September 2, 2013

Prosecutor wants carless woman imprisoned for not paying car insurance; judge protests

Filed under: Automobiles,General by Branko Collin @ 4:49 pm

An unnamed Dutch woman was threatened with imprisonment for failing to insure her non-existent car in March of this year.

She was saved from that fate by a sympathetic judge in Noord Brabant who felt that the way the justice department hid behind its automated processes lacked care. The justice department should have noticed that something was amiss when they tried to repossess the uninsured and, most importantly, non-existent car. After all, why would a person own license plates but not a car?

Instead of stepping in and finding out what was going on, the justice department let its automated systems do the thinking and had the system pile up fine after fine until the computer said that now might be the time for imprisonment.

It is unclear if the accused will be taken out of the system or if the justice department will try and jail her again. The justice department seems to think that if the computer says so, you’re guilty, regardless of what a buttinsky judge thinks.

The blogosphere seems to believe this mess is the result of failing automation. I side with judge Wim Verjans who feels the humans hiding behind the computers are ultimately responsible.

Keeping the remainder of a punishment after the original punishment fell away because there were no grounds for punishment is a classical Dutch meme. The saying ‘Barbertje moet hangen’ (Babs must hang) stems from this principal. It was novelist Multatuli who wrote the story that started the meme—his Max Havelaar took a stand against the Dutch colonial system in 1860, but the underlying bureaucracy that pushes people around like they are nothing lives on. The unjust law with which alleged traffic offenders are pushed into this bureaucratic mess is called the Wet Mulder and was only introduced in 1989.

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May 6, 2011

Art student = 1, Louis Vuitton = the big goose egg, (O)

Filed under: Art,Design,Fashion by Orangemaster @ 10:42 am

The verdict is in: Amsterdam based Danish artist Nadia Plesner who attends the Rietveld academy in Amsterdam successfully defended herself against major French brand Louis Vuitton. Plesner used a depiction of an LV bag in a painting entitled Darfurnica for which Louis Vuitton tried to sue her for 5,000 euro a day for using their image.

“The court in The Hague ruled that Plesner’s right to freedom of expression through her work weighed more heavily than Louis Vuitton’s right to protect its property. The use of the bag in the painting is both functional and in proportion, the court said,” according to Dutchnews. Case closed.

(Link:, Photo: Nadia Plesner)

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March 13, 2011

What Louis Vuitton does not want you to know about Darfur

Filed under: Art,Design,Fashion by Branko Collin @ 1:30 pm

French bag maker Louis Vuitton has gotten itself a so-called ex parte judgement against Amsterdam based Danish artist Nadia Plesner, forcing her to cough up 5000 euro per day or stop using images of Vuitton’s Audra Bag.

Plesner had incorporated an image of the bag in her painting Darfurnica. On January 27 judge Hensen denied her the chance to defend herself in court, so that by the time she returned from a trip to Denmark she had already racked up tens of thousands of euro in fines. She will contest the judgement (PDF).

Plesner has already received a judgement against her for a similar ‘offence’ in France. Under Dutch copyright law she is unlikely to be found against, but this was a case about community design law, and I don’t know if that law has free speech exceptions.

Vuitton’s actions seem an obvious attempt to control the conversation about them. You cannot really blame a wild animal for being a wild animal, the fault lies clearly at the feet of the state giving it the means.

An ex-parte order is a travesty of justice. In order to obtain one you just shop at the judge without the other party getting a chance to defend themselves.

Judge Hensen is slowly building a reputation for issuing strange verdicts in intellectual property cases. In 2007 he/she/it concluded that legal downloading is illegal downloading (the case revolved around the question whether rights associations could collect money for illegal copies, which required a definition of illegal copies).

(Link: Trendbeheer. Photo: Nadia Plesner.)

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August 15, 2009

Lucia de B., angel or witch? [HAR 2009]

Filed under: Science by Branko Collin @ 10:35 pm

I just turned away from the lock-picking talk, as the tent was absolutely packed (me being 5 minutes late). I don’t know how many people fit in these convention tents, hundreds, perhaps thousands, but that is the amount of people that after tonight may know how to break every lock you own.

Earlier today I was at the talk with possibly the smallest amount of listeners of this 4-day exercise, you might even say the attendants resembled Cantor Dust. OK, lousy statistical jokes aside, this talk was by statistician Richard Gill of the University of Leiden and dealt with the Lucia de Berk case.

I had heard of the case before. In 2001, a nurse from The Hague was accused of having murdered dozens of patients, and the strange thing was that most of her guilt was determined by statistics: she had been near the victims at the time of their deaths, and although a direct link with the accused in the form of a confession or evidence could not be established, the court found that the statistical likelihood of her being near all these victims at the time of death was so minute, she must have done it.

At the time I thought this reasoning seemed silly, but I have learned early on in life never to argue with statisticians. So imagine my surprise: here was a statician who argued that the court’s reason had indeed been extremely silly, and that an innocent woman had gone to jail.

I won’t bore you with repeating the entire lecture: author Maarten ‘t Hart summarized Gill’s position excellently in this article from NRC (Dutch). Gill’s paper on how likely the chance is that a nurse was on active duty during all deaths concludes that one in nine nurses would have gone to jail (PDF).


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June 23, 2009

Man dies during Dutch ‘RIAA’ raid

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:11 am

Anti-‘piracy’ bureau BREIN, the Dutch equivalent of the infamous RIAA, scored its first kill last Saturday. Literally, I am afraid. During a raid on a market in Beverwijk, a 47-year-old man from Waalwijk accosted by the raiders died of a heart attack, reports Blik op Nieuws (Dutch). The police were presumably testing that the requisite taxes on empty CDs and DVDs had been paid, and were accompanied by a posse consisting of people from the FIOD (tax police) and the Thuiskopie and BREIN foundations.

Interestingly, the story of the police and of witnesses differ substantially, writes Noordhollands Dagblad (Dutch). According to the former, the man had a heart attack after running away from the merry band of official and self-appointed copyright hunters, after which the police tried to administer first aid. Witnesses however claim that the man did not run away, and that everybody just stood there, without helping the victim.

You have to wonder why private organizations like BREIN are even allowed to accompany the police on raids like this.

(Photo by Flickr user Sheep Purple, some rights reserved.)

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