A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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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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DRIP Bill Expands UK’s Data Surveillance Power

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Insue Kim

House of Lords passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”) on July 17, 2014. DRIP empowers the UK government to require all companies providing internet-based services to UK customers to retain customer metadata for 12 months. It also expands the government’s ability to directly intercept phone calls and digital communications from any remote storage. Critics claim the bill goes far beyond what is necessary and its fast-track timeframe prevents meaningful discussion.

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Federal Circuit Grants Stay of Patent Infringement Litigation Until PTAB Can Complete a Post-Grant Review

By Kyle Pietari – Edited by Insue Kim

Reversing the district court’s decision, the Federal Circuit granted a stay of patent infringement litigation proceedings until the PTAB can complete a post-grant patent validity review. This was the court’s first ruling on a stay when the suit and review process were happening concurrently.

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Ninth Circuit Rejects Fox’s Request to Shut Down Dish Services, Despite Aereo Decision

By Sheri Pan – Edited by Insue Kim

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Fox’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  Fox argued that the technologies would irreparably harm Fox because they violate copyright laws, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court did not err in finding that the harm alleged by Fox was speculative, noting that Fox had failed to present evidence documenting such harm.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Patrick Gutierrez

Senate passes bill to make cell phone unlocking legal

ABA urges lawyers to stop pursuing file sharing lawsuits

FBI cautions that driverless cars may be used to assist criminal behavior

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Appeals Court Rules Against Import Ban on Patent-Infringing Chips 
Slip Opinion

This Tuesday the Federal Circuit ruled against an International Trade Commission (“ITC”) ban on imports of cell phone chips that allegedly infringed on a rival’s patent. The chips, made by Qualcomm Inc., contained technology that the ITC had previously held infringed on a patent owned by Broadcom Corp. In its ruling the court stated that the ITC lacked authority to ban such imports.

Report by the Associated Press available here. Coverage by Reuters is available here.

From Across the Pond…

UK Considers Communications Data Bill
Speech

On Thursday, United Kingdom Home Secretary suggested legislation that would create a massive government database containing information on mobile phones and e-mail in order to combat terrorism.  Information collected would include the location and identity of the parties communicating, but not the content of the communications themselves.

BBC offers more coverage of the controversy surrounding the proposal, which critiques have called “Orwellian.”

UK Court Rejects Self-Incrimination Defense for Encryption Key
Slip Opinion

A UK court required defendants to offer the encryption key protecting a data disk that had been seized by police in a criminal investigation. Suspects were arrested for breaching an order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005. The court rejected their argument that disclosure would violate the privilege against self-incrimination, stating in its holding that an encryption key is no different than a physical key.

LinuxWorld offers more coverage here.

Posted On Oct - 17 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

Oregon State Appeals Court Finds Frozen Embryos ”Personal Property” in Divorce Proceeding 
By Anna Lamut – Edited by Stephanie Weiner 

Dahl v. Angle
Or. Ct. App., October 8, 2008, A133697
Slip Opinion

The Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon upheld the decision of the trial court to enforce a contract made between a now-divorced husband and wife regarding six frozen embryos resulting from the couple’s attempt to conceive in vitro. The contract provided that, in the event of a disagreement, the wife would have the right to decide what would happen to the embryos. Necessary to the Court of Appeals’ decision was a finding that the contractual right to determine the fate of frozen embryos is personal property.

While married, the parties had unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child via in vitro fertilization, a process that left six frozen embryos at the Oregon Health and Science University (“OHSU”). The parties executed an “Embryology Laboratory Specimen Storage Agreement” at the time that they underwent the procedure, which gave the wife, Dr. Laura Dahl, the “sole and exclusive right” to instruct OHSU to transfer or dispose of the embryos in the event that the parties were not able to agree. Dr. Dahl chose to have the embryos destroyed, while her ex-husband, Dr. Darrell Angle, denied having initialed or read the agreement. He claimed that “embryos are life” and did not want the embryos destroyed because “there’s no pain greater than having participated in the demise of your own child.”

The Associated Press and CBS provide overviews of the case. 

Andy Dworkin of the Oregonian provides commentary

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Posted On Oct - 16 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

President Bush Signs PRO-IP Act
S. 3325

On Monday, October 14, President Bush signed into law the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act, also known as the PRO-IP Act, S. 3325. The PRO-IP Act steepens penalties for IP infringement and increases resources to the DOJ to coordinate state and federal efforts against counterfeiting and piracy.

Although opposed by the DOJ, the Act also provides for a “U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator” position within the Executive Office of the President, which commentators are referring to as a “Copyright Czar.” However, another controversial provision, which would have authorized the Attorney General to seek civil copyright infringement remedies for private copyright owners, was removed from the final bill.

5th Circuit Ruling May Endanger Patent Rocket Docketin the Eastern District of Texas
In Re: Volkswagen of America Inc.
5th Circuit, October 10, 2008, No. 07-40058
Slip opinion

In a 10-7 en banc decision, the Fifth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus ordering the transfer of a product liability case from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  The court held that the district court judge John Ward had abused his discretion when he denied a motion to transfer from the Eastern District, which had no connection to the parties, witnesses, or facts of the case, to the Northern District, which had extensive connections to the parties, witnesses, and facts of the case.  The dissent argued that the majority was misusing mandamus in violation of Supreme Court precedent, characterizing the district court judge’s order as nonappealable.

Commentators note the ramification of the court’s order on the common practice of filing patent suits in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly “rocket docket” Eastern District.  Under the majority’s reasoning, it may become easier for defendants to seek changes of venue.

German Courts Rule That Google Image Thumbnails Infringe on Copyright

Google has recently lost two copyright suits in Germany, where the courts have ruled that Google’s use of thumbnails of copyrighted images in its image search engine constitutes infringement.  Google plans to appeal.

These rulings stand in contrast to U.S. precedent, such as the Ninth Circuit’s holding, in Perfect 10 v. Amazon, that Google’s use of image thumbnails was a fair use.  Similarly, eBay has seen divergent international outcomes with respect to trademark infringement claims. The S.D.N.Y. ruling in Tiffany v. eBay held that eBay did not have to increase its efforts to police trademark infringers, while courts in Germany and France instead ruled in favor of luxury brands Rolex and Louis Vuitton.

Posted On Oct - 14 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

District Court Extends TRO Against RealDVD Until Nov. 17th
By Andrew Ungberg –- Edited by Jon Choate

RealNetworks, Inc. v. DVD Copy Control Ass’n
N.D. Cal., October 7, 2008, No. C 08 04548 HRL
Court Docket provided by Justia

On Tuesday, October 7th, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel announced she would not disturb a temporary restraining order in place against RealNetworks (“Real”), pending a preliminary injunction hearing in mid-November.  The order blocks Real from selling RealDVD, a software program that allows users to copy DVDs to a computer or portable hard drive and watch them later without the physical disk.

The DVD Copy Control Association (“CCA”), filed a motion ex parte for the order just hours after Real began selling the program.  The CCA claimed that RealDVD violates the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (“DMCA”) by circumventing DRM protections on DVDs, and that Real’s development of the program violates a licensing agreement the companies had signed.  With regards to the TRO, the CCA stated, “Real’s conduct is causing and unless restrained will continue to cause immediate and irreparable harm to [a number of Hollywood] Studios, including to their DVD rental and sale markets . . . .”

Real responded in opposition, claiming that any harm the Studios may suffer is “compensable or illusory.” Real argued that the widespread availability of illegal DVD pirating programs undercuts the CCA’s claims, and urged the court that a TRO would irreparably harm the company by depriving Real of positive publicity and other market advantages.  In the filing, Real maintained that its product conforms to the requirements of its license with CCA, and therefore does not violate the DMCA.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second regarding the restraining order.  According to Wired.com, Judge Patel originally put the order in place on Friday, October 3rd, warning both parties not to disclose details to the public.

CNET.com provides a summary of the hearing.  As result of Judge Patel’s concern that RealDVD may result in copyright violations, the software will remain unavailable pending further hearings in November.

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Posted On Oct - 14 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Palin E-mail Hacker Indicted on Federal Charges by Tennessee Grand Jury
By Andrew Ungberg –- Edited by Jon Choate

United States v. Kernell
E.D. Tenn., October 7, 2008, No. 3:08-CR-142
Indictment

On October 7, 2008 a Tennessee grand jury charged David C. Kernell with violating 18 U.S.C. § 2701 (part of the Stored Communications Act) and 18 U.S.C § 1030(a)(2) (a subsection of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) for allegedly accessing the Yahoo e-mail account of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, without authorization. Images and information from Gov. Palin’s e-mail account first hit the Internet on September 17th, and began making headlines shortly thereafter. Several websites, including Wikileaks.org and popular blog network Gawker.com, posted screen shots and content from the hacked e-mail account.

Professor Orin S. Kerr, of the George Washington University Law School and the Volokh Conspiracy blog, sees a potential problem with the indictment. He notes that in order to charge the case as a felony, the government must claim Kernell accessed the account “to further criminal or tortuous activity.” According to Kerr, however,

[T]he indictment doesn’t exactly state what the crime or tort is that the intrusion was designed to further. It just states that the intrusion was “in furtherance of the commission of a criminal act in violation of the laws of the United States, including 18 U.S.C. Section 2701 and 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(2) But Section 2701 and Section 1030 are the intrusion statutes themselves! It makes no sense to allow a felony enhancement for a crime committed in furtherance of the crime itself . . . .

Info/Law draws parallels between this case and the Lori Drew MySpace case.

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Posted On Oct - 12 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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