A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules on Protecting and Promoting Open Internet

By Shuli Wang – Edited by Yaping Zhang

Two weeks after voting on regulating broadband Internet service as a public utility, on March 12, the Federal Communications Commission (”FCC”) released a document (the FCC Order and Rules) on net neutrality, which reclassifies high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information service, thus subjecting Internet service providers (ISPs) as common carrier to regulations under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The purpose of the new rules is to ensure the free flow of bits through the web without paid-for priority lanes and blocking or throttling of any web content.

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White House releases administration discussion draft for Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015

By Lan Du – Edited by Katherine Kwong

On February 27, 2015, President Obama released an administration draft of a proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act. The proposed bill’s stated purpose is to “establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena and to foster timely, flexible implementations of these protections through enforceable codes of conduct developed by diverse stakeholders.”

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Patrick Gallagher

Federal Circuit Affirms Denial of AT&T Motion to Extend or Re-open Filing Period for Appeal in Patent Infringement Suit

In Patent Suit Against Apple, Federal Circuit Affirms in Part, Reverses in Part

Federal Circuit Reverses DNA Sequencing Technology Patent Construction

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Wikimedia Sues NSA for Upstream Surveillance

By Paulius Jurcys – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

Wikimedia Foundation filed a suit against the NSA challenging the constitutionality of upstream surveillance programs, which allow the NSA to communicate by Americans and persons abroad. The claim, which was joined by eight other human rights organizations, challenges NSA’s actions as violations of the First and Fourth Amendments of the US Constitution.

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Florida Considers a Bill Outlawing Anonymous Websites

By Paulius Jurcys – Edited by Anton Ziajka

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill, the “True Origin of Digital Goods Act,”  that would require owners and operators of websites that disseminate “commercial” recordings or audiovisual works to prominently disclose their true names, physical addresses, and telephone numbers or email addresses on the websites. The bill extends to all websites that deal “in substantial part” in disseminating such recordings or audiovisual works, “directly or indirectly,” to Florida consumers.

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By Kathleen McGuinness

Two contested patent terms upheld as means-plus-function

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Robert Bosch, LLC v. Snap-On Inc., 2014-1040 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 14, 2014) affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan that two contested patent terms were means-plus-function terms under section 112, paragraph 6. However, the Federal Circuit held that the district court was wrong to apply the presumption of a means-plus-function claim based on the language. Although the contested claim included references to functions performed “by means of the program recognition device,” the court held that the presumption of a means-plus-function claim is limited to situations in which the claim uses the word “means…as a noun in the claim,” and that this presumption did not extend to the phrase “by means of.” However, because each disputed term lacked sufficiently definite structure, this error was harmless; both terms constituted means-plus-function limitations, and were invalid as indefinite.

Judgment of damages sufficient to render plaintiff a prevailing party for fee awards

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed in SSL Services, LLC, v. Citrix Systems, Inc., 2013-1419 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 14, 2014) the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas’s denial of various findings of non-infringement. However, the court vacated the district court’s denial of prevailing party status, finding that SSL was the prevailing party. First, the court noted that the general verdict rule—the rule providing that “where one or more of multiple claims is found legally invalid, a reviewing court must reverse and order a new trial if they are unable to determine whether the invalid theory tainted the verdict”—applies “with the same force in patent cases as it does in all other cases.” However, prejudice will not be presumed from the fact that the verdict makes it impossible to determine the specific limitation that the jury found non-infringed; the burden of establishing a threat of a tainted or improper verdict rests on the party challenging the verdict. Second, because one patent was found non-infringed and the second was found willfully infringed, the district court held that neither party was the prevailing party for the purpose of eligibility for fee awards. The Federal Circuit reversed: even where a plaintiff does not prevail on all of its infringement claims, a judgment of damages is sufficient to make the plaintiff the “prevailing party” for the purpose of fee awards, although it does not automatically entitle it to fees.

Posted On Oct - 16 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

Demand Letter to Google, Inc.

Celebrities impacted by the theft and distribution of personal images stored on Apple’s iCloud service may soon head to court seeking damages from Google for continued copyright infringement and privacy violations.

On October 1st, Martin Singer of California entertainment litigation firm Lavely & Singer issued a demand letter to Google on behalf of “over a dozen female celebrities, actresses, models and athletes,” alleging that the internet giant dragged its feet halting the spread of the stolen images. Demand Letter at 1. In the letter addressed to Google founder Larry Page and other top executives, Google is accused of failing to remove the private pictures pursuant to the requirements of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and threatened with a lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages that could reach over $100,000,000 unless the offending content is promptly taken down. Id

The images at issue are at the center of the 2014 celebrity photo hacking scandal. In late August, over one hundred stolen personal pictures of mostly female celebrities were posted to imageboard 4chan and later circulated through websites like Reddit. The pictures, which depict big name stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, were acquired illegally through suspected attacks on Apple’s iCloud service. 

Title II of the DMCA, also known as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (“OCILLA”), provides “safe harbor” for internet service providers (“ISPs”) like Google against liability for copyright infringing materials shared over their systems or networks if, upon notice of the unlawful content, the ISP “acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material.” OCCIA, 17 U.S.C 101, § 512 (c)(1)(C) (1998). 

The demand letter alleges that since the private images were first released in late August, websites and ISPs including Google were issued notices demanding the removal of the images pursuant to the requirements of the DMCA. Demand Letter at 12. While the majority of the requests were fulfilled, some within hours, Google has purportedly continued to allow access to the images on Google owned sites like BlogSpot and YouTube, as well as through search results, for more than four weeks. Id. The letter also highlighted that Google’s YouTube counsel and compliance department have refused to remove the images at issue that are uploaded to YouTube through the expedited content verification process that would enable instant removal of such images. Id. at 2. 

The demand letter points to Google’s slogan “Don’t be evil” and its alleged commitment to “doing the right thing . . . following the law, acting honorably and treating each other with respect” as contradictory to the company’s inaction in the face of rampant copyright infringement and privacy violations. Id. Comparing Google’s conduct to another prominent headline from recent months, the letter asserts that “(l)ike the NFL, which turned a blind eye while its players assaulted and victimized women and children, Google has turned a blind eye while its sites repeatedly exploit and victimize these women.” Id. at 3. 

After outlining Google’s alleged misconduct, the letter concludes by demanding that Google remove the stolen images from all of its hosted sites and accounts; suspend or terminate any hosted sites or accounts that uploaded, displayed, linked to, or invited the submission of the stolen images; and remove all Google search results for the images. Id. at 3. If Google fails to comply, it may face a high-profile lawsuit on behalf of the female celebrities.

Additional commentary on the potential litigation against Google is available from Law 360, Ars Technica, and The Wall Street Journal.

Amanda Liverzani is a 2L at the Harvard Law School.

Posted On Oct - 16 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Travis West

Apple announced that it could no longer access information stored on devices with the iOS 8 system. This means that if law enforcement came to Apple with a seized device and a valid warrant, Apple would be technically incapable of accessing the data. According to a statement in Apple’s privacy policy:

“On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

iOS 8 introduced default encryption and data protection. “By setting up a device passcode, the user automatically enables Data Protection. . . . The passcode is entangled with the device’s UID, so brute-force attempts must be performed on the device under attack. A large iteration count is used to make each attempt slower. The iteration count is calibrated so that one attempt takes approximately 80 milliseconds. This means it would take more than 5½ years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.” iOS Security Guide September 2014, at 11.

Google announced that its next mobile operating system, Android L, will join iOS 8 in offering default encryption.

Ars Technica provides an overview of Apple’s iOS 8 privacy policy and summarizes the favorable views from privacy advocates. According to the report, Nicole Ozer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, called the privacy upgrade “long overdue.” Catherine Crump, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that it was “heartening to see a major American company conclude that it’s a business advantage to protect its users’ privacy and security.” The Cato Institute also applauds Apple’s new policy, explaining that many concerns over closing the backdoor to law enforcement are unwarranted. For example, encryption has stymied law enforcement investigations less often than people might think.

(more…)

Posted On Oct - 16 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Paulius Jurcys

CJEU Grants “Causal Event” Jurisdiction for Online Copyright Infringement

Cruz Villalón, Advocate General (“AG”) of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”), delivered his Opinion in Pez Hejduk v. EnergieAgentur.NRW GmbH, which dealt with the interpretation of Art. 5(3) of the Brussels I Regulation and the question of jurisdiction over copyright infringements. In that case, Hejduk, an Austrian photographer, sued a German corporation for unauthorized publication of her photographs online. The German defendant contested jurisdiction, arguing that the case should have been brought before a German court. It pointed out that its place of establishment was in Germany and that its website used “.de” domain. Villalón discussed recent cases such as eDate (victim’s “centre of interests” approach) and Pinckney (localization of damage), and proposed to confer jurisdiction to the courts of the state in which the “causal event” occurred. Making content available online may cause damage in those states in which copyright is protected, but given the general/special jurisdiction dichotomy under the Brussels I Regulation (Arts. 2 and 5(3)), it remains for the Court to clarify whether ‘causal event’ jurisdiction is not too narrow for online copyright infringement cases under Art. 5(3).

Creators of the Blue-LED Technology Receive Nobel Prize

On October 7th, 2014, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced its decision to award the Nobel Prize in Physics to three Japanese scientists for inventing energy-saving LED lights, which “triggered a fundamental transformation of lighting technology.” One of the inventors, Shuji Nakamura, had sued his former employer, Nichia Corporation, four years ago after Nichia gave him an award of $200 for his invention. The meager compensation reflected the long-held notion in Japanese culture that employees should sacrifice for their companies. Nakamura’s battle with Nichia and settlement for $8 million was an important turning point for strengthening employees’ rights as well as for motivating workers  to design innovative products.

California Enacts Open Access Legislation

California has become one of the first jurisdictions to enact Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act on September 29, 2014. Prior to enactment, state agencies and departments were only required to share the results of research conducted by state employees. The new law further requires the recipient of state funding to provide public access to any publication, invention or technology on a government-approved and freely accessible database.

Posted On Oct - 14 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

pic01By: Chris Crawford and Joshua Vittor

This article assumes a base level of knowledge about Bitcoin, bitcoin (BTC), blockchain technology, the Silk Road seizure, and the collapse of MtGox. For a helpful summary of how this technology works, see the first portion of this articlewritten by Matthew Ly of the Journal of Law and Technology.

Bitcoin, and crypto-currency more generally, has risen in the five years since its launch from an academic exercise to what is today a multi-billion dollar system of transacting wealth. Its signature technology is the blockchain, a nearly incorruptible public ledger that replaces many functions traditionally left to trusted intermediaries, such as transaction verification. These trusted intermediaries, like banks and wire transmitters, are highly regulated under our current legal system. The threat of government enforcement or private litigation is meant to ensure that they operate fairly and legally and to provide relief for victims when the intermediaries breach those victims’ trusts.

Bitcoin enthusiasts, however, emphasize that trusted intermediaries often do not operate fairly or legally (e.g. they run off with the money), and that the legal system’s reactive nature is an insufficient deterrent against malpractice and wrongdoing. Blockchain technology, some claim, has the potential to ensure proper transactions in a way that the traditional legal system has never been capable of. With blockchains, so the argument goes, there will be no need for a legal system (including government regulations) to guarantee the success of a transaction because there will be no need for trusted intermediaries to complete a transaction. (more…)

Posted On Sep - 10 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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