May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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I Knew You Were Going To Read This, But Then You Already Told Me, Didn't You?

You see, MIPTC has that super-secret tracking software. Every time you click, we track. Even when you search. ;-)

Where did we get the idea?

Well, it was Amazon. Check out that last link. Amazon's tracking software not only tracks what you've been buying (that shouldn't come as much of a surprise), but Amazon also knows what you're going to buy next, with a fairly high degree of accuracy - even if you don't.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone. In tonight's episode, "you're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination."

Maybe we should have imagined it. Computers that know what we're going to do before we do. I think there was a Star Trek episode about that, too. It's just a little spooky. Maybe a lot spooky. I'm not even sure what I'm going to do next, but if I stare at my computer long enough, maybe it will tell me. Then I'll know what to do, and realize I would have done that anyway.

It's deja vu, all over again.

There are other concerns, too. According to the Associated Press, the group Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility has expressed concern over the software's ability to track children's browsing habits. Other advocacy groups, such as Junkbusters, seek government intervention to ensure our privacy rights are respected. They want each of us to be able to edit our own online profiles that are created by these software programs.

Amazon is taking things a step further with an investment in 43 Things, a social networking tracking software. You enter your hopes, dreams and aspirations and get to see what others with the same interests want to do. Presumably, Amazon will turn that software into a profitable venture, perhaps tying the tracking aspects in with books and product sales. Maybe Chris at the Social Customer Manifesto or Stowe Boyd at Get Real may be able to give some insight on that point.

The idea, apparently, is to make purchases more convenient and more likely. Just what I need - more of what I need.

Oh, about tracking what you read on MIPTC? Yes, I get usage statistics, but I don't know who you are, or what you'll read next. Just kidding about that part. I try to write about what I think is interesting, with the hope you'll think so, too.

Now, about buying that book .... Just look over there on the left and click. See, I knew you were going to do that.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 30, 2005 at 07:57. Comments Closed (0) |

Cable Broadband: More Like A Phone Or More Like The Internet?

How broad is your broadband? What I mean to ask is whether you consider your cable modem more like a telephone or more like an information service?

Do you even care?

You may not, but your wallet will.

That is, depending on what the Supreme Court has to say about this case. The Court will hear arguments on it this week.

What gives? It has to do with the first and second questions I asked. Here's the skinny: Last year, the Ninth Circuit decided the case of National Cable & Telecommunications Ass'n. v. Brand X Internet Services. The intermediate court determined that cable broadband service is a "telecommunication service" and not an "information service" as classified by the FCC.

The import is that telecommunications is regulated, say even heavily regulated. "Information services," on the other hand, are not. The dispute whether cable will be classified as one or the other has to do with control, and the ultimate regulator: money.

Yep, capitalism gets the rap once again. If your cable modem is equivalent to a telephone, then cable companies have to provide access to both Brand X and Earthlink. You know, just like AT&T had to open up its long distance lines for access by the smaller carriers.

On the other hand, if your cable modem is more like an information service, well, then cable companies wouldn't have to provide that access. They'd only be regulated by the cities and counties they operate in now, not by the FCC.

What about telephone companies that provide DSL? They're regulated by the FCC as "information services." It's the ISPs like Earthlink and Brand X that want the cable companies and the telephone companies to provide them with part of that uplink and downlink.

Cable has a sweet deal right now - it doesn't play in either field. No telephone-style regulations and it doesn't have to provide access to others. It has to answer only to cities and counties for periodic rate changes.

The FCC and telephone companies want cable classified as "information services." Surprisingly, the federal government believes less regulation will foster competition - and innovation. Other government officials, like the California Public Utilities Commission argue the other side: without regulation, consumers are at the mercy of the cable companies for pricing of services.

Funny, I thought that's what happens every year when we renew the cable company franchise in our cities.

Whatever the decision is, it will affect some 19 million of us (me included), and forever affect how we pay for internet access. Most important, however, will be whether money will go toward complying with regulations or developing the internet.

How do you vote?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 29, 2005 at 00:11. Comments Closed (0) |

Megamonolithic Law Merger Mania

News on the Street. It's another big merger.

Want some inside information? Ready to call your broker?

Don't reach for the phone just yet.

It's a new law firm. Pillsbury Winthrop, formerly known as PMS, is merging with Shaw Pittman.

900+ lawyers. I don't know what they're calling it - perhaps PWSP. Sounds like one of those new-fangled gizmos they sell on TV.

Bruce talks about the AMLAW 100. These guys are in the top 20. Just what we need - another megafirm sweeping up. Well, don't worry, WLF isn't merging with anybody this week.

Maybe next week.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 28, 2005 at 00:32. Comments Closed (0) |

Gambling With Your Retirement Money?

As you hurtle toward retirement, the last thing you want to think about is gambling with your money.

Let me make a suggestion if you're sitting around today wondering just how much money you'll need. Try this: the Monte Carlo simulation.

It will teach you how to save money, not put it on red - or the green table, for that matter.

You'll be the wiser for it.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, March 27, 2005 at 00:43. Comments Closed (0) |

The Recall You Never Want To See

Or, How Does A Manufacturer Tactfully Communicate A Condom Recall?

Product recalls are never something that consumers or companies look forward to, but they are important to both parties. When I caught this headline, however, I struggled to decide which party would be more mortified, company or consumer.

With most product recalls, the consumer knows if the product has failed at the time of the recall and the company can provide a replacement, fix the problem, or refund the purchase price. If they recall your tires, you tend to remember if you’ve had a recent blow-out (no pun intended) or a roll-over.

If there's no harm, then there's no foul, right?

In this case, the possibility of the consumer (user) or the user's partner knowing of a malfunction is not nearly as certain. It may be anywhere from a few weeks or months before anyone realizes that the product failed. Certainly, in nine months the "failure" (if that's even the right word) will become certain. So what does the remedy against the manufacturer become? Returning any unused product for a refund doesn’t sound real satisfying to me, and a replacement definitely is not going to solve the result. What about fixing it? Well, let's just leave that one alone.

Here, the recalling company’s mission is "quality, excellence, value, and 100% customer satisfaction." With successful product use dependent both on the proper use of the product and product integrity, it would be difficult to determine the cause of failure in any case. So do consumers have any additional rights against a company once it admits to a faulty product? To be honest, I haven't taken Remedies yet, and have no idea -- but would love to hear the thoughts of any products liability experts out there.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Michel J. Ayer on Saturday, March 26, 2005 at 16:04. Comments Closed (2) |

Ireland Proclaims Year-old Smoking Ban A Success

On the heels of St. Patrick's Day, "Kiss me, I'm Irish" has taken on a new meaning across Ireland. No longer do many Irish men and women taste like an ashtray.

The smoking ban enacted across Ireland last year has been a resounding success. The government claims a 94%-97% compliance rate, fueled by two factors:
  • 70% of the population doesn't smoke anyway; and,
  • fines are stiff: the equivalent of $3,900 per violation.
If you're looking to light up, check out Action on Smoking and Health first. If you're a cigar smoker like me, smoke 'em while you got 'em.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, March 25, 2005 at 12:46. Comments Closed (0) |

Can Profit and Social Responsibility Drink Together?

Is Starbucks evil? There are, on the other hand, Starbucks devotees who would argue against that question to the end of the earth.

Some need Starbucks to survive. They can't do without their morning constitution. It's almost like a feeding tube, if you'll excuse the allegory. Some 20 state court judges and three federal courts couldn't keep people out of the joint.

What if what was yanked instead was money? Would we be as tolerant?

Starbucks has teamed up with Jim Beam and is now offering coffee with a kick: coffee liqueur. Caffeine and liquor in the same drink - it's nothing but confusing. Can't tell whether it's an upper or a downer.

Believing the new drink was not "socially responsible," Pax World Funds dropped some $23.5 million of its holdings in the coffee drink maker. They pulled the plug. That, however, after first requesting Starbucks to drop the alcoholic concoction. What? Did they think the "bucks" part of the name had nothing to do with profit?

Liquor makes money; it has always made money and it will continue to make money. If there's one constant in the world ... well, add a few more like tobacco, gambling ... and you get the idea.

Right. I forgot one: chocolate.

It would appear that Pax World recognizes that in being socially responsible, it will give up profit. That's OK, as long as you know what you're getting into ahead of time. My Mom's pension from the United Church of Christ is much less than her pension from the Episcopalian church. Guess which one invests in a "socially responsible" manner and which one invests in liquor companies?

The question I have is this: will Pax World's investors back up the decision to back out of Starbucks, and likewise boycott their morning fix? Or will the profiteers back out of Pax World and instead invest in another mutual fund with profit as a pure motive?

Guess it depends on whether you have your living will made out and are staring down retirement, or whether you've got a different bottom line in mind.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 22:51. Comments Closed (0) |

Associated Press Offers News Feeds Through RSS

Here's a concept you might not have thought of: RSS feeds from the Associated Press. Before, you had to be a news outlet to get these feeds, and they were fairly expensive.

Now, all you have to do is click. Ain't the internet great?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 00:15. Comments Closed (0) |



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