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Law and the Multiverse 92

Posted by timothy
from the canna-break-the-laws-o'-physics dept.
An anonymous reader writes "jwz posted a link to this intensely nerdy blog co-authored by two attorneys who write about applying real-world law to comic books. Example topics include Mutants and Anti-Discrimination Laws (a three part series!), Is Batman a State Actor?, and Federalism and the Keene Act."
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Law and the Multiverse

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  • by Culture20 (968837) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @03:46PM (#34445202)
    posting this in yro./. is like posting someone's pet theories on Hyper/Sub space in science./.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I'm already convinced that Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, and Bush Sr. (among others, but you know, who comes to mind?) are all supervillains... so it stands to reason (to me) that superheroes are also possible, if vastly less probable.

      • by Binestar (28861)
        Bill Gates has recently done a HeelFaceTurn [tvtropes.org] and is no longer a super villian. He is using his money for very good purposes [gatesfoundation.org]. Stop with the bashing.
        • by dyfet (154716) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @06:59PM (#34446208) Homepage

          Using his charity to both invest in and lobby for Monsanto and British Petroleum as a means of investing in private wealth to evade taxes and demanding nations change laws to suit his business needs before engaging in his self serving charity used as a mask for greed and malevolence worldwide. This would be the very business model of Lex Luther, if you ask me...

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @08:07PM (#34446612) Journal
          I don't think that donating drugs to countries on the condition that they sign strong patent-protection treaties with the USA, crippling their local industry for a generation and meaning that they can't locally produce the same drugs and so are dependent on more 'donations' from the west actually counts as 'very good purposes'. But maybe your definitions are different.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          You cannot get immunizations from the Gates foundation unless your nation provides strong IP protection specifically to pharmaceutical companies. The stated goal is to wipe out certain diseases, but as long as there is this restriction then it is not workable.

          I will not stop bashing an evil man who illegally acquired a fortune and who is clearly working for the powers-that-be. Otherwise, why let Microsoft off the hook? If Microsoft acquired its fortune illegally then so did Gates. Why would anyone highly pl

          • by metrix007 (200091)

            Wow. That's straight tripping. Just a minor point, there was nothing illegal in what MS did, as they were aquitted by courts. Perhaps you can refer to the legislation that would highlight their illegal acts, if they have not yet been held accountable?

            • Just a minor point, there was nothing illegal in what MS did, as they were aquitted by courts.

              Acquitted? I thought that being found to be an "illegal abusive monopoly" was a conviction? That was just in the U.S..

              The E.U. also convicted them and fined them a quantity large enough to make them comply with court orders that they had been claiming they couldn't comply with.

              So when and where were they acquitted?

              • by metrix007 (200091)

                Fair enough, I should not have said acquitted. However, they were not convicted of being a monopoly on their appeal, and then settled out of court. The funds were certainly not obtained illegally however, or they would have had to give them up. The EU conviction was bullshit, and about 10 years too late to be relevant.

                • Fair enough, I should not have said acquitted. However, they were not convicted of being a monopoly on their appeal, and then settled out of court.

                  Wrong again. The appeal confirmed the original judgment it only changed the sentence. It was NOT settled out of court in anyway shape or form. Check your facts.

                  The EU conviction was bullshit, and about 10 years too late to be relevant.

                  The EU judgment was delayed to give the U.S. the first go and when the DOJ went for a "slap on the wrist" after Bush (II

                  • by metrix007 (200091)

                    Wrong again. The appeal confirmed the original judgment it only changed the sentence. It was NOT settled out of court in anyway shape or form. Check your facts.

                    Yes, you really should check your facts, because your flat out wrong. The apellate court confirmed the findings of fact, but completely reversed the ruling.

                    The EU judgment was delayed to give the U.S. the first go and when the DOJ went for a "slap on the wrist" after Bush (II) took power they took up the issue. If the U.S. had properly handled the issue the EU would have dropped it. Only because the U.S. dropped the ball did the EU carry on with it.

                    The EU case started long after the US one had finished, in January 2009, investigating IE integration of all things. ridiculous, and far, far too late.

                  • by metrix007 (200091)

                    Oh, and yes they did settle out of court. From the wiki page:

                    On November 2, 2001, the DOJ reached an agreement with Microsoft to settle the case.

      • by dpilot (134227)

        Bruce Willis. Unbreakable. Need I say more?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Yeah, that was a pretty awesome documentary.

          • by dpilot (134227)

            Brushing reality aside... ...it was about as good a documentary as today's news is news. (Not very, I think Jon Stewart has a valid point.)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The word "multiverse" shows a complete failure to grasp the basics of semantics.

      "Universe" means "all things taken as one." People apparently miss that "all things" part.

      If there was some kind of parallel world, it would logically already be part of the meaning of the word "Universe." Saying "there is another universe over there" is as semantically backward as saying "there is another everything over there."

      So the etymological atrocity "multiverse" is not only redundant, but stupid.

      Don't even get me start

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Don't even get me starting on the idiocy of the word "unisex."

        Is that what you pedantically do every night in your basement?

      • The word "multiverse" shows a complete failure to grasp the basics of semantics.

        The language they speak in comic books isn't necessarily standard English as we know it on Earth. In comic book language, "universe" means roughly the observable universe [wikipedia.org].

      • by NoSig (1919688)
        Words don't have to mean what their constituent words spell out.
      • by fooslacker (961470) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @04:41PM (#34445520)
        The etymology of the phrase "pedantic troll" comes from a combination of the word pedantic which means asshole who wants to argue subtleties as though they were core precepts to show that he is smart and understands how dumb others are and the word troll which means asshole who posts just to get a reaction. There are many of these double asshole creatures in the multi-verse though they are more common in some universes than others. In most universes they tend to congregate on an internet site (or local universe equivalent) which aggregates various articles of news and opinions for the technically inclined and socially inept members of society.
        • by TexVex (669445)
          So is there a word or short phrase that describes someone who has the cognitive capacity to recognize a troll but lacks the willpower to refuse to feed it?
          • A mother troll? Good question, and I think one that deserves a properly-coined and widely spread answer.
          • I believe the term you're looking for is "Keeper of the Trolls" or "Troll Brother". It's kinda like those wildlife loons who live with the bears and talk about how they're dangerous they are then somehow get eaten anyway. We're a sad lot. ;)
      • Any argument founded on "b-b-but the root meaning of the word X is Y!" is pretty much doomed to failure. Remarkably, words can change meanings over time. (It's their mutant power, or something.) Deal with it.

        • Re:Speaking of law (Score:4, Insightful)

          by shawb (16347) on Sunday December 05, 2010 @01:40AM (#34448588)
          The argument is especially useless when you consider that our knowledge also changes. When we labeled everything we could see or study as the universe, we had insufficient reason to think there was anything else. That definition eventually came to pretty much mean everything that arose from the big bang that we can interact with. We have since come to the conclusion that there may indeed be more than just that which came from the big bang. Changing the definition of the word "universe" and then coming up with a term that encapsulates its current meaning causes more confusion than simply accepting the fact that the etymology may be imperfect, especially once you consider that there is a long legacy of papers, books, etc that use the term "universe" which would have to be corrected.

          Unless you want to start arguing that we need to find a different name for the atom. You know, that which can not be divided.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @04:01PM (#34445292)

    This presents two problems. The first is with anonymity, i.e. creating and maintaining a fictional person who is really one of the richest people in the world just doesn’t work.

    Say what now? An immortal fictional person who is one of the richest people in the world doesn't work? Have they not heard of Exxon Mobil?

    A privately held corporation, and a few shell corporations, holding companies, scattered internationally... maintaining an immortal fictional entity with stupid amounts of wealth is essentially a solved problem.

    I'd say their immortals just need some better lawyers. :p

    • by Grond (15515) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @04:39PM (#34445508) Homepage

      Hi, I'm one of the two co-authors, although I did not write that particular article. A comment on the blog raised the issue of incorporation as a solution, and my co-author addressed it in a follow-up comment [lawandthemultiverse.com]. The short version is that easily-created corporations did not exist until the mid-1800s, so it would only be a solution for immortals that aren't actually very old yet. Before that corporations could only be created by royal charter or a private act of the legislature (depending on the country), which are not very compatible with maintaining anonymity.

      • Not really.

        Well connected nobles can provide a shield against the local government that the immortal resides at. We can _call_ it a corporation, but names matter not.

        Instead, a well connected, informed, and rich immortal can create a form of shadow government in which he is the ruler. Instead of by commanding force, (s)he uses influence to bind them. Instead of restriction, being under the immortal OPENS doors that those nobles would not usually have.

        If you knew that a tithe of 10% of your wealth to them op

        • How many people do you think would help you if they knew that you'd repay them by making them immortal?

          Also, are there other immortals? Or are you the only one (and will remain the only one)?

          Finally, how much wealth are we really talking about here? Would a "job" that pays really well be sufficient? So you're really "working" for an alter-ego. But the cover would be easier to maintain. Particularly in the past. Prior to corporations.

          In fact, wouldn't the creation of the corporation (and easier access to hid

          • by bsDaemon (87307)

            Also, are there other immortals? Or are you the only one (and will remain the only one)?

            There can be only one!

            • by JWSmythe (446288)

                  Damn, I thought I already killed off the rest of you.

                  Ok, meet me on top of the mountain, in the middle of a thunderstorm. Be sure to bring your sword, so it isn't too easy to do. I really enjoyed my "last" kill, because I thought it made me the only one. Now you've ruined it, so I'm going to have to thoroughly enjoy this one too.

              • by TheLink (130905)
                Meet me in a concrete factory and follow the signs there, I have a surprise for you. Don't worry, it won't kill you.

                But you're going to wish you weren't one of those "highlander immortals" who can't die.

                Certain forms of immortality are immensely overrated.
                • by JWSmythe (446288)

                      Concrete doesn't last forever. It's even less if the structure is torn down.

                      It may be a long dark dream, but in the scale of eternity, that's a very short time. I can wait. By the time I awaken from my nap, I will have thought of very evil ways to get my revenge. Prison of any sort isn't punishment, it's a way of delaying the inevitable. Then there will be only one.

                  • by TheLink (130905)
                    The concrete is just for packaging. Easier to manage a pesky "immortal" that way, than one with nasty blades sticking out inconveniently ;).

                    Then can decide what to do with you when more convenient - e.g. send you to space (some random orbit, Moon, Mars, Alpha Centauri etc).

                    I'm not so familiar with the Highlander details, are you sure you will actually nap when that happens? Wouldn't you be conscious for much of the time?
                    • by JWSmythe (446288)

                      Waking or sleeping, it doesn't matter. It will be dark, and there will be lots of time for plotting my revenge. Every day, and every night, one thought will remain, revenge on those who did this to me.

                      I know you do not have the technology nor budget to send a roughly man sized concrete block to orbit, The Moon, Mars, nor Alpha Centauri. I will remain on Terra Firma, and celebrate at the place where your rotting mortal container is placed.

                      With deepest regards,

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @05:23PM (#34445724) Homepage Journal

        The short version is that easily-created corporations did not exist until the mid-1800s, so it would only be a solution for immortals that aren't actually very old yet.

        Of course, the mid-to-late 1800s was also about the time that it started becoming more difficult for people to establish an identity simply by saying who they were. An immortal older than that could have existed very easily up to that point just by moving around a lot, and then -- seeing which way the winds were blowing, with corporations becoming effectively immortal people in the eyes of the law -- started building a corporate identity.

      • The short version is that easily-created corporations did not exist until the mid-1800s, so it would only be a solution for immortals that aren't actually very old yet

        And good state record tracking of wealth didn't exist until the mid 1900s. It was perfectly possible then to turn all of your money into gold, disappear, and appear somewhere else with little or no paperwork and a new identity. It was also very easy to invent a 'nephew' who would inherit all of your wealth, leave it to them when you fake your death, and then have them (you) appear shortly afterwards.

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          And good state record tracking of wealth didn't exist until the mid 1900s. It was perfectly possible then to turn all of your money into gold, disappear, and appear somewhere else with little or no paperwork and a new identity. It was also very easy to invent a 'nephew' who would inherit all of your wealth, leave it to them when you fake your death, and then have them (you) appear shortly afterwards.

          The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul Anderson.

  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @04:09PM (#34445352)

    But these laws need to be figured out, as our fellow humans in Tibet have already done so, to an interesting extent.

    In the Tibetan region, reincarnation isn't some religious lofty newage crap: it's true and obvious to their culture. It's well known that you are born, live, and die, and when you die, you'll find a new place to be reborn in. Almost always, unless otherwise needed, you will be reborn somewhere on your family tree, just as the ancient Celts also believed.

    Understanding that: Tibetans and Ancient Celts alike form contracts that are binding between lives. Now admittedly, these contracts aren't in the usual that some property is transferred, but instead promising protection or other services one can do themselves.

  • This really calls for a blog on behalf of super heroes across the multiverse dealing with how they should handle these pesky lawyers. It might be quite short...
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @04:40PM (#34445512)

    Not to mention "The Incredibles."

    I mean, how long do you think some do-gooder who's Doing of The Good involved the typical comic book level of property damage would stay out of court (and bankruptcy) in Real Life?

    "Lookit, I don't care if he did just stop an invasion from a Hell Dimension, SOMEBODY'S PAYING FOR THAT GODDAM WINDOW!!"

    • by Grond (15515)

      how long do you think some do-gooder who's Doing of The Good involved the typical comic book level of property damage would stay out of court (and bankruptcy) in Real Life?

      This is an issue we plan to address in a future post or series of posts. The short answer is that it's probably not for nothing that superheroes maintain a secret identity.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        For many super powers, if you were smart, you'd only use them in secret and not play superhero.

        "Usain Bolt" performance levels gets you manageable or even desirable attention. But if you start doing 100 metres in less than 5 seconds you start getting the wrong sort of attention.

        Say you were mere "Spiderman" level, and persisted in wearing leotards and going after petty criminals, some Dubious Organization will capture you and start experimenting on you to figure out what makes you superhuman.

        Of course if yo
    • I mean, how long do you think some do-gooder who's Doing of The Good involved the typical comic book level of property damage would stay out of court (and bankruptcy) in Real Life?

      Well, some of them could probably get the money back by suing whoever it was who failed to keep that radioactive spider in its jar; forgot to print the obligatory warnings on the magic amulet or activated the intrinsic field generator without checking that nobody was inside. They could cite any post-1980 superhero story as evidence of the distress and trauma caused by being burdened with superpowers.

      Superman might be able to claim diplomatic immunity (or set up a tax haven in the phantom zone and make a ki

    • I mean, how long do you think some do-gooder who's Doing of The Good involved the typical comic book level of property damage would stay out of court (and bankruptcy) in Real Life?

      1: The Fantastic Four have essentially gone bankrupt at least twice. In the Marvel U, I believe Reed Richards isn't just Hawking, but he's Gates, Jobs, and Wozinak too.

      2: "I'm a @#%ing superhuman. Bite me, I'm not paying."

      3: Now you understand the reason for a secret identity.

  • Does auto insurance (collision? liability?) cover you if your car trashes the town?
  • Wrong mix (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @06:06PM (#34445916) Homepage Journal
    In a world where superpowers, immortality and such exists, and are known in the open, laws should take them into account. Laws are meant to adapt to a changing world, what if we did that in a world where noone could go faster than 40km/h, and suddently someone with a modern car jump in? Our world hadnt laws regarding fast cars before, but somehow the legal system acknowledged that something changed and added laws for them. The alternative is acknowledge that something weird and unique is there, and do nothing about it because you can't do nothing, and probably shouldnt. Would you give an speeding ticket to Superman or try to put him in prison? In the other hand, if those superpowers are unknown for almost people, you can be breaking the law (in some cases, of physics), but as noone knows that, it could happen. More than the comics world, there are several sci-fi stories about immortal people, or that are around since a lot of time ago, you have from the dumb soldier that were around since middle century (that wasnt very bright, so all the money he won usually got lost in poker games and such things), or the time traveler that deposited money in compound interest 500 years ago, making in the present just enough accomulated money to build the time machine that enable him do the back in time trip, nothing in the law forbids any of both cases, even if there is an exploit to the system in the second one.
    • Re:Wrong mix (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grond (15515) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @06:56PM (#34446194) Homepage

      In a world where superpowers, immortality and such exists, and are known in the open, laws should take them into account. Laws are meant to adapt to a changing world, what if we did that in a world where noone could go faster than 40km/h, and suddently someone with a modern car jump in? Our world hadnt laws regarding fast cars before, but somehow the legal system acknowledged that something changed and added laws for them.

      It's true that laws normally adapt to changing circumstances, but in many comic books the world is presented as essentially the same as our own, except with superheroes and supervillains. Legal institutions and actors like courts, the police, judges, lawyers, juries, mayors, governors, legislatures, etc still exist and seem to function like they do in the real world. Occasionally a point is made about a new or different law, such as a Mutant Registration Act or the Keene Act. Our conclusion (and the premise of the blog) is that in the comic book world the legal system is basically the same as the real world, so there must usually be some way to reconcile the law of the real world with the facts of the comic book world. So for example we can find a way to make the Keene Act constitutional.

      Sometimes it is not possible to do this, though. For example, if we conclude that Batman would be a state actor in the real world, which seems likely to me, then that would lead to contradictions in the comic book world. Therefore, Batman is not a state actor in the comic book world, and the law must be different in the comic book world. Then we can think about the most likely tweak to the law in the comic book world necessary to accommodate the facts.

      Basically we first try to explain how the facts and the law agree. Failing that we figure out how to adjust the law to fit the facts. Failing that we say, eh, it's a comic book.

    • by chgros (690878)

      > nothing in the law forbids any of both cases, even if there is an exploit to the system in the second one.
      Actually, there is a law:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_against_perpetuities [wikipedia.org]

  • by phiz187 (533366) on Saturday December 04, 2010 @06:56PM (#34446190) Homepage Journal
    Yale Law Library has also delved into this subject, putting together a video and exhibit about the law's depiction in comic books. I don't know to what extent the library is open to the public, but if you are near New Haven, the exhibit closes 16 Dec. 2010.

    http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/rarebooks/archive/2010/10/18/video-of-quot-superheroes-in-court-quot-talk-is-now-available.aspx [yale.edu]
  • Eh. I'd rather some philosophy or science experts blog about floating timelines [wikipedia.org], which I find particularly infuriating and confounding in comic books.
  • Yeah, I can see that.

    After all, Two Face was born Harvey Dent, a District Attorney.

    Hell, what's the difference between Lex Luthor and Dick Cheney? (Okay, that may not be a fair comparison. Luthor won't shoot you in the face and never even apologize.)

    Politics seems to be the final stage of law, where an already withered sense of morals finally gets strapped onto greed and a sense of entitlement and your soul finally dies.

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