Thursday, 28 January 2010

And quote of the day goes to…

Geeklawyer for his beautifully-put response to yet another personal injury ad request:


I’d rather have my bol­locks chewed off by a bad tem­pered rot­tweiler with a taste for slow pain, than have a bunch of low-life ambu­lance chasers taint my site with their ads.

Perfect!  :D

Mozilla CEO and bad analogies

From Right Side 25/01/10:

Baker said she worried about "the increase in laws that make it difficult to run an open network," especially rules about content.

"You suddenly become liable for anything that gets downloaded, whether it's legal or not," she said. "If you said to a municipality, if you build a road, you have to guarantee nothing illegal happens on it - that's what's happening on the Internet now. So that's the kind of regulatory disruption that's going to have some long-term consequences."

Wacky hair-dos aside, I’ve nothing particularly against Mitchell Baker.  And yes, that’s despite her recent efforts in spearheading unreasonable demands in relation to the ‘ballot screen’ idea for Microsoft to include with further versions of Windows to better allow other browsers to compete on a level playing field.  Kind of.  As head of Mozilla, I guess that’s her prerogative. 

What I don’t get is why she’s come out with this ridiculous analogy, which crumbles to pieces on even the most cursory of glances. 

Finding the correct regulatory balance is one of the challenges in any sphere of modern life.  Governmental regulation can often overstep the mark and it must be kept in check.  My grievance with Baker is that her comments were wholly unsubstantiated – she didn’t even try and back her point up with examples.  Far from those ‘running networks’ being held liable, recent developments point the other way: that end users are being held more and more responsible for their contact rather than the organisations offering services to them through which their spurious behaviour is conducted.

ISPs continue to fly under the radar through the exception to liability under the heading bakerof ‘mere conduit’ and just last week, the  outcome of the OiNK case saw the site’s creator escape the teeth of national regulators.

Regulation of the net is inevitable and vital.  Of course it shouldn’t be arbitrarily done and, where possible, competitive forces should be harnessed to regulate efficiently.  But Baker’s points were poorly made and not backed up in the slightest - which detracts from the underlying worthiness of the cause.

Trying to compare national regulators who seek to hold road builders responsible for the conduct of road users with situations on the internet is a terrible example.  This oversimplification does nothing to try and help find the correct regulatory balance and just makes Baker look a trifle silly – with or without that bizarre hair cut.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Broadband, Broadband

broadband ethernet connectionI had this gem drop into my inbox a few days ago (it was the Digital Economy Bill Newsletter):

Rural communities and hard to reach areas who do not have access to next generation broadband will benefit from a share of £1 billion of Government investment said Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson today.

The investment will upgrade the UK’s digital infrastructure to bring super-fast broadband to 90% of the country, essential if the UK is to remain globally competitive as estimates suggest that private investment will only reach up to 70% of the population by 2017.

The Next Generation Fund will provide the UK with a world class communications network to bolster innovation and services in digital content.

The Government is now consulting on the most effective way to deploy the investment.

Oh goody.

I've been bitching about this stuff for a while now, particularly since my house move in October last year which was to just outside one of the south-west's cities, only to find that my broadband connection would be 512 mbps at best.  The fact that this should be classed as the 'middle of nowhere' in broadband availability terms was even more surprising given that my parents can receive a far superior connection down in the darkened depths of Cornwall. 

Digital inclusion and access to broadband for all is a hot topic and (inevitably) something of a political fighting ground at the moment.  I went along (on work-related duties) to the Parliament and Internet Conference last October - ironically just days before I moved house - where better access to high quality broadband and increased inclusion of those currently excluded from the wonders of cyberspace were high on the agenda.

Ed Richards (CEO of Ofcom) Stephen Timms (Minister for Digital Britain) and Martha Lane Fox (Chair of the Digital Inclusion Task Force), who all gave speeches, collectively dedicated a good  portion of time to just these issues.

I also attended the Ofcom Draft Annual Plan meeting in London last week which mentioned a bit more of the same - albeit in rather vague terms, as seems Ofcom's style.  Problems with access to decent broadband featured heavily on Ofcom's priorities for 2010: 'progress on broadband and mobile not-spots' and 'support of the Digital Participation Consortium' (both under the head of 'Consumer and Citizen') and 'support of effective competition and efficient investment in super-fast broadband' under the Competition category.

They also outlined potential powers granted under the Digital Economy Bill (should it become law in its current form) with duties/powers to oversee the universal delivery of broadband - whatever that means. 

Finland, of course, are taking all of this a step further by making access to decent-ish broadband (1 mbps) a human right by July 2010 and potentially increasing this 100 mbps by 2015. 

I guess this makes the UK's efforts look more like a catch-up exercise rather than leading the way forward.
Nothing new there then.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

SarkMark – The new symbol to express sarcasm

the SarcMark From the Guardian 15/01/10:

The SarcMark, as it has been named, is designed to be used in the same way as an exclamation or question mark.

Anyone concerned that the irony of their email or text message might not be appreciated by its recipient can use the symbol to close their sentence, thereby avoiding awkward misunderstandings.

The symbol – a dot inside a single spiral line – can be installed onto any PC running Windows 7, XP or Vista, as well as Macs and Blackberry mobile devices.

It can then be used in Word documents, instant messenger conversations, Outlook email and other programmes, just by pressing Ctrl and the full stop button.

The Michigan company behind the SarcMark have applied for a patent to protection their invention.

I absolutely love this idea but whether it takes off it another matter altogether. I guess people use the ‘tongue’ smily in this context at the moment but the idea of having a new character is a great one.  In principle, anyway.

Paul Sak of the firm said that the new punctuation mark was not a gimmick and had serious potential applications, such as allowing deaf people to pick up sarcasm in subtitles.

And that’s a great point; while smilies are great at helping to convey subtle meanings or expressions, they can seem a touch informal. That said, I’m still amazed at the increasingly widespread acceptance of using smilies in business emails.

But here’s the sticking point:

The symbol currently costs $1.99 to download – a price that many may think deserves a SarcMark of its own.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Personal Injury Lawyers Exploit Freezing Weather

personal injury lawyers snow From Solicitor’s Journal 11/01/10:

A group of solicitors have set up a ‘snowline’ to cope with a surge in accident claims as a result of the freezing weather.

Quality Solicitors dot com, a referral service operated by 200 firms, says the snow has led to a 42 per cent increase in claims, including a man hit by a skidding dog.

Craig Holt, chief executive of the service, said the ‘snowline’ would be manned by legally trained staff who would connect them to personal injury solicitors if necessary.

Holt said there had been a “remarkable increase” in the number of people needing advice.

“The snow and ice has resulted in a huge increase in the number of people calling our case-handlers, ranging from more routine accidents such as people slipping or being involved in car accidents to more unusual cases such as one person who was hit by a large amount of snow that had settled on the roof of a building and another who was involved in a collision with a skidding dog. Fortunately, neither were seriously injured.”

Seriously?  A skidding dog?  Takes all sorts, I suppose.  Falling snow can be a real problem; it’s only when you start to shovel it, you realise just how heavy it is!

On the face of it, I guess we can’t blame personal injury lawyers for taking advantage of new avenues of work.

I’m thinking of setting up a ‘pot-hole line’ in response injuries and damage caused by the now widely acknowledged menace of increased numbers of pot-holes, which have directly results from ice damage caused to roads.

How about  No?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Motorist with X-ray vision defies need to clear windscreen

From BBC News 13/01/10:

A motorist who ventured out in Devon with her windscreen virtually covered in thick snow has been spoken to by police about hazardous driving.

The elderly woman, who has not been named, was given an ice scraper too by police after being spotted on Lea Road in Tiverton last week.

Officers have also asked her neighbours to offer her help in the future.

Police are continuing to urge drivers to be sensible and to clear vehicles of ice and snow before driving anywhere.

snow windscreen Wow. I’m not quite sure what you say to this. Bizarrely, the clearest patch is actually on the passenger’s side of the windscreen.  So, at the risk of asking silly questions, what was the deal?  Could she simply not be bothered to clear it, was too batty to notice or really had x-ray vision?

Either way, I would have probably done more than simply present the old dear with an ice scraper.  Rapping her over the head with it would have been a good place to start.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Law Actually Mailbag – SERIOUSLY funny!

law actually mailbag I thought I’d do a mailbag a la Paul Thurrott who’s only just started up the idea himself after I got this fantastically funny email.  While I get a few bits of email relating to my blog, I don’t think this will be a weekly thing.

Anyway, I received a very amusing email asking a legal question yesterday and the last line caught me so by surprise, it was an unrestrained laugh out loud moment – more of a scream  actually.  Luckily for me, I wasn’t drinking anything at the time, else my screen would have been plastered!

So, ‘Jamie X’ asked the question:


I have just visited your website in search for some beneficial laws regarding student rights...
I have had trouble allocating [sic] them on your website, and would be very grateful if you could give me a link or some laws that would aid me.
Just simple laws that would protect me from being taken for a wanker at college by the teachers.

Thanks, Jamie”

Well, Jamie, I have to admit (and this doesn’t happen very often):  I’m not quite sure how to respond to that.

But it left me in absolute stitches though.  :D

So, I thought I’d throw this one out to the blawgosphere.  Any ideas anyone?  Are there such laws on the statute books lurking out there?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

When Spellcheck goes bad

I’m quite a sloppy typist at times and find myself increasingly reliant on right-click spell-check-and-correct functionality in both Word and whatever web browser I’m using.  It’s not so much that my spelling is dodgy, but rather that I’m prone to a fair few typos.

Imagine my frustration then, having misspelt the word ‘better’ (I’d missed one of the t’s) that the options for correction were:






spellcheck goes wrong How can typing the word ‘beter’ not trigger spell-check to recognise the most likely correct word was ‘better’?

Perhaps spell-check has been tweaked in the beta of Office 2010? :-$

I guess I could always just focus on making fewer typos. Hmmm.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Hit and Run Mobility Scooter Madness

mobility scooter From BBC News Magazine 04/01/10:

A number of high-profile accidents involving mobility scooters have raised concern that drivers cannot be prosecuted and caused some to float the idea of testing users.

With a top speed of 4mph for the mobility scooters designed to travel on pavements, you might think that it was hard for their users to drive dangerously.

No official statistics exist for the number of accidents involving the scooters, but there are tales from around the country of old ladies steering into shop windows, mobility scooters trundling along motorways and even people driving off railway platforms.

There have even been injuries to pedestrians. Last year two-year-old Madison McNair was knocked down by a 70-year-old woman driving a mobility scooter on a pedestrianised street in Doncaster.

Caught in the wheels of the machine, the toddler was dragged down the road as the driver carried on apparently unaware of what had happened. Since mobility scooters are exempt from the Road Traffic Act the police were powerless to act against the driver.

I blogged about this story a couple of years ago now and it’s obvious that nothing has changed since then.

A kind of cycling proficiency test has been mooted as has a kind of three-strikes-and-you're-out rule to help ensure better safety for mobility scooter users and members of the public they come into contact with. However, policing and enforceability of such rules need a lot of careful thought.  Surely, to do things properly, the first step is a legislative change to bring mobility scooters under the ambit of the Road Traffic Act?

Granted, mobility scooters grant users freedom and independence but that can't come at any price.  While, there are of course avenues for redress for victims under civil law – such as a personal injury claim – that is arguably simply not enough. It seems there are a few too many of these scooters out and about now causing too many injuries for the present situation to continue without some form of regulation.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Winter Work Woes

snow From 06/01/10:

Employers may be legally entitled to dock workers' pay if they stay at home because of snow and extreme weather, but such a course of action can be risky and cause resentment, according to guidance from Pinsent Masons.

[E]mployees are under a legal obligation to get to work and companies could withhold pay from those that stay at home because of the weather or ask them to make up the time later. But this is not necessarily the wisest course of action, the guidance said.

"Employees have statutory protection against an unauthorised deduction being made from their wages without their consent and deducting pay could potentially be challenged as unlawful under these provisions," said advice to employers produced by employment law specialists at the firm.

"You should therefore assess whether not paying employees would be in the best interests of your business. It may be that the financial burden to the business of paying staff in these circumstances is outweighed by the benefits that such a gesture would have on staff morale and productivity in the long run – especially if the snowfall is particularly heavy and it is impossible to get into the office," it said.

The heavy snowfall overnight made my journey into work this morning an absolute non-starter.  Our little cul-de-sac was buried under a good 3-4 inches, none of which had been treated of course and very few cars moved all day.  Interestingly, the few that did try their luck early on, slithered back (rather uneasily) shortly thereafter.

We walked out to the main road about 7.10 this morning (GF had to head in early, hence our ungodly hour of departure) and it looked an absolute ice/snow rink.  We were already hearing from the news that the buses and trains in our area had been cancelled, schools had been closed (seemingly without exception) and well, it was all a bit of a mess out there.

As it was, I worked from home all day (and been quite productive as it happens).

I really need to head into the office tomorrow so I’m going to make a herculean effort to make it in.  Quite where this deluge of snow and winter nastiness leaves my planned trip to London on Friday is anyone’s guess.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

My New Year’s Resolution…

FB experiment

I know, I know.  I can hardly believe it either.

The cat was let well and truly out of the bag after Pooni correctly guessed that the New Year’s resolution to which I not-so-mysteriously referred in a previous post was quite simply that I was joining Facebook.  What’s more, Andro found my account (which has actually been active for over a week) so I guess there’s no hiding now!  ;-)

As most ‘regular’ blawgwatchers in the ‘sphere are only too well aware, I’m no fan of Facebook and have made it my personal mission to berate the plague of Facebook, the inherent security/privacy risks blah, blah blah – see, even I’m close to not-caring any longer. In my defence, though, I’ve been a lot better of late and have reduced my (at times petulant) whining considerably.

My general attitude towards social networking services has mellowed markedly over the last 12 months or so and I’ve embraced Twitter – albeit rather fleetingly at times – if only for a means of highlighting new content on my blog. Either way, the idea of me joining up to Facebook is still taking a while to sink in.

Fun fact: I actually signed up for a twitter account back in January 2007 but didn’t start seriously using it until summer 2008 and particularly throughout 2009. Likewise with Facebook; I signed up very early on and then did absolutely nothing with my account – in this case, for obvious reasons.

I guess it’s ironic that I’m finally joining Facebook in the wake of the one of the most notorious and publicly-slated changes to the privacy settings in Facebook’s history. But, given the way I intend using the account, I don’t really care how ‘public’ my FB pages become.

If any of you were wondering why I’m joining and why now, the answer’s quite simple. I guess it’s most attributable to a growing feeling of ‘what the hell’. My experiences on Twitter (such as they are) haven’t induced the sky to come crashing down nor has it driven me out of my tiny mind. In any case, I sense my Facebook experience is going to be more of an experiment and quite what will happen is anyone’s guess.

I’ve joined up as ‘Law Actually’ (go figure) but I will try unreservedly embracing Facebook and all of the supposed delights that it brings. So if you’re feeling sociable – or perhaps that should be charitable ;-) – go ahead and send me a friend request. Quite how long the FB experiment lasts remains to be seen but I’m going in with an open mind limited expectations. And once you’ve ‘friended’ me feel free to scrawl obscenities on my wall, send me free virtual gifts, poke me – steady on solider – and whatever else you seasoned facebookians love doing.

And no, if you’re wondering, I didn’t think I’d see the day either. ;-)