Client in Chief: The Nightmare of Lawyering for Trump

July 14th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

Washington Post app headline of July 14, 2017

Here’s something you already knew: “managing Trump” is a “‘titanic’ legal task.” That’s from the app-based headline for the this Washington Post story: Trump’s legal team faces tensions — and a client who often takes his own counsel.

I’ve actually thought often about what it would be like to have Donald Trump as a client. I can guess it would be like my single worst, most stressful day of practice — but maybe four to six days every single week.

So it’s not surprising that the WaPo reported “After one meeting in which [Trump's lawyers] urged Trump to steer clear of a certain topic, he sent a tweet about that very theme before they arrived back at their office.”

The WaPo story contains this quote from Trump campaign advsier Barry Bennett, which I think goes to the heart of the matter. About the 2016 campaign, he said, “do you know how many times people came to him and said, ‘That was lethal, you’re never going to survive it’? Every time, he survived. When somebody tells him he can’t do something, he’s at a minimum circumspect.”

No doubt.

If you’ve had a long lifetime of things working out amazingly no matter how much advice you’ve flaunted, I can see that the lack of motivation to hang on every admonition of your lawyer.

Free-Expression Organization Sues Trump Over Blocking People From @realDonaldTrump on Twitter

July 14th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

partial screengrab of Trump Twitter pageThe Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, along with a number of individuals, has sued President Donald Trump in the federal court for blocking users from his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump. The organization said in a statement, “President Trump and his communications team are violating the First Amendment by blocking individuals from the Twitter account because they criticized the president or his policies.”

The Knight Institute points out that Trump advisors have said @realDonaldTrump tweets are “official statements,” and the organization argues that the president’s Twitter account is a “public forum,” as that term is understood in First Amendment law.

The complaint [pdf] filed in the Southern District of New York alleges:

President Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has become an important source of news and information about the government, and an important public forum for speech by, to, and about the President. In an effort to suppress dissent in this forum, Defendants have excluded — “blocked” — Twitter users who have criticized the President or his policies. This practice is unconstitutional, and this suit seeks to end it.

The lawsuit seems to me to have clear merit. Consider what it means to be blocked on Twitter. According to Twitter support:

“Blocked accounts cannot:

  • Follow you
  • View your Tweets when logged in on Twitter (unless they report you, and your Tweets mention them)
  • Find your Tweets in search when logged in on Twitter
  • Send Direct Messages to you
  • View your following or followers lists, likes or lists when logged in on Twitter
  • View a Moment you’ve created when logged in on Twitter
  • Add your Twitter account to their lists
  • Tag you in a photo”

Of course, it is possible to see President Trump’s tweets even after being blocked by logging out of Twitter. But as the list above makes clear, that’s far from a complete work around for free-speech participation. Also, interestingly, Twitter support says blocked accounts don’t receive a notification letting them know they’ve been blocked.

The Knight Institute is new. It was started last year by Columbia University and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It’s aim is “to defend and strengthen the freedoms of speech and the press in the digital age through strategic litigation, research, and public education.”

I expect the Knight Institute to prevail, but it is disappointing a lawsuit is necessary and that this could not have been solved by the White House exercising self-restraint. As is so commonly the case, those who so enthusiastically embrace their own expressive freedoms are often quick to dismiss or trammel others’.

British Activist/Blogger Wins Tweet Libel Award Against Columnist

March 10th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson
Monroe and Hopkins

Plaintiff Monroe and defendant Hopkins, L to R, Twitter profile pics

British news is reporting that Jack Monroe (@MxJackMonroe), who writes about hunger and food issues, has won £24,000 (US$29,200) damages award against newspaper columnist and TV personality Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) over two tweets concerning war memorials.

The right-leaning Hopkins tweeted Monroe in May 2015: “Scrawled on any memorials recently? Vandalised the memory of those who fought for your freedom. Grandma got any more medals?”

A check of Hopkins’s Twitter feed shows a theme of attempted-attention-grabbing invective. A recipe for risking liability, no doubt, in the UK with its heavy-handed defamation law.

Qin, Strömberg and Wu on Why China Allows Freer Social Media

March 6th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

Bei Qin, David Strömberg and Yanhui Wu, of the University of Hong Kong, Stockholm University Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) and University of Southern California Marshall School of Business have posted to SSRN Why Does China Allow Freer Social Media? Protests versus Surveillance and Propaganda.

This paper look absolutely fascinating, as you’ll see from the abstract:

This paper documents basic facts regarding public debates about controversial political issues on Chinese social media. Our documentation is based on a dataset of 13.2 billion blog posts published on Sina Weibo — the most prominent Chinese microblogging platform — during the 2009–2013 period. Our primary finding is that a shockingly large number of posts on highly sensitive topics were published and circulated on social media. For instance, we find millions of posts discussing protests and an even larger number of posts with explicit corruption allegations. This content may spur and organize protests. However, it also makes social media effective tools for surveillance. We find that most protests can be predicted one day before their occurrence and that corruption charges of specific individuals can be predicted one year in advance. Finally, we estimate that our data contain 600,000 government-affiliated accounts which contribute 4% of all posts about political and economic issues on Sina Weibo. The share of government accounts is larger in areas with a higher level of internet censorship and where newspapers have a stronger pro-government bias. Overall, our findings suggest that the Chinese government regulates social media to balance threats to regime stability against the benefits of utilizing bottom-up information.

The paper is forthcoming in the The Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Zuiderveen Borgesius on the Right to Be Forgotten

February 27th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius of the University of Amsterdam – IViR Institute for Information Law (IViR) has posted to SSRN Het ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ En Bijzondere Persoonsgegevens: Geen Ruimte Meer Voor Een Belangenafweging? (The ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ and Sensitive Personal Data: No Room for Balancing?).

The paper is in Dutch, but here is the abstract in English:

An attorney submitted a ‘right to be forgotten’ delisting request to Google, regarding a blog post about a criminal conviction of the attorney in another country. The Rotterdam District Court ruled that Google may no longer link to the blog post when people search for the attorney’s name. The court granted the attorney’s request because the blog post concerns a criminal conviction. Personal data regarding criminal convictions are, under Dutch law, special categories of data (sometimes called sensitive data). The reasoning of the court on special categories of data creates problems for freedom of expression. This paper, in Dutch, explores how these problems can be reduced. Google has appealed the decision; the judgment of the Court of Appeals is expected in March 2017.

Thinking About Depositions and Document Demands in Trump v. Daily Mail

February 24th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

I continue to be surprised that the First Lady is pursuing her defamation suit against the Daily Mail. When you think about how things are likely to unfold, it won’t be surprising if the lawsuit winds up being an unhappy burden for the First Family and a joyous boon for a gossip-slinging tabloid like the Daily Mail.

Consider that if you file this kind of a lawsuit, you are going to have to hand over a huge trove of documents. Don’t expect the Daily Mail to agree to a protective order that would keep those documents under wraps: They will want to use those documents as grist for their pages. And the Daily Mail also will get to take Ms. Trump’s deposition.This means, for their trouble of fighting this lawsuit, they’ll end up getting an exclusive interview with the First Lady of the United States.

The Daily Mail will even have a good argument for taking the deposition of President Trump himself. After all, Ms. Trump’s star power derives from her marriage to the president – she already alleged as much in the original complaint.

The Trumps will of course fight in court to limit discovery and to keep a lid on whatever they do produce. But Ms. Trump is not the defendant – she brought this matter to court herself. So I would expect that the court may not be very receptive to arguments about the inconvenience and burden caused by discovery.

So if Ms. Trump’s lawyers are hoping the newspaper will opt for a quick settlement to avoid the expense of fighting this in court, I don’t see why the Daily Mail would oblige. We’ll see how this all plays out.

Melania Trump Tries Again with Defamation Complaint – Without ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Language

February 23rd, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

First Lady Melania Trump has filed a new complaint against the Daily Mail, this time without the allegation that the Daily Mail’s alleged defamation deprived her of a “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity … to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which [she] is one of the most photographed women in the world.” (BBC, The Independent)

That allegation was an attempt to lay the groundwork for a theory of damages to take to the jury – one that would set up a multi-million-dollar ask in closing argument. But it is the perfect example of something that makes lawyer sense without making any practical sense.

What made headlines was indignation that Ms. Trump would try to profit from being First Lady. But it struck me more as an unsupportable damages theory: It just isn’t believable that a false and mean-spirited but fleeting accusation that Ms. Trump was a prostitute could be the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused the collapse of an incipient licensing empire.

It will be very interesting to watch this lawsuit unfold.

Trump Daily Mail Suit, Causation Problems

February 8th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

Daily Mail logo

Good Morning America just had a piece on Melania Trump’s lawsuit against the UK’s Daily Mail, relaying that “experts say this is uncharted territory for the office of the First Lady.”

They’ve got that right. It’s a new world with an ultra-litigious television-celebrity family in the White House.

I found this interesting: The GMA report included footage from an October 2016 interview in which Ms. Trump says, “I didn’t expect media would be so dishonest and so mean. I didn’t expect that. Also for me, from the beginning, I never had one correct story, one honest story.”

That would seem to undercut the causation theory for damages stemming from the Daily Mail’s publication. If no one’s published an honest story about Ms. Trump, then how is the Daily Mail story the straw that broke the camel’s back for Ms. Trump’s multi-million-dollar endorsement deals?

More coverage:

Melania Trump Defeats Pre-Trial Motion in Maryland Defamation Suit

January 28th, 2017 by Eric E. Johnson

The Associated Press is reporting that a Maryland state court has sided with First Lady Melania Trump in denying a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against blogger Webster Tarpley.

The crux of the complaint is that Mr. Tarpley defamed Ms. Trump by relaying or repeating rumors that she had engaged in prostitution. No one appears to be asserting there is any truth to such a claim. And a false statement that someone has been a prostitute is, indeed, quintessential defamation.

The issue for the defense seems to be whether this was a statement of purported fact – that is, was the blogger saying Ms. Trump was a prostitute, or was he just saying that other people were saying that.

The AP quotes the defendant’s lawyer as saying, “He did not say that Melania Trump was a high-class escort. What he said was there are rumors about that.”

But plaintiff’s counsel claims the blog went beyond merely saying there were rumors, pointing to this blogged sentence: “It is also widely known that Melania was not a working model but rather a high end escort.”

Repeating defamation can, itself, be defamation. On the other hand, accurately reporting allegations can be exempted from liability under certain circumstances. It’s one of defamation law’s trickiest areas.

The complaint appears to be published here: [PDF]. Interestingly, it says that Ms. Trump demanded and got an apology from the blogger, and that the offending blog post was taken down.

Often an apology soothes tempers enough that a lawsuit never materializes. But not so here. The lawsuit followed within days.

This kind of libel litigation is common with some rich entertainment and sports celebrities. Money for lawyers plus a thin skin and a hot temper equals lawsuit city.

But public figures from the national political sphere – even those with ready cash for lawyer’s fees – have generally shown restraint with defamation claims, shrugging off baseless slurs as unworthy of a fight. The Trump family, however, represents a hybrid of entertainment and political fame, and if this lawsuit is any indication, the Trumps may be hewing more to Hollywood tradition than Beltway tradition when it come to using the courts to avenge slights.

What It’s Like to Be a Victim of the Russian Fake News Machine

December 31st, 2016 by Eric E. Johnson

Applebaum columnIn this year of fake news, Anne Applebaum has written a column in the Washington Post, I was a victim of a Russian smear campaign. I understand the power of fake news.

I found the column particularly interesting for the way Applebaum dealt made-up facts about her that would be tedious to refute on a point-by-point basis. Here’s a sample:

Mix truth and lies — my book contract and royalties were described as mysterious income from questionable sources — make ludicrous claims, pass on the lies to other Russian-backed websites, and then watch them pass it on again.

Peter W. Martin on the Future of Legal Treatises

August 31st, 2015 by Eric E. Johnson

Cornell University Law School logoPeter W. Martin, a professor at Cornell Law School, has just posted Possible Futures for the Legal Treatise in an Environment of Wikis, Blogs, and Myriad Online Primary Law Sources to SSRN. (Great subject!) Here’s the abstract:

Major law publishers have begun producing ebook versions of some of the legal treatises they own. Despite asserted advantages over both print and online versions of the same content, these represent a step back from what treatises have become within the major online services and even further from what they might become now that numerous sources of primary law are directly accessible via the Internet.

The article traces the corporate and technological developments that have placed existing treatises in their present posture. Drawing upon the author’s own work preparing a legal treatise designed for digital rather print delivery, it reviews a range of possible futures for this classic form of legal scholarship.

The article argues (1) that electronic treatises that have been cut loose from print norms can offer major advantages in format and function over print treatises that have simply been ported to Westlaw, Lexis, or one of their competitors and (2) that strong reasons exist for treatise authors and those with a stake in their work to prefer publication on the open Web to inclusion in one of the large proprietary systems. It concludes with a description of Web-based utilities that might enable such treatises to be competitive with those held in the major online systems and with speculation about the institutional arrangements that might enable treatise-like works delivered in electronic format to survive and even thrive without being confined to a single comprehensive database.

Jennifer Murphy Romig on Legal Blogging

May 31st, 2015 by Eric E. Johnson

Emory Law shieldJennifer Murphy Romig of Emory University School of Law has posted to SSRN her paper, Legal Blogging and the Rhetorical Genre of Public Legal Writing. The paper is forthcoming in Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD.

Here is the abstract:

This article brings scholarly attention to the blog posts, tweets, updates and other writing on social media that many lawyers generate and many others would consider generating, if they had the time and skill to do so. In the broadest terms, this genre of writing is “public legal writing”: writing by lawyers not for any specific client but for dissemination to the public or through wide distribution channels, particularly the Internet. Legal blogging is a good entry point into public legal writing because legalblog posts often share some analytical features of longer articles alongside conversational conventions typical of writing on social media. Legal blogging is certainly not new, but this article brings new attention to it.

The article begins by reviewing helpful (non-legal) advice from two recent writing guidebooks, Christopher Johnson’s Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little and Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times. Primed by the ideas in these books, the article explores the genre of legal blogging through two case studies of legal blog posts in 2014. Finally, the article puts legal blogging into context by addressing its similarities to and differences from traditional legal writing. Legal blogging offers a respite from the formalities of traditional legal writing, but it also brings its own set of expectations and constraints that define the evolving boundaries of this genre.

Pew Research Report on Tech and Workers

December 31st, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

Pew Research Internet ProjectA new report from the Pew Research Internet Project focuses on technology and workers.

The first-listed key finding of the report is this: “Email and the internet are deemed the most important communications and information tools among online workers.”

Two comments: First, I would say that the importance of the internet is not very surprising, particularly considering this survey finding was limited to “online workers.” Second, it needs to be pointed out that e-mail is one application of the internet. So saying “E-mail and internet” is kind of like saying “driving automobiles to work and driving automobiles.”

The report’s summary says:

What is potentially surprising is that even in the face of constantly evolving forms of digital communication, potential threats like phishing, hacking and spam, and dire warnings about lost productivity and email overuse, email continues to be the main digital artery that workers believe is important to their jobs. Since taking hold a generation ago, email has not loosened its grip on the American workplace.

To me what’s surprising is that after all these years we still don’t have more effective ways to deal with spam.

Happy Sesquicentennial, Nevada!

October 31st, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

Outline of Nevada blurred neonMy home state of Nevada is 150 years old today. Abraham Lincoln signed legislation making Nevada a state on October 31, 1864.

To celebrate the Silver State’s Sesquicentennial in Blog Law Blog fashion, here’s a some resources on Nevada blog law:

Blog Law Round-Up: September 2014

September 30th, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

Blog-law relevant stories circulating this month:

In an apparent first, a New York court handling a child-support case approves Facebook as the primary means of service of legal notice.

Occupy Wall Street activists are in a legal battle over control of their Twitter account.

An Arkansas judge (handle “geauxjudge”) is banned from the bench for life for various troubling anonymous online comments, including revealing confidential information about Charlize Theron’s adoption.

Suicide, Social Media, and Public Health

August 13th, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

The Washington Post has an excellent story pointing up the irresponsibility of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science in posting the following tweet – “Genie, you’re free” – that romanticizes the suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams, who hanged himself on Monday.

@TheAcademy tweeting "Genie, you're free."

The story notes “[t]he starry sky from Disney’s Aladdin, and the written implication that suicide is somehow a liberating option, presents suicide in too celebratory a light.”

Indeed, it’s pretty perplexing how AMPAS thought this was a good idea. The concern, of course, is that glorifying suicide may inspire copycat suicides. As NBC News reports, there was a significant increase in suicides among white women around Marilyn Monroe’s age when she killed herself in 1962.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has guidelines for responsible reporting and social media about suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline organization has social media guidelines as well.

They urge, when writing about suicide, to note that suicide usually has warning signs and to refer readers to helpful resources.

If you see someone on social media who is expressing thoughts of suicide, you can visit NSPL’s page on how to help. There are even specific instructions for what to do if you see suicidal users on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, You Tube, and MySpace.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website, or call 1-800-273-TALK.

Gregory D. Saxton and Ashley E. Anker on Financial Bloggers

July 31st, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

Seal of SUNY BuffaloGregory D. Saxton and Ashley E. Anker of SUNY Buffalo have recently posted to SSRN their paper The Aggregate Effects of Decentralized Knowledge Production: Financial Bloggers and Information Asymmetries in the Stock Market. The paper was published in the Journal of Communication, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 1054-1069.

Here is the abstract:

New media have markedly enhanced individuals’ capacity to produce and disseminate original knowledge; however, the literature has not extensively examined the broad effects of such decentralized production processes. The current study thus focuses on a unique context — the stock market — in which it is possible to test the aggregate impact of blog-based information production. Using data on 150 top financial bloggers and stock returns from the S&P 500, this study supports the hypothesis that financial blogging activity diminishes harmful information asymmetries between key market investors. This study thus adds to the “media effects” literature, highlights the societal relevance of bloggers, and shows how economic concepts and financial market settings can be employed for powerfully testing communication theories.

Deidré A. Keller on TWiL

July 11th, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson

Professor Deidré A. Keller of Ohio Northern is on This Week in Law with Denise Howell. It’s happening now (2-3 p.m. EDT). Live stream live here: Later, it should be archived here:

They are talking about copyright – in particular, fair use as applied to election campaigns.

UK Bans Warns of Criminal Charges for Using Social Media to Discuss 25-Year-Old Soccer Tragedy

April 23rd, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson
Persons scramble away from the human crush in the stadium

From television coverage of the game in 1989.

In the United Kingdom, there is a new example of that country’s sometimes surprising limitations on free speech.

The UK Attorney General is warning people that they might be held in criminal contempt for using social media to discuss the 1989 Hillsborough soccer tragedy. That disaster resulted in 96 deaths when people were crushed in an overcrowded stadium to watch a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

The notice reads:

Editors, publishers and social media users should note that the inquest proceedings are currently active for the purpose of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

The Attorney General wishes to draw attention to the risk of publishing material, including online, which could create a substantial risk that the course of justice in the inquests may be seriously impeded or prejudiced, particularly as this inquest involves a jury.

This risk could arise by commentary which may prejudge issues that witnesses may give evidence about, or matters that the jury will need to consider in reaching their verdict. The inquests could also be prejudiced by publishing details of material (whatever its source) which may not form part of the evidence at the inquest.

The Attorney General’s Office will be monitoring the coverage of these proceedings.

This spring marks the 25th anniversary of the disaster, so naturally people want to talk about it. But just at this moment, the British government squelched discussion with heavy-handed criminal laws. That seems extremely regrettable to me.

An ESPN documentary on the tragedy is currently banned from being distributed in the UK. The director told Sports Illustrated:

Because the new inquest has started just two weeks ago, it can’t be shown in the UK until the jury delivers its verdict. Which is a year from now. I really want it to be shown now. You want it to have the impact now, but you can’t. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, the conversation a year from now will be a different one than could be had now. So it’s not just delaying speech, it is destroying speech.

Previously I’ve discussed how in the UK using social media can quite easily subject someone to possible jail time or draconian civil liability.

And here’s another example of the UK banning speech related to soccer:

Op-ed on Nuclear Science Experiment and Planetary Disaster Risk

February 10th, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson
Twin accelerator rings in tunnel.

Brookhaven National Laboratory's RHIC machine

Prof. Michael Baram of Boston University and I published an op-ed today in the International Business Times: New U.S. Science Commission Should Look At Experiment’s Risk Of Destroying The Earth.

The piece concerns the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider – the RHIC (pronounced “Rick”) – at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. The question is whether it might create a “strangelet” that would begin a process of converting all matter on Earth into hyperdense “strange matter.”

Prof. Baram and I argue that a new science commission created by Congress should look at the risks of experiments in addition to their benefits.

Adam Savage and Mythbusting Net Neutrality

January 16th, 2014 by Eric E. Johnson


Kind of sad to see Adam Savage of Mythbusters as the face of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association – one of the key trade groups lobbying against net neutrality.

You’ll never guess who the cable-telecommunications industry thought prevailed in Verizon v. FCC [pdf]. The “big winner,” they said, was “the consumer.”

It’s interesting to see the double-talk the NCTA uses to argue that net neutrality is bad. (Or, as they would say, that “fair broadband pricing” is good.)

Allowing consumers to choose the best broadband plan to suit their needs promotes fairness, saves customers money and encourages adoption to a wider audience than more restrictive “universal” pricing plans. The continued expansion of broadband networks and usage-based tiers will provide consumers with significant benefits without asking that they subsidize the efforts of a select few.

See? Telecommunications companies aren’t trying to hold the internet hostage to collect ransoms. They’re helping consumers. Thanks for busting that myth for us.

Blighted and Slighted: Landlords Sue Slumlord Watch Blogger

December 31st, 2013 by Eric E. Johnson

Blogger Carol Ott of Baltimore Slumlord Watch is being sued by two landlords on allegations that she hired graffiti artists to paint murals on abandoned properties.

Ott’s website – tagline: “If you own vacant property in Baltimore City, clean it up!” – consists of posts with addresses of rotting buildings listed with their owners and contact information for those owners.

According to the Towson Patch, the trusts that own the moralized properties are seeking $2,500 in damages to cover the costs of re-painting. According to the Patch, Ott denies the claims, saying that she provided background information on properties but did not direct people to take action.

Al Jazeera, which has pictures of the murals, reports that Ott recently worked with Wall Hunters, a group of street artists who pasted QR codes to dilapidated buildings with links to landlord contact info.

The Atlantic Monthly recent profiled Ott’s efforts to clean up Charm City’s urban blight.


City of London Police Hijacking Websites Without Court Orders

October 10th, 2013 by Eric E. Johnson

Some scary news out of London. The City of London Police has a new Intellectual Property Crimes Unit, and they are demanding – without a court order – that domain registrars shut down websites and redirect traffic to commercial websites that seem to be affiliated with the companies that made the triggering complaints to the police.

EasyDNS’s Mark Jeftovic – one recipient of these demands – is fighting back. He’s posted Whatever Happened to “Due Process” ? on EasyDNS’s blog.

Among the good points he makes:

Who decides what is illegal? What makes somebody a criminal? Given that the subtext of the request contains a threat to refer the matter to ICANN if we don’t play along, this is a non-trivial question. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to “some guy on the internet” sending emails. While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here.

We have an obligation to our customers and we are bound by our Registrar Accreditation Agreements not to make arbitrary changes to our customers settings without a valid FOA (Form of Authorization). To supersede that we need a legal basis. To get a legal basis something has to happen in court.

(Emphasis and links omitted.) He also makes this point:

What gets me about all of this is that the largest, most egregious perpetrators of online criminal activity right now are our own governments, spying on their own citizens, illegally wiretapping our own private communications and nobody cares, nobody will answer for it, it’s just an out-of-scope conversation that is expected to blend into the overall background malaise of our ever increasing serfdom.

By the way, the City of London Police is the smaller of two police forces in London. The other is the Metropolitan Police. The City police are responsible for the smaller and older portion of London that is referred to as “the City,” which includes the center of the finance/banking industry as well as many of the major law firms. The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and most of the rest of what you think of as London is outside the City and under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police.


“Terms and Conditions May Apply” Documentary Film

August 13th, 2013 by Eric E. Johnson

Terms and Conditions May Apply - logo incorporating motifs of major websitesRight now, playing in San Jose, California is a movie I very much wish I could see: Terms and Conditions May Apply.

It’s about online privacy and the fine print of websites and apps. The trailer looks great. Sadly, the film isn’t scheduled to be playing anywhere I’ll be, but here’s the upcoming schedule in case it will be making a stop in your town:

San Jose – Camera 3 Cinemas – Aug 2 – 15
Premieres on PIVOT TV Sunday, Aug 11th 8/7c
Lake Worth – Lake Worth Playhouse – Aug 16-22
San Diego – Digital Gym – Aug 16-22
Washington, DC – West End Cinema – August 16-22
Oakland – The New Parkway Theater – August 20
Miami – Cosford Cinema @ UM – Sept 20
Whitehorse, Yukon Terr – Yukon Film Society – Sept 22
Boulder – Boedecker Theater at Dairy Center – Sept 24-28
Macon, GA – Douglass Theatre – Oct 22

One-Man Protest for Bradley Manning’s Freedom in Indiana Town

July 31st, 2013 by Eric E. Johnson
Protestor holds sign reading "FREE BRADLEY MANNING" (Photo: EEJ)

Jason Urbanski holds a one-man rally for intelligence leaker Bradley Manning on July 31, 2013 in La Porte, Ind.

On the day news broke of the conviction of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning for downloading secret government documents and giving them to Wikileaks for release to the public, Jason Urbanski held a one-man rally for Manning’s freedom in front of the county courthouse in La Porte, Indiana. His handpainted sign with red-glitter letters said ‘FREE BRADLEY MANNING.”

I happened upon Urbanski while I touring around the area. I took the opportunity to talk with him a bit.

Urbanski spoke of Manning in heroic terms. “He sacrificed his freedom to show the world the truth,” Urbanski said. “He made a really unselfish decision to do something good. We can’t forget about him.”

A restaurant worker in nearby New Buffalo, Michigan, Urbanski said he was hoping that a future president, if not the current one, would pardon Manning. The way to pursue that, Urbanski reasoned, was to start at a grassroots level.

Manning was convicted by a court martial on several counts, including espionage. Manning was acquitted, however, of aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge pursued by prosecutors.

“I think that what Bradley Manning did was just motivated by simple human empathy,” Urbanski said. “It was a political act, but really it was an act of human compassion.”

While I was there, Urbanski’s protest seemed to draw neither cheers nor jeers from passers-by. I think it is safe to say his opinions represent a minority view in the United States. I, myself, don’t see Manning in the same light that Urbanski does, but I am, however, very happy to see someone out flexing their First Amendment rights on a courthouse street-corner to weigh in on the topic.