Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

Americans: “If I can’t have it, neither can you.”

Posted in Holiday, Jobs, Law by Elliott Back on December 15th, 2010.

I was reading the news today and came across this article, US sues school over denial of Muslim pilgrimage, which details an interesting case of law:

The federal government sued a suburban Chicago school district Monday for denying a Muslim middle school teacher unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a central part of her religion. [...]

Khan wanted to perform the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in a lifetime if they are physically and financially able to. Millions go each year. [...]

Berkeley School District compelled Khan to choose between her job and her religious beliefs, the lawsuit said.

Interesting stuff. As an employer, I believe that you should make every possible effort to strike reasonable work-life balance for your employees. Unpaid time away to get married, look after family, and fulfilling religious obligations are all the sorts of things that you would reasonably expect accommodation for. In more civilized countries, you would be accorded sufficient paid holidays to do much of this. Unfortunately, in the United States, by law, there is no requirement to offer any holidays at all!

Ignoring the religious and racial overtones in this news article, what I found interesting was the comments thread. Check these high-rated gems out:

  • “they want, want, want but don’t want to give. Special treatment! Whatever happened to the (former) American work ethic?”
  • “Contract, obey the rules and live with them or dont sign up”
  • “Whoever hired her should be fired.”
  • “This is a sham on the american way of life”
  • “Seperation of Church and State. Take a Religous Holiday when everyone else does.”
  • ” She signed a contract, then did not like it. Tough. Think I like paying my credit cards? No, but I have a contractual relationship to pay .”
  • “What a bunch of bull. This should not even go to court. She should be denied time off for this. Try this at a real job and they will tell you “no”! Here is why, if you want the time off then use your vacation time. That is what it is for. Your employer is not obligated to give you any more time off then what you have accrued.”

It’s an interesting fact that Americans have the least paid vacation days in the world (0 by law), some of the most mediocre students in the world, the largest wealth-gap between the rich and poor, etc. Yet when confronted by an individual who is trying to improve the American standard of living (by advocating for improved time-off rules), American internet commenters essentially say, “I don’t have this right; why should you?”

I don’t understand this.

Do you want America to suck? You should be cheering this woman and the ALCU on, because they are fighting for your rights. (If you feel like commenting that I’m an elitist foreigner who should shut up and work harder, please don’t even bother to leave a comment.)

Update: It’s nice to see Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want – and it works come out today.

iStockPhoto Offers Copyright Liability Insurance

Posted in Graphics, Law, Photo by Elliott Back on September 16th, 2009.

Stock photography wholesaler iStockPhoto has a new gimmick in its bid to provide the web with a source of affordable decoration: lawsuit immunity. That’s right, any stock photo you purchase will come with guaranteed protection of $10,000 against intellectual property disputes. So you can buy photos from iStockPhoto for $1-$27 per photo, use them according to the terms of use, and be protected from litigation:

iStock is about to offer a new “Legal Guarantee” on its entire collection. On Sept. 16, any video, image or audio file purchased and USED CORRECTLY by the customer, will automatically be guaranteed against any copyright or moral right, trademark and other intellectual property dispute, up to $10,000. Although common for traditional stock houses, a legal guarantee has not been standard in microstock because of the low prices.

Although these situations have always been extremely rare at iStock, if a client really needs added insurance, an Extended Legal Guarantee up to $250,000 in coverage can be purchased for 100 credits.

As the CNET article mentions, a credit will cost around $1-$1.50. The caveat here is that you must carefully follow the license terms, which are complex. For example, for use on the web, you are restricted to a maximum resolution of archaic 800×600 and in a single location (webpage). For items you wish to resell in any way, purchasing an extended license for 125-150 credits is necessary.

For more information, please see CrunchBase’s iStock Photo entry!

T-Mobile Early Termination Fee Class Action Lawsuit

Posted in Cellphone, Deals & Savings, Law by Elliott Back on May 16th, 2009.

I just got a great postcard in the mail. This last year I was charged a $200 early termination fee by T-mobile, after Wendy had to cancel her plan and move back to Shanghai. Now, there’s a class-action lawsuit which is promising to refund $125 of the contract fee! Awesome!!

A proposed Settlement is pending in a class action entitled Milliron v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., No. 08-04149(JLL) (ES) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The lawsuit alleges that T-Mobile violated state and federal laws by charging customers a flat-rate early termination fee (“ETF”) in its wireless telephone service contracts. You are part of the lawsuit if you are a current or former T-Mobile wireless subscriber who paid or were charged a flat-rate ETF from July 23, 1999 to February 19, 2009, or if your contract for service included a flat-rate ETF from July 23, 1999 to February 19, 2009.

If you can prove you paid a flat-rate ETF, or T-Mobile’s records indicate you paid a flat-rate ETF, you may submit a Claim Form and receive up to $125.

You can go visit ETF-Settlement to read the details, and/or apply for a claim. I already did, as I received a postcard in the mail. However, if you meet the class-action criteria (pretty much anyone screwed by a T-mobile early termination fee), you should also fill out the form.

Next Page »