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Internet Anonymity

      State Senator, Ira I. Silverstein, introduced Illinois Senate Bill 1614 which attempted to create the Internet Posting Removal Act. It’s intent was to reduce cyberbullying with a law that restricted anonymous web posting.

      As  Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn noted, the bill would have required website administrators to remove anonymous comments, upon request, unless the anonymous poster agreed to attach his/her name to the post and confirms that his/her IP address, legal name and home address are accurate. The operative requirement is giving that personal information if requested.

     The legislator introduced the bill because, “I do a lot of reading, a lot of research and I came across the idea that had been suggested that kids can be very mean on the Internet, and I thought this might be a way of controlling that”.

     After introducing the bill, Silverstein withdrew it because he said that he took much heat over the idea.

     Social media has made it easier to bully someone anonymously. This bill raises the question of whether posting an anonymous message should be a form of protected freedom, or whether that only extends to speech and not the hiding. I would think that web administrators would really want no responsibility in requiring and maintaining such information, or having to respond to such requests.

     I would be surprised to see any legislation like this to get enacted on the state or federal level.  Still, the days of “Say that to my face” are gone. People aren’t even saying it behind backs anymore.

     Pic o’ day is like the Internet, some things are just hard to explain:

bear on bike

 

It Was Called Post Office

In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster. 1847 brought us the first postage stamp; Then, a five-cent stamp with Ben Franklin and George Washington on the ten-cent. The year of 1963 brought us zip codes to organize delivery. Forward to 2006, the last time that the Post Office turned a profit… $900 million.

That is some of the history of the Post Office. It’s relevant to consider because the day may be coming when the Post Office itself is nothing but history. It seems more real, now that the post office appears to be closing on Saturdays soon.

Esquire.com brings us history and makes us consider what might be the future in its article “Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office?” Now that the Postmaster has determined that he doesn’t need Congress’ permission to close the Post Office on Saturdays, he announced that the post office will begin a 5-day-delivery in August. Soon we will no longer be checking our mailboxes on the weekends. (Bloomberg) No more movies arriving. No more coffee from Gevalia.

On one hand, that means less junk mail on weekends. On the other, that means that bill paying may run the risk of late fees. Plus, is this really the beginning of the end for the Post Office? Will it be like telling future generations that you could once walk right up to the airport gate and watch relatives walk off the plane; or that people once did not sit at restaurant tables and dream of being somewhere else… wherever that happens to be where they are constantly texting. Printed mail in a box: nothing but a memory?

In mid-November, the Postmaster reported that the Post Office had lost 15.9 billion dollars for the year and that mail was down 5% from the previous year. At the same time, all of us could rejoice that the Post Office, with its 461 distribution centers, was the reason that we could send a letter from New York to the woods of Alaska for 50 cents; instead of paying UPS fifty dollars to get it there.

In a time that Washington is looking for budget cuts, there is no easier place to look than the Post Office. It will have some legal impact because sometimes service or notice or a copy of a lawsuit can be sent through the mail. A cheaper way of doing private business.

The author of Ben Franklin’s biography, Walter Isaacson, was quoted as saying that after researching Franklin’s desire for a post office he said, “I find his passion for the postal service inspiring”. Based on the past and the present, the post office was considered a way of encouraging contact and community. Is it now something that is solely viewed as a monetary consideration? Or, should it be viewed as more that cannot be replaced by computers, tablets, phones and the Internet?

Yep, Pic 0′ day is a reminder that maybe everyone would miss the post office.

“House of Cards” Thought

House of Cards” is a Netflix original series that had Wall Street talking last week. Unrelated to the show, Netflix had seen a dramatic rise in its stock over the past few days. That’s because the streaming network has been gobbling up programming and beating its competition. Amazon and Apple TV are suddenly trying to catch-up.

This isn’t a blog about whether Warren Buffet would invest in Internet programming. Instead, new ground has been broken with a slick television series that was available for viewing in our homes, without a “brick and mortar” televison network being involved. Instead, to watch the show, you have to pay the monthly fee to Netflix, not to some cable or satellite company. That’s the only way that you can see Kevin Spacey play a Democratic congressman/ House Majority Whip.

Curiously, they have written the storyline to include Spacey to be a Congressman from South Carolina, whose district includes Gaffney. That’s why it’s crazy that one of the show topics includes a lawsuit over the big peach that is along the highway. That peach has its own claim to fame when you search it on the Internet.

The show does discuss the making of laws in all of its dirty back-room politics glory. No one is living a life that resembles any kind of good character. In fact, it is all unsurprisingly immoral… exactly what we expect from politics.

The reason that the show makes the blog is because of one of the programming methods that is being used. The main character (Spacey) regularly turns directly to the camera and looks to the viewer. Then, he speaks directly ” to the viewer” to give some background or “wisdom” on what is going on in the scene or in the mind of one of the other characters.

I would guess that there is some risk with this viewing method. Of course, Netflix is taking the risk that by spending on this series, more people will subscribe.

As to speaking into the camera directly, wouldn’t it impact our lives if we really believed that someone was always watching everything that we were doing. Would that effect our conduct in life? Perhaps, it would make more people accept responsibility for what they do. Maybe it would even make insurance companies act differently. Well…. maybe I am getting a little carried away on the insurance part. Still, can you believe that the Peach made it into the show?

For pic o’ day I went with a life of practical:

Online Lying Law

I am told that it’s bad business not to have something to listen to, when callers are put on phone hold. A few years back, I would regularly change our on-hold messages to apply that business advice. Then, for the message, I decided to periodically insert unusual state laws that are still in effect.

For instance, in one state, it is against the law to allow cows to stand around clothes while they are drying on a clothesline. Sometimes, I would pick up the waiting phone call and the caller would ask me to finish some information about those law on-hold messages.

When I read (article) that Rhode Island lawmakers have decided to strike down a 1989 law that made it a misdemeanor to knowlingly provide false information on the Internet, I wondered if it was a bit like the cow and clothesline law or something more serious.

One State Representative put it in context, “Lies may make you a scoundrel, cost you a relationship or get you fired, but they shouldn’t make you a criminal unless you’re trying to commit fraud or some other crime”. The legislators pointed to California as support to strike down the language, where actors regularly tell lies about their age, to help them get acting jobs.

The Rhode Island law still has a portion of the law in effect. It still is a felony to transmit false data for the purpose of “submitting a claim or payment”. What lawmakers specifically wanted to remove was the question of sending your boss an email to indicate that you can’t come to work because of sickness; Then, you sneak off to the mall for the 70% sale that is only on Tuesday.

I suspect that the online dating services were lobbying for this law to be eliminated. Now, photo-shopping that picture and trimming down the waistline is just considered a dating fib, and not a misdemeanor. Not many people are really being honest when they say “enjoys long walks in the park” either. Maybe online dating factors in a plus or minus twenty pounds for the profile pictures. At least now, Rhode Island says that selling the positive is just spin, not a misdemeanor.

For pic 0 day, I am including a picture from my mom: a Halloween “turkey costume”:

Invisible and Unstoppable v. Privacy

     This blog really is a combination of two articles that  have absolutely nothing to do with each other, except that one provides a possible answer for the other. I am relying on a news story from a Utah TV station, and an answer from Parade.com.

     Utah police received a call that a woman was being assaulted by a man. When they arrived at the location of the call, they saw a car pulling away with a man and a woman. As they followed the car, they saw the man punch the woman.

     Soon, the police were able to pull the car over and the woman and a child ran from the car. The man in the car was taken to the hospital to be checked out; and then charged with assault. He argued with the police, claiming that he could not be charged because he was “invisible and unstoppable”.  Sounds like he had something worse than too many glasses of sweet tea.

     In an unrelated note (only related through my blogging talent of taking nothing and combining to make nothing), “Manner Up!” from Parade.com responded to the following question:

      “I recently had a hip replacement and my sister-in-law has been posting updates about my status, with photos from the hospital, on Facebook. I’ve asked her to stop but she says I’m being silly. How can I get her to stop”.

     I guess there’s a legal and a practical answer to this. You can’t really hire bodyguards at the hospital, and ask them to tackle and rip up any camera, like a paparazzi moment. Plus, with so many reality shows on TV, people have come to accept the Facebook phenomenon of  posting everything on Facebook and Twitter.

     We all do have a right of an expectation of privacy and even family is bound by that legal principle. Unfortunately, it’s like being in a crosswalk; A car might hit you, even when you are in the right.

     There’s not much that you can do to “enforce your right”. No one really wants to sue a  family member for an invasion of privacy. You can’t even force them to wear a hospital gown despite the fact that it would remind them that those “breeze in the back” hospital gowns are only funny for those not wearing them.

     This is one of those blogs where the answer is what you expect legally, but I really don’t have a good answer. Instead, I thought I would revert back to the Utah man. Maybe, the best way to stop Facebook postings is to make a claim of being invisible and unstoppable.

     And now, pic o’ day from Parade.com which posts a true Civil War picture and a current John Travolta picture. They then raise the question, “How old is John Travolta?” 

Apple Agreement Falls From Tall Tree

     Suppose I said that I’ve been all the way to the end. I’ve traveled all the way to the end of the Internet and guess what I saw? A man was sitting there with a Trump-like comb over. He was wearing nothing but pointy Llama skin boots and a t-shirt that said “Ice Cream for breakfast”,

     If you listened closely you could hear it. He was playing a Ukulele and was singing “Insane in the membrane; Insane in the brain”. Yep, at the very end of the Internet. 

     Now,  before you click away because you think you are experiencing a psychedelic drug, or that I must be blogging from the dessert while taking a cactus supplement; let me tell you where we are headed.

     I thought I would warn you of all the boxes and checks that we now agree to, when we purchase and download on the Internet. CNN pointed out that Apple makes you click “OK” to a 56 page document, when you want to download something from iTunes. As one comedian said at the White House correspondents dinner when speaking about Congress, “I think you guys vote on bills in the same way that the rest of us agree to updated terms and conditions on iTunes”. Basically, passing legislation they never read.

     It’s the state of affairs. We don’t want to wait to read the whole agreement and companies know that. In Pharmacuetical litigation, Drug companies regularly point to their multiple page and multiple folded warning, and claim that the consumer knew or should have know what they were doing, when they picked up the prescription at the counter.

     Look at the Merck drug, Vioxx. Merck had  initially claimed that people that took their anti-inflammatory drug for muscle pain, accepted the risk of stroke or heart attack, because they had the warning and still took the medication. The number of filled prescriptions, 60 million, proved it.

     I suspect that no one sits at Walgreens and reads the warning before signing the sheet and leaving. Very few probably ever read those terms and conditions, before agreeing to acknowledge their acceptance.  And, if there is anyone that has been to the end of the Internet;  I think that it must be Apple.

     For the iTunes agreement, the above attached CNN article has a great Cliffs Notes Version of their agreement. Terms like, it’s your loss when you lose and download. Once downloaded, it’s your responsibility not to lose it.

     The terms also remind us that when we buy those products, services or graphics, we don’t really own them like buying a book; we only own a license to use them. By checking and allowing the Genius feature, Apple is saying that they are collecting information to make recommendations. They just aren’t coming right out to say that “we know where you are through your IP address and we track everything that is trackable, like your purchases and your entire history”.

     I never did a blog on the recent Supreme Court decision  that said that provisions of an agreement that required arbitration, could be enforced. The Court said, by a 5-4 decision that if you and a company agree to it, then you are to be bound by it. You don’t necessarily have a right to a jury trial if you wave it in the agreement.

     In the Apple agreement, or anything else that you are clicking “O”, you might be saying that if you don’t agree with something in the future, or your think that you have been overcharged, then you might be agreeing to settle it in California. You might be agreeing to your damages being the price of a song.

     Plus, since the opinion wiped out the potential of a class action in those instances, you might find it hard to hire an attorney for the cost of a download overcharge. I don’t know who is taking cases for $2.99 nowadays. It’s terms like that which explain why the agreement get longer and why companies don’t just show us their amendments, when they make changes to the agreement. Instead, they just make us agree to the whole agreement again. They are counting on us to be in a hurry.  

     This is one of those blogs that hopefully makes you think, the next time you are clicking one of those boxes. Plus, maybe it all boils down to how far a company can go in the free enterprise system, without repercussions, because “you did click that you read and agreed”.

     After reading this blog, does it make you want to pull out a Ukulele. Maybe you’d like to just sit down and have a bowl of ice cream for breakfast and just hope that nothing bad happens.

4 Twitter Followers

     In 1977,  the US Supreme Court decided the case of  Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, which said that it was ok for lawyers to advertise their services. At the time, the Arizona bar had attempted to discipline some Arizona bankruptcy lawyers, who had placed an advertisement in a newspaper.

     When I went to college, I couldn’t decide on a major. I knew that I wanted to go to law school, but I knew that there were different paths to take. I also knew about the Bates case. So, I decided to major in Radio and Television. I did end up changing to Political Science after getting a bit of Radio/Television (RTV).

     At the time of my RTV pursuits, the equipment was a bit primitive. I “landed” the morning sports  report on the school radio station and got to practice as a weather man on one  TV project. All that got me ready to hit the gound running,  for some radio and TV legal advertising, in  later years.

     I have done all kinds of legal advertising. Even the coffee mugs have been a hit.  Well, maybe not all the TV ads were big hits. Throughout the years, though, television advertising has probably been the most important.

     When I heard that the house/compound of Bin Laden, had no phones or Internet, I guess we could have guessed that it was only a matter of time that he would be found. I mean, you know that he had to be hooked on the afternoon “Soaps”. Then, ABC went and cancelled its “Soaps“.  No more “One Life to Live” for Bin Laden.  See, the importance of television.

     Well, technology kept moving and the law firm kept moving with it. Our Internet has been effectively providing information and getting people to contact us. Facebook lets my friends know what I am doing personally. Even Linkedin is a connection for people.

     Through all this, I’ve been fighting the need to be on Twitter. I have never understood why people send such important information like, “I’m doing laundry today”. I just didn’t see the need, despite my embrace of other technology.

     Plus, there are people on Twitter that violate the Mark Twain’s old  saying that “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt”. With that in mind, here’s one stupid post as reported by ESPN, from the account of a Pittsburgh Steelers running back (Rashard Mendenhall), that was posted on Monday, regarding Bin Laden: 

     “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”

     Mendenhall didn’t hold back, even making a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks.

     “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.”

     Anyway, I am now embracing Twitter. It won’t be for advertising but it will be for quick legal information or quotes . My intent is to send out some article or picture, with my one, or two line thoughts.

     Right now, as the blog title suggests, we just got busy. I have 4 followers. Now, I do appreciate the four. I just hope that you will join the “group”. Click the button below to follow me.     

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TV versus the Internet

     This week will be one of those “plates in the air” kind of weeks. Of course, I have always said that the practice of law is like having 5 baskets, 5 snakes and 4 lids. I didn’t make that up, but I can’t remember who did, to give them credit.

     Anyway, this week will also be a combination of law and marketing. Right now, I am working on a couple of scripts for upcoming law firm TV commercials. This Sunday, we will be on in our TV markets, with a Super Bowl ad. Right now, I am trying to decide if I should “whip up” an ad, just for the Super Bowl, or do one that will be used down the road.

     Most of the Super Bowl  ads are placed nationally. That’s why you see all those articles about the pricing of ads. And, of course, I always feel riveted to my chair at the commercial breaks. That’s some of the best viewing. It’s rare that the public does pay so much attention to TV ads. The local TV stations have 3 or 4 ads to sell in game. That’s where we try to get in.

     I titled this blog “TV versus the Internet” because that is really what has happened in marketing. I regularly hear lawyers complaining about how their TV advertising no longer generates business. For us, we have greatly reduced our TV ads over the last few years. That’s because the Internet has replaced a lot of what TV and yellow pages used to do. .

      The Internet has created a different buying experience. When I am contemplating a product or book to read, I look at the recommendations of others. Did they give the book 4 stars or not. It’s what Facebook is trying to capitalize on, in having your “friends” give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on a product. That will also probably have an impact on professional services.

     It won’t matter how many TV ads a lawyer or doctor might air, if there are a lot of online comments about the services that aren’t beneficial to the business. TV will be more for “top of mind awareness”. 

     The Internet has become the great equalizer and really returned us back to the days that people choose, based on recommendations. It’s a good thing because a 30 second advertisement on television really doesn’t tell you much about a business, except to introduce you to it.

     Well, that’s what’s on my mind. I wish you could give me an amazing TV ad idea. The Super Bowl is one time that you reach an audience all at once. Plus, it should pull big numbers; since Green Bay and Pittsburgh are playing.

     I want a close game; a lot of viewers; several ads that make me laugh and, I need a good idea for our firm. So, I’m pulling out a pen and pad and beginning to write. I have a cup of coffee next to me. Hopefully, if you are in one of our markets, you will see what comes to fruition. That assumes that the production will get it done  and on to the stations.

     That sounds like the same “five baskets” slogan too. I guess that’s the way life really is.

The Scam of Overpayment

I remember receiving bills for advertising that looked like real bills. They made representations of what was owed to make sure your firm was properly placed  in an advertising publication. I think that they were counting on bills being small enough that law firms would just pass them to bookkeeping for payment for such listings. Usually, the amounts ranged from $195 to $250. Finally, someone brought a lawsuit against these  "advertising businesses"  to require that the small print become readable print that said that it was a solicitation, not a bill.

In another scam, I saw the story of how law firms have been caught up in a  falsehood of reimbursement. Again, I think that the "scamsters" are hoping that bookkeeping just processes. It's not quite as bad as something like, "You've won 2.5 million in the British lottery, now send 4K to cover the expenses, so we can send it to you". Not quite that bad, but here's an article that was issued by the FBI that tells the warning of the "oops, I overpaid my retainer". I guess law firms get so surprised that they got paid too much, that they willingly send the refund. Here's the story as written in the ABA Journal:

Posted Feb 22, 2010 7:17 PM CST
By
Molly McDonough

ABAJournal.com

Two law firms in Honolulu were scammed out of $500,000 in an e-mail scheme that's apparently targeting the legal community.

During the past six weeks, six different law firms have been targeted, according to the FBI, which issued a warning today(PDF). Two of the six fell for the scheme and lost a total of $500,000.

The FBI reports that the scam begins with e-mail contact from a prospective client who is seeking legal representation in a civil matter, such as a divorce. The supposed client sends the law firm a cashier’s check for a retainer in an amount far exceeding the firm's rate.

When the law firm responds that the client has overpaid, the client requests and the unsuspecting firm sends a wire transfer with the refund. It's after the refund that duped firms learned that the cashier's checks are counterfeit.

In the current cases in Hawaii, scammers are asking that wire transfers be sent to accounts in South Korea, Taiwan, and Canada.

"Law firms and other professional service providers are cautioned to be on high alert when dealing with clients who come forth via the Internet," the FBI warns. Also, when dealing with wire transfers, firms should be sure the initial payment has fully cleared before issuing refunds.

U.S. Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

   

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