law

‘The sea has neither meaning nor pity.’ –Chekhov

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…an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple’s iPhone and other devices. […] Apple had arranged the deal to require periodic renegotiations, according to a former senior executive, and each time, it extracted more money from Google. […]

Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, once promised “thermonuclear war” on his Silicon Valley neighbor when he learned it was working on a rival to the iPhone. […] “I’m going to destroy Android,” Mr. Jobs told his biographer. […] A year later, Apple introduced Siri. Instead of Google underpinning the virtual assistant, it was Microsoft’s Bing. […] Around 2017, the deal was up for renewal. Google was facing a squeeze, with clicks on its mobile ads not growing fast enough. Apple was not satisfied with Bing’s performance for Siri. And Mr. Cook had just announced that Apple aimed to double its services revenue to $50 billion by 2020, an ambitious goal that would be possible only with Google’s payments. […] By the fall of 2017, Apple announced that Google was now helping Siri answer questions, and Google disclosed that its payments for search traffic had jumped. […]

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.

A former Google executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not permitted to talk about the deal, said the prospect of losing Apple’s traffic was “terrifying” to the company. […]

Apple now receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments — up from $1 billion a year in 2014 — in exchange for building Google’s search engine into its products. It is probably the single biggest payment that Google makes to anyone and accounts for 14 to 21 percent of Apple’s annual profits. That’s not money Apple would be eager to walk away from.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘One silver lining to this shit show is that Bill Barr destroyed his reputation.’ –Scott Shapiro

updated with The Lincoln Project’s legal response

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This truly makes me think of the good humanity can do… that and the fact that cellphones are now becoming more and more waterproof… pretty soon we’ll be able to push people into pools again.

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The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month […] A coalition of 50 states and territories support antitrust action against Google […]

Alphabet was an obvious antitrust target. Through YouTube, Google search, Google Maps and a suite of online advertising products, consumers interact with the company nearly every time they search for information, watch a video, hail a ride, order delivery in an app or see an ad online. Alphabet then improves its products based on the information it gleans from every user interaction, making its technology even more dominant.

Google controls about 90 percent of web searches globally, and rivals have complained that the company extended its dominance by making its search and browsing tools defaults on phones with its Android operating system. Google also captures about one-third of every dollar spent on online advertising, and its ad tools are used to supply and auction ads that appear across the internet. […]

Makan Delrahim, the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, had pushed the department to investigate Google but was recused from the case because he represented the company in a 2007 acquisition that helped it to dominate the online advertising market.

In an unusual move, Mr. Barr placed the investigation under Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy attorney general, whose office would not typically oversee an antitrust case. Mr. Barr and Mr. Delrahim also disagreed on how to approach the investigation, and Mr. Barr had told aides that the antitrust division had been asleep at the switch for decades, particularly in scrutinizing the technology industry.

Mr. Rosen does have a tech background: He was the lead counsel for Netscape Communications when it filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in 2002.

In October, Mr. Rosen hired Ryan Shores, a veteran antitrust lawyer, to lead the review and vowed to “vigorously seek to remedy any violations of law, if any are found.”

Mr. Barr also had a counselor from his own office, Lauren Willard, join the team as his liaison. She met with staff members and requested information about the investigation. She also issued directives and made proposals about next steps.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

platinum print { Robert Mapplethorpe, Coral Sea, 1983 }

Neighbors from Hell

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related { Spite fence | Fontainebleau Hotel Corp. v. Forty-Five Twenty-Five, Inc }

the ffrinch that fire on the Bull that bang

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Two programmer-musicians wrote every possible MIDI melody in existence to a hard drive, copyrighted the whole thing, and then released it all to the public in an attempt to stop musicians from getting sued. […]

Riehl and Rubin developed an algorithm that recorded every possible 8-note, 12-beat melody combo. This used the same basic tactic some hackers use to guess passwords: Churning through every possible combination of notes until none remained. Riehl says this algorithm works at a rate of 300,000 melodies per second.

Once a work is committed to a tangible format, it’s considered copyrighted. And in MIDI format, notes are just numbers.

“Under copyright law, numbers are facts, and under copyright law, facts either have thin copyright, almost no copyright, or no copyright at all,” Riehl explained in the talk. “So maybe if these numbers have existed since the beginning of time and we’re just plucking them out, maybe melodies are just math, which is just facts, which is not copyrightable.”

All of the melodies they’ve generated, as well as the code for the algorithm that generated them, are available as open-source materials on Github and the datasets are on Internet Archive.

{ Vice | Continue reading }

Like Pate-by-the-Neva or Pete-over-Meer

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When privately owned land vanishes under the water, who does it belong to?

The problem is a result of the state’s rapidly changing landscape. About 80 percent of Louisiana’s coast is privately owned. But, under an old law, as coastal erosion and sea level rise turn the land into open water the area becomes property of the state, including the mineral rights underneath.

Private landowners have become more adamant about restricting access to water on their property in order to assert their claim to the minerals underneath it. But boaters often have difficulty figuring out where private property ends and public waterways begin. Since 2003, Louisiana law does not require landowners to post signs demarcating their property. The resulting confusion led the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, or BASS, to announce in 2017 that it would no longer host professional fishing tournaments in Louisiana tidal waters, where fishers risk being arrested.

{ NOLA | Continue reading }

{ Scott Kelly and Ben Polkinghorne, Signs of the Times, 2017 }

‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ –Conan Doyle

You might think that lawyers representing abuse victims would want to publicly expose such information to bolster their clients’ claims. But that is not how the legal industry always works. Often, keeping things quiet is good business.

One of the revelations of the #MeToo era has been that victims’ lawyers often brokered secret deals in which alleged abusers paid to keep their accusers quiet and the allegations out of the public sphere. Lawyers can pocket at least a third of such settlements, profiting off a system that masks misconduct and allows men to abuse again.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Loading the BRICKS from my FRONT YARD into a DUMPSTER because my neighbor TODD is a FUCKHEAD

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Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has unveiled updated privacy legislation he says will finally bring accountability to corporations that play fast and loose with your private data.

Dubbed the Mind Your Own Business Act, the bill promises consumers the ability to opt out of data collection and sale with a single click. It also demands that corporations be transparent as to how consumer data is collected, used, and who it’s sold to, while imposing harsh fines and prison sentences upon corporations and executives that misuse consumer data and lie about it. […]

“Mark Zuckerberg won’t take Americans’ privacy seriously unless he feels personal consequences,” Wyden said. “A slap on the wrist from the FTC won’t do the job, so under my bill he’d face jail time for lying to the government.”

{ Vice | Continue reading }

art { Nick Knight, Transhuman After All, VMAN, 2013 }

broad beans, hig, steak, hag, pepper the diamond bone

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You might (or might not) be surprised at how often in my work as a mortician I am asked whether a mourning family member can keep a dearly departed’s skull. […] In theory, people get to decide what happens to their body after death. In reality, it is near impossible to get legal permission to display a relative’s skeleton. […]

As a funeral professional, I frankly have no idea what equipment a proper decapitation requires. The subsequent de-fleshing would probably involve boiling and/or dermestid beetles, incredible creatures used in museums and forensic labs to delicately eat the dead flesh off a skeleton without destroying the bones. Dermestids are happy to wade into a gruesome, sticky mass of decaying flesh and delicately clean around even the tiniest of bones. […]

Abuse-of-corpse laws exist for a reason. They protect people’s bodies from being mistreated (ahem, necrophilia). They also prevent a corpse from being snatched from the morgue and used for research or public exhibition without the dead person’s consent. History is littered with such violations. Medical professionals have stolen corpses and even dug up fresh graves to get bodies for dissection and research. […]

In the United States, no federal law prevents owning, buying, or selling human remains, unless the remains are Native American. Otherwise, whether you’re able to sell or own human remains is decided by each individual state. At least 38 states have laws that should prevent the sale of human remains, but in reality the laws are vague, confusing, and enforced at random. In one seven-month period in 2012–13, 454 human skulls were listed on eBay, with an average opening bid of just under $650 (eBay subsequently banned the practice).

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

In this big game that we play, life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you deserve, it’s what you take

A woman who was knocked unconscious by a cyclist will be awarded compensation, despite a judge finding she had stepped into the road while looking at her phone.

Robert Hazeldean, a garden designer, who was also knocked out by the collision, will pay thousands in damages and court fees to Gemma Brushett, who works for a finance firm in the City of London and runs yoga retreats. […]

Judge Shanti Mauger, at Central London county court, said: “Cyclists must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”

{ Guardian | Continue reading }

‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ — Confucius

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The mainstream sciences are experiencing a revolution of methodology. This revolution was inspired, in part, by the realization that a surprising number of findings in the bioscientific literature could not be replicated or reproduced by independent laboratories and were likely false discoveries.

In response – as reflected in a 2018 report of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – scientific norms and practices are rapidly moving towards openness. These reforms promise many enhancements to the scientific process, notably improved efficiency and reliability of findings.

Changes are also underway in the forensic sciences (although they have recently hit substantial political roadblocks). After years of legal-scientific criticism and several reports from peak scientific bodies, efforts are underway to establish the validity of several forensic practices and ensure forensic scientists perform and present their work in a scientifically valid way.

In this article, the authors suggest that open science reforms are distinctively suited to addressing the problems faced by forensic science. Openness comports with legal and criminal justice values, helping ensure expert forensic evidence is more reliable and susceptible to rational evaluation by the trier of fact.

{ LawArXiv | Continue reading }

transparency in lightbox { Jeff Wall, A Sunflower, 1995 }

At the end of the drama, as Faust and Mephistopheles flee the dungeon, a voice from heaven announces Gretchen’s salvation

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Misdemeanor cases affect far more people than felony cases, outnumbering felony cases by more than three to one. Yet very little empirical information exists on many aspects of misdemeanor prosecutions.

This Article provides the first quantitative look at appellate review in misdemeanor cases, nationwide. It uses data drawn from a random sample of direct criminal appeals decided by every state appellate court in the nation, unpublished aggregate data on misdemeanor trial court cases provided by the Court Statistics Project, and published state court statistics.

We provide the first estimate of the rate of appellate review for misdemeanors, concluding that appellate courts review no more than eight in 10,000 misdemeanor convictions, and disturb only one conviction or sentence out of every 10,000 misdemeanor judgments. This level of oversight is much lower than that for felony cases, for reasons we explain.

Additional findings include new information about the rate of felony trial court review of lower court misdemeanor cases, ratios of appeals to convictions for various misdemeanor-crime categories, detailed descriptive information about misdemeanor cases that reach state appellate courts, the results of a complete statistical analysis examining which features are significantly associated with a greater or lesser likelihood of success, including crime type, claim raised, judicial-selection method, and type of representation, and the first quantitative look at how misdemeanor appeals differ from felony appeals.

{ LawArXiv | Continue reading }

watercolor on paper { JMW Turner, A Wreck, possibly related to Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End, c.1834 }

previously { The Federalist Society — A 30-Year Plan to Transform the Courts }