Crowd-sourcing Litigation Materials

Rapper/singer M.I.A. (Paper Planes) is in a big fight with the NFL. The dispute started when M.I.A. flipped the bird to the cameras during her live half-time show at the 2012 Superbowl. The NFL is pushing for $1.5 million, claiming damages to the NFL’s reputation (which its contract with M.I.A. refers to as “wholesome”). The case — it’s in arbitration pursuant to the terms of the agreement — has been moving somewhat slowly, but apparently the NFL recently began pushing for a resolution. In response to the latest push, M.I.A.’s lawyer Howard King intends to attack the NFL’s reputation, and is seeking help from the masses:

“We encourage people to submit their examples of how the actions of the NFL, its stars, coaches, advertisers, broadcasters, team doctors and owners have damaged or destroyed any vestiges of any reputation for wholesomeness ever enjoyed by the NFL. These submissions, which we plan to use to bolster M.I.A’s defense, will help balance the playing field, as they very well could eliminate the burden of undertaking a formal survey of the history of unwholesome behavior, can be made to the M.I.A defense team by email to”

It will be interesting to see if the crowds come through, or if King ends up with a bunch of E-mails saying, “not your personal army.”

via The Hollywood Reporter’s “Hollywood, Esq.” column

The Power of Technology

I am regularly amazed by the amount of computing power we carry around with us. This is especially true given that the potential for the “computing power” revolution was largely missed by many of those involved in computing as it started to grow:

“Computers in the future will weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
Popular Mechanics, 1949

Or maybe 112 grams (3.95 ounces)?

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Ken Olsen, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

Or maybe three out of four homes will have at least one computing device (2010 statistics; see table 1C; given that “handhelds” were included and the data is from 2010, I’m guessing that number has increased significantly)?

So much for the predicting (though Arthur C. Clarke seems to have gotten it largely right). [The “missed predictions article includes the now infamous Bill Gates “640K is more memory than anyone will ever need on a computer” quotation, but given that Gates has disavowed ever making this statement, and there’s no good proof that he did, it’s probably best to leave Gates out of this one.]

But even though the predictions were wrong, and many of us carry around significant amounts of computing power every day, we don’t always realize what it is that we have or just how much that power can do. Case in point:

Screen-shot-2013-04-11-at-8.04.52-AM-e1365682007248[1]Apparently you can hijack an airliner by hacking into the planes [sic] system with an android smart phone! reports that at a security conference in Amsterdam, hacker and researcher Hugo Teso demonstrated how to hijack a plane’s controls from the ground using his Android smartphone.

So, it can be done without the hacker having to be on the plane at all?! Creepy doesn’t even cover it! Teso exploited the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Report System (ACARS), which controls planes’ flight management systems and has very little in the way of security.

More details here and here; this is the full presentation in PDF. I remember being upset when I heard that people might hack the Hoover dam (hint, they can’t, it’s not connected to the Internet). But you can hack an insulin pump for diabetics. And the electric grid. And maybe those wireless brain implants (okay, those aren’t really in use yet, but once they are . . . ). Maybe this is all overplayed — the aircraft hack article ends with this claim from Honeywell, the company that makes the relevant systems:

“[T]he version he used of our flight management system is a publicly available PC simulation, and that doesn’t have the same protections against overwriting or corrupting as our certified flight software.”

I guess I’m still not particularly impressed, but I am intrigued by even the potential for a remote aircraft hack, and the policy and liability issues raised by this and other vulnerabilities as computing becomes more and more pervasive in our daily lives. Fascinating stuff.

Facebook Links Online with Offline

The Atlantic runs a story (citing the Financial Times) about how Facebook is working with Datalogix to link online advertising on Facebook with offline purchases by consumers:

Advertisers have complained that Facebook doesn’t give them any way to see if ads lead to buying. This new partnership is their response, as it connects real-life buying with ads seen on the site. Specifically, the service links up the 70 million households worth of purchasing information that Datalogix has with these buyers’ Facebook profiles. Using that, they can compare the ads you see with the stuff you buy and tell advertisers whether their ads are working.

That is, using your Facebook E-mail address and connecting that with your store loyalty card e-mail address, Datalogix will be able to say to (for example, CVS): “Yes, X saw an ad for CVS on Facebook and then showed up at your store and bought it.” The Atlantic article hints at the ramifications, especially given the types of stores that we can guess are participants in the program, and also notes that opt-out is a particularly insidious way to begin to tie our online lives to our offline lives.

The Atlantic helpfully provides a link to the Datalogix site to opt-out of the “service” (links included below) and notes that even finding the link on Facebook is like a treasure hunt. While on that site, I noticed that Datalogix also provides a link to opt-out of all Datalogix related tracking. The main “informational” Datalogix link (with the sublinks to opt-out) is here. To log out of the new Facebook program, use this link (it is a cookie based system, which means if you regularly clear your cookies, you may want to “protect” these opt-out cookies so that they’re maintained over time). But instead of using that direct link, try going to this page to see who else is part of Datalogix tracking, and decide who if anyone you really want to allow to continue to do that (they also offer a form-based link to opt-out of all Datalogix advertising, though that link requires you to enter your real name and home address).

The Atlantic story ends with a gentle attack on opt-out schemes, emphasizing that Facebook should at least make the opt-out option easy to find (something it has not done).

There is nothing surprising about this development. Facebook has been at the forefront of trying to eek more information out of its users and then seeking to commodify that information in as quiet a way as possible. In the past these kinds of changes have received significant pushback from users. While user outrage may also arise here, it may also be useful for users to go to the Datalogix site and opt-out of all Datalogix targeted advertising (not just that related to Facebook). If advertising service providers see that joining up with Facebook in one of Facebook’s now infamous submarine “opt-out” changes results not only in bad press about that particular pairing, but also brings them to the attention of users who then opt-out of all of that provider’s services, maybe the providers themselves will drive Facebook to use opt-in rather than opt-out as the presumptive choice when partnerships develop in the future.


How do you read books?

This may be a bit of an odd question; on a blog that often focuses on law and technology, you might reasonably think that when I ask “how do you read books?” I’m asking about whether you read in electronic from — on a tablet or  e-ink reader — or on paper. But that’s not what I’m asking.

Instead, I’m interested in knowing from a practical standpoint how scholars tackle the voluminous amount of worthwhile material that is being published these days (especially books). I am currently reading Julie Cohen’s excellent “Configuring the Networked Self: Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice.” It’s wonderful, with lots to think about, but I have many more books on my list to read just for one project I’m working on (on Cyborgs and Internet regulation; more on that later this year). Other books in my queue are Brett Frischmann’s “Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources,” Robert Merges’s “Justifying Intellectual Property,” Tim Wu’s “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires,” N. Katherine Hayles’s “How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics,” and Elias Aboujaoude’s “Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.” And I’m wondering: How do I get through them all? Not because I’m time pressured (in some ways I am, but in other ways I’m not), but because I want to. There is certain to be great stuff in all of these books. I want to read them.

That leads to the question: How do you read books? Do you sit down and read them, putting aside other work, class preparation, writing, etc., and just try to get through them one at a time? Do you read late at night, when the “work” of the day is done? Do you grab a minute to read when you can, picking them back up whenever you can grab an in-between moment? Do you take notes, highlight, write in the margins, or otherwise “mark up” as you read? Are you a naturally quick reader (I’m trying to avoid the “speed reading” moniker here)? Did you teach yourself to read quickly? Do you read with depth (ie, slowly, pondering points as they come up), or skim read, pulling the major arguments from each section and moving on?

As I try to improve the efficiency with which I read, while not losing any of the joy and value, I would really appreciate any thoughts on how you read books.

David Thorne Fights a Penguin

TIIAP_Penguin_book2Those interested in trademark disputes may enjoy  this story (at least in the telling). David Thorne published his 2011 book “The Internet is a Playground” with Penguin Press, and it included the Penguin Press logo on its spine.

His latest book, not published by Penguin, is entitled, “I’ll go Home Then; It’s Warm and Has Chairs” was originally marketed with a penguin on the cover (A penguin flipping the bird, as it were). He received a note from Penguin’s lawyers objecting to the penguin, followed by a letter, followed by more notes (with his responses in-between), and eventually changed the cover to one suggested by the publisher’s attorney.penguin8

I was sorely tempted to re-post the series of images showing development of the story here, but it’s well presented on Thorne’s site, 27b/6 (named after the apartment that George Orwell lived in while writing 1984) in the “We are angryface” story (alternatively labeled “Trademark Infringement and Dilution”), so go there and take a look.

Thorne’s approach to the entire “dispute” is much like his approach to everything else (satirical), and I caution you that he admits to “tweaking” the language of the e-mails contained in his posts for satirical purposes. Even if it’s not a verbatim transcript, it’s worth a read.

/edit/ Apparently my links are not showing as links (though they are live if you hover over them); here they are: