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Whack-a-troll Legislation

Written by Asher Lowenstein     —   Edited by Yaping Zhang

Patent assertion entities’ extensive litigation activities in different states enables to assess the efficacy of the proposed bills against legal strategies these trolls, such as MPHJ Technology, have engaged in. The legal battles confirm some of the concerns about the usefulness of proposed regulatory measures.

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3D Systems and Formlabs Settled Two-Year Patent Dispute

By Yixuan Long – Edited by Yaping Zhang

On December 1, 3D Systems and Formlabs settled their two-year legal dispute over the 520 Patent infringement. Terms of the settlement are undisclosed. The patent covered different parts of the stereolithographic three-dimensional printing process, which uses a laser to cure liquid plastic. 3D Systems was granted the ‘520 Patent in 1997. Formlabs views the settlement as enabling it to continue its expansion and keep developing new products.

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Privacy Concerns in the Sharing Economy: The Case of Uber 

By Sabreena Khalid – Edited by Insue Kim

Recent revelations about Uber’s disconcerting use of personal user information have exposed the numerous weaknesses in Uber’s Privacy Policy. The lack of regulation in the area, coupled with the sensitive nature of personal information gathered by Uber, makes the issue one requiring immediate attention of policy makers.

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San Francisco Court Considers Google’s Search and Ad Services Free Speech

By Jens Frankenreiter – Edited by Henry Thomas

A San Francisco court dismissed a lawsuit against Google, treating Google’s search and advertisement services as constitutionally protected free speech. The lawsuit alleged an antitrust violation based on unfavorable treatment of a website in Google’s search results, and on the withdrawal of third-party advertisement from the website. In throwing out the lawsuit, the court applied California’s “anti-SLAPP” law, which allows quick dismissal of lawsuits against acts protected as free speech.

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EU Unitary Patent System Challenge Unsustainable: Advocate General

By Saukshmya Trichi – Edited by Ashish Bakshi

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has rendered an opinion on Spain’s challenges to regulations implementing the European Unitary Patent System. The Advocate General opines that the challenges must be dismissed as the system is intended to provide genuine benefit in terms of uniformity and integration, and safeguard the principle of legal certainty, while the choice of languages reduces translation costs considerably.

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Companies provide popular online streaming services but face copyright challenges under the DMCA

By Marina Shvarts – Edited by Chinh Vo

The rising popularity of online music and video streaming is raising questions concerning what exactly is considered copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Slight variations in business models can lead to distinguishable precedent and unclear case law. As a result, some companies are attempting to negotiate licensing agreements, while others believe that their models are legal and do not require licenses. Below is a summary of some of the major service providers and the legal challenges they face.  (more…)

Posted On Aug - 8 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Andrew Crocker

Activist Arrested for Allegedly Hacking JSTOR

On July 19, police arrested Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old programmer and Internet activist, in Cambridge, Massachusetts for allegedly committing wire and computer fraud when he downloaded approximately 4.8 million scholarly articles and other files from the JSTOR database, reports the New York Times.  As alleged in the indictment, beginning in September 2010, Swartz used MIT’s network to run an automated script to download the material from JSTOR, and eventually physically jacked into a network closet on the MIT campus after MIT blocked his remote access.  Swartz is known for his work on Really Simple Syndication (“RSS”) and the social news website reddit. He also founded the organization Demand Progress, which advocates for progressive Internet and government transparency policies.  Wired reports that although the indictment alleges Swartz intended to distribute JSTOR’s copyrighted material, he may have been conducting research, having previously worked on a study that analyzed the funding sources for a several hundred thousand law review articles.  According to Ars Technica, Swartz’s arrest has provoked protest by at least one fellow proponent of open access to scholarly works, who responded by posting nearly 19,000 scientific articles on Pirate Bay.

Ninth Circuit Reverses Conviction for Online Threat Against Obama

In a split opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a California man who posted an online comment in October 2008 that appeared to call for then-Senator Barack Obama’s assassination, reports Wired.  Walter Bagdasarian was convicted under a federal law that makes it a felony to threaten to kill a major presidential candidate, but Judge Reinhardt, writing for the majority, found that Bagdasarian’s post did not rise to the level of a “true threat,” because there was insufficient evidence that “a reasonable person who read the postings within or without the relevant context would have understood either to mean that Bagdasarian threatened to injure or kill the Presidential candidate.”  In addition to failing this objective test for a true threat, the postings would also not support a subjective test for Bagdasarian’s intent to threaten Obama, and according to the court, either failure would be sufficient grounds for overturning the conviction.  Furthermore, although the post could be read as “an imperative intended to encourage others to take violent action,” the relevant statute does not criminalize exhortations to others, so Bagdasarian could not be convicted on this basis.  However, Eugene Volokh suggests that given the uncertainty in constitutional precedent on true threats and protected speech, this case is likely not settled and will either be reheard by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court.

Controversial Data Retention Bill Clears House Committee

H.R. 1981, a bill that would require Internet providers to retain users’ IP addresses and other personal information for one year, has cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 19-10.  The bill, which CNET reports has received support from the Justice Department, is intended to make it easier for law enforcement officials to investigate crimes committed over the Internet.  According to the National Journal, critics of the bill have pointed to what they see as its politically opportunistic name, the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, as an attempt to hide its broad scope and lack of privacy protections.   In addition to lawmakers from both parties, civil liberties organizations, such as the Center for Democracy & Technology, have criticized the bill, arguing that its data retention provisions are invasive, confusing in scope, and burdensome to small Internet providers.

Posted On Aug - 2 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Court Affirms Disciplining of Mortuary-Science Student for Threatening Facebook Posts, Relies on Tinker Standard for Censoring Speech in Higher Education
By Matthew Becker – Edited by Abby Lauer

Tatro v. University of Minnesota, 2011 WL 2672220 (Minn. Ct. App. July 11, 2011)
Slip Opinion hosted by the Minnesota State Law Library

The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a decision of the University of Minnesota Provost’s Appeals Committee, which had penalized mortuary-science student Amanda Tatro for off-campus posts to a social networking website.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the evidence supported the university’s finding that Tatro violated its rules. The court also held that the university properly exercised its authority to address Tatro’s off-campus conduct and did not violate her free speech rights because her actions fell under the wording of the university’s Student Conduct Code, which applies to off-campus conduct that “adversely affects a substantial University interest and . . . indicates that the student may present a danger or threat to the health or safety of the student or others.” In so holding, the court applied the Tinker standard, which allows school officials to limit or discipline student behavior if they reasonably conclude that the behavior will “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.”  The court stated that the Tinker standard was more appropriate than the alternative “true-threat” standard (which would have required Tatro to have intentionally communicated an actual threat before the university would be allowed to intervene), given that this was not a criminal case and that this standard typically does not apply to public schools taking appropriate disciplinary action.

Eric Goldman provides an overview of the case. The Volokh Conspiracy criticizes the decision for relying on an overly broad rationale that might encroach on students’ free speech rights, while the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) features a similar criticism and a thorough analysis of the decision.

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Posted On Jul - 25 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Apple’s Trademark Claim to the Term “App Store” Fails on Preliminary Injunction Motion
By Samantha Kuhn – Edited by Abby Lauer

Apple, Inc. v. Amazon.com Inc., No. C 11–1327 PJH, 2011 WL 2638191 (N.D. Cal. July 6, 2011)
Slip Opinion
hosted by Scribd.com

On July 6, the District Court for the Northern District of California denied Apple’s motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin Amazon.com from using the term “App Store.” The court found that Apple’s claims of trademark infringement and dilution were unlikely to succeed on the merits.

In her decision, Judge Phyllis Hamilton held that Apple failed to show that it was likely to prevail on its trademark infringement claim, based on the weakness of its argument regarding the “likelihood of confusion” element. With regard to the dilution claim, Judge Hamilton was not convinced by Apple’s contentions that the “App Store” mark is distinctive and that it can be diluted by blurring and/or tarnishment. The main issue in this case seemed to be whether the mark “App Store” should be classified as distinctive or descriptive, as the court rejected the idea that the mark is purely generic.

Ars Technica provides background and a brief summary of the dispute. An additional brief summary is available at News Daily. Eric Goldman hones in on particular aspects of the opinion and criticizes the case for the ridiculousness of the claims and the court’s inadequate treatment of the issues.  (more…)

Posted On Jul - 25 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST

By Michael Hoven

TSA to Revamp Full-Body Scanners Despite Legal Victory

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it would upgrade the software on controversial full-body scanners in order to better protect the privacy of travelers, says Wired. Instead of creating a nude image of the traveler, the new Automated Target Recognition software will produce a “generic outline of a person,” according to the TSA. The announcement came shortly after the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the use of full-body scanners at security checkpoints in airports did not constitute an unreasonable search barred by the Fourth Amendment, as the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported. The court held that the government’s interests in security and anti-terrorism outweighed individuals’ privacy concerns, but the TSA rule implementing the scanners had improperly been enacted without going through a notice-and-comment period.

FBI Arrests Sixteen in Connection with “Anonymous,” “LulzSec” Hackers Collectives

An FBI crackdown spanned ten states and led to the arrest of fourteen suspected members of “Anonymous” and two others accused of crimes in connection with “LulzSec,” reports All Things Digital. Anonymous is the name of a loosely affiliated organization of hackers who have claimed responsibility for the distributed denial of service attacks against PayPal and others who Anonymous believed were withdrawing support for Wikileaks. LulzSec has used similar methods to attack Sony and Senate.gov, among others, and may be a spinoff group of Anonymous, as VentureBeat has reported. The fourteen suspected members of Anonymous were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose, CA on charges of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer, according to All Things Digital, and the other two face similar charges. Gizmodo reports that Anonymous and LulzSec have since released a joint statement promising to continue their attacks on corporations and government.

Court Rules Facebook Posts Sufficient for Disciplining College Student

The Minnesota Court of Appeals (via Leagle) rejected a student’s argument that the University of Minnesota could not discipline her for statements made on Facebook because such statements were off campus, reports Eric Goldman at the Technology and Marketing Law Blog. In a series of posts, the mortuary sciences student discussed taking out aggression on a cadaver being dissected in class and threatened to stab an unidentified person, which she later admitted referred to an ex-boyfriend. The court held that the university was allowed to take disciplinary action (namely a failing grade and academic probation) because the student’s posts were threatening and disruptive to the university. At The Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh criticized the court’s reasoning for its potential to restrict student speech.

Direct Infringement Claims Against Cyberlocker Site Dismissed

Hotfile, a “cyberlocker site,” was held not to be a direct copyright infringer by the Southern District of Florida, Ars Technica reports, but the claims of secondary liability for copyright infringement can proceed. Cyberlocker sites are a recent target of MPAA’s anti-piracy efforts. Hotfile users can upload and share files, and affiliate accounts allow for payment based on the popularity of files that are shared. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alleges that the majority of files uploaded to Hotfile are pirated. Direct infringement claims failed because users, not Hotfile, uploaded the files, failing the “volitional act” requirement. However, Hotfile still faces secondary infringement claims on a theory of inducement (among other things), which Techdirt says is the MPAA’s best case.

Posted On Jul - 25 - 2011 Comments Off READ FULL POST
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