June 24, 2005
Wisconsin Legislature Passes Anti-Internet Hunting Law
The Wisconsin Senate has passed AB 179, the anti-Internet hunting law that had previously passed the Assembly. The law is going to Gov. Doyle, who has said he plans to sign it (although he thinks cat hunting is a bad idea). I have nothing good to say about this law, and I have an editorial in the works that takes aim (sorry for the pun) at those who think that this law is either important or a good idea. I've posted on this topic previously--start here and work backwards.
NYLS "Certificate of Mastery in Law Practice Technology"
New York Law School is launching a certificate program for mastery of law practice technology (free registration required). Among the topics that students can study in the program include:
"• Creation of a complex Web site or blog;
• Electronic discovery/evidence analysis;
• Case-mapping software creation;
• Use of audio, video and graphics tools in electronic courtroom presentation;
• Document assembly software creation;
• Cross-firm online deal room systems creation;
• Software creation for electronic licensing, corporate governance and practice management;
• Online dispute resolution;
• Bringing governmental institutions online"
This seems like a pretty good idea. A lot of practitioner time is being spent on non-substantive technology issues, and it will help to have law schools provide richer training on these topics. Kudos to NYLS for spotting the opportunity.
June 23, 2005
In America, the newest restaurant "innovation" is increasingly massive burgers. In Japan, the newest innovation is to use massive animals as the source of fast food burger meat--in this case, Minke whale meat, putatively left over from the 900 whales a year killed for "research."
What Does "100 Grand" Mean to You?
This story made me laugh out loud. A Kentucky radio station WLTO-102.5 FM announces a contest where the prize is "100 grand" to the 10th caller. A woman, Norreasha Gill, listens to the show, is the 10th caller and is overjoyed at the prospect of adding $100,000 to her bank account. At bedtime, she promises her three kids that they will have "a minivan, a shopping spree, a savings account and a home with a back yard." ($100,000 appears to go a lot further in Kentucky than most other places in the country. Plus, in my house, we just read books before bedtime).
She tries to collect her prize. Her dreams are dashed when the radio station tells her that she has won a 100 Grand candy bar. She is outraged. As she says, "Nobody would watch and listen for two hours for a candy bar."
(OF course this is not literally true. Some people listen to the radio without any prospect of getting any confectionary treats at all).
Moved by her story and the misunderstanding, the radio station offers her $5,000. She says thanks, that and $95,000 more will make her happy. Apparently the radio station was unwilling to cough up the cash, and off to court we go.
It appears, on the surface, that we have a classic language ambiguity problem. The phrase "100 grand" means two wildy different things: a lifetime of fulfilled dreams in Kentucky, or a couple minutes of chocolate gorging. Did the radio station deliberately mislead people into thinking that it was talking about the former, not the latter? Would reasonable listeners believe that the radio station was referring to the former? If the answer is yes to either of the 2 questions, this lawsuit may not be as frivolous as it seems.
This case reminds me of the now-classic Leonard v. Pepsico case, which is now taught in law schools throughout the country. In that case, Pepsi ran some commercials touting a "points" program and showing the cool gear that customers could get. Some versions of the commercials show that with a sufficient number of points, customers could procure a Harrier jet. Ordinarily it would be too hard to get enough points to get the Harrier, but Pepsi also allowed customers to buy points--and the cash-to-points conversion rate meant that one could buy points to buy a Harrier jet for a very small fraction of its retail price. (Ignoring other problems, like the fact that it would be illegal to buy or sell the Harrier jet because of its military applications).
When Pepsi declined an enterprising customer's efforts to get the Harrier, the customer sued for breach of contract (much like the 100 grand lawsuit). Pepsi's response: c'mon, we all know this is a joke. The district court's opinion has a fascinating discussion of the legal boundaries of humor, and concludes that the ad was just funny enough to allow Pepsi to escape legal liability.
What's interesting is that my students aren't so easily convinced that Pepsi was making a joke. Given the hyperbolic marketing environment of the dot com boom, and the resulting desperate efforts to get attention using increasingly expensive promises (remember Pepsi's sweepstakes to potentially give away one billion dollars?), my students today a little jaded about what marketers are willing to do.
So, is it outlandish that a radio station might give $100,000 to a listener? Or, was it funny enough to say that the 10th caller would win a 100 grand [candy bar]? In either case, maybe, maybe not. But I'm having a pretty good laugh either way!
UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has the complaint. Gill v. Cumulus Media, Inc. (Ky. Cir. Ct. filed June 22, 2005). The blog post is a little troubling for the defendants--notice where the DJ writes "be caller 10 @ 280-1025 and you'll be 100 GRAND RICHER!!!" and then immediately follows that with "No joke" (although I don't understand the rest of that paragraph).
UPDATE 2: This case also brings to mind the case where Hooter's waitresses were told that they would be entered in a drawing for a "Toyota" for selling lots of beer. Then, the winning waitress, Jodee Berry, was presented with a toy Yoda (get the word pun?--yuck yuck yuck). You have to check out this photo (and story)--the combination of the box and her face tells the whole story. As the photo amply demonstrates, she was not amused. The case settled, and Jodee got a new Toyota car--but it's not clear if she got the car because Hooters was feeling some legal heat or because Hooters realized that they had screwed up employee morale and a car was a cheap way to buy back some employee goodwill. Also note that in Berry's case, there were facts that managers had referred to a Toyota car, so the specificity was a little higher than with the radio announcement.
Chicago Tribune Lauds Milwaukee
Milwaukeeans have a love/hate relationship with Chicago. Milwaukeeans tend to have an inferiority complex but also disparage Chicago's traffic/drivers/expense/general bad attitude.
However, this love/hate relationship is not reciprocated by Chicagoans. Instead, the most dominant attitude by Chicagoans towards Milwaukee is complete indifference. I'm constantly amazed at how many Chicago residents have no idea where Milwaukee is or why they might stop there. I'm pretty sure a non-trivial percentage of Chicagoans confuse Milwaukee with Minneapolis, so they think it's hundreds of miles away. In fact, downtown to downtown is about 90 miles, and it's an easy 100 minute train ride or a quick 90-105 minute drive. I do the drive (or take the train) at least once a month either to downtown Chicago or to the nearest Trader Joe's in a northern Chicago suburb--it takes a half-day to do the roundtrip, but it's not a big deal.
Thus, given the indifference, it's a noteworthy development when Chicago's major daily comes out singing Milwaukee's praises.
This is not to say that Milwaukee is the most compelling destination that Chicagoans could imagine. But my sister and brother-in-law, and their two nieces, came from California to spend a week with us in Milwaukee and had a good time. I was petrified about this because the Midwest generally doesn't have a whole lot of "California-grade" tourist attractions.
Nevertheless, we found plenty to occupy a couple days. We spent one morning driving the lakefront, seeing the Beer Baron mansions on Lake Drive, stopping at the hip and college-y Alterra coffeehouse on Lincoln Memorial Drive (in the old pumphouse building), checking out the Art Museum and touring Marquette (including the fascinating Joan of Arc chapel). We had a great vegetarian lunch at Beans & Barley, went to Cosi for a S'mores dessert and then toured the Sprecher brewery. That night, we went to a movie in a state-of-the-art movie house for a couple of bucks less than the California movie houses. Another day, we took them on a walk in the Schlitz Audubon park. The frogs and turtles were mostly hiding, but the wildflowers were everywhere!
We didn't even get to do everything on our list--we were going to take the family to Cedarburg (my wife, in particular, likes the massively-overpriced caramel apples) and the Pabst House and a ballgame at Miller Park. They will just have to come back for more fun!
FWIW, the Miller brewery tour is better than the Sprecher tour. As the Tribune article points out, the video is hilarious, and I liked touring the beer caves. The tasting at the end...well, it's Miller products, and tasting it fresh from the brewery doesn't really improve the experience in any noticeable way. However, they allow you to send as many free postcards as you want to your friends, so bring your address book. And the tour is free! The major plus for the Sprecher tour? All the free soda (of seven varieties) you can drink. (Only problem: both my wife and I thought all of the varieties, other than the root beer, weren't that good).
So my hope is that the Chicago Tribune article starts to lift some of the mystery about Milwaukee. Perhaps that will lead to less indifference and more interaction between us.
June 18, 2005
The Ubiquitous Internet
On my recent travels, I found that many hotels are now offering Internet access for free--not the high end hotels, where they charge for everything, but the 2-3 star hotels that need some marketing hook to pack the rooms. I booked two rooms through blind bidding (one through Priceline, the other through HotWire) and both had free Internet access. Bonanza! I felt like I hit the jackpot. We haven't quite gotten to the point where I am assured of being able to find free Internet on the road, but it seems to be getting closer.
Listen up, hotel operators. Where I have a choice of hotels and your competition is offering free Internet access and a competitive room rate, you will lose my business every time. I'm too cheap to pay for access (or I may have difficulty getting it reimbursed), but it absolutely makes my travel experience better!
In a similar vein, I note that United Airlines has been given the green light to offer Internet access during flights. I'm sure this will be too pricey for me, at least initially, but the die seems cast--in the future, I will have continuous access to the Internet when flying, when staying at my hotel, when waiting in the airport, hanging out at restaurants or coffee shops. Eventually, the Internet will truly be everywhere.
UPDATE: NYT readers vent about wi-fi charges at hotels.
Be Nice to Your Secretary!
Richard Phillips, a London lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, shakes down his secretary Jenny Amner (who is grieving because she just lost her mother) for an $8 dry cleaning bill because she accidentally spilled ketchup on his pants. Her response? She forwards his demand email to a few others in the office, and eventually it gets out and becomes a media sensation.
I'm not sure how many rules that Phillips broke. Four that come to mind:
1) Never write an email you don't want displayed on the front page of the most widely-read newspaper
2) Forgive people for accidents
3) Be sensitive to people experiencing grief
4) Perhaps most obviously: be nice to your secretary! (I cannot, under any circumstance, imagine asking my secretary for $8, regardless of fault).
I haven't found the actual text of the email exchange back, but the link above gives a pretty good blow-by-blow. A nice snapshot of typical office banter (some things are universal).
June 15, 2005
Amended Complaint in Rodriguez v. West Publishing
In late May, the plaintiffs have amended their complaint in the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuit. Among the new allegations, the complaint alleges that Bar/Bri paid off Louisiana State University to shut down its independent bar preparation course.
Does a Headache Allow an Exam Reschedule?
A George Mason law student develops a migrane during an exam. The proctors refuse her request for additional time. After more back-and-forth with the school, the student claims to suffer "intractable migraine syndrome" and sues for discrimination and retaliation. The district court dismissed the lawsuit, but that decision gets reversed by the Fourth Circuit.
1) While legitimate ailments absolutely need protection, I imagine almost all professors cringe at the thought that a student could ask for more time based on an ailment that arises mid-exam and isn't easily verifiable. This certainly could create some student gamesmanship that would be problematic for all students, the professor and grading system integrity generally.
2) Migraine + a single law school exam = 4th circuit opinion?! Further confirmation that law student-initiated litigation is among the most pernicious and intractable. One would have hoped that the parties could have worked something out without multiple judicial opinions for a matter like this.
June 11, 2005
More About Football Season Tickets
A Milwaukee couple married for 57 years decides to legally separate. The only thing they can't agree upon? Who gets the season tickets to Wisconsin Badgers football. (Answer: the judge set up a process to split the tickets). See my post on a prior fracas about football season tickets in Wisconsin.
June 09, 2005
Ravikant v. Tolia--Motions to Dismiss Granted
June 02, 2005
eBay to Buy Shopping.com
Forbes (this is the best of the early articles).
I'm sure we'll hear more about the strategic implications of the deal over the next few days.
UPDATE: Text of letter from eBay to its seller community:
"To Our Community:
I'm excited to let you know that eBay plans to acquire Shopping.com
(www.shopping.com), a leader in online comparison shopping and consumer reviews.
Many of you have been evolving your businesses on the Internet and we want to continue to help you succeed. We also recognize that more eBay sellers are starting to have success with in-season products. This acquisition will give you, our sellers, a new sales channel and access to a new set of buyers. Shopping on Shopping.com will be enhanced by the addition of eBay's listings to the product selection already available on the site.
Shopping.com also provides consumer-generated product and merchant reviews on Epinions (www.epinions.com). We've been hearing from eBay buyers that product reviews would help you make better buying decisions. Epinions is complementary to eBay's community-driven marketplace; there are currently more than a million consumer product reviews available to Epinions and Shopping.com users.
As you may know, the acquisition is subject to regulatory and Shopping.com shareholder approvals. We expect our acquisition of Shopping.com to close in the third quarter of 2005. We will work with the Shopping.com team to refine plans as the deal closes. We'll make sure to keep you informed.
President, eBay North America"
UPDATE 2: Interesting critique of the deal from Motley Fool.
An Israeli perspective (and some commentary from Dan Ciporin).
A scorecard of who made what.
UPDATE 3: Epinions has posted an FAQ.
UPDATE 4: ComputerWorld Australia article with more speculation.
Shopzilla sold to Scripps.