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California Supreme Court Rejects Sheriffs' Union's Attempt To Block New Open Records Law

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There have been some pretty garbage responses to California's amendment of its open records laws, which rolls back the extreme level of opacity shielding police misconduct records. The City of Inglewood gave its police force a zero-accountability parting gift by granting it permission to destroy hundreds of officer-involved shooting files just prior to the new law taking effect.

Over in San Bernardino County, law enforcement -- or at least their union reps -- responded to the new law by petitioning the state Supreme Court for an injunction. The Sheriff's Employees' Benefit Association wanted the law blocked until it could be determined whether or not the law was retroactive. The union claimed making pre-2019 records available to the public would "violate [its] members' rights."

This ran contrary to the assessment of the actual Sheriff and the county's legal counsel, both of whom felt the law applied to old misconduct files.

“In anticipation of SB 1421 taking effect, the Sheriffs Department has been diligently reviewing the changes to the law and carefully considering how to implement these changes,” Blakemore wrote. “Based on this review, and on the advice of counsel, the Department intends to apply these changes retroactively.”

The union can't be thrilled about the new layer of accountability it will be facing going forward. But it seemed particularly aggrieved the new records law would affect old records it assumed would never be turned over to the public. The law doesn't state it only applies to records going forward, so it's reasonable to assume what was once considered non-public is now publicly-accessible.

The union has already heard back from the state's highest court and it's not getting the answer it wanted.

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a sheriff union’s request to block a new state law that provides public access to past police-misconduct and use-of-force records.

The San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies’ union sought an emergency intervention from the California Supreme Court to block the new law before the New Year.

This won't stop the legal challenges to the law -- not as long as it's not crystal clear whether retroactivity applies. But this at least allows the law to move forward, ensuring that any records generated past the point of enactment are truly public records. Anything prior to January 2019 is going to be hit-and-miss, as it appears state law enforcement agencies don't have a unified take on the law. This will probably be resolved sooner than later, as requests for these previously-secret records are already flowing in.

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posted at: 12:20am on 09-Jan-2019
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Counterpoint: Maybe Athletes Should Rush To The Trademark Office... If They Play For Teams Like The Dallas Mavericks

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Over the past several years, we've covered the increasingly trendy practice of professional athletes rushing to the trademark office to register their nicknames and/or catchphrases. From Anthony Davis' unibrow, to Bryce Harper's flippant remarks, to Ryan Lochte channeling his inner bro-ness, up to and including Jeremy Lin's claim on his portmanteau nickname, we've raised our eyebrows at this sort of theory of ownership and protectionism that often times looks to make exclusive money over the coined phrases created by others. This sort of locking up of language was never really the point of trademark law, as we've pointed out, and we've suggested that athletes engaging in this sort of thing probably isn't the best thing for the public, the supposed beneficiary of trademark law.But perhaps we should introduce a caveat in our stance: if you play for the Dallas Mavericks, maybe you should rush to the trademark office. It seems that Luka Doncic, the rookie star of Mark Cuban's team, has had the trademark rug pulled out from underneath him by his employer.

One person in particular, Mike Pocopio, a development coach on the Mavs' staff, referred to Doncic as 'El Matador' and it stuck.Now, 'El Matador' and 'The Matador' have both been trademarked by the Mavs' after they registered the names with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.According to Josh Gerben, the Mavs want the exclusive rights to the name so, should Doncic leave the Mavs one day, he would no longer be able to call himself 'El Matador'.
That seems... pretty shitty? We have a rookie athlete doing a great job for his team, building a reputation for himself that results in a nickname, and then his team goes out to lock that nickname up... for what? So that if Doncic goes elsewhere, the team can reapply that nickname to a new player? Come on. What sure seems more likely is that the Mavericks know that Doncic is a thing in basketball circles and want to be able to trade off of their newest star player's persona to the exclusion of him. Not a great look, honestly.So, if athletes now want to claim that they are trademarking all of the things because they're afraid team ownership will undercut them in doing so, that seems valid now. Thanks to the Mavs.

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Pooey Puitton Proactively Sues The Shit Out Of Louis Vuitton

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All one needs to do to get a sense of how Louis Vuitton, famed maker of bags, views trademark law is do a short review of past stories it's been involved in on this site. What you will come away with is the clear sense of the company as laughably litigious, insanely aggressive in bullying others, and as being entirely devoid of having anything resembling a sense of humor or respect for parody.And that last bit appears to be resulting in yet another dispute, this time between Louis Vuitton and MGA Entertainment Inc., which makes the Pooey Puitton toy handbag. And, yes, that toy handbag is literally shaped like a piece of poop. Apparently, Louis Vuitton has been making comments to some of MGA's commercial clients that the toy handbag infringes its trademarks, leading to MGA filing suit against LV asking for a declaratory judgement that its parody bag is not in fact infringing.

In a complaint filed on Friday in Los Angeles federal court, MGA Entertainment Inc said no reasonable consumer would mistake Pooey Puitton, which retails for $59.99, for costlier Louis Vuitton handbags.“The use of the Pooey name and Pooey product in association with a product line of ‘magical unicorn poop’ is intended to criticize or comment upon the rich and famous, the Louis Vuitton name, the LV marks, and on their conspicuous consumption."
All of which puts the Pooey Puitton bag squarely in the category of protected parody. Beyond that, any claim that the public is going to look at the bag as anything other than a joke played on upon LV, rather than having association with the company, is pretty laughable.
But my interest is centered around LV's apparent thinking that anyone is going to mistake a literal piece-of-shit handbag, and think that it was made by Louis Vuitton. That doesn't seem to me to be the kind of claim a luxury handbag maker would want to make, yet here we sit. Or, more likely, the Louis Vuitton folks simply can't help themselves from failing to appreciate the joke and instead have to go the bullying route.

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posted at: 12:20am on 08-Jan-2019
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China Starts Using Facial Recognition-Enabled 'Smart' Locks In Its Public Housing

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Surveillance using facial recognition is sweeping the world. That's partly for the usual reason that the underlying digital technology continues to become cheaper, more powerful and thus more cost-effective. But it's also because facial recognition can happen unobtrusively, at a distance, without people being aware of its deployment. In any case, many users of modern smartphones have been conditioned to accept it unthinkingly, because it's a quick and easy way to unlock their device. This normalization of facial recognition is potentially bad news for privacy and freedom, as this story in the South China Morning Post indicates:

Beijing is speeding up the adoption of facial recognition-enabled smart locks in its public housing programmes as part of efforts to clamp down on tenancy abuse, such as illegal subletting.The face-scanning system is expected to cover all of Beijing's public housing projects, involving a total of 120,000 tenants, by the end of June 2019
Although a desire to stop tenancy abuses sounds reasonable enough, it's important to put the move in a broader context. As Techdirt reported back in 2017, China is creating a system storing the facial images of every Chinese citizen, with the ability to identify any one of them in three seconds. Although the latest use of facial recognition with "smart" locks is being run by the Beijing authorities, such systems don't exist in isolation. Everything is being cross-referenced and linked together to ensure a complete picture is built up of every citizen's activities -- resulting in what is called the "citizen score" or "social credit" of an individual. China said last year that it would start banning people with "bad" citizen scores from using planes and trains for up to a year. Once the "smart" locks are in place, it would be straightforward to make them part of the social credit system and its punishments -- for example by imposing a curfew on those living at an address, or only allowing certain "approved" visitors.Even without using "smart" locks in this more extreme way, the facial recognition system could record everyone who came visiting, and how long they stayed, and transmit that data to a central monitoring station. The scope for abuse by the authorities is wide. If nothing else, it's a further reminder that if you are not living in China, where you may not have a choice, installing "smart" Internet of things devices voluntarily may not be that smart.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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