Friday, August 28, 2009

Third Wheels on Class Action Coffee Search

Although I'm not a lawyer, (IANAL) I've worked on a fair number of legal agreements. Most typically, I would spend a lot more time working on the agreement than I ever did consulting the terms of the agreement. That's because it's much easier to work out the hard core details of implementation without the lawyers reviewing everything.

In my post on privacy and google book search, I spent a fair amount of time looking at what the settlement agreement said about security and privacy. From the perspective of a few weeks later, it looks to me like most of the hard-core details that matter are in fact not in there and will need to be worked out by the parties to the agreement.

This morning, I took some vacation from my vacation and went over to Berkeley to participate in the a conference called "The Google Books Settlement and the Future of Information Access". I was struck by a comment that Jason Schultz, Associate Director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law made at least twice. He said it was important to get more assurances on privacy into the settlement agreement because "at least then we'll have something on paper that we can enforce". As I mentioned before, IANAL, so the mention of having anything on paper that I'll have to pay a lawyer lots of money to attempt to enforce something else doesn't have a lot of appeal to me. And I have questions.
  1. Can third parties enforce "pieces of paper"? Suppose Joe and Mary, instead of hiring a divorce lawyer, sign an agreement to have coffee together once a week at Starbucks, can Starbucks sue them if one or both of them breaches the agreement?
  2. Can third parties sue to enforce a class action "piece of paper" that has been approved by a court? Suppose a class of baseball widows files suit against the class of Yankees tickets holders and gets a settlement that offers them a cup of coffee at Starbucks with their spouses once a week. Can Starbucks file suit to get better compliance with the agreement?
  3. Do opt outs affect the ability of class members to enforce the class action agreements? If the Yankee widows can opt out of the settlement, can they sue to get better coffee agreement compliance even if they opt out?
  4. If you are an author concerned about privacy, do you have more or less leverage on the devilish details if you opt in or opt out of the settlement agreement?
  5. Why am I so focused on coffee?


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