A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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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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Federal Circuit Tightens Patent Standing Requirement in Azure Networks

By Kathleen McGuinness – Edited by Sabreena Khalid

In Azure Networks, LLC v. CSR PLC, the Federal Circuit ruled that patent owners who had licensed “all substantial rights” to a third party could not be joined as plaintiffs in a suit on that patent. The court also reaffirmed the high bar to proving that a patentee has redefined a well-understood technical term.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Viviana Ruiz

Russia’s Intellectual Property Court affirms denial of Ford’s trademark application

Contrary to its advertising efforts, Red Bull does not give you wings

Federal Court rules that food flavors are not trademarkable

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By Kassity Liu

Amazon Files Lawsuit to Protect Consumer Privacy

On April 19, 2010, online retailer Amazon.com filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR), asking a federal judge to preempt the DOR’s request for detailed information on consumers’ purchases from the company’s website. CNET and Ars Technica reported that Amazon is pushing back because it believes the DOR’s request violates consumers’ rights under the First Amendment and the Video Privacy Protection Act. In its complaint, Amazon argues that there is “no discernible need” for state tax collectors to know the specific items consumers purchase on its website, stating that the information that Amazon has already handed over — a list of items and “the ZIP code to which the item[s] were shipped” — is sufficient to determine whether the company is in compliance with the state’s tax laws. Amazon fears that full disclosure of consumers’ purchase options would “chill the exercise of customers’ expressive choices” and reduce the company’s overall sales. However, the DOR may consider this information necessary for identifying “residents [who] are skirting paying their sales taxes” on Amazon items, which are subject to state use taxes.

Google Introduces the Government Requests Tool, Paving the Way for Increased Transparency

On April 20, 2010, Wired and the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported the launch of Google’s new feature, the Government Requests Tool. The tool discloses the number of times that individual governments around the world have asked Google to remove content from its websites for reasons other than copyright violations, as well as the number of user information requests. Though far from complete — it does not report some user information requests such as those tied to national security investigations and lacks information on “the number of people named in the requests, whether Google fought the request, or which products the requests apply to” — Google suggests the tool “will add to the long-running debate about how much power law enforcement and governments should have to see what citizens do online.”

First Draft of ACTA Released, Revealing Measures Intended to Curb Online Piracy

On April 21, 2010, Ars Technica reported the release of the first official draft of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that ACTA, which originally had been portrayed as an effort to prevent the circulation of physical counterfeit goods, now extends more broadly to cover copyright and the Internet. The ACTA draft contains a number of provisions that extend “beyond those agreed in the 1994 Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property and the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty.” First, Internet service providers or Internet intermediaries around the world would be obligated to adopt policies that “address the unauthorized storage or transmission of materials protected by copyright.” This would encourage countries to require that ISPs engage in measures such as Internet disconnection and website blocking to address piracy. Second, the United States’ DMCA technical protection measures (TPM) legal framework would apply globally. This would impose a ban on TPM circumvention and circumvention devices, criminalizing even some otherwise fair uses. Third, criminal sanctions may extend to cover a wide range of non-commercial activities under the ACTA’s “broad definition of ‘commercial scale’.” Previous leaks of the ACTA and bracketed areas in the draft indicate that a number of disagreements still exist between the negotiating countries, thus the treaty terms are likely to change in the upcoming months.

Posted On Apr - 25 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Supreme Court Declares Animal Cruelty Statute Violates First Amendment
By Debbie Rosenbaum – Edited by Chinh Vo

United States v. Stevens, No. 08–769 (U.S., April 20, 2010)
Slip Opinion

The Supreme Court affirmed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which had held that 18 U.S.C. § 48, a federal statute criminalizing the commercial production, sale, or possession of depictions of cruelty to animals, was an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and did not serve a compelling governmental interest.

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a Virginia man who sold dog-fighting videos, holding that the First Amendment does not allow the government to criminalize whole categories of speech and expression that are deemed undesirable. The Court said that 18 U.S.C. § 48 was too broad because while some depictions of animal cruelty were appropriately exempted from the statute, other speech that should be protected, such as “most hunting videos” and photos of out-of-season hunting, was not.

Briefs and relevant court documents are available at the First Amendment Center. NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times provide overviews of the case. The Volokh Conspiracy and the Constitutional Law Prof Law Blog analyze the decision. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 23 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Sixth Circuit Upholds Ohio Anti-Pornography Statute
By Avis Bohlen – Edited by Dmitriy Tishyevich

American Bookseller’s Foundation for Free Expression v. Strickland, Nos. 07-4375/4376 (6th Cir., April 15, 2010)
Opinion

On April 15, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed an Ohio district court’s decision to enjoin the enforcement of an anti-pornography child protection statute, Ohio Revised Code § 2907.31(D)(1), which criminalizes displaying or disseminating harmful materials to juveniles.  The court held that as narrowly construed by the Supreme Court of Ohio, the statute does not violate either the First Amendment or the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The Sixth Circuit had previously certified the question as to the scope of the statute to the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Ohio Supreme Court issued its response on January 27, holding that the statute only applies to personally directed electronic communications, such as instant messages, private chat rooms, and person-to-person emails, and not to generally accessible communications on the Internet, like websites or public chat rooms.  In upholding the statute, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the “Internet provisions,” criminalizing the electronic transmission of harmful material to juveniles if the sender “knows or has reason to believe” the recipients to be juveniles, are not unconstitutionally overbroad.  Further, though the court held that the statute does not trigger strict scrutiny because it does not affect constitutionally protected speech among adults, it noted in dicta that it would survive even strict scrutiny because it was narrowly tailored to promote a compelling government interest.  The court also held that the statute does not violate the Commerce Clause.

Cyberlaw Cases provides an overview and history of the case through the Ohio Supreme Court’s January decision. The AP offers an overview of the Sixth Circuit’s decision.  Both the Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and groups affiliated with the coalition of publishers and Web site operators that challenged the constitutionality of the statute claimed some degree of victory after the ruling. (more…)

Posted On Apr - 21 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Affirms Exclusion and Cease-and-Desist Orders against GPS Chipmaker
By Gary Pong – Edited by Dmitriy Tishyevich

SiRF Tech., Inc. v. ITC, Appeal 2009-1262 (Fed. Cir., Apr. 12, 2010).
Slip Opinion

The Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the International Trade Commission (“ITC”), which found that SiRF Technology, Inc. (“SiRF”) violated 19 U.S.C. § 1337 by unlawfully importing and selling Global Positioning System (“GPS”) devices that infringed upon patents owned by Global Locate, Inc. and Broadcom Corp. (collectively, “Global Locate”).

The Federal Circuit held that: (1) Global Locate had standing to sue for infringement, even though one of the patents in question had been automatically assigned to the inventors’ previous employer under an employment agreement; (2) SiRF’s GPS chips had directly infringed the patents in question; and (3) the asserted method claims were directed to patentable subject matter under the In re Bilski “machine-or-transformation” test because it was tied to a particular machine – the GPS receiver.

The ITC Law Blog provides an overview of the case and its history. Patently-O features an analysis of the decision and the Patent Prospector has excerpted the key parts of this decision.  (more…)

Posted On Apr - 19 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Tyler Lacey

Bank Programmer Pleads Guilty to ATM Hacking

On April 13, 2010, Wired reported that Bank of America employee Rodney Reed Cavelry pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized computer access, after installing software on more than 100 ATMs that allowed him to steal more than $304,000 over a seven-month period last year. Bank of America identified Caverly’s theft internally, and was able to recover at least $167,000 in cooperation with the United States Secret Service. Bank of America had employed Cavelry since 2007 to write “application software and troubleshooting programs.” Cavelry will face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced this summer.

Canadian Regulator Warns Against Foreign Ownership of Telecommunications Companies

On April 13, 2010, The Toronto Star reported that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) warned against allowing majority foreign ownership of Canadian telecommunications companies. Konrad von Finckenstein, CRTC’s chairman, argued that a proposed law allowing additional foreign investment in telecommunications companies would create a “branch plant communications industry” in Canada. Complicating the matter is the fact that Canada’s leading telecommunications companies are also broadcasting companies, which are subjected to additional cultural regulations on minimum levels of Canadian content. von Finckenstein believes that “there is no way to separate telecoms from broadcasters,” and that the best strategy is to “to create uniform rules that would apply to both industries, and to keep control firmly in Canadian hands.”

Italian Judge Explains Rationale for Guilty Verdicts in Illegal Video Case

On April 13 CNET reported on Italian Judge Oscar Magi’s 111 page explanation for the guilty verdict that he entered against three Google employees on February 24. Judge Magi believed that “commercial exploitation” was Google’s motive for allowing a video, depicting an autistic teenager being harassed and attacked, to remain online for two months. In response, Google argued that the “conviction attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built” and indicated that it would appeal the verdicts.

Posted On Apr - 17 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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Silk Road 2.0 Takedo

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Federal Circuit Flas

By Ken Winterbottom Motion to Dismiss in Hulu Patent Infringement Suit ...

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Spain Passes a “Go

By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long Amendments to the ...

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Federal Circuit Tigh

By Kathleen McGuinness – Edited by Sabreena Khalid Azure Networks, LLC ...

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Flash Digest: News i

By Viviana Ruiz Russia’s Intellectual Property Court affirms denial of Ford's ...