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Forever 21 Was Caught Pirating Software from Adobe

Everyone knows that stealing is wrong. If you walk out of a store without paying for merchandise, you shouldn’t be surprised when an alarm sounds.

forever 21 sued by adobeForever 21, a retail-clothing store, would agree with this premise in the context of someone stealing a blouse or a skirt. You would think that they would also agree with this premise when it comes to software programs?

In January of this year, Adobe filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 for copyright infringement. Autodesk and Corel joined Adobe in the lawsuit and alleged that Forever 21 pirated software such as:

  • Photoshop
  • Acrobat
  • Illustrator
  • WinZip
  • Autodesk
  • PaintShopPro

The companies alleged that the piracy happened on 63 different occasions. It’s still unclear how Adobe became aware of the infringing acts, but the company has been encouraging employees to turn in their employers for using unauthorized copies of its software programs.

The alarms have been set off. Now Forever 21 has to show proof of purchase or face an expensive legal battle.

McDonald’s Lawsuit Could Change Fast Food Corporate Responsibility

Ten former employees of a McDonald’s franchise filed a lawsuit against the corporation. The suit alleges racial discrimination that lead to wrongful termination. They filed the suit Thursday, January 22nd in Virginia.

McDonalds CommercialThe employees worked at three McDonald’s restaurants, all owned by the restaurant franchiser, Soweva. Michael Simon owns the franchise company. The employee’s allege that once Soweva took control of the franchise, it “implemented a plan to reduce the number of African-American employees and hire more white employees”. The group held a job fair last March where they hired all new white employees. They fired Latino and African-American workers, stating they “didn’t fit the profile” for the restaurants.

Female employees were also subjected to sexual harassment from the supervisors of the franchise. They allege that supervisors touched them inappropriately, sent explicit photos, and talked in a highly sexual manner.

The racially motivated termination caused loss of wages and benefits, emotional distress, humiliation, loss of reputation, and other damages. The employees are suing for lost wages in addition to several other damages.

Why is the group of employees also suing McDonald’s and not just the individual franchise? Aren’t they separate entities? In this case, McDonald’s is considered a “corporate parent” of the franchise. It is responsible for any abuse or unfair treatment that occurs in a restaurant. The corporation has “detailed instructions for franchisees in areas including operations procedures, bookkeeping and accounting procedures, business practices and policies, personnel management, and any other area McDonald’s Corporate wishes to control” for each franchise.

90% of McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. are owned and operated by independent franchises. But, McDonald’s has 100% control over the procedures and policies that take place in each restaurant.

This lawsuit comes only one month after a lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s by the NLRB. The suit states McDonald’s is a “joint employer” with its franchises, and is responsible for any misconduct. The misconduct in the suit is the retaliation of employees who participated in union organizing. McDonald’s insists they are separate from the franchises, and are not responsible for the violations that take place under the control of them.

But, the McDonald’s corporation has enough control over its franchises to implement policies to stop the racial or sexual harassment. All 10 employees called and complained to the McDonald’s Corporation, but received no help.

This lawsuit may be the catalyst for the fast-food corporation and franchise relationship. In the past, franchises have been considered as independent from the umbrella corporation. Recently, union supported demonstrations have demanded for an increase in pay for fast food employees to $15 an hour. Since McDonald’s is “independent” from franchises, they are not forced to increase pay or bargain with workers. But with the recent lawsuit, fast-food corporations are starting to wonder just how independent they are.

Should Cursing around a Child Constitute Child Neglect?

In New Jersey, there exists a 70-year-old law that states “a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a minor could be guilty of a fourth-degree crime of child neglect if he or she habitually uses profane, indecent, or obscene language in front of the minor because it could be detrimental to the minor’s morals.” N.J.S.A 9:6-3.

profanity child neglectThe New Jersey Supreme Court is rethinking whether the law should be upheld or struck down, in light of the recent case of a man who was found guilty of violating the law, which is part of the state’s child abuse statutes. In 2009, the man faced an accusation of committing the crime of sexual assault on his foster son, who was 13 years old at the time. He was charged with a number of crimes, but accepted a plea bargain to a less serious offense.

Prior to accepting the plea bargain, he had served three years, and he completed his prison term. He made previous attempts to have his plea withdrawn, and now, he and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are filing a lawsuit to withdraw his plea. Their lawsuit is based on the First Amendment.

The issue before the judges is: “Did defendant’s admission during his plea allocution to cursing and using off-color language in such a way as to debauch a child’s morals provide an adequate factual basis to establish child neglect under N.J.S.A. 9:6-3?”

His attorneys maintain that the statute was unconstitutional in that the use of profane words does not amount to a crime. In response, one of the jurists said that acceptance of such an argument would be the equivalent of the court stating that it’s allowable for parents or guardians to curse frequently in front of minors.

The prosecutor mentioned to the court that the defendant’s guilty plea should be considered within the context of the charges from which he plea bargained. Those charges could have caused him to be in prison for 20 years.

Another issue noted by one of the jurists is that the defendant didn’t specify the type of offensive language he used when he pleaded guilty to the less serious offense. According to the statute, you have violated the law if you use “profane, indecent, or obscene language” in front of children. If the obscenities appeal to “prurient interests,” then they are not protected by the First Amendment.

Profane language, however, is protected by the First Amendment. But it cannot include “fighting words” that incite someone to violence, or that instigates a riot. Profane language can include words that are believed to be offensive, including those that have vulgar, racist, or sexual overtones. Indecent language is also protected by the First Amendment because not everyone finds such language to be offensive.

I am inclined to agree with the court when it says that making the statute unconstitutional would be tantamount to stating that it is permissible for parents to curse often in front of children. Although profanity may seem harmless, overexposure to vulgarities could have an adverse effect on a child’s morals, ethics, and behavior.

The Debate over Hidden-City Ticketing: Avoiding Rising Airline Ticket Prices

In the last decade, tech-savvy travelers have engaged in airline booking ploys to avoid excessive ticket prices. Recently, a number of sites have offered one such strategy known as “hidden-city ticketing.” The concept is quite simple. The buyer purchases a cheaper ticket to a destination that requires at least one layover. Generally, these tickets are cheaper than a straight flight to a destination. However, instead of completing the trip the passenger intends to get off at the layover airport. Therefore, they are essentially purchasing a straight flight for the price of a layover flight.

hidden-city ticketingFor example if a passenger is traveling from San Francisco to Chicago, with no lay-over, the price may be $1,000. However, if they purchase a ticket from San Francisco to New York, with a layover in Chicago, the ticket may be only $400 dollars, saving the person $600 if they get off in Chicago anyway. In fact, hundreds of passengers have used this technique and the savvy flyers, often businessmen and women, only use hidden-city ticketing a couple times a year to avoid detection.

The disadvantages are that a passenger must buy only a one-way ticket and cannot check any luggage. However, there is an exception to this problem. If a passenger is on an international flight where customs is required to take the bags off of the flight to process them. This is the case even at a layover and, therefore, passenger can reclaim their luggage and exit the layover airport. It is also important to take in to consideration that the passenger may face the risk of the initial flight being overbooked, delayed, or cancelled which may result in the layover city, the intended destination, being bypassed.

Why Do the Companies Care?

Hidden-city ticketing is highly controversial and, recently, United Airlines and Orbitz have filed a lawsuit against 22-year old, Aktarer Zaman and his website skiplagged.com. The lawsuit is intended to bar travelers from purchasing tickets that cut into their profits and sales, even though these companies have annual profits in the billions.

Much to the dismay of companies like United and Orbitz, the practice of hidden-city ticketing is not illegal and no criminal charges can be brought against the purchasers of the tickets, nor any company that sells and promotes the hidden city tickets, like Aktarer Zaman or skiplagged.com. However, these companies are attempting to bring a lawsuit in civil court for breach of contract against airline rules. It is important to note however, that bringing a lawsuit is relatively easy and is no indication that it is warranted or will result in any damages.

In the current lawsuit, both United and Orbitz claim that the strategy violates rules against “unfair competition” and encourage “strictly prohibited” travel. In the lawsuit, they claim that skipplagged.com and its founder “intentionally and maliciously” interfered with airline industry business relationships “by promoting prohibited forms of travel.”

They also argue that the practice is unethical and paramount to stealing as well as cite logistical and public-safety concerns, including inadequate counting of passengers, departure delays and the miscalculation of fuel load computations.

Although not stated specifically in the complaint, there have been concerns about national security. Obviously, if a person disappears before arriving to their destination, this could be cause for concern, given the rise in terrorist activities. However, thus far, the government has not been involved.

What Are the Consequences for Buying a “Hidden-City” Ticket?

If done infrequently, there are likely to be no consequences, because the airlines do not have the resources to pursue the violation of their rules. However, some of the more frequent travelers may lose, or be threatened with the loss, of their frequent flyer miles.

Airlines are also recently threatening to confiscate tickets, issue fines and bill the travel agents for the fare difference. However, unless they win the lawsuit the airlines may have a more difficult time following through with their threats.

Passengers argue that they bought the ticket and have a right to get off the plane whenever they want. Airlines still set the prices and it is not the passengers’ fault if some tickets are lower than others. Some critics also argue that passengers have a right to save money and, of course airlines and big business disagree even the high ticket prices are oppressive in nature.

Although, Aktarer Zaman has significant public support and has raised over $50,000 in legal fees, he is bound to be crushed by the resources airlines hold and may not be able to fight the lawsuit, even if has no merit. This is often the case when high-profit corporations sue smaller businesses or individuals. The attempts to shut down skiplagged.com is a perfect example of how big business is actually hurting the economy, by preventing young entrepreneurs from forming successful businesses.

If You Drank Red Bull and Didn’t Get Wings, You May Have a Legal Claim

Everyone knows the slogan: “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” Most people would consider this slogan to be comical and would never expected to actually grow wings. But one man decided this was false advertising. Since he drank Red Bull and didn’t get wings, he was determined to make Red Bull pay.

Red-BullBenjamin Careathers sued Red Bull for false advertising. He complained he has been drinking the energy drink for 10 years and has never gained wings or improved his mind or athletic ability.

A Red Bull spokesman stated that the company “maintains its marketing and labeling have always been truthful and accurate, and denies any and all wrongdoing or liability.” However, to avoid a time-consuming trial and immense funds to fight the claim, Red Bull decided to settle the case.

They agreed to a settlement of $13 million, including $6.5 for a fund to reimburse those who have purchased a Red Bull (estimated 1.4 million customers) between January 1, 2002, and October 3, 2014. The settlement  is yet to be approved by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York. The hearing will occur on May 1 2015. If approved, Red Bull will have to hand over $6.5 million to a fund for consumers to collect their share.

Comical and ridiculous? Absolutely. But there’s nothing funny about a $13 million settlement. This case proves just how careful you have to be when involved in an advertising campaign. As a consumer, if you didn’t get wings from drinking a Red Bull, you can go online and submit a claim now!