How to Proofread Perfectly

HeadphonesAnswer: Don’t read it… let the computer do it.

I find the best way to perfectly proofread a document, legal memo, or even an email is to have the computer read it back to me using a text-to-speech program while I follow along looking at the text. I currently use a free utility called “Ultra Hal Text-to-Speech Reader.” The voices in the reader are not the most human-like but it gets the job done.

ITConversations recently featured a talk by Kevin Lenzo who believes that the key speech technology is not speech recognition, but is text-to-speech (TTS). He presents “a long list of possible applications of TTS, including hands-free in-car navigation systems, location-based weather reporting, remote network monitoring, and just-in-time broadcasting.”

Jobs Says Apple Supports DRM-Free World

Wired reports on Steve Jobs’ Open Letter where he announces Apple supports a DRM-free music distribution model. Many, including Bill Gates, have stated that DRM does not stop piracy. And some have argued that Apple benefits from DRM because it locks users into only using iPods and iTune.

Jobs acknowledged “DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.” But he does not believe users are locked into using music players from one company when they buy DRM music from that company’s online music store. He stated:

Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

He points out that 90 percent of songs are sold on CDs that are not DRM protected. After asserting that DRM does not appear to be good for much. Jobs states:

If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

He concludes by asking those against DRM to focus on the convincing Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI to license music without DRM.

Will this announcement move the marketplace towards a DRM-free model? Bill Gates criticized DRM, yet Microsoft’s new music player the Zune and the Zune Marketplace operate as a closed DRM protected system much like Apple’s iPod/iTunes combination.

The governments of Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands have “rebelled” in some form against Apple’s DRM system that prohibits users from playing a song downloaded from iTunes on a music player other than an iPod. It will be interesting to see if European authorities take Job’s invitation to “redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.”

Broadband Breach

WifiCnet reports a spanish startup company called Whisher is trying to offer an easy way to share Wi-Fi Internet access. They hope that broadband consumers will share access to their connection with others via the consumer’s existing Wi-Fi router. If large numbers of broadband customers share their connection then a mesh Wi-Fi network will develop without municipal or commercial development.

The Cnet article stated the snag in this utopian view of free Wi-Fi for everyone is that “[i]n the U.S., it’s illegal.” Illegal? On July 8, 2005, Cnet ran an article titled “FAQ: Wi-Fi mooching and the law” indicating it is not clear whether or not sharing Wi-Fi is legal. The article stated, “It depends on the wording of your contract with your broadband provider.”’s legal dictionary defines “illegal” as “1) adj. in violation of statute, regulation or ordinance, which may be criminal or merely not in conformity. . .”

If the contract with your broadband provider prohibits you from sharing the connection outside of your residence, then you would be in breach of the contract if you shared in that way. While you may be liable—meaning required to pay money to the provider—for violating the contract, it is not generally considered “illegal” to breach a contract. It would be illegal if a statute, regulation or ordinance prohibited you from sharing the connection outside of your home. I am not aware of any statute, regulation or ordinance specifically prohibiting such sharing (although one could exist).

Contract law does not seek to punish the breaching party but instead generally seeks to put the non-breaching party in the position he or she would have been in if the contract was performed without breach. Therefore a party breaking an private agreement (i.e. the one between you and the broadband provider) is treated much differently under the law than a party violating a statute, regulation or ordinance. The former conduct is considered breaching, while the latter is considered illegal.

It is important to use the right terms when discussing this topic. The term “illegal” implies the power of the State is used to prohibit conduct. It does not seem like this is the case when someone share’s their broadband connection. I am interested to know if there are any statutes that prohibit this sharing. In the absence of a statute or regulation, it seems that broadband sharing, at most, is a breach of contract—which still might cost you a lot of money.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is legal advice. You should not rely on this article in deciding whether to share your Internet connection. If you have questions about whether to share your broadband connection you should consult your contract with your service provider. If that does not resolve the question you should contact an attorney.

The Sealand Fantasy

Pirate Bay SealandA number of sites reported [Gizmodo, Slashdot, Glading, Techbuzz, Wired, Ars Technica] Pirate Bay’s announcement that it wants to buy its own island nation to avoid those pesky copyright laws. Pirate Bay started a donation drive to purchase the man-made island called Sealand. Ars Technica‘s article provides the most detailed coverage of the situation. The island is a “World War II-era British naval platform sitting in the sea off the coast of Harwich in southern England.” Sealand has a website explaining its history. The site states:

Sealand was founded on the principle that any group of people dissatisfied with the oppressive laws and restrictions of existing nation states may declare independence in any place not claimed to be under the jurisdiction of another sovereign entity. The location chosen was Roughs Tower, an island fortress created in World War II by Britain and subsequently abandoned to the jurisdiction of the High Seas. The independence of Sealand was upheld in a 1968 British court decision where the judge held that Roughs Tower stood in international waters and did not fall under the legal jurisdiction of the United Kingdom.

Torrent Freak provides a list of alternative island nations that might work if the deal with Sealand doesn’t fly.

It seems that a company called Havenco is already (or has in the past) providing webhosting from Sealand. Havenco states “HavenCo provides a place for secure e-Commerce, privacy-protected Internet services and uncensorable free speech.” Uncensorable free speech? This is the same type of argument that Yahoo made in 2000 to a French Court. There, the French court ordered Yahoo to block Nazi goods from appearing for sale on web pages in France. Yahoo’s servers were not in France. But as Tim Wu explained in a Legal Affairs article, the plaintiff showed that Yahoo could identify and screen users by geography. Yahoo eventually complied because it had assets in France that were at risk of seizure.

Whether its HavenCo or Pirate Bay operating on Sealand or some other micronation, it is doubtful that a rouge company can escape influence of “U.S. content owners.” Pirate Bay needs internet access, right? Otherwise only those people that fly in and live on the island can partake of the content on Pirate Bay’s servers. Looking at the Sealand platform, I’m not sure people will be beating down their door to live there. Plus the platform’s size means only a limited number of people could fit on it. So, Pirate Bay will need a company in some other nation to provide a connection to the internet. The connection could possibly come from England because England is close to Sealand.

Yesterday, Market Watch reported the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries (IFPI) — which represents the recording industry worldwide — “threatened to take legal action against Internet Service Providers if they failed to take action against users who illegally upload and download music.” The IFPI Chairman John Kennedy said:

That job (of prosecuting file-sharers) shouldn’t be ours – it should be done by the gatekeepers of the Web, the Internet Service Providers, who unquestionably have the technical means to deal with copyright infringement if only they would take responsibility for doing so.

Here, if Pirate Bay comes up with the funds to purchase an island nation, the IFPI is going to sue whoever is providing Pirate Bay with internet access. If the ISP is in the UK, the IFPI might sue them in the UK courts. The IFPI might bring a claim before the WTO. The IFPI might employ diplomatic pressure of other nations to force the nation where the ISP is located to shut down the connection.

According to HavenCo “Sealand currently has no specific regulations regarding patents, libel, restrictions on political speech, cryptography, restrictions on maintaining customer records, DMCA or music sharing services.” But as the Yahoo case shows, that may not matter. Even Bill Gates criticized DRM, but unless you want to live on Pirate Bay’s island, the pirate’s treasure is probably not going to be accessible to you via the internet from treasure island for long.

Elected Officials: Ask Us for Solutions.

Reddit reports that the President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, posts a question on Yahoo Answers. Yahoo states that this is really from the President of India. He also has a Yahoo 360 page.

Here’s his question:

What should we do to free our planet from terrorism?

Human society, from origin until now, has always been at war within and between groups and has led to two World Wars. Presently, terrorism and low intensity warfare are affecting many parts if the world.

As the current global population of 6 billion increases to 8 billion by 2025, national and international conflicts will continue to be a source of concern for humanity. When evil minds combine, good minds have to work together and combat. In this context, what are the out-of-the-box solutions to free the planet earth from terrorism? Your answers when processed and implemented can lead to a peaceful, happy and safe planet earth.

When is the last time your elected official asked you for your ideas on solving problems in United States or the World?

Handwritten Electronic Notes

Handwritten NoteAdriana at I Heart Tech posted about an email she received that was an electronic handwritten note. She received it on her Treo. All it said was “<Handwritten Content>.” So she tried another email application on her Treo and she was able to view the GIF file that was the electronic handwritten note. She showed it to her friend who said, “Whoa – that’s so much more personal than a regular email!” The note was written using a tablet PC.

I agree the electronic handwritten note is more personal than a regular email. I don’t have a tablet PC and I prefer to type anything rather than write it out by hand. But considering the impact of handwritten notes, I use them in certain circumstances.

I wonder whether sending a message as an attached graphic file might risk the possibility that the recipient cannot open it. Like when Adriana initially was only able to see “<Handwritten Content>.” What if the recipient was not as tech savvy or not otherwise able to open the note in their mobile device? Maybe he or she would wait and open it later on a PC.

The impact of a handwritten note probably outweighs the risk of non/delayed-receipt.

Illinois Has One Appellate Court

Illinois Appellate Court MapI am surprised at the number of Illinois attorneys who do not know that Illinois has one appellate court. Yes the appellate court is divided into districts, and the first district is further divided into divisions. But the Illinois Supreme Court has long held that all the divisions and subdivisions should be seen as one court. [People v. Layhew, 139 Ill.2d 476, 489-90 (Ill. 1990); People v. Granados, 172 Ill. 2d 358, 371 (Ill. 1996)].

What does this mean? It means, a decision from any district appellate court is binding on circuit courts outside of that district unless there is a conflicting opinion from the appellate court of the district where the circuit court sits. [Schmidt v. Ameritech Illinois, 329 Ill. App. 3d 1020 (Ill.App. 1st Dist. 2001)]. For example, a decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court is binding on the 18th Circuit Court—which sits in the Second District—unless it conflicts with a Second District case.

This is different from the federal court system. There appellate courts are labeled circuit courts, whereas Illinois State Appellate Courts are labeled district courts. In the Federal system appellate decisions are not binding on district courts (trial level in the federal system) outside of the circuit.

The Core of Persuasion

Harvard Law School's CyberOneDuring the fall of 2006 Harvard Law School provided podcasts, videocasts, and other means for anyone to participate in its Law in the Court of Public Opinion Course (better known as CyberOne). The course covers “many different media technologies to understand how their inherent characteristics and modes of distribution affect the arguments that are made using them.”

I began listening to CyberOne podcasts late in the semester and now I’m listening/watching each class starting with the first. Its loaded with excellent information and you don’t need to be a lawyer or law student to understand the information provided.

Today I was listening to class number five (9/25/06) [audio, video, wiki page]. At about 36:20 on the audio version Professor Nesson makes some interesting points about empathic advocacy/argument. He stated, as paraphrased from Rebecca Nesson’s notes:

If you are going to persuade someone you need to change their interpretive stance. You need to reach them emotionally. You need to convince them that you understand what the world looks like from their point of view.

As paraphrased from Jordan’s notes:

Changing your point of view is at least in part an emotional experience. You can only persuade someone if you persuade them that you understand what the world looks like from the viewpoint they already have.

The last sentence struck a chord with me. A few years back I decided to make a conscious effort to understand the foundations and reasons taken by those with views in opposition to my own. It is an effort to check myself to see if I’m wrong about a particular issue. The result is the ability to recognize the core of the other person’s view, to address that foundation, and communicate (empathic) reasoning that is more likely to be persuading. Understanding the other person’s worldview is not only effective in persuasion but is helpful in uncovering truth and obtaining a just result.

Help Me Build a School and Give the Life Long Gift of Education

Children Benefit From New Room to Read SchoolThe sun burned off the morning chill and the only sounds were the river and feet walking along a dirt path on the three-hour hike to a school in Bahundanda, Nepal. The trekker reached the school after climbing 1300 vertical feet in the last mile. The school had eight classrooms, each overcrowded with students who sat crammed on benches without desks. The headmaster showed the trekker the library. There were so few books that the teachers did not want to risk the children damaging them, so they were pad-locked in a cabinet. The books were likely ones left behind by other backpackers, and therefore not age appropriate for the students. Before leaving, the headmaster said to the trekker: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”

This unplanned detour on a 21-day hiking trip caused John Wood to quit his successful career as a technology executive working for Microsoft in China and to establish Room to Read. Since 2000, Room to Read has built 221 schools, established 3370 libraries, donated 1.2 million books, funded 2,344 long-term girls’ scholarships, and established 108 computer and language labs.

I recently read John’s book titled “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.” My goal for 2007 is to raise $11,000 to fund a complete school in Nepal. Please join me in this endeavor and contact me at blog [at] waltmire dot com.

Listen online or download Jerome McDonnell’s interview of John on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview.

RTR seeks to intervene early in the lives of children and help provide them with an education and the lifelong gift of literacy. The countries of current focus are Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa.

To increase the likelihood for success, Room to Read (RTR) enlists community involvement. Our challenge grants require villages to raise a significant portion of the overall expenditures through donated land, labor, materials and cash, thereby allowing our cash donations to go further so that we can help more villages. Our challenge grants act as catalysts for community building while also maximizing the local participation and expertise brought to our programs to ensure they are run efficiently and effectively.

Research Tip: How to Quickly Find (for Free) Cases Supporting a Rule of Law

Often when writing a legal memo I come to a point where I want to recite a widely accepted rule of law, like a canon of statutory interpretation. For example, when interpreting a statute the court must determine and give effect to the intent of the legislature. I know there are hundreds of cases which recite this principle. But in legal writing any rule of law should be supported by citation to authority. Running a search on LexisNexis or Westlaw could be expensive. The solution is to search the Illinois Supreme Court website for an opinion supporting the rule of law. Here’s how to do it:

  1. The Illinois Supreme Court website does not make it easy to find the opinions search page. If you click on the opinions link from the main page, you come to a list of recently released opinions. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the “For opinions older than 90 days, please go to our Opinions Archive page.” Click on Opinions Archive. Then scroll to the bottom of that page and you’ll finally find the search opinions search box.
  2. Now search for the proposition or rule of law. Use quote marks when appropriate to get the best results. Here I typed “legislative intent” (quote marks included).
  3. Click Search
  4. Click on the first result (note that the first result may change as new opinions are added to the website).
  5. Its a 2002 case from the Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court (Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka)
  6. Use your web browser’s search function (Ctrl-F in Firefox) to find “legislative intent” within the current page.
  7. That finds the following paragraph:
    • “The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation, to which all other rules are subordinate, is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Maggette, 195 Ill. 2d 336, 348 (2001). In determining the legislative intent, a court should first consider the statutory language. This is the best means of determining the legislative intent. Maggette, 195 Ill. 2d at 348. A court must consider the entire statute and interpret each of its relevant parts together. If legislative intent can be ascertained from the statute’s plain language, that intent must prevail without resort to other interpretive aids. Paris v. Feder, 179 Ill. 2d 173, 177 (1997).”
  8. Now I can cite to People v. Maggette to support the “intent of the legislature” canon in my memo. You should probably look at the Maggette opinion to make sure its a case you want to cite (i.e. the case doesn’t come to the opposite conclusion that you are asking the court to come to in your case). You can probably find the Maggette opinion by following the steps below.

If I wanted to cite to Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka in the above example I would:

  1. Go back to the opinions search page and search for “Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka” (quotes included).
  2. Click on the first result.
  3. It is the 2003 Second District case (People v. Harrell).
    • You can tell its a 2003 case because the url: /august/html/2020026.htm is in the 2003 folder on the court’s website.
  4. Use your web browser’s search function to find “Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka” within the current page.
  5. That brings you to:
    • “Moreover, we must construe criminal statutes narrowly in favor of the accused (In re Detention of Tiney-Bey, 302 Ill. App. 3d 396, 400 (1999)) and so that no portion of the statute is rendered meaningless (Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka, 334 Ill. App. 3d 454, 459 (2002)).”
  6. There you have it. The full cite to Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka.
  7. It was not a problem here, but sometimes you can’t get a pin-point cite to the partition of the case supporting your legal proposition. You should use pin-point cites for almost all citations. You don’t want the judge (or law clerk) to have to read the entire case to find the point of law for which you cited the case. But better to exclude a pinpoint than fail to support a rule of law with citation to authority.

This method of finding a reporter citation to a case does not work when searching for a case that is relatively new because that case is not yet likely to be cited in other cases.