Archive for February, 2009
Obama’s ongoing copyright industry promotion: FTC edition

aka, “the copyright industry suckup continues”, this time with the elevation of FTC commissioner Jon Leibowitz to Chair. Leibowitz is a former MPAA lobbyist (well, “vice president for congressional affairs”).

following in daddy’s footsteps

A health blog (why a health blog?) at the NYT covered research showing that as the 20th century progressed, more and more women followed in their father’s footsteps, career-speaking. Men have for a long time followed in their fathers’ footsteps at a rate of about 30%; women born in the 1910s followed in their father’s footsteps at a 6% rate, while women born in the 1970s followed in their father’s footsteps at an 18% rate.

What I thought was interesting was that they posited a couple of possible explanations but left out what, to me, is the most obvious explanation — that girls are tending towards parity with boys in this area because the obstacles against them following these careers have diminished. In other words, probably 30% of all kids would like to follow their career-parent into their career. But women were prevented from doing so, and as those barriers fell, women began doing what men have done — take as a default the career that they have already seen, become familiar with and perhaps interested in, have a professional networking leg-up in, and so forth.
(more…)

egg rights: South Dakota’s latest ventures into unintended consequences

South Dakota is at it again, with a new egg rights bill that defines “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” as a person under the South Dakota Constitution. Man it’s hard to keep up with all the really poorly thought out legislation from that state!

Broadsheet has the simplest quickest coverage, and links to Feministe “Even More Questions for Pro-Lifers”, always a good read.

Anyway, inspired by the Broadsheet post title “Eggs are people, too”, henceforth I will be referring to this sort of thing as “egg rights”. (A phrase which I now see has already gained some traction.) Egg rights activists, egg rights bills, and so forth.

The DOJ and current copyright conflicts of interest

The Dept. of Justice is threatening to weigh in on one of the numerous cases relating to the Constitutionality of statutory damages in copyright law. In case anyone hasn’t heard this, the Obama Administration has larded the DOJ with numerous copyright litigators and lobbyists.

I just sent the following letter to whitehouse.gov:

I’m writing in regard to the Department of Justice’s stated intent to intervene in the case, Sony BMG Entertainment Media v. Cloud. This case is one of several seeking Constitutional review of the egregious statutory damages available to copyright plaintiffs, which can be up to $150,000 for a single instance of copyright infringement, regardless of any actual damages.

I strongly urge the Department of Justice NOT to intervene in this and similar matters, based on clear conflicts of interest of top decision-makers at the Department of Justice.

The Administration has appointed numerous officials at the DOJ who have been formerly active in the issue precisely at stake — copyright enforcement and damages. Unfortunately, however, the appointments have not been representative of all sides of this issue, and have resulted in an imbalance in the nominees for decision-making positions at the DOJ. Neil MacBride, Thomas Perrelli, and Donald Verrilli, in particular, have all represented the trade associations for the copyright industry.

Thomas Perrelli, Managing Partner at Jenner & Block, has been nominated for Associate Attorney General of the United States. At Jenner & Block, he has represented the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Sony BMG — the very client at issue in this litigation.

Donald Verrilli, another partner at Jenner and Block, is President Obama’s nominee for Associate Deputy Attorney General, and has stated that he is likely to have a civil portfolio. Mr. Verrilli directly represented the recording industry in the “Jammie Thomas” case, the infamous case that resulted in an almost quarter-million dollar judgment against a single mother for making 24 songs available on a P2P network. Moreover, he was the lead attorney for the RIAA, personally delivering oral argument at the hearing in which the Court threw out the verdict.

Clearly, all former Jenner & Block attorneys now at the Department should recuse themselves from the decision-making process, as should any other attorneys who directly represented clients on matters adverse to either of the parties in this important Constitutional case.

Unfortunately, however, because the Department of Justice has so many appointments representing one side of copyright-related matters, any intervention by the Department on behalf of Sony BMG in this case carries not just the appearance, but the actual risk, of violation of President Obama’s conflicts of interest policy. An ethical firewall will not suffice to remedy the conflict of interest when multiple top decision-makers are similarly conflicted.

Therefore, I strongly discourage intervention by the Dept. of Justice in this case and urge President Obama to consider balance in copyright and information policy in his future nominations. I also inquire specifically as to whether Mr. Perrelli and Mr. Verrilli have committed to recusing themselves in this and related matters, and what steps they plan to take to create an ethical firewall between themselves and the relevant decision-making processes.

Best regards,

etc.

Thanks to Jonathan Band for flagging the issue on a list, Mike Masnick at techdirt for the brief summary & relevant links, and Kevin Donovan at freeculture for his submission (which I took as my starting point).