Legal, Laws, and Regs

On human rights

Read the following very carefully before you react to any one specific piece of information.

I don’t think there’s been any action the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has taken that hasn’t angered somebody, but one thing I’ve always seen in this organization is its adherence to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Even if this action means protecting those who are advocates of hatred and despised almost universally.

Case in point is the now famous planned march in 1977 of Nazi supporters through Skokie, Illinois — a community that was predominately Jewish, with an unusually large number of Holocaust survivors.

Is the Nazi organization a despicable organization? Oh, yes. Personally, I have no tolerance for the organization in any way. Was this planned march cruel and heinous? Oh yes, it most definitely was. However, by the laws of our Constitution, no matter how we feel about the Nazi organization, its members had the right to march if they obtained the appropriate permits.

When the Nazis were blocked, the organization contacted the ACLU to seek help in upholding their constitutional rights. The ACLU accepted the case and in what is now a most famous bit of irony, a Jewish lawyer was assigned to support the Nazi party’s claims, David Goldberger. In another bit of irony, at the time, the ACLU was lead by Aryeh Neier, a German whose family had been killed because of the Holocaust.

Neier was to later say in defense of the ACLU action:

Keeping a few Nazi’s off the streets of Skokie will serve Jews poorly if it means that the freedoms to speak, publish or assemble any place in the United States are thereby weakened.

Goldberger himself later said:

I don’t think I’ll ever look back on it without remembering the pain it caused…. The hardest thing was being at odds with people for whom you had strong feelings of empathy.

The ACLU successfully won for the Nazi party their right to march. However, the Nazis never did march in Skokie, staging a protest in Marquette Park in Chicago instead — their preferred venue.

No legal precedent was set. No momentous turn in history was achieved because of the actions of the ACLU. The only victory was a moral one, in that the ACLU demonstrated the true spirt of Freedom of Speech.

I have tried to model my standard regarding equality and freedom of speech based on the actions of these two men and others like them. To speak out for the oppressed when the oppressed is beautiful, or popular or innocent or winsome is noble. But to speak out for the oppressed when they are ugly and abhorrent — that is true equality.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

Lawsuit abuse

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Dumbest warning labels from SF Gate.

Through this excellent article I found the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch web site. Within these priceless web pages I found out about the arsonists who sued their insurance company because the fire they set spread to surrounding area, and the insurance company didn’t want to cover this damage. Or the prisoner who sued Michigan state because he farted.

And these are just absurd lawsuits in Michigan — I can’t even imagine what kind of lawsuits are floating around a somewhat flamboyant state such as California

Legal, Laws, and Regs RDF

More on the RDF/RSS Patent fooflah

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In case everyone’s confused with my postings about the patent issue, I want to go on record by saying that I’m strongly in favor of RDF. There. I know you were all really worried about that one. Okay now, stop worrying, go back to work.


Jeff Barr of Syndic8 was also a recipient of one of the infamous patent letters. He created a PatentWiki that duplicates the letter he received as well as providing other related information.

It just burns me to see people like Jeff — people who freely, openly, willingly, and gladly contribute to our technological growth –bothered with this type of legal manipulation.

More later — I’m too pissed to communicate now. Not without getting sued.


Dave Winer just came “out” with the information that Userland rec’d one of the patent letters.

Not surprising considering the other recipients.


I had a chance to read the RDF Patent letter; it’s definitely a fishing expedition. Hopefully, none of the recipients of the letter are responding to it. From what I can read, that’s exactly what the law firm is most likely looking for – responses. If I get permission, I’ll post a link to the letter here.

Personally, I’d like the ACLU to get involved in this. After all, what’s a better example of freedom of speech than open source and open standards/specifications? And what threatens said free speech more than the massive loopholes within the Patent system. Think about it.


Legal, Laws, and Regs RDF

RDF patent dispute

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Over at the RDF interest online forum, at least two developers of implementations based on RDF have received a legal mailing from a firm representing Unified Data Technologies Ltd (UDTL), implying a possible patent infringement due to the use of RDF/RSS.

The RDF working group is consulting with the W3C about the legalities of the whole thing. You can read more at:
RDF Interest Group online forum

Patents in question are:

Patent 5,684,985 and 6,092,077 as well as others most likely under review for patent pending.

Hopefully the W3C will be able to resolve this, but I doubt this will go away quickly. At least one of the impacted projects, 4suite, is open source.

This is an effort to exploit open source as well as an open W3C specification, enabled by the extremely poor patent review methods of the US Patent and Trademark Office. A case of making money off of the goodwill efforts of others.

Happy New Year, Open Source. Happy New Year, RDF.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

Microsoft settlement

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

I don’t blame Microsoft for the abysmal settlement that’s ticked off so many states (see States urge Microsoft penalties). Corporations work for themselves — It’s the way of the capitalist world. To prevent corporations from being complete assholes, you have consumer and fair trade protection laws such as the antitrust laws, and legal organizations such as the Justice Department to enforce them.

It’s not Microsoft’s fault that the Justice Department’s decision ranks up there with England’s “let’s increase the tea tax for the colonies” as one of the worst decisions in history.