A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Daniel Etcovitch – Edited by Emily Chan

Florida Judge Rules Bitcoin Is Not Equivalent to Money

Illinois Governor Signs Bill Restricting Use of Stingrays

DMCA DRM Circumvention Provision’s Constitutionality Being Challenged

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest

By Yuan Cao – Edited by Frederick Ding

Mere Commercial Benefit Not Enough to Trigger The On-Sale Bar

Technology-Based Software Solution Can Be Patentable 

Patent Disputes about Siri, iTunes, Notification Push, and Location

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Sixth Circuit Finds Privacy Interest in Mugshots under FOIA

By Filippo Raso – Edited by Ariane Moss

A split en banc Sixth Circuit reversed the lower courts’ ruling, holding individuals have a privacy interest in their booking photos for the purposes of Exemption 7(C) of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552. In so doing, the Court overruled Circuit precedent established two decades ago. The case was remanded with instructions to balance the public interests against the individual’s privacy interest.

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The EFF Challenges the DMCA Anti-Circumvention Provision: A First Amendment Fight

By Priyanka Nawathe – Edited by Kayla Haran

On July 21, 2016, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the United States government to overturn DMCA Section 1201, commonly referred to as the anti-circumvention provision. The EFF argues that this provision, designed to prevent circumvention of “technological protection measures,” actually chills research and free speech, and thus is a violation of the First Amendment.

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By Jaehwan Park – Edited by Kayla Haran

Bipartisan Lawmakers Introduce Bill Encouraging U.S. Government Agencies to Use the Cloud as a Secure Alternative to Legacy Systems

Snapchat Accused of Violating Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Announces New Policy Group to Promote Global Digital Trade

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

Photo By: mkhmarketing - CC BY 2.0

Photo By: mkhmarketingCC BY 2.0

On June 17, 2014, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study to test emotional contagion through an experiment on Facebook users.   The published study was titled “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks” and was conducted by Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guilory, and Jeffrey T. Hancock.  The experiment took place for one week (January 11-18, 2012) and roughly 155,000 participants were randomly selected based on their User ID.  To test whether emotional states are contagious through verbal expressions, Facebook reduced positive and negative posts on News Feeds to observe any changes in the participants’ posts.

While ARS Technica defended Facebook’s experiment, most news articles criticized it for violating users’ privacy without their informed consent.  More can be found in the Independent, InformationWeek, Forbes, Washington Post and Atlantic.  The published results of the experiment can be found here.

According to the study, when users saw more negative posts on their News Feeds, by Facebook reducing positive posts, they were more likely to post negative statuses.  When they saw more positive posts on their News Feeds, they were more likely post positive statuses.  Finally, when Facebook reduced both positive and negative posts in some users’ News Feeds, the users reduced the amount of words used in their posts.    (more…)

Posted On Jul - 28 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Ken Winterbottom

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

Edward Snowden recently leaked new information about the infamous NSA global surveillance scandal. In an interview with the Guardian, Snowden’s choice of media outlet since the original disclosures last summer, the controversial whistleblower denied allegations that he was a Russian spy and remarked that if he ended up detained in Guantanamo Bay, he could “live with that.” Snowden also revealed, however, that NSA employees routinely abused their positions by sharing intercepted nude photographs around the office. These racy images “are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions,” Snowden says.

Although the NSA has declined to comment as to the veracity of these allegations, an NSA spokesperson stressed that the agency has a zero tolerance policy for violations of professional standards, Ars Technica reports. That being said, reports of employee misuse of the government surveillance system are not new: In 2005, an NSA staff member was caught using surveillance data to spy on his ex-girlfriend on his very first day on the job.

Record label slams YouTube star with copyright infringement suit

Ultra Records filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, accusing popular YouTube personality Michelle Phan of using its songs in her videos without a license. Phan, a makeup guru who became a media sensation thanks to her tutorial videos, in which she uses cosmetics to make herself look like celebrities and film characters, is alleged to have illegally used Ultra’s music despite having been informed that she did not have permission to do so. The plaintiffs have alleged several dozen instances of copyright infringement, and is seeking $150,000 in damages for each one.

Kaskade, one of Ultra’s artists whose songs Phan has used in several videos, some of which are enumerated in the complaint, has spoken out in support of the YouTube star. “Copyright law is a dinosaur,” the musician said, expressing his disapproval over the suit but conceding that he was incapable of stopping it from going forward.

A spokesperson for Phan said the lawsuit was meritless, claiming that Ultra had agreed to allow her to use its music and that Phan intended to countersue.

Study shows women are still underrepresented among technology leaders

This summer, the Silicon Valley Bank released its fifth annual Innovation Economy Outlook survey, which presents findings on trends in technology and entrepreneurship. The study had a generally optimistic tenor, finding, for example, that 65% of U.S. companies met or exceeded their 2013 revenue goals, and that business conditions are expected to improve in 2014.

In the area of gender diversity, however, the industry is lagging: Less than 50% of tech companies have women serving in leadership positions. This statistic places the U.S. behind Europe and Asia in terms of female representation, though a Forbes commentator noted that this does not necessarily mean that U.S. companies are less empowering or diversity-friendly.

The results of the survey only confirmed estimates based on existing data from top companies—only 37% of Yahoo employees, 31% of Facebook employees, and 30% of Google employees are female, according to the respective tech giants’ internal demographic statistics. The paucity of women in science, engineering, and technology-related fields is by no means a new discovery, and has been the subject of much commentary, even spurning attempts by leading companies to close the ‘gender gap.’

Yet while the disparity persists, there are signs that the situation may be improving. Last Winter, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that tech firms are now hiring more women than men, though whether this trend will continue remains to be seen.

Posted On Jul - 28 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

pic01By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

United States v. Ulbricht, No. 14-CR-68 (KBF)(S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2014) Slip Opinion

The debate surrounding the legal status of Bitcoins has 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.” No. 14-CR-68 (KBF)(S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2014) at 50.

The criminal case was filed against Ross Ulbricht, founder and administrator of the website Silk Road which gained notoriety as the eBay of illegal goods and services. Id. at 12. Ulbricht was indicted by a Grand Jury in the Southern District of New York on February 4, 2014 on four counts, including conspiring to traffic drugs, engaging in computer hacking, and laundering money. Id. at 1. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss all four counts, which the court denied in its entirety. Id.

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Posted On Jul - 28 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

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

American Broadcasting Cos. V. Aereo, Inc. 134 S.Ct. 2498 (Supreme Court of the United States, June 25, 2014) Slip Opinion

aereo_antenna_array1

On June 25, 2014, in its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Aereo, Inc (“Aereo”).  The U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo violated the Copyright Act of 1976 (“Act”) 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.  Aereo has made a request to the U.S. Copyright Office to be classified as a cable company under Section 111, but has not yet been successful. Additionally, Aero has reached out to the public, asking them to protest the decision, the Washington Post Reports.

The New York Times provides an overview of the case.  SCOTUS Blog criticizes that the majority’s ad hoc approach in deciding that Aereo was “substantially similar” to cable companies without grappling the text of the statute.

Aereo is a start-up company based in New York that provided its subscribers live and time-shifted streams of TV Shows on internet-connected devices.  Its subscribers would pay $8 to $12 a month to rent Aereo’s dime-size antennas that captured TV signals when the subscribers requested to view a specific TV show.  While Aereo argued that its service was a new way of viewing TV programs, broadcasters argued that Aereo was stealing their programs and violating copyright laws.

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Posted On Jul - 23 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Insue Kim

HL Bill 37 – Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”)

Full text of DRIP

The House of Lords passed the bill without a vote on July 17, 2014.

The House of Commons passed the bill by 498 votes to 31 on July 15, 2014.

On July 17, 2014, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”) became law of the land after the House of Lords passed it without a vote. This legislation grants the government power to mandate all companies, both operating in the UK and abroad, to retain customer metadata for 12 months, so long as the companies provide telecommunications services to UK customers. DRIP also changes the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (“RIPA”) to expand the UK government’s ability to directly intercept phone calls and digital communications from any remote storage, including iCloud and Google Drive. Grounds for interception include national security and preventing or detecting serious crime. Prime Minister David Cameron introduced the bill on July 10, 2014 as an “emergency” law with an accelerated time frame. Parliament had a week to examine the bill, with a one-day debate in the House of Commons and two days in the House of Lords. According to the BBC, the purpose of the legislation is to replace legislation that became invalid when the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in April that blanket data retention breaches the right to privacy.

A summary of the bill and its history is available on the BBC and Human Rights Watch. NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden compared DRIP to the ‘Protect America Act of 2007’ introduced by former-President George W. Bush. Wired UK summarizes academics’ criticism of the bill. David Allen Green warns citizens of the danger of passing DRIP. The Guardian describes the harm in a more sarcastic and memorable way.

(more…)

Posted On Jul - 22 - 2014 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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