Quote of the Day - I did not attend his funeral, but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved it.
As If We Didn't Get Enough Junk Mail AlreadyWhile you weren't watching, Pioneer Electronics has been watching out for your privacy rights. Sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it? A big company watching out for the little guys like you and me.
What may surprise you even more was who was not watching out for your privacy rights.
Someone who ostensibly was trying to protect your rights against big companies - a regular guy like you and me. But that's only part of the story. You see, I haven't been completely honest with you.
Here's what's really going on. Both sides in this dispute were really looking out for there own interests. Let me explain. The Plaintiff in this case, Patrick Olmstead bought a DVD player from Pioneer. He claimed it was defective, and brought a class action suit against Pioneer. In the discovery process, Olmstead found out that 700-800 of us complained to Pioneer about the same DVD player.
Olmstead had found his class of Plaintiffs, and Pioneer's troubles were about to multiply by a factor of 700-800. That's what I wasn't completely honest with you about. Pioneer obviously didn't want a class action lawsuit, and Omstead (read: Olmstead's lawyers) wanted a bigger class to earn more attorneys fees.
Olmstead wanted the names and addresses of the people who had complained to Pioneer. To keep the class size as small as possible, Pioneer sought to enforce yours and my privacy rights. The company argued that we had a right to determine - before opting in or opting out of the class - whether we wanted to give our private information to Mr. Olmstead and his lawyers.
Pioneer has just succeeded in establishing another roadblock to class action suits. Now, before we get those 20-page class action notifications in six-point type that requires us to fill out five pages of blank lines without instructions seeking forgotten information and submit 30 box-top ends with the SKUs on them from software long since thrown away just to get our measly $2.25 individual share of the $1.1 billion settlement with Microsoft, we get one more piece of junk mail.
Just what we need: A letter from the court asking us if we want to give our private information to today's hero who is protecting our interests and taking most of the settlement payment in the form of attorneys fees.
Did I hit a chord with you? Not that I wanted to get on a rant here, but ...
New Server, New RSS Feeds, Same MIPTC Legal News and ObservationsMIPTC has finished its move to a new server, so podcasts will return in short order, and videocasts will start again in a week or so. As you may remember, we ran out of space at one gigabite of storage. The new server has 25 gigs, so we should be OK for awhile.
One unintended consequence of the switchover, however, is that the RSS and Podcast feeds now have new URL addresses. So, if you read or listen to MIPTC via your RSS feed, please click on the new URL and update your feed. We apologize for the inconvenience, but since you work on computers, you likely understand that nothing associated with servers, computers, feeds and the like rarely goes as smoothly as you would like.
Thanks for your indulgence, and thanks for reading and listening. We thank you for your support.
Si Vou Plait, Eh? English For French Quebecers? Non!Eh? It's Canada, and it's cold. But then again, that's a good thing considering where I am. Possible snowfall tonight, and great skiing tomorrow.
I'm in Whistler for a week-long international law conference.
So, you'll understand if you hear this week about Quebec's language law issues, and other Canadian mishaps.
If you're French in Quebec, your child won't have ready access to English schools. That upsets some, and pleases others. The Canadian Supreme Court upheld the Quebec law restricting access to English schools, ruling that restricting access to English-language education is constitutionally valid.
It just depends on what language you speak, and what language you want to speak.
A Jiffy Utility To Size Your Windows To Your Specs, Not Microsoft'sLooking for that perfect program to do exactly what you want?
Are you frustrated with Windows having a mind of its own when it comes to window sizes? One day it's full-sized, the next day it's half-sized and not completely on your computer screen, with one side off to the right or left.
Well, take charge of Windows' windows like you never have before. Try Autosizer, a peach of a program that eliminates one of life's little annoyances.
And you don't need a little blue pill to make it work.
Welcome News To Your In-Box
A Death Knell For Email Spam?One of the nation’s most prolific spammers was sentenced to nine years in prison early yesterday after being convicted in November under Virginia Law. He stood accused of sending unsolicited bulk email while masking his identity. Although the judge postponed the sentence while the case is appealed, the spammer’s comment to the judge that he would “not be involved in the e-mail marketing business again,” is positive news to my inbox.
The amount of time I spend each day sorting through multiple email accounts to filter out spam could certainly be used more efficiently elsewhere. How much Canadian herbal male enhancer do I really need anyway? In addition, I know that there must be legitimate email from friends and colleagues that I accidentally delete in the process. The last thing I need is to accidentally dump some vital email from my bank or student loan processor.
This is not the first time that MIPTC has lamented the invasion of our privacy through spam, junk mail, unsolicited telemarketers, or junk faxes and I am sure it won’t be the last. The Federal Do-Not-Call list has done wonders to lead to peaceful pleasant dinners at my house, but spam still ruins my morning café.
Texas Messes With Mars Mineral RightsTexas is a big state. So big, in fact, that if you want to file a mining claim, you can, as you would expect. Not only in Texas, but also on Mars. That's right. In Texas. For mining and mineral claims on Mars. You know, the planet Mars.
In fact, you can get licensed in Texas for just about anything.
So it shouldn't surprise you that Texas allows people to record mining and mineral claims for other, celestial bodies. Don't mess with Texas, right?
If Texans are batty enough to give people a legal basis to sue NASA for trespassing on those mining claims, then this headline shouldn't surprise you either:
"Man Who Represented Himself Appeals Competence of Attorney."
Go ahead. Read that headline again. Even once more, if it just seems too incredible to be true. Yep, your eyes do not deceive you - you got it - an in pro per Defendant claims that he shouldn't have been able to represent himself, and because the judge allowed him to, he should be given a retrial.
So what's the connection with Texas? According to the Law.com link above, our hero Defendant Thomas P. Budnick "tried to file and peddle mining claims in such diverse places as George's Bank, the asteroid belt, Mars and the moons of Jupiter. After trying several states without success, he finally persuaded Texas authorities to accept his astral mineral rights claims in 1984."
I don't even know what "astral mineral rights" are, but I know I want some. Especially if somebody's buying them.
But let's get back to our hero. Right after he got out of a mental hospital, he was accused of giving poison, otherwise used to polish meteorites, to one of his friends - in a beer. His appeal is from the lesser of two charges, assault with a dangerous weapon. He was acquitted of the primary charge of attempted poisoning. Not bad for a guy who defended himself. The lesser charge resulted in a two-year sentence, which is now on appeal.
Here's the kicker: Brudnick gets out of jail this summer. Somehow it all makes sense, doesn't it?
Attorneys Fees Loser Becomes The WinnerEveryone's got their hand out. What am I talking about? Well, what makes the world go around?
When there's an attorneys fees provision in a contract, the parties are justifiably concerned over who will be the prevailing party. You know, winner takes all. Especially when fees get high - in the hundreds of thousands and into the millions.
But let's get back to reality. Here's the setup:
You want to buy some land to build a house. Luckily, the land you want to buy is for sale. You both enter into escrow (aka "contract"). That escrow has an attorneys fees provision in it. Uh oh.
Yep, the dreaded consequence of loser pays. Don't get ahead of me, though.
The buyer and seller got into a dispute, as you expected they would. Then, they looked to the escrow contract and discovered the attorneys fees provision. The winners claimed they were entitled to recover attorneys fees.
The loser wasn't pleased with that outcome (an award of almost $400,000), and appealed. Who won? The loser.
Go figure. The court reasoned that the attorneys fees provision in the escrow contract was designed to deal with disputes that arose out of the performance of the escrow, not disputes between the buyer and seller that revolved around their relationship as buyer and seller.
Does it pay to be the winner?
11th Circuit Court Upholds Georgia's Invalidation Of Noncompete AgreementsNoncompete agreements have taken an entirely new twist, and it's no April Fool's joke. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Marsh McLennan Companies can't enforce its noncompete agreement with one of its executives.
Unfortunately for Marsh, the dispute ended up in a Georgia court, where the law on noncompete agreements is pretty tough. So tough, in fact, that if any one provision is invalid, then the entire agreement is deemed invalid.
No such thing as a savings clause to protect the remainder of the agreement. If you're a national or international company with offices in more than one state, then you may want to think about where you litigate these cases. In California, noncompete agreements are generally unenforceable. Trade secret agreements, on the other hand, are.
Depending on what type of agreement you've structured with your employees, you want to give some thought to what court you appear trying to enforce it. Marsh, in this instance, apparently found itself in the wrong forum, and now its noncompete agreements are invalid - across the country. There's a lot of that going around lately.