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 Gea Kang

Icon-newsFacebook looks to provide Internet access viadrones

In the wake of last month’s WhatsApp acquisition, Facebook may be adding Titan Aerospace to its arsenal for another $60 million.  Titan, a privately held company based in New Mexico, produces unmanned “atmospheric satellites.”  These satellites are solar-powered and can stay airborne for five years without refueling.  Titan unveiled the prototypes last year.

Facebook’s interest in this area stems from its work with Internet.org, which aims to provide Internet connectivity to those who currently lack access around the world.  Facebook is reportedly looking at 11,000 Titan satellites to help bridge this digital divide.  Google has been working toward the same goal with its balloon-powered wireless network, Project Loon.

Although the Titan satellites are ultimately slated to fly above the Federal Aviation Administration’s jurisdiction, regulatory constraints on the climb up to that altitude must still be addressed. TechCrunch first released news of the potential acquisition on Monday.

Michael Jordan emerges victorious in commercial speech case

Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with Michael Jordan in a dispute that could have important implications for commercial speech allowances under the First Amendment.  Michael Jordan v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc. and SuperValu Inc., No.12-1992 (7th Cir. Feb. 19, 2014).  In its opinion reversing and remanding the case, the court held that grocery chain Jewel Food Stores, Inc.’s unendorsed use of Jordan’s trademark in an advertisement constituted commercial speech.  A federal district court had previously accepted Jewel’s argument that the advertisement was not commercial in nature and was thereby protected by the First Amendment.

The case centers on a one-page advertisement published in an October 2009 commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated. The advertisement congratulated Jordan for his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and included Jewel’s logo and motto along with Jordan’s name, number, and shoes. However, the ad did not name any specific Jewel products or depict Jordan himself.  Jordan sued, emphasizing the alleged misappropriation of his identity.  The Seventh Circuit agreed with Jordan, finding that “Jewel’s ad had an unmistakable commercial function: enhancing the Jewel-Osco brand in the minds of consumers.” Jordan, slip op. at 16.

ESPN provides details of the case and its precedential implications.

Apple wins patent for transparent wraparound phone screen

Apple won 36 patent grants last Tuesday. Of these, U.S. Patent No. 8,665,236 has generated particular interest. The patent, originally filed in September 2011, discloses a transparent wraparound screen made of flexible glass—essentially, a reversible phone with no permanent front or back. Multiple cameras and facial recognition would facilitate the user interface, and the phone would be completely touchscreen. Despite the suggestion that a double-sided screen would accommodate more icons for users’ convenience, some commentators are concerned that consumers will not welcome the lack of physical buttons, such as for volume control. Patently Apple provides further details and graphics.

Posted On Mar - 9 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Ken Winterbottom

Theft drives former Bitcoin giant Mt. Gox into bankruptcy

Icon-newsMt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange based in Japan, filed for bankruptcy last week after the theft of 850,000 of its Bitcoins. The company, which started as an online Magic: The Gathering marketplace, once oversaw 70% of all Bitcoin trades, though its prominence had fallen significantly even before the theft.

Despite CEO Mark Karpeles offering a glimmer of hope for victimized customers in a Tokyo press conference, investors say that the lost Bitcoins, worth about $473 million and representing about 7% of the estimated global Bitcoin total, likely cannot be recovered. A class action lawsuit has already been filed against Mt. Gox in Illinois, alleging consumer fraud and negligence.

Bitcoin, the first of a growing number of unregulated digital cryptocurrencies, was originally lauded as a currency immune to theft, corruption, and counterfeiting. However, faith in the currency has been shaken by a series of setbacks, from the FBI shutdown of the Silk Road, an online Bitcoin-only black market, to reports of Bitcoin counterfeiting. Cryptocurrency supporters view events like these, including the Mt. Gox bankruptcy, as illustrating the importance of stronger security measures going forward, but remain confident in Bitcoin and in the cryptocurrency movement.

Lessig v. Liberation Music Settlement

Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig claimed a victory last week in his ongoing fight for fair use in copyright practices. Last summer, Professor Lessig used a snippet from the song “Lisztomania” by the French band Phoenix in a lecture video that he uploaded online. While the band itself came out strongly in support of Professor Lessig’s use of the song, Liberation Music, the Australian music label that owns the rights to “Lisztomania,” had the video forcibly removed. Not one to be bullied into submission, Professor Lessig decided to fight back. In collaboration with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), a digital civil rights group, he successfully challenged the takedown in federal court, arguing that he was well within his rights to use Phoenix’s music under fair use policies. Complaint, Lessig v. Liberation Music Pty Ltd, No. 13-cv-12028 (D. Mass. Aug. 22, 2013) hosted by EFF.

Although the full terms of the settlement agreement remain confidential, Liberation Music admitted that the use of the song was permissible under both U.S. and Australian law, and it agreed to update its copyright policies to respect fair use. The music label will also pay Professor Lessig an undisclosed amount of money, which will go toward supporting the work of the EFF. Professor Lessig, a co-founder of the Creative Commons, is a longtime supporter of open access software, the public domain, and reduced restrictions on copyright and trademark use. His book Republic, Lost, is available for free online. In a statement about the settlement, Professor Lessig said:

“Too often copyright is used as an excuse to silence legitimate speech. . . . Hopefully, this lawsuit will send a message to copyright owners to adopt fair takedown practices – or face the consequences.”

“Google Tax” scrapped in Italy

In December of last year, the Italian Parliament passed a law which would impose a de facto tax on web advertisements. The law arose in response to a widespread practice among web giants that run on advertising revenue – including Google, Yahoo, and Amazon – of transferring corporate taxable earnings to foreign havens, such as Ireland, Luxembourg, and Bermuda, allegedly costing Europe and the U.S. over $100 billion annually. The Parliament postponed enacting the law until July 2014.

Now, the government of new Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, sworn in last weekend, has decided to cancel the so-called “Google Tax,” which many predicted would be found to violate European Union laws.

The idea of a “Google Tax” is not new: Israel has been considering a similar law for some time. The proposed Israeli law would apply specifically to search engines and would assess a straightforward 7% royalty. The Italian law, by contrast, required web giants to use Italian companies as middlemen in setting up advertisements. Meanwhile, Germany passed a law last year that would permit publishers to charge search engines royalties for using their news snippets.

Posted On Mar - 3 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Travis West – Edited by Husam El-Qoulaq

Photo By: Jeremy KeithCC BY 2.0

A document leaked by Edward Snowden shows that the Australian Signals Directorate (“ASD”) spied on communications between the Indonesian government and a US law firm that the foreign government had retained for assistance in trade negotiations. When the ASD sought advice from the National Security Agency (“NSA”) about continuing to report on the Indonesian communications, the NSA’s Office of the General Counsel “provided clear guidance,” possibly regarding the reporting of “information covered by attorney-client privilege.” The document states that the ASD was able to continue covering the talks between the Indonesian government and its US counsel and that it had provided “highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”

The New York Times broke the story and posted an excerpt of the leaked document. The Chicago Tribune reports a response from Mayer Brown, the law firm advising Indonesia at the time of the document’s publication in an NSA monthly bulletin. Ars Technica and the ABA Journal provide additional commentary. The Guardian further reports on the ASD’s surveillance of Indonesia, as well as the NSA’s involvement in helping the ASD to crack Indonesian encryption.  Lawfare Blog views the document as a sign of the tight cooperation between the NSA and ASD and criticizes the New York Times for overselling the story. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 3 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Geng Chen – Edited by Ashish Bakshi

Elcommerce.com, Inc. v. SAP AG , No. 2011-1369 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 24, 2014)
Slip opinion

Photo By: Brian TurnerCC BY 2.0

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s grant of summary judgment in a patent infringement suit filed by elcommerce against SAP AG and SAP America, Inc. (“SAP”). Elcommerce.com, slip op. at 1–3. The district court held that the method claims in elcommerce’s U.S. Patent No. 6,947,903 (“the ‘903 patent”) were not infringed and that the system claims were invalid for indefiniteness under 35 U.S.C. § 112. Id. at 3. The Federal Circuit affirmed the noninfringement holding but vacated the invalidity holding, id., stating that SAP had failed to meet its evidentiary burden because its indefiniteness argument was not supported by the testimony of “technical experts who meet the Daubert criteria,” id. at 29.

Bloomberg provides an overview of the case. PatentlyO features a thorough analysis of the decision.

(more…)

Posted On Mar - 2 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Corey Omer – Edited by Kim Meyer

Federal Communications Commission, Statement on Critical Information Needs Study (Feb. 28, 2014)
FCC Statement

Photo By: JasonParisCC BY 2.0

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has reversed course on a plan to ask media owners, news directors, and reporters invasive questions about editorial judgment and journalistic practices. A field study of the survey was scheduled to begin in South Carolina this spring, but on February 28, 2014, the agency issued a two-sentence statement laying the study to rest.

The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs (“CIN Study”)—officially aimed at identifying “barriers that may prevent entrepreneurs and small business from competing in the media marketplace”—came under intense scrutiny from members of the news media and lawmakers after it was criticized by Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai in a February 10, 2014 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Pai suggested that the impugned survey was an attempt by the agency to “thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country,” “wade into office politics,” and “meddle[] in news coverage.”

Among others, the Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, and Fox News have all reported on the FCC’s recent decision to cancel the CIN Study. Fox News also suggested possible ties between the study and billionaire investor George Soros. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 1 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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