Saturday, July 31, 2010

Overheard at the Range

"Yeah, these are .45 caliber; bigger than the .40 caliber you just shot.  Don't worry!  These rounds are subsonic, you're fine.  Actually, you can shoot them at a plate glass window, walk around the other side and pick the bullet out of the window.  It's not powerful enough to go all the way through.  It's perfect for self defense!"

There's so much wrong with this statement, I didn't even know where to start...

Friday, July 30, 2010

You're Kidding, Right?!

I just had a conversation with one of my paralegals (she's 23) which went like this:

Me:  "That thing's like the IBM PC, everybody's copied it."

Paralegal: [Blank Stare] ... "What's an IBM PC?"


Am I that old already? I'm only 37! 

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Ok, so after Breda, BobS, and Jennifer took the quiz, I had to. 


You are 0% hippie.
Ok, you conservative soul. Do you even believe in global warming? Loosen that necktie a little, and try some organic food. It actually does taste better. And go to a farmer's market--they're fun.

Are you a hippie?
Take More Quizzes


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fair Use? Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote briefly about copyright basics.  Today, I want to talk about possible defenses to claims of copyright infringement.  The three most common defenses I have read for copying are that (1) the copying is not being done with the intent to make money, (2) it's my own take on the matter, or (3) it’s only fair use. Let's address those.  Before we do, remember that these are defenses. In other words, these come into play once you've been already called out. And, like any defense, it's up to you to prove it.

No Monetary Gain – A common defense is that the poster or author did not copy the article in an attempt to make money, therefore, they have nothing to be afraid of.  A similar comment is that the infringement was committed by a non-profit organization, so the prohibition does not apply.

Well, not quite.  17 U.S.C. § 501(a) is very clear: "Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner ... or of the author ... is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be."  Whether committed by a non-profit, or without the intent to make any money, copyright infringement is copyright infringement.  It's still against the law.

Now, where money does make a different is in the type of penalty prescribed.  Normally, copyright infringers are subject to a long list of civil penalties, including monetary fines.  17 U.S.C. § 502 - 505.  However, if  the infringement is for monetary gain, the law provides for criminal penalties.  17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1).  Your choice.  Now, while I prefer civil penalties to criminal ones, I'd rather miss the whole party altogether, if you don't mind. 

Independent Creation – In our current context, this is least likely to be a viable defense. To argue independent creation is to argue that the copier came up with the posted information without knowledge of or access to the original news article. Typically, in postings, the writer will write something along the lines of, “I found this article on the Villageville Rag and Rumor, and it really makes me [insert snarky comment here].” Well, there you go. You mentioned where you got the story, so it’s going to be really hard to argue that you came up with it independently of the news source.

What if you don’t mention it? Well, besides the fact that it is bad practice and dishonest to pass off someone else’s work as your own, you’re still not home free. If the article is available to a lot of people (like for instance, through the internet) and is strikingly similar to your posting, the courts will likely assume you had access to and copied from the original. So again, this is not the one to hang your hat on.

Fair Use – This is by far, the most common, and the most effective of the defenses.  Of course, it is only effective if it actually applies.

So, what is fair use?  Fair use is codified in 17 U.S.C. § 107 and applies to use of the created work for "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research..."  This is not all inclusive, but serves as a guide.  So, on its face, copying to a blog or forum posting may be fair use provided that it is done for one of the suggested exceptions.

However, there are several important factors that the court will review.  The factors are laid out in the same code section:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; -- in other words, are you copying the work for one of the reasons listed above, or merely because you like the article and want to repost it and save the reader the trouble of registering or going to the original site?

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work; -- are you copying something that is in the public domain, is it fiction or non-fiction?

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; -- Here, less is better.  Did you copy the entire article?  Also, even if only a small amount was copied, was it the most important part?

and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. -- This element reviews both the specific and broader effects.  If you are copying the entire article, you are depriving the author or owner of any revenue he or she would make when the article is viewed on the original site.  Also, if this practice were allowed, it would diminish the ability for authors and creators to control their market for their product (the articles), since their work could be pasted elsewhere to diminish their site traffic and potential revenue. 
Proposed solution?
It is likely preferable to just copy a small amount (to make your point) and drive the reader to the original site so they can read it on their own.  While even this area of law is not settled, the consensus seems to be that as long as the author has not prohibited linking, this may be the safest route to go.  This is also preferable because readers can read any updates or comments generated by the original article.
Just my two cents.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fair Use? Part 1

There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the concept of Fair Use as it relates to the US Copyright laws.  Some of this is because of recent news introducing Righthaven and its tactics. From what I have read, Righthaven has made it its business to sue bloggers, websites, etc… for reposting newspaper articles without the permission of the copyright holders.

I have read several postings and articles regarding this news story, some of which are accurate, and others which miss the point. So, I wanted to address this a bit, with citations, to allow others to follow-up on my research.

First, in basic terms, copyright law defines the set of rights that belong exclusively to the creator of the work (or, in some cases, the person who hired the creator).  17 U.S.C. § 201.  The copyright exists as soon as the work is fixed in any "tangible medium."  17 U.S.C. § 102.  That's all that is needed to obtain copyright protection.  It is not necessary to actually have a copyright notice on the work itself.

These rights can be summarized as follows:

1.  The right to copy the work
2.  The right to prepare other related works based on the original work
3.  The right to distribute copies of the work to the public
4.  The right to display or perform the work publicly

Remember that these are exclusive rights.  They belong only to the copyright holder.  17 U.S.C. § 106.  Note that, like many property rights, this right can be sold, transferred, or licensed.  This allows others to enjoy one or more of those rights with the owner's permission.

The problem we're talking about here typically arises when a blogger or website contributor copies the text of a news article on his or her website or on a forum posting without permission from the copyright owner.  If you recall from the list above, we have someone who has copied someone else's work and displayed it for the public without the permission of the copyright holder.  That, in its very basic sense, is copyright infringement.  17 U.S.C. § 501.  It does not matter that the creator gets credit.  The work was still copied and displayed without permission.

Now that we have covered the copyright basics, tomorrow, I'll talk about Fair Use and other possible defenses.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Quote for the Week

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, July 24, 2010


As part of their summer vacation, my girls flew to spend three weeks with my parents.  This is the first time they have flown as unaccompanied minors (ages 9, 10), so I have been playing the part of the worried dad.

We packed everything we could find, including dolls, books and portable video games.  I'm pretty sure the kitchen sink is in one of the side pockets.  They've packed enough snacks for the passengers and crew and they're pretty well-behaved, so it's not them I'm worried about.  I just need the pilot and crew to do what they do.

We arrived at the airport with time to spare, but the check-in took longer than I thought.  Apparently, there was a networking glitch, because it looked like receipts and boarding passes were printing to random printers along the row.  Maybe there was a method to the madness, but to me it looked like three card monte, and it was my turn to guess which boarding pass was with my airline agent.

We got that sorted out, and headed to the gate.  I misread the boarding pass and ended up in the wrong wing of the airport.   The TSA agent checked our ID's the girls' boarding pass, and my pass, but still waved us through.  Even so, being the genius that I am, I didn't figure that out until after I had bought the girls some food and drink, and had trekked to the end of the terminal to the gate--the very last one.  It was empty.  Not even the ubiquitous sleeping traveler.

We headed back to the screening area and had to rescreen to get to the proper gate.  Remember the "no liquids" rule?  Remember that I bought my girls some drinks?  Ugh..

We finally get to the right gate, check in with the gate agent, and the girls have only minutes to spare before they're boarded.  As required, I stay in the gate area until the plane takes off, then go meet my wife, who is waiting right outside the security area.

We exit the airport, and trying to flee the 100+ degree heat, head to where we parked the truck. 

It's not there.  We look around.  We walk around--in the 100+ degree humid heat.  No luck.  Did it get stolen?!

Wait...  It's not that the truck's not here.  We're not there.  Remember that we were in the wrong wing of the terminal?  Yep!

We walk literally around the airport and finally make it to our truck.  Thankfully, it's not a large airport, and it made more sense to walk around it than take the long way inside.

We finish the evening with a trip to Schlotzky's and then some quiet time at Barnes and Noble.

Now, we are home and ready to party!!!

Or sleep, anyway.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just Change Careers

Look, if you steal an iPhone at the very instance it is being used to demonstrate real-time GPS tracking, while being tracked by people at a different location, you're destined to be an idiot.  The odds of getting all those points against you, and then striking at the moment they're all lined up is astronomical--and yet, you nailed it.

Just quit, dude.  It's not going to get any better.

Oh, and the lady with the phone gets no points for situational awareness either, but that's another post.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Out

Some time ago, my wife and I made a committment to pay down debt.  At the time, I owed on several credit cards, some loans, a mortgage, student loans, and a mess of medical bills.  Almost all the product of unwise decisions.  Well, I would love to say that it was a focused attempt and that everything went as planned, but it has not.

We reviewed Dave Ramsey's program, as well as Crown Financial, but were not truly committed to either program.  Even so, we put their principles to work and started to dig our way out.

About a week ago, decided to take a look at where we were in our journey.  To my surprise, we were further along than I thought we were.

We now have no credit card debt.

We have no vehicle debt.

My loan balance is now 1/2 of what it was.

I have retired most of the medical bills, and barring any new ones, should have the remaining bills paid off in about three or four months.

Aside from the student loans (let's not talk about those, okay!) and the mortgage, the remainder of my debt is less than $4,000.  My new goal is to retire that amount in the next 12 months.  The mortgage on the house is at 80% of the value, using the most conservative value.

Now, there is suddenly a new focus on debt reduction (success breeds success), which has actually made it fun to see the numbers go down.

Here we go!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Quote for the Week

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Well...crap!  Two years of writing, pictures, music downloads, work documents, etc... down the drain.

My hard drive just crashed.  I'm using my wife's laptop right now so I'm not entirely cut off, but that still does not solve my problem.  Now, I have a plan to try to recover my data, but so far my options aren't working:

1.  Stare in disbelief.  Nope
2.  Boot from disk.  Nope
3.  Put the computers together and back-up by osmosis.  Nope
4.  Menacing stare.  Nope
5.  DOS commands.  Nope
6.  Threaten to take it out to the range and shoot it.  Nope <-- I think this one offended it.

Umm...This post has been brought to you by any computer backup plan.  Pick one.  Soon.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Following Directions

I've had the case for a while now, so I'm very familiar with the facts, as well as with the family involved.  These are serious charges and it's important that my client not come off looking like a common hood.  He's a quiet, normally respectful kid, with good grades.  He just made a stupid decision and is being asked to pay the piper now.

I escort the client, a juvenile, into my office to talk about the court hearing coming up the next day.  This one's a big deal, since it is on appeal.  He retained us after the first hearing ended in a finding of guilt.  There is no appealing this one if he is found guilty again.

We sit at my conference table, and though I'm trying to avoid it, I can't stop staring at my client.  Finally, I say to him, "You will NOT come to court like that tomorrow morning."

He has dyed his hair black, which stands out in stark contrast to his pale skin.  He has also styled his hair into these points neatly arranged in a grid all over his head.  He must have used gallons of hair spray and gel.

"What's wrong with my hair?"

"You look like Pinhead."

"I'm just different, that's all."

"Yes you are.  And tomorrow, you will have your hair styled normally, you will dress conservatively, and you will look normal."

He shrugs and says, "Ok."

I arrive at court the next morning and see him with his dad at the end of the hall.  From this distance, I don't see any wild hairstyles.  He's dressed in baggy jeans, but at least has a shirt and tie on.  Hair, check.  Clothing, check.

I walk up to greet them and...

Wait a minute, hold on...

"Umm...thanks for styling your hair.  But what's that on your eyes?!" I ask.

'It's just contacts."

He has these contacts called white-out contacts.

I tell him, "You look creepy!  I'd rather the judge concentrate on what I have to say, but with those contacts, he's going to spend the whole time trying to figure you out!"

"Yeah, but, you didn't say anything about contacts.  You just said to have a normal hairdo and conservative clothing.  I did that."

"Well, you sure did exactly what I asked.  Let's go inside."

We finally get called before the judge and I introduce my clients.  The judge nods and begins to take notes.

Then he stops, looks up, leans slightly forward and stares at my client.  "Is something wrong with your eyes?"  His face turns into a scowl.

"Hmmm," I thought, "this will not end well."

It didn't.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quote for the Week

A man is too apt to forget that in this world he cannot have everything. A choice is all that is left him.

H. Mathews

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Internet is Doomed! DOOMED, I Tell You!

I know hindsight is 20/20, but this gentleman's predictions were a bit ... how you say ... off.
The Internet? Bah!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Counselor Training

In an effort to soften my rough edges as a legal counselor, I searched YouTube for appropriate training videos.  Got one.

I know, I know... Everybody's seen it.  I still think it's funny.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quote for the Week

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.

Elmer Davis

Friday, July 2, 2010


Remember this post?

Well, the house has either sold or has been rented out.  We have new neighbors.

While the previous neighbors had an thriving trade in heat-activated herbal mood alterers (also known as marijuana), the new neighbors are cut from a different cloth.

One of them's a police officer.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Additions?

As I may have mentioned before, we have two female leopard geckos at home.  (For those keeping count, that's one wife, two daughters, and two female pets--I'm the only supplier of testosterone in the house).

When we got the second one (the one on the right, above), we were told she had been bred, and would soon lay eggs.  Well, she has been regularly laying eggs (in pairs), but so far, her first two clutches have not been viable.  They have never developed an embryo, which I have been told is common in first time mothers.  The eggs were wrinkled and sunken.

Well, the third time seems to be the charm.  She has laid two eggs that are firm and full. I haven't candled them yet--I'll probably do that today, but it looks like we may have some gecko babies in a couple of months!

Although I must say I'm disappointed.  As well as we treat these geckos, I have yet to save money on my car insurance.