A mysterious nonprofit made millions suing companies to put California cancer warnings on coffee

    The Council for Education and Research on Toxics (CERT) is a nonprofit that kicked off its mysterious existence by filing a string of lawsuits against restaurant chains and coffee roasters for not posting California Proposition 65 notices (the notices are mandatory warnings about the presence of "chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity") despite the disputed science behind their demands. Read the rest

    New York City seizes 46 ice cream trucks

    In a crackdown named "Operation Meltdown", New York City authorities have seized 46 ice cream trucks with unpaid fines.

    To get away with not paying fines, the release said, the operators created dozens of "shell" companies and systematically re-registered trucks at the Department of Motor Vehicles under the names of different corporations. By the time the city's finance department would try to collect on a debt, there would be no trace of the offending company, according to the news release.

    Previously in Ice Cream Wars:

    · Ice cream truck drivers at war · Mr Yummy battles Mr Whippy in Blackburn Ice Cream War · The Glasgow Ice Cream Wars [links to the Wikipedia article] Read the rest

    European legal official OKs orders that force Facebook to globally remove insults to politicians like "oaf" and "fascist" (as well as synonyms)

    Austria has incredibly broad libel laws -- so broad that they prohibit disgruntled voters from calling politicians "oafs" or "fascists." Predictably, this gave rise to a legal dispute between an Austrian politician and Facebook, when the former ordered the latter to remove a comment containing these two insults, and the whole mess ended up before the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU -- a person whose decisions are not binding, but are incredibly legally influential. Read the rest

    The Canadian government has released the surprisingly sensible results of its extensive, year-long review of copyright law

    [Editor's note: Whenever governments review their copyright, one of two things happens: either they only listen to industry reps and then come to the "conclusion" that more copyright is always better; or they listen to stakeholders and experts and conclude that a little goes a long way. Normally, when the latter happens, the government that commissioned the report buries it out of terror of powerful Big Content lobbyists. This time, miraculously, an eminently sensible Canadian report has seen the light of day. I was delighted to invite the legendary Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist to present a short analysis of some of the important conclusions. -Cory]

    The Canadian government launched an extensive review of its copyright law last year that led to months of study and attracted hundreds of witnesses and briefs. While some groups hoped the review would lead to new website blocking measures and restrictions on fair dealing (Canada's version of fair use), the Industry committee report released this week actually recommends expanding fair dealing, rejects site blocking without a court order, and rejects proposals to exclude education from fair dealing where a licence is otherwise available. The study covers a wide range of copyright issues, but its conclusions on fair dealing, digital locks, site blocking, and term extension are particularly noteworthy. Read the rest

    Rumor: DoJ is going to investigate Google for antitrust violations

    According to a widely reported rumor -- first published by the WSJ -- the DoJ is preparing to launch an antitrust probe of Google, though it's not clear on what basis such a probe would proceed. Read the rest

    For the first time since the 70s, New York State is set to enshrine sweeping tenants' protections

    There isn't single county in the nation where a minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a two-bedroom home; and although LA has the worst homelessness crisis in the country, New York state is catching up, with homelessness growing by 46% since the financial crisis -- the fastest rate in the nation. Read the rest

    Supreme Court of Canada to rule on the enforceability of arbitration clauses

    Back in January, an Ontario court ruled that Uber's arbitration clause couldn't keep its drivers from suing it; Uber has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has taken up the case and will hear arguments about whether arbitration clauses (through which the parties surrender the right to sue in court) are enforceable in "adhesion contracts" (contracts that are not negotiated, where one party has much less power than the other, such as in click-through agreements). Read the rest

    Help wanted! EFF is hiring a new copyright/trademark litigator

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation is hiring a new staff copyright/trademark litigator, and "experience with or strong interest in patent, unfair competition, administrative law, privacy and/or First Amendment litigation is preferred but not required." Read the rest

    Poland has asked the European Court of Justice to overturn the #CopyrightDirective

    The government of Poland has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the recently passed Copyright Directive amounts of a form of censorship, "forbidden not only in the Polish constitution but also in the EU treaties." Read the rest

    Germany demands an end to working cryptography

    Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer -- a hardliner who has called for cameras at every "hot spot" in Germany -- has announced that he will seek a ban on working cryptography in Germany; he will insist that companies only supply insecure tools that have a backdoor that will allow the German state to decrypt messages and chats on demand. Read the rest

    Federal lawsuit calls college textbook/ebook packages a "scam"

    The Virginia Pirate Corporation is a startup that brokers sales of used textbooks at colleges; they're suing North Charleston, SC's Trident Technical College over its inclusion of textbook fees in tuition, meaning that students will have already paid for new textbooks when they pay their tuition. Read the rest

    AOC has backed a progressive, anti-establishment public defender for DA of Queens

    Tiffany Cabán is a 31 year old, Democratic Socialist, queer, Latinx public defender in New York City, who is running a grassroots campaign for the District Attorney's office in Queens; she's secured backing from the Democratic Socialists of America and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Read the rest

    Pennsylvania Judge: professor who had sex with students must be reinstated

    A Bloomsburg University professor was fired for having sex with two of his female students, but a Pennsylvania court has ordered that it reinstate him. Pennlive:

    The Commonwealth Court ruling upholds a June 2018 arbitrator’s decision that voided the termination of Assistant Professor John Barrett. University officials had appealed that award, which the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties union secured on Barrett’s behalf. The arbitrator ordered Barrett’s reinstatement with full benefits and back pay.

    In the state court’s opinion, Judge P. Kevin Brobson noted the relationships between Barrett and the women were consensual, that neither woman was taking classes from Barrett at the time, and that the relationships were not barred by the university’s sexual harassment policy.

    Barrett was also accused of groping one of the women — specifically by waking her up by touching her genitals without consent — but "the judge [found] that the supposed fondling did not amount to sexual harassment because it occurred in the context of a consensual sexual relationship."

    Pennsylvania seems to have a problem with colleges being unable to rid themselves of predatory faculty and their facilitators.

    Lock Haven Univeristy was forced in March to reinstate a professor it fired after learning of his past as a convicted child molester.

    And here's Penn State students rioting after legendary coach Joe Paterno was fired when officials learned he helped cover up decades of child sexual abuse by his assistant, Jerry Sandusky. The college soon returned to "honoring" his memory. Read the rest

    Colorado cop Vanessa Schultz couldn't imagine why Latino teen might be running in Wyoming. So she pulled her gun on him.

    A warning for the good people of Wyoming! You never know when a trigger-happy Colorado cop might drop by to see the sights.

    Emily Mieure, from The Jackson Hole News & Guide:

    “Mr. Becerra, a diminutive 17-year-old Hispanic resident, was late one morning and running to catch his bus after leaving the apartment where he lived with his parents,” attorney Alex Freeburg stated in the complaint. “Without any more information, and without investigating any further, [Ms. Schultz, on vacation from Colorado] exited her vehicle, pulled out a pistol, and ordered Mr. Becerra to stop and get on the ground. ... While witnesses urged her to stop, and while Mr. Becerra pleaded with her, Ms. Schultz yelled ‘stay down’ and screamed ‘I have a gun and will shoot,’” the complaint states.

    Taxpayer-dinging lawsuits are the remedy here because prosecutors show little interest in taking action. Shultz did nothing illegal, according to Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun, “because it is reasonable to assume a running teen has committed a crime. Read the rest

    Pangea raised $180m to buy up low-rent Chicago properties "to help poor people," and then created the most brutally efficient eviction mill in Chicago history

    Pangea was founded by Al Goldstein, a Deutsche Bank investment banker who quit to found a massive, intercontinental payday lending outfit; he tapped the investors that he enriched with his payday lending business to stake him $180 million and bought up thousands of low-rent buildings in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods (which are also Chicago's blackest neighborhoods). Read the rest

    Sleuthing from public sources to figure out how the Hateful Eight leaker was caught

    In 2014, Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker for publishing a link to a leaked pre-release screener of his movie "The Hateful Eight." The ensuing court-case revealed that the screeners Tarantino's company had released had some forensic "traitor tracing" features to enable them to track down the identities of people who leaked copies. Read the rest

    Techdirt settles lawsuit with the "I invented email" guy

    In 2017, an engineer and entrepreneur sued Techdirt for criticising his claim to have invented email. Though a district court soon dismissed the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds, appeals and wrangling over lawyers' fees continued. The case finally settled this month, Techdirt reports: article stays up, no money changes hands.

    It's a win for Techdirt and journalism, as all he got was a link to a response he could have added himself by signing up for a free commenting account. But that was the point: it was a SLAPP, a legal action the plaintiff knew he could not win, whose real purpose was to be so expensive and troublesome for the defendant to fight that they shut up or paid up. Mike Masnick writes that it doesn't feel like victory:

    You may wonder how it could possibly take 18 months to negotiate a settlement about adding links to old articles -- and, indeed, I wonder that myself. The entire process has been quite a pain for us. I cannot and would not describe this result as a victory, because this has been nearly two and a half years of wasted time, effort, resources, attention and money just to defend our right to report on a public figure and explain to the world that we do not believe his claims to have invented email are correct, based on reams of evidence.

    During those 18 months, we stopped all the fundraising we had done around the lawsuit, as, for nearly all of that time, it did appear that a settlement was close, and we did not wish to mislead anyone into believing that we were raising money on the premise that our continued existence was in grave danger only to settle the case immediately after doing so.

    Read the rest

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