Free for all
By Dan Brillman
One of the inventors of Recap, a plug-in that is able to store downloads of federal court documents and make them available for free, is lobbying Congress to make his program obsolete. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Stephen Schultze wants all U.S. court filings to be available free of charge, period.
Recap is the free alternative to Pacer, the fee-based on-line database of U.S. appellate, district and bankruptcy court records. Schultze built Recap (Pacer backwards, natch) with Aaron Swartz, the activist who was the subject of multiple Justice Department charges and who committed suicide last month, and some other Princeton graduate students. Recap works by automatically sending any documents purchased on Pacer to the Recap database, which is accessible to anyone. In 2009 Swartz donated $1.5 million worth of documents to the fledgling endeavor.
Pacer netted $120 million in 2012, but as the Journal reports, 95 percent of fees are generated by 5 percent of users, firms or research companies. Fee exemptions apply to academic, pro bono or “indigent” users.
Schultze told the Journal that the bill could mark a sea change in the availability of court documents filed by courts nationwide. “My feeling is that the federal courts could lead by example,” he said.
By Caitlin Tremblay
When comedian Bill Maher appeared on Jay Leno’s “Tonight
Show” last month, he joked that he would donate
$5 million to the charity of Donald Trump’s choice if Trump could prove
he wasn’t “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan,” according to CNN.
The joke was a response to Trump, an
ardent “birther,” telling President Obama via a YouTube video that
he would donate $5 million to Obama’s charity of choice if he released his
long-form birth certificate.
CNN reports that Trump provided his birth certificate to
Maher, proving he is not orangutan spawn and that Maher never paid up. So Trump
is now taking the
case to court and on Monday filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles
Superior Court. Maher’s only reaction to the lawsuit came in a tweet: “What?? Really?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.” Maher’s response may be the same as the judge’s. The law
professor Eugene Volokh over at The Volokh
Conspiracy says that the suit appears frivolous.
talking about lawsuits a lot lately. He took to Twitter threatening Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller with a lawsuit over his song
“Donald Trump.” “Little @macmiller, you illegally used my name for your song
‘Donald Trump’ which now has over 75 million hits,” Trump
tweeted, followed by “Little @macmiller, I’m now going to teach you a big
boy lesson about lawsuits and finance.” Trump has yet to file that lawsuit.
Free the Internet
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
Republican Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has proposed new legislation that would make it official U.S. policy to promote “Internet freedom,” reports The Hill. The draft bill is in part a response to a December vote by members of the United Nations to revise a telecommunications treaty expanding governmental control of the Internet. Eighty-nine nations signed the treaty revision, while 55, including the United States, declined.
Walden’s bill is in line with a similar December resolution that passed both Houses, and, as Ars Technica points out, reflects one of few principles that members of Congress from both parties agree on: that giving governments authority over the Internet will curtail the free flow of information. “By refusing to sign a treaty that would curtail Internet freedom, we stood up to those nations that would shackle the Internet for their own purposes,” wrote Walden in The Washington Examiner. “We should now commit this resolve to law and affirm the United States unambiguous commitment to a global Internet free from government regulation.”
Not so exotic East Village hotel
By Dan Brillman
Going out of town for a bit and want to rent your apartment?
You might want to heed the tale of Nigel Warren, suggests WNYC.
Warren, who lives in New York City's East Village
neighborhood, used the website Airbnb last year to rent out his
bedroom to a visitor and was paid a tidy $300 for a three-night
stay. The catch? Warren now faces up to $30,000 in fines on
charges that he was running an illegal hotel.
According to WNYC, the city is cracking down on violations
of its multiple-dwelling laws, which ban many short-term rentals
in large buildings. Apart from the liability and insurance
issues, the city has pointed to certain safety features, like
sprinklers and double exits, that exist in hotels but which many
apartment buildings may not have. "We know that people who stay
for a week or a day or three days need these extra supports in
case of an emergency," John Feinblatt, Chief Policy Advisor to
Mayor Bloomberg told WNYC.
Warren, who will appear in front of an administrative judge
at New York's Environmental Control Board later this month, says
he did not read the fine print on Airbnb's website. He says it
is "insane" that he has been targeted for a one-time
transgression and that Airbnb needs to make it clearer to
customers what is legal and what isn't in popular destination
Either way, this is not good publicity for Airbnb's business
model. The company is lobbying Albany pretty heavily to change
the current laws.
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