An Open Letter to Journalists

March 7, 2014

Dear Members of the Media,

I sincerely appreciate all of your hard work in bringing us the news of the day. In this day and age, there is a lot of burgeoning information and it is cumbersome to sift through all of it to provide summaries to the masses. However, there is one thing you do not do that is incredibly frustrating–provide citations.

In reporting on a new science publication, you do not always provide a citation so that the interested reader can learn more. Worse, you rarely identify bill numbers, session laws, or case name/citations when reporting legal news. As a privacy attorney, I found the recent Massachusetts “upskirting” issue might warrant attention. It would have been helpful if you cited the case as Comm. v. Robertson, SJC-11353 (Mar. 5, 2014), even better if you provided a link: http://www.socialaw.com/slip.htm?cid=22645&sid=120 . Or, when the legislature promptly acted to outlaw the actions taken by Mr. Robertson, it would have been nice if you cited Acts of 2014, Chapter 23 (or H. 3934): https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2014/Chapter43

As a journalist, I am assuming you read the primary source, so that way I can trust your reporting, correct? So, since you have the primary source, please make it easier for us and let us know how we can find it, too. Because, if you don’t share, it might turn out that you missed the real story. Let me spell it out for you–Massachusetts just made many previously lawful and proper hidden security cameras potentially unlawful.

According to the new law, it is now unlawful to secretly record images of fully clothed breasts, buttocks and genitals. Full stop. Your nanny thinks she’s alone, but you have a nanny-cam. Sorry, you probably just broke the law. You want to know which of the neighborhood kids have been going into your backyard when you aren’t home and stomping your daisies? That’s double the punishment.

Bad reporting of bad reactionary legislative lawyering. At least the reporting can be easily fixed.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Jay M. Wolman


Mayer Brown, shame on you. (日本、ストライサンド効果へようこそ)

February 25, 2014

The offensive statue. Photo Courtesy of Melissa Wall, Ph.D. under a creative commons license.

The offensive statue.
Photo Courtesy of Melissa Wall, Ph.D. under a creative commons license.

Every law firm gets confronted (on a pretty regular basis) with the question: “should I put my name on this?

That soul searching comes into play when you wonder, “is this honorable?” You know when it is, and when it isn’t.

I’m not talking about representing a client that you know is guilty — they deserve a defense. I’m not talking about representing a really evil client — because there might be an important legal issue in play.

I’m talking about when you do something truly disgusting.

That bar is pretty low. Despite the lawyer jokes, I have encountered few lawyers who have ever even approached that line.

If a law firm takes on the Nazi party as a client, in furtherance of some greater good, I do not look down on them. Nobody should. Represent a child pornographer? I can see plenty of justification there. There is almost no cause that doesn’t have some justification.

But, sometimes you gotta say “no.” Or, at least if you say “yes,” you must do so with class and dignity.

For example, if you represent a child molester, that is ok. You take it on from the point of “I may not condone what my client did, but he has a right to a defense.” But, if you put in your pleadings “the kid had it coming to him, he just looked so fucking sexy in that altar boy outfit,” well then… you are a dishonorable and filthy-taint-licking-piece-of-shit.

Ok, got that? That is the bar you need to step over. It doesn’t take strong leg muscles.

I’m sort of disappointed that I have to draw that distinction for anyone. But, I come to you with proof that this lesson is actually necessary.

Mayer Brown brings you this masterpiece– a lawsuit where they are trying remove a memorial for World War II “comfort women” from a public park. You see, it “offends” some of their clients. The cause itself is a bit slimy, but how they’re going about it qualifies them as “the least honorable law firm in the world.

For those of you who do not know what the “comfort women” were — they were about 200,000 women (some say as many as 400,000) who were forced into working in whorehouses for Japanese soldiers during World War II. (source)

Many were abducted, and some were barely in their teens. “I was taken at the age of 11,” one former sex slave Kim Young-suk said.(source)

As you can imagine, these women were not terribly pleased with this treatment. And, wouldn’t you know it, but some of them are still all harping on the past.

The few surviving comfort women, all in their 80s and 90s, cry foul.

“I was walking along the side of the road when I was captured and taken away,” says Ok-Seon Yi.

It was 1942, and Japanese and Korean soldiers grabbed her and threw her in the back of a truck. Her family never knew what happened to her, she said, and gave her up for dead. She spent three years at a military brothel in China. She was 15.

She’s 87 now and lives in a home for survivors like her outside of Seoul. She’s tiny, with white hair, frail and quiet — until the subject turns to Japan.

She shakes her fist. “The Japanese government are thieves,” she says. “They’re trying to rewrite history.

“They have no right to take away my honor and dignity,” she adds.

She says she’s thankful for the memorials in the United States, and says America is the only country that can right the historic wrong. (source)

So in comes Mayer Brown to try and put and end to this outrage. Not the outrage of forcing a couple hundred thousand girls and women to suck the cocks of filthy imperial soldiers, mind you — but the atrocious conduct that happened in the City of Glendale, California. You see, the City of Glendale has done something awful — it put up a memorial to the “comfort women.”

“They were raped maybe 10 times a day. On weekends, as many as 40 to 50 times a day. The majority of them were teenagers,” says Phyllis Kim, who as part of Los Angeles’ Korean-American Forum helped bring the statue to Glendale. “There are victims who are still alive, and waiting for an apology.” (source)

This little statue does not sit well with… well, lets scratch our heads for a minute about that, shall we? Who are Mayer Brown’s “clients” in this lawsuit?

Two of the plaintiffs are Japanese-Americans who live in Glendale. The third plaintiff is an “organization” called “GAHT-US.”

Plaintiff GAHT-US Corporation (“GAHT-US”) is a non-profit public benefit corporation organized under the laws of the State of California. The purpose of GAHT-US is to provide accurate and fact-based educational resources to the public in the U.S., including within California and Glendale, concerning the history of World War II and related events, with an emphasis on Japan’s role. (Complaint at Para. 7)

Well, if we look for GAHT-US (The “Global Alliance for Historical Truth”), what do we find? We find that it is a corporation that someone created on February 6, 2014. After 14 days of legal existence, this lawsuit was GAHT-US’s first act — well after slapping up a web page.

This “Global Alliance’s” address is 1223 Wilshire Boulevard #613. That’s a UPS Store.

The world headquarters of GAHT-US

The world headquarters of GAHT-US

Ok, so with that illustrious organization out of the way, lets look at the two people that they managed to get to stand up for this noble cause…

As a Glendale resident of Japanese heritage, [Michiko Shiota Gingery] believes the Public Monument presents an unfairly one-sided portrayal of the historical and political debate surrounding comfort women…” (Complaint at 2).

The other Plaintiff, Koichi Mera, had similar gripes. I do see their point. I mean, on one side you have all these women who were kept in sexual slavery and essentially gang raped for 4-5 years. But, where is the side of the poor Japanese soldiers who had to fuck them? What of them? Have you ever had to fuck a woman who was captive and crying? I mean, think of it? Those poor Japanese rapist soldiers. The fact that nobody thinks of the other side in this discussion is really distressing. Bravo, Mayer Brown, Bravo.

Additionally, the Plaintiffs are upset because the monument offends them. They “would like to use Glendale’s Central Park,” but they now avoid the park because they are offended by the Public Monument’s pointed expression of disapproval of Japan and the Japanese people.(Complaint at 2, 4)

Guess what? I bet the City of Glendale actually loves Japan and the Japanese People. Aside from the fact that they seem to have a disproportionately large number of scat porn enthusiasts (second only to Germany), and this little “comfort women” thing, the Japanese are a-ok by me. For fucks’ sake, they gave us Godzilla. After being the only country to ever get nuked into the stone age, they staggered around for about 18 months, and then they kicked the entire world’s ass at technology, amassing wealth and power on a level that it took 17 Italians to equal the productivity and innovation of one Japanese high school girl with a Hello Kitty purse.

But yes, we all have our blemishes — and government-organized mass rape is a pretty bad one.

So if the consequence of such a sick-as-fuck act is that there’s a bronze statue in the corner of some obscure park 10,000 miles from the nearest piece of Japanese territory, I think that’s pretty fair.

Ok, so their clients are offended and rich, (I presume the rich part). The complaint has at least some rational points. They seem frivolous, but not completely off the wall. One part of the complaint discusses how this memorial interferes with the foreign relations between the United States, Japan, and South Korea. (Complaint at 14). I’m not saying it is a supportable argument, as Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312 (1988) seems to dispense with the key point here. In that case, a D.C. ordinance sought to suppress speech that might chafe foreign powers. This is a little different, since it is private citizens trying to suppress governmental speech, but the core of the matter is the same — smooth foreign relations are not a sufficient justification to suppress speech.

The complaint also makes one rational argument –That the monument went in without the proper procedure being followed before the Glendale City Council. (Complaint at 16). I have to agree with this one (if it is true) — cities should not be engaging in ultra vires acts. And, the complaint could have made those arguments, stating that the complaint was brought reluctantly. Or, just lay off the victims, but make the dull legal points.

But no.

No.

Instead, Mayer Brown put its name to gems like this:

During World War II and the decade leading up to it, an unknown number of women from Japan, Korea, China, and a number of nations in Southeast Asia, were recruited, employed, and/or otherwise acted as sexual partners for troops of the Japanese Empire in various parts of the Pacific Theater of war. These women are often referred to as comfort women, a loose translation of the Japanese word for prostitute. (Complaint at Para. 14) (emphasis added)

You know… “whores.” They just “acted as sexual partners.”

I mean, lets just call them what they really were, BATTLE SLUTS!!!

Right now, my face is figuratively bright red and in searing pain from the epic facepalming that I am imagining doing to myself.

The complaint reads like a who’s who of hypocritical trash. Yoshikazu Noda, the poor mayor of Higashiosaka, Glendale’s sister city is quoted as saying that the installation of the monument was an extremely deplorable situation and the people of Higashiosaka are hurt at a decision made by [Glendale] city to install a comfort woman monument.” (Complaint at Para. 38).

Awwww… does it hurt, Noda? Can you describe the pain? Is it anything like being kidnapped, and then being raped repeatedly, every day, for four or five years? Does it hurt like that? Or just like when you step on a Lego brick in the middle of the night — because that, I tell you, absolutely fucking smarts.

The Plaintiffs want the monument removed and kept off of any and all public property in Glendale, and of course, they want money. (Complaint at 17).

I will give them some credit — at least the complaint did not call for all the remaining comfort women to be rounded up and shipped off to Manzanar.

Despite that small bit of tactful omission, I have never seen anything this dishonorable with a law firm’s name attached to it. I’ve seen dumber shit. I’ve seen more frivolous shit. I’ve seen more unethical shit. But, never seen anything this foul or shameful with a law firm’s name attached to it.

The silver lining in this? Mayer Brown’s abject stupidity and dishonorable behavior will bring their clients into complete disrepute (which they deeply deserve), and will educate more people than ever on the history of the “comfort women.” The “comfort women” have already won this battle – and they aren’t even really on the field.

Don’t let the bastards get you down, “Comfort Women”… Mayer Brown just made your critics into complete laughingstocks.

UPDATE: Looks like Popehat is pissed off about it too

I have written about many maddening lawsuits at Popehat. But I cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged me. (source)


Knox. Knox. No Justice There.

January 31, 2014

By Tatiana von Tauber

What do you think of this Amanda Knox story?

I watched her interview here . It’s moving. I’ve been following the case for years and I empathize as sometimes facts lead to conclusions which create illusion, not truth and it is here we discover the depth of trust (and fault), in ourselves and our systems.

What is justice? Truly, at what level can another human being say “this person deserves x, y or z for punishment” and call it a day? Who is satisfied? What or whom does that “justice” affect and what is its effect? Will our community be better off with someone like Amanda in jail so we are safer or are we merely seeking justice built on what we believe a victim’s life is worth because it’s socially demanded we punish those who kill?

If Amanda Knox did aid in murder, has her emotional turmoil and years already spent in prison – in the battle for her freedom – not counted as “time served in prison” if prison is defined as a place of punishment? Has her particular suffering not counted as anything at all? For the Italian court to accuse Amanda Knox of guilt after innocence, and weigh a hefty 28 year term on her is so striking I feel violated and I’m just a spectator!

Let’s face it, society places value on murders. They happen all the time. Every day.  Why is the destruction of Knox’s life more important than the destruction of yesterday’s murderer? And what about tomorrow’s murderer? What is jail for? Is it a place to make another person suffer for their pain onto another or is it a holding cell to keep the rest of us safer? What factors determine when it’s both? Or is jail a place where we feel, as a society, a sense of accomplishment in that we are doing what we’re supposed to do to “bad people”? Is there hope to rehabilitate or only institutionalize?

I don’t know if Amanda is guilty or not. I do know that I find her to have suffered a good deal for the circumstances upon which she found herself. There’s a point where another human being should suffer for murder (Hitler comes to mind) and then there’s a point where another human being should be given reprieve when being played with like a pawn in a game and having clearly suffered through an aftermath of such accusation. How is 28 years more of prison time a case of justice served at this point in time?

Amanda Knox presents herself very authentically. Maybe she is faking it but to imprison her for another 28 years for a crime that’s been tainted is a crime onto itself. It is way too harsh and unreasonable. Consider that killing the enemy in war constitutes as justified murder – freedom fighting we call it – but Knox’s situation demands almost three more decades of her life? From an innocent verdict to “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”?  Should this be the perfect case of “let it go”?

Life gets complicated when you discover that human beings have varied value and thus death isn’t the most atrocious thing we can do onto another.  The freedom we are given should never, ever be taken lightly as that option for choice is always at risk of being taken from others. I commend Knox’s ability to stay so vigilant with her freedom at hand and it’s terrible to have freedom handed to you like a toy to jump for.

For Italy, home of the Vatican, to not be an example of forgiveness in the light of tainted investigations (and prior innocent verdict!) certainly seems in line with the church’s very own hypocritical philosophy. Italy should have risen above common human nature of reaction. Punishing Knox will do absolutely nothing to bring back the victim, show or teach a lesson that hasn’t already been shown or taught, nor will it contribute to Knox’s potential good, to which I believe Knox is capable of expressing given the opportunity.

By demanding to lock her up further, Italy has shown an example not of justice but “murder to the spirit”. Knox, if imprisoned, would be as lifeless as the victim in the sense that neither could flourish, live a life to better themselves or others and nor contribute to the world through the good that is within them because they weren’t given a chance. One loss of life is enough but when grounds are not certain, why not give benefit of the doubt and rise above human weakness? Sometimes bad things happen and while time is the best healer (and eye-opener), it’s best to move on quickly to weave those experiences into new creations. Give people a chance. Justice is a human construct and in the case of Knox, justice begs for reinterpretation.

Amanda Knox interview: (http://gma.yahoo.com/amanda-knox-39-couldn-39-t-believe-hearing-071851472–abc-news-topstories.html?vp=1)


When is malpractice a good thing?

July 20, 2013

Well, never. But, in the case of JK Rowling’s outing as the real “Robert Galbraith,” perhaps it had a sliver lining?

Rowling wrote a story under the Galbraith pseudonym. But, Rowling’s lawyers screwed the pigeon.

Chris Gossage, an entertainment lawyer and partner at the law firm Russells, was apparently showing off when he told his wife’s best friend in a “private conversation” that Rowling had been writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, a “married ex-military man” credited as the author of The Cuckoo’s Calling. (source)

Usually when a lawyer blows up the attorney-client privilege, there isn’t much to celebrate. The client gets pissed off, and everyone runs to plug the leaks. (Or so I would imagine, I haven’t managed to be in this situation yet, and hope never to be). But, in this case, it seems that Mr. Gossage pulled on a string that he wasn’t supposed to touch, and a shitton of money fell into the client’s lap.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, which had only sold a few thousand copies prior to the revelation about Rowling’s authorship, has soared to the top of bestseller lists, and Rowling’s publishers have ordered a reprint of the book to meet demand. Meanwhile, Rowling will reportedly write more books in the Cuckoo’s Calling series. (source)

I still would not wish to be in Gossage’s shoes.


Alleged Copyright Troll’s Day in Court

March 12, 2013

No matter your opinion on U.S. copyright law, it is the law of the land. Copying a work without consent may be unlawful and subject the copier to damages. On this blog, and others, we’ve seen instances of legitimate and illegitimate copyright claims.

An entirely separate issue is the manner by which copyright claims are enforced. In the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, there have been concerns raised regarding certain attorneys, their firms, and (as the judge termed it) their “shell” companies. Yesterday, a hearing was held at which certain non-appearing attorneys affiliated with Prenda Law were invited to attend, as well as an attorney formerly associated with that firm. Ken White at Popehat attended and his writeup is here: http://www.popehat.com/2013/03/11/brett-gibbs-gets-his-day-in-court-but-prenda-law-is-the-star/

This is a case in which the Plaintiff even dismissed the case against the Defendant, but the Court is exploring whether there was fraud committed by the Plaintiff or its counsel in consolidated and related matters. Hearings like this generally do not occur, and apparently the non-appearing attorneys affiliated with Prenda appeared by counsel, rather than in person, which may have violated the court’s order (although they made a last-minute filing arguing they could not properly be compelled to attend). What is particularly interesting is that the subject lawyers and Plaintiffs have been intimately involved with the development of how Bittorrent claims are prosecuted, including early discovery orders, mass joinder, etc. Of note, it has become practice for a content provider to sue John Does, because all that is available is the IP address used to access a covered work. A subpoena is issued to the ISP, who may provide the identity of an account holder. Common practice is then to make a demand on the account holder or amend the complaint to identify them by name. Of concern by this court and others is that the account holder may not be the infringer. A content provider may need to engage in further discovery and investigation to find out who may have had access to the internet connection prior to naming the person as defendant. Recent rulings have suggested that just as you cannot simply sue the person who owns a telephone for a call that may have given rise to liability, you must sue the caller, you cannot simply sue the internet account holder. This court has questioned the Plaintiff’s and its attorneys’ efforts in identifying the infringer. Additional procedural concerns are raised in this case over who financially benefits in the litigation and how content has been transferred.

The docket in Ingenuity 13 v Doe, 2:12-cv-08333 is here:

http://ia601508.us.archive.org/28/items/gov.uscourts.cacd.543744/gov.uscourts.cacd.543744.docket.html


You Have Got to be Kidding

December 28, 2012

Hunter Moore:  Amateur

Craig Brittain:  Lightweight

Looks like posting compromising photos of unsuspecting victims is not enough.  Someone, who obviously once sat on a copy of the nutshell on copyright and online speech to sit at the grown-ups table, decided that merely posting photos was insufficient.  This vile person decided it was all hunky-dory to simply solicit photographs of so-called prostitutes without any credible evidence (not to be confused with Smoking Gun, which publishes mugshots and such of people actually arrested).

 

For your disgust, I present: PotentialProstitutes.com

Solicits submissions and offers removal for $99.  Thinks Sec. 230 is a safe harbor, when he is choosing to publish.  Libel per se, anyone?

 

h/t Ethics Alarms


Federal Circuit’s COCKSUCKER Decision Sucks

December 20, 2012

cork soaker

As many long-time readers know, Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act is one of my pet peeves. This is the section of the Trademark Act that gives pretty much unfettered discretion to a trademark examiner to deny a trademark registration on the basis that the mark itself is “immoral” or “scandalous.” The Federal Circuit just decided In Re Fox, in which it reaffirmed some very bad law, and in which it lacked the integrity to address some Constitutional fictions upon which most 2(a) denials are based.

“[n]o trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it[] (a) [c]onsists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter.” 15 U.S.C. § 1052.

One of the most absurd elements of a 2(a) denial is that the evidentiary standard is so open to abuse. An examiner may prove “immorality” or “scandalousness” by simply establishing that the mark is “vulgar.” In re Boulevard Entm’t, Inc., 334 F.3d 1336, 1340 (Fed. Cir. 2003). Essentially, if the examiner finds a single online dictionary or chat board where someone says “that’s vulgar,” then that is usually enough for the examiner, the TTAB, and the Federal Circuit.

So, another 2(a) denial is just a “ho hum” event. But, this portion of the opinion shows just how little respect the Federal Circuit has for Constitutional issues. I mean, come on guys, at least try and make it look like you didn’t just mail it in.

The prohibition on “immoral . . . or scandalous” trademarks was first codified in the 1905 revision of the trademark laws, see Act of Feb. 20, 1905, Pub. L. No. 58- 84, § 5(a), 33 Stat. 724, 725. This court and its predeces- sor have long assumed that the prohibition “is not an attempt to legislate morality, but, rather, a judgment by the Congress that [scandalous] marks not occupy the time, services, and use of funds of the federal government.” In re Mavety Media Grp. Ltd., 33 F.3d 1367, 1374 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (quotation marks omitted). Because a refusal to register a mark has no bearing on the applicant’s ability to use the mark, we have held that § 1052(a) does not implicate the First Amendment rights of trade- mark applicants. See id. (Op. at 2)

I find it outrageous not just because the court is wrong, but because the court was so glib and dismissive of the First Amendment.

Trademarks propose a commercial transaction; speech that proposes a commercial transaction is “commercial speech” and thus subject to First Amendment protection. Virginia State Bd. Of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 762 (1976). Trademarks convey messages about the type, cost and quality of the product or service associated with the mark. See Friedman v. Rogers, 440 U. S. 1, 11 (1979). The trademark is a tightly targeted bit of expressive activity that seeks to persuade a potential customer to choose one product over another, either due to the identification of goods or to the communicative element of the trademark itself.

Thus far, all USPTO decisions regarding the constitutionality of Section 2(A) rely upon the improperly decided case In re Robert L. McGinley, 660 F.2d 41 (Fed Cir. 1981).

McGinley is where we get the idea that since trademark applicants are still free to use the trademarks, then there is no abridgment of speech if your trademark is denied registration due to its content. However, this reasoning is simply shoddy and contrary to a body of First Amendment jurisprudence. For example, in striking down New York’s “Son of Sam” law, which prohibited criminals from profiting from writing books about their crimes, the Supreme Court held “[a] statute is presumptively inconsistent with the First Amendment if it imposes a financial burden on speakers because of the content of their speech.” Simon & Schuster v. New York State Crime Victims Bd., 502 U.S. 105, 115 (1991). In the Son of Sam case, the authors were still free to write, but were denied the financial benefits of their labors. That was the end of that law. This appears to completely dispense with the McGinley reasoning.

Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York States Liquor Authority, 134 F.3d 87 (2d Cir. 1998) analyzed a similar issue. In that case, the appellant sought to use a trademark of a frog giving the finger. The Second Circuit held that since trademarks are commercial speech, prohibition on use of so-called “offensive” trademarks did not advance the stated governmental purpose of protecting children from vulgarity or promoting temperance, nor was it narrowly tailored to serve that purpose. Not binding on the Fed. Cir., but I think that the Fed. Cir. is the wrong place to challenge McGinley. There is no indication that the Fed. Cir. will ever admit that it was wrong in McGinley, and every time it gets a chance, it doubles down.

Finally, there can be no clearer authority for the death of Section 2(a) than Lawrence v. Texas. (“The fact a State’s governing majority has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.”)

“Morality” is not a valid reason to confer or deny a governmental benefit – instead the government must articulate a reason why registration of a mark might be harmful, and then apply that reason to the particular circumstances at hand, in a narrow manner. The government has done none of this in this case, nor in any other 2(a) denial.

2(a) Delendum Est!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,102 other followers