Posts Tagged 'court'

Police Cell Phone searches still require a warrant

Criminals can all breathe a collective sigh of relief with the court ruling. The close decision I think reveals a technology gap with what judges believe phones do and what they think they do. Which obviously is a problem when you are dealing with supreme court judges, most of whom think Motorola flip phones are “da bomb”.

One simple analogy is obtaining a search warrant for phone records. If the cops need to go to a judge to get the phone records for a home phone, why shouldn’t the same apply to a cell phone? Especially if the cops want to see what phone numbers were recently dialed? What if the phone is locked and requires the ‘*#’ combo? Does that count as being openly available for anyone to see? In the end if this keeps a criminal out of jail, of course that’s bad news. But I don’t think anyone is willing to sacrifice their rights to put a few more people behind bars.

So a quick recap, you get arrested, the cops cannot search your phone without a warrant, which requires reasonably cause. So stop talking about the crimes you’ve committed and start using code words. Get hip to the lingo my homie.

Piracy is ok, if you work for the government

Last week, a US Court of Appeals upheld a ruling on software piracy. The organization doing the piracy, however, happened to be a branch of the US government, and the decision highlights the significant limits to the application of copyright law to the government charged with enforcing it. Most significantly, perhaps, the court found that because the DMCA is written in a way that targets individual infringers, the government cannot be liable for claims made under the statute.

The backstory on the case involved, Blueport v. United States, borders on the absurd. It started when Sergeant Mark Davenport went to work in the group within the US Air Force that ran its manpower database. Finding the existing system inefficient, Davenport requested training in computer programming so that he could improve it; the request was denied. Showing the sort of personal initiative that only gets people into trouble, Davenport then taught himself the needed skills and went to work redesigning the system. (link)

Matlock, Maaattlloooock!

However, not only did she talk at a conference about digital gaming, she’s working on a project to create a video game about the court system, to try to make students more informed about the judicial system and some of the difficult decisions it makes. There have been many similar “civic education” video games out there, like the UN video game to teach kids about world hunger and, my personal favorite, a video game to teach kids how to gerrymander voting districts to get political support. It’s not clear how successful any of these sorts of games really are, but it’s nice to see a former Supreme Court Justice taking an interest in these sorts of things. Though, some might point out that this could be seen as something of a gimmick, and students might just be better served by adding a decent civics curriculum back into school (it’s apparently gone thanks to No Child Left Behind). (link)

Judge slaps Dell on the wrist, “bad financing, that was very bad”

The New York State Supreme Court has dealt a blow against Dell by ruling that the company and its affiliate, Dell Financial Services, engaged in fraud, false advertising, deceptive business practices, and abusive debt collection practices.

Justice Joseph Teresi ruled against the companies late last week, saying that Dell repeatedly misled customers and failed to live up to promises. The monetary damages have yet to be determined, but New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that Dell will eventually have to pay back customers. The company will also have to turn over any “unlawfully earned” profits to the state.

“For too long at Dell the promise of customer service was a bait and switch that left thousands of people paying for essentially no service at all,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We have won an important victory that will force Dell to live up to its responsibilities and pay back its customers for profits that were pocketed but not deserved. This decision sends an important message that all corporations will be held accountable for the promises they make to consumers.” (ArsTechnica)

Craigslist not liable for discriminatory ads

Is this ad legal? “af seeking clean, polite roommate who won’t drink all the beer in the fridge and can tolerate loud gangsta rap all night long. NO UGLIES.”

A federal appeals court upheld a previous ruling in favor of Craigslist on Friday, saying that the public message board was not liable for discriminatory postings. The judges said that Craigslist was not a publisher, but rather an online service provider, and should not be expected to filter the ads posted by its users.

The case, which began in February of 2006, was brought by a Chicago-based civil rights group called the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The plaintiffs had argued that Craigslist was guilty of violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by allowing users to place housing listings with restrictions like “NO MINORITIES” or “No children.” The Committee provided subtler examples as well—such as a listing that specified “Catholic Church and beautiful Buddhist Temple within one block”—citing it as religious preference on behalf of the person who made the listing. (link)

Spam is not free speech, says the Supreme Court

Virginia’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld the first US felony conviction for spamming. The spammer will serve nine years in prison for sending what authorities believe to be millions of messages over a two-month period in 2003.

Jeremy Jaynes is the man who will make history. A Raleigh, North Carolina, resident who made Spamhaus’ top 10 list of spammers, Jaynes was arrested in 2003 even before the CAN SPAM act was passed by Congress. Jaynes was convicted in 2005, but his lawyers appealed the conviction. This past Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld that conviction, but the vote was a narrow 4-3.

The prosecution presented evidence of over 53,000 illegal e-mails that Jaynes sent over just three days during July, 2003, but it is believed that he sent 10 million messages per day between July and August of that year. Though he is a North Carolina resident, Jaynes was charged in Virginia because the AOL servers he used for sending spam were located in Loudoun County, Virginia. (link)

Proposed bill to criminalize violent video game sales to minors

In 2005, California passed a law that prohibited the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors. Since then, as in every other state where this sort of law has been attempted, the legislation was found to be unconstitutional. It was hit with an injunction preventing its enforcement before being completely blocked back in 2007. Gov. Schwarzenegger appealed that decision, and this week Media Coalition filed an amicus brief to oppose the law and hopefully end this back and forth in the courts.

Amicus curiae means “friend of the court,” and the term describes briefs filed by groups with pertinent information or insights into cases that they are directly involved in. Media Coalition, the group behind the new amicus filing (PDF), not only includes groups related to video games but also the Association for American Booksellers, The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the Recording Industry Association of America, among others.

The reason for the brief is a simple one: once the California government has set that precedent that it can legally censor or control violent content, the business of every member of Media Coalition would be at risk. (link)

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