Legal Complaining Technology

Barbara Deckert has a new weapon in the war against airplane noise — and she’s not afraid to use it.

Every time a plane flies over her suburban Maryland home, rattling her windows and setting her teeth on edge, she presses a small white button and feels a tiny sense of triumph.

That’s because with one click, Deckert has done what could have taken her hours to do a few months ago — she has filed a noise complaint with officials at the Maryland Aviation Administration.

Button offers instant gratification for those plagued by airplane noise (via The new economics of complaining)

How many markets might there be for this kind of complaining technology?

Pets aren’t just property: divorce edition

A new California law means pets don’t need to be treated as “just” property in a divorce.

Legal experts said the law means judges can take into consideration factors like who walks, feeds and plays with the pet when deciding who the animal should live with.

“Before it was an issue of who owns the dog and how you distribute the property,” Favre said. “But pets aren’t quite the same thing as china and sofas. They’re more like children, in that they’re living beings who have their own preferences.”

And as with children, he said, divorce can be “a trauma for animals as well.”

The law doesn’t just apply to dogs — it defines “pet” as “any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.”

New California divorce law: Treat pets like people — not property to be divided up

This is an attention grabbing premise, but the law is about treating people better, not pets. Given the terrible incentives embedded in family law, I suppose we should be welcoming any improvement.

You don’t own your tattoos

You might own your dance moves, but you definitely don’t own your tattoos. But can you effectively sub-license them?

Any creative illustration “fixed in a tangible medium” is eligible for copyright, and, according to the United States Copyright Office, that includes the ink displayed on someone’s skin. What many people don’t realize, legal experts said, is that the copyright is inherently owned by the tattoo artist, not the person with the tattoos.

For most people, that is not a cause for concern. Lawyers generally agree that an implied license allows people to freely display their tattoos in public, including on television broadcasts or magazine covers. But when tattoos are digitally recreated on avatars in sports video games, copyright infringement can become an issue.

Athletes Don’t Own Their Tattoos. That’s a Problem for Video Game Developers.

And this is not the first time this has been an issue.

An inflection point for AI?

Yet this peculiar retreat was venomous: No matter how Stockfish replied, it was doomed. It was almost as if AlphaZero was waiting for Stockfish to realize, after billions of brutish calculations, how hopeless its position truly was, so that the beast could relax and expire peacefully, like a vanquished bull before a matador. Grandmasters had never seen anything like it. AlphaZero had the finesse of a virtuoso and the power of a machine. It was humankind’s first glimpse of an awesome new kind of intelligence.

One Giant Step for a Chess-Playing Machine

When I was a graduate student in AI I often pointed to the Deep Blue v. Kasparov series as an illustration of how clueless we were in AI: grandmasters usually considered only a few moves in their two minutes of thinking, and Deep Blue churned through millions. Yet we had no idea how grandmasters came up with those few moves for consideration.

AlphaZero is a revelation. I hope to post more on it.

What is glitter?

What is glitter? The simplest answer is one that will leave you slightly unsatisfied, but at least with your confidence in comprehending basic physical properties intact. Glitter is made from glitter. Big glitter begets smaller glitter; smaller glitter gets everywhere, all glitter is impossible to remove; now never ask this question again.

What is Glitter?

Utterly charming write up.

Freeeeeeeeedooooooooom!

Or not.

A buyer who illegally demolished a famed house in San Francisco has been ordered to rebuild an exact replica – and install a plaque outside explaining what happened.

. . . . .

Ms Traverce called the decision “a victory for the neighbours and the little people”.

Owner who demolished famed San Francisco house must build replica

I’m not sure what San Francisco is optimizing for here, but it’s not productivity or affordable housing.

Privacy vs Security

It’s an old topic, long discussed, and for that reason somewhat boring / repetitive. But I think new intelligent video analytics and facial recognition technology are about to make this extremely relevant again.

There’s no question in my mind that we, as a society, as going to trade public privacy (e.g., being monitored in public all the time) for safety. If the DC Sniper incident happens again, we’ll have drones over every major city. But two points:

  1. The privacy of our homes continues to be relatively secure, apart from the voice-control and IoT devices we voluntarily invite inside. Will that change? I don’t see any need for safety purposes.
  2. Will the additional security change the debate on gun control? If we as a society (i.e. the government) know exactly where you are and what you’re doing every time you step outside, does it matter that you have an arsenal inside your home? So long as it stays there…

And I often think of the aphorism attributed to Ben Franklin:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Still relevant? Of course, like many old quotes, this one is often thrown about without any understanding of its context.

On balance, I lean towards freedom to deploy technology and catch law breakers. And freedom to own firearms. Safety and liberty?

Do Digital First Sales Exist?

If I have an iTunes song that I lawfully purchased and downloaded, can I sell that copy to anyone else? Ever? Not according to the Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit in Capital Records v. ReDigi.

ReDigi was a company that offered such a promise: sell your unwanted iTunes music! And they appear to have designed software to make that transaction as close to a physical transfer as possible:

ReDigi’s system differs in that it effectuates a deletion of each packet from the user’s device immediately after the “transitory copy” of that packet arrives in the computer’s buffer (before the packet is forwarded to ReDigi’s server). In other words, as each packet “leaves the station,” ReDigi deletes it from the original purchaser’s device such that it “no longer exists” on that device. Id. As a result, the entire file never exists in two places at once. Id.

The problem is that the Copyright Act prohibits making copies. And even if ReDigi effectively deletes the original copy (putting aside that this is relatively easy for a user to hide), ReDigi still makes a new copy. The law is violated.

ReDigi makes the reasonable objection that users should not be forced to sell their entire computer hard drive to sell the iTunes song they downloaded. The Second Circuit shrugs:

A secondary market can readily be imagined for first purchasers who cost effectively place 50 or 100 (or more) songs on an inexpensive device such as a thumb drive and sell it. . . . Furthermore, other technology may exist or be developed that could lawfully effectuate a digital first sale.

Sure. Ok. Although I think perhaps the court doesn’t understand the market, users, or computers.

You just don’t own digital copies in the same way you own physical copies, absent some major change in the law.