A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Daniel Etcovitch – Edited by Emily Chan

Florida Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Not Equivalent to Money

Illinois Governor Signs Bill Restricting Use of Stingrays

DMCA DRM Circumvention Provision’s Constitutionality Being Challenged

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest

By Yuan Cao – Edited by Frederick Ding

Mere Commercial Benefit Not Enough to Trigger The On-Sale Bar

Technology-Based Software Solution Can Be Patentable 

Patent Disputes about Siri, iTunes, Notification Push, and Location

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Sixth Circuit Finds Privacy Interest in Mugshots under FOIA

By Filippo Raso – Edited by Ariane Moss

A split en banc Sixth Circuit reversed the lower courts’ ruling, holding individuals have a privacy interest in their booking photos for the purposes of Exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. In so doing, the Court overruled Circuit precedent established two decades ago. The case was remanded with instructions to balance the public interests against the individual’s privacy interest.

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The EFF Challenges the DMCA Anti-Circumvention Provision: A First Amendment Fight

By Priyanka Nawathe – Edited by Kayla Haran

On July 21, 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the United States government to overturn DMCA Section 1201, commonly referred to as the anti-circumvention provision. The EFF argues that this provision, designed to prevent circumvention of “technological protection measures,” actually chills research and free speech, and thus is a violation of the First Amendment.

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By Jaehwan Park – Edited by Kayla Haran

Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Bill Encouraging U.S. Government Agencies to Use the Cloud as a Secure Alternative to Legacy Systems

Snapchat Accused of Violating Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Announces New Policy Group to Promote Global Digital Trade

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NLRBBy Bhargav Srinivasan – Edited by Henry Thomas

On October 21, 2015, in Triple Play v. National Labor Relations Board, the Second Circuit affirmed a 2014 National Labor Relations Board ruling that Triple Play Sports Bar violated the National Labor Relations Act when it discharged two employees for liking and commenting on a critical Facebook status.

The case involved two employees of the Triple Play Sports bar, Vincent Spinella and Jillian Sanzone who had been fired for their online conduct. A third employee had published a post on Facebook stating: “Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf!!!!” Spinella acted first when he “liked” that post. Next, Sanzone commented “I owe too. Such an asshole.” These actions were among the later responses in a chain of comments involving the former employee, other current employees, and Facebook friends – at least one of whom was a customer of the sports bar.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees the right “to engage in other concerted activity for the purpose of… mutual aid or protection.” An administrative law judge with the NLRB determined that liking and commenting on the original employee’s Facebook post met the definition of concerted activity.  That protection, however, is lost if the activity is sufficiently disloyal.  The Supreme Court, in Labor Board v. Electrical Workers (Jefferson Standard), held that activity was sufficiently disloyal when it was disconnected from any ongoing labor dispute.  That test was used by the NLRB to conclude that Spinalla and Sanzone’s activity was protected.

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Posted On Nov - 17 - 2015 Comments Off READ FULL POST

UnknownBy Suyoung Jang – Edited by Ken Winterbottom

SEC approves crowdfunding of startups

On October 30, in a 3-1 decision, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules allowing the crowdfunding of start-up companies over the internet. Prior to the new rules, companies could only seek funds from accredited investors with a net worth of at least $1 million, excluding the value of their homes, or annual income of more than $200,000. The approved rules allow investors with annual income or net worth of less than $100,000 to contribute $2,000 or five percent of their net worth, whichever is greater. Those with higher incomes can invest up to ten percent of their net worth, but they are limited to $100,000 in all crowdfunding offerings during a 12-month period. While the new rules were implemented to spur job growth, some critics warn investors of unsound investments and fraud.

Bill introduced to criminalize warrantless use of “stingrays”

On November 2, Representative Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah introduced the Cell-Site Simulator Act seeking to limit the warrantless use of stingrays. Stingrays are cellular phone surveillance devices that mimic wireless carrier cell towers to connect to all nearby phones and capture location data and in some cases calls and text messages. The controversial device came into spotlight after the IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted last week that his agency uses stingrays in some investigations. The bill requires agents to acquire warrants before using stingrays, and provides for fines and up to ten years in prison for violations of its prescriptions. Exceptions exist for emergencies that involve “immediate danger of death,” national security, and those that fall under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The full text of the bill is available here.

Newly introduced bill forces UK ISPs to keep a record of Web browsing history for a year

On November 4, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, introduced a draft piece of legislation known as the Investigatory Powers Bill. The proposed bill, which is the successor to a statute that the British High Court struck down last year, requires Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hold a record of Web browsing history for a year. However, it will only record the Internet services a device has connected to, not the details of the individual webpages visited. To balance the heightened surveillance power it grants, the bill implements a “double lock” warrant authorization process whereby a request for emergency authorization by the Home Secretary is subject to judicial review. In addition to its browsing history provisions, the bill creates a new criminal offense with a two-year prison sentence for abuse of communications data by public authorities.

Posted On Nov - 17 - 2015 Comments Off READ FULL POST

SenateBy Sheri Pan – Edited by Cristina Carapezza

S. 2044 – The Consumer Review Freedom Act

The text of the bill is available here.

S.2044 on Govtrack.us.

On September 16, 2015, the Senate introduced the Consumer Review Freedom Act (CRFA) of 2015. The bill was originally introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD).  On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing to discuss the bill.

CRFA voids any form contract provision that prohibits or penalizes individuals for creating reviews, or transfers the intellectual property rights of reviews to the vendor.  It covers written, verbal, or pictorial reviews, performance assessments, and analyses of products, services, or conduct.  The bill protects against only standardized contracts that the individual did not have a meaningful opportunity to negotiate.  The Federal Trade Commission and state attorney generals can bring civil actions to enforce the bill.  CRFA does not provide for private individuals to bring causes of action.

The bill provides several exceptions.  It allows terms that restrict disclosure of trade secrets, privileged information, confidential information, or personnel, medical, and law enforcement records that implicate personal privacy.  It also does not affect duties of confidentiality or defamation, libel, or slander lawsuits. (more…)

Posted On Nov - 17 - 2015 Comments Off READ FULL POST

UnknownBy Matthew P. Ponsford

Edited by Ann Kristin Glenster and Cristina Carapezza

Introduction

Bitcoin, also known as a decentralized virtual currency (DVC),[1] is regulated differently in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Canada, and the United States, and represents a vastly underdeveloped area of the law. No country has currently backed Bitcoin. Launched in 2009, and founded by Satoshi Nakamoto,[2] Bitcoin is a “decentralized peer-to-peer currency.”[3] Other virtual currencies include Litecoin, Namecoin, Auroracoin, Peercoin, and Dogecoin – about 500 varieties in total – but research here will primarily focus on Bitcoin.[4] A comparative analysis will help discern how these respective countries classify Bitcoin (e.g., a virtual object, currency, or potential security), and how these jurisdictions regulate, or intend to regulate, DVCs. Bitcoin is identified as a “currency,” throughout the paper, but the classification is heavily contested. Questions for analyses include: are there appropriate existing legal frameworks to regulate Bitcoin? What securities regulation challenges does Bitcoin pose? What are the consumer and investor protection concerns associated with Bitcoin compared to traditional financial exchanges? What are the cross-jurisdictional challenges of virtual currency transactions that operate over the Internet (e.g., money laundering, or fraudulent activities)? Research herein incorporates securities commission reports, social and political commentary from secondary sources, and relevant jurisprudence and legislation. The paper helps situate the current climate of Bitcoin globally, and assesses how its regulation differs relative to technological, economic, social, financial, and political forces.

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Posted On Nov - 14 - 2015 1 Comment READ FULL POST

UnknownBy David Nathaniel Tan – Edited by Ken Winterbottom

Patent Holders’ Choice of Forum Under Siege

The 1990 Federal Circuit decision in VE Holding v. Johnson Gas revolutionized patent litigation by relaxing restrictions on venue for patent cases. For over a decade, the Eastern District of Texas has heard a disproportionate amount of patent cases primarily for the reason that it tends to favor plaintiffs in infringement suits. However, a company called TC Heartland may shatter that status quo: they have petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to nullify VE Holding. Although TC Heartland’s case does not involve the Eastern District of Texas, a ruling in favor of TC Heartland would put limits on “forum shopping” for patent cases. Public interest groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed an amicus brief supporting TC Heartland. Ars Technica provides further commentary.

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Posted On Nov - 11 - 2015 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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