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October 19, 2013

Fence surfing and the jet blast decision

Filed under: Aviation by Branko Collin @ 1:23 pm

A popular tourist activity on the Caribbean volcano island of Sint Maarten is fence surfing.

As you can see in the photo the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport starts right behind Maho Beach. Fence surfing is holding on to the fence that separates the runway from the beach and waiting for planes to take off in order to experience the jet blast.

In 2000 a Swiss woman by the name of Hartmann was blown onto a rock and injured. Instead of accepting that exposing yourself to the forces of a Boeing 747′s engines may not be the smartest thing she could have done, she sued the airport. Part of her complaint was that the signs which read “Warning! Low flying and departing aircraft blast can cause physical injury!” weren’t clear enough. Dutch courts usually have little patience with stupidity and so the complaint was rejected.

Mrs Hartmann took the case all the way to the Dutch Supreme Court which surprisingly agreed with her on the issue of signage. In what came to be known as the Jet Blast Decision the Supreme Court argued that “in order to decide if a warning can be considered a sufficient protection against a certain danger, it has to be determined if the warning will lead to either an action or the abstinence of an action that will avert the danger”.

The sign has been changed since then. Law professor Edgar du Perron points out in a recent online lecture at Universiteit van Nederland (a cross between MIT OpenCourseWare and TED Talks) that a further problem, one the new sign shares with the old one, is that the sign is attached to the fence—when people see warning signs attached to fences, they assume that the danger is on the other side of the fence.

Recently a curb was added to the beach because the jet blasts were eroding it. Although this prevents tourists from slamming into the rocks directly behind the wall, these days the tourists slam into the wall (warning: graphic video and stupid comments).

(Photo by Alljengi, some rights reserved)

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July 23, 2012

Anti-piracy group caught pirating (surprise!)

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:01 am

Composer Melchior Rietveld won a court case against copyright collection agency Stemra last week over music he wrote for an anti-piracy ad.

TorrentFreak writes:

In 2006, Dutch musician Melchior Rietveldt was asked to compose a piece of music to be used in an anti-piracy advert. It was to be used exclusively at a local film festival. However, when Rietveldt bought a Harry Potter DVD in 2007, he discovered his music being used in the anti-piracy ad without his permission. In fact, it had been used on dozens of DVDs both in the Netherlands and overseas.

In order to get the money he was owed, Rietveldt went to local music royalty collecting agency Buma/Stemra who had been representing him since 1988 but had failed to pay him any money for the anti-piracy piece previously registered with them.

Stemra deliberately kept Rietveld in the dark about the number of DVDs that had the pirated music on them, and initially refused to pay him money. After a lot of nagging Rietveld was contacted by a board member who offered him a fast track to his money if only he would split the loot with said board member.

Rietveld claimed 100,000 euro in damages, but the court only awarded him 20,000 euro (Dutch courts rarely award anything more than ‘proven’ damages), so Stemra now asserts this is a big win for them. Since the government is ultimately responsible for the dealings of the copyright collection agencies, I have my doubts—again—that this will ever lead to a second of jail time for the likes of Stemra.

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May 31, 2010

More people in prison on suspicion than after conviction

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:28 am

Law professor Yvo Buruma has sounded the alarm about the number of innocent people being detained pre-trial in the Netherlands.

According to Buruma the numbers of acquittals in the country has risen from 4.5% to 7% in the past five years. More people are in gaol awaiting trial than people who have already been convicted.

In a blog entry last week Buruma claims this is a worrisome development because robbing somebody of their freedom is an exceptional power that the state should only exercise under exceptional circumstances, and because a person should be considered innocent until proven otherwise. Although he does not outright say it, it would almost seem that the justice department is keeping people imprisoned for the wrong reasons.

The criminal law professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen determines four categories of aquittal:

  1. It is unclear what happened,
  2. It is unclear what part the suspect played,
  3. There was no intent, and
  4. The judge fails to see the crime in the accused’s actions.

An example of the latter is the 14-year-old who jokingly told Prime Minister Balkenende on the social networking site Hyves that he was going to die and was acquitted earlier this month.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the falsely imprisoned typically only receive 80 euro a day in damages, regardless of actual income lost.

Link: Sargasso.

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December 16, 2008

First court victory for copyright trolls

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 8:01 am

“Copyright trolls” Cozzmoss got their first victory in a court of law, where they successfully sued blogger Joffrey Vermeule for copyright infringement of a newspaper article. The court awarded 402 euro to Cozzmoss (decision, Dutch, PDF). Cozzmoss had claimed at one point well over 5000 euro in damages.

A copyright troll is a particularly heinous creature that feeds off accidental copyright infringement by those least likely to defend themselves. It seeks out such infringements and then sends bills claiming preposterous amounts of damages. In countries like the Netherlands, where courts typically claim that damages must actually be proven, the troll then offers the infringer a discount on their trumped up ‘fine’ in the hope it won’t come to a court case. Vermeule was the first Dutch blogger to pass up on that offer.

The rise of copyright trolls in the Netherlands has led to a foundation that helps bloggers with their defense against these creatures, the Stichting Copyright & Nieuwe Media. It’s not clear if the foundation played a part in Vermeule’s defense, nor what part they would have played.

Link: Marketing Facts (Dutch). Image: stolen off the internets, arrr! (Actually, it’s in the public domain.)

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May 4, 2008

Rebel-rouser geese caused most damage in 2007 and before

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 12:56 pm

In 2007 the Faunafonds paid 4.4 million euro to people claiming to have suffered damages at the paws and wings of geese, more than two thirds of all damages paid. Faunafonds is the fund that has a duty to try and reimburse those that suffered extraordinary damage from protected animals. In total it paid out 6.04 million euro, according to the fund’s annual report (PDF, Dutch). The goose has been the major troublemaker in the Netherlands it would seem for at least the past six years, with the common vole putting in a spirited cameo appearance in 2005.

For your ultimate statistical thrill-seeking pleasures I have put the table from page 13 of the annual report, containing damages paid per animal in tab separated value format here.

Via Toby Sterling, who has a thing or two about what he thinks about all this. Photo by Marco Raaphorst, some rights reserved.

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