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21 March 2010

US Travel Tip: Never Question, Always Obey

Canadian author Peter Watts got into trouble with US border guards during an 'exit search' on his way out of the US. It seems he has been found guilty of obstructing or resisting the border guards, because (going by his own account, see below) he did not do as he was being told right away, but asked 'why' before complying. (Hey, this is my interpretation of the event and the information I will take with me next time I happen to come across a US law enforcement official)

“After Beaudry had finished whaling on me in the car, and stepped outside, and ordered me out of the vehicle; after I’d complied with that, and was standing motionless beside the car, and Beaudry told me to get on the ground — I just stood there, saying “What is the problem?”, just before Beaudry maced me.

And that, said the Prosecutor in her final remarks — that, right there, was failure to comply. That was enough to convict. ” [Source]

So the lesson I learn from this, is to never question and always obey. Which is extremely contrary to my usual approach, as I hate injustice and would want to know why I am being treated like a suspect or criminal. I know we're all supposed to make sure we know all the laws and regulations of both our own country and of any country we visit, but most of the time I rely on common sense. This is one of those cases where that would be a big mistake. A compounding problem is that nowhere will it state what the limits of power are. What kind of commands can be issued that you cannot question? My guess is “any” and that is what I will have to go by in a similar situation. Which I hope to never end up in.

I hope April 26 will bring a sensible 'sentence' in this case, one of little impact on mr. Watts life. Well, besides the actual conviction of course, which is extremely bad in itself.

14:08:40 - 03/21/10 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 22 [+/-]

07 October 2009

Stop Calling Me

New Dutch legislation has led to a do-not-call registry. For the past few years, a voluntary registry already existed, but of course there were plenty of telemarketing companies that did not bother to exclude people who registered with that service. But last week, the registry went online at http://www.bel-me-niet.nl/. Quite a success, too. The first day the site stopped working due to high traffic.

Of course I registered right away, and calls should stop about four weeks from now. I wonder if they will. It would be quite a relief, that is for sure. I know there is a US national registry as well (https://www.donotcall.gov/) but I also know there are still plenty of unwanted calls in spite of that registry. Hopefully the Dutch telemarketers will actually stop now. Long overdue, if you ask me.

22:00:09 - 10/07/09 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 14 [+/-]

14 August 2008

Why You Should Not Talk To The Police

Gathering dust in my virtual bag-o-stuff-to-post-about, I now present an hour's worth of video to watch. And watching it is a good idea. Quite informative. Well, if you haven't seen it already. After all, it has been circulating online and gotten quite some attention already.

Professor Duane tells an audience of (I think) defense lawyers why nobody should ever talk the police. Doesn't matter whether you are suspect or witness, just keep your mouth shut. That may seem extreme, but leave it to officer Bruch to tell us professor Duane is absolutely right. I wonder if saying “no comment” counts as talking to the police.

02:19:00 - 08/14/08 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 9 [+/-]

08 October 2007

The Verdict Is In: $9K A Song For File Sharing

In the Duluth case against a woman sharing songs over a P2P network, the jury settled on a fine of $9250 a song. A whopping total of $222,000 for 24 songs. That's one hell of an expensive cd.

The defendant, Jammie Thomas has decided to appeal the decision. The appeal is based on the jury instruction that said someone would be infringing copyright as soon as a file was shared, regardless of whether or not the file was actually downloaded. Earlier views have regarded some kind of actual downloading for infringement to occur. The outcome of the appeal will be interesting, as it will be much more difficult to show that a shared file was actually downloaded.

If sharing a copyrighted file is enough to constitute infringement, does this mean people having sharing Windows folders without running firewalls are now at risk of litigation in addition to the risk of their computers getting hacked?

18:40:49 - 10/08/07 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 4 [+/-]

02 October 2007

RIAA Piracy Lawsuit With Jury

The RIAA is now in the middle of a lawsuit that will be decided by a jury. Threat Level is reporting on the trial. Apparently there might be as many of 20,000 such lawsuits. Imagine that, 20,000 US citizens on trial, that sounds like a lot. All this for something that a lot of people do. Then again, many more US citizens enjoy cannabis and people still get arrested for that as well.

This case will be interesting since it will require the RIAA to show that the defendant was the one using a certain IP address at a certain time, to upload/download music. It would be even more interesting if we would have a case where someone clearly confessed to the uploading and claiming it does not make sense to punish such an act, let alone punish it by $150,000 per song.

20:49:53 - 10/02/07 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 17 [+/-]

21 February 2007

XS4ALL Complaint Procedure

About three weeks ago XS4ALL, a large (my) Dutch ISP, introduced a new complaints procedure to be used when one of its subscribers is suspected of unlawful online behavior. Think defamation, or copyright infringement. The English version of the news item can be found online, but the actual complaints policy seems to be available in Dutch only.

According to XS4ALL, this new procedure is necessary because recent case law shows a responsibility for ISPs that may require them to hand over customer data when a customer is acting against the law. Some of these cases involved defamation suits, others involved cases brought on by Brein, the Dutch anti-piracy organisation (subject of previous blog posts). With the new procedure, a complainant first files a complaint with XS4ALL. XS4ALL then contacts the subscriber with information about the complaint. This leaves it up to the subscriber to remove the offending material or stop the offensive act. In which case (so it seems) the matter ends.

However, if the subscriber refuses to take action, this may eventually lead to XS4ALL handing over personal information (name, address) to the complainant. This sounds bad and pretty scary, considering the fact that a lot of people will engage in activities that are not necessarily entirely legal. But as far as I understand, this could actually work out well for subscribers. At the very least, one gets a chance to act before it comes to a court case. On top of that, the personal information is only handed over if XS4ALL and a committee of external experts agree that it is likely XS4ALL would be forced to hand over the data should the case be taken to court. In which case it would probably turn into an expensive procedure and organizations could take the ISP to court over thousands of cases.

Nevertheless, any situation in which my provider is willing to (consider to) hand over my personal data is an unpleasant one. Right now I can't really figure out all implications of this procedure. Is it to the advantage of customers, or just a good thing for the ISP because it will not be taken to court as easy as before. I guess time will tell, as the first examples and effects of this procedure make the news. Definitely something I will keep an eye on.

21:58:40 - 02/21/07 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 3 [+/-]

28 July 2006

US Customs May Search Laptop Contents

This is a good reason to reconsider bringing along my laptop computer on my next US visit: a US court ruled that customs officials may examine the contents of a laptop without a search warrant. The case that was ruled on, was one where customs search a laptop and found deleted (from Internet cache) child pornography pictures. [Source]

Of course, child pornography is bad, but that is not the issue here. The issue is that customs can get access to your most private files without any warrant. And they can do with it what they want. Or at least, read it, examine it, even copy it without your knowledge, if they examine your computer without you being present. Since any kind of illegal material could land me in trouble, I'd have to be really sure I didn't have anything illegal on it. Anything illegal in the US, that is, which might be even more strict than the regulations of my own country. Yes, I know I shouldn't have anything illegal on it, period, but it's my laptop, that's as good as a second memory, a back up of my life, it doesn't just contain pure and innocent thoughts and files. Just like my mind is full of not-so-nice stuff at times.

I do encrypt the most dangerous files on my laptop, those files being media files and utilities that might be considered illegal in some countries (like software to create a backup of a dvd). Even encryption itself might be suspicious though, and no doubt the border patrol officer would ask me to hand over the password or unlock the encrypted files.

On top of just not carrying anything illegal, I also have to make sure I don't carry any left over traces or deleted copies of anything illegal. Which means just deleting files won't do if I ever want to bring a laptop (or external hard drive or memory stick) with me, I'll have to use software that really wipes the drive.

I understand border patrol already had this kind of legal power before, for foreign citizens trying to enter the US, but even US citizens can be subject to these searches now. So, just a word of caution in case you happen to bring your own laptop with you on vacation.

22:50:02 - 07/28/06 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - 1 comment karma: 19 [+/-]

28 June 2006

You Have The Right To ... Protect Yourself, Actually

I could have sworn I mentioned something like this before, but I cannot find it using the search function of the blog. So maybe I just dreamed it. Anyway, BoingBoing mentioned a (pretty corny but) useful video that explains your rights as an American citizen when it comes to dealing with the police. It gives some good information on your rights when it comes to warrantless searches, and provides some info on how to exercise your rights and protect yourself.

The ACLU has some good “Know your rights” pamphlets and pocket card that list your rights as well. Although I am not a US citizen, I do plan to keep this information in mind, since you never know what might happen. Info is also available on the Flex Your Rights website. Which is the one I thought I saw before.

It can't hurt to be prepared. I have to admit I wouldn't know for sure how all this would hold up or work in The Netherlands, but I'm taking a few pointers from this anyway. I wish there was an easy to understand site like this that was more useful for my own daily life.

22:17:47 - 06/28/06 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 14 [+/-]

20 June 2006

Dutch Ed2k Link Site Owners On Trial

The people who were behind the sites Releases4u and Shareconnector (mentioned in previous posts) are currently on trial in The Netherlands. The prosecutor has decided to bring out the big guns. The site owners are not only accused of copyright crimes, but they are also accused of “belonging to a criminal organisation”. The maximum penalty for that offense is six years in prison, as opposed to four years and a fine for the copyright crime.

Both Releases4u and Shareconnector were like the dime a dozen sites you see everywhere, providing hash links to files on the eDonkey network. Such links have been ruled illegal in previous cases. It will be interesting to see what kind of ruling will come from this trial. I don't think trials will really stop file sharers and downloaders. This has been going on for such a long time, and it seems to be even more mainstream than a while back. If trials don't have the right effect, perhaps it is time for legislators to come up with a different copyright law that will allow for file sharing, but at a certain cost. And I don't mean the cost of going to jail.

I am not sure if regular political parties are willing to have a go at such a change of law though. Maybe we need a Dutch chapter of the Swedish “Pirate Party” for that.



22:12:26 - 06/20/06 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 14 [+/-]

08 April 2006

The Da Vinci Code's Lawful Inspiration

Back in 2004, I mentioned a lawsuit against Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Now the ruling is in, and it is a ruling in favor of Dan Brown.

Although it is now established that Brown did heavily use The holy blood and the holy grail for his inspiration in some areas, the resulting fiction does not constitute a copyright infringement. This must no doubt be a major disappointment for the authors of Holy blood, but it's probably a good result for fiction authors. There's only so many original ideas one can come up with, and there are bound to be similarities between books. I'll be careful in this case though, since I still haven't read Holy blood yet.

[Buy] Holy blood, holy grail
[Buy] The Da Vinci Code


21:23:27 - 04/08/06 - RB - Category: Legal issues - - No comments karma: 18 [+/-]
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