A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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ITC’s review of an ALJ’s order was not procedurally sound
By Mengyi Wang – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit unanimously vacated and remanded a decision of the International Trade Commission (“ITC”), finding that the ITC exceeded its authority in reviewing an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) order denying a motion for termination. In so holding, the Court rejected the ITC’s attempt to characterize the ALJ’s decision as an initial determination, which would be subject to review.

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Facebook’s experiment of emotional contagion raises concerns
By Jenny Choi – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

On June 17, 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study in which Facebook reduced positive and negative posts on News Feeds to observe any changes in the participants’ posts to test whether emotional states are contagious through verbal expressions. Many have criticized Facebook for the experiment,  finding that Facebook has deceived its users, violated past Consent Orders, and stretched the users’ terms of service agreements too far.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Ken Winterbottom

Access to nude photos is a ‘perk’ of working at the NSA, Snowden says

Record label slams YouTube star with copyright infringement suit

Study shows women are still underrepresented among technology leaders

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SDNY Holds Bitcoins Fall Under Purview of Federal Money Laundering Statute

By Amanda Liverzani  Edited by Mengyi Wang

The debate surrounding the legal status of Bitcoins continued to heat up, as the Southern District of New York weighed in on whether the virtual currency could be used to launder money under 18 U.S.C. §1956(h). In a July 9, 2014 opinion penned by Judge Forrest in United States v. Ulbricht, the court held that exchanges involving Bitcoins constitute “financial transactions” for purposes of the money laundering statute, noting that “[a]ny other reading would—in light of Bitcoins’ sole raison d’etre—be nonsensical.”

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Aereo Struggles as Supreme Court Finds It Violated Copyright Law
By Jenny Choi – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

On June 25, 2014, in its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Aereo, Inc.  The U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo violated the Copyright Act of 1976 for streaming TV shows shortly after they were broadcast without paying for the copyrighted works.  As a result, Aereo suspended its service and has struggled to find a way to re-operate its business. This decision has not come without criticism, however, as some warn this ad hoc decision could lead to uncertainty in the courts.

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Lori Drew Convicted on Three Misdemeanor Counts of Violating MySpace Terms of Service in “Cyberbullying” Case
By Brian Kozlowski – Edited By Stephanie Weiner
United States v. Drew, 08-CR-582

A federal jury convicted Lori Drew on November 26th on three of four misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (”CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, for violating the MySpace terms of service. Drew was acquitted of three felony counts of accessing computers without authorization to inflict emotional harm under the same act. The case has raised widespread objection to the use of criminal liability for violating website terms of service.

The case revolves around the 2006 suicide of 13-year-old Megan Meier following an argument she had on MySpace with “Josh Evans,” a fictional 16-year-old boy whose profile was created under the supervision of Lori Drew. During the 28 days that the account was active, “Josh” established an online relationship with Meier that ended with harsh words and the involvement of other MySpace users. Creation of the fictional account using false information was a violation of the MySpace terms of service, which served as the basis for the computer fraud charges. The prosecution argued, and the jury found, that Drew’s subsequent visits to the MySpace site, in violation of the terms of service, were “unauthorized access” under the terms of the CFAA. Critics point out that this is a very creative use of the CFAA, which is typically used to target hacking and trademark theft. This is the first time it has been used in this fashion.

The New York Times describes the trial outcome, building on an earlier piece from 2007 that gives more factual background on the events. Court documents for the case are hosted on Citizen Media Law Project. (more…)

Posted On Dec - 4 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

Judge Quashes Recording Industry Subpoena Seeking the Identities of Three Boston University “John Does”
By Jamie Wicks – Edited by Jon Choate

London-Sire Records, Inc. v. Does 1-4
D. Mass., No. 1:04-cv-12434
Court Order (hosted by Ray Beckerman)

On November 24th, Judge Nancy Gertner of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts rebuffed an attempt by major recording industry companies to force a university to reveal the identity of individuals who shared music through online peer-to-peer networks. Judge Gertner quashed a subpoena in London-Sire Records v. Does 1-4, a copyright infringement case in which the plaintiffs had served subpoenas on a number of internet service providers, largely colleges and universities, requiring them to divulge individual users’ identities based on their IP addresses.

Boston University wrote a letter to the court on September 23, 2008, stating that it could not positively identify three of the IP address users.  Judge Gertner treated the letter as a motion to quash the subpoena, and found that “the University has adequately demonstrated that it is not able to identify the alleged infringers with a reasonable degree of technical certainty.”  In quashing the subpoena, she expressed concern that “compliance with the subpoena . . . would expose innocent parties to intrusive discovery.”

The court’s order to quash the subpoena is available here.  Jacqui Cheng of Ars Technica provides background on the case. One Slashdot contributor notes that the order will provide a lesson to University IT departments served with similar subpoenas: if they are simply honest about the difficulty of identifying IP address users, the subpoenas may be quashed.  A P2PNet commenter suggests the order may “represent a death knell” to the music industry’s attempt to use universities as “copyright cops.”  A Chronicle of Higher Education writer wonders if the holding signifies that IP addresses might no longer be legally synonymous with personal identities.
(more…)

Posted On Nov - 29 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Alleged “Coupon Hacker” and Coupons, Inc. Settle DMCA Suit [UPDATED]

By Chris Kulawik — Edited by Jon Choate

Coupons, Inc. v. Stottlemire
N.D. Cal., No. CV 07-03457 HRL
Court Documents (hosted by Justia)

Last week, Coupons, Inc. (“Coupons”), settled its DMCA suit against John Stottlemire, who had defended himself pro se. The parties have not fully disclosed the details of the settlement, but Stottlemire indicates that the case was dismissed with prejudice. The agreement follows a year’s worth of litigation in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Note:
Since the writing of this post, Coupons, claiming that Stottlemire breached material terms of the parties’ settlement agreement, has resumed litigation.  Stottlemire, in a motion filed with the court, claims that Coupons is mistaken in its belief that he has breached the confidentiality term of the settlement.

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Posted On Nov - 28 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

District Court Halts Sales of Keylogger Software
By Jim Milkey – Edited by Nicola Carah
FTC v. CyberSpy Software, LLC, November 6, 2008, 6:08-cv-1872
Court Documents

[Correction: Originally, this post erroneously indicated Judge Presnell upheld the TRO described below in a November 17th hearing.  In actuality, the TRO was granted on November 6th, and a hearing on the matter occurred on November 24th. The preliminary injunction order resulting from the Nov. 24th hearing is detailed in our case update.]

On November 6th, Judge Gregory Presnell of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida granted the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting the sale of CyberSpy Software’s RemoteSpy keylogger software.

The order prohibits CyberSpy from marketing, selling, and providing support for its RemoteSpy software. RemoteSpy is designed to remotely monitor a host computer and record information such as keystrokes, visited websites, and opened documents.  According to the FTC’s press release, CyberSpy allegedly violated Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a), which prohibits unfair or deceptive trade practices.  Specifically, the FTC alleges that CyberSpy violated the Act by marketing and selling “software that could be: (1) deployed remotely by someone other than the owner or authorized user of a computer; (2) installed without the knowledge and consent of the owner or authorized user; and (3) used to surreptitiously collect and disclose personal information.” The complaint also alleges that CyberSpy unfairly disclosed the collected information to its clients. Both CyberSpy and its CEO, Tracer Spence, are listed as defendants in the complaint.

Both the complaint filed by the FTC and the TRO are available at the FTC website.

Ryan Singel of Wired notes that this case marks the first time that the FTC has targeted the amateur spyware market.  He speculates that the case will likely turn on evidence that CyberSpy marketed its product to be used in situations where the victim was unaware of potential monitoring. Joel Hruska of  Ars technica notes that “numerous tutorials and ‘how-to’s’ were included with RemoteSpy, including information on disguising the payload in order to maximize the chance of infection.”  The same article goes on to suggest that the FTC should have been more responsive in filing the complaint, since RemoteSpy has been available to consumers since August 2005.

Graham Cluley points out that keylogger software such as RemoteSpy can be used for a wide variety of purposes, from protective child monitoring to identity theft, and that the final outcome of the CyberSpy case could have serious implications for sellers of “legitimate” spyware.

(more…)

Posted On Nov - 25 - 2008 2 Comments READ FULL POST

District Court Judge Rules Evidence of Suicide Admissible in Lori Drew MySpace Case
By Leocadie Welling – Edited by Nicola Carah
United States v. Drew, 08-CR-582
 
On November 14, 2008, Judge George Wu of the District Court for the Central District of California indicated at hearing that he would admit evidence of 13-year-old Megan Meier’s suicide at the upcoming trial of Lori Drew.  Judge Wu further indicated that although he was admitting the evidence, he would issue a jury instruction specifying that the case against Drew is not about Meier’s suicide and that Drew is not charged with causing the suicide.

Drew is charged with conspiracy and with three counts of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, after creating a fake MySpace account, purporting to be a teenaged boy.  Drew, along with others, contacted Meier through MySpace, befriending the girl and eventually entering into a “relationship” online. Drew subsequently broke the relationship off and Meier committed suicide shortly thereafter.  On Monday, November 10, Judge Wu indicated in pretrial conference that he was inclined to exclude evidence of Meier’s suicide on the grounds of lack of relevance and potentially prejudicial effects on the jury.  On Friday November 14, after hearing counsels’ arguments, Judge Wu ruled that the evidence was admissible.  No order has yet been issued explaining Judge Wu’s reasoning.

The Citizen Media Law Project hosts court documents. For background on the case, The New York Times featured a summary of the events leading up to Meier’s death in November 2007 and the WSJ Law Blog has posted several items on the subsequent case.

The AP covers Judge Wu’s decision to admit evidence of Meier’s suicide, reporting that he said he was convinced many jurors would already be aware of the suicide from news reports or a recent Law & Order episode that contained similar facts.   

GW Law professor Orin Kerr, wrote in May in favor of granting Drew’s motion to dismiss the case.  He argues that the that the CFAA’s criminal prohibition against accessing a computer “without authorization” should not be interpreted as extending to instances of individual violations of a website’s Terms of Service. Professor Kerr has since joined Drew’s defense team. 

Concurring Opinions wrote a piece in May largely agreeing with Kerr’s conclusion but slightly diverging in its reasoning, and wrote recently arguing that the case should not be going to trial.  Simple Justice also covers the recent ruling to admit the evidence.  

(more…)

Posted On Nov - 20 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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ITC’s review of an

ITC’s review of an ALJ’s order was not procedurally sound By ...

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Facebook’s experim

Facebook’s experiment of emotional contagion raises concerns By Jenny Choi – ...

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Flash Digest: News i

By Ken Winterbottom Access to nude photos is a ‘perk’ of ...

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SDNY Holds Bitcoins

By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang United States v. Ulbricht, ...

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Aereo Struggles as S

Aereo Struggles as Supreme Court Finds It Violated Copyright Law By ...