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Apple

“Do you really want a regulatory agency designing your iPad?” asks dissenting commissioner Joshua Wright. The Federal Trade Commission considers it an unfair consumer practice for Apple to leave a buying window open for fifteen minutes after password entrance during which further app purchases can be made without keying in the password again; occasionally children have approached an untended tablet and engaged in purchases without asking permission. [Gordon Crovitz, WSJ; Wright dissenting statement]

Surveillance roundup

by Walter Olson on December 12, 2013

  • “That Thing They Said They’re Not Doing? They’re Totally Doing.” [Daily Show with Jon Stewart] “Exactly What the State Says to Deceive You About Surveillance” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • “Warrantless Cellphone ‘Tower Dumps’ Becoming Go-To Tool For Law Enforcement” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; David Kravets, Wired; USA Today (local law enforcement using, not just federal)]
  • Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn, but telecoms absent: “U.S. Tech Industry Calls for Surveillance Reform” [Corporate Counsel, EFF, Marvin Ammori/USA Today]
  • New Federalist Society symposium on NSA/FISA surveillance and bulk data collection includes names like Randy Barnett, Jim Harper, Jeremy Rabkin, Stewart Baker, Grover Joseph Rees [Engage, Randy Barnett]
  • Nowadays “law enforcement can feel free to admit their traffic stops are pretextual” Thanks, Drug War! [Popehat] “Sobriety Checkpoints Paved Path to NSA Email Spying” [Wired]
  • FATCA, the intrusive overseas tax enforcement law, isn’t couched in public controversy as a federal data-snooping issue, but it should be [Radley Balko, McClatchy]

I was a guest Friday on Fox Business Network’s The Willis Report, with guest host Dennis Kneale, to discuss two antitrust cases in the news: Apple’s vigorous efforts to fight back against a monitor appointed as part of its e-books antitrust case [Roger Parloff/Fortune, Alison Frankel/Reuters], and the FTC’s enforcement action against music teachers for anti-competitive practices. You can watch here.

I’ll save the (highly significant) Apple-vs.-monitor case for another post. The Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement action against music teachers, skillfully told by Kim Strassel in the WSJ, demonstrates what officialdom is willing to do with the legal sledgehammer that it claims to need to take on giant corporations like Apple: it uses that weaponry against the mild-mannered piano teacher next door and her little trade association. In a sane world, when the association said its hortatory statement had never been enforced and it would delete it from now on, the FTC’s enforcers would declare victory and move on to some more important case. That they did not do so here speaks volumes about the zeal, careerism and lack of proportion that add up to runaway government. More: George Leef, Forbes.

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After taking it on the chin in a lengthy opinion by federal district judge Denise Cote, “Apple may be more cautious about entering into other markets with the same zeal.” [Macworld] George Priest, distinguished antitrust specialist at Yale, isn’t on board with the action against Apple: “When firms come up with new pricing schemes that force other companies to adopt new schemes, that’s a good thing” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes] Nor is Geoffrey Manne, who points out that authors have expressed alarm at the prospect of seeing the e-book market thrown back into Amazon’s hands. Ira Stoll wonders whether a presumption is being created that outsider firms should denounce incumbent monopolies to the government rather than disrupt them through vigorous market entry, while Wayne Crews says that by finding a clear Sherman Act violation, the government is merely showing how useless the law is. A different view from Bill Dyer: “Apple is going to have a very tough row to hoe on appeal.”

It’s being covered everywhere (Ars Technica, CNet, Above the Law) but not all the stories have been quick to pick up on this potentially relevant detail: “Sevier’s license to practice law was placed on ‘disability inactive status’ in December of 2011,” the reason given being “mental infirmity or illness.” [Ryan Grenoble, HuffPo]

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Lawyer in Apple’s law firm turns out to have been secretly advising and investing in patent-holding entity (repped by Hagens Berman) preparing a legal onslaught against Apple. “Why didn’t Morgan Lewis … see an ethical problem in letting one of its partners invest in a patent troll, especially one specially designed to target one of the firm’s big clients? And how many other big-firm lawyers are entwined with ‘start-ups’ that are actually holding companies, created to attack the very corporations they are supposed to be defending?” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica via @tedfrank]

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Apple on the skewer

by Walter Olson on May 27, 2013

“Apple doesn’t have a political action committee to fund incumbents’ re-elections. Apple doesn’t hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business — and how does that help the political class?” [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]

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“I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.'” [TheVerge.com]

  • Deborah Gerhardt on the ruling in favor of an artist who paints Crimson Tide sports highlights without University of Alabama say-so [Deborah Gerhardt/Eric Goldman, earlier here, etc.]
  • Posner throws out Apple/Motorola case [Tabarrok, more]
  • Joinder of defendants allegedly violating same patent: “D.C. Court Ruling Makes Life Tougher For Patent Trolls” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • “Google, AOL Face Patent Suit Over ‘Snippet’ Search Results, Ads” [Justia]
  • “Absurd patent of the day, Apple re: wedge-shaped computers” [Tabarrok]
  • “Defensive Patent License: judo for patent-trolls” [Doctorow/BB]
  • Why are copyright terms so long? One theory [Julian Sanchez]

…and so Washington, D.C. watches with some satisfaction as government agencies and congressional panels begin to take bites at the super-successful company on antitrust, tax and other grounds. [David Boaz, Cato-at-Liberty and New York Daily News]. More on the affluent culture of Washington D.C. from Andrew Ferguson [via MR]

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April 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 20, 2012

  • Lawsuit claim: MERS mortgage system is just a racket to deprive court clerks of recording fees [Baton Rouge Advocate]
  • More reporting on hospital and community drug shortages [Washington Post; my post last summer]
  • Roger Pilon: How the “judicial activism” debate changed [Cato at Liberty]
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, spoken of as a future national political figure, has rather a lot of ties to trial lawyers [Political Desk]
  • Problems with DOJ e-book antitrust suit targeting Apple [Declan McCullagh]
  • One bogus campaign feeds into another: “ALEC Unfairly Demonized Over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws” [Bader, CEI "Open Market"]
  • New Point of Law discussion on class actions with Ted Frank and Brian Fitzpatrick;
  • Today’s best spam comment? “With all the thistledown floating almost on the net, it is rare to look over a locate like yours instead.”

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April 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 6, 2012

  • “Help, I left my kids to wait in the car for less than five minutes, now I’m on trial for child endangerment” [Skenazy] “N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Outlawing Kids Under 8 Waiting in Cars” [same]
  • “Greek court dismisses charges against German magazine for denigrating national symbol” [AP]
  • Pre-clearance for financial innovation, as with drugs and the FDA? Bad idea [Mark Calabria/Cato, The Economist, Thom Lambert]
  • NYT, Reuters misreport effect of Stand Your Ground laws [Jacob Sullum, Robert VerBruggen/NRO, earlier here, etc.]
  • “Attorney advises against talking to Baltimore Sun in email mistakenly sent to Baltimore Sun” [Andrew Beaujon, Poynter]
  • Ken at Popehat knows how to pick his enemies [first, second, third posts, Philly Law Blog]
  • “Now Can We Start Talking About the Real Foxconn?” [Tim Culpan, Bloomberg]

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March 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2012

  • NYC: “Lawsuit Blames Apple’s Glass Doors for Plaintiff’s Broken Nose” [Lowering the Bar, CBS New York]
  • Some who pushed enhanced punishment for Dharun Ravi may now be doubting they really want it [Scott Greenfield, earlier here, etc.]
  • NYT editorial on FMLA state immunity is as bad as anyone had a right to expect [Whelan]
  • “Pleading, Discovery, and the Federal Rules: Exploring the Foundations of Modern Procedure” [Martin Redish, FedSoc "Engage"] Summary of important ’09 Redish book Wholesale Justice calling into question constitutionality of class actions [Trask]
  • Would trial-by-DVD be so very wrong? [James Grimmelmann, Prawfs]
  • Contested memorabilia: lawsuits filed over estate of gay rights pioneer Franklin Kameny [MetroWeekly]
  • Feds’ “distracted driving” guidance could impair usefulness of car navigation systems [Cunningham/CNet, earlier]

March 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 20, 2012

  • “Lawyer Who Spotted Broker Fraud Rewarded With SEC Ordeal” [Business Week via Bader]
  • Reactions to the feds’ antitrust case against e-book publishers and Apple [Yglesias, Wright, Stoll, more]
  • NYT retrospectively backs Nixon efforts to deny tax exemption to lefty groups, or maybe ire at tea party adversaries just makes the paper less than consistent [Caron, background, more]
  • House Judiciary testimony on the evils of consent decrees binding the government to pursue regulation in certain ways [Andrew Grossman]
  • “Law Firm Claims It Had No Control Over $464 Mln Fee Request” [WSJ Law Blog]
  • “California’s ethnic identity police” [Mickey Kaus]
  • Role, economic incentives of special masters in litigation overdue for reformist attention [Ted/PoL]

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“This American Life” has retracted a much-discussed news segment about the horrors of Apple’s Shenzhen, China workplace after discovering it was faked; Mike Daisey’s report contained “numerous fabrications,” it says. For more on how readiness to believe the worst about big business can leave media open to being fooled by manipulative packagers of news, see the GM trucks episode, Food Lion, and a great many others. [Ira Glass, Jack Shafer, Edward Champion]

More from David Henderson. And Coyote: “The problem with the media is not outright bias, but an intellectual mono-culture that fails to exercise the most basic skepticism when stories fit their narrative.”

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The class action firm of Robbins Geller, representing some client or other, is demanding damages from Apple on behalf of a class of people disappointed by the iPhone 4S voice-activated assistant, Siri. Reviewers have complained that the program often fails to comprehend users’ speech, returns illogical answers, and when asked “Play some Coltrane,” has been known to respond that it doesn’t know any “coal train.” [Mat Honan, Gizmodo; Jason Gilbert/Huffington Post] “When asked her whether her makers exaggerated her worth, Siri told Law Blog, ‘We were talking about you, not me.’” [Joe Palazzolo/WSJ Law Blog]

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Belated and unsatisfactory lawsuit “relief”? Nothing especially Applelicious about that; it’s more a matter of joining the class-action crowd. [Rebecca Greenfield, Atlantic Wire] More: Ted Frank, Point of Law (who represents objector Marie Gryphon in the case).

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Toronto lawyer Michael Deverett thinks a bad guy must have followed him home from the Apple Store; at least someone smashed his hatchback car window when he stepped away for a couple of minutes and made off with what he said was a well concealed bag of new electronics purchases worth C$2,200. The company — which gave him a store credit plus a small extra for legal fees — is also facing criticism from theft victims who say it should do more to help owners retrieve stolen cellphones. [Toronto Star](& welcome Elie Mystal, Above the Law readers)

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