October 14, 2014

Crazy verdict: Dutch Rail may abolish paper tickets

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 8:44 am

lady-justice-chaoukiThe business court of The Hague has determined that Dutch Rail can abolish paper train tickets even though the law says a traveller has a right to an objective proof of the right to travel.

The court felt that the new electronic travel card system (OV Chipkaart) suffices because there are five places where you can confirm you have the right to travel. Arnoud Engelfriet lists them all:

  1. The display of the electronic gate at the time of checking in.
  2. The display of the vending machine.
  3. A paper print-out at the service desk.
  4. A transaction data listing on the Dutch Rail website.
  5. The display of the train conductor’s travel card reader.

Engelfriet and his commenters point out that there are numerous problems with this verdict.

  1. The electronic display only shows that you’ve checked in for a very short time, especially if somebody checks in a fraction of a second later (this happens a lot during rush hour).
  2. If you are in a rush, you are not going to stand in line at the vending machine or service desk.
  3. The Internet listings are only updated after a significant delay.
  4. Train conductors are “masters at being impossible to find”, according to Rikus Spithorst of travellers association ‘Voor Beter OV’ (‘for better public transport’). (Doesn’t that make train conductors hobbits?)

Basically this means that you either show up five minutes early for your daily commute to double check you are actually checked in or you pay a tax in the form of fines every time you fail to check in for whatever reason.

What bothers me is that in the case of a conflict between a traveller and Dutch Rail (and only the OV Chipkaart in place) travellers now have to rely completely on the antagonistic party to provide them with the proof that they have in fact travelled legally. Travelling without a valid ticket is a criminal offence, so why would the state make rules that make it practically impossible for a suspect to defend their innocence?

See also:

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June 7, 2014

The Hague court wants less female judges

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 5:30 pm

In 2009 for the first time ever women made up the majority of judges in the Netherlands. This year even 64% of the judges of the court of Utrecht are female.

In response, according to Algemeen Dagblad, the court of The Hague (56% female judges) wants to give preferential treatment to male candidates. The court fears having too many women could influence the way the public views the courts’ impartiality.

The court’s plan received support from celebrity lawyer Theo Hiddema in Trouw who warned that you wouldn’t want to create a situation where a male rapist would have face three female judges and a female prosecutor. “Imagine,” Hiddema told Trouw, “that the suspects come from a different culture. Imagine the shame and humiliation when an all-female court tells them their behaviour is not of this time!”

Institutional mansplaining, who would have thought? Only job market news site Werf& appears to have noticed that what the court of The Hague wants is very much against the law. The site points out that affirmative action is only legal when used to help disadvantaged groups.

Although women form the majority of judges in lower courts, as late as 2006 they were still in the minority in appeals courts where a majority of two-thirds of the judges were men, as Trouw wrote back then. Judges that were ‘foreigners’ (allochtonen, Dutch code for people of colour) were in an extreme minority, the paper reported.

According to a Metro article of 2011, sociologist Bregje Dijksterhuis explains the preference of women for judicial robes because an appointment as judge is for life and because it is a job that combines well with having a family. Men on the other hand prefer higher paying jobs as lawyers.

The Dutch Council of Women quotes De Groene from 1947 after the appointment of Johanna Hudig as the first female judge in the Netherlands: “Courts have the reputation of being bastions of conservatism. The greater is our satisfaction at seeing how the court of Rotterdam has stood as one man behind the candidacy of this woman, giving a shining example of a broad and modern vision towards the judicial office.”

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October 14, 2013

Sultana cookie not the tastiest, says Dutch judge

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 5:47 pm

Who better to judge which cookie is the tastiest than the inventors of the word ‘cookie’, the Dutch. But taking a competitor to court and asking a proper judge to come up with an answer is perhaps taking things a bit too far.

Global cookie monster Mondelez, the producer of Liga cookies, took Verkade to court over the latter’s claim that its Sultana cookies are the tastiest according to a test. “What test?”, Mondelez wanted to know and Verkade came up blank. If you cannot show test results, you cannot claim you are the tastiest, the judge said.

Verkade’s lawyers put in a counterclaim saying that Mondelez shouldn’t state that its Liga cookies were ‘chosen for fruity flavour and crispiness’, but Mondelez could show the court the results of an actual study that apparently proved its flavours are fruity and its textures crispy. The company gets to keep its slogan.

(Story via De Gelderlander, photo by Maëka Alexis, some rights reserved)

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September 8, 2012

Cops with debts may be fired

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 2:45 pm

Being in debt is a valid reason to be fired as a police officer, a court has ruled.

The Centrale Raad van Beroep, an appeals court for civil servants, came to this conclusion in the case of a police man with ‘many debts’, as NOS Nieuws puts it. He had been reprimanded in 2005, and when that did not work he was fired in 2009.

The court argued that officers with access to all kinds of databases open themselves up to blackmail, which makes them a greater security risk. Police officers are therefore expected to live up to higher standards.

In the Netherlands jobs are protected. You can only fire an employee through the courts, unless there is a strong reason for immediate dismissal.

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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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June 23, 2012

Lottery forced to pay after judge finds advertisement misleading

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:11 pm

You know those lottery ads where in big print it says you’ve won and then somewhere in the small print it says you haven’t won at all, except perhaps for the right to hand over your cash?

Well, one Dutch judge thought enough was enough and has found for six plaintiffs who thought they had won 2,500 euro each.

In a letter that the winners received in October 2010 from Postcode Loterij, the impression was given that the recipients were guaranteed winners if the two unique codes they received with the letter matched the codes printed in a table (see illustration). Once they had sent in their coupons, only one plaintiff received a minor prize and the other five received a lottery ticket—clearly not what they had expected.

The small print said that participants only had a chance of winning the prize, but judge Pauline van der Kolk-Nunes quickly disposed of the T&C: “[The letter] will raise an expectation with the average consumer that they have won a prize […] and that the table shows which prize they have won. The codes and the table are unlikely to have any other meaning. [The small print] contradicts the core of the agreement, which is: you will receive a gift.”

Karma can be cruel.

Postcode Loterij is planning to appeal the decision.

See also: The battle to outlaw poker rages on

(Illustration: iusmentis.com / Postcode Loterij. The text reads: “Do you have one of these codes on your lucky coin? And do you have a valid gift code? Then you will receive one of these gifts, guaranteed. Which gift is yours?”)

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March 15, 2012

Judges punish ‘foreign looking’ criminals harder

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 7:26 pm

Dutch judges are five times more likely to send a criminal to jail if the suspect has a foreign appearance, researchers from Leiden University found out.

That likelihood increases to 20 times if the suspect does not speak Dutch.

The researchers checked for expected variables such as the features of the crime, the likelihood of the suspect to commit further crimes, and the location of the court.

Judges not only discriminated against foreigners with a non-Dutch appearance, but also against men. Women are three times less likely to end in jail than men who committed the same crimes. Only lighter crimes, including theft, assault, battery and traffic violations were studied.

A factor that did not influence the weight of the punishment was whether suspects showed they were sorry.

The researchers expressed concern that people receive a prison sentence when community or a fine would have sufficed, because prison sentence are known to kick-start criminal careers.

(Via: NRC. Link: Leiden University)

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November 6, 2011

Internet thugs Realnetworks lose case against Hilbrand Edskes

Filed under: General,Online,Technology by Branko Collin @ 4:53 pm

In what looks like a typical case of trying to silence somebody, American company Realnetworks with the aid of the Dutch public prosecutor, the Dutch police and the Dutch courts has managed to bully webmaster Hilbrand Edskes into running up over 66,000 euro in legal costs, losing all his spare time, and putting off his hopes of one day buying a house.

What Realnetworks did not manage to do is win its lawsuit against Hilbrand Edskes. The latter won last Wednesday. Edskes had a link to software (Real Alternative) competing with Realnetworks’ product (Real Player) on his website, which the company alleged was illegal. The court thoroughly dismissed all of Realnetworks’ claims.

Realnetworks won an ex-parte case against Edskes in August. An ex-parte case is one where the defendant is not allowed to defend himself, so it wasn’t strange that Realnetworks managed to ‘win’ that one. Remember how Louis Vuitton tried to keep the world in the dark about its involvement in the Darfur genocide? They used the same legal crowbar.

Realnetworks, you may or may not remember, used to produce a piece of software called Real Player with which you could play videos and music. Almost nobody uses it because it is not nearly as good as VLC or Quicktime. One wonders if perhaps suing small fry is Realnetworks’ latest business model.

That a supposedly democratic country like the Netherlands lets anyone with deep pockets abuse the court system to bully others is a disgrace, and judges who see no problem with ex parte cases ought to be deeply ashamed of themselves.

The court only awarded Edskes 48,000 euro in damages, because both parties had agreed to this amount beforehand, according to the verdict (Dutch).

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September 12, 2010

Lawyers may not kiss their friends if these friends are also clients

Filed under: Weird by Branko Collin @ 10:57 am

A remarkable verdict from a disciplinary court: a lawyer was found to have acted without the dignity proper to his profession when he kissed a friend on the cheek in greeting while representing her.

De Pers reports that the unnamed lawyer greeted the friend at a police station in 2008, where an assistant prosecutor took offence and filed charges for ‘unseemly behaviour’. Two weeks ago the Amsterdamse Raad van Discipline (Amsterdam Disciplinary Court) agreed with the assistant prosecutor.

Apart from the fact that there are gradations of familiarity, and that kissing somebody on the cheek at the police station is perhaps not the same thing as walking around a court room in bathroom slippers, there is also a whiff of sexism attached to this verdict. That is to say, I cannot remember hearing of a similar verdict regarding shaking hands, which is how most men greet each other in this country.

The lawyer has received a warning.

(Link: Martin Wisse, second day in a row! Photo by Steve Punter, some rights reserved.)

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January 23, 2010

Judges plagiarize blog posting in copyright case

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 1:25 pm

Embedding is a form of publication, and therefore infringement if it happens without permission, Dutch judges Brandenburg, Huijbers-Koopman and Struik concluded two weeks ago in an infringement case. Oddly enough, their judgement seems to hinge on the court’s conclusion (Paragraph 4.99, PDF) that “in case law and legal literature it is generally held that an embedded link constitutes a publication. After all, the material can be viewed or heard within the context of the website of those who placed the link, and placement causes the material to reach a new audience.”

The court seems to have borrowed this quote literally and without attribution from a blog posting by SOLV lawyer Douwe Linders who, according to Webwereld, said that “it looks a lot like copy and paste.” Since it is literally copy and paste, not just a lot like it, it sounds like Linders was unaware that the court had copied him, and that he had not given the court any permission to do so.

Although Dutch copyright law does allow you to quote bits of a work for a number of reasons, it does not allow you to do so without attribution. Further, by pretending the court had written this bit itself, the judges also plagiarized Linders’ words, which is a much more serious offence in my opinion (although, unlike copyright infringement, not actually illegal).

I have never heard before of a copyright infringement case in which judges infringe copyrighted myths and present them as fact in order to bury alleged infringers. This stinks in my opinion, but then I am not a lawyer. Perhaps in their world this is how roses smell.

According to Webwereld, the court’s argument “has caused consternation in copyright land.” Although I agree with Linders’ opinion that embedding generally constitutes a form of publication, the debate about this is far from over, as the comments collected by Webwereld attest.

(The literal Dutch text by Douwe Linders: “In de rechtspraak en juridische literatuur wordt betrekkelijk eensgezind aangenomen dat een embedded link wel een openbaarmaking inhoudt. Immers, het materiaal is dan te bekijken of beluisteren binnen de context van de website van degene die de link heeft geplaatst en door de plaatsing wordt over het algemeen een nieuw publiek bereikt.”)

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