual mandate is constitutional includes some of the most famous legal minds in the nation. Laurence Tribe. Kathleen Sullivan. Ronald Dworkin. Lawrence Lessig.


The Astounding Wrongness of Bill Keller on Hate Crimes

Apparently the only person who can convince me of the legal and moral sense of hate crimes laws is Times columnist Bill Keller, because his case against them is so terribly bad. Keller has tardily joined the ranks of liberals so opposed, including Andrew Sullivan, the Quakers and also noted legal theorist Bill Maher. (He's also found himself in the fine company of the Georgia State Supreme Court.) But that he's chosen to come out in the context of Travyon Martin and the Tyler Clementi case doesn't even begin to make sense.

Of course it'd be really easy to go the "straight white millionaire who was born [...]


The Most Hilarious Clarence Thomas Opinionating Yet

If you haven't had a chance to read Clarence Thomas' dissent in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which was decided in late June, you have denied yourself good times! Our Special Correspondent for Supreme Court LOLs breaks it down for us, and it's GREAT STUFF.


Yay, Let's Put Everyone on Twitter in Jail

The hilarious (from afar) affair of the star footballer with the reality show contestant and the ensuing gag orders against naming him technically means that "30,000 people who have broken one or other of the contested injunctions by tweeting in recent days the identities of those involved." Well, that's a good start. Can't we get the rest of them on something? Also, it's so not normal that one lass's desire to profit from her relationship is the vanguard of free speech over on Thoughtcrime Island.


'Kentucky v. King': But Shouldn't Stupid People be a Protected Class?

Things are being kind of crazy up in the Supreme Court right now! One thing that is happening is that there is a question before the Court of whether, basically, cops can bang loudly on your door and then decide they hear you flushing drugs and then come on in and arrest you. (Which, I'm thinking: no, not really!) So we have these notable moments on the floor, such as: "I don't know if crack cocaine smells or not," says Justice Sotomayor. BREAKING: NEW JUSTICE TOO HIGH TO REMEMBER WHAT CRACK SMELLS LIKE. And then there's everyone's pal, Justice Scalia, who comes in with this doozy. His point [...]