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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Olga Slobodyanyuk

ICANN responds to terrorism victims by claiming domain names are not property

D.C. District Court rules that FOIA requests apply to officials’ personal email accounts

Class-action lawsuit brought against ExamSoft  in Illinois

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Federal Circuit Applies Alice to Deny Subject Matter Eligibility of Digital Imaging Patent

By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

In Digitech Image Technologies, the Federal Circuit embraced the opportunity to apply the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice to resolve a question of subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. §101. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment on appeal, invalidating Digitech’s patent claims because they were directed to intangible information and abstract ideas.

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Unlocking Cell Phones Made Legal through Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Insue Kim

Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows consumers to unlock their cell phones when changing service providers, but the underlying issue of “circumvention” may have broader implications for other consumer devices and industries that increasingly rely on software.

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SDNY Magistrate Grants Government Search Warrant for Full Access to Suspect’s Gmail Account in Criminal Investigation

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Travis West

In an opinion that conflicts with decisions from the DC District Court and the District of Kansas, a SDNY magistrate granted the government’s search warrant for full access to a criminal investigation suspect’s Gmail account.

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Creating full-text searchable database of copyrighted works is “fair use”
By Yixuan Long- Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

In a unanimous opinion delivered by Judge Parker, the Second Circuit held that under the fair use doctrine universities and research libraries are allowed to create full‐text searchable databases of copyrighted works and provide such works in formats accessible to those with disabilities. The court also decided that the evidence was insufficient to decide whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring a claim regarding storage of digital copies for preservation purposes.

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Pennsylvania District Court Dismisses Boring v. Google, Inc.
By Aaron Dulles – Edited by Jay Gill

Boring v. Google, Inc.
Western District of Pennsylvania, February 17, 2009, No. 08-694
District Court Memorandum Opinion

A magistrate judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissed all claims by Aaron and Christine Boring against Google for photographs taken of the Borings’ house and pool for use in the Street View feature of Google Maps. The Borings had filed suit in April 2008 after discovering pictures of their house on Google’s Street View. They noticed that the pictures were taken from their unpaved driveway, which had allegedly been marked with signs reading “Private Road” and “No Trespassing.”

Law.com cites EFF lawyer Kevin Bankston as stating that Google might, in some cases, be held liable for the actions of their Street View photographers. Calling the lawsuit silly, blogger Eric Goldman was nonetheless concerned that the magistrate judge appeared to punish the Borings for bringing increased attention to themselves by filing suit publicly. InformationWeek discussed the judge’s reasoning, reporting that the Borings had not used Google’s own opt-out procedure before filing suit. PlexLex notes that a side effect of the lawsuit is that news agencies’ use of the photos of the Borings’ property has been rendered more permissible as fair use of copyrighted material.

The Pittsburgh Metblogs raises the question of why Google is under fire in light of the amount of publicly available information on the Allegheny County website, and CNET News notes that Google has been under criticized for their Street View photography before.

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Posted On Feb - 25 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Motion to Keep Secret the Identities of Alleged Copyright Infringers Denied: State University of New York at Albany Forced to Reveal Students’ Identities
By Tyler Lacey – Edited by Jay Gill

Arista Records LLC v. Does 1-16
N.D.N.Y., February 18, 2009,
No. 1:08-CV-765
Order

On February 18, 2009, United States Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece of the Northern District of New York denied a motion to quash a subpoena that would force the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA) to reveal the identities of 16 students (“Doe Defendants”) alleged to have illegally shared music files.

The defendants raised four claims: “(1) the Subpoena is an infringement of their First Amendment Rights, (2) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them, (3) the Complaint fails to state a cause of action; and, (4) the joinder of all Doe Defendants into this single action is improper.” The court ruled against the students on all four of these arguments. The court dismissed the students’ First Amendment claim to the right to privacy by declaring that the “modest First Amendment right to remain anonymous when there is an allegation of copyright infringement” must be balanced against a “copyright owner’s right to disclosure of the identity of a possible trespasser of its intellectual property interest,” and found that in this case the balance weighed on the side of disclosure. The court found the students’ personal jurisdiction and joinder challenges unpersuasive, as their merits cannot be properly determined while identities of the defendants had not yet been disclosed. It similarly denied the claim that the complaint failed to state a cause of action, holding that this claim is essentially a 12(b)(6) motion. Such a motion, the court reasoned, is procedurally improper at this point, as no complaint has been officially served on the Doe Defendants.

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Posted On Feb - 23 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Non-Precedential ‘Win’ for Record Labels: 9th Circuit Denies Attorney’s Fees for Voluntarily Dismisse Defendant
By Sharona Hakimi – Edited by Aaron Dulles

Interscope Records v. Leadbetter, February 6, 2009,  No. 07-3582
Court of Appeals Ruling
District Court Ruling

On February 6, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of a W.D. Washington District Court denying defendant Dawnell Leadbetter’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs. In December of 2006 a group of recording companies voluntarily dismissed their claims against Leadbetter in an online file-sharing copyright infringement suit. Leadbetter subsequently sought attorney’s fees, which the court denied on the grounds that Leadbetter was not a “prevailing party.”

The Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 505, provides that a prevailing party may be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees in a copyright action. However, because the claims against Leadbetter were voluntarily dismissed without prejudice, the Court of Appeals found that she was not entitled to attorney’s fees. The district court and appellate court both looked to the standard established in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598 (2001), that a “prevailing party” is one who has received judgment on the merits or “settlement agreements enforced through a consent decree.” The district court reasoned that because the record companies claims were dismissed without prejudice, Leadbetter could not be considered a “prevailing party.”

The EFF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Leadbetter’s motion for attorney’s fees. In their brief, they argued that these record labels, which are all members of the RIAA, are participants to a larger campaign that has “entangled innocent internet users in its litigation dragnet.” By awarding attorney’s fees in this case, the EEF stated the court would help “balance the overall equities in the RIAA’s nationwide campaign.”  The EEF contends that if individuals like Dawnell Leadbetter have to pay out of pocket for her fees, future innocent litigants will not stand up to the recording industry.  Instead, the EEF believes the public will “suffer under the misperception that such misguided theories are, in fact, the law.”

Though triggering a flurry of postings by anti-RIAA bloggers, this case is in fact non-precedential and unpublished. It is unclear if this decision will play any role of actual significance in future online copyright infringement actions. Even so, according to Ben Schaffer of Copyright and Campaigns, this case gave a “significant procedural victory to the recording industry,” sending a “message to defendants in such p2p cases that they should be forthcoming with information about infringing activity on their ISP accounts early in litigation.”
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Posted On Feb - 14 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit, in a 2-1 Decision, Affirms Nonobviousness Determination in Medical Supply Case; Split Highlights Difficulty of Claim Construction
By Chris Kulawik –- Edited by Stephanie Weiner

Kinetic Concepts, Inc. v. Blue Sky Medical Group, Inc.
Federal Circuit, February 2, 2009, Nos. 07-1340, 07-1341, & 07-1342
Slip Opinion

In a 2-1 split, the Federal Circuit affirmed a nonobviousness determination in a contentious dispute between medical technology companies. The case turned on the construction of the claim term “treating a wound” – specifically, the meaning and scope of “wound.”  The majority adopted the Plaintiff-Cross Appellants’ definition of “wound” as meaning only surface tissue damage, rejecting the Defendant-Appellants’ argument that the “plain and ordinary meaning” of the term would include some kinds of internal damage.  Judge Dyk dissented because he would have interpreted the term more broadly.

PatentlyO provides a brief recap, noting that this case highlights how unpredictable claim construction, which is required in nearly every patent case, can be.

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Posted On Feb - 8 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Ninth Circuit Denies Rehearing En Banc in Quon v. Arch Wireless Text Message Privacy Case
By Debbie Rosenbaum — Edited by Christina Hayes

Quon v. Arch Wireless Operating Co.
Ninth Circuit, No. 07-55282
Order denying rehearing en banc
Opinion concurring in denial of rehearing en banc
Opinion dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc

On January 27, 2009, the Ninth Circuit denied rehearing en banc in Quon v. Arch Wireless, a case decided by a Ninth Circuit panel in June of 2008.  The Ninth Circuit panel held that the City of Ontario, California violated the Fourth Amendment when Ontario Police Department officials audited text messages sent by a department employee. The court also held that Arch Wireless, the city’s service provider, had violated the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2701-2711, when it disclosed messages to individuals who were not the addressees or intended recipients.

Shaun Martin of the California Appellate Report investigates the politics of the concurring and dissenting opinions.  Martin points out that despite the similarities between Judges Wardlaw and Ikuta (both judges are UCLA Law School graduates, well-recognized women in Southern California, and both practiced for the firm of O’Melveny & Myers), the conflict evident in their opinions amounts to a series of “dueling bench slaps extraordinarie.”

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Posted On Jan - 31 - 2009 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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