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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Supreme Court Holds California Ban on Violent Video Games Violates First Amendment
By Raquel Acosta – Edited by Dorothy Du

Brown v. EMA, No. 08-1448 (June 27, 2011)
Slip Opinion via supremecourt.gov

The Supreme Court affirmed a Ninth Circuit decision that had found that a California law that restricted the sale or rental of violent video games to minors did not comport with the First Amendment and permanently enjoined its enforcement.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.  In a 7-2 decision, the Court upheld the lower court decisions and repealed California Assembly Bill 1179 (2005), Cal. Civ. Code Ann. §§1746-1746.5 (West 2009) (“the Act”) (a law passed in 2005 by the California State Legislature which required more stringent rating standards on video games), banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18, and imposed a maximum $1000 per violation.  The Supreme Court held that video games were afforded the same First Amendment protections as other forms of communication.  Areas in which restrictions on free speech are allowed are limited to obscenity, incitement, and fighting words.  In so holding, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that a balancing test may be used to justify restrictions, holding that a legislature may not add new categories of unprotected speech.

The Virtual World Law Blog provides an overview of the case.  David Kopel, writing for the Volokh Conspiracy, examines the “the weapons effect” (the theory that being exposed to aggressive stimuli will make ordinary individuals more inclined towards aggressive behavior) and uses the Brown decision in his critique of legislative anti-gun laws. Wikipedia provides a thorough analysis of the case and is informative as to the case history and the context in which Brown arises. SCOTUSblog contains an interesting commentary on the litigation strategies used.

(more…)

Posted On Jul - 5 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

House Passes Patent Reform – Keeps Senate’s “First-To-File”, Differs on PTO Funding
By Albert Wang – Edited by Matt Gelfand

H.R. 1249 – Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Bill

Govtrack.us Summary

On June 23, 2011, the House passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and passed by a vote of 304 to 117, the legislation implements a first-to-file system, a post-grant review system, and a fund for PTO fees, among other procedural changes. Smith promised in a statement that the bill would help “to encourage innovation, job creation and economic growth” by reducing the application backlog and attacking frivolous patent litigation. The Act’s purpose is to “promote industries to continue to develop new technologies that spur growth and create jobs across the country which includes protecting the rights of small businesses and investors from predatory behavior that could result in the cutting off of innovation.”

Originally passed in the Senate by a vote of 95 to 5 (previous Digest coverage), H.R. 1249 includes a number of changes relative to its Senate counterpart, S. 23. Of note, H.R. 1249 retains the Senate bill’s first-to-file regime, which makes the “effective filing date” of a claimed invention the actual filing date, thus dismantling the existing first-to-invent regime. First-to-file has been criticized by the Inventors Network of the Capital Area and Tea Party politicians like Phyllis Schlafly for unfairly advantaging large companies, foreign actors, and other parties with the resources to file patents quickly, according to Mother Jones. Your Patent Guy argues in contrast that resource advantages already work to bias interference proceedings, and that the bill gives institutional actors no advantage that they did not already enjoy under the existing system. (more…)

Posted On Jul - 5 - 2011 1 Comment READ FULL POST

by Vivian Tao

House Passes Patent Reform Bill; Senate and House Versions To Be Reconciled

A few months after the American Invents Act had passed in the Senate, the House voted to pass its version of the bill this week. The controversial bill would overhaul certain areas of the patent system, such as switching from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system. However, according to Patent Docs, the ACLU and other groups are more concerned that passage of the bill could signal Congressional approval of gene patenting, which could preclude individuals from seeking a second opinion for genetic evaluations. The Hill also notes that there is controversy on whether the bill’s streamlining of the patent process would lead to “efficient infringement” or truly better protection. Despite these issues, Patently O reports that the House and the Senate will likely work together to reconcile differences in their separate versions of the bill and vote on a final version soon. The Digest will have more in-depth coverage of the bill this week.

Oracle Seeks Billions in Damages from Google; Another Oracle Patent Is Severely Narrowed in Rexam

The U.S. Patent Office’s latest findings have helped Google’s case in the latest chapter of Oracle’s ongoing lawsuit against Google for alleged patent infringement regarding the Android operating system. According to Groklaw, the U.S. Patent Office rejected 17 of Oracle’s 21 claims on one of Oracle’s asserted patents. Search Engine Watch reports that this comes on the heels of Google’s motion to place the case under seal to protect confidential information and shareholder confidence, which may have already started to suffer. However, the crux of the case may lie in the damages figure. PCWorld reports that arguments revolve around the damages that Oracle has claimed, between $1.4 and $6.1 billion, which Google says is a gross overestimate. Among the many counterarguments advanced by Google, the Wall Street Journal notes the figure takes Google’s Android advertising revenue into account, but could be disputed since the advertisements and software at issue can run independently. Trial is set to begin in October.

Supreme Court To Hear Prometheus Again

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Prometheus Laboratories v. Mayo Clinic, a multi-year suit involving the patentability of medical diagnostic tests (the Digest covered the original Federal Circuit ruling). The Supreme Court vacated the Federal Circuit’s original ruling in light of their ruling in In re Bilski, but the Federal Circuit affirmed its original ruling of validity, according to Courthouse News Service. As Techdirt notes, opponents of patenting such tests argue those patents threaten the right to observe natural phenomena, and issuing such patents would also drive up costs and make bedside diagnoses difficult to administer. However, Prometheus asserts that their test “transforms” a blood sample into something that is no longer human and is thus protected by the machine-or-transformation test of patentability. Prometheus also argues that a holding for Mayo might be broad enough to eliminate all diagnostic and therapeutic patents. The Wall Street Journal notes that this could damage the incentives for private investment into therapeutic medicine. Ultimately, when the case is decided, it will have an effect on a range of other patented medical tests that currently exist.

Posted On Jun - 27 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Third Circuit holds that vulgar MySpace profile created off school grounds did not cause “substantial disruption” at the school to justify student’s ten-day suspension
By Michael Adelman – Edited by Abby Lauer

J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, No. 08-4138 (3d Cir. June 13, 2011)
Slip Opinion

The Third Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed and remanded the Middle District of Pennsylvania’s ruling that suspension was an appropriate punishment for a student who created a fake MySpace account that made fun of her middle school principal. The court also affirmed the District Court’s ruling that the school district’s policies were not overbroad or void-for-vagueness.

The Third Circuit held that the fake MySpace profile, while vulgar and offensive, did not cause the type of “substantial disruption” which would have justified the ten-day suspension of the student. The profile was not accessible on any school computers (due to a filter), and while the school district asserted that the profile caused “general rumblings,” it could not point to any major disruption of classroom activities caused by the profile. The court applied the framework from Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), to analyze whether the student’s posting materially interfered with school activities, but it declined to directly address whether Tinker is limited to speech that occurs on campus.

Education Tech News provides an overview of this case, and the companion case Layshock v. Hermitage School District, No. 07-4465 (3d Cir. June 13, 2011) (involving another student who created a fake MySpace profile making fun of his principal). The Digest previously covered these cases when they were heard by Third Circuit panels and resulted in seemingly contradictory decisions. Wired provides a thorough analysis of the decision, noting that the Supreme Court “has not squarely addressed the student-speech issue as it applies to the digital world” and speculating that these “decisions might give the justices fodder to do so.” (more…)

Posted On Jun - 21 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

by Dorothy Du

Bipartisan Bill Would End Warrantless GPS Tracking

The Geolocational Privacy Surveillance Act, a new bipartisan bill dubbed the “GPS Act,” seeks to clarify when the government can use GPS tracking technology to obtain geolocational information about individuals without a warrant, according to Nextgov.  Current electronic surveillance laws are behind the times and fail to address specific legal concerns raised by modern GPS technology. Several lawsuits in the past several years have led to a hodgepodge of court rulings over the use of GPS tracking by law enforcement, Wired reports. Ars Technica explains that the new bill would bring these decisions into uniformity by generally requiring a warrant, but creating exceptions for special cases, such as during emergencies or to track organized crime.

Juror Receives Jail Time for Contacting Defendant on Facebook

Joanne Frail, a U.K. juror, has been sentenced to eight months in prison for contacting a defendant online during an ongoing drug trial, reports The Wall Street Journal Blog.  Despite the fact that defendant Jamie Sewart had been cleared of charges, contacting her was directly contrary to Frail’s oath has a juror. BBC News says that Frail had looked up Sewart on Facebook to express her sympathy and discuss the jury deliberations in clear violation of the Contempt of Court Act of 1981.  As a consequence of Frail’s actions, the trial judge decided to discharge the jury and dismiss the case, which had cost £6m. NPR explains the risks jurors create by using the Internet during a trial, including the possibility that jurors could end up considering information deemed inadmissible at trial.

Online Streaming of Copyrighted Performances One Step Closer to Felony

The Senate Judiciary Committee has just approved a bill that would increase the status of streaming copyrighted performances online to a felony, The Minnesota Independent reports. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who introduced the bill last month, says that the bill is not meant to target individuals and families streaming movies at home, but rather is meant to catch those who knowingly steal digital content and make thousands of dollars or more in profit from it. Supporters of the bill say that it would make copyright law more uniform by adding “public performances” to the list of protected rights, but some argue that “performance” is ill-defined and could lead to ordinary people being thrown in jail for posting copyrighted videos on YouTube, says Techdirt. The Wrap explains that without this bill, a “public performance” like streaming is not a “reproduction” of a copyrighted work. Such a definition has left the entertainment industry at risk of losing vast amounts of revenue to unauthorized websites that can be used to stream movies and shows.

Posted On Jun - 20 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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