A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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The Court of Justice of the European Union Finds the Harbor No Longer Safe

Written by: Ann Kristin Glenster - Edited by: David Nathaniel Tan

This fall, the Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a landmark ruling,  holding that the Safe Harbor Agreement on the handling of personal data by U.S. companies in Europe was invalid. This article will give a brief overview of the case, and explore the salient issues to which the European Court took umbrage. Finally, it will attempt to sketch out some possible consequences of the ruling, and the options that now face E.U. and U.S. legislators.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Yiran Zhang – Edited by Olga Slobodyanyuk

Senators Introduce a Bill which Requires Social Media Companies to Report Terrorist Activity

New EU Copyright Rules Left Possibility for Google Tax

COP21 Reached an “Ambitious and Balanced” Deal on Climate Change

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By David Nathaniel Tan – Edited by Adi Kamdar

Software Pirate Settles Suit Via YouTube

After Paris Attacks, FCC Chairman Calls for Expanded Wiretap Laws

Hoverboards Declared Illegal in New York City

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Belgian Court Demands that Facebook Stop Tracking Non-Members

By Mila Owen – Edited by Kayla Haran

The Belgian Privacy Commission requested a cessation order against Facebook regarding their practice of placing “datr” cookies on devices of non-Facebook users to track activity on other Facebook pages or on pages containing the “like” or “share” button. The court ruled that this tracking violates the Belgian Privacy Act because it amounts to the collection and “processing of personal data.”

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Facebook not liable for discrimination against Sikhs in India

By Ann Kristin Glenster – Edited by Yaping Zhang

By dismissing Sikhs for Justice Inc.’s case against Facebook for discrimination by blocking the group’s page in India, the United District Court of Northern California maintains the neutrality of interactive online providers and exempts them from liability under Title II of the Civil Rights Act.

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By Dorothy Du

IBM Creation “Watson” May Have the Potential to Assist in Legal Research

Watson, an IBM super computer four years in the making, competed on the popular TV game show Jeopardy! on February 14 through 16. On the 16th, Watson prevailed against former Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, tallying in at a total of $77,147 in winnings — more than triple each human contestant’s totals, as PC World reports. Robert Weber, IBM’s senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs and general counsel explained in The National Law Journal that Watson could be useful in performing some of the basic legal research that junior associates are often assigned. PC World explains that Watson is equipped with a natural language processing system called DeepQA that allows it to understand a complex question, even one involving wordplay; the system uses six million logic rules in order to mine 200 million pages of content for human-like answers. Weber believes DeepQA could prove useful for “gathering facts and identifying ideas when building legal arguments” and says the technology could even “come in handy, near real-time, in the courtroom.”  Jennifer Chu-Carroll, who helped create Watson, told Computer World: “Watson is a significant step, allowing people to interact with a computer as they would a human being.”

Recent Cases Support the Use of Internet to Assist Counsel in Voir Dire

ABA Journal reports that conducting Internet searches to uncover personal details about potential jurors in order to facilitate in jury selection during voir dire has become increasing popular. Quinn Emanuel reports that a New Jersey appellate court in Carino v. Muenzen held that it was unreasonable to prohibit counsel’s use of the Internet during jury selection. And the Missouri Supreme Court in Johnson v. McCullough affirmed a decision to grant a new trial because a juror had failed to disclose his prior lawsuits, but added the qualification that in light of advances in technology allowing access to information about potential jurors, it was appropriate to increase the burden on parties to bring such matters to the court’s attention earlier. With more than 500 million people on Facebook, 175 million on Twitter, and over 70 million actively using LinkedIn, the Internet has become a revolutionary tool allowing jury consultants and trial lawyers to uncover facts that may be may not be discoverable via traditional jury questionnaires. Internet searches allow counsel to select jurors that with particular political affiliations, community involvement, sexual orientation, or income level, Reuters reports.

FDA Deputy Commissioner Speaks About New Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

On February 17, Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods gave his first speech on imports since the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama this year, Quality Assurance Magazine reports. The FSMA represents the biggest reform of U.S. food safety regulation in decades, and was drafted partially in response to a number of high-profile food-related incidents between 2007 and 2010, as Sidley Austin details.  Taylor indicated that, in light of the fact that 50 percent of our fresh fruits, 20 percent of our vegetables, and 80 percent of our seafood is imported, the FDA sought to establish a new paradigm for regulating imported food through the FSMA, according to the FDA. Taylor stated that “food safety is not only the right thing to do, it is good business,” noting “the major disruptions to our economies and to international trade that occur in the wake of major foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls.” Food Safety News says the new law gives the FDA new tools to manage imports, such as the power to create agreements with exporting countries that facilitate inspection and certification of food in the country of origin.

California Judge Dismisses Another Class Action Lawsuit Against Pacemaker Manufacturer

MassDevice reports that Judge Manuel Real of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Guidant Corp., a subsidiary of medical device company Boston Scientific. The plaintiff, who had the “Insignia 1298” pacemaker implanted in 2004, was understandably concerned when he heard in the news that pacemakers like his were failing, explains Drug and Device Law. Rather than waiting or undergoing surgery, he decided to sue Guidant Corp., the manufacturer of the pacemaker. The plaintiff’s complaint in Cohen v. Guidant Corp. was dismissed on grounds of “preemption and want of injury, facts, and particularity.”  According to the judge’s order, the complaint failed to provide factual support showing that there was a specific defect in the pacemaker. The court also stated that fear of future injury, in the absence of an actual manifestation of a defect that results in injury, is not a legally cognizable claim under California law.

Posted On Feb - 27 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Seventh Circuit Denies Moral Rights Protection to Chicago Garden
By Albert Wang – Edited by Matthew Gelfand

Kelley v. Chicago Park District, Nos. 08-3701 and 08-3712 (7th Cir. Feb. 15, 2011)
Slip Opinion

The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the Northern District of Illinois’ judgment in favor of the Chicago Park District on Chapman Kelley’s Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) claim, while reversing the court’s judgment in favor of Kelley on his claim of implied contract.

The Seventh Circuit, while affirming on the VARA claim, rejected the district court’s finding that Kelley’s garden was unoriginal and that VARA categorically excluded site-specific art. The court held that the garden was ineligible for copyright not for want of originality, but of authorship and fixation.  As a work not subject to copyright, the garden was not covered by VARA’s grant of moral rights. In addition, the court attacked the district court’s finding that the garden constituted a painting and sculpture for VARA purposes. In reversing on the contract claim, the circuit court held that the commissioner lacked the power to bind the city through her representations.

IPLawChat provides an overview of the case. Clancco and ArtSlant discuss the decision’s ramifications for concept art at large. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 25 - 2011 4 Comments READ FULL POST

Following Bilski, court upholds validity of patents that meet a “meaningful limits” test
By Irina Oberman – Edited by Avis Bohlen

H&R Block Tax Services, Inc. v. Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, Inc., No. 608cv37 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 2, 2011)
Slip Opinion hosted by 271 Patent Blog

Magistrate Judge Love, sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, reconsidered a previous Report and Recommendation in this case, which recommended invalidating two of the plaintiff’s three asserted patents (the ‘862 and ‘425 patents). Applying the machine-or-transformation test as well as a new “meaningful limits” test, Judge Love modified the recommendation and upheld the validity of the ‘862 patent because the claims applied a “meaningful limit” on the scope of the claims.

JOLT Digest previously reported on the revised recommendation271 Patent Blog offers an overview of the decision highlighting the discussion of the ‘862 patent. Additionally, FreePatentsOnline and Patent Storm provide a helpful overview of the ‘862 patent. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 20 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By A. Gavin Fishman

Marketing Executive Proposes Controversial “.gay” Top-Level Internet Domain

CNET reports that Scott Seitz, chief executive of dotGAY and founder of SPI Marketing, plans to apply to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for approval of the proposed top-level Internet domain “.gay.” Seitz states that “.gay will be a venue for enhancing [the LGBT community’s] ability to interact with each other as a community.” Past efforts to register controversial top-level domains, such as the 2004 application for the rights to run .xxx, have stalled indefinitely in the application process. The Huffington Post reports that the largest obstacle to the application may be the U.S. Government, who “recently proposed that they have the power to veto domains that they believe to be objectionable.” CNET quotes Seitz as stating that this proposal is “problematic, and it’s discrimination on a terrible level. It’s not even appropriate for countries (to have the ability to veto) because of freedom of expression. Anything beyond (restricting speech that) incites violence is discrimination.”

Obama Administration Issues First Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement

This month, the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (“IPEC”) released the 2010 Annual Report on Intellectual Property Enforcement. The report states that “[c]ombating online infringement, protecting health and safety and preventing theft of trade secrets for innovative technology will continue to be a priority,” and that “[o]ne new area of focus for 2011 will be patent enforcement in China and determining what the U.S. Government can do to improve the situation in China for U.S. innovators.”  CNET characterizes the report as “read[ing] a lot like a report that could have been prepared by lobbyists for the recording or movie industry,” noting that it includes various statistics and “proposals to curb internet piracy and other forms of intellectual property infringement.” On the White House Blog, Victoria Espinel, the first person to hold the office of the IPEC, highlights the report’s support of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, as well as the increased law enforcement actions which have taken place over the past year in the sphere of intellectual property.

MPAA sues Hotfile.com for its “staggering” P2P Copyright Infringement

Time, Ars Technica and CNET report that the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”) has filed a complaint against the operators of the “cyberlocker” service Hotfile. CNET explains that “cyberlockers are an alternative to BitTorrent file-sharing services” where “[a] user logs on to a locker service and watches whatever films or TV shows are stored there.” In its press release, the MPAA claims that “Hotfile facilitates the theft of copyrighted motion picture and television properties on a staggering scale and profits handsomely from encouraging and providing the means for massive copyright infringement.” The Hollywood Reporter reports MPAA general counsel and chief content protection officer Daniel Mandil as stating: “The theft taking place on Hotfile is unmistakable. The files are indeed ‘hot’ as in ‘stolen.’ It’s wrong and it must stop.” Ars Technica notes that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions would ordinarily protect the operators of a site like Hotfile from liability for content uploaded by users, but that the MPAA claims that the site encourages infringement and therefore falls outside the safe harbor protections.

Posted On Feb - 19 - 2011 1 Comment READ FULL POST

The Harvard Journal of Law & Technology recently released its Fall 2010 issue, now available online.  Aaron Perzanowski, author of “Unbranding, Confusion, and Deception” has written an abstract of his article for the Digest, presented below.

- The Digest Staff

JOLT Print Preview: Unbranding, Confusion & Deception
Aaron Perzanowski

Unbranding is the practice of eliminating or selectively reducing the use of a brand in response to unfavorable consumer opinion. Faced with the reality of a deeply damaged brand, many firms seek a fresh start. Rather than take steps to repair their public image, they create a new one. Although unbranding threatens to confuse and mislead consumers about the source and characteristics of goods and services, the legal remedies available to consumers to address these harms are limited.

When a brand suffers from strong negative consumer perceptions, it transforms from a valuable asset to a major liability. Just as brands can function as repositories of consumer goodwill, reflecting favorable public sentiment, they can also represent badwill, negative associations in the minds of consumers. Given the expense of jettisoning an established brand and launching a new one, unbranding is generally a rational strategy only when an existing brand is deeply and widely unpopular, perhaps because the firm has produced dangerous products or engaged in illegal activities. Tellingly, BlackwaterPhilip Morris, and WorldComm have all employed unbranding strategies in recent years. (more…)

Posted On Feb - 18 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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