A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Whack-a-troll Legislation

Written by Asher Lowenstein     —   Edited by Yaping Zhang

Patent assertion entities’ extensive litigation activities in different states enables to assess the efficacy of the proposed bills against legal strategies these trolls, such as MPHJ Technology, have engaged in. The legal battles confirm some of the concerns about the usefulness of proposed regulatory measures.

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3D Systems and Formlabs Settled Two-Year Patent Dispute

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Yaping Zhang

On December 1, 3D Systems and Formlabs settled their two-year legal dispute over the 520 Patent infringement. Terms of the settlement are undisclosed. The patent covered different parts of the stereolithographic three-dimensional printing process, which uses a laser to cure liquid plastic. 3D Systems was granted the ‘520 Patent in 1997. Formlabs views the settlement as enabling it to continue its expansion and keep developing new products.

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Privacy Concerns in the Sharing Economy: The Case of Uber 

By Sabreena Khalid – Edited by Insue Kim

Recent revelations about Uber’s disconcerting use of personal user information have exposed the numerous weaknesses in Uber’s Privacy Policy. The lack of regulation in the area, coupled with the sensitive nature of personal information gathered by Uber, makes the issue one requiring immediate attention of policy makers.

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San Francisco Court Considers Google’s Search and Ad Services Free Speech

By Jens Frankenreiter – Edited by Henry Thomas

A San Francisco court dismissed a lawsuit against Google, treating Google’s search and advertisement services as constitutionally protected free speech. The lawsuit alleged an antitrust violation based on unfavorable treatment of a website in Google’s search results, and on the withdrawal of third-party advertisement from the website. In throwing out the lawsuit, the court applied California’s “anti-SLAPP” law, which allows quick dismissal of lawsuits against acts protected as free speech.

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EU Unitary Patent System Challenge Unsustainable: Advocate General

By Saukshmya Trichi – Edited by Ashish Bakshi

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has rendered an opinion on Spain’s challenges to regulations implementing the European Unitary Patent System. The Advocate General opines that the challenges must be dismissed as the system is intended to provide genuine benefit in terms of uniformity and integration, and safeguard the principle of legal certainty, while the choice of languages reduces translation costs considerably.

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By Chinh Vo

Supreme Court to Decide on Law Regulating Sale of Violent Video Games to Kids

Wired reports that the Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether states may forbid the sale or rental of violent video games to children. The Court will review a ruling by the Ninth Circuit that struck down a California law, imposing fines for selling “patently offensive” or “morbid” games to people under the age of 18, on First Amendment grounds. Similar laws have been overturned in other states, including Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Oklahoma. According to the New York Times, the decision to hear the case — despite general agreement among lower courts — suggests that some justices intend to reexamine how the First Amendment applies to depictions of violence.

Senators Attack New Facebook Features on Privacy Grounds

TechCrunch and Ars Technica report that a group of four U.S. senators is calling on Facebook to change its privacy policies following the popular social networking site’s launch of major new features last week. Democrats Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Michael Bennet, and Mark Begich, in an open letter to Facebook, warned that the Federal Trade Commission may get involved if the company does not take “swift and productive steps” to protect the privacy of user information. Their primary concerns were the “expansion of publicly available data” that users must opt out of sharing and third-party advertisers’ ability to store user profile data indefinitely. These features, according to the senators, create a “potential gold mine of data for unsolicited advertisements.” The senators also asked the FTC to provide guidelines for the use of private information by social networking sites.

Court Orders Aspiring News Blogger to Reveal Sources

A New Jersey appellate court ruled that a blogger must disclose the sources behind online statements she posted, Wired reports. Shellee Hale was sued for defamation after accusing software company Too Much Media of fraudulent acts against its customers. The statements at issue were not posted on Hale’s own blog, but rather in the comments section of a message board. The appellate court was not convinced by Hale’s defense utilizing a New Jersey shield law, protecting reporters from being forced to reveal their sources, because Hale is not a journalist. The court stated there was no evidence demonstrating conduct consistent with professional news reporting that would warrant application of the newsperson’s privilege. Hale produced no records of her interviews and did not identify herself as a journalist to sources. The court emphasized that “new media should not be confused with news media.”

Posted On Apr - 30 - 2010 Comments Off READ FULL POST

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
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Whack-a-troll Legisl

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