A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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By Ellora Israni – Edited by Filippo Raso

IMDb is challenging the constitutionality of Assembly Bill 1687 (“AB 1687”), a California law requiring IMDb to remove ages from its website upon request from paid subscribers, claiming that the law violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

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Facebook Blocks British Insurance Company from Basing Premiums on Posts and Likes

By Javier Careaga– Edited by Mila Owen

Admiral Insurance has created an initiative called firstcarquote, which analyzes Facebook activity of first-time car owners. The firstcarquote algorithm determines risk based on personality traits and habits that are linked to safe driving. Firstcarquote was recalled two hours before its official launch and then was launched with reduced functionality after Facebook denied authorization, stating that the initiative breaches Facebook’s platform policy.

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Airbnb challenges New York law regulating short-term rentals

By Daisy Joo – Edited by Nehaa Chaudhari

Airbnb filed a complaint in the Federal District Court of the Southern District of New York seeking to “enjoin and declare unlawful the enforcement against Airbnb” of the recent law that prohibits  the advertising of short-term rentals on Airbnb and other similar websites.  Airbnb argued that the new law violated its rights to free speech and due process, and that it was inconsistent with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online intermediaries that host or republish speech from a range of liabilities.

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Medtronic v. Bosch post-Cuozzo: PTAB continues to have the final say on inter partes review

By Nehaa Chaudhari – Edited by Grace Truong

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“the Federal Circuit”) reaffirmed its earlier order, dismissing Medtronic’s appeal against a decision of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”). The PTAB had dismissed Medtronic’s petition for inter partes review of Bosch’s patents, since Medtronic had failed to disclose all real parties in interest, as required by 35 U.S.C. §312(a)(2).

 

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California DMV Discuss Rules on Autonomous Vehicles

DOJ Release Guidelines on CFAA Prosecutions

Illinois Supreme Court Rule in Favor of State Provisions Requiring Disclosure of Online Identities of Sex Offenders

Research Shows Concerns for Crucial Infrastructure Information Leaks

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by Heather Whitney

Google calls competitors’ patent acquisition anticompetitive; Microsoft claims Google was invited

Techcrunch reports that Google accused Microsoft of buying the Nortel patents in order to supress competition from Android, Google’s popular mobile operating system. On Wednesday, Google SVP and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond released a blog post calling, among other things, the recent Nortel patent auction win by a consortium including competitors Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle anticompetitive, done to stifle Android innovation through litigation. On Thursday, Microsoft’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, tweeted a response, explaining that Microsoft asked Google to bid jointly but Google refused. Microsoft’s Head of Communication tweeted a follow-up, attaching an image of an email sent from Kent Walker, Google’s GC, to Microsoft’s GC, where Google expressly declined to bid jointly. Google responded again, as did Microsoft. In the end, Google contends that a joint bid would not have protected Android from patent litigation since Microsoft would have the patents too. Microsoft argues Google refused to join in the bid because Google was looking to buy up additional patents to use to go after Microsoft.

Facebook’s Marketing Director says online anonymity has to “go away”, leaves Facebook to start her own media company

According to the Huffington Post, during a discussion last Tuesday on cyber bullying, Facebook’s Marketing Director Randi Zuckerberg gave a solution: get rid of online anonymity all together. “I think anonymity on the Internet has to go away. People behave a lot better when they have their real names down… I think people hide behind anonymity and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.” The EFF responded, claiming that while private companies like Facebook can require users to give their real names, requiring anybody roaming the Internet at all to do so constitutes a freedom of expression “disaster”. Faster Forward, a Washington Post blog, reports that, while purportedly unrelated, Zuckerberg submitted her letter of resignation a week and a day later. In her letter, Zuckerberg said she plans to leave and start her own social media company.

Eighth Circuit affirms that student’s IM with threats to third party not protected speech

Education Week reports that the Eighth Circuit, in D.J.M. v. Hannibal Public School District, affirmed a lower court’s ruling that a student’s instant message containing a threat to third party students, sent outside of school, is not protected speech. The Appeals Court found that because the student directed his IMs at a student who could reasonably be seen to forward the threats to the actual victims, it was a true threat. The Eighth Circuit also analyzed the situation under the Tinker “substantial disruption” test, finding that the IM comments, given that they were easy to copy and thus foreseeably likely to be forwarded on to school administrators, constituted such a substantial disruption of the school.

Senator Grassley objects to rumored removal of NIH conflict of interest disclosure requirements.

Senator Chuck Grassley wrote a letter to Office of Management and Budget this week, urging them not to strip a proposed transparency rule of one of its central features – a requirement that universities post the financial conflicts of publicly funded medical researchers on  a public website. Senator Grassley’s letter was prompted by a Nature article reporting that the requirement had been dropped. Senator Grassley also demanded documents related to meetings on the rule attended by Cass Sunstein, the head of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Pharmalot reports that Sunstein is rumored to have disliked the website requirement. Grassley has asked for a response from OMB by August 25.

Posted On Aug - 10 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

District Court Says CAN-SPAM Act Does Not Violate First Amendment
By Samantha Kuhn – Edited by Chinh Vo

U.S. v. Smallwood, 09-CR-00249 (N.D. Tex. July 15, 2011)
Slip Opinion hosted by Scribd.co

The District Court for the Northern District of Texas rejected a First Amendment challenge to the CAN-SPAM criminal statute, which prohibits the computer transmission of “multiple commercial electronic mail messages, with the intent to deceive or mislead recipients . . . . as to the origin of such messages.”

The court first rejected defendant Alicia Smallwood’s motions challenging her indictment for, among other things, electronic mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1037(a)(2) and (b)(2)(c) (“CAN-SPAM Act”). The court determined that Smallwood was engaging in “clearly proscribed conduct” and was therefore not entitled to challenge the statute for vagueness. As a result of this finding, the main issue in the case became whether the statute was overly broad in its regulation of protected speech and thus a violation of the First Amendment. The arguments presented by Smallwood for over-breadth centered around the statute’s limitations on commercial speech, and the court rejected them.

Eric Goldman provides commentary on the outcome and implications of the opinion. For a background on the CAN-SPAM Act’s requirements, see Cybertelecom.

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Posted On Aug - 9 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Companies provide popular online streaming services but face copyright challenges under the DMCA

By Marina Shvarts – Edited by Chinh Vo

The rising popularity of online music and video streaming is raising questions concerning what exactly is considered copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Slight variations in business models can lead to distinguishable precedent and unclear case law. As a result, some companies are attempting to negotiate licensing agreements, while others believe that their models are legal and do not require licenses. Below is a summary of some of the major service providers and the legal challenges they face.  (more…)

Posted On Aug - 8 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Andrew Crocker

Activist Arrested for Allegedly Hacking JSTOR

On July 19, police arrested Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old programmer and Internet activist, in Cambridge, Massachusetts for allegedly committing wire and computer fraud when he downloaded approximately 4.8 million scholarly articles and other files from the JSTOR database, reports the New York Times.  As alleged in the indictment, beginning in September 2010, Swartz used MIT’s network to run an automated script to download the material from JSTOR, and eventually physically jacked into a network closet on the MIT campus after MIT blocked his remote access.  Swartz is known for his work on Really Simple Syndication (“RSS”) and the social news website reddit. He also founded the organization Demand Progress, which advocates for progressive Internet and government transparency policies.  Wired reports that although the indictment alleges Swartz intended to distribute JSTOR’s copyrighted material, he may have been conducting research, having previously worked on a study that analyzed the funding sources for a several hundred thousand law review articles.  According to Ars Technica, Swartz’s arrest has provoked protest by at least one fellow proponent of open access to scholarly works, who responded by posting nearly 19,000 scientific articles on Pirate Bay.

Ninth Circuit Reverses Conviction for Online Threat Against Obama

In a split opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a California man who posted an online comment in October 2008 that appeared to call for then-Senator Barack Obama’s assassination, reports Wired.  Walter Bagdasarian was convicted under a federal law that makes it a felony to threaten to kill a major presidential candidate, but Judge Reinhardt, writing for the majority, found that Bagdasarian’s post did not rise to the level of a “true threat,” because there was insufficient evidence that “a reasonable person who read the postings within or without the relevant context would have understood either to mean that Bagdasarian threatened to injure or kill the Presidential candidate.”  In addition to failing this objective test for a true threat, the postings would also not support a subjective test for Bagdasarian’s intent to threaten Obama, and according to the court, either failure would be sufficient grounds for overturning the conviction.  Furthermore, although the post could be read as “an imperative intended to encourage others to take violent action,” the relevant statute does not criminalize exhortations to others, so Bagdasarian could not be convicted on this basis.  However, Eugene Volokh suggests that given the uncertainty in constitutional precedent on true threats and protected speech, this case is likely not settled and will either be reheard by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court.

Controversial Data Retention Bill Clears House Committee

H.R. 1981, a bill that would require Internet providers to retain users’ IP addresses and other personal information for one year, has cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 19-10.  The bill, which CNET reports has received support from the Justice Department, is intended to make it easier for law enforcement officials to investigate crimes committed over the Internet.  According to the National Journal, critics of the bill have pointed to what they see as its politically opportunistic name, the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, as an attempt to hide its broad scope and lack of privacy protections.   In addition to lawmakers from both parties, civil liberties organizations, such as the Center for Democracy & Technology, have criticized the bill, arguing that its data retention provisions are invasive, confusing in scope, and burdensome to small Internet providers.

Posted On Aug - 2 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Court Affirms Disciplining of Mortuary-Science Student for Threatening Facebook Posts, Relies on Tinker Standard for Censoring Speech in Higher Education
By Matthew Becker – Edited by Abby Lauer

Tatro v. University of Minnesota, 2011 WL 2672220 (Minn. Ct. App. July 11, 2011)
Slip Opinion hosted by the Minnesota State Law Library

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a decision of the University of Minnesota Provost’s Appeals Committee, which had penalized mortuary-science student Amanda Tatro for off-campus posts to a social networking website.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the evidence supported the university’s finding that Tatro violated its rules. The court also held that the university properly exercised its authority to address Tatro’s off-campus conduct and did not violate her free speech rights because her actions fell under the wording of the university’s Student Conduct Code, which applies to off-campus conduct that “adversely affects a substantial University interest and . . . indicates that the student may present a danger or threat to the health or safety of the student or others.” In so holding, the court applied the Tinker standard, which allows school officials to limit or discipline student behavior if they reasonably conclude that the behavior will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.”  The court stated that the Tinker standard was more appropriate than the alternative “true-threat” standard (which would have required Tatro to have intentionally communicated an actual threat before the university would be allowed to intervene), given that this was not a criminal case and that this standard typically does not apply to public schools taking appropriate disciplinary action.

Eric Goldman provides an overview of the case. The Volokh Conspiracy criticizes the decision for relying on an overly broad rationale that might encroach on students’ free speech rights, while the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) features a similar criticism and a thorough analysis of the decision.

(more…)

Posted On Jul - 25 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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