Posts Tagged ‘legal’

Why animals shouldn't be able to sue you

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Mr Ed, the talking attorney

Obama’s “regulation czar” Professor Cass Sunstein wants animals to be able to sue.

Animals can’t reason or express themselves, naturally, so the litigation would be handled by human lawyers, acting as ventriloquists on behalf of the animal kingdom. Think Mister Ed the talking horse, crossed with Eliot Spitzer.

“Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf,” according to Sunstein. The Harvard legal scholar first proposed the argument in 2002.

“This doesn’t look good for hunters, ranchers, restaurateurs, biomedical researchers, or ordinary pet owners,” says the food industry lobby group The Center for Consumer Freedom, which raised Sunstein’s radical “rights” agenda. In Spain, activists have already proposed that apes be granted human rights.

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The Hollywood crisis that isn't

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Everyone panic – that’s an order!

Analysis Barely a week has gone by without reports of Hollywood’s great box office slump of 2005. So our thanks go to screenwriter John August for pointing out that on closer examination, the ‘slump’ is as elusive as missing Weapons of Mass Destruction.

“Every Monday brought new speculation about just what was causing the downturn, and What It Really Meant. Could the problem be the poor state of movie theaters, the growth of DVD, the price of gasoline?” observes John.

“What makes this self-flagellation so annoying and unwarranted is that the ‘box office slump’ is basically a myth,” he points out.

In fact 2005’s box office returns mirror 2004’s very closely, and box office receipts are down just six per cent this year. One more blockbuster would have turned the slump into a boom.

“Is there really an industry crisis if just one movie would eliminate it?” asks John.

Of course not. But a better question is why do so many people want you to engender this panic?

Because it suits them, that’s why.

Phony crisis

Listening to our old friend Lawrence Lessig and former MPAA boss Jack Valenti debate each other on National Public Radio last week, it became clear. The dears sounded like a couple of senior citizens grumbling their way a cold day trip to Brighton Beach – but in reality the phony crisis suits them both.

Representing the pigopolist lobby, Valenti wants to instil widespread panic so he can outlaw new technologies of storage and distribution. History tells us that rights holders have always profited from such new technologies, and it’s a point Lessig has himself made superbly in the past.

Representing the technology determinists, Lessig also wanted to tell us the sky is falling, because copyright was the real obstacle to technical innovation. The favorite narrative of today’s techno-utopians goes “X is the end of Y as we know it!” (or “Z changes everything!”) – it’s a recurring adolescent fantasy.

History tells us that copyright has always bent to accommodate the new technologies, and the social contract always engineers new compensation models. Instead, Lessig concluded with a little Hallmark Card homily to the power of creativity, citing “14 million blogs” as a testament to human ingenuity. No, really.

The geek lobby sees the power of computer networks being frustrated by rights holders, and wishes those rights away. The rights lobby sees its value being eroded by the lack of new compensation models to go with new technology, and so wishes the technology away. But neither those rights, nor the technology, are going to be wished away.

So a permanent war suits both lobbies.

“We’ll make every sample an infringement!” cry the rights holders – as if to encourage the view that looking at something is a crime. (For technophobes like Jack, that’s probably true). “It’s the end of creativity as we know it!” scream the nerds – encouraging the view that creativity is defined by the computer (For literalists like Larry, that’s almost certainly true).

But it’s a very phony war. The MPAA is only too happy to play the cartoon role the techno utopians have created for them, in a narrative dominated by fear, domination and control. Like small children playing a game of ghost, they’ve succeeded only in frightening the bejesus out of each other.

And this thoroughly dishonest debate – you could call it the artistic versus the autistic – is lopsided to begin with. It’s Jack, not Larry, who has Sin City and Mean Streets. But only by taking the long view can you see how irrelevant both of their phony stances really are.

Don’t Panic.

Related link

Slump? [screenwriter John August] … [more comment]

Police stake out bar, hoping to catch man drunk

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Canadian cops staked out a bar in the hope of finding a journalist drunk, a court heard today.

The journalist in question, Edmonton newspaper columnist Kerry Diotte, wasn’t suspected of involvement in any crime. But Diotte had written a column criticizing the police force’s radar and camera technology as being more of a cash cow for the force than an effective measure against road fatalities – and the story enraged the local constabulary.

Diotte has been a consistent critic of the police’s technology dependency habit.
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