Category: Law

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‘Really, Rupert?’ is the Right Question

Today, Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president of communications and policy, asks what has been on my mind since a stunning scoop set the Wall Street Journal against the Federal Trade Commission and the search and information giant. As I explained in an analysis of the news reporting, the story is flush with insinuation and veiled accusation, bereft of context.

Among my more serious concerns: Journal-parent News Corp’s ongoing tug-a-war with Google’s business model and its impact on paid content. Both entities likely would benefit by any means that trustbusters could crimp Google. The scoop’s timing and tone look like they intend to influence European Union public policy. Rachel’s response is brilliant, because it gets to the point: Conflict of interest taints the Journal’s credibility and impartiality. She rightly observes: “We understand you have a new found love of the regulatory process, especially in Europe”. 

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Google, FTC, and Advocacy Journalism That Stinks Like Landfill

Mac apologist Daniel Eran Dilger posted one of his lopsided-advocacy stories around 8:30 p.m. PDT last night; I saw the ridiculous headline, “Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation under Daniel Lyons fluff”, about two hours later, when scanning my RSS feeds. The story within is even worse. Don’t bother rewarding the author with pageviews. Notice I don’t link to the story. (Since we have two Daniels here and out of friendliness I use first names, I choose for this story to refer to Mr. Dilger as DED.)

Here’s the quick recap: DED refers to a Daniel Lyons opinion that ran in an ongoing Washington Post series. I happened to see it last night: “Five myths about Google“. I could have picked better myths, but these aren’t bad. The Post story is dateline March 20, 2015. The previous night, the Wall Street Journal blew out a big scoop regarding the Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation into Google that closed in January 2013, finding no case. The Journal asserts cause championed by staff but ignored by Commissioners.  Blech! The WSJ report is suspicious as all bloody hell, as I explain in March 19 analysis: “What is Behind the Journal’s Big Google-FTC Scoop?” 

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What is Behind the Journal’s Big Google-FTC Scoop?

Technology industry news scoops rarely offer as much intrigue as Wall Street Journal story “Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google“. According to reporters Brent Kendall, Brody Mullins, and Rolfe Winkler, the newspaper obtained a years-old Federal Trade Commission staff document, “after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request”.

Seriously? Is that accidentally, or accidentally on purpose? Applying the question every journalist should ask about anything—Who benefits?—raises reasonable suspicion the release was deliberate. I say that because FTC staff recommended filing antitrust charges against Google, while Commissioners cleared the search and information in a unanimous vote, according to the Journal. The answer to the “Who benefits?” question likely lies in circumstances obvious and not: Intrigue in and around the agency, including staff dissatisfied with the outcome; timing with respect to Google; and competitor lobbying, manipulation, or interference. 

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Let’s Boycott Hershey Chocolates

Yesterday, I saw headlines about a forced legal settlement, involving the Hershey Company. New York Times story “After a Deal, British Chocolates Won’t Cross the Pond” says it all: “Let’s Buy British Imports, or L.B.B., agreed this week to stop importing all Cadbury’s chocolate made overseas”. Hershey insists that Toffee Crisp packaging too closely resembles Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, which is ridiculous considering they are very different confections and presented in different shapes.

Same must be said about Yorkie bar, which presumably so resembles York Peppermint Patty that chocolate buyers must confuse one for the other. Of course! People mistake finger-shaped confections with circular patties every day. Don’t you? The argument for Kit Kat is stronger, given name and packaging. But the ingredients are quite different. Have you ever eaten imported chocolate bars? British Kit Kat is creamier—fudgier might be better word—than its U.S. counterpart. 

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Storage is One of iPhone’s Biggest Benefits

Oh the irony! I got up yesterday morning planning to write a version of the post you read now, choosing instead to look back at readers’ life-changing tech. The trigger: Motorola starting the New Year with a 64GB Moto X model and my previous day’s personal tech devices wrap-up, which got me to thinking abut smartphone differentiation. Processing power, graphics chips, and the like are passé. Who really cares but a minority of gadget geeks? But storage matters to everyone, and Apple gets it—as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus capacities demonstrate.

My feeds are full of reports this morning about a lawsuit filed against Apple alleging that iOS 8 consumes too much storage and, as such, the company misrepresents the amount available. I would have looked so smart writing yesterday about how much Apple gives that competitors don’t (well, to anyone who like me missed the first reports two days ago). That’s okay, now my analysis has a news hook. The point, for people reading no more than two paragraphs of any story: iPhone 6 capacities outclass competitors, and the problem of operating systems consuming much of available storage isn’t new or exclusive to the fruit-logo company. Just look to Google and Microsoft, for example.

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My Uninsured Life

I am supposed to be sitting in a movie theater watching Interstellar. The plan was in place for months. Instead, I write this post, which is commentary on health insurance in America. The two things are strangely connected, if in this or any other universe such seemingly disparate relationships are random. What’s that saying about a butterfly flapping its wings?

Here’s a nut graph, so you can decide whether to read further or stop here: America’s healthcare system is broken. Free-market forces cannot work. The 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act laid the framework for healthcare monopolies, which nearly 70 years later act like cartels, in defiance of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. The Affordable Care Act raises healthcare costs, while managing the monopolies rather than eliminating them. As such, the free-market forces that should stimulate competition and drive down prices are stymied. 

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O Canada, What Say You?

What do two forts share in common? Kaci Hickox, the 33 year-old healthcare worker from Fort Worth, Texas, taking refuge in Fort Kent, Maine. Surely you know of the so-called Ebola nurse and the legal scuffle about quarantining her. As an Aroostook County native born about 70 kilometers (okay, I rounded up) southeast of FK and having traveled widely across the Lone Star State, I know something about the character of both regions. Think independent-mindedness times two, which equals “Don’t tell me what to do”.

The simple story: She volunteered in Sierra Leone, where the disease rages. She returned to the wrong state, New Jersey, which put her in isolation. She fled to one of the most rural and remote areas of the Northeast. Maine’s governor demanded voluntary quarantine. She defied it. A federal judge ruled against the Gov. News reporters who couldn’t find Fort Kent with a Google Map ruined the autumn tourist trade by filling up the only hotel. We all wait to see if she stays symptom free through November 10. Pass the popcorn. The suspense is thicker than a horror flick. 

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Single Sourcing Is the Source of News Evil

I am mortified by lazy reporting this morning. I’ve been looking over stories about Verizon requesting a California judge reject Apple’s request to bar numerous Galaxy-branded smartphones or tablets from selling in the United States. I have yet to find one story that cites the original source—Verizon’s filing. They all instead refer to a FOSS Patents blog post. According to the court calendar, a motion hearing is scheduled for October 13 (I looked).

FOSS Patents is not credible-enough source, because its story on this topic, as with others, is generally one person’s perspective. More importantly, in this case, original source material should be available through the court’s PACER system, which is where I assume FOSS got the Verizon filing (I don’t know).

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Editors Shrewdly Handled Gizmodo-iPhone Drama Act II

The toughest challenge for any newsroom is being the story. How should editors report about the news when they’re it, particularly if there are legal matters? That’s exactly Gizmodo‘s situation, following a Friday night police raid of editor Jason Chen’s home. Gizmodo waited until Monday to post about the search and seizure of items from Jason’s home, which included four computers and two servers. Gizmodo has responded tactfully from editorial and legal perspectives.

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Shield Laws Protect Sources

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding among many bloggers, journalists and the general public about the purpose of shield laws. They are not meant to protect journalists. The laws exist to protect journalists’ sources. The shield extends to journalists so they can’t be forced to reveal confidential sources or to have information about their sources forcibly seized.