March 2009

If a Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words ….

by Lee Gesmer on March 28, 2009

If you’re a lawyer with a case involving the complex interaction of physical objects (say a plane crash), nothing can compare to a video animation that faithfully recreates the event. Your expert can show it to the judge or jury, and vouch for its accuracy. Of course, it’s expensive to create one of these videos, but with Moore’s Law and better graphics software, it’s getting easier and easier.

And if you’re one of the many firms that creates these videos for lawyers, what better way to strut your stuff than to recreate the landing of US Air Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, with the actual pilot-controller audio overlaid? This is what Scene Systems, a forensic animation company, has done to show its skill. The two minute animation is here, with the recording of Sully and the controller synchronized to the action:
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Is It Safe? Cloud Computing, That Is

by Lee Gesmer on March 28, 2009

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) doesn’t think so, at least when it comes to Google’s so-called “Cloud Computing Services” (e.g., gmail, picassa, google calender). Here is a link to the complaint (pdf) EPIC has filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Quoting from the Complaint:

Google routinely represents to consumers that documents stored on Google servers are secure. For example, the homepage for Google Docs states “Files are stored securely online” (emphasis in the original) and the accompanying video provides further assurances of the security of the Google Cloud Computing Service. . . .

Google encourages users to “add personal information to their documents and spreadsheets,” and represents to consumers that “this information is safely stored on Google’s secure servers.” Google states that “your data is private, unless you grant access to others and/or publish your information.” . . .

On March 7, 2009, Google disclosed user‐generated documents saved on its Google Docs Cloud Computing Service to users of the service who lacked permission to view the files (the “Google Docs Data Breach”).

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Administrative Office of the Federal Courts' Annual Report - Your Tax Dollars Well Spent

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Mark Twain

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Recession/depression/readjustment, it matters not, our federal government is committed to keeping statistics. And, it spends a great deal of time, money and effort tracking every statistic imaginable associated with the federal courts. This labor is performed by the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts, and it’s no small task. As far back as ten years ago the Admin Office had a budget of over $50 million (that was the only budget statistic I could find based on a quick search).

Each year the Office issues a detailed statistical report, and this year’s report is over 400 pages long. Most of this is mind-numbing tables and statistics. I suspect that very few people read beyond the summary contained in the first 40 pages, other than to pick out a statistic here and there. Here is a link to the report, but don’t download it unless you’re prepared for a 400 page pdf file almost 7 megabytes in size.… Read the full article

Are business training materials sufficiently original to be protected by copyright law? The answer, of course, is “it depends.” First and foremost it depends on the materials themselves, but it also depends on the judge. In Situation Management v. ASP, Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge William Young thought the training materials created by the plaintiff, Situation Management, were not entitled to copyright protection. (I posted on this case when Judge Young’s decisionwas issued – click here for earlier post).

Judge Young was not complimentary toward Situation Management’s training materials. In the process of holding that the materials were not entitled to copyright protection he described them as nothing more than “a summary of common-sense communication skills . . . “fodder for sardonic workplace humor” and as “aggressively vapid”. He observed that “the works at issue are so dominated by nonprotectable material that it is impossible to reduce the work to a copyrightable essence or structure.” He found that the materials were filled with generalizations, platitudes, and observations of the obvious” .Read the full article