Thursday, February 26, 2009

Case Brief: an Oxymoron of Sorts?

Maybe it is my love of John Irving's descriptive penmanship, or maybe it is simply due to my inability to "toss away stuff you don't need in the end" (name that Phish tune?), but I absolutely struggled with an assignment that required the complex legal analysis of a fact pattern within 100 words. 

See what I mean!? That was 53 words right there. 

The point is that brevity is not one of my strong suits, at least when it comes to writing. Conversationally, I can be bluntly brief, sometimes to the point of being rude, as people who know me can attest...I digress. 

This exercise of legal analysis within 100 words has precipitated my interest in putting forth a concentrated effort to be more concise.  The legal field would be wise to do the same.  

Just take Facebook's recent Terms of Service fiasco as an illustrative example. By drafting terms in a concise and readable manner, Facebook could have avoided a community backlash that was spurned by ambiguities in the writing.  Users could not decipher what Facebook was trying to say.  Couple that with immense data privacy concerns, and Facebook's legal department comes off as looking disingenuous

Unfortunately, lawyers often use wordiness as a strategic tool, either to discourage careful reading, or to cleverly hide a critical point in the midst of a verbose paragraph.  Efforts to use brief and clear writing techniques will help allay misunderstandings, reduce 'legal paranoia', and encourage active readership by those who could actually benefit.  

Sometimes saying less really is saying more. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Zealand's Insane Copyright Law - Four Reasons for Concern

New Zealand's new copyright legislation is "insane". 

Sections 92 A and C of the 2008 Copyright Amendment Act work like this.  If you are accused of copyright infringement on three occasions(strikes), you automatically lose the ability to access an Internet connection.  Anyone providing Internet access are charged with enforcement. 

First, are the major enforcement issues.  ISP's are obviously in an 'appropriate' position to actually bar Internet access; they have actual and direct control.  But the new law requires "anyone providing Internet access" to police users.  Does the New Zealand government actually anticipate a library or coffee house monitoring its users? Can the government even enforce a library's enforcement? 

Secondly, the accusatory ban circumvents the judicial process entirely.  It equates an accusation of infringement, with punishment (loss of Internet access).  There is no effort to determine the validity of the accusations before access is discontinued; a third accusation of infringement is an arrest, trial and guilty verdict.

Third, the law is heavily one-sided.  Those users accused of copyright infringement will face a penalty, but those who assert false claims of infringement do not.  Why not impose the same consequences on those making these accusations?  If, say, Warner Music can make false accusations of infringement without the threat of repercussion, where is the accountability? 

And finally, the punishment does not fit the "crime".  This law effectively abrogates civil liberties on the basis of accusations alone.  The Internet is not just, as the content companies might suggest, a mechanism allowing infringement on copyright.  Access to the Internet has become so much more.

The RIGHT to access the Internet should be a liberty that governments attempt to foster, encourage and protect.  Section 92 of this piece of legislation will destroy the personal right to use the Internet, without any prudent, judicial inquiry into the nature of the accusation.  This is not only extremely dangerous prospect, but, truly"insane". 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Now, If Only Poor Choices Could Save the Economy...

For starters, how about Christan Bale? Is your job (and life, for that matter) really that exacting and stressful that you need to react like this? The kicker is that he will likely suffer no repercussions for this, whatsoever.  In actuality, the fact that this clip has gone 'viral' will probably serve to drum up buzz for his new movie(s)...'Terminator' is going to be INTENSE! 

Or, what about Michael Phelps?  The "I won 8-gold medals, so now I can live-it-up" mentality has not suited him well.  He has been seen on TV knocking back Corona's at a Baltimore Raven's game (he has a DWI on his record from when he was 19) and now this picture surfaces of him smoking marijuana at a frat-house at South Carolina (and I mean smoking, that is quite the bong).  Yes, society is coming around toward of more liberal view of the drug, however, engaging in this type of (illegal!) behavior is simply an imprudent decision for an advertising star and a national role-model. 

Then, perhaps worst of all is Carol Carter, a relative unknown Florida Republican committeewoman, who forwarded an email 'joke'  that ultimately led to her resignation.  The email began,"I'm confused. How can 2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, DC in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn't get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice." 

Wow...well done Ms. Carter.  That is unabashed racism that truly fires on all cylinders.  The committeewoman followed with an "apology",  stating that she didn't want the comment to be taken in a negative manner, and was hoping that everyone could retain a sense of humor about themselves.  

Oh, and by sense of humor, she must have only meant a blend of racial stereotype and the derision of a national tragedy.  Good grief!