Spare Me The Legalities = Kick Me

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There’s different rules in the legal and political rings than the wrestling ring. – Ed

I’m running into a bit of a dilemna.

When it comes to issues like digital copying or Internet pricing errors, I know full well that these issues will eventually be decided in courtrooms or the legislative halls.

When it comes to legalities, the computer hardware audience is not exactly the Harvard Law School Alumni Association. In general, it’s sounds a lot more like attendees at a wrestling match. “Rawwwrrr. RIAA sucks! We rule!”

The problem is, these issues will be decided by lawyers’ rules, not wrestlers’, and if you try to play by wrestler rules in the lawyers’ den, you’ve rigged the match against yourself more than any WWF match.

What you don’t know or don’t want to know can hurt you, and those who fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

Do You Want To Hear It Or Not?

I don’t end up writing about these things because the RIAA sends me a check or anything like that. I end up writing about these things usually because every time I recall seeing comments about these legal issues, I see the equivalent of a geek Rock trying to be legal, and it’s about as bad as if the real Rock were trying to be legal.

Nor is this because I disagree with the views expressed. Even when I see views that agree with mine, I feel the same way.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve done a lot of legal research in the past. Not in these specific areas, but I know what to look for and what to point out and watch out for.

Then I come to this area and see things like the “magic words” approach to law. Find a phrase in some law or regulation you agree with, and trumpet that to the exclusion of all else, and ignore anything and everything else that might modify or even contradict that.

Let’s just say that approach, especially the legal ostrich part of it, works very badly in the real legal world.

I know these issues are going to be decided in the legal and political rings, not the wrestling ring. They’ll be decided according the legal and political rules, not the wrestling rules.

And if you don’t play by the rules of those games in countries where the rule of law prevails, you lose. Period.

Now I know that, but many don’t want to hear it, either because I’m not on “their side” or they don’t like the idea that law rules in these areas, or simply because it takes more effort to understand these things.

So I can talk about the legalities periodically in areas that affect your computing life, or I can say quiet and you can be informed instead by those who usually pander and tell you how smart and important you and/or this computer hardware group is and that all opposition can be blown away with little to no effort on the group’s part.

All I’ll say is that if I were a hired gun on the other side, I would be delighted by that and couldn’t ask for anything more.

It’s not like you have to become a legal scholar to follow these things, but it does take some effort, and you may not like what you hear.

But that’s how the real world works.

Tell me what you think.

P.S. Per the Best Buy situation, it looks like those involved in that are trying to get state Attorney General offices to do their suing for them rather than some contingency fee lawyer.

That isn’t a bad idea, but it has its limitations, too.

No matter who does the suing, whoever pays the legal fees calls the tune. In the case of the state Attorney General offices, they like to get their legal fees reimbursed, too. As a group responsible to the
citizens of their State rather than private litigants; they’ll probably consider getting Best Buy to improve their pricing practices a higher priority than getting video cards for people. They may end up with both, but if push comes to shove, that’s their agenda.

More likely, states may find this a decent enough case, but only have so many resources. They may decide to pass on it because there are worthier cases that affect many more people in their state.

The only way you get lawyers to do just what you want and pursue something as far as you can is to pay them yourself.

So far, the staffs of a few states have begun investigating and doing some preliminary work. Nothing more, and so far, that doesn’t commit any state to doing anything Best Buy would have to take seriously.

When and if the state finally decides to sue, that’s the event that will make Best Buy sit up and pay attention. In a situation like this, the more states that decide to sue or join in, the better.

This will take time, and may or may not happen. It’s too early to tell, way too early. Just because somebody investigating the case thinks it’s a great case, all he can do is make a recommendation. He doesn’t make the final decision. His boss’ boss’ boss (or more) does.

It should be understood that nobody can just order Best Buy to deliver those cards anytime soon. Period. Best Buy is entitled to their day in court. They can suggest Best Buy throw in the towel, or threaten to sue if they don’t, but they can’t order them and make it stick.

Now Best Buy can at any moment decide to throw in the towel, so to speak. That’s the only way those involved could ever get those cards any time soon. But Best Buy, and only Best Buy, can decide that before their day in court.

My best guess is that if Best Buy is ever going to throw in the towel, that will only happen after a bunch of states decide to sue, and that will probably take months and months.

Should the Attorney General approach not pan out, these folks can then try a class-action suit on a contingency fee basis approach (with its much-discussed shortcomings) or (far less likely) a class-action suit with the litigants paying the lawyers (based on Buy.com, I think you’d have to come up with some figure over $100,000, not sure how much more).

This is not to suggest that anybody who is on that bandwagon get off it, no point doing that at this point. Matters are progressing at a normal pace. These things take time, period. Remember, the Buy.com settlement didn’t occur until twenty months after the incident (which occurred right before the initial trial was to begin).

It’s just that legal time is normally a hell of a lot slower than Internet time, and there is no magic bullet, no instant decisions.

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