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The Judge’s Code | The Verge

Meet the judge who codes — and decides tech’s biggest cases

Judge William H. Alsup of the northern district of California.  He’s a particularly interesting person, because he has a clue about programming.  He taught himself, decades ago, for hobby.

And my goodness does it come in handy nowadays.  I found the (long) interview an interesting read.  The difference between artistic work and functional matter is highly relevant, but difficult to discern for someone without a clue about coding (most lawyers, judges and juries).

I also noted his middle name is Haskell, whereas he does his pretty nifty programming in QuickBASIC.

On the Complications of Choosing Customers

Most companies choose their customers. Some merely do so as a side-effect of their cost structure and the priorities their  sales people apply, other (particularly service-oriented) companies might review during the initial contact whether their way of working suits the structure of the potential client.

Some also choose on the basis of their beliefs.

Cloudflare posted an article after dropping the daily stormer as a client, explaining the trigger reason, their process, and the overall issues with considering such things. It’s very thoughtful.


Theresa May wants to ban crypto: here’s what that would cost, and here’s why it won’t work anyway | Cory Doctorow

Yes, facepalm.

Cory Doctor writes:

It’s impossible to overstate how bonkers the idea of sabotaging cryptography is to people who understand information security. If you want to secure your sensitive data either at rest – on your hard drive, in the cloud, on that phone you left on the train last week and never saw again – or on the wire, when you’re sending it to your doctor or your bank or to your work colleagues, you have to use good cryptography. Use deliberately compromised cryptography, that has a back door that only the “good guys” are supposed to have the keys to, and you have effectively no security. You might as well sky-write it as encrypt it with pre-broken, sabotaged encryption.

P.S. I should note that the King Canute reference in the title is wrong. King Canute explicitly set out to demonstrate to his people that he wasn’t all-powerful. He was wise. Theresa May is not King Canute.

Lost Profits (or not)

In copyright infringement cases related to DVDs and such, right holders generally claim their loss equal to the number of copies and on that basis they quote huge figures.

There is an interesting recent (December 2016) court case of the Australian company selling the Burquini (Islamic swim suits) vs a company importing copies pretending to be the branded items. There the court ruled the claim for lost profits unsuccessful on the basis that there was no evidence that any purchaser of an infringing swimsuit would otherwise have purchased the brand product. It was held that merely showing that the company which had sold infringing product of a certain volume did not establish that but for those infringing sales, the rights holder would have sold the same amount of stock.

Isn’t that an interesting precedent? So, acquiring a copy of something does not necessarily imply you otherwise would have purchased an original. The reasons for that may be the price or something else, but nevertheless there is no causality trail there and the court apparently didn’t even want to consider a correlation.

In terms of damages, the issue with DVDs and online media is even more interesting, because the effective cost of production is very close to $0. If fewer bits of clothing get sold, there is a material and production cost there. For a copy of a movie, that is not really the issue. Thus, there is only really cost in terms of the sales process and profit in case of an actual sale.

I am not a lawyer, but I’m putting this out there because I’m interested to see if this judgment will get used in other cases.

On the single profession for life

For many years I have asked my adult friends on their birthday

“so, what do you want to be – you know, later, when you grow up?”

I started this because it’s a typical thing adults ask children. When I was a kid myself, many would answer the typical “fireman“, “astronaut“, but that has long faded. Lots of kids just don’t know – and I think that’s fine!

So I started asking adults, as I was curious whether they themselves would have an answer to the question they ask kids. I found a few things. First of all, many don’t have a quick answer, and for quite a few it appeared to cause some stress. Since most of them had professions/jobs, that’s interesting.

One conclusion could be that many are not actually doing what they want to be doing, or are even active in a field they’re really interested in now. How sad! I think the question is wrong. What interests and inspires people (of any age), what do you want to explore and learn more about?

The opinion piece below (at QZ) gives an interesting overview of the “one true calling” myth, or to be more clear, people having a single profession during their life time.

Many if not most people used to indeed have a single profession during their working life, but that’s really decades ago now. In the mid 1900s, many people even had a single employer all their life!

I wouldn’t call it a myth as it has a definite historical basis, however it’s just not the way the world works now. You may decide for yourself whether you regard this to be a good or a bad thing, but in any case it’s a fact and so it’s very important to recognise and work within this reality rather than pretending it’s different.