Personal Information and Property Rights

The opinion piece "Privacy in an Information Age" (Oct. 6) has the right idea - to label people's confidential information as "property rights." The major intent of most of the collectors of our personal information is to get a "clearer picture" of us.

If I am in a public place and someone should take my picture or draw a sketch of my likeness, with or without my consent, and then use my likeness for commercial purposes (i.e. for their commercial gain) without my consent, I may have a fairly clear case against them to both stop the use, and in some cases receive compensatory and punitive damages. If my permission is requested, I may very well require some consideration and want to know the context of the use before granting permission.

Now, if a distorted likeness should be published, either accidentally or intentionally, in such a manner as to incorrectly reflect badly on my character, I may have a basis to successfully sue for defamation of character, libel, slander, etc.

Why is one type of "picture" any less sacred than the other? A credit report can reveal many more personal details than a photograph, and the subjects of both should have at least the same rights and say about how and to whom they are published.

Thomas Eubank

Franklin, Mass.

Thank you Math Chat

Many thanks to the Monitor and to Frank Morgan for his Math Chat column over the past several years. I understand that this column will no longer run in the Monitor. I participated in solving many of his problems during that time and found it a very interesting and rewarding activity.

The math problems were solvable by interested nonprofessional mathematicians, but were of a very challenging, unique, and interesting nature. In fact, I suspect that even professional mathematicians might have found some of the problems rather thought- provoking and interesting.

For example, "On what day of the week will Jan. 1, in the year 10 to the 1 millionth power fall?" It turns out to be Saturday, but you can't do it directly on a computer because the numbers are way too large for any computer to handle. Instead, it took a lot of head scratching to find the correct pattern.

This type of intellectual activity is so badly needed in the US. We, with our very low public interest in actually doing math and science work, need all the stimulation of this kind we can get.

Charles Gahr

Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Ode to October

October is hardly an "unsung month," as suggested by the opinion piece "The Unsung Month - October" (Oct. 14).

For example, I am reminded of the hauntingly beautiful "October Song," penned by Robin Williamson of the British folk music group The Incredible String Band in the late 1960s. It is a wonderful testament to the month. Here is a verse from it: "The fallen leaves, they jewel the ground. They know the art of dying. And gladly leave their warm gold hearts in the scarlet shadows lying."

Then, there was [pop group] October Project. Also, there's October's Gate. This Seattle folk group won the prestigious 1993 Artist Trust Music Fellowship Award for their "impressive songwriting talents." And a new group, called simply October, will release a new CD at the end of October.

But perhaps it's true that there aren't too many songs about October. Most of us are too busy looking at the leaves, or kicking up the leaves, or raking up the leaves, or else leaving to head south for the winter.

Michael Cook

Via e-mail

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