South Korea acts to stop defectors sending aid, messages to North Korea

By Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – A day after North Korea suspended communication hotlines with South Korea over defectors who send propaganda and contraband into the North, South Korea said it would take legal action against two organizations that conduct such operations.

North Korea gets enraged when the defectors in the South send material such as anti-North leaflets and rice – usually by balloon over the heavily fortified border or in bottles by sea – and its media has in recent days denounced the “mongrel dogs” who do it.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, recently called defectors “human scum little short of wild animals” and said North Korea would cut communication with South Korea because of its failure to stop them.

South Korea, which is trying to improve ties with the North, said on Wednesday two defector-run groups, Kuensaem Education Center and Fighters for a Free North Korea, had violated the Inter-Korean Exchange and Co-operation Act by sending the leaflets, as well as aid like rice and medicine.

The two defector groups “have created tension between the two Koreas and caused danger to the border-area residents’ lives and safety”, said the South’s Unification Ministry spokesman Yoh Sang-key.

One defector, Park Sang-hak, who left North Korea in 2000 and heads the Fighters For Free North Korea, has been sending leaflets about once a month for the last 15 years.

“You can never buy peace with flattery and begging,” he said of the South Korean government’s response to the North Korean criticism.

About 33,000 North Korean defectors live in South Korea.

As part of the effort to improve ties with the North, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration has sought to discourage the leaflet and rice campaigns, and defectors complained of pressure to avoid criticism of North Korea.

On Monday, activists were stopped by residents when they tried to send plastic bottles stuffed with rice by releasing them at sea.

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith)

Whose sky is it anyway? U.S. drone case tests rights to air space

Drone flying over field

By Paola Totaro and Konstantin Kakaes

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When a small town American roofer took legal action against a neighbor for shooting down his drone, the local dispute sparked a case that could help shape the newest frontier of property rights law – who owns the air.

Drone owner David Boggs filed a claim for declaratory judgment and damages in the Federal Court after his neighbor William Merideth from Hillview in the southern state of Kentucky blasted his $1,800 drone with a shotgun in July last year.

Boggs argued to the District Court in Kentucky that the action was not justified as the drone was not trespassing nor invading anyone’s privacy, while Merideth – who dubs himself the “drone slayer” – said it was over his garden and his daughter.

After a year of counter argument, a decision on which court jurisdiction should hear the complaint is expected within weeks and this could set new precedents for U.S. law.

Experts are watching the case closely as the burgeoning drone industry, fueled both by hobbyists and commercial operators, highlights the lack of regulation governing lower altitude air space not just in the United States but globally.

“We are in an interesting time now when technology has surpassed the law,” said Boggs’ lawyer, James Mackler, a former Blackhawk pilot and partner at Frost Brown Todd and one of a handful of attorneys specializing in unmanned aircraft law.

“Operators need to know where they can fly and owners must know when they can reasonably expect privacy and be free of prying eyes,” said Mackler whose work involves advising both corporate and government clients planning commercial drone use.

The landmark case comes amid a sharp increase in the global market for drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, with research firm, Markets and Markets estimating an annual growth rate of 32 percent every year to a $5.6 billion industry by 2020.

RIGHTS ABOVE?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) forecasts about 2.5 million drones will be buzzing in U.S. skies by the end of 2016 – and that number will more than triple by 2020.

But with the global industry surging, all parties, including  Merideth, and Boggs’ lawyer, Mackler, agree the use of drones in lower air space urgently needs to be clarified and defined.

“To be honest with you, at the time I did what I did I was reacting as most homeowners would, protecting their property, their kids … I didn’t know who was operating the drone or for what purpose,” Merideth told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“In the end, I’m hoping that laws can be put into place to protect not just the home owner but the individual who owns the drone. They have rights too. It is a huge gray area and for now nobody knows what they are allowed to do.”

Mackler estimates about a drone a month is shot down in the United States as residents grapple with the legal confusion about what constitutes their property and their rights.

“What happens typically is that law enforcement doesn’t know what to do and civil suits are uncommon as most people don’t want to get involved due to the costs,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

Boggs’ complaint states that the drone was flying at about 200 feet (6o m) above ground level for around two minutes over  residential Bullitt County when it was blasted out of the sky.

The height at which the drone was flying is disputed as Merideth insists it was much lower – an integral part of the legal case because higher airspace used by commercial planes is clearly defined in law.

For now, there is no real agreement on who owns the air space below that height and there are also no rules that identify who has the right to say how it can be used.

The court challenge filed by Boggs in January shows Merideth’s defense for downing the drone hinged on his belief it may have been taking video or still images of his daughter.

When Boggs challenged his neighbor, Merideth warned him that not only was he was protecting his family’s rights but he was not to come any further.

Police were called and Merideth was charged with felony, wanton endangerment and criminal mischief but Kentucky District Court Judge Rebecca Ward last October dismissed the criminal charges, saying he “had a right to shoot at the aircraft”.

Boggs’ lawyer Mackler said the case is not about payment for  the damaged drone but about carving legally clear boundaries between unregulated lower air space and personal property.

If the case is heard in the District Court, he said, it will not be binding in other federal court jurisdictions but will be influential in other courts. However, if it is appealed and sent to a higher court, it could create a precedent for the country.

OPENING THE SKIES

Despite the lack of legal clarity over air space, the United States moved to free up the use of small drones on Aug. 30  by relaxing rules requiring drone operators to have a manned pilots license and specific FAA approval.

These have been replaced with a new class of FAA license which is much less onerous and less expensive, allowing the use of drones weighing less than 25 kgs for routine educational or commercial use such as power line and antenna inspections.

The rules stopped short of allowing package deliveries, as proposed by Amazon.com Inc, and currently drones can only be used in sight of the operator and not over people.

The FAA expects within a year 600,000 drones will be used commercially – up from 20,000 registered now for commercial use.

Anglo-American property law scholars trace the first principles of law for the air back more than 800 years to the Latin “cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelom et ad infernos”.

This effectively meant that earthly property ownership was deemed to include everything below land to the center of the earth and upwards in the sky to heaven.

But with the advent of commercial air travel this principle was laid to rest because property owners could not be considered as owners of the air thousands of feet above their homes if air travel was to prosper.

In the United States, the legal principles that emerged over the 20th century focused on nuisance: flights at great heights came to be permitted without regard to the rights of property owners, while low altitude flights, including take-offs and landings, had to factor in the impact on nearby property.

The most important case to define these principles in the United States involved the health of a farmer’s chickens.

Known as the ‘United States versus Causby,’ the challenge unfolded during World War II when noisy military aircraft started flying from the Greensboro-High Point Airfield and over Thomas Causby prosperous chicken farm near in North Carolina.

The constant roar of planes sent Causby’s 400 chickens into a frenzy and they stopped laying eggs, ruining his livelihood.

The farmer sued the Federal Government and both the lower courts and the Supreme Court found in his favor, stating that a landowner “owns at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use in connection with the land”. This has been a guiding principle of U.S. law for more than 70 years.

By 1958, Federal regulations evolved to clearly define navigable airspace to include everything that was 500 feet or more above ground level, along with “airspace needed to insure safety in take-off and landing of aircraft”.

The “ad coelum”, or to the sky, doctrine, “had no place in the modern world,” wrote Justice William Douglas in his Causby judgment in 1946, arguing there exists “public highway” in the sky which was part of the “public domain”.

Mackler said the current tensions over drones partly derived from the lack of clarity over the legality of their use.

“People have a visceral reaction to seeing a drone. Unmanned aircraft are something different, something they often don’t expect,” he said.

“But if you know that in advance that a drone is being used by your utility company to inspect the safety of the local power lines, you will be less fearful. Law and technology have always had this tension: it takes time, especially if it has to go through the courts. But it will work its way out.”

(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

Cyber Bullying has more than emotional costs

Electronic cables are silhouetted next to the logo of Twitter in this illustration photo in Sarajevo

By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Anyone who has had embarrassing photos posted on social media or been deluged with angry messages can attest to the high emotional cost of cyber bullying. But there is also a cost in real dollars for some to clean up their online reputations, including legal fees, security measures and even counseling.

For the 40 percent of adult Internet users who are dealing with this issue, according to 2014 Pew Research Center data, and numerous school-age children, there is a new insurance policy to help mitigate the financial repercussions.

Chubb Ltd recently began offering optional cyber bullying coverage for its homeowners insurance clients. The coverage is included in the company’s Family Protection policy, which costs around $70 a year. It covers up to $60,000 in compensation to clients and their families to pay for services including psychological counseling, lost salary and, in extreme cases, public relations assistance.

“It’s so hard to have complete control online,” said Christie Alderman, vice president of client product and services, Chubb personal risk services. “We do know that when it does occur it can be really devastating.”

Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist from California, learned the costs of cyber bullying the hard way.

After publishing a 2013 peer-reviewed paper that suggested sex addiction is not a clinical diagnosis, Prause said she was subjected to online insults from people she believes oppose her work.

The abuse varied in scope, from repeated claims that she faked her data to comments about her appearance.

“I had a TED Talk (posted online) and they just filled it with ‘tranny’ comments,” said Prause, who worked at the University of California-Los Angeles at the time the attacks began. “They have definitely singled me out.”

Prause filed a cease-and-desist order against her harassers, and said those persons are no longer allowed to contact her directly. But Prause said she spent around $5,000 to mitigate the damage over the years, hiring an attorney and someone to take screenshots of the abuse lobbed at her online.

Rich Matta, the chief executive officer of ReputationDefender (https://www.reputationdefender.com/), an online reputation management firm, says that the average consumer dealing with this problem can spend around “a few thousand dollars” a year to combat cyber bullying.

“It’s no surprise that remediation of cyber bullying is now insurable,” Matta said, referencing the Chubb insurance policy.

But some feel that taking out an insurance policy against online harassment is going too far.

Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and a professor of criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University, said insurance for cyber bullying reinforces a victim mentality and is “tapping (in to) the fear.”

“You can do a lot on your own to safeguard your reputation,” Hinduja said.

Experts say it is important for consumers to be proactive in protecting their online reputation, by taking a few simple steps.

Here are a few tips to avoid the cyber bully trap:

1. Keep it private

Hinduja recommends setting social media profiles to “private,” to avoid writing posts that are too frequent and opinionated, and to block or mute accounts that go too far.

“You are going to be a much better advocate for yourself,” Hinduja said.

2. Be proactive about your child’s online presence

While more schools are educating kids about cyber abuse, Matta said parents still need to monitor how their kids use social media. “They need to establish some boundaries and rules around when it’s OK to use technology,” he said.

3. Get help when you need it

For those who feel overwhelmed managing their online presence, resources like online ReputationDefenders can offer a reprieve – for a price. ReputationDefenders typically charges private clients between $3,000 and $20,000 per year, while Reputation 911 (http://reputation911.com/) offers monthly packages for personal reputation management between $195 and $995.

(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Matthew Lewis)