November 12th, 2011
Remember when Apple made TV adverts styling themselves as opponents of Big Brother. Judging by a recent Employment Tribunal finding, that stance is inoperative:
Crisp, who worked in an Apple Store, posted derogatory statements on Facebook about Apple and its products. The posts were made on a "private" Facebook page and outside of working hours. One of his colleagues, who happened to be a Facebook "friend", saw the comments, printed the posts and passed them to the store manager. Crisp was subsequently dismissed for gross misconduct.
The employment tribunal rejected Crisp's claim for unfair dismissal. [...]
Despite having "private" Facebook settings, the tribunal decided that there was nothing to prevent friends from copying and passing on Crisp's comments, so he was unable to rely on the right to privacy contained in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (covered in the UK by the Human Rights Act 1998). He retained his right to freedom of expression under Article 10, but Apple successfully argued that it was justified and proportionate to limit this right in order to protect its commercial reputation against potentially damaging posts.
I'm not saying that the tribunal's findings are wrong in law: apparently Apple Retail's 'social media policy' emphasised that employees were forbidden from posting unfavourable opinions on the company's products on social media sites, so on the face of it the ex-employee was in breach of this policy.
My problem is threefold:
- With the tribunal, for apparently holding that even though the employee used Facebook's privacy controls to restrict access to his comments the fact that someone could have copied-and-pasted the text of those comments negated his right to privacy.1 By that logic, if he'd been talking to a couple of friends in a pub or in his home, the fact that one of his pals could have surreptitiously recorded his comments using their smartphone renders those comments public too. This is a terribly bad idea.
- With Apple Retail, for trying to gag their employees outside working hours. I don't doubt that their social media policy bans derogatory comments from employees. I just think that a) they shouldn't be trying to control what employees do when they're not at work, and b) they need to distinguish between genuinely public expressions of dissatisfaction and private letting-off of steam.
- With the little shit who ratted on his 'friend'2 to his Apple Store bosses.
- I'd be more well-disposed towards the finding if they'd held that Facebook's policy of frequently expanding the boundaries of what portions of a user's content is publicly available means that a Facebook user couldn't be sure how long private postings would remain private! ↩
- Yet another demonstration of how unsuited that term is to the way social networking actually works. ↩
July 25th, 2011
The story of the murder of John Beckley on Clapham Common in 1953 encompasses knife crime, the coining of the phrase 'Teddy Boy', and a barrister by the name of Christmas Humphreys:
[Senior counsel for the prosecution] Humphreys wasn't your usual common or garden barrister, he was also the author of many works on Mahayana Buddhism. In fact Penguin had published his book Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide just two years previously in 1951 and has, somewhere in the world, remained in print ever since. Indeed Humphreys had founded the Buddhist Society in London in 1924 (it still exists and is now one of the oldest Buddhist organisations outside Asia) and was the most notable Buddhist in the country.
By the time of the Michael John Davies trial in the autumn of 1953 Christmas Humphreys had already had an extraordinary year. If he had been the sort of person who worried about what people thought of him (and he almost certainly wasn't) he would have wished the upcoming Clapham Common murder trial to be as uncontroversial as possible.
The reason why Humphreys might have hoped for a quiet, uncontroversial trial was that had already been involved in a couple of highly controversial cases1 involving the death penalty, cases that ended up leading to the suspension of the use of the death penalty for murder just a couple of years before Humphreys became a judge himself.
- A couple of years after the trial of Michael John Davies, Humphreys was the lead prosecutor in the Ruth Ellis trial. All told, Christmas Humphreys was such a central figure in Britain's use of the death penalty in the 1950s that he has been played on-screen five times in films and TV plays about the various high-profile trials he was involved in. Has any other real-life barrister been depicted on film and TV as often? ↩
May 21st, 2011
Daz Wright flies the flag for Eric Pickles:
I, like most people, gave a little patriotic cheer when Eric Pickles announced that the pointlessly bureaucratic rules on flag flying are going to be relaxed. Pickles has always been a man that is willing to confront the issues that others shy away from. [...]
[Via We Love Local Government]
May 14th, 2011
CharleyCarp 05.13.11 at 1:34 pm
Some people like to use battle metaphors for trials, but that's just because they like to think of themselves as macho he-men. I prefer to compare going to trial to putting on a musical. Where you want the spectators humming your overture during intermission, and joining in the singalong section at the end.
April 9th, 2011
Tom Morris posted an fine rant demanding non-pathological copyright laws now!
The problem with copyright isn't that it exists. It's that the implementation is completely fucking insane.
I'm especially indebted to him for his lucid explanation of the implications of Panoramafreiheit.
December 22nd, 2010
Back in 1974 James N Bailey, General Counsel to the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise, responded to a letter from an unhappy season ticket holder with what might just be the best reply ever committed to paper.1
- Somehow it just wouldn't have the same impact had it been sent by email. It's something about the letterhead, the "Very truly yours" sign-off, and the fact it was cc:d to the then-owner of the Browns, Art Modell. ↩
December 9th, 2010
Martin Belam has posted his notes on a talk that he recently attended by John Sheridan in which Sheridan discussed the challenges faced by www.legislation.gov.uk in turning the text of UK legislation into hypertext:
The task before them therefore was to try and take that written word and turn it into linked data with a clear semantic model. It is a very complex and rich set of information to try and represent as pure data. [...] It is common in law for a new Act to insert some text into the body of a previous one. This gives a versioning problem. As John Sheridan put it: "The statute book has known pasts, known futures, and unknown futures. All at the same time"
December 2nd, 2010
Constitutional limitations on things like censorship, discrimination, and search and seizure do not apply to private individuals but rather to the federal government and, in some cases, to the states. [...] As a result, evidence that a superhero obtains by breaking into a villain's headquarters is admissible even though it was obtained illegally. See, Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465 (1921). And since it doesn't invoke the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, any additional evidence obtained via the original evidence would also be admissible.
But what about superheroes like Batman who work in close cooperation with the police? Could they fairly be described as state actors, thus triggering a whole spate of Constitutional protections? I think the answer may be yes. [...]
[Via The Browser]
November 27th, 2010
The best part of this request for a recess in the middle of a trial is the judge's response.
[Via Crooked Timber]
September 22nd, 2010
Boris Johnson on meeting the Pope:
There we were on the tarmac at Heathrow as the papal jet prepared to land. The cameras were trained on the night sky. The red carpet was rolled out. The charming Foreign Office people tried for the umpteenth time to remind me where to stand – and all the while my mind was whirring with a single question. It is a problem that goes to the heart of the relationship between church and state. It is a question that will be studied by future generations of students of theology and patristics, because the answer we give – and the answer you give, off the top of your head – is an indication of the balance currently existing between the privileges of spiritual leaders and the egalitarian demands of our temporal world.
Never mind abortion or paedophile priests. As Pope Force One taxied towards us, there was one issue still revolving in my mind at the speed of a Rolls-Royce fan jet. Should the Popemobile be liable for the congestion charge and, if not, why not? Should the Holy Father have to pay £8 to drive through Westminster, like everyone else? Or should that fee be waived, in recognition of his status as the vicar of Christ on Earth? It is a tough one, and I am sure there will be clear-sighted readers of this paper who will take opposite views; and it is that very division of instinct that is so revealing about the psychology of this country. [...] 1
[Via The Browser]
- The answer, for anyone who doesn't want to follow the link, is that the charge only applies to "normal" road use: if the road is closed off so the Pontiff can wave to a sea of admirers then that's not "normal" road use and would attract no congestion charge. How much time the Pope's driver spent in traffic is another question entirely. Not very much, I'd guess. ↩
July 21st, 2010
Inspired by yet another controversy over news web sites surreptitiously editing their articles, Salon co-founder Scott Rosenberg offers a simple solution, as practised by Wikipedia and computer programmers everywhere:
Versioning should be the model for how we present the evolution of news stories on the Web. In fact, it makes so much sense that, even though right now no one is using it, I'm convinced it will become the norm over the next decade.
Today it might seem like overkill, but that's how all new Web phenomena present themselves to us. It might sound like a lot of work, but once it's incorporated into a newsroom's content management software, it's probably going to save time presently wasted on posting jerry-rigged correction notices. It can be presented unobtrusively, so that the vast majority of readers who don't care will never need to see it – but the bloggers, pundits and critics who do care can feast.
Given that the typical newsroom's content management system probably already does version control for internal use, this sort of thing should be a no-brainer. I'm guessing the barriers to rolling out versioning where the readers can see it is far more cultural than technical. As people who grew up with Wikipedia move up in the hierarchy of the typical newsroom, perhaps this sort of thing will become second nature. Or will it take the widespread adoption of user-accessible version control features in everyone's weblog content management software to make this approach seem like the right thing to do?
For all that, I suppose that you have to take into account the legal issues that will occasionally come into play – not least in the Libel Capital Of The World. If your newspaper has published a story on their web site and agreed to withdraw or correct the story in the face of a threat of a libel action, what would be the status of the copy of version 1.0 of the story, no longer visible via the site's default article view but readily available to those who chose to view the story's earlier version? I am not a lawyer, but I'd imagine that our learned friends would argue that the only acceptable solution would be to completely wipe out the original, offending version of the story, rather than just push it behind a 'View previous versions' link.1
- Note to self: find out how Wikipedia handles this sort of issue. ↩
April 20th, 2010
Police have paid compensation and apologised to the comedian and activist Mark Thomas after they admitted unlawfully searching him for looking "over-confident" at a demonstration.
The officer said his shoulder bag "may contain such items due to the over-confident attitude of Mr Thomas". He is also said to have told Thomas he "appeared to know what you were talking about" at the rally. The officer added: "If we only stopped and searched people who looked nervous and shifty and didn't stop the ones who looked over-confident you would be able to get one past us," according to legal papers lodged by Thomas, which were not disputed by the police.
February 10th, 2010
The terms & conditions for using iTunes include a boilerplate clause1 barring persons in embargoed countries, or who are on various US government lists, from downloading and installing iTunes, or using that software for "any purposes prohibited by United States law." Or, to put it another way:
[All] the Al-Qaeda operatives holed up in the Northwest Frontier Provinces of Pakistan, dodging drone attacks while listening to Britney Spears songs downloaded with iTunes are in violation of the terms and conditions, even if they paid for the music!
[Via Bruce Schneier]
- Prompted, most likely, by the fact that iTunes uses encryption to protect some of the content it downloads. Since the 1970s, encryption software has been in the same class as munitions – i.e. something that shouldn't be exported to hostile powers. ↩
February 6th, 2010
Charles Vance Millar had quite a sense of humour:
Charles Vance Millar was a prominent lawyer who practiced in Toronto from 1881 until his death in 1926. He went to his grave a bachelor, and due to some interesting investments (Charlie liked the longshots), this irascible 73-year-old left a considerable estate.
Millar was both a student of human nature and possessed of a perverse sense of fun. His best jokes turned on others' greed and love of money, and his pet theory was that every man had his price – the trick was to figure out what it was. (One of his favorite pranks was to leave $1 bills on the sidewalk, then watch the expressions of passersby as they furtively pocketed them.) His last will and testament exemplified his unusual sense of humor and put to the test his notions about every man having his price. Given Millar's obvious familiarity with the law, he had to have known what the execution of his will would do to the judicial system he'd long been part of – indeed, that was probably the motivation behind his wacky stipulations. Millar's death afforded him one last chance to tweak the beard of the legal system, and he took it. [...]
June 18th, 2009
[Lord Carlile said...] It should be emphasised that photography of the police by the media or amateurs remains as legitimate as before, unless the photograph is likely to be of use to a terrorist. This is a high bar.
It is inexcusable for police officers ever to use this provision to interfere with the rights of individuals to take photographs.
The police must adjust to the undoubted fact that the scrutiny of them by members of the public is at least proportional to any increase in police powers – given the ubiquity of photograph and video-enabled mobile phones.
[Via Memex 1.1]
June 3rd, 2009
May 12th, 2009
No doubt this bizarre plea bargain will inspire a scriptwriter or two over the next few months:
A Maryland woman involved with a group described as a religious cult pleaded guilty in the starvation death of her son, but insisted that the charges be dropped when he is resurrected.
The condition was made a part of Ria Ramkissoon's plea agreement, officials said. She entered the plea Monday in Baltimore, Maryland, to a first-degree felony count of child abuse resulting in death, her attorney, Steven Silverman, said Tuesday.
Ramkissoon, a member of a group called One Mind Ministries, believes Javon Thompson, her year-old son, will rise again, and as part of her plea agreement, authorities agreed to the clause.
In court Monday, it was clarified that the "resurrection clause" would apply only in the case of Javon's actual resurrection — not a perceived reincarnation, Silverman said.
[Via Ben Goldacre]
April 15th, 2009
In the middle of a fascinating
[It was accepted...] that a commutation of sentence could be offered subject to a condition which the defendant was free to accept or not. [...] More unusually, a condemned man was pardoned in 1730 on condition that he allow one Cheselden, a celebrated surgeon, to perforate his eardrum in order to study the effect on his hearing.
24 December 1730 Last night a reprieve came down to Newgate for respiting the execution of Charles Ray, condemn'd for stealing 5 watches, and he is shortly to undergo the experiment of having the drum of his ear cut out, and is afterwards to have his Majesty's most gracious free pardon. [Grub-street Journal]
7 January 1731 The experiment to be tryâ€™d on Cha. Ray in Newgate, is in order to discover, whether deafness cannot be curâ€™d by purging. It is to be done by an instrument, which is to cut the Tympanum, or drum of the ear, which will demonstrate whether the hearing proceeds from the Tympanum, or from the nerves that lie between that and the conseptor of the ear, it being the opinion of several eminent surgeons, that deafness is principally occasioned by obstructions in the said nerves. The tryal of the experiement is put off to next week. We hear it is laid aside. [Grub-street Journal]
- Although the excerpt I quoted makes no mention of Dr. Cheselden, later reports quoted on the same page do refer to him as the surgeon in question. ↩