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 Alex Shank

Icon-newsFederal Circuit Holds that Good-Faith Belief in Invalidity May Disprove Intent to Induce Infringement

Last Tuesday, the Federal Circuit held that evidence of a good-faith belief in the invalidity of a patent may negate the intent to induce infringement of that patent. Commil USA, LLC v. Cisco Sys., Inc., 2012-1042 (Fed. Cir. June 25, 2013), opinion hosted by patentlyo.com. To induce infringement, a party must know that a patent exists and know that its actions will cause a third party to infringe that patent. Commil owns a patent over a method of transmitting mobile device information over wireless networks. Cisco wished to present evidence of its good-faith belief in the invalidity of the Commil patent to show that it lacked knowledge that a third party was infringing the patent. Although previous courts had allowed evidence of a good-faith belief in non-infringement, no court had allowed evidence of a good-faith belief in invalidity to show lack of intent. The trial jury found Cisco liable for induced infringement. On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that evidence of a good-faith belief in invalidity should be allowed to rebut a showing of intent. Bloomberg provides background on the case, as well as comments from Commil’s counsel.

Pandora Contends that Michigan Privacy Law Does Not Apply to Streamed Music

Pandora, an online music provider, requested that that Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit uphold an earlier ruling that its sharing of users’ music histories does not violate a Michigan state privacy law. The District Court for the Northern District of California previously granted Pandora’s motion to dismiss, finding that the Michigan law — which prohibits companies that lend or rent music from disclosing their customers’ preferences — did not apply to companies that stream music. Deacon v. Pandora Media, Inc. No. 11-04674 (Dist. Ct. N.D. Cal. Sept. 27, 2012), order hosted by docs.justia.com. Peter Deacon, a plaintiff in the case, alleges on appeal that the district court misconstrued the plain meaning of the Michigan law. In rebuttal, Pandora contends that its users lack sufficient control over the choice of music streamed for Pandora to be classified as a “lender” or “renter” of music. MediaPost provides a history of the case.

Chinese Wind Turbine Company Indicted on Misappropriation of U.S. Company’s Trade Secrets

The United States indicted the Chinese wind-turbine company Sinovel, as well as two of its executives, for criminal misappropriation of the trade secrets of its former U.S. supplier, American Superconductor, Corp. (“American”). Dejan Karabasevic, a former American employee, pled guilty to stealing American’s secret source code for wind-turbine computers and supplying it to Sinovel. Bloomberg discusses the Chinese courts’ inaction on American’s four suits filed against Sinovel in China, as well as the case’s relationship to U.S. concerns about cyber espionage more generally. Forbes details how American identified Karabasevic and the disgruntled former employee’s reasons for misappropriating the code.

Posted On Jun - 29 - 2013 Comments Off READ FULL POST

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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
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