Is PACER’s paywall finally coming down?

H.R.6714 – Electronic Court Records Reform Act of 2018 seeks to eliminate fees after they became a slush fund.

It was discovered that PACER raked in approximately 150 Million dollars in 2016, according to article posted on ARS Technica. That’s a lot of money for a PDF server with a paywall. With so much money flushing into the coffers, the fund became a slush fund.

SEE the article here: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/09/new-bill-would-finally-tear-down-federal-judiciarys-ridiculous-paywall/

Rep. Doug Collins (R) apparently took notice; Collins sponsored a bill in the 2018 legislative session as a clapback in favor of truly free public access: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6714

Meanwhile, a plug-in / extension was developed for use with internet browsers, designed to thwart repeated expenditure of access fees for documents via sharing already-paid-for documents: ReCAP the Law.

ReCAP the law can be found and used here: https://free.law/recap/

An interesting new discovery came about earlier today, on Jan 16, 2019; several attempts to legally access docket items on a case failed. Further testing revealed (so far) that the PACER system code may possibly be blocking access to documents to browsers with an active and enabled ReCAP extension.

Specifically, SlimJet, FireFox, and Brave browsers were tested with the extension not installed and then installed and then disabled. The browser sessions with the not-installed extension produced document access success, and the same success was garnered with an installed but disabled (via settings, so the plug-in/extension does not show in the toolbar). Any presence of the extension, and the post-authorization document viewing page showed up as a blank web page.

ReCAP staff are aware of this finding and further testing is ongoing to verify if ReCAP is indeed targeted for denial of access discrimination.

As for now, the bill is still sitting on the hopper after initial filing / intro. If you want to reach out to encourage Rep. Collins for his efforts, the easiest way to do so is via Twitter, here: https://twitter.com/RepDougCollins

This Jan 16, 2019.

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Not just identity theft: 4 reasons landlords require SSNs

There’s a boogieman in town, and it’s called “identity theft.”

Landlords will cite identity theft when asking for your SSN, but there are actually a few other reasons.

  1. Eviction – SSNs are used for a federally-required search of a military database to determine if the tenant being evicted is a current member of the military or is a military veteran. This search is required before a toss-out can happen, as laws now give service members enhanced protections against the speediness of evictions. as leave can be hard to come by when deployed overseas or on duty in a stateside mission.
  2. Credit Reporting – landlords will sometimes report payments to credit bureaus. Those that report do so to protect themselves and other landlords from bad tenants, and to provide both carrot and stick enforcement of the lease. Further, if a tenant leaves a debt, the former tenant is punished with a reduced credit score.
  3. Debt Collection – landlords can use a judgment paired with data such as a former tenant’s SSN to sell the judgement-enabled debt to debt buyers who then go after the former tenant in return for a split of any payments received.
  4. Litigation – with an SSN, a landlord can pay a PI firm to perform a utilities check to locate a tenant’s new place. With an SSN, driver’s ID number, and birth date, a landlord can locate property such as motor vehicles and then file for a lien on the vehicle.  Insurance payments are expected go to lien holders first, then the owner.

These four reasons are not inclusive of all possible ways a landlord can weaponize a tenant’s SSN and the identity verification process. In other words, it’s good to pay rent on time and in full.

BONUS – a landlord can also use the SSN to report income from forgiven debt to the IRS, assuming they jump through a few hoops first to qualify to report uncollectible debt. An aggrieved landlord can also attempt to contact social services and demand that the back rent be reportable to agencies that issue benefits, for inclusion into income calculations.

SOURCE >> The author is an occasional evictions agent for property owners.

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Pick a pecan, break a law?

It’s no secret that Georgia is serious about agriculture.  So serious, in fact, that loose pecans are protected under a law buried within the Property Law section (Title 44).

NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE.
FOR LEGAL ADVICE, CONSULT AN ATTORNEY.

Are the pecans from a tree on someone’s private property?
Do you intend to pick them up during the official harvest season?
Are you wanting to shake the tree to force some of the pecans to fall?

If the answer to the questions is YES, please read OCGA 44-12-241.

Here’s the law – O.C.G.A. § 44-12-241 .

Picking a pecan off a sidewalk, image Copyright June 24, 2018 Amy Barnes.

Picking Pecans (c)2018 Amy Barnes

It’s always good to know the laws you may be subject to, and it is equally important to know your rights; when in doubt, seek the advice of Bar-certified counsel in your state.
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Social Media diversification and why F*Book sucks.

I used to be on FaceBook, until the day I posted an excoriating comment (it really was brutal) about a police detective.  A few hours after I had made my remarks, several unknown F*Book users maliciously reported my account as a “hacked” account. Since the outage, I’ve been on Twitter and Instagram.  I’ve learned a few things along my journey…

Instagram enabled me to quickly reach news media for a campaign to force a city utility to restore service.  With the incredible array of media options, and the length of text allowed on a post, Instagram has proven itself to be almost as good as F*Book; the only thing it is missing are the Group and Page features.

Twitter is its own animal; posts can go viral with a quickness; Twitter stats revealed to me that one of my tweets had over eleven-thousand user-views.  One new feature is similar to hastags – the image tag.  When a user doctors up a pic with an adorable sticker, any user who clicks on the sticker gets to see who else has posted what with the sticker.

Twitter and Instagram allow users to use the hashtag feature, which can turn a campaign into a serious contender for traditional politics and problem-resolving; I’ve helped lead direct action campaigns designed to recoup stolen wages back into the hands of the workers said such wages were filched from.  I’ve helped campaign for the release of people facing injustice within the court system and have raised awareness on various campaigns.

The power of F*Book is dwindling, and with new and improved interfaces / features, Twitter is now a go-to source for news; the coolest feature of Twitter is that – instantly – fellow users can share a tweet and send the OP (Original Poster) into immediate fame; one tweet can be shared many thousands of times over, sending packs of followers and supporters after an offensive person, group, or concept / policy like one would dispatching a pack of H***-hounds after someone. Which brings us to the power of social media…

Social media is, in and of itself, a wonderful check and balance, if used properly.  Political campaigns have taken on a new meaning and life, with children as young as several years old calling entire armies of adults to action for a cause.  With the power of social media comes the responsibility to diversify our reach, so that one platform does not possess a monopoly on the news feed, so to speak; it is vital to the whole of society that people have multiple ways to reach out to support one another.  When protesters are wrongly jailed, Twitter has frequently been used to quickly garner support, while Instagram has allowed sources to securely leak valuable news to reporters across the world.  F*Book, while capable of the same, has been caught up in censorship scandals.

While F*Book has some play, it is Twitter and Instagram that are proving serious contenders in the battle against corruption and malfeasance, and I encourage a good look at Twitter and Instagram.
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In-app ads: the new shareware?

Just a brief missive as I sit here waking up, noticing that a Solitaire app now has ads…

The battle for monetization is on; first software developers tried to sell licenses, then they tried ShareWare / DonationWare, and now it’s in-app ads.

The cool thing about desktop platforms offering in-app ads is that developers get paid based on usage rather than [strictly] license sales.  Users pay nothing.  Everyone benefits.

This concept was found tried-and-true on mobile devices, and now desktop platforms / IDE environments are offering monetization for developers, with a for-pay option to remove ads or rewarding users for viewing ads by offering in-game perks.

Look at how AdMob interacts with Android Studio, then look at Microsoft Store and Visual Studio.  Even gaming platforms are hopping onto this bandwagon, with developers publicly proclaiming that – with ads and sales of game licenses – they no longer have to worry about things as mundane as bills. [see the promotion content for Roblox Studio and look at some of the testimonials]

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