≡ Menu
Got a Kindle (or the App), Prime, and Need a Hornbook? 80% Off TODAY on Amazon post image

Looks like Amazon is having a fire sale (no pun intended) on hornbooks today. Come on, little buddy, there’s no shame in picking yourself up a well-organized outline on basic federal income tax. We all know your professor is just winging it anyway.

You don’t need a Kindle for this sale — it’ll deliver to any of your Kindle apps (on iOS, Android, Windows, OS X, etc.).

Gavel bang to @anthroflutist for bringing the sale to our attention. Let us know what you pick up.

privacy screen

Legal Geekery Roundup for 12.2.2011

  • The Copyright Office recently sought submissions for new exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The EFF yesterday filed a comment with the Office seeking an extension of last year’s exceptions for phones and remix videos, and urged that the Office expand its protection to the jailbreaking of smartphones, electronic tablets, and game consoles. Hypothetically, if I had a modded xbox 360 sitting at home, it would be nice to know that it wasn’t violative of the DMCA.
  • According to a CBS report, 20% of wireless 911 calls are made inadvertently. I’d also like to take a moment to recognize the stupidity of making the 9 digit synonymous with reaching an outside line. The first two digits I press on my phone are 9 and 1. One double tap, and the police show up at my lab. Again, hypothetically.
  • Carrier IQ is alleged to have silently recorded data from potentially millions of smart phone users. The first class action suit alleging violation of the Federal Wiretap Act was filed against Carrier IQ yesterday in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
  • You know those privacy screens some people in your office use? They’re pretty lame and mostly ineffective. Why not perform this relatively straight-forward hack and make the screen invisible without polarized glasses? I’m definitely doing this.


1 comment
Podcast Art – Imaginary Josh and Laura


  • Josh grills Laura on what it’s like to be a real lawyer, and we find out what she’s been doing with herself.
  • Josh went to Mexico and worked on a law review article pertaining to the First Sale Doctrine.
  • Legal Geekery has been tweaked a bit, and now features Matthew Butterick’s Equity font!
  • You may have noticed, but Josh has been trying to update LG at least once per day for NoBloPoMo. [click to continue…]
1 comment

It’s a popular week for judges ordering people to turn over their social media accounts to third parties. On Thursday, a US district court judge ordered Icelandic Minister of Parliament and former Wikileaks volunteer, Birgitta Jondottir, to release her login credentials to the Justice Department. Additionally, the court opined that users have a lessened expectation of privacy with respect to their IP addresses, particularly where they agree to Twitter’s Terms of Service.


Legal Geekery Roundup for 11.11.2011

  • Justice Stevens defends his Kelo opinion while simultaneously criticizing Justice O’Connor for alleged inconsistencies in her dissenting opinion.
  • If you play video games on your computer, it’s likely that your personal information, and maybe your credit card, were compromised in the recent Steam hacking. Lifehacker has some tips on what you should do if you have a Steam account.
  • Gizmodo makes some persuasive arguments about why you should be very concerned about the HR 3035 bill, which would effectively legalize most robocaller services.
  • While I don’t typically report on legal gossip, apropos of Veteran’s Day, Above the Law today published what can only be labeled a diatribe written by Professor Michael Avery of Suffolk Law School. In the email, he vehemently objects to students soliciting the staff for donations that would go into care packages for deployed American soldiers. Incidentally, this man was largely responsible for my decision to cross Suffolk Law off my list of potential law schools.
  • Judge orders divorcing couple to exchange dating website and Facebook login credentials, in violation of Terms of Service. I guess we finally have definitive proof that absolutely no one reads click-wrap agreements.

You can find all of these links, as well as previous Roundups, on our Delicious page.

[Edit 11.12.11: Factual correction thanks to Louis Grube]




FCC Net Neutrality Rules Withstand Legislative Vote

Today the Senate voted down a bill that would have overturned the FCC’s new Net Neutrality Rules. The current Rules are set to enter into force on November 20, although we can certainly anticipate a last ditch attempt at a preliminary injunction by the wireless providers.


Legal Geekery Roundup for 11.09.2011


How Best to Get Caffeine Into Your Body

Gavel bang to Ed Walters’ Google+ page for bringing this chart to my attention. Obviously as “persons interested in the law” it’s important for us to know how to get caffeine into our bodies without all those pesky calories. Infographic from the good people at Information is Beautiful.



Why You Shouldn’t Think of Virtual Property As Real Property

I was inspired to write this post following Josh Fenton‘s recent appearance on TWiL. Denise Howell asked Mr. Fenton whether he believed that existing laws should be interpreted to encompass the internet and applied accordingly, or whether new laws should be drafted and previous laws updated in lieu of the omnipresence of the internet. The relevant transcript from the podcast follows:

Denise Howell: Josh, you had a piece on your JetLawyer site that I read that was basically urging . . . we’ve talked about cyberspace exceptionalism before on the show — a term that Eric Goldman uses quite a bit, and your piece on your site was basically arguing against that. That you should treat property in the real world and property when it takes the form of bits the same way. I’m wondering if you feel like there’s a parallel here as we’re talking about communications. Should you treat them differently when they’re in the form of bits?

Josh Fenton: I don’t think so. I think that the easiest way to deal with the questions that arise in the digital age is to make the connection to the analog concepts that existed before the internet came along. And to that extent, things like piracy, and conventional larceny, they are comparable.

I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Fenton here because I think that his position that old laws should be interpreted to encompass the internet is perfectly reasonable. In fact, such a position was my gut reaction when posed this same question by Professor H. Brian Holland during his cyberlaw course. More to the point, I can appreciate that it might be the default position of a digital progressive. The internet is a ubiquitous part of our lives, and many of our daily activities on the internet have real-life analogs: chatrooms are like parties; instant messages are like phone conversations; email is like snail mail; YouTube is like television; blogs are like newspapers (or journals, depending on the blog). So it’s easy to appreciate why people like myself, who have effectively grown up using the internet, might assume that the easiest solution to legal questions arising in light of the internet is to treat the virtual world like the real world.

If advocates would simply acknowledge the issue as a legitimate concern, and offer an argument as to why it should not govern, their counter policy arguments would seem much more credible.

The problem is that every single example I gave above is far more complex than its real life analog. Imagine that I’m hosting a party and I want to play a board game with my friends. I’ve already gone out and purchased the game, it’s in my house, and we’re ready to go. No complex issues of law arise. Now imagine that I want to play the same board game in a chatroom.1 Perhaps the easiest solution is to take a digital picture of the actual board or stream a video of the board over the course of the night. Can I transmit those images to the chatroom? Have I already violated various trademarks and copyrights just by taking the picture? Suppose I digitize the entire board game for archival purposes, converting manuals into PDFs and using high resolution images for the content, and then my computer is hacked, and a copy of the game is made and downloaded from my computer. The latter hypothetical is particularly apposite because traditionally speaking, I will have been entirely divested of the tangible property if it’s stolen from me. This is especially true where the original copy of the “good” was digitally distributed. The hacker now finds himself with an exact copy of the software I purchased, with no degradation in quality whatsoever.2  Am I now culpable for negligently assisting in infringement?

Regardless of how superficially similar the virtual world may appear to the real world, we are faced with an entirely new set of problems that have arisen merely by virtue of the prevalence of goods that can be infinitely copied without loss of quality. For the most part, these problems could never have been anticipated by the legislature, and expecting their rationale for enacting these laws to hold up in light of new problems that arise only in a digital medium is presumptuous at best.

I am strongly in favor of giving citizens the traditional property rights to which they have grown accustomed over the centuries

Does that mean that intellectual property owners should have a trump card that reads, “I need X because my property is infinitely reproducible and I need protection?” No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that these arguments shouldn’t be thoughtlessly dismissed. I read far too many scholarly articles that advocate for laws more favorable to internet consumers, that subsequently fail to address the issue of harm to producers in light of infringement. In actuality, I have found that these types of arguments made by content producers generally are meritless (e.g. the producer claims to need more stringent protections on its IP even where its revenue derived from IP is consistently outperforming other aspects of its business and thriving in an economic downturn). If advocates would simply acknowledge the issue as a legitimate concern, and offer an argument as to why it should not govern, their counter policy arguments would seem much more credible.

Please do not misunderstand me: I am strongly in favor of giving citizens the traditional property rights to which they have grown accustomed over the centuries,3 but in our fight for digital equality, I firmly believe that ignoring the fact that tangible property and virtual property are fundamentally different only hurts the cause.

[Photo Credit to Erik Mallinson]


  1. First, consider that such a task was likely impossible prior to the invention of the internet. []
  2. In the real world, a tangible good will exhibit some quality loss when it’s reproduced thereby rendering copies, for the most part, less valuable. []
  3. See, e.g., the law review article I am currently writing advocating for the application of the First Sale Doctrine in most instances where companies purport to be licensing rather than selling goods. []