Category Archives: fair

Right to Free Speech vs. Right To Work

The Federal Labor Relations Board has settled a lawsuit brought against a Connecticut ambulance company that disciplined an employee for criticizing a boss on Facebook.  The ambulance company had policies in place that included employees not being allowed to talk to others or coworkers about work, coworkers, and working conditions.  This was a pretty blatant suppression of freedom of speech rights.  And while it may not always be wise to dis the boss on your facebook page, it is a right of free speech to do so.

I find it unfortunate that some of my money (the government) had to be spent to reiterate to companies that employer rights do not trump employee rights when it comes to free speech, amongst other things.

Venting to friends and coworkers about unreasonable working conditions, the attitude of a boss, or pay rates is pretty normal.  Some of us do it in writing (emails to family/friends, chat messages set to family/friends, or facebook wall/status posts) and some of us do it in person (venting to a spouse over dinner or a friend over lunch).  Whichever way we do it, it is our right as Americans to have that freedom of speech.

Does this mean we shouldn’t be careful what we post on facebook?  Absolutely not; this forum should still be carefully considered when choosing where to post your words.  I choose not to have work-related “friends” on my facebook friends list.  This is for self-preservation at the least.  There are just some things that shouldn’t hit the rumor mill, especially in writing.  And it’s so easy to repost what someone says.  I don’t want to find myself backed into a corner by something I said within “earshot” of a coworker on facebook.

On the other hand, I do vent on facebook about work and other annoyances in my life.  It’s no holds barred when it comes to my life on facebook.  I complain about my husband, work, what I paid for Super Bowl snacks at the grocery store, car repairs, the weather, you name it.  I also post about things that make me happy: when my kids are successful, when I get a job interview, when surgery goes well, when my cat does something funny/stupid, etc.  Facebook in many ways is no different than talking to a girlfriend over lunch for me.  We share all kinds of things.

My company can’t come on my lunch date at a local cafe and tell me to stop talking about work, coworkers, bosses, or problems with a friend or spouse.  They can’t discipline me for doing the same on facebook.  It’s the law, and the NLRB has clarified their position on the matter.  Too bad we needed a lawsuit to make the point.

What Breaking Electronic Locks Means to the Blind

The Library of Congress, in a regular review of digital copyright laws, made a few adjustments last week.  They declared that jailbreaking a device is perfectly legal, that breaking code on games is okay for certain purposes (to fix bugs, for example), and that blind users have the right to break DRM in order to make electronic text available.

This last thing is a source of much rejoicing and discussion in the disability services community.  This very thing has been a huge roadblock for users of electronic devices, or eBooks of any kind.  Most eBooks, or eTexts, arrive in an inaccessible format such as ePub or PDF.  Most of the time, other software has to be brought in to extract the text from these eBook formats, so that the print impaired can use the text at all.  Having a legal right to do it removes some of the legal cautions that have been raised over the years when eText is manipulated to make it accessible.

Of course, in an ideal world, eText of all kinds would be accessible, but publishers cannot figure out how to do this without giving up their draconian DRM methods.  They are so worried that we will share what we get, putting them out of business.  Which, of course, has been proven to be a non-issue in the music industry (despite the fact that the RIAA still thinks it’s an issue).  And while I don’t mind taking DRM-locked files and making them accessible for my print-disabled students, the fact remains that there should not have to be a middle-man like me doing this.  If a student wants to go online and purchase an eBook to use immediately, just like anyone else, why shouldn’t they be able to?

At least now we know we won’t be sued or arrested for breaking DRM on these files.  That could open up a lot more doors for the disabled in the future, as they will no longer feel like they are breaking the law when they convert a DRM’d file into something they can actually use.

How Would They Know My Music is (or isn’t) Legal?

An article surfaced today in an Australian newspaper regarding Australian customs officials being asked by the U.S. State Department to participate in checking traveler’s iPods and laptops for pirated music.

My question is, how would they know if it was pirated or not? Supposedly they were looking for “large quantities of commercial music.” Er. What does large mean? I’ve got 4,122 songs on my iPod. For every single one of those songs I either have the commercial CD that it came from, or purchased it legally through iTunes. But if I’m being checked in customs, I won’t have the physical CD’s on my person to back up what is on the iPod.

How could customs make a decision about whether or not the music was pirated? It’s mine, I bought it. But how would they know that, and how would I prove it while standing in customs? At this point, it is not illegal to upload my own CD’s to my iPod. But if I do, and I’m traveling outside of the country with my iPod, and I putting myself at risk?

Scary thought.

WIPO Treaty!

I found some information tonight that made my mouth fall open in disbelief. I have been hammering away at you folks for a while on Fair Use and talking about the evils of the DMCA. Little did I realize the extent to which companies are pushing agendas forward to take us back to the stone ages.

Thanks to Doc Searls for the links to these two sites and the proposed treaty. I think you will understand the ramifications once you get through the materials.

WIPO Treaty for the Protection of the Rights of Broadcasting, Cablecasting and Webcasting Organizations. More details and analysis!