A student-run resource for reliable reports on the latest law and technology news
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Aereo Struggles as Supreme Court Finds It Violated Copyright Law
By Jenny Choi – Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

On June 25, 2014, in its 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Aereo, Inc.  The U.S. Supreme Court held that Aereo violated the Copyright Act of 1976 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. This decision has not come without criticism, however, as some warn this ad hoc decision could lead to uncertainty in the courts.

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DRIP Bill Expands UK’s Data Surveillance Power

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Insue Kim

House of Lords passed the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (“DRIP”) on July 17, 2014. DRIP empowers the UK government to require all companies providing internet-based services to UK customers to retain customer metadata for 12 months. It also expands the government’s ability to directly intercept phone calls and digital communications from any remote storage. Critics claim the bill goes far beyond what is necessary and its fast-track timeframe prevents meaningful discussion.

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Federal Circuit Grants Stay of Patent Infringement Litigation Until PTAB Can Complete a Post-Grant Review

By Kyle Pietari – Edited by Insue Kim

Reversing the district court’s decision, the Federal Circuit granted a stay of patent infringement litigation proceedings until the PTAB can complete a post-grant patent validity review. This was the court’s first ruling on a stay when the suit and review process were happening concurrently.

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Ninth Circuit Rejects Fox’s Request to Shut Down Dish Services, Despite Aereo Decision

By Sheri Pan – Edited by Insue Kim

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Fox’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  Fox argued that the technologies would irreparably harm Fox because they violate copyright laws, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court did not err in finding that the harm alleged by Fox was speculative, noting that Fox had failed to present evidence documenting such harm.

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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Patrick Gutierrez

Senate passes bill to make cell phone unlocking legal

ABA urges lawyers to stop pursuing file sharing lawsuits

FBI cautions that driverless cars may be used to assist criminal behavior

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State Appeals Court Rules for Online Ticketing Site Under Federal Communications Law
By Geng Chen – Edited by Lauren Henry

Hill v. StubHub, Inc., NO. COA11-685, 2012 WL 696223 (N.C. App. Ct. March 6, 2012)
Slip Opinion

The Court of Appeals of North Carolina reversed the Guilford County Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment for the plaintiffs in an unfair and deceptive trade practices case arising out of the 2007 “Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana” concert tour. The trial court found StubHub in violation of N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14–344, which prohibits a seller from reselling tickets for more than $3 over their “face value.” It also rejected StubHub’s argument that it was immune from liability under 47 U.S.C. § 230, which provides immunity to liability to providers or users of interactive computer services, who act as publishers or speakers of information provided by another information content provider.

The Court of Appeals conducted a de novo review of the trial court’s summary judgment decision on the issue of the scope of 47 U.S.C. § 230 immunity, an issue of first impression in North Carolina. The court held that StubHub acted not as a seller but as a broker, making § 230 immunity applicable. The court also held that StubHub was not liable under North Carolina law for the fees it charged the ticket-seller for use of the site because it was not the seller or the seller’s agent in the transaction.

Eric Goldman provides an overview of the case and discusses the holding in light of other §230 cases. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 20 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Federal Circuit Avoids §101 Analysis in Determining Patent Validity
By Jacob Rogers – Edited by Lauren Henry

MySpace, Inc. v. Graphon Corp., No. 2011-1149 (Fed. Cir. 2012)
Slip opinion

The Federal Circuit affirmed Northern District of California’s ruling on summary judgment that four of Graphon’s patents were invalid due to either lack of novelty or obviousness under 35 U.S.C. §102 and 35 U.S.C. §103, respectively. The district court found that these patents, which disclose a method for creating and searching a database over the Internet, were anticipated by the Mother of All Bulletin boards, created by Dr. Oliver McBryan. MySpace v. Graphon, No. 2011-1149.

The Federal Circuit held that the district court correctly ruled that Graphon’s patents were either anticipated or obvious and that the district court’s reasoning was adequately clear despite a failure to go through the full Graham factor analysis. Id. at 23 (citing Graham v. John Deere Co. of Kansas City, 383 U.S. 1, 17 (1966)). The court also held that it was not necessary to examine the subject matter of the patents under 35 U.S.C. §101 because the case could be dealt with using §§102 and 103. Id. at 17-18. In so holding, the court compared the patentable subject matter requirements of §101 to the Constitution and suggested that the courts should apply something similar to the constitutional avoidance doctrine by endeavoring to resolve cases under §102 and 103 rather than §101 whenever possible. Id.

PatentlyO provides an overview and analysis of the case. The Patent Prospector criticizes the decision, arguing that the district court’s incomplete claim construction should have been reversible error. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 13 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Michael Hoven

LulzSec Hackers Arrested after Leader Turns Informant

Five hackers associated with LulzSec, a splinter group of the hacktivist network Anonymous, were arrested in Europe and the United States with the help of an informant, reports the New York Times. Unsealed records revealed that Hector Xavier Monsegur, an outspoken LulzSec leader known as “Sabu” online, had been working with the FBI since his arrest last June. The arrested hackers are suspected to have been involved with LulzSec’s attacks on Fox, HBGary, and Stratfor. While the arrests, and Sabu’s collaboration with authorities, could damage LulzSec, Wired reports that some of Sabu’s fellow hackers had suspected that he had become an informant after a period of silence after his June arrest.

Court Says No Warrant Needed for Historical Cell-Site Records

In United States v. Graham, the District Court of Maryland ruled that the government did not need a warrant to access cell phone location records held by cellular providers, reports Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy. The court concluded that such records were covered by the third-party doctrine; customers voluntarily convey the information to the service provider, who creates and keeps the records, so the records fall outside the protection of the Fourth Amendment. The court noted that United States v. Jones (previously covered by the Digest) held that an surveillance over time could violate a privacy interest, but stopped short of creating a general principle that aggregated surveillance records run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.

In Hotfile Lawsuit, MPAA Takes Advantage of Megaupload Indictment

The MPAA is building on the Megaupload indictment (previously covered by the Digest) to argue that the file-sharing site Hotfile is liable for copyright infringement, Ars Technica reports. In their brief for summary judgment, the MPAA said that “Hotfile’s business model is indistinguishable” from Megaupload’s, and suggested that Hotfile’s stated attempt to compete with Megaupload was evidence in favor of Hotfile’s liability. Though the MPAA initiated the lawsuit in February 2011, the recent Megaupload indictment offers an additional rhetorical device to the film studios’ litigation.

Posted On Mar - 12 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Heejin Choi

Google’s New Privacy Policy Takes Effect

In January, Google announced that it will implement a new privacy policy, effective as of March 1st, which consolidates all its guidelines into one that applies universally to its services, including Gmail and Youtube. Under the new policy, Google can pool and merge user data from all of its services, which allows it to “better tailor search results and improve service.” Users cannot opt out of this new policy. Even though the new policy does not technically permit Google to collect more user information than under its previous policy, many experts on privacy have expressed concerns about it, the Huffington Post reports. Meanwhile, NPR has outlined some ways users can increase their privacy protections.

Internet TV Provider Aereo Faces Lawsuits

Aereo, an Internet TV provider scheduled to launch on March 14 in New York City and whose services will allow customers to watch broadcast television online using a remote antenna and a digital video recorder, said in a blog post that it was facing two federal lawsuits from a group of broadcasters, Reuters reports. The lawsuits allege violations of copyright laws, because Aereo gets broadcast channels without paying retransmission fees that cable firms are required to pay. Fox, PBS, CW, ABC, NBC, and CBS have all joined in the suit.

Yelp’s Soaring Stocks in IPO

Yelp, a popular online review site where users can search and rate local businesses, saw its stock soar in value during its initial public offering (IPO) last Friday. Yelp’s IPO was priced at $15 per share, but soon rose $9.58 to close at $24.58. Yelp has yet to generate a profit but grossed $83.3 million in ad revenue in 2011, a 74% increase from 2010. Yelp estimates that it will raise about $96 million from the IPO after expenses. This stock offering is the latest in a series of tech IPOs leading up to Facebook’s much anticipated offering this spring.

Posted On Mar - 7 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Seventh Circuit Wrestles with Constitutionality of Warrantless Cell Phone Searches
By Brittany Horth – Edited by Charlie Stiernberg

United States v. Flores-Lopez, No. 10-3803 (7th Cir. 2012)
Slip opinion

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which had held that a warrantless search of a cell phone in order to obtain its phone number is permitted under the Fourth Amendment. Judge Posner acknowledged that the issue had implications for computers and other electronics that hold personal data because the “modern cell phone is a computer.” Slip Op. at 1. He described the extensive capabilities of modern-day cell phones but ultimately refused to define the precise boundaries of cell phone searches beyond the immediate issue of the phone number of the cell phone.

FindLaw and The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provide brief overviews of the case.  Forbes provides a more detailed summary of Judge Posner’s reasoning.  Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy questions some of Judge Posner’s analogies and finds that Posner’s new approach to the problem may result in Supreme Court review in the future. Westlaw Insider criticizes Judge Posner’s analogies as confusing and incomparable and expresses concern over the continued potential for abuse in cell phone and computer searches. (more…)

Posted On Mar - 6 - 2012 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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