A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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U.S. Marshals Service Uses Airborne “Dirtboxes” to Collect Cell Phone Data

By Katherine Kwong – Edited by Mengyi Wang

The U.S. government has been using “dirtboxes” to collect cell phone data. The program, designed for criminal suspect surveillance, is accused of also collecting cell phone data on numerous Americans not suspected of any crime. While many commentators express concern about the program’s legality, others argue that the program is an effective method of catching criminals.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News In Brief

By Henry Thomas

Ads For Content Scheme Held To Be Abstract Idea, Not Patentable Process

Federal Circuit Limits Application of Collateral Estoppel in Patent Litigation

Electronics Company Avoids Patent Enforcement By Directing Sales Outside U.S.

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Silk Road 2.0 Takedown Indicates Law Enforcement May Have Developed a Method to Trace Hidden Tor Websites

By Steven Wilfong — Edited by Travis West

The complaint filed against Blake Benthall, the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0, indicates that the FBI identified a server that was used to host the popular drug market website, despite the fact that the website’s location was hidden by the Tor anonymity software.  Law enforcement may have developed a method of compromising Tor anonymity, a possibility that would prove useful in future operations, but that also raises concerns for legitimate users.

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Federal Circuit Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Ken Winterbottom

Motion to Dismiss in Hulu Patent Infringement Suit Affirmed

“Virtual Classroom” Patent Infringement Case Remanded for Further Determination

Attorney Publicly Reprimanded for Circulating Email from Judge

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Spain Passes a “Google Tax,” Analysts Predict it Will be Short-Lived

By Michael Shammas — Edited by Yixuan Long

Spain recently amended its Intellectual Property Law and Code of Civil Procedure to levy fees on aggregators that collect snippets of other webpages. It is at least the third example of a European government fining search aggregators to support traditional print publishing industries, a practice often labeled a “Google tax” because of the disproportionate impact such laws have on the search giant. Some analysts are already predicting that Spain’s new law will fail.

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Kelly-Brown v. Winfrey
By Alex Shank – Edited by Samantha Rothberg

Photo By: nayrb7CC BY 2.0

Kelly-Brown v. Winfrey, No. 12-1207 (2nd Cir. May 31, 2013)
Slip opinion

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the District Court for the Southern District of New York’s (S.D.N.Y.) dismissal of trademark infringement claims against Oprah Winfrey, rejecting her fair use defense. Kelly-Brown alleged that Winfrey had used her trademarked phrase “Own Your Power” “as a mark” on the cover of O, The Oprah Magazine, its website, and at a magazine event.

Bloomberg summarizes the case and provides comments from Harpo, Inc. and Hearst Corp., two of Winfrey’s media enterprises. Reuters reports that Kelly-Brown was “ecstatic” about the result. JDSupra praised the court’s recognition of Kelly-Brown’s trademark as a “concept,” while Rebecca Tushnet critiqued the Second Circuit’s further confusing the meaning of “descriptive use.” (more…)

Posted On Jun - 18 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Samantha Rothberg

Icon-newsChinese National Sentenced to 12 Years in U.S. Prison for Selling Pirated Software

Chinese citizen Xiang Li was sentenced to 12 years in a U.S. federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and criminal copyright infringement, Bloomberg reports. Li operated a website, “Crack 99,” which sold more than $100 million worth of pirated software between 2008 and 2011. He was arrested in Saipan, a U.S. territory, after traveling there to sell software to undercover federal agents. According to prosecutors, Li is the first Chinese national to be “apprehended and prosecuted in the U.S. for cybercrimes he engaged in entirely from China.”

Songwriters’ Rights Group BMI Sues Pandora Over Fee Dispute

Broadcast Music Inc. (“BMI”), an organization that collects royalties on behalf of music publishers and songwriters when their works are played in public, filed suit in federal court against Pandora, the Internet radio service, the Wall Street Journal reports. Earlier this week, Pandora purchased a small radio station in South Dakota and argued that this move entitles it to pay BMI the reduced royalty fees that traditional radio broadcasters pay. BMI decried Pandora’s move as a “brazen effort to artificially drive down its license fees.” The organization sued for a judicial declaration of the rates that Pandora must pay when it plays an artist’s song.

Google Argues Wi-FI is “Radio Signal” in Street View Case

Google urged the Ninth Circuit to overrule a judge’s 2011 finding that its Street View program had violated the federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510–2522, by collecting private data over unencrypted wi-fi signals, Bloomberg reports. Google argues that transmissions over an open wi-fi signal are equivalent to public radio transmissions, and the interception of a radio transmission or any “form of electronic communication readily accessible to the general public” is not illegal under the Wiretap Act. Attorney Elizabeth Cabraser, who represents the consumers who won the initial ruling, argued that the Wiretap Act exception was intended to protect ham radios used for communicating over long distances, and not wi-fi networks, which are broadcast over very short distances. She urged the court to reject Google’s “attempt to create a loophole to serve its own purposes.”

New York Aims to Crack Down on 3D Gun Printing

A New York city councilman introduced legislation on Wednesday that would make it illegal for anyone other than a licensed gunsmith to manufacture guns using a 3D printer, reports CNET. The bill would require legal manufacturers to register the guns with police within 72 hours of creation. The New York State Legislature and U.S. Congress have both recently introduced similar legislation, and a California state senator has announced plans to do the same. The surge in legislation stems from the worry that untraceable, undetectable plastic guns could be anonymously printed by anyone with a 3D printer and the necessary software. Last month, that vision took a step closer to reality when the non-profit organization Defense Distributed announced that it had created the world’s first 3D-printed handgun, the “Liberator.”

Posted On Jun - 16 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Leaked Surveillance Programs Reveal Large-Scale Data Collection

By Michelle Sohn – Edited by Katie Mullen

Photo By: darkuncleCC BY 2.0

Last week, the Guardian revealed two top-secret U.S. programs—Verizon metadata collection and PRISM—that allow the National Security Agency (“NSA”) to conduct domestic surveillance on a massive and unprecedented scale. The first program was conducted with an order from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court order required Verizon to provide the NSA with all “telephony metadata” created by Verizon for communications within the U.S. as well as between the U.S. and abroad. The order specified a three month period, but could have been one of several similar orders. Metadata includes the phone numbers, location, and duration of Verizon users’ calls, but not the actual content of conversations. The order also prohibited Verizon from disclosing any information about this program or the order’s existence. The second program, PRISM, allows the government direct access to participating companies’ servers. A wide range of data can be culled from the servers, including email, video and voice chat, and file transfers. Major companies allegedly participating in Prism include Yahoo, Facebook, Skype, and Google. Spokespersons from these companies have denied participation. PRISM can target user communications outside the U.S. and communications involving people outside the U.S.

NPR summarized an interview on the two surveillance programs with former NSA director, General Michael Hayden, who largely praised the program as “an accurate reflection of balancing our security and our privacy.” The New Yorker criticized the court-ordered metadata collection program, declaring, “The problem, then, is not just secrecy, but meta-secrecy. The government let the public think that certain words mean one thing, while operating on the idea that they mean another.” Congress has initiated new oversight proceedings on the programs. (more…)

Posted On Jun - 15 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
By Samantha Rothberg – Edited by Alex Shank

Hart v. Electronic Arts, Inc., No.  11–3750 (3d Cir. May 21, 2013)
Slip opinion

In a 2-1 opinion authored by Judge Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., the court held that former college athlete Ryan Hart’s interest in protecting his identity outweighed EA’s First Amendment rights. Hart, slip op. at 61. In determining how to strike the proper balance between the right of publicity and the First Amendment, the court adopted the “transformative use” test, which has its roots in copyright law. Id. at 51.

Reuters provides an overview of the case and discusses the implications for a similar case pending in the Ninth Circuit. The Electronic Frontier Foundation criticizes the decision for failing to protect freedom of speech and for treating the right of publicity as a form of intellectual property rather than as a more limited right to control the commercial use of one’s identity. Marc Edelman of Forbes, however, celebrates the decision as “a big win for athletes and entertainers everywhere” that will make it easier for celebrities to protect against the unlicensed use of their image by video game developers. (more…)

Posted On Jun - 10 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Trailblazing Email Privacy Bill Proposed in Texas
Mary Grinman – Edited by Natalie Kim

H.B. No. 2268

Photo By: André NattaCC BY 2.0

On May 27, 2013, the Texas State Senate and House both signed H.B. 2268. The legislation requires state law enforcement agents to secure a warrant before accessing emails and other “electronic customer data” in “electronic storage.” H.B. 2268 at 3–4. It also permits state courts to serve warrants on out-of-state service providers as long as they do “business in [Texas] under a contract . . . with a resident of [Texas], if any part of that contract . . . is to be performed in [Texas].” Id. at 9. With this requirement, the bill closes the loophole of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which allows warrantless access to emails opened or older than 180 days. Unless Governor Rick Perry vetoes the bill by June 16, 2013, the bill will pass and go into effect on September 1.

Texas Rep. John Frullo originally authored the bill, with support from civil liberties organizations such as the Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition. Prior to the bill’s passage, the Senate amended it to allow “an authorized peace officer” to “require a provider . . . to disclose . . . information revealing the identity of customers . . . [and] information about a customer’s use of the applicable service[,] without giving subscriber or customer notice” as long as he obtained an administrative subpoena, a grand jury subpoena, a warrant, a court order, or the consent of the customer. See Senate Amendments Printing Analysis, at 5–6. The legislation is designed to “extend[] the jurisdiction of district judges by granting them privileges to issue data search warrants beyond the physical boundaries of the state for computer data searches only.” Senate Committee Report at 1.

Texas Legislature Online provides a summary of the history surrounding the bill. Ars Technica calls the bill “unprecedented,” and describes it as “the nation’s strongest email privacy bill.” RT states that the bill could be “a roadmap to updating the [federal] 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA),” which only requires a warrant for recent and unopened emails. Pub. L. No. 99-508, 100 Stat. 1848 (Oct. 21, 1986),codified at 18 U.S.C. §§2510-22, 2701-11, 3121-26. However, Bloomberg BNA reminds its readers that the federal government will retain the authority to “access older emails without a warrant.” (more…)

Posted On Jun - 8 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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