A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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U.S. Marshals Service Uses Airborne “Dirtboxes” to Collect Cell Phone Data

By Katherine Kwong – Edited by Mengyi Wang

The U.S. government has been using “dirtboxes” to collect cell phone data. The program, designed for criminal suspect surveillance, is accused of also collecting cell phone data on numerous Americans not suspected of any crime. While many commentators express concern about the program’s legality, others argue that the program is an effective method of catching criminals.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News In Brief

By Henry Thomas

Ads For Content Scheme Held To Be Abstract Idea, Not Patentable Process

Federal Circuit Limits Application of Collateral Estoppel in Patent Litigation

Electronics Company Avoids Patent Enforcement By Directing Sales Outside U.S.

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Silk Road 2.0 Takedown Indicates Law Enforcement May Have Developed a Method to Trace Hidden Tor Websites

By Steven Wilfong — Edited by Travis West

The complaint filed against Blake Benthall, the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0, indicates that the FBI identified a server that was used to host the popular drug market website, despite the fact that the website’s location was hidden by the Tor anonymity software.  Law enforcement may have developed a method of compromising Tor anonymity, a possibility that would prove useful in future operations, but that also raises concerns for legitimate users.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Ken Winterbottom

Motion to Dismiss in Hulu Patent Infringement Suit Affirmed

“Virtual Classroom” Patent Infringement Case Remanded for Further Determination

Attorney Publicly Reprimanded for Circulating Email from Judge

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Spain Passes a “Google Tax,” Analysts Predict it Will be Short-Lived

By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long

Spain recently amended its Intellectual Property Law and Code of Civil Procedure to levy fees on aggregators that collect snippets of other webpages. It is at least the third example of a European government fining search aggregators to support traditional print publishing industries, a practice often labeled a “Google tax” because of the disproportionate impact such laws have on the search giant. Some analysts are already predicting that Spain’s new law will fail.

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pic01By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

United States v. Ulbricht, No. 14-CR-68 (KBF)(S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2014) Slip Opinion

The debate surrounding the legal status of Bitcoins has continued to heat up, as the Southern District of New York weighed in on whether the virtual currency could be used to launder money under 18 U.S.C. §1956(h). In a July 9, 2014 opinion penned by Judge Forrest in United States v. Ulbricht, the court held that exchanges involving Bitcoins constitute “financial transactions” for purposes of the money laundering statute, noting that “[a]ny other reading would—in light of Bitcoins’ sole raison d’etre—be nonsensical.” No. 14-CR-68 (KBF)(S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2014) at 50.

The criminal case was filed against Ross Ulbricht, founder and administrator of the website Silk Road which gained notoriety as the eBay of illegal goods and services. Id. at 12. Ulbricht was indicted by a Grand Jury in the Southern District of New York on February 4, 2014 on four counts, including conspiring to traffic drugs, engaging in computer hacking, and laundering money. Id. at 1. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss all four counts, which the court denied in its entirety. Id.

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Posted On Jul - 28 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Aereo Struggles as Supreme Court Finds It Violated Copyright Law
By Jenny Choi – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

American Broadcasting Cos. V. Aereo, Inc. 134 S.Ct. 2498 (Supreme Court of the United States, June 25, 2014) Slip Opinion

aereo_antenna_array1

On June 25, 2014, in its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Aereo, Inc (“Aereo”).  The U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo violated the Copyright Act of 1976 (“Act”) for streaming TV shows shortly after they were broadcast without paying for the copyrighted works.  As a result, Aereo suspended its service and has struggled to find a way to re-operate its business.  Aereo has made a request to the U.S. Copyright Office to be classified as a cable company under Section 111, but has not yet been successful. Additionally, Aero has reached out to the public, asking them to protest the decision, the Washington Post Reports.

The New York Times provides an overview of the case.  SCOTUS Blog criticizes that the majority’s ad hoc approach in deciding that Aereo was “substantially similar” to cable companies without grappling the text of the statute.

Aereo is a start-up company based in New York that provided its subscribers live and time-shifted streams of TV Shows on internet-connected devices.  Its subscribers would pay $8 to $12 a month to rent Aereo’s dime-size antennas that captured TV signals when the subscribers requested to view a specific TV show.  While Aereo argued that its service was a new way of viewing TV programs, broadcasters argued that Aereo was stealing their programs and violating copyright laws.

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Posted On Jul - 23 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Insue Kim

HL Bill 37 – Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”)

Full text of DRIP

The House of Lords passed the bill without a vote on July 17, 2014.

The House of Commons passed the bill by 498 votes to 31 on July 15, 2014.

On July 17, 2014, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”) became law of the land after the House of Lords passed it without a vote. This legislation grants the government power to mandate all companies, both operating in the UK and abroad, to retain customer metadata for 12 months, so long as the companies provide telecommunications services to UK customers. DRIP also changes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (“RIPA”) to expand the UK government’s ability to directly intercept phone calls and digital communications from any remote storage, including iCloud and Google Drive. Grounds for interception include national security and preventing or detecting serious crime. Prime Minister David Cameron introduced the bill on July 10, 2014 as an “emergency” law with an accelerated time frame. Parliament had a week to examine the bill, with a one-day debate in the House of Commons and two days in the House of Lords. According to the BBC, the purpose of the legislation is to replace legislation that became invalid when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in April that blanket data retention breaches the right to privacy.

A summary of the bill and its history is available on the BBC and Human Rights Watch. NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden compared DRIP to the ‘Protect America Act of 2007’ introduced by former-President George W. Bush. Wired UK summarizes academics’ criticism of the bill. David Allen Green warns citizens of the danger of passing DRIP. The Guardian describes the harm in a more sarcastic and memorable way.

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Posted On Jul - 22 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Kyle Pietari Edited by Insue Kim

infringementVirtualAgility, Inc., v. Salesforce.com, Inc., et al., No. 2014-1232 (Fed. Cir. July 10, 2014)

Slip Opinion

The Federal Circuit reversed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which denied a joint motion raised by Salesforce.com and other defendants (“Defendants”) to stay VirtualAgility’s (“VA”) patent infringement suit until the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) could complete a post-grant review of the validity of VA’s patent under the Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents (CBM). This was the Federal Circuit’s first encounter with an interlocutory appeal from a district court’s ruling on a motion to stay infringement proceedings concurrent with the CBM review process, made possible by the America Invents Act (AIA), 125 Stat. 284 § 18(b)(2).

Reviewing the district court’s application of four factors that the AIA expressly requires courts to consider, the Federal Circuit held that the stay pending CBM review was improperly denied. VirtualAgility, slip op. at 5. Though § 18(b)(2) states that the Federal Circuit’s standard of review “may be de novo,” the court declined to address the question of when to apply a de novo standard, holding that the district court’s decision would be reversed even under the abuse of discretion standard that VA had argued for. Id. at 5. In so holding, the Federal Circuit sent a message that although a court denying a stay of infringement proceedings could be given deference on appeal, it should not expect to.

National Law Review provides a thorough analysis of the case. PatentlyO discusses the interplay between courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  

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Posted On Jul - 22 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Sheri Pan – Edited by Insue Kim

Fox Broadcasting Company, et al. v. Dish Network LLC, et al., No. 13-56818 (9th Cir. 2014) Slip Opinion hosted by DocumentCloud

On July 4, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Fox Broadcasting Company’s (“Fox”) motion for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network’s (“Dish”), “Dish Anywhere,” and “Hopper Transfers” services.  Fox argued that the technologies, which enable Dish subscribers to stream programming from portable devices as well as cache them for offline viewing on iPads, would irreparably harm Fox because they violate copyright laws.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court did not err in finding that the harm alleged by Fox was speculative.  It noted that Fox had failed to present evidence documenting such harm, even though the services had been available for several years.  The court also rejected Fox’s argument that it would lose advertising revenue, “in light of the evidence that advertisers are adapting to the changing landscape of television consumption.” Fox Broadcasting, slip op. at 4. Lastly, the court ruled that a preliminary injunction was not necessary because Fox had failed to demonstrate that allowing the services to continue operating prior to trial would induce other companies to follow Dish’s lead. It also added that any harm which did result could be adequately remedied with monetary damages.

Fox, in mounting the challenge, relied on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in American Broadcasting Company v. Aereo for support.  In Aereo, the Court ruled that Aereo violated copyright laws by providing broadcast programming to subscribers online.  Fox, in a letter to the court, argued, “Dish . . . engages in virtually identical conduct when it streams Fox’s programming to Dish subscribers over the internet [and] has repeatedly raised the same defenses as Aereo which have now been rejected by the Supreme Court.”

Jason Buckweitz, a researcher at Columbia Business School, however, noted that the Aereo case differs from the dispute at hand because Aereo had offered broadcasting content without paying for a license.  Dish, by contrast, pays retransmission fees to distribute Fox’s programming.  Under the Cable Act of 1992, broadcasters have the right to charge retransmission consent fees for redistribution of their content, 47 U.S.C. § 325, and they typically earn hundreds of millions of dollars per month from retransmission arrangements with cable companies.

Several commentators, including Mr. Buckweitz and Techdirt, warned that Fox’s reference to Aereo was only the beginning of broadcasters using the case to obtain more favorable deals with distributors.  More perniciously, they argued, Aereo could hamper innovation by threatening businesses whose services challenge the traditional avenues of content distribution.

Dish lauded the ruling and framed it as a victory for consumer choice.  Fox had previously lost a challenge to two other Dish services before the Ninth Circuit in 2013.

Sheri Pan is a 2L at Harvard Law School interested in the intersection of technology and public interest law.

Posted On Jul - 22 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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