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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Harry Potter Lexicon Found to Infringe J.K. Rowling’s Copyright
By Miriam Weiler – Edited by Evie Breithaupt

Warner Bros. Entertainment v. RDR Books
S.D.N.Y, September 8th 2008, No. 07 Civ. 09667 
Slip Opinion (hosted by Justia.com)  

This week, Judge Robert P.  Patterson of Southern District of New York, granted a permanent injunction against Defendant RDR Books (“RDR”) and awarded statutory damages to Plaintiffs Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.  and J.K.  Rowling (“Warner Bros.” and “J.K.  Rowling”) for the infringement of Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  In this long awaited decision, the court ruled that RDR’s plan to publish “The Lexicon,” an A-to-Z reference guide to Harry Potter facts written by Steven Vander Ark, infringed upon Rowling’s famous series and two of her other works, Quidditch Through the Ages (2001) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001). 

There was no dispute that J.K. Rowling owned the copyright to the Harry Potter series, the film rights of which had been licensed to Warner Bros., and that Steven Vander Ark had originally copied from the books to create an online reference source called “The Harry Potter Lexicon.” The court applied the Ringgold test for substantial similarity, finding that Vander Ark copied a quantity and quality of material sufficient for infringement when he developed the website into a book to be published by RDR. 

Briefs and relevant court documents are available here.

The Wall Street Jounal provides an overview of the case, and the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law features a thorough analysis of the decision.

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Posted On Sep - 15 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

Website Finds Safe Harbor from Copyright Infringement Damages for User-Provided Videos
By Debbie Rosenbaum – Edited by Andrew Ungberg

Io Group, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc.
N.D. Cal., August 27, 2008, No. C06-03926 HRL
Slip Opinion
(hosted by Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Last week, a federal judge in San Jose, U.S. District Judge Howard Lloyd, ruled that Veoh Networks, Inc. (“Veoh”), is not liable for copyright infringement for material that was uploaded to its site. Veho provides software and a website that enables the sharing of user-provided video content over the Internet.

The case arises from a complaint filed by Io Group, Inc. (“Io”), a company that holds and owns a number of registered copyrights for a variety of adult entertainment products. Between June 1 and June 22, 2006, Io alleged that it discovered clips from ten of its copyrighted films had been uploaded and viewed on veoh.com without its authorization. None of the clips contained copyright notices, except one work that displayed a “Titan Media” trademark several minutes into the clip; Io conducts business under that name.

Veoh’s first notice of the claimed infringement was Io’s filing of the instant lawsuit on June 23, 2006. Independently, Veoh had already decided that it would no longer permit adult content on its website. By the time this suit was filed, access to all adult content on Veoh’s website – including any content allegedly infringing Io’s copyrights – had been terminated.

Io sought summary judgment on liability for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. The court ruled that, even assuming that plaintiff’s infringement claims pass summary judgment muster, Veoh was eligible for safe harbor protection from damages; furthermore the court found the limited injunctive relief provided under the DMCA was moot.

Commentators have noted the potentially far-reaching effects of this decision, especially for the ongoing YouTube-Viacom infringement litigation. See the L.A. Times, CNet, Wired, Silicon Alley Insider, Techdirt, TechCrunch.

Bruce Boyden of Prawfsblawg notes, most commentators have focused the holding that Veoh’s automated reformatting of uploaded materials does not create copies for which Veoh is responsible. Boyden also notes the similarities to the Second Circuit’s recent Cablevision case, calling the cases “good precedent for ISPs who process uploaded content. . . . .”

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Posted On Sep - 3 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

District Court Rules Virginia Law Protecting Social Security Numbers Unconstitutional As Applied to Watchdog Website
By Jon Choate — Edited by Daniel Ray

Ostergren v. McDonnell
E.D. Va. No. 3:08cv362
Slip Opinion (hosted by the ACLU)

On August 22, 2008, Judge Robert E. Payne of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found § 59.1-443.2 of the Virginia Code to violate the First Amendment as applied to Betty J. Ostergren’s website The Virginia Watchdog. The court granted plaintiff Ostergren limited injunctive relief against the State of Virginia as represented by its Attorney General, Robert F. McDonnell.

Ostergren is a privacy advocate who has lobbied the General Assembly of Virginia to stop publicly posting land records containing Social Security Numbers (“SSNs”) online without redacting the SSNs. On her own site, she has posted a number of these land records, including those of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, and members of the Virginia legislature and judiciary. She has also posted examples of publicly available records from other states containing SSNs.

Section 59.1-443.2 of the Virginia Code is a provision of Virginia’s Personal Information Privacy Act (“PIPA”). In part it provides that “a personal shall not . . . [i]ntentionally communicate another individual’s social security number to the general public.” Until July 1, 2008, PIPA excepted “records required by law to be open to the public.”
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Posted On Sep - 2 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Affirms Economic Interest of Open Source Copyright Holder
By Yelena Shagall – Edited by Evie Breithaupt

Jacobsen v. Katzer
Federal Circuit, August 13, 2008, No. 2008-1001
Slip Opinion

On August 13, the Federal Circuit ruled that open source license terms can create enforceable copyright conditions.  In Jacobsen v. Katzer, the Federal Circuit addressed the Northern District of California’s rejection of Jacobsen’s motion for preliminary injunction against competitor Matthew Katzer and Kamind Associates, Inc (“Katzer/Kamind”) for infringement of the terms of an open source license (“Artistic License”).  Jacobsen held the copyright to computer programming code, which he made available for free subject to the Artistic License.  According to Jacobsen, Katzer/Kamind incorporated portions of the code into one of their software packages without following the terms of the license. The district court concluded that the Artistic License was an unlimited non-exclusive license.  The district court held the terms of the license created mere covenants, not copyright conditions, and the defendants were thus not liable for copyright infringement.  At most, they had breached a non-exclusive license.  Breach of contract, unlike copyright infringement, creates no presumption of irreparable harm, and the court rejected Jacobsen’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the district court.

The Open Source Initiative provides commentary, stating that “the District Court decision was wrong and wrong in a way that could have been a disaster for open source community.”

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Posted On Aug - 23 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

D. Mass: MIT Students’ Security Presentation Merits Temporary Restraining Order
By Jon Choate – Edited by Dan Ray
 

Mass. Bay Transp. Auth. v. Anderson
D. Mass., August 9th, 2008, No. 08-11364-GAO
Temporary Restraining Order (Hosted by EFF)  

On August 9th, Judge Woodlock of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts granted the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (“MBTA”) a temporary restraining order against Zack Anderson, RJ Ryan, and Alessandro Chiesa, undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”). The order “enjoined and restrained” the undergraduates from “providing program, information, software code, or command that would assist another in any material way to circumvent or otherwise attack the security” of the MBTA fare system’s CharlieCard and CharlieTicket.  CharlieCards are reusable stored-value cards, which allow Boston subway riders access at ticket terminals by waiving the card over a designated reader. The system operates wirelessly, and allows riders to add money to their cards both at subway terminals and through online accounts. 

Anderson, Ryan and Chiesa reportedly uncovered several vulnerabilities with the MTBA’s CharlieTicket system while doing research for a Computer and Network Security class. Using this research, the students devised a way in which the CharlieCards can be reprogrammed using $200 worth of equipment; theoretically, this method could increase the stored-value on a card   to more than $600.  The students also discovered that the CharlieCards, which store balance and other information internally, can be read using non-MTBA wireless equipment. Furthermore, according to documents on their research, the three had written software capable of generating and analyzing CharlieCards in order to crack the card’s encryption. 

The MIT students were scheduled to present their research at DEFCON, “one of the oldest running hacker conventions around.” It was this presentation which prompted the August 8th complaint filed by the MBTA against Anderson, Ryan and Chiesa and MIT. The complaint alleges that the students

“(i) claim to have circumvented the security features of the MBTA’s computerized CharlieTicket and CharlieCard fare media systems; (ii) publicly offered ‘free subway rides for life‘ to interested parties over the Internet; and (iii) plan to allow others to duplicate their claimed ‘breaking’ of the Fare Media’s security systems by presenting a paper, releasing software tools, and giving demonstrations at the DEFCON hackers convention this Sunday, August 10, in Las Vegas.”

The complaint further alleges that the students did not provide information regarding how they circumvented the security system to the MBTA and that public dissemination of the information before the MBTA has had an opportunity to correct the flaws will cause “significant damage to the MBTA’s transit system.”  

The MIT Tech covers the story, noting that while  the presentation at DEFCON was cancelled, the presentation slides and confidential vulnerability report the students wrote for the MBTA “are widely available online.” The Tech further reports that the students are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and not by MIT’s lawyers.

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Posted On Aug - 15 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST
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