And now, having done that -- including having shut down much of the media in the country and arrested a ton of journalists, Erdogan is apparently in a good mood. He has announced that in a "show of good will" he's going to drop those thousands of cases against people for insulting him.
In the first 48 hours, around 7,000 people were detained, arrested, or dismissed from their jobs. That number has been rising constantly, reaching around 66,000 people from all layers of society, but consisting mostly of government employees.
Add to that the family members of those arrested and dismissed and you will reach a number of 250,000-300,000 potential new opponents, most of whom were not involved with the "other" side or had no direct links with it. The memory of the killings, the hatred, and violence, the split in the army and government agencies about who was on which side -- all of this is truly traumatic for the Turkish nation.
"Some people give us advice. They say they are worried. Mind your own business! Look at your own deeds."Yeah. Perhaps Erdogan should look at his own deeds as well.
Another month, another terrible patent being asserted in the Eastern District of Texas. Solocron Education LLC, a company whose entire "education" business is filing lawsuits, owns U.S. Patent No. 6,263,439, titled "Verification system for non-traditional learning operations." What kind of "verification system" does Solocron claim to have invented? Passwords.
The patent describes a mundane process for providing education materials through video cassettes, DVDs, or online. Students are sent course materials, take tests, and, if they pass the tests, are allowed to continue on to the next part of the course. At various times, students confirm their identity by entering their biographical details and passwords.
Solocron did not invent distance education, encryption, or passwords. The patent doesn't describe any new technology, it just applies existing technology in a routine way to education materials. That should not be enough to get a patent. Unfortunately, the Patent Office does not do enough to prevent obvious patents from issuing, which is how we get patents on white-background photography or on filming a Yoga class.
The extraordinary breadth of Solocron's patent is clearest in its first claim. The claim, with added comments, is below:
1. A process which comprises the steps of:
encoding at least one personal identifier onto a user interface media [i.e. set up an interface requiring a particular user ID];
displaying a prompt on said user interface media for the at least one personal identifier which requires a match of the at least one personal identifier encoded on the user interface media [i.e. ask the user to enter their user ID];
encoding at least one password onto a data storage media [i.e. encrypt or otherwise password-lock a file];
encoding the at least one password from the data storage media onto the user interface media [i.e. set up the user interface so it can check if the password is correct]; and
displaying a prompt on the user interface media for entering the at least one password which requires a match of the at least one password from the data storage media with the at least one password encoded on the user interface media [i.e. require users to enter their passwords into the interface].
Although the claim runs 119 words, it just describes an ordinary system for accessing content via inputting a user ID and password. These kinds of systems for user identification predate the patent by many, many years. The claim is not even limited to education materials but, by its terms, applies to any kind of "data storage media." The Patent Office should not allow itself to be hoodwinked by overly verbose language that, when read closely, describes an obvious process.
Solocron is asserting its stupid patent aggressively. It has sued dozens of companies, including many new suits filed this year. As with so many patents we have featured in this series, it is suing in the Eastern District of Texas, taking advantage of the court's patent-owner-friendly rules. We need fundamental patent reform, including venue reform, to stop patents like this from being granted and from being abused in the courts.
Reposted from the EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month series.
“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said, later adding, “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”It got so ridiculous that Clinton deleted the section of her memoir where she talks about her support of the TPP. That's just literally trying to rewrite history.
She’s wrong. I support it. She doesn’t. She never supported it. I create jobs in Virginia, I always supported it. We’re best friends. She has never supported it.Except, of course, she has supported it, quite clearly in the past. And almost certainly still is. I understand the political calculations here. Historically, Democrats (especially the progressive wing) have generally been against free trade. So these agreements (even when they're actually good!) are usually a tough sell to Democratic voters. But this is a weird year. Because while these agreements have almost universally been supported by Republicans, this year Donald Trump suddenly hates them -- not for all the legitimate reasons to hate them, but mainly because he doesn't understand how international trade works.
Law enforcement officers are pretty used to being able to stop nearly anyone and demand to know who they are and what they're doing. Sure, there are plenty of laws that say they can't actually do that, but the public is generally underinformed about their rights, and this works in cops' favor. As a recent Appeals Court decision pointed out, citizens are "free to refuse to cooperate with police before a seizure."
Obviously, this perfectly legal act of noncompliance just won't do, and it certainly won't be cops pointing out to citizens the rights they have available to them. New York City legislators thought they could force this transparency on the NYPD.
The bills, known as the Right to Know Act, require officers to identify and explain themselves when they stop people, and to make sure people know when they can refuse to be searched. These are timely, sensible ideas, echoing recommendations made by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing. Though the Right to Know Act has been bottled up in the Council for two years, it has broad support among Council members and community organizations, and sponsors say it would pass easily if it ever came to a vote.
It may have "broad support," but it didn't have support where it counts. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his displeasure with the idea of his officers having to respect the rights of citizens.
Mr. Bratton has denounced the Right to Know Act as an “unprecedented” intrusion into his domain.
As Scott Greenfield points out, Bratton could have dialed back his righteous indignation and applied these changes on his own.
Of course, there is nothing to prevent New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton from telling his cops to do this anyway. But he didn’t. He won’t. It’s not as if he serves at the pleasure of New York’s most progressive mayor ever. But the big issue for Bratton isn’t that the ideas incorporated in the law are so dangerous and counterproductive, but cops just don’t like being told what they have to do.
"Broad support." "Would pass easily." None of this matters. The person in charge of routing pending legislation made this decision for the rest of the legislators who support the bill in its unaltered form.
But there has been no vote. The Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, essentially derailed it this month. She told members that she had quietly struck a compromise with the Police Department to adopt some, but not all, of the act’s reforms administratively. Under the deal, officers who want to search people but have no legal basis to stop them must ask permission and wait to hear “yes” or “no.” They have to explain that a person can refuse to be searched, and give a business card to people who are searched or stopped at a checkpoint or to anyone who asks.
Waiting for the NYPD to "adopt" reforms is like waiting to adopt a child. Days become weeks become months become years. Three years after Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to alter its unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program, officers still weren't fully informed of the new guidelines. The NYPD's "quiet adoption" of the agreement is more in line with dumping it into a foster home run by negligent caretakers.
The government has long depended on the ignorance of the citizens to maintain control. The killing of this legislation -- and Bratton's agreement to make it watered-down internal policy rather than actual law -- is more of the same. The less the public knows about what the police can or cannot demand from them, the more often this ignorance will be exploited by people with power.
That's... crazy. Criminalizing defamation and publicity rights infringement by broadly interpreting an identity fraud law seems very, very problematic. As Volokh notes again, it seems extra troubling that this seems to have happened without any real legislative discussion or deliberation. Again, these things may be civil offenses, but to turn them into criminal offenses is a situation that can and will be abused. Not many people will cry for Kevin Bollaert, but the precedent this sets is potentially terrifying:
But nothing in Bollaert’s § 530.5 discussion was limited to revenge porn, or to extortion.
Say, for instance, that Kendra Schmollaert, Kevin Bollaert’s second cousin, has a blog with a couple of thousand readers. She publishes a blog post that mentioned an acquaintance’s formerly private sex scandal (or medical problem) and gives the acquaintance’s name. That may well constitute the tort of disclosure of private facts, and maybe Schmollaert should be liable for that. (I think the tort is too broad and vague to be constitutional, but most courts disagree with me on that.) But, to her surprise — and, I suspect, to the surprise of most media lawyers — a prosecutor decides to charge Schmollaert criminally. Guilty!
- Schmollaert willfully published the aquaintance’s “identifying information” — the full name, and possibly some indication of location (e.g., if Schmollaert says the acquaintance is Schmollaert’s neighbor).
- Schmollaert did so with the purpose of committing a tort, namely the disclosure of private facts. (True, Schmollaert wasn’t doing this just for the sake of committing a tort, but neither was Bollaert — Schmollaert wanted to tell an interesting story, or maybe expose an acquaintance whom Schmollaert disliked, while Bollaert wanted to make money, and both purposefully used people’s identifying information as a means of accomplishing that goal.)
- Schmollaert didn’t reveal any nude photographs — but nothing in § 530.5(a) says anything whatever about nudity, or about photographs; as the courts have interpreted the statute, tortious disclosure of private facts is enough.
- Schmollaert also wasn’t impersonating anyone — but neither was Bollaert.
Or say that Schmollaert instead starts selling T-shirts that depict photographs of celebrities, with captions that give the celebrities’ names. Under California law, that’s a tort, both statutory and common-law, and might lead to liability. But again Schmollaert also turns out to be guilty of a crime:
- She willfully published the celebrities’ “personal identifying information” (“full names, … as well as the … photographs themselves.”
- She did so with the purpose of infringing the celebrities’ right of publicity.
I don’t think the California Legislature was trying, with § 530.5, to so broadly criminalize tortious speech. But that’s how California courts have interpreted the statute.It remains to be seen how widely this gets abused, but it is certainly a big concern.
And this also helps show why many commentators — myself included — criticize proposed statutes based on the possible scope of their broad and vague language, rather than just focusing on the particular problem that led to the proposal. Once a statute is enacted, prosecutors will often push them to the limits of the language, especially when the defendants are bad people doing bad things (e.g., Bollaert’s revenge porn blackmail racket). And courts will often (not always, but often) read the language broadly. The story of § 530.5 is a classic example.