Legal Research Blog

 

Lawdable Quotes: Aristotle

It makes no difference whether a good man has defrauded a bad man, or a bad man defrauded a good man, or whether a good or bad man has committed adultery: the law can look only to the amount of damage done.

-Aristotle

New York Anticipates Constitutional Challenge of Video Game Law

New York Governor David Patterson recently signed a bill regarding video game controls into law, but state legislators already know it was most likely a waste of their time and taxpayers’ money. The reason for this notion is that the video game debate has become one of the most heated in New York history. While the new law went through a series of changes and interpretations, it came out of the legislature this week with only a few provisions focusing on parental controls and game ratings. Supporters and opponents alike are displeased with the outcome with some believing the bill will do nothing to end violence among New York’s youth and others, that government control on this segment of society is by no means necessary.

Challengers include members of civil rights, entertainment and tax reform groups who argue, among other things, that the legislature was knowingly wasting their constituents’ tax money by allowing this bill to pass. Opponents are confident the law will be declared unconstitutional in court, a thought that is probably not far off base considering similar laws around the country have already met this fate. Still, the state government is hoping that their removal of certain segments which would have made it illegal to produce excessively violent games will lead a judge to think twice before striking down the law.

While the law was cut back to only require parental controls on all game consoles by 2010 and more obvious age ratings on covers, it is also supporting extensive research in the field of video game effects. The state is hopeful that if they must face their opponents, they will be armed with evidence that video games have a direct effect on teenage behavior.

Source: MSNBC

Who Said Security Breaches Were Always a Bad Thing?

The BBC reports that the fare cards for two European public transportation systems have seen their first major security breach, but the hackers responsible are not your everyday criminals. Researchers from the Radboud University in the Netherlands discovered an all too easy way to create copies of the card which could ultimately provide free transportation to anyone who can access one. The researchers never had the intention of using their knowledge to take advantage of the transportation system but maker of the card’s chip, NXP, has been fighting to prevent the information release fearing the worst from those who might get their hands on the information. The researchers aimed to publish their results, along with the process of copying the card’s chip, in time for a security conference to be held later this year.

Lead researcher Bart Jacobs insists the knowledge must be shared to prevent further breaches of this nature but NXP responded by filing an injunction to stop the university. Representatives from NXP point to the inability of the systems currently utilizing their chip to make rapid enough changes to hold off on abuse of the system. Currently, the chip is being implemented in fare cards all over the world, primarily in Europe, and estimates of its usage stand at 1 billion. Smartcards were developed in order to provide easier, less expensive access to public transportation for frequent travelers, but with users getting their hands on fraudulent cards, the whole system could be damaged.

Despite NXP’s warnings, a Dutch judge has just ruled that the Radboud researchers work will be published and distributed at the upcoming conference. To add insult to injury, the judge after overturning the injunction, declared,

“Damage to NXP is not the result of the publication of the article but of the production and sale of a chip that appears to have shortcomings.”

It is clear that this judicial system believes those who have brought injury upon themselves deserves no mercy. Researchers along with security officials throughout Europe are praising the judge’s decision claiming that in the long run, exposing the flaws in classified information will lead to a system much less susceptible to a security breach.

Source: BBC

Librarian Creates Controversy in Small VT Town

In a recent case of search and seizure, a Vermont librarian came to the rescue of her patrons’ rights to privacy. While police were searching for then missing pre-teen, Brooke Bennet, they received tips that led them to the public library in Randolph, Vermont, only without a warrant. Despite the urgency of the case, librarian Judith Flint refused the numerous police officers that arrived on the premises the permission to search through the libraries computer system. Police insist Flint should have let them begin their search counting on the fact that a warrant was on the way but her supervisor, along with the director of the American Library Association, have come to her defense.

The explanation for Flint’s actions are simple; she was upholding the promise to patrons that anything searched for on the computers or checked out of the library will be kept private unless a search warrant is presented. Police on the other hand are not as satisfied with Flint’s excuse. Although the officers received the warrant later on that day and were able to legally access the library’s computer system, they argue that such delays could hurt the chances of finding a missing person. In the case of Brooke Bennett the few extra hours did not make a difference but concerns are rising that similar conflicts may hurt the viability of future missing persons cases.

The introduction of the Patriot Act in October 2001 allows for the search and seizure of various records including those of at the library in an attempt to foil possible terrorist attack plots. The ALA has openly opposed the law since its approval and does not believe it should apply in any cases not involving a terrorist threat.

Unfortunately the conflict remains unsolved. A quicker search would not have made a difference for Brooke Bennet, but could it make a difference in the future?If so, what are the long term effects of sidestepping warrants in the name of an emergency?

Source: MSNBC

Courtroom Triumph for Elie Wiesel

Last year Elie Wiesel, one of the world’s most eminent writers and peace activists, was assailed in a San Francisco elevator by a young man, intent on forcing the octogenarian to deny the Holocaust. This week a San Francisco jury found Eric Hunt guilty of a hate crime felony for his assault of Dr. Wiesel.

In 2007, Eric Hunt had saved up $10,000 to travel cross-country and locate Elie Wiesel. Hunt had been suffering from mental illness and according to the defense, is bi-polar. He took his chance with Wiesel on February 7th, when he entered an elevator with him, trapped him and then wrenched him out demanding an interview. When Wiesel called out for help, Hunt bolted.

He was charged with 6 separate felonies, including perpetration of a hate crime, abuse of the elderly, and battery. Only the hate crime charge stuck as a felony, while the other two were decreased to misdemeanors. Hunt has already served 18 months, and will probably be released soon thanks to good behavior. His defense maintains that he was simply a confused and mentally ill kid, not the Holocaust denier or racist the prosecution had created.

Dr. Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Laureate who has played a significant role in the recognition of the Holocaust and hate crime prevention, poignantly described the fear he experienced to the courtroom. But, the jury concluded that Hunt had no intentions to kidnap Wiesel, despite the foreman’s acknowledgement that his treatment of Mr. Wiesel may not have been particularly “polite.”