: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at

Indecent Exposure, Defined and Illustrated, Helpful Chart

Take a moment to ponder the implications of this image. This sort of informational graphic requires the kind of reasoning that can only seem sensible in a bureaucratic environment, idiocy aforethought, we might call it. It requires a regulatory judgment (gasp! even legislative perhaps? oh, for a crack at that brief…) which gives definitions to the degree of buttock exposure that constitutes ‘indecency’. Lastly this was professionally rendered, requiring someone to explain and hire an illustrator on the basis of his skill at exposed-buttock-rendering (cheek-aroscuro?) and even a round of proofs and revisions – ‘oh no, this is entirely too much buttock’ or ‘yes, I think you’ve captured the essence of the offense nicely here.’ Sigh…

via ffffound

Harris County Jail dot com

The Houston Chronicle’s Web site offers future inmates a look at Harris lockup (archive) noted a new website,

The site, which is not affiliated with Harris County or the Jail in any way, offers information and advice from those having had the pleasure of past experience in Harris County lock up. The site is part of a growing franchise run by Jail Media, whose owner, Katie Nielsen started the project by after analyzing subjects that had inadequate links when people searched on search engines. Jail media has other sites for Cook County (Chicago), Orange County (the other OC) and Utah County.

The interviews, for which, Jail Media apparently pays, are terrible, but the question section is useful and anyone can comment.

My own first impression of Harris County lock up is still firmly ingrained. When I was in high school and visiting for the summer I would make deliveries with Sal, the delivery guy for my grandfather’s wholesale rose business. He would point at it from the freeway overpass with the 3 and half fingers left on his right hand and say ‘bad place, bad place’.

Texas State Legislature so Collegial They Let Each Other Cast their Ballots, How Heart-Warming

Austin’s KEYE-TV exposes what may euphemistically be termed the ‘lax’ voting procedure of the Texas legislature, or if you were to apply the rules those same legislators propose for the rest of us – intentional, widespread voting fraud.

These same legislators presumably learned a little about the notion of ‘one person, one vote’ during our little redistricting fiasco. I’ll also assume for the sake of my sanity what small measure of faith in the system I’ve managed to retain through my first year of law school, that these legislators were voting the way they knew their absent colleagues would have voted had they been there.

via Boing Boing: Texas legislator explains her fraudulent voting on lack of “bathroom breaks”

Utah Legislators Ban Keyword Ads for Trademarked Phrases

Utah seems to be having a Ted Stevens moment. It’s legislature just passed the Trademark Protection Act which “establishes a new type of mark, called an electronic registration mark, that may not be used to trigger advertising for a competitor and creates a database for use in administering marks.”

For now I’ll leave aside the constitutional questions raised by the law until I actually take constitutional law and the thornier patent issues until Intellectual Property, but as an internet professional and a rational human being, I feel fully qualified to address its more obvious deficiencies.

Republican Dan Eastman sponsored the bill. He described the rationale for the bill in a blog post – Identity Theft: The Next Generation. See follow-ups here and here.

Trademark violations on the internet are rampant. In some cases people invest millions on their trademark, only to have their customers’ on-line word searches shanghaied by a pirate who bought off the search engines.


In an interview, Eastman points out “You put 1 800 CONTACTS into Google and you get 47 different contact lens makers.” Eastman sees this as a problem. I don’t. I believe this is where our individual understanding of how the internet functions as a commercial proposition parts company. That position only makes sense if you see trademarks as granting rather expansive rights when used by third-parties. If you own a trademark, then you and only you have the right to invoke the magic words of your trademark for any commercial purpose. The ultimate question in his scenario is whether or not Trademark owners own the results of a keyword search on their trademark in the same way that they own the right for the exclusive use their trademark on their goods.

Identity Theft? Really? That’s the analogy you want to make?

Eastman correctly states the issue as one of identity. His illustrations, however, fail to show how that any identity is being stolen. Instead, it seems solely designed to protect companies from competition. If I search Google for 1-800-CONTACTS and I get an ad for am I likely to mistake 1-800-CONTACTS for LensWorld? No. It’s clearly marked as and I am capable of understanding as a separate entity and perhaps a competitor to 1-800-CONTACTS. No “identity theft” here. If it were a phishing site that looked identical to the 1-800-CONTACTS site then the danger of confusion is real and we’re now talking trademark infringement.

Scope Creep

Exploring the potential scope creep of this law, if it’s allowed to stand – it’s not clear to me how buying a trademarked keyword is all that different from any other scenario in which a trademarked keyword turns up a reference to a competitor. After this post goes up, you’ll be able to search “1-800-CONTACTS” on my website and get a clear reference to competitor Infringement? What if LensWorld paid me to do it? Assuming, of course, this site had enough traffic for anybody to care. Is it an infringement if a competitor’s site appears in Google’s natural keyword results of the search? In other words no money had changed hands, but Google’s algorithms turned up a competitor for that particular phrase. Would it make a difference if the competitor were paying a blackhat SEO firm to accomplish it?

As I understand it, Trademark law is designed to protect the consumer from being misled as to the origin or quality of a product or service. Instead Utah seeks to protect its businesses from an aspect of consumer choice. More along these lines from Prof. Eric Goldman.

Unintended Consequences in the Legal System

Slate’s Jack Shaffer has a great article on the darker side of the recent popularity of registration of convicted offenders for certain crimes. Sex offender registries are the most prevalent example. Worried mothers and vigilante mobs both like to know where convicted sex offenders are living. There is a plausible argument that that knowledge helps communities murder use appropriate caution with such persons.

In its benevolent wisdoms, the legislatures Tennessee, Illinois, or Minnesota have each passed laws creating online “methamphetamine offender registries”. If you get convicted of meth crime, your name and address goes on the website. As Shaffer notes such a website while perhaps tenously justifiable as showing the community’s moral condemnation of the act, notifying neighbors that they live in not such a nice neighborhood, and providing police with a google map of houses to raid when they need some publicity also might, just might, be a great resource for addicts on where to find their next score. What could we call it?

Article: How To Find a Meth Dealer

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