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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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Leaked NSA Memos Reveal More on Data Collection Procedures
By Katie Mullen – Edited by Michelle Sohn

Photo By: Ryan SommaCC BY 2.0

Last weekend, the Guardian leaked two more National Security Agency (“NSA”) documents regarding the NSA’s recently uncovered surveillance program. The first document details procedures used to target “non-U.S. persons” believed to be located outside the United States. The second document describes minimization procedures the NSA uses in collecting data under Section 702 of the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), 50 U.S.C. 1881 (2012).  (more…)

Posted On Jun - 28 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics
By Alex Shank – Edited by Kathleen McGuinness

Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., No. 12-398 (569 U.S. ___ June 13, 2013)
Slip opinion

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In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that “a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.” Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., No. 12-398, slip op. at 1 (U.S. June 13, 2013). However, “cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.” Id. The Court thus affirmed in part and reversed in part the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s prior opinion upholding the patent eligibility of isolated DNA.

Bloomberg provides perspectives from groups with a special interest in the case—including the ACLU, university researchers, diagnostic testing companies, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and Angelia Jolie—and speculates on the impact of the opinion on personalized medicine. Professor Paul Cole, writing for Patently-O, discusses the mismatch between the Supreme Court’s holding and the international consensus on the patentability of isolated DNA. JDSupra highlights the narrowness of the holding and the Supreme Court’s failure to clarify the bounds of patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

(more…)

Posted On Jun - 25 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Good Morning to You Productions v. Warner/Chappell Music
By Samantha Rothberg – Edited by Gillian Kassner

Photo By: Kanko*CC BY 2.0

Complaint, Good Morning to You Productions Corp. v. Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., 1:13-cv-04040 (S.D.N.Y., June 13, 2013)

Complaint hosted by The Wall Street Journal, online.wsj.com

Good Morning to You Productions Corp. (“GMTY”), a film production company, filed suit in federal court against Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. (“Warner/Chappell”), which holds the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.” GMTY seeks to have the court invalidate the Happy Birthday copyright, declare the song to be in the public domain, and force Warner/Chappell to repay millions of dollars in licensing fees. GMTY’s complaint alleges that “[i]rrefutable documentary evidence” proves that any valid copyright in the song expired nearly a century ago. Complaint at 2. Although the copyright has been the subject of several prior lawsuits, its validity has never been adjudicated. Id. at 15–16.

The New York Times and Ars Technica both provide an overview of the case. Forbes provides some historical background for GMTY’s allegations. TechDirt notes that while commentators have argued for years that “the song is almost certainly in the public domain,” no one had thus far challenged the copyright in court because it was more cost-effective to pay the $1,500 licensing fee. This lawsuit’s multi-million-dollar class action structure changes that economic calculation.

GMTY is producing a documentary about the song “Happy Birthday to You.” Id. at 17. GMTY approached Warner/Chappell about using the song in their film, and were told that they could either pay a $1,500 license fee or pay statutory fees of $150,000 for copyright infringement. Id. at 17. GMTY paid the licensing fees. Id. at 18. However, they did not stop there. On behalf of a proposed class comprised of anyone who paid a licensing fee to Warner/Chappell for the use of “Happy Birthday to You” in the past four years, GMTY brought suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking a declaratory judgment that Warner/Chappell does not actually own a valid copyright for “Happy Birthday.” Id. at 21. If declaratory judgment is granted, GMTY requests injunctive relief and restitution of all license fees paid for the use of the song. Id. at 23.

GMTY’s complaint offers a wealth of historical detail. The complaint traces the song’s origins back to 1893, when the melody was first published as the song “Good Morning to You” by sisters Mildred and Patty Hill. Complaint at 3.  The Hill sisters assigned their rights to Clayton F. Summy in exchange for 10% of the proceeds from Song Stories for the Kindergarten, a compilation that included the song. Id. at 3–4. Summy obtained a copyright for the compilation in 1893, and another copyright in a reissued version in 1896. Id. at 4–5.

In 1899, Summy published and copyrighted ”Good Morning to You” and 16 other songs by the Hill sisters in a new compilation, Song Stories for the Sunday School. Id. at 5–6. In 1907, he obtained a copyright for the song “Good Morning to You” as an individual musical composition. Id. Summy did not renew the 1893, 1896, 1899 or 1907 copyrights, which fell into the public domain when their 28-year copyright terms expired in 1921, 1924, 1927 and 1935, respectively. Id. at 8, 21.

The lyrics to “Happy Birthday” appear to have arisen more organically. The public began singing the familiar “Happy Birthday” lyrics at some point in the early 1900s, although it is not known who authored them. Id. at 6. The lyrics and music appeared together for the first time in a 1924 compilation by Robert H. Coleman, who neither claimed ownership of the song nor identified the rightful author or copyright owner. Id. at 8–9.

In 1935, Summy filed for a copyright for “Happy Birthday to You,” a piano arrangement of “Good Morning to You” that included the “Happy Birthday” lyrics. Summy did not attribute authorship of the lyrics or claim a copyright in the lyrics. Id. at 14–15. GMTY’s complaint alleges that this copyright was invalid for lack of original authorship. Id. at 15. In 1938, Summy granted the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (“ASCAP”) the right to license “Happy Birthday to You” and to collect fees on Summy’s behalf. Id. at 15. Summy’s company renewed the copyrights it obtained in 1934 and 1935, and was eventually acquired by Warner/Chappell in 1998. Id. at 16. Today, Warner/Chappell claims to own the exclusive copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.” Id. at 16–17.

If GMTY’s suit succeeds, Warner/Chappell and its parent company, the Warner Music Group, will lose a lucrative source of licensing revenue estimated at $2 million per year. They may also be obligated to pay back millions in licensing fees. However, the effects could resonate beyond this particular suit — a successful outcome in this case may turn the class action lawsuit into a popular tool for challenging copyrights.

Posted On Jun - 24 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Maracich v. Spears
By Natalie Kim – Edited by Mary Grinman

Photo By: . .CC BY 2.0

Maracich v. Spears, No. 12-25, 570 U.S. ___ (June 17, 2013)
Slip Opinion

On Monday, the Supreme Court held that the “litigation exception” of the Driver Privacy Protection Act (“DPPA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2721–2725, did not apply to attorney solicitation of clients, vacating a decision of the 4th Circuit. On remand, the lower court must determine whether Spears’ communications were sent with “the predominant purpose of solicitation.” Maracich, slip op. at 29.

Overlawyered summarizes the holding, speculating which points may be more relevant on remand. Cato expresses surprise at how every Justice switched sides since another significant privacy case two weeks ago, Maryland v. King, No. 12-207, 569 U.S. ___ (June 3, 2013) (holding that post-arrest cheek swabs were legitimate police booking procedures under the Fourth Amendment). NYTimes mentions that this could expose routine attorney activity to “huge” civil and criminal liability.

(more…)

Posted On Jun - 23 - 2013 1 Comment READ FULL POST

By Kathleen McGuinness

Icon-newsGoogle News Becomes Opt-In in Germany

Following Germany’s recent broadening of copyright protection for news “snippets,” Google News changed their user policy for publishers in Germany, requiring publishers to opt in to Google News participation using a new confirmation system. Forbes provides a translation of the new policy. Tools like robots.txt, which prevent Google from indexing a page, will still be recognized. In all other countries, Google News remains opt-out; publishers who do not want excerpts of their work reprinted in search results must use tools like robot.txt or inform Google that they do not want their pages to be indexed, both of which prevent results from appearing in Google searches. TechCrunch gives an explanation of the history of the new law and its implications.

Federal Circuit Rules that Software Patent Is Not an “Abstract Idea”

On Friday, the Federal Circuit in Ultramercial v. Hulu, No. 2010-1544 (Fed. Cir. June 21, 2013), found to be valid a patent protecting a method of distributing copyrighted content online without user payments, in exchange for the user viewing an advertisement which would pay for the copyrighted content. The court focused on the pro-protection history of the most recent changes to the Patent Act, the fact that the patent did not cover every application of the abstract idea, and on Supreme Court precedent indicating that a patent tying an abstract idea to a specific method for doing something with a computer is not too abstract to merit protection. IP Spotlight describes the holding and its implications in more detail.

Tokyo Court Rules for Apple, Against Samsung in Bounce-Back Patent Dispute

On Friday, a Tokyo court ruled that Samsung had infringed Apple’s controversial “bounce-back” patent on certain earlier models of Samsung smartphones. The status of Apple’s U.S. patent on the bounce-back user interface element remains in contention; the PTO ruled that the patent was invalid earlier this year, but recently decided that some elements of the interface were patentable. Reuters has a short summary. Apple and Samsung have gone back and forth in their Tokyo patent disputes; last August, Apple lost a suit against Samsung over music and video synchronization on smartphones. Bloomberg describes the business history and implications of the decision.

Posted On Jun - 22 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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Flash Digest: News i

By Olga Slobodyanyuk ICANN responds to terrorism victims by claiming domain ...

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Federal Circuit Appl

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Creating full-text s

Creating full-text searchable database of copyrighted works is “fair use” By ...