legalese

31
Jul

Making the breast mandatory

Apparently, new mothers in New York who want to use formula instead of breastfeeding will have to sign out the infant formula like a prescription. 

Choosing to breastfeed, and for most women in the civilized world, is just that, a choice. Children who are fed infant formula still grow up big and strong. In fact, at least initially, they generally grow bigger and stronger than their breastfed peers. Eventually, the breast fed kids catch up.

For many women, breastfeeding can be difficult, or painful, or damn near impossible. Making it harder for them to choose not to breastfeed doesn't help them.

What people forget, especially those who are passionate about breastfeeding (you know who you are), is that whether or not it's better for the child, bringing up baby isn't just about the baby. If the mother isn't healthy, or she's stressed out about not being able to adequately feed her child, the baby isn't going to do well either. It's about mother and child, not just child.

If you want to breastfeed, great. If you want to educate people on the benefits of breastfeeding, great. Do so. But don't put the formula under lock and key. Don't make new mothers feel like trash because they'd rather use formula. That's just plain mean. And it's just not right.

To read all about it at the Huffington Post, click here.

12
Jul

When Does Watching TV Become A Crime?

There's a fascinating legal case working its way through the courts, and it's all about watching television. I'll tell you about it in a few minutes, but first I want you to join me in a little thought experiment. Read each of the following scenarios, then decide at which point you are starting to break the law. At what point do you become a pirate? If at any point you decide that you've crossed a line, take a moment to ask yourself why you've crossed it. What did you do that was different, thereby making you a criminal?

Let's start with an easy one. You own a television which you purchased at your local electronics superstore. It's paid for and you owe no money. You turn on that television and sit down to watch a show. You have cable services delivered to your house via the local big name telecom, a company whose services you pay for, month to month. Are you breaking any laws? Are you a pirate?

The second example is the same as above except that you record your shows to watch later. You may even fast forward through the commercials. Are you violating any copyright laws or engaging in piracy?

What if you have an antenna (remember those) and you pluck the signals out of the air? Here again, you might record the shows to watch later.

What if you record those shows, not on tape, but on a hard drive?

What if you decide to watch the show you recorded, not on your television, but on your tablet while you exercise on your treadmill? Are you now a criminal?

Instead of outright buying your antenna, you rent it from someone. How about now?

You decide you don't like that unsightly antenna at the side of your house, so you pay a company that puts up the antenna for you. They live a couple of blocks away and run a cable to your house. You might occasionally watch the shows on television (live) and you may sometimes record those shows, possibly on your hard drive to watch on your tablet while you pedal away on your exercise bike. Have any laws been broken yet? Has somebody's copyright been violated? Are you complicit in the committing of any crime?

Now, the company that puts up the antenna for you is on the other side of town. Rather than running a cable, they let you access the signal from the over the air capture (still using an antenna) using your Internet connection. The unsightly cables are gone and you just use whatever device you want to watch your TV shows. Are you now involved in piracy? Are you yourself a criminal or aiding and abetting a criminal?

These are tough questions, and that's the reason the judge hearing the case of Aereo vs the big name networks doesn't see it as an open and shut case. ABC, NBC, and others went to court to shut down the service provided by Aereo, seeking at the very least, an injunction to block the company until the case was heard. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan said "No", taking 52 pages to explain that "No".

No one would suggest that you are breaking any law by putting up an antenna and capturing the signals wafting through the ether, whether or not you record the shows and store them on your hard drive to watch later. No sane person anyhow.

What Aereo does is put up little TV antennas all over the place, capture the over the air signals, then stream the signals to customers over their Internet connection. Aereo is renting access to their antennas and, by extension, what those antennas pick up.

Where do you draw the line? Do you? And why?

Whatever your answer, and I'd love to hear it, this is going to be a fascinating case to follow.

14
Jun

Copyright and your right to sell

I wanted to share an interesting article I ran across in that the implications cross over into many areas, some that have been heralded as the heart of the open source philosophy. Specifically, I'm talking about your right to copy, share, and resell what you own and, in some cases, what you think you own. For the background, start by reading this article over at The Atlantic.

In the world of Free Software, most of us understand that copyright isn't the same thing as ownership. Copyright is, in a sense, the right of the creator to define the terms under which his or her work is reproduced, shared, or sold. If you use software copyrighted and licensed under the GPL, the copyright holders allow you to modify, copy, and redistribute the work as you see fit under a share and share alike sort of agreement. In that way, we all 'own' the product or the software. If you improve the product, you must return those improvements to the community.You can also make copies and charge a reasonable fee to redistribute your copies. There's certainly no issue with you reselling your PC loaded with Fedora or Ubuntu.

Or so you might have thought.

In the case of the above article, your rights to resell even the hardware on which your free software resides are in question. By the simple act of branding, it may become a legal requirement that you obtain permission from every copyright or brand holder before you are allowed to resell your hardware. "Designed in the US by Apple and assembled in China by Quinhai Investments" with parts by another dozen companies might require that you obtain permission from every single one of the companies involved before you sell on Craiglist. In essense, you may not be able to legally resell pretty much anything.

Historically, the copyright holder has the right of controlling only the first sale. Once you bought the copyrighted work, you are free to resell it. You can't make copies and violate copyright in that way, but if you're done with that Stephen King bestseller, you can put it out at your garage sale, or give it away to a friend. They, in turn, can also try to make a few pennies off it at a later time. This rule applies to books, CDs, televisions, cars, planes, trains, you name it. Except that this rule is being challenged with companies arguing that the "made by" imprint or logo allows them to define what happens to that product and whether you, as the purchaser, can legally resell  that product.

The impact on computer recyclers who donate rebuilt and reconditioned PCs to charity could be devastating. The environmental and economic impact could also have reverberations you can monitor on the Richter Scale. If your only choice for an upgrade is to dispose of your earlier product, the landfills will grow at an alarming rate. If people must always spend more, with no hope of recouping any of their investment in a device, they face the choice of going further in debt, or simply choosing not to buy. Either of these last two scenarios carry large economic penalties.

Furthermore, there may also be legal requirements that you can only purchase product sold in approved countries. By purchasing that Samsung tablet from another country while Apple has an injunction in your country, you may be committing a crime. Costco was sued for selling Omega watches it purchased abroad in their North American stores. The reason? The price they were able to charge was too low for what Omega demanded of North American consumers.

And we aren't just talking about electronics here . . . your car or your house are also up for grabs. Is there a Honeywell thermostat on the wall inside? Maybe Honeywell doesn't want you to sell to someone who might replace that thermostat with another brand. Did the builder advertise the inside paint as Benjamin Moore? You may need to contact them before you resell since you may need an assurance from the buyer that they won't tamper with that company's product. That Italian tile in the kitchen may look dated but removing it to sell the house may be out of the question.

The implications of this case, currently before the Supreme Court, are mind-boggling. Free Software may be the only refuge, assuming you can get some Free Hardware to go with it.

Edited: Today, October 29, 2012, the case is expected to be decided. Ars Technica has a story to catch you up on everthing that is happening or has happened.

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