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You Are Not a Lawyer 693

Posted by kdawson
from the help-in-thinking-like-one dept.
Paul Ohm is starting a new "very occasional" feature on the Freedom To Tinker blog called You Are Not a Lawyer — "In this series, I will try to disabuse computer scientists and other technically minded people of some commonly held misconceptions about the law (and the legal system)." In the first installment, Ohm walks through the reasons why many techies' faith in the presence of "reasonable doubt" is so misplaced. "When techies think about criminal law, and in particular crimes committed online, they tend to fixate on [the 'beyond a reasonable doubt'] legal standard, dreaming up ways people can use technology to inject doubt into the evidence to avoid being convicted. I can't count how many conversations I have had with techies about things like the 'open wireless access point defense,' the 'trojaned computer defense,' the 'NAT-ted firewall defense,' and the 'dynamic IP address defense.' ... People who place stock in these theories and tools are neglecting an important drawback. There are another set of legal standards — the legal standards governing search and seizure — you should worry about long before you ever get to 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'"
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You Are Not a Lawyer

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#26800883) Journal
    Disclaimers: I am a "techie" (whatever the hell that means). I do not pirate or violate copyright or IP laws to my knowledge. I am not a lawyer.

    Why do I care about this? This confusingly assuming post is trying to say that techies are so stupid that they can only comprehend there being one piece of evidence in a trial and they think that if they cast doubt on this one piece of evidence then the accused is in the clear. I know this isn't true. If I prove that a screenshot of an IP address could be photoshopped yet there are logs upon logs provided by the ISP backing this up, I have done little if anything.

    So draw a Venn diagram of all evidence (shadow-of-a-doubtable evidence unioned with unshadow-of-a-doubtable evidence) and show that if there exists any evidence outside of the shadow-of-a-doubtable circle than you're boned. That was essentially the only point you had in your windy post, correct? What else was there? A lesson on how police can opt to legally collect information regarding a case?

    Thank you for the world class revelation, Paul. And also thank you for the imagery of "techies" being bumbling buffoons aping Perry Mason in their dreams. Perhaps my father was on to something when he tried to teach me that for all lawyers that exist none of them have any interest other than money and sucking the blood out of other people.
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#26800885)

    You mean the ones the Florida Highway Patroll pioneered ignoring back in the 80s, and which are now routinely ignored by law enforcement agencies nationwide? Trust me, I worry about those legal standards all the time...

  • by ruin20 (1242396) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @01:58PM (#26801103)
    That a lot of times people (judges) simply DON'T UNDERSTAND THE IMPLICATIONS OF A TECHNICAL ARGUMENT and rule the way they want anyways. This is why patent suits were always held in west texas and this is why the RIAA will withdraw losing cases only to forum shop in an effort to push the suit again.

    The fact that all the evidence the RIAA offers shows a link to the computer AND NOT THE USER seems to be something that people (lawyers, judges) IGNORE shows they don't actually care about the FACTS. Until you start taking photos of people through their webcams as they do naughty things, or come up with a way to show exclusive use of a devise or connection, then this still happens to be evidence wrongly taken into consideration.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#26801209)

    Here's my summary:

    "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" may get you acquitted in the end, but that doesn't apply to all the things that happen to you BEFORE the trial: Cooling your heels in jail while charged, having every piece of technology you own seized as evidence, incredibly high legal fees, yada yada.

    So, I guess the summary of the summary is:

    Keep yer nose clean.

    I suppose if you look at all the RIAA cases that routinely pop up here on /. you can easily see what he's talking about: look at all the costs and hardships those accuesed have to go through... The old lady who had probably never even listened to an mp3 in her life could probably attest to the pain. No reasonable jury would ever have convicted her, but that didn't stop the RIAA from causing her a big bunch of trouble.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#26801249)

    A couple of considerations:
    (1) the attorney author comes from the DOJ's Cymbercrime division -- the DOJ may have one interpretation of the law but the courts might have another;
    (2) Academic lawyers generally have a slanted view on the world; and
    (3) the facts and circumstances of your given situation are very important, blanket generalizations are risky. Facts can sometimes be fluid a good lawyer, can setup the playing field to the benefit of his/her client.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#26801275) Homepage

    IANAL but I know some Law facts.

    1 - dont trust cops.
    2 - Dont trust judges.
    3 - Dont trust lawyers.
    4 - assume that everyone is trying to shaft you.
    5 - Once you are in the legal system THEY OWN YOUR BUTT.
    6 - If you are going to do something illegal, make sure you CANT GET CAUGHT.
    7 - Dont do anything illegal.

    Honestly, Judges hate you, cops hate you, everyone on a jury if you get that far hates you. you are considered Guilty until proven innocent. Dont even believe the Bullshit given to you as a youth that it's the other way around. It's not and never has been that way.

    Finally, you cant talk a cop out of arresting you. You can make him think it's more bother than it's worth and let you go if it's not worth it and you're being a nice guy. They will let a nice guy in Abercrombie that says yes sir, no sir, thank you sir go with a warning way before the dont touch me pig screaming hoodie wearing blacked out eyesocket head shaved like the damned pincushion for a head guy. It blows my mind how stupid many criminals are, if you dress and look like a punk, the cops will treat you like a punk.

    I never got in trouble as a kid. but then I was aware of my location and had a scanner in my pocket with a earphone in all the time. Friends learned that if I left a party or gathering, they need to as well.

  • by sampson7 (536545) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:07PM (#26801319)
    ... than techies trying to play lawyer are lawyers who dismiss the contributions of their technical staff.

    For the record IAAL (though not your lawyer) working in house at a company. Our "techies" are engineers, builders, power system analysts, traders, etc. Another word for these people is "clients." The legal department exists to further the interest of the company and enable our techies to do business. Sure, criminal prosecutions are different than commercial contracts, etc., but the principle is the same -- the lawyer exists to aid his client in getting the best possible deal. I think the difference in outlook often results from the fact that criminal defendants tend not to be those in society best equipped to aid in their own defense, but good attorneys do their best to bring their clients along.

    If fact, the best thing about being a lawyer is helping your clients execute our common goals. Really, lawyers really provide the same service as good tech support -- except we help clients navigate the twisted corridors of the law instead of technology or computer code.
  • by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:07PM (#26801329)
    Actually yes, a whole lot of people who call themselves techies are stupid. They also think they are far more intelligent then they are. On top of that, many who call themselves techies believe they are so far above blue collar 'mouth breathers' that with very little work they can completely confuse them. I mean, hell, you just did something similar here. You assumed that the article writer must be an idiot because, well, you said so. Go ahead and rethink your logic and consider that perhaps something happened, maybe even several times, that prompted the writer to write what he did.

    Most people are idiots, that they call themselves a techie doesn't change that.
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#26801347) Journal

    I don't think the point is getting involved, it is that many tech types, and more likely self proclaimed techies, will stray into gray areas and they need to know that their short sighted, I can't be punished theories aren't all that strong outside of their mind or circle.

    I have seen this in the past where people on IRC serve ip copyrighted materials and think a simple warning "if you are a law enforcement or affiliated with them, you are not allowed in the server" will get any evidence thrown out if they are busted. It's stuff like that which people think justifies behavior or removes possible penalties from it that is being addressed. It's the I'm using Lime wire but I have an open access point which I will blame everything on, just to have your computer taken by warrant before you can delete the lime wire program or any of the files your sharing.

  • Re:Pfft, lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:11PM (#26801409) Homepage

    WE would be driving more mercedes and BMW's if we did the same thing.

    Problem is IT guys are whores. we give up our craft for free at the drop of a hat. Lawyers simply grin and make you supply the lube.

  • Stereotypes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tknd (979052) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:15PM (#26801485)

    The problem I have with any grouping is that it always degenerates to stereotypes. And before you know it, you are the stereotype, simply because you're grouped with those people. I'm not saying that there are not lawyers that are not sharks, and that there are not techies that teach, but that because of these assholes in each camp along with the stereotype, everyone in that group carries the blame.

    This is all fine if made in good humor, but when it gets personal, or taken too far, the result is enemies and flaming rather than meaningful discussion. Simply put, there is no discussion if either side or both sides choose to close their minds to criticism.

  • False charges (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:16PM (#26801511) Journal

    Keeping your nose clean doesn't always work. If they have enough suspicions the police (or the RIAA, whatever) will do their best to nail you to the ground, which includes all the above.

    As you mentioned: "the old lady who had probably never even listened to an mp3 in her life could probably attest to the pain"

    Innocence is no defense against having your life ruined by invasive investigation, reputation-destroying accusation, and many other such things.

  • they both work in a complex technical language

    a programmer worth his salt knows most of the important classes and functions and syntax in a given language needed to get a programming task done, whether serving webpages or making an operating system run. a lawyer does exactly the same thing: he knows certain important case points, the usual range of legal maneuvers in case law, and the prevailing legal opinions, and he applies them to the given legal task at hand, whether criminal or civil

    an ASP.NET C# programmer wouldn't jump in and start telling a C++ device driver how to do his work. with the same sort of humility in mind, techies really should learn a little more about the law before shooting their mouths off

  • by InverseParadox (189133) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:22PM (#26801629)

    ...it's a good thing I don't have mod points right now, because I'd be completely stumped as to how to mod that.

    On the one hand, I agree with most of what you're saying.

    On the other, I can see how to interpret what you're saying and the fact (and way) that you're saying it as evidence that the article's premises are correct.

    On the third, given the juxtaposition of your post with your .sig, I'm not entirely positive you aren't trolling.

    Hopefully those who do have mod points will be better able to judge this than I am.

  • by squidfood (149212) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:22PM (#26801635)

    ...navigate the twisted corridors of the law instead of technology or computer code.

    That y'all built yourselves... talk about job-preserving legacy code... ;)

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:24PM (#26801659)

    (1) you are not a lawyer.
    (2) Lawyers think differently depending on the situation they are in. A "DOJ" lawyer might have completely opposing viewpoints to his employer when writing on a blog.
    (3) The DOJ cybercrime division is not known for producing academic lawyers.
    (4) Situations have common facts and courts often analogize.

  • by The Only Druid (587299) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:24PM (#26801665)
    It's sort of fascinating that you've posted the exact sort of response TFA expects. I'm tempted to think you're being ironic.

    Here's the thing: a lot (i.e. the majority, actually) of these technical arguments you've referred to here are just silly. For example, you complain that the RIAA evidence links only to the computer, not the user. This is, of course, true. However, in the case of a family home that means the prosecution can narrow it down to the household members, so your argument would merely be "Well, you don't know if it was the dad or the son, so you can't sue", and that'll end up just bumping into group liability (which I won't bore everyone with here).

    In the case of a shared computer, you'd have more of an argument, e.g. one a library computer or whatnot. But realistically, how many prosecutions have involved such a machine? So far, as far as I know, all the prosecutions have involved machines in private homes or apartments, so what exactly are you arguing?
  • by mattrumpus (677024) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:25PM (#26801685)

    Part of the problem is that "the geeks" got hold of economics and constructed their big, deterministic, agent based models. Models can be illuminating true, but in the case of economics, when reality and models parted company, the economists bemoaned the inability of the real world to match theory.

    What is desperately needed in economics is a more reality based outlook that attempts to truly deal with the social and economic problems of wider society, rather than a bunch autistic, antisocial, arrogant geeks who don't even realise they're only allowed to keep doing what they're doing because it serves the interests of the powerful (and they're not getting in the way too much).

    IAAE

  • by The Only Druid (587299) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:27PM (#26801715)
    That logic doesn't follow. It assumes, among other things, that: (a) we ever had a lower rate (i.e. that it has 'become' anything), and (b) we're not just better at dropping cases before they go to trial where the person is innocent (which would be a good thing).
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:27PM (#26801721) Homepage Journal

    And also thank you for the imagery of "techies" being bumbling buffoons aping Perry Mason in their dreams.

    He must read slashdot comments, because it looks like that to me, too, and I'm a nerd as well. You just have to chuckle at some of the stupid things that are said here, and I have to admit to being stupid sometimes too.

    Perhaps my father was on to something when he tried to teach me that for all lawyers that exist none of them have any interest other than money and sucking the blood out of other people.

    I'm afraid your father was wrong. Yes, there are bloodsuckers, but not all. When you need a lawyer, one will save you money. If you're getting divorced or forced into bankrupcy you NEED a lawyer.

    When someone rear-ends your car and you have to go to the hospital, his insurance company is going to pay your medical bills and try to avoid even that. A lawyer will collect 3x the medical bills for "pain and suffering"; that's the law and it's your right. The insurance company will do whatever it can to avoid their responsibility. The doctor gets a third, the lawyer gets a third (half if it has to go to court) and you get a third (unless it goes to court).

    If you get appendicitis are you going to read a few books and try to take out your own appendix?

    I'm not a lawyer, but I've been divorced and then bankrupted. I NEEDED lawyers both times, and the money I spent was an investment. When you need a doctor you need a doctor. When you need a lawyer you need a lawyer.

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms AT infamous DOT net> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:30PM (#26801797) Homepage

    The GPL is all legalese that I don't understand...I guess I'm too stupid to use GPL software.

    Perhaps you are. But then, you'd be too stupid to use any software with an EULA. Or to purchase any service that involved a contract or agreement.

    You'd surely be too stupid to sign off on that big bunch of legalize necessary to buy a house, and probably too stupid to sign the legalize on an apartment lease.

    So if you're too stupid to use GPL software, you're basically too stupid to function in this society. I'm sorry to hear that.

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:34PM (#26801875)

    OK, i'll bite.

    I'm not a lawyer, I'm a computer scientist, but you can be damn sure that I'm going to give MY lawyer all the ammunition I can to defend me.

    I'm going to have logs that "prove" I didn't do the crime.

    I'm going to have "forensics" that "prove" my computers did not have the offending data in question.

    I'm going to have hidden encrypted volumes 12-ways to Sunday - good luck getting to those without the NSA's help, or after my attorney tells me not to incriminate myself.

    What most of my friends, who are attorneys, tell me is that law-enforcement is generally incompetent when it comes to investigating a case. Collecting evidence in a LEGAL manner is a complex and difficult process. These guys that barely made it out of the academy aren't lawyers and they will fuck it up. A good attorney will find a way to make the prosecution's evidence inadmissible.

    Unfortunately, law is a complex thing. Gone are the days when the common man could defend himself. Today it's fight fire with fire.

    -ted

  • by MattSausage (940218) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:35PM (#26801909)
    Holy crap.. you seriously walked around with a police scanner in your ear ALL the TIME... and you were still invited to parties? And you are PROUD of this? Gee, I wonder where the rest of the world got the idea that techies are a bunch of awkward losers who think they're so much smarter than anyone else. frankly, the people inviting the crazy-paranoid-police-scanner dude were the smartest in that entire scenario.
  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:41PM (#26802049) Homepage

    Thank you for that. It's an interesting read but, for anyone who wants to save some time, here it is in a nutshell:

    If your computer is targeted in a police investigation, your life is going to be a huge pain in the ass for a while even if you somehow manage an acquittal.

    IANAL.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:45PM (#26802129) Homepage Journal

    I basically agree with you, but I think your description of the problem is oversimplified and misleading. People are not monolithically "smart" or "stupid". Everybody's smart and stupid about different things. Like those wizards in the Harry Potter books that can master complicated magic spells, but can't mail a letter. What turns smart people into assholes is when they assume their smartness in one field automatically transfers to another.

    I think computer techies are particularly bad this way because they tend to be self-taught. Often the most effective strategy for learning a technology is to just sit down and fiddle with it. Or they read a book that was probably written by another self-taught techie that often gets details wrong (how many of you can correctly define "ASCII"?) but gets enough essentials right to get the job done.

    What techies don't get is that this style of learning just doesn't work with the law. Even if you understand a legal principle (and when techies try to understand something as abstract as a legal principle they often get it wrong) you don't have a practical understanding of its proper application in every context. Lawyers spend years studying and arguing about this stuff, and even so they have to specialize in order to develop any real expertise.

  • by LrdDimwit (1133419) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:54PM (#26802355)
    Smart people make mistakes too. More often in areas where they lack expertise. Even though in an abstract way you know all these things, in practice, they elude many people who really ought to know better. Just ask Hans Reiser how well his cunning plan worked out in practice.
  • by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:54PM (#26802363)

    ...navigate the twisted corridors of the law instead of technology or computer code.

    That y'all built yourselves... talk about job-preserving legacy code... ;)

    As opposed to techies?

  • Perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:55PM (#26802377) Homepage
    As a techie, have you ever run across an otherwise intelligent person who wants to argue with you about why their network/computer/whatever doesn't work the way they think it should? Did you ever get frustrated because, despite the fact that this is what you studied to do, spent the last five (ten, thirty) years doing, etc., etc., they think they know more about networking/programming/computer security than you?

    Now, as a techie, did it ever occur that some times, in arenas other than tech, it is *you* (and me -- I'm not pointing fingers) that is the know-it-all who just doesn't get it?
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:56PM (#26802401) Homepage
    (shadow-of-a-doubtable evidence unioned with unshadow-of-a-doubtable evidence)

    In case you haven't noticed, the standard for a criminal trial is "beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty." In a civil case, it's "the preponderance of evidence," which is an even lower standard. Nowhere in American law is there a standard of "beyond the shadow of a doubt." I'm not saying your idea is wrong, just that you're not expressing it correctly.

  • by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:58PM (#26802435) Homepage

    I wouldn't shut up until the Supreme Court had heard the case.

    Best of luck. There are a great many people that would love to get in front of the Supreme Court. Something tells me that your "There is no password on my WAP - Anybody could have downloaded that. I just didn't bring it up during trial to make a point." defense, although perfectly valid, will be your last words if you really keep repeating it until either getting through to the Supreme Court or dying of old age.

    And I'd want enough money to be set up for life from the jurisdiction that was stupid enough to let their public officials have search warrants when there was still reasonable doubt as to innocence.

    Good luck with that too. It's up to the jury to decide whether or not there's "reasonable doubt as to [your] innocence". Are you suggesting that we re-work our system so that the police can only collect evidence after conviction?

  • by nog_lorp (896553) * on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @02:59PM (#26802459)

    Well, GP has a point, considering the RIAA has made the leap from "Pirating -> Computer" to "Father's Computer -> Daughter who doesn't live with father anymore", deciding to sue the cancer patient rather than the deadbeat dad.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:01PM (#26802483) Homepage Journal

    His point was that long before you ever get your day in court for "reasonable doubt", you will be arrested, jailed, your friends & family will be questioned about you, your stuff searched, etc... all with a much lower burden than "reasonable doubt".

    So while you may ultimately prevail with "reasonable doubt", the police/prosecutors can your make you life a living hell until you get your day in court.

  • by Arguendo (931986) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:05PM (#26802545)

    IAAL - a patent lawyer to be precise. Here's what I would love all jurors and engineers to know.

    (1) A patent case is almost never about stealing someone else's technology. Most lay people don't understand this and think that if you've been accused of patent infringement it's because you stole their technology. (Note that the other side will still accuse you of stealing their technology.)

    (2) Patent cases are civil cases and must be proven only by a preponderance of the evidence. This is not the "beyond a reasonable doubt standard" we hear about more often.

    (3) Invalidity must be proven by a higher standard - clear and convincing evidence - because there is a (largely unjustified) presumption that the Patent Office got it right.

    (4) The *claims* of a patent (those numbered paragraphs at the end) define the invention, not the stuff that comes before it. Just because the patent describes a particular device doesn't mean they are limited to that device. Read the claims. (There are naturally some subtleties here.)

    (5) Major patent cases that involve fundamental technologies are like death penalty cases for companies because, if they are found to infringe a valid patent, the Court can order them to stop (called an injunction). This could naturally wreck your business. So even if you are 90% sure (which is an absurdly high confidence level) that you will not infringe or will invalidate a patent, it might still be completely rational to settle. By way of example, if I told you there was a 90% chance that you will cross a street and not get hit by a bus, would that inspire confidence? What if you had to cross the street 10 times a year? It doesn't mean you thought the patentee had a good case.

    Anyways, there are a lot of these. This is a great idea.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:09PM (#26802625)

    You left out expensive - A huge expensive pain in the ass.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:14PM (#26802713) Homepage Journal
    I read it as , "We're a bunch of thugs and we're going to fluff up the slightest excuse to interrogate your peers and rummage through your bedroom doors because the only doubts we need don't even have to be reasonable. Since Bush came into office, everybody who views child porn is a molester and gets 20 years in prison for possession since we're still on our power high...hell, your 17 year old daughter may be a child pornographer for sending nudies of herself to her boyfriend...."

    "...so be afraid, America, all we have to do to ruin your life is throw around the phrases 'child porn' or 'pedophile' !"
  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Leafheart (1120885) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:22PM (#26802837)

    Here is one more: (4) If you are not in the US, US law does not apply.

    I wished that was true :/

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:22PM (#26802845)

    "Likewise, the presence of a file called "Sympathy For The Devil.mp3" does not mean that I actually have the song. And likewise, the presence of the song on my computer doesn't mean that I put it there (give me 2 minutes access to your windows computer and I can put stuff on there that would ruin your life-- especially with the new ruling that a cartoon of bart simpson screwing marge simpson is child porn)."

    While what you say is consistent with the rules of formal logic, that really doesn't matter. The question is, is it reasonable to believe that someone else put that file on your computer, or that a file named "Sympathy For The Devil.mp3" is not the Rolling Stone song. At first glance, I'd say that those assertions are not reasonable. Therefore, your defense will need to show that they are reasonable explanations, by providing evidence that there was an intrusion or that you have a time stamped copy of the file that has something other than that particular song.

    You are proving the article author's point - geeks tend to focus on the problem as if it was a formal logic problem, when it is much more.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:27PM (#26802945)

    Here is one more:
    (4) If you are not in the US, US law does not apply.

    Tell that to Gary McKinnon [freegary.org.uk] and Hew Raymond Griffiths. [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:32PM (#26803027)

    The idea that economics is more art that science is a lie. There is a great deal of art to it, but there is a great deal of documented evidence from history.
    Those recorded facts contribute to the empirical knowledge of what works and what doesn't.

    I remember the Japanese land bubble of the 80's. People in this country were worried because they were coming over here and buying our biggest buildings and baseball teams (the Mariner's I believe), and elected officials were debating enacting ownership restrictions to stop it.

    Well, their bubble popped very much like ours did. At least partly due to culture, they refused to recognize the devaluation (very much like we are doing now). Instead of declaring certain institutions insolvent, and closing their doors, they pretended that all those bad assets were still worth most of what they had loaned on them. The result was 10 years of sluggish economy.

    If this were a medical patient, it would be equivalent of a large, infected abscess that they pretended wasn't there. You might get better someday with plenty of antibiotics, but it would be much cleaner and quicker to just cut the thing out (despite the short-term pain).

    Sound familiar? It happened in this country 80 years ago, and it's happening again right now. They more bailout band aids they apply, the longer the abscess hangs around infecting us.

    It's not completely science, but the evidence is there "for those willing to pay attention to history". A solution of "doing nothing" will be more effective than anything like what they are doing now.

    Mark my words. If this bailout passes, we are in for at least 4 years of cruddy economy, and our first trans-racial president will be a one-termer because of it.

    There, I said it, and I believe I am insightful enough to think I am correct.

  • Re:Pfft, lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@b[ ].org ['eau' in gap]> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:33PM (#26803039)

    > WE would be driving more mercedes and BMW's if we did the same thing.

    Lawyers don't hide any secrets, it's all in lawbooks and much of the stuff can be found for free on the Internet. The difference is they have a trade guild that enjoys a government granted monopoly. Non members cannot practice law without the threat of prison so non lawyers quickly lose interest in expending the time required to learn the dark arcana since it can only be of passive interest. On the other hand anyone with the curiosity can grab a stack of Nutshell books, build anetwork from scratch in their spare bedroom, learn some salable skills and GET A JOB.

  • by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:34PM (#26803073)
    The easier way to deal with that? Just stop talking on the phone with the officer. They'll give up pretty quickly. If they don't, just tell them that on advice of your lawyer, you don't want to talk with them without an attorney present and then hang up. If you make it take work to talk to you, they'll do a little work to make sure the evidence looks plausible first. They're just being lazy -- if getting you to confess is easier than checking out the evidence, they'll try to do that. Once it becomes clear that won't be easy, they'll check out the evidence before harassing you again.
  • by MegaFur (79453) <{moc.nzz.ymok} {ta} {0dryw}> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:34PM (#26803079) Journal

    Note to Lumpy: In the following post, anyplace that I used the word "you", this is not meant to apply to you, Lumpy. I agree with what you said. I just wanted to "mee too" with my own version. I agree with you, and with the original "You Are Not A Lawyer" guy that there are far too many folks out there that don't get how the legal system really works.

    I wanna make a few points:
    1. It's not that the police/judges/lawyers hate you, it's just that they really *don't* care about you *at all*. I mean you really are just another number to them. The good ones out there, they care that you get the legal definition of a "fair" trial, but that's all. And, btw, it's entirely possible for you to have a legally defined "fair" trial and for you to still get totally screwed over and railroaded. If you don't believe this, you're living in a fairy land. I hope fairy land is still working for you when you get locked up in Oz.

    2. On point 5: yes, I totally agree.
    3. On point 6: If you're going to do something illegal, first BEFORE you start, find out exactly what the consequences and eventualities will be for if you *do* get caught--because it's impossible to be absolutely sure that you can avoid being caught. See my earlier point about fairy land.
    4. On point 7: I agree. This almost, but not quite, guarantees that you won't be going to jail for anything. (You could still get falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned. Please don't talk to me about how that doesn't bother you because then, in the end, you'll make a fortune off the movie rights or something. The plain fact is that spending five years in prison is going to fundamentally change who you are and what you're like for the rest of your life.)
    5. If the police ever bring you in for questioning on anything, don't talk to them without a lawyer present. I don't care how innocent you are, and I don't care how polite the police are. If something really bad happened, it is the police and prosecutor's job to eventually hold someone accountable for the bad thing that happened. If no other more "worthy" suspects pop up, they might just choose to put it on you. This can happen even without the police being corrupt, and that's why there's that pesky rule about you being allowed to have legal council present. Of course, even that is no guarantee that you won't get falsely accused and wrongfully imprisoned, but if you go talking to the police sans legal council you are seriously screwing yourself over. Don't be a dope. Demand a lawyer.

    In summary: The legal system isn't really out to get you, but it's much bigger than you are and it tends to be capricious and merciless--kind of like an uber-deity tripped out on mescaline and crystal meth. You really don't *ever* want to be on the wrong side of it. Because of all this, even though it isn't out to get you (most of the time), you'll be safer if you act as though it is.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:41PM (#26803199) Homepage

    Ok, lets rephrase that: "If you are not in the U.S., your rights under U.S. law do not apply."

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rgviza (1303161) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:46PM (#26803297)

    For real.

    To use the open wireless access point as an example. If someone sits outside your house and downloads kiddie porn, or starts running brute force attacks against NSA through your connection, the feds will show up and confiscate every electronic computer and storage device in your house so they can run forensics on it, which may take them 2-3 years to get to. Meanwhile all your stuff is sitting in an evidence room depreciating.

    Sure you might not get into trouble if there's no evidence on any of your gear or storage, but by the time you get it all back, it will be useless and way out of date.

    If you factor this depreciation, and you have a lot of gear and storage, the cost is huge. Then you have attorney bills and your reputation to worry about. You will never fully recover your reputation even if you are 100% innocent.

    Leaving that default password on your router has a lot of potential to screw your life up in ways you wouldn't expect.

    -Viz

  • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:47PM (#26803315)
    Holy crap.. you seriously walked around with a police scanner in your ear ALL the TIME... and you were still invited to parties?

    Going by the line Friends learned that if I left a party or gathering, they need to as well - I'd say they were the sort of parties where knowing in advance that the police were on their way was a big advantage. In other words, really good parties.

  • Re:Pfft, lawyers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cfulmer (3166) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:57PM (#26803493) Homepage Journal

    Pfft. Yeah, technically, lawyers have a monopoly. In reality, it's not that hard to take the LSAT, go to law school and pass the bar exam. That's not a huge barrier. The median starting salary for a lawyer is around $55K; in a number of states, it's around $40K. Sure, lawyers from Harvard and a few other top schools get the $160K jobs (plus $25K+ bonus), but there are relatively few of those and they cater largely to corporate America.

    The main reason lawyers are expensive is because most things they do take a lot of their time and because they have to pay the receptionist, rent, insurance, etc.... Consider, for example, preparing a will: the lawyer talks with you for 30-60 minutes, gathering information, answering questions about the process, finding out exactly what you need (do you need a trust also? What sort? How about a living will?) Then, goes off for 2-3 hours preparing those documents, sends them to you to get your feedback, makes any changes you need, then has you come in to execute the whole thing. All told, he has probably spent 5-6 hours on you.

    As far as the "there's too much of it" argument, you're right -- blame Congress for that one. Luckily, most of us are unaffected by the large majority of those laws.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @03:58PM (#26803507)

    :-(

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:02PM (#26803595)

    Once when asked by a cop why I was holding a sign I said, "some cute chick over there gave it to me, I dont want to drop it and litter" He took the sign as a favor to me.

    Glad to see you're standing by your convictions.

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:19PM (#26803901) Journal

    The question is, is it reasonable to believe that someone else put that file on your computer, or that a file named "Sympathy For The Devil.mp3" is not the Rolling Stone song. At first glance, I'd say that those assertions are not reasonable.

    So it's not reasonable to believe that "Sympathy For The Devil.mp3" is an audiobook of Holly Lisle's novel by that name? The title enough, combined with the fame of the song, is sufficient to convict beyond reasonable doubt? That's harsh.

    All this persecutor in the YANAL blog is saying is that there ain't no justice, and it doesn't matter how much evidence there is, innocent or guilty they can fuck up your life. That's true, but it doesn't really take a lawyer to know it -- or a non-lawyer not to.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjwest (948274) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:40PM (#26804225)

    As i was one of the few somebodies who observed a certain spammer (Mr Robert Soloway) and his use of bot nets let me insert some euro's into this.

    Mr Gary was an idiot - lets all agree on that using trial remote software in windows (with the credit card number) during the middle of the American day means at some point even the most idiotic American computer user knows things are not right.

    Is it right that this [Gary] idiot goes to American justice ?, well if the us congress ever ratifies the extradition agreement with the UK then maybe we might get back some of those DeLorean millions lost. Buts that is ok as the special relationship means special to one side only.

    So as a european citizen could i expect to see Robert Soloway in a european for computer crimes - no way.

    I AM NOT trying to troll

    I do not have court powers (i know) but the law is a joke, lets face it the coke dealer on the american corner is probably much more likely to see a policeman than Robert Soloway

    To my knowledge the courts,the ftc,local state law all failed to act on Soloway, until federal level.

    I could troll an anti american conclusion here, but i know better, Gary is a retard, the UK law that approves all extradition to the us no questions asked proves that there are plenty of idiots in UK government.

    I dont want to be an lawyer, even an idiot watcher of Robert Soloway could tell you that in civil court Soloway admitted to not paying tax of any kind in court.

    My conclusions - what i know stands up in court, the law in america would seem to overlook a great deal.

    Please note i note trying to troll.

  • by JockTroll (996521) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:44PM (#26804305)

    "We, as probably the most intelligent people in this land due to our skills in reasoning..."

    In your dreams, loserboy nerd. IT techies are at best medium level. At best. IT is kid's play, you're not rocket scientists, you're not aerospace engineers, your meagre "skills" can be acquired by people with mediocre intellect and with very little instruction. There's a good reason your jobs are being outsourced so easily. You're nothing more than a dumpload of unwashed masturbator boys whose self-esteem bubble is being bursted big time.
    The fries are waiting! Practice your burger-flipping skills while we laugh at you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:53PM (#26804469)

    As opposed to techies?

    Show me the techie who's legacy code has the power to physically imprision or execute those that don't understand it, all with the sanction of general society. The worst we can do is make someone's paycheck or bank account vanish.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ironica (124657) <pixel.boondock@org> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:59PM (#26804545) Journal

    A couple of considerations:
    (3) the facts and circumstances of your given situation are very important, blanket generalizations are risky. Facts can sometimes be fluid a good lawyer, can setup the playing field to the benefit of his/her client.

    ...which is relevant in the trial. What he's talking about is BEFORE that, the investigation has a much lower bar on what they need to prove that they can go rifling through your stuff.

    "A good lawyer" isn't going to do you any good at 10:00 on a Tuesday night when the police knock on the door with a warrant in hand, ready to arrest you if you don't cooperate right then.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:05PM (#26804665)

    Academic lawyers generally have a slanted view on the world

    In my experience all lawyers have a slanted view of the world. The problem is, so does the Judge. And don't get me started with jury's.

  • Re:IANAL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrgnDancer (137700) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:08PM (#26804719) Homepage

    Pretty much, yes. I am unaware of any laws in Sweden that prevent you from having your stuff seized and searched and your reputation ruined if you are suspected of a crime (and they can gather enough evidence). This isn't an "the American Government are all Nazis" article it's a "Being investigated for a crimes sucks almost as much as being convicted" article. It's pretty much true anywhere. The Police in more "civilized" countries still search for evidence, they still arrest you before you are put on trial, and good attorneys still cost lots of money. The man's argument is undeniable. If the Police suspect you of a crime, they can make your life hard. If they can get enough evidence to search your premises, they can make your life VERY hard. If they can get enough evidence to arrest you, they can make your life MISERABLE. Even if you wind up getting acquitted, It will cost you time, reputation, and money. In Sweden, the United States, Canada, or the North Pole.

  • by squidfood (149212) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:09PM (#26804725)

    As opposed to techies?

    Actually, as a scientist (but not your scientist, please consult your scientist) with a great respect and liking for my institution's lawyers: After going through some workshops ("law for techies" and vice versa), once you get over the jargon (e.g. days can be spent on "legal significance" vs. "scientific significance") you'd be downright amazed at the similarities.

  • by nabsltd (1313397) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:11PM (#26804765)

    So far, as far as I know, all the prosecutions have involved machines in private homes or apartments, so what exactly are you arguing?

    I haven't kept detailed notes, so I can't say how many actual RIAA-initiated lawsuits that ended up in a court involved "public" computers, but many of the "pay up or else" letters that they send involve DHCP computers on a college campus somewhere.

    I suspect that there are a decent number of people who can't actually be identified accurately enough for a lawsuit who have just paid the settlement, regardless of whether they infringed copyright of exactly the item the RIAA claims.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elektroschock (659467) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:19PM (#26804921)

    Ohm looks like to an invitation to reboot the legal system and smash the bugs. Rule of law vs. rules of lawyers. As an alternative you can leave the nation and go abroad.

  • Re:Ohm's Law? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:42PM (#26805229)

    For real.

    To use the open wireless access point as an example. If someone sits outside your house and downloads kiddie porn, or starts running brute force attacks against NSA through your connection, the feds will show up and confiscate every electronic computer and storage device in your house so they can run forensics on it, which may take them 2-3 years to get to. Meanwhile all your stuff is sitting in an evidence room depreciating.

    Sure you might not get into trouble if there's no evidence on any of your gear or storage, but by the time you get it all back, it will be useless and way out of date.

    If you factor this depreciation, and you have a lot of gear and storage, the cost is huge. Then you have attorney bills and your reputation to worry about. You will never fully recover your reputation even if you are 100% innocent.

    Leaving that default password on your router has a lot of potential to screw your life up in ways you wouldn't expect.

    -Viz

    After a finding of Not Guilty (or dropping the case) the courts should then have to recompense the affected individuals with Treble Damages, for ALL expenses incurred during the investigation, regardless of whether it's just that they're missing a key piece of evidence against you (a la OJ Simpson).

    If courts, corporations, people in general, etc. were forced into this route then frivolous lawsuits would be unheard of, fewer people's lives would be ruined, and people would have a fair chance at regaining their lives once the drama was over.

    This type of thuggery should be illegal, it's no better than having the mob come banging down your door looking for 'protection' money.

  • Re:Pfft, lawyers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:55PM (#26805415)

    Then, the lawyers got together and made laws to protect their racket, driving up prices.

    Except that politicians make laws, not lawyers. I seriously doubt all politicians are lawyers.

    "All" is a very strong statement, but there is no question that the overwhelming majority of politicians are lawyers, at least in the USA. If you made it something of a research project, you would probably have difficulty naming even a few politicians (at least on the state and federal levels) who do not hold law degrees. It does make sense that most of the people who make new laws have the qualifications necessary to understand and work with existing laws. Unfortunately the idea that their profession is special and exclusive can also be more important to them than the idea that all citizens are expected to know and obey all laws, which is why many laws appear (in my humble unqualified opinion) to be written by lawyers, for lawyers.

    As a side comment, the fact that the vast majority of politicians are lawyers is why I feel that they should be held personally responsible (i.e. face criminal charges) when a law that they created or endorsed is later found to be unconstitutional. This would be a much-needed counterbalance against the fact that a citizen cannot challenge an unconstitutional law until after he or she has suffered because of it and risked experiencing the business end of state power. But then, I have always felt that when officials and authority figures screw up, it is far worse than when an average citizen screws up because when officials do it, it undermines the respectability of the law as an institution. I think too that the prospect of power attracts some extremely undesirable personality traits; there is a shortage of good, wholesome, selfless reasons why someone would want it. So, I like the idea that if you want power, you should be held more accountable for your actions than someone who doesn't. Perhaps incorporating these ideas into our legal system would reinforce the idea that public officials are our servants and were never intended to be our masters.

  • by identity0 (77976) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @06:11PM (#26805655) Journal

    Then you made a error in phrasing the question. If you as someone "what is the definition of [insert acronym here]", the common response would be to give the words making up the acronym. Don't be a douche trying to look clever by pretending to ask for one type of answer when you want another.

    "What's six plus six?"
    "twelve"
    "No, it's an arithmetic problem"

  • Re:Pfft, lawyers (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @11:01PM (#26807899)

    They claim that ignorance of the law is no defense. This requires that the law be accessible to the average person. ... For the law, you are expected to call in support before you ever start. Asking your neighbor for help with your Mazda is perfectly fine, but illegal in Law.

    Baloney. Every state allows people to appear pro se. You hurt your chances of doing something right by doing it just like a you would sitting down unprepared to fix a car, but it is not illegal. It is no more illegal to ask your friend who went through a divorce some of the potential pitfalls than it is to ask the same guy for help with your Mazda. He just can't hold himself out as being someone that can be relied on to give legal advice. And any neighborly attorney will be willing to get you started in the right direction. They may or may not represent you, but at least direct you accordingly. I always do this and so does everyone I work with. I'm guessing you don't actually know any attorneys, which would explain why you seem to think we all charge $500/hr (we don't, and I _do_ work at a big international firm).

    It's not just supply and demand, it's that the law creates a monopoly. Only Bar members may practice.

    Um, yeah - it's called a license. Kinda like what doctors are required to have to make sure they don't completely F you up. But, ya know, why have any sort of system that forces a practitioner to be competent? I mean, that's just MADNESS. FFS.

    Ever read a law? It's impossible.

    This is BS and it just shows you are lazy. Most laws ARE actually accessible to the public if you took two seconds to actually READ them. You don't just copy and paste code do you? No, you spend at least a little time trying to understand what it does and what you can do to suit your needs. It's the same with the law. While many bills are done amendment-fashion, most states have finalized codified laws. In fact, Mr. Engineer, if you google "[your state] law" I bet it will be one of the first hits. The ONLY time you would probably have trouble understanding "the law" would be if you read a case from the 1700s (not even lawyers understand these) and the reality is that there very likely is a case in the last 50 years that uses perfectly comprehensible English to cover the same issue.

    My first DAY of law school - and for the record I have a CS degree and was a Software Engineer for five years before going back to school - my first DAY of school I could understand the laws of my state because I actually TRIED to understand them. It's all in English - modern English - and it requires no more effort than to understand any piece of code.

    Your snarky comments and clear lack of any apparent contact with an actual lawyer speaks volumes about your clear, follow-the-masses bias and the validity, or lack thereof, of your opinion.

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