Archive for November, 2006

Barney Loses

30 November 2006

Barney (and his lawyers) have backed down from an alleged copyright issue, according to the EFF.  Stuart Frankel, a website publisher, made a parody involving Barney, which lawyers said was  a copyright violation.  The EFF maintains though that it was non-infringing, protected use.  The Barney lawyers have withdrawn their legal threats and agreed to compensate Mr. Frankel for the cost of defending himself.

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Stored Messages Must Be Safe

29 November 2006

Messages such as e-mail cannot be read without a search warrant, according to the EFF, after a court decision found the Stored Communication Act (SCA) to be unconstitutional and in violation of the fourth amendment.

The SCA had previously allowed for searches of e-mail stored by a third party (such as GMail or Hotmail) without a warrant.

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ACLU Opposes Defamation Lawsuit

28 November 2006

The ACLU filed a response to a suit against Jonathan Daly-LaBelle, of South Kingston, Rhode Island, according to the ACLU article. Daly-LaBelle circulated flyers, based on news reports, regarding Andrew Bilodeau, a candidate in a close race. Bilodeau filed suit claiming defamation.

The ACLU asked that the lawsuit be dismissed and that Daly-Labelle be compensated under the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. The ACLU says that the lawsuit was intended to discourage Daly-LaBelle from exercising his right to free speech.

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“Aggression Detectors” Hoped to Increase Camera Use

27 November 2006

London police are considering adding “aggression detectors” to CCTV cameras, according to CNet. The devices, which are already in streets, prisons, and railways of the Netherlands, are said to detect aggression in voices, which then tell whoever is monitoring the cameras to look at whichever camera is detecting it, allowing an individual to monitor more cameras.

Since in 1999 the average city resident in the UK was on camera once every five minutes, and the number of cameras has been growing, more cameras is just what Britain needs, especially the flying ones that some government officials hope to develop.

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Gay Couple Waiting for Adoption Ruling

26 November 2006

Ed Swaya and Gregory Hampel, who adopted their daughter, Vivian, at her birth, have sued Oklahoma for refusing to recognize their adoption of her, according to the Los Angeles Times. Vivian was born in 2002 and her birth mother agreed to have Swaya and Hampel adopt her.

Oklahoma officials say that they want “to halt the erosion of the mainstream definition of the family unit and provide the possibility for the optimal environment for the child’s development in a home with a male parent and a female parent.” Numerous studies, however, have concluded that being raised by same-sex parents does not harm a child at all.

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Dems Want to Know About Databases

25 November 2006

Senate Democrats have announced that they want to see the databases of information collected by the Pentagon on peace activists, according to MSNBC.

Though the Pentagon has admitted it was mistaken in collecting information regarding 186 antiwar protests, it claims that the problem has been fixed. Democrats are not content with this however, nor should they be. Congress members say they want to know what data was collected as well as why and how the Pentagon intended to use it.

Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, stated, “I fully intend to ask what’s in those databanks, because many of them go way beyond any legitimate needs for our security.”

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US Democracy Ranked 17th

24 November 2006

The Economist (PDF file) recently published an index of the world’s democracies, which ranked the US 17th. The rankings were based on five aspects: Electoral Process and Pluralism; Functioning of Government; Political Participation; Political Culture; and Civil Liberties.

Sweden was the highest ranking, with an overall score of 9.88 out of ten. The US had an overall score of 8.22. North Korea was unsurprisingly last with an overall score of 1.03.

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Update on ACLU Vs. Gonzales

23 November 2006

The ACLU Vs. Gonzales trial ended on the 20th, according to the ACLU, though a ruling is now expected for several months. The ACLU challenged the Child Online Protection Act, which was signed into law in 1998 by Bill Clinton but never enforced. The act would punish individuals, with fines up to $50,000 per day and six months of jail time, for material that is useful to adults but that could be “harmful to minors.”

As part of its defense, the government conducted a study that estimated about 1.1% of online material cataloged by search engines is sexually explicit. However, about 50% of that material is hosted outside the US and so would not be subject to US laws, whereas America Online’s filter blocked about 98% of the material.

One of the main problems with the law is that it could easily apply to websites that, though not pornographic or encouraging smoking or the like, could be deemed “harmful to minors,” such as online dictionaries that define words not suitable for young children or websites about safe sex practices, rap artists, and writers, among others.

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Wiretapping Documents Kept Secret

22 November 2006

A federal judge said Monday that the NSA is not required to release information about its wiretapping program, according to MSNBC. The People for the American Way Foundation sued to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how many wiretaps were approved and who reviewed the program.

The NSA denied the request, saying it could jeopardize national security. If terrorists knew how many people had been wiretapped, they might be able to discover exactly how suspicious you have to be to be wiretapped and thus could learn to stay just under the radar. And since there is no reason that people might want to know how many times the fourth amendment was violated and who reviewed the program, it was a perfectly reasonable decision on the NSA’s part.

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Libel Suits Can’t be Against Those Who Copy It

21 November 2006

California’s Supreme Court recently ruled that internet users such as bloggers and posters on forums can’t be sued for posting defamatory statements that were made by others, according to MSNBC. Previously this immunity had been given to Internet Service Providers, but it has now been extended to individuals.

People who believe that they were defamed on the internet must now seek the original source of the statement, and cannot sue people who copy it.

The court’s ruling was unanimous.

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