In re: Doesn’t California have better things to be doing?

Saw in the NY Times this morning that California has coming into effect soon a ban on foie gras. For those that don’t remember Chicago for a time passed a similarly dumb law. Why do I say dumb? Well for one foie gras is misunderstood – go watch how it’s made, the animals treated and compare that to your standard poultry operation and you will probably come to the conclusion that it should be chicken that is banned and not foie gras.
see article here


In re: Daily deals and the law

Interesting post over at TechCrunch discussing a number of legal issues touching on daily deals (and how they may be violating laws, especially consumer protection).  Like any area that is new and evolving its unclear what daily deals (Groupon, Living Social, Faveroo here in Columbus among others) are and you might be able to fit them under gift card laws, which the post at TechCrunch points out might put them at some odds with various state laws (Groupon does use some vague term language to hedge these issues, but they are setting up local merchants with some sticky issues).

I’ve been looking into issues like gift cards, bankruptcy, sales tax, and alcohol regulations. These might all sound esoteric and not really worthy of discussion, but the outcomes can significantly affect the value proposition to the consumer, merchant and the deal provider


What’s the correct sales tax on a $51 purchase with a $50 Groupon that someone bought for $25 in a state with a 5% tax rate? The possible answers are 5 cents, 68 cents, $1.30 and $2.55. That’s based on a taxable value of $1 (amount paid at point of sale), $13.50 (amount merchant actually gets), $26 (total amount consumer paid) and $51 (total face value of the transaction). I find that most businesses pick either extreme.

See TechCrunch

So while some of these might sound a bit bland to some, they could actually pose a whole host of issues to the rapidly expanding industry.  As someone who has missed the expiration on some of the deals I bought here, I wouldn’t mind having the longer date gift card laws often require, but of course these might cause companies to not want to get into the deals to start with.

In re: Coldplay caught stealing notes? Arena district a boom? Bookclubs…

Headed out west for a couple days tomorrow and figured I mention a few interesting things I saw recently, so just a hodgepodge post:

  • Coldplay is being sued for copyright infringement for their song Viva la Vida by guitarist Joe Satriani, (see a YouTube video comparison)  check out his much lesser known song in comparison – to me it seems like he has a pretty good claim.  (“[I]t is well settled that copying may be inferred where a plaintiff establishes that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work and that the two works are substantially similar.” Warner Brothers v. American Broadcasting Companies, 654 F.2d 204, 207)  It seems like Joe mike end up with a chunk of change from this, but only time will tell.  For more on this see discussion on The Volokh Conspiracy or article in Guardian (“On the one hand, you have Satriani’s six-and-a-half-minute instrumental from 2004, with cheese-ball guitar wailing, moments of shredding, and long bouts of soloing. On the other hand, you have Viva La Vida: Eno-produced, Grammy-nominated, full of strings, church bells, drum rolls, chorales. And a sort of harpsichord solo. Certainly Viva La Vida is cheese-ball as well – but it feels more cheddar than Dairylea.”
  • The other day there was an article in the NY Times on the Arena District in Columbus and the success that Nationwide Realty has had in turning what was a dilapidated area of town into one of the highest rent office districts in the city as well as creating viable ground floor commercial space due in large part to Nationwide Arena (and soon Huntington Park).  See the article here.  “A decade ago, a 75-acre area along the Scioto River less than a mile west of this capital city’s downtown was an industrial no man’s land, consisting of barren railyards, old warehouses and a shuttered 19th-century penitentiary. But that was before Nationwide Realty Investors, an affiliate of Nationwide Mutual Insurance, turned the area into the Arena District.”
  • Being in a somewhat functional (though rarely meeting book club) I found an article “Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?” in the NY Times Sunday magazine kind of amusing as it recounted failed book clubs who couldn’t agree if they wanted to read high end literature or Dan Brown thrillers.  See article here

In re: Finally a call re-examine the drinking age?

Two Ohio college presidents are among dozens nationwide who are asking lawmakers to consider whether the legal drinking age should be lowered from 21.

College presidents seek to re-examine drinking age – Cleveland Metro News – The Latest Breaking News, Photos and Stories from The Plain Dealer.

I have long thought our nations mandated 21 year old drinking age was wrong for a few reasons, one has to do with the method of implementing by withholding highway funds if states didn’t change to a 21 year old drinking age and also for the problems with binge drinking it creates.  Lastly the idea of having something illegal for people who are able to vote, serve in the military etc seems crazy to me.  Well apparently a push to rethink the 21 year old age is coming front and center as many prominent college presidents, including Gordon Gee here in Columbus have signed onto to the Amethyst Initative, that was just started:

Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States.  These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.

The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

In re: Court says copyrights apply even for free software

The free software movement had a tough choice of whether to appeal a lower court decision that held freely distributed software couldn’t be protected through the use of copyright infringement claims (only contract claims).  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. overturned the lower decision saying that despite the traditional method for copyright owners selling their copyrighted material the court said. “The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however.”

This is big for a few reasons, one of which it helps keep the cycle of development in free products moving.  It requires those who wish to update or use the code to publish their changes or provide attribution (pointing people back to the larger movement).  The reason the usage of copyright infringement to protect this is so useful is the strength of copyright infringement claims compared to the breach of contract claims the lower court limited them to.

The “attribution and modification transparency requirements directly serve to drive traffic to the open source incubation page and to inform downstream users of the project, which is a significant economic goal of the copyright holder that the law will enforce,” according to the appeals court.’ See PC World article

In re: Cablevision’s Network DVR Doesn’t Infringe Copyrights

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit just overturned a lower court’s March 2007 ruling, which found Cablevision’s Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder infringed on copyrights. The Second Circuit held that offsite DVRs were not copyright violations (could still head to Supreme Court some think), paving the way (for now) for cable companies to provide subscribers with DVR functionality sans the home unit (users would still need a digital cable box capable of on demand interaction). Still, this can be seen as a big win for those who argue for broader usage rights, then those put forth by Hollywood and other major content owners. Cable companies can provide this type of service much cheaper than the current at home products.

See story

In re: Fighting a ticket with GPS?

Speeding tickets are one of the more annoying things to deal with, there is a certain helplessness that most people feel in terms of the ability to fight a supposed radar gun reading.  An interesting case is taking place out west on the subject where a teen was nabbed for speeding, the only difference between this and every other case is that the kid and his family are trying to fight the ticket w/ the GPS data they have (his car was equipped with a GPS unit that reported back to a central service with his speed so that his parents would know if he was speeding).  Of course GPS in every car is something that reeks of big brother to many folks, but here we got a case where it might be able to poke a hole in the normally open and shut case of speeding.

See article Nabbed for speeding? GPS data could get you off the hook – from Ars Technica