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Which Senator’s Staff Is Reading This Entry?

senate.jpg

We here at Co-Op sometimes get hits from the Senate Master-At-Arms IP domain. That domain had masked the individual IP addresses of the individual Senate offices. No longer. In a great follow-up to the Wikipedia senate editing story, investigative reporters from Wikinews have apparently cracked the code. (Solove predicted this resolution when the story broke.)

So, staffers of Senator X’s office: no more nasty anonymous comments for you! At least that is until the Master-At-Arms randomizes the outcoming address labels. I wonder which side of the aisle will be making that request first?

(Hat Tip: Boing Boing).

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In Defense of the Megachurch

I’ve noticed lately that there are some who use “megachurch” as a derogatory term. I noticed this when I blogged that Ken Lay will be calling as character witnesses two pastors of Houston megachurches. I also noticed that Bernard-Henri Levy, who fancies himself the next Tocqueville, used the term quite condescendingly when talking about how he researched his book on American culture. Coretta Scott King’s memorial service was held at a megachurch in suburban Atlanta, much to the annoyance of some onlookers. Why do some people distrust megachurches? I don’t. I believe that megachurches serve a very important purpose in modern life, and what follows is a defense of the trend from someone quite outside mainstream Protestantism.

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More re-edited movie trailers

A while back, we discussed issues arising from the re-edited Shining trailer. Now making the rounds: A new (and pretty funny) re-edited trailer, Brokeback to the Future. Given the proliferation of editing software (making re-editing easier and better), and the popular reception that the funnier trailers receive, I suspect that re-edited movie trailers are not going away any time soon.

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On Strategic Planning and the “Vision Thing”

My school is in the midst of developing its strategic plan. As I understand it, strategic planning is the process of figuring out where an institution wants to be at a certain point in the future as well as how to get there. In this effort, we wasted, er, spent a whole Saturday talking about what we want to become. And, of course, we want to be a first-class school, recognized for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service to the global community. Who doesn’t?

I’d like to hear from two groups of readers: First, to those of you academics who have gone through strategic planning in the past, has the process ever induced you to change your individual priorities, or has your school focused attention on achieving a particular goal, to the detriment of others? I.e., does strategic planning frequently lead a school to say, “We are proud of our teachers, but we really want to make a mark with scholarship,” or does strategic planning tend just to find a new way of stating a commitment to be all things to all people? And if the former, does that change the way individual faculty members approach their jobs?

Second, do students considering which law school to attend care about these statements? I remember reading statements of this type and all but ignoring them because they made the same unverifiable claims about the quality of teaching. Occasionally certain emphases could be discerned, but that was rare. I may be an exception, though, and I would be interested to hear others’ impressions of the importance of these statements from a marketing perspective.

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Why You Should Teach Information Privacy Law

privacy2b.jpgSince now is the time that many new law professors are being hired, I thought I’d re-post an earlier post about teaching information privacy law. When new law professors are hired, there is often a lot of flexibility in what courses they can teach. While the law school will typically want a newly-hired professor to teach one or two “core” courses (first year courses or required courses), other courses are often highly negotiable. So if you want to teach a particular course, sometimes all you have to do is ask for it.

My goal is to get more new professors to think about teaching information privacy law. (I have a casebook in the field, so this is really a thinly-disguised self-plug.)

Information privacy law remains a fairly young field, and it has yet to take hold as a course taught consistently in most law schools. I’m hoping to change all that. So if you’re interested in exploring issues involving information technology, criminal procedure, or free speech, here are a few reasons why you should consider adding information privacy law to your course mix:

1. It’s new and fresh. Lots of media attention on privacy law issues these days. Students are very interested in the topic.

2. Lively cases and fascinating issues abound. There’s barely a dull moment in the course. Every topic is interesting; there is no rule against perpetuities to cover!

3. It’s a way to teach fascinating First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and other constitutional law issues. Often, those wanting to teach in these areas have to wait in line until the course is “released” by professors who already teach it. Getting the First Amendment course, for example, is about as easy as unseating an incumbent in Congress. Information privacy law lets you teach really interesting First Amendment issues and there’s usually not a long succession line to teaching an information privacy law course. Moreover, many law schools already have somebody teaching cyberlaw, and information privacy law covers some incredibly interesting law and information technology issues.

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Litigation Lessons at the Enron Trial

bates.jpgToday’s testimony in Houston involved an emotional breakdown and some lessons about discovery. Surprisingly, one had nothing to do with the other. On the discovery matter, Judge Lake told the jury that:

“Years ago they gave you a stamp, like a checker uses to stamp a can of peas with,” Judge Lake told the jurors. “I guess the original stamp was named for a Mr. Bates.”

“Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about this,” the judge said as he ended his instructional aside.

Commentators over at the Enron Trial Blog suggested that the Judge was wrong:, “Bates stamps” were really named for the Bates Manufacturing Company (pictured to the right). But the Company was founded by a Norman Benjamin Bates, so I think Judge Lake deserves a break. Thus, the many appellate lawyers watching the trial looking for errors will have to keep looking. Sitting Juror #11, on the other hand, well that’s a different story.

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Epstein on Google

Richard Epstein criticizes Google’s book library feature, at Financial Times:

If Google can unilaterally put this burden on copyright owners, then so can all of its rivals, forcing both publishers and authors to expend valuable resources just to preserve the status quo ante. This “negative option” approach has been roundly rejected in traditional contexts, as with audacious publishers who send notices telling hapless addressees that they’re now subscribers for a year unless they return some opt out notice.

I’ll leave it to the IP experts around here to say whether he’s right or wrong on the details. If he’s right, it doesn’t bode too well for Google books.

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Teaching disturbing law

A friend of mine who is a relatively new professor is teaching some material that includes cases relating to sexual harrassment law. She is mulling over how best to present the material, and she asked me:

I was just reading again over some of the cases assigned to the students. One of the cases in particular reports graphic and disturbing acts (gang rapes, etc.) and language (repeated use of the word “fuck”) as part of the factual summary and the discussion of the issues. It occurred to me that I might warn the students about the potentially offensive language and graphic description of sexual acts. What do you think? Should I say anything?

My own reaction is mixed. On the one hand, part of me says that it’s fine to just assign the material as is. I can see various reasons for a hard-line approach. Law students are grownups, and I’m not sure that professors should treat them in an overly paternalistic manner. Also, it is hard to teach a class on a subject like sexual harrassment (or criminal law, perhaps) without discussing some disturbing things. Finally, I don’t think that a law graduate is prepared to act as an attorney in the field unless she can deal with disturbing fact patterns. This assignment is not gratuitous; these are the reported facts in reported cases.

On the other hand, there are also very good reasons not to be a hard-liner, and I think it’s necessary to be sensitive to potential concerns. Some of the students in any class may be victims of rape or abuse; they may have loved ones who have suffered through these ordeals; or they may simply be sensitive to the topic. I think the professor has to be sensitive to those concerns, and handle the material with care. (I’ve seen professors who did not handle such material with care, and the result was often disastrous).

As far as whether of not she should highlight the issue (my friend’s specific concern), I am again of two minds. On the one hand, perhaps the sensitive students would appreciate a warning. On the other hand, for many students, highlighting the issue could have the opposite effect, drawing more attention to lurid details than they deserve. I told her that in my opinion, I would lean towards a short warning myself (given the potential concerns of the more sensitive students), but that I thought she would also be fine if she didn’t warn, as long as she treated the material carefully.

However, I have absolutely zero experience in this area — there are not too many lurid details in Wills and Securities Regulation — and I feel a bit worried that my response to my friend left out important considerations. I’d like to hear what our readers think, if any wish to weigh in in the comments.

UPDATE: Paul Secunda posted on the same question, and has received a number of great suggestions and comments from his readers. Anyone interested in the topic should check out the thread over at Workplace Prof Blog.

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A Translation of Gonzales’s Answers at the NSA Surveillance Hearings

gonzales2a.jpgThe NSA surveillance hearings began today with the testimony of Attorney General Gonzales. To save you the time to read through the extensive transcript (here and here), I thought I’d translate some of Gonzales’s remarks for you:

GONZALES: Before going any further, I should make clear what I can discuss today. I am here to explain the department’s assessment that the president’s terrorist surveillance program is consistent with our laws and the Constitution. I’m not here to discuss the operational details of that program or any other classified activity.

TRANSLATION: I’m here to say absolutely nothing new. I can’t tell you what you need to know to really assess the program. In other words, this will be booooorrriiinnnnggggg. My advice . . . turn off the TV and go watch some paint dry.

GONZALES: It’s an early warning system designed for the 21st century. It is the modern equivalent to a scout team, sent ahead to do reconnaissance, or a series of radar outposts designed to detect enemy movements. And as with all wartime operations, speed, agility and secrecy are essential to its success.

TRANSLATION: Remember the robot probe in The Empire Strikes Back? It’s like that.

GONZALES: While the president approved this program to respond to the new threats against us, he also imposed several important safeguards to protect the privacy and the civil liberties of all Americans. . . . As the president has said, if you’re talking with Al Qaida, we want to know what you’re saying.

TRANSLATION: If you’ve got nothing to hide, then there should be no problem with us listening to you. If you’ve got something to hide, then . . . well . . . we should listen to you.

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Apple, iPods, Network Effects & Interoperability

I’ve enjoyed reading Dave Hoffman’s post on the iPod phenomenon and Josh Wright’s rejoinder. I wasn’t too tempted to jump in until Frank (in the comments) blamed the iPod’s success on network effects. Interestingly, Apple has long been the victim of network effects in the personal computer sector. Although I had a Mac computer in 1988, I soon had to switch to IBM clones in order to be able to communicate with co-workers, clients, and courts. By making a product with hardware and software that was not interoperable, even though its product was arguably superior, Apple lost market share to the makers of cheaper computers that all used interoperable operating systems and software. Now, Microsoft Word tries with each new version to come closer to what MacWrite achieved in the 80s and Apple tries to rebound in a world where many people have two computers and technology has allowed some material to go between the two systems.

So, I am interested in the madness behind duplicating this strategy in the mp3 industry of creating a product that stands out but stands alone. One can go to any electronics store and buy a cheaper mp3 player that will use MusicMatch, or one can buy the much more expensive iPod that requires the use of iTunes (unless you have access to someone with a computer science degree). First, why would Apple go down this road again? Second, why is this scenario working better this time? The only difference I can see is the point that Dave makes — mp3 players, while pricey, are almost disposable. Perhaps network effects are not going to favor the interoperable here over the superior first-mover because the initial outlay is not as substantial. If I’m buying an expensive computer, I want to be able to use it for awhile, communicate with others and possibly resell it on the open market, but if I’m just buying something that lasts a year, I’ll buy the cool one. Any other explanations? (Yes, I have an iPod, but our other $150 mp3 player broke twice in one year also.)