Thursday, March 28, 2013

Too much to say & follow on same sex marriage!

There is just too much happening right now about same sex marriage, what with the 2 Supreme Court cases, and all the various legislative happenings grinding along....  I will just refer you to a check list of blogs who can devote full time to this and keep track of it.  But it's very exciting for those of us who do believe that this is the civil rights issue of our day! Even the French are on the verge of legalizing same sex marriage, but not without some exciting riots and marches! Those French! Apparently the even the Spaniards have quietly legalized same sex marriage without any big fuss. Here is a website that lists countries (and states of the U.S., listed equally) where same sex marriage is legal.

Here is a light-hearted (perhaps blasphemous, depending on your orientation), website, with pictures of the funniest signs supporting same sex marriage seen outside the Supreme Court. Here is a blog that interviewed some of the people from various sides who turned up to watch the historic arguments. And SCOTUS blog published a symposium, on same sex marriage, with lots of legal analysis. This is one, that will lead you to the rest.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Military and Sexual Assault - Conduct Unbecoming

Conduct unbecoming an officer of the U.S. military was criminalized when Article 133, and the rest of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was signed into law by President Harry Truman in1950.  Up until then, things muddled along, apparently, with a series of attempts beginning with the Second Continental Congress in 1775.  But along with the other criminal and punitive portions of the UCMJ was an interesting section that was intended to protect soldiers and officers from prosecution based either on political pressure or ignorance of real life on the battlefield.  That is Article 60 (c), which gives a commanding officer authority to modify or set aside the findings and sentence of a court martial. 

This piece of military law pops up to my attention because Boston Globe columnist Juliette Kayem wrote an opinion piece about Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson's case.  He was court martialled for sexual assault against a female physician assistant last March, 2012.  Wilkerson's commanding officer, Lieutenant General Craig Franklin set aside the conviction, against advice of his lawyer, under the authority of UCMJ Article 60.  According to Kayem's essay, Franklin did not speak with the victim before his decision.  The case is simply the most egregious, most recent and most loudly protested of many sexual assault cases in the military, which has a major problem both with the crime and with addressing the crime.

Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has promised to investigate the issue.  The Senate is convening hearings on the issue of sexual assaults in the military, the first in nearly 10 years.
 Of the 2,439 formal reports submitted in 2011, only 240 proceeded to trial. Anonymous surveys of military personnel for the same year showed that 19,000 instances of sexual harassment or assault went unreported in 2011.
(from the LA Times article on the Senate hearings) Both rape survivors at the Senate hearing and Globe columnist Kayem urge that, while Article 60 provides important protections from political pressure and ignorant interference with battlefield morale, it also has allowed the growth of an "old boys' culture" that allows and even encourages commanding officers to dismiss and ignore reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment.  This means that victims have no recourse, and the problem with the culture in the military that allows such hostile behavior will never be addressed.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Google Settles Streetview Privacy Invasion Suit with 38 State AGs

The New York Times has a lengthy article detailing the settlement and background of a lawsuit by 38 states' attorneys general against Google for privacy violations in connection with its Streetview recording of homes and streets.  It was not the actual images of houses that got Google into trouble.  The little Google cars and vans were doing more than just recording images of the roads and environs as they drove across the country building maps for Streetview.  They "data-scooped" from millions of unsecured wireless networks as they passed by!  Apparently, the idea was hatched by a single Google engineer, but he told others, and the news eventually reached the top of Google's hierarchy, who did nothing to stop it.  When the government began an investigation of the matter, it appears that Google tried to cover up the matter. (see the Wall Street Journal article closer to the scandal.)

The settlement is $7 million which is a pittance to Google, which evidently takes in $32 million per day (see the New York Times article, which notes this figure).  Google has had a long history of problems understanding respect for privacy as well.  See Scott Cleland's excellent blog post at Precursor blog about this. He not only includes a lengthy list of Google's history of privacy incursions, but also links or articles that include the 2010 and current Google statements on privacy, and the statement from the Connecticut Attorney General which announces the settlement.  This page includes two links which explain how to set up your wireless router for encryption to secure your network for privacy: 

Don't be evil, Google!  The image of a Google Streetview car with the equipment is courtesy of the Wikipedia Commons. It is labeled Google Street View car in Southampton, Hampshire, England.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Amazon Domain Name Fight

Amazon has applied for a set of top level domain (TLD) names under the new regime at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  Amazon would like to sew up rights to such domain names as .reader, .books, and .author.  As you might imagine, some other organizations have objected.  The Authors' Guild  has a note about their protest on the front of their home page.  The Association of American Publishers is also listed as a protesting organization, but their website does not say anything on the issue at this point, at least as far as my exploration shows.

There is a short article from the Wall Street Journal about the dust-up. But more helpful actually, are the e-publications, such as, which include in their articles, as a matter of course, links to the original submission, and to letters from the various organizations filing objections.  Hooray! Makes up for the ad, which you can skip if you are ready with your mouse.

Link to Amazon's application for .book (they also applied for less generic domain names like .kindle)

 Barnes and Noble protest

Association of American Publishers protest

 The most obvious problem is the use of such a generic term of interest to so many other organizations and corporate rivals, is that it would be anti-competitive in the extreme.  It would also be misleading.   Keep in mind how much it costs just to file an application for a top level domain name:  $185,000!  And Engadget points out that if the protest are persuasive, ICANN can rule that Amazon will lose not only the TLD names in question, but also 20% of each filing fee for each name in question!  I suppose that seems like chump change to a company like Amazon. Maybe it's worth it to twist Barnes and Nobles' tail?

I couldn't resist the wicked desire to illustrate the Amazon fight with a Boadicea, the original warrior queen. All the Amazon warrior women I found were too sexy entirely.  From a gaming ring link site, I'm afraid.  Tip of the OOTJ hat to my terrific colleague Roy Balleste! (He had nothing to do with the illustration - don't blame Roy!).

Thursday, March 07, 2013


Am I the last person to know that SkyRiver is being "integrated" into Innovative Interfaces?  The announcement was made in a press release dated March 4.  In addition, III announced that SkyRiver was dropping its antitrust suit against OCLC, which it filed in 2010. 

Tip of the hat to Vicky Gannon of the Pace Law Library staff for alerting me to this development.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Animals in the Dock

Anyone who has ever formed a deep bond with a pet knows that each is unique and has a distinct personality. Some animals are definitely more intelligent than others. It is unlikely, however, that animals know the difference between right and wrong or that they can exercise free will. For this reason, it would seem strange to us today to subject animals to prosecution for their bad acts. How can an animal be responsible for bad acts if the animal did not know they were bad? How much of their behavior is instinctual? During the Middle Ages, animals were sometimes tried for attacking and killing people as well as other offenses. “Animal trials were commonplace public events in medieval and early modern Europe,”according to James McWilliams writing recently in Slate. McWilliams teaches at Texas State University, and is the author of four books on agriculture and food.

Among the animals tried were pigs, cows, goats, horses, and dogs; when they broke the law, they “were subjected to the same legal proceedings as humans … they were treated as persons.” Underlying the animal trials was the belief that “some animals possessed moral agency, ” free will, an idea that does not prevail today. McWilliams wonders whether people living in “preindustrial agrarian societies” ascribed moral agency to animals because they “interacted almost constantly with domesticated animals.” In fact, people “watched these animals make choices, respond to human directives, engage in social relationships, and distinguish themselves as individuals … “

The close relationship between humans and domestic animals continued into the late nineteenth century when “feedlots and packing plants consolidated the business of animal agriculture,” and long-term proximity of humans and animals came to an end. The Slate article reminded me of a
film I saw some years ago that was set in medieval France. It revolved around a young attorney (played by Colin Firth) who moves from Paris to a rural area seeking peace and quiet. The film, made in 1993, was originally entitled The Hour of the Pig, but was released in the United States as The Advocate. When the attorney takes on a case defending a pig accused of killing a young Jewish boy, the public prosecutor tells him, “Anyone who knows animals knows there are good ones and bad ones.” After much intrigue and many plot twists, the attorney heads back to Paris, having learned that the rural village was even more corrupt than the big city.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Edwin Mellen Press Drops Suit Against Librarian Blogger

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Edwin Mellen Press has dropped its lawsuit against librarian blogger Dale Askey, (see earlier blog post), and McMaster University.  In related news, McMaster has agreed to pay Askey's lawyer fees.  However, the related lawsuit against Askey by Mellen Press's founder Herbert Richardson, for personal remarks (actually comments by visitors to Askey's blog), apparently continues. 

The Edwin Mellen Press had come under a great deal of negative press and criticism from bloggers and academic organizations and authors for this lawsuit.  It had been pointed out that this was a second time the press had engaged in a similar lawsuit apparently designed to silence criticism.  #freedaleaskey is the Twitter hashtag for commentary on the lawsuit, and a good search to look for criticism, though simply searching "Edwin Mellen Press" will also turn up a lot.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Amicus Briefs in Supreme Court Challenge to Federal DOMA

Oh, my how times have changed!  I was just gob-smacked to read, first the story of the Republican congressmen who signed on the amicus brief opposing the federal Defense of Marriage Act in Windsor v. U.S.. Then, a day later, there was another story about multiple major corporations signing a similar amicus brief in the same case, arguing that the DOMA forced them to treat employees unfairly. 

Very conveniently, the GLAD website pulls all these briefs and many other documents together in one handly place. Their website is a model for legal researchers, regardless of what side of an issue you may be one.  Thank you, GLAD!

Lexis Advance wins 2013 CODie Award

Lexis Advance has been announced as the winner in the Best Legal Information Solution for the 2013 CODie Awards.  The CODie Awards are peer-review awards that have been given for 27 years. 

The CODiE Awards remain the only peer-recognized program in the content, education, and software industries so each CODiE Award win serves as incredible market validation for a product’s innovation, vision, and overall industry impact.
(link) The Software Information Industry of America, SIIA is the awarding organization, and is the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries, hence the "peer" in the award.  Congrats, Lexis!