Category: Internet Law

The Social Network All Over Again

Pinterest, the social media platform which allows users to create boards on which they can “pin” their favorite online media, has become the subject of a lawsuit leveled against the company and one of its first investors, Brian Cohen. The lawsuit alleges that the concept and technology for Pinterest were not original creations, but rather that Cohen and his business partners stole the idea from another site, RendezVoo, with which Cohen was also connected.

The suit has six total causes of action that it alleges harmed RendezVoo’s founder, Theodore Schroeder, who filed the suit. Overall, Schroeder is seeking an award of more than $75,000 in damages which, in consideration of the considerable success Pinterest has found, seems fairly insignificant in the long run. However, Pinterest’s business attorneys are still planning a defense against the suit, though it’s quite likely that the suit will eventually be settled out of court, much as the strikingly-similar Facebook case eventually was.

eTicketbuster Speeds to Front of Legal Tech Revolution

In the past two decades alone, the legal industry has undergone a quiet technological Yearout & Traylor, P.C.revolution that is dramatically reshaping the way in which people have their legal needs served. Lawyers are now more likely to use technology in court to help them with their cases. One example is using iPads to present evidence and take notes.

A great example of this trend is a new company in Washington state, eTicketbuster. This service allows people who have been issued a traffic citation to fill out a few simple forms online, pay a deposit (which is refunded if their case is lost), and have their ticket contested by experienced an criminal defense lawyer. All this without requiring the individual to lose valuable time fighting on their own in court. Obviously, this can be incredibly convenient to anyone facing criminal charges.

This is the type of technology that is beginning to seriously change how lawyers across the country operate. While some of the more traditional legal industries, such as personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys, will continue to require much of the same industry structure, more specialized practices, such as traffic offenses and wills and trusts attorneys, are slowly being phased out in favor of user-friendly technology.

Patent Infringement: Two Can Tango

A recent decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has set an important precedent for future patent infringement claims relating to information technology. In Akamai Technologies, Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., the Court determined that, while Limelight Networks hadn’t directly infringed on every aspect of Akamai’s patented content delivery technology, it was nevertheless liable for infringement because it had been aware of the patent and had instigated outside companies to do the other procedural moves that led to an infringement on the patent.

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This is an important development because, until this point, it was considered necessary for a company to infringe on every step of a patented method in order for an infringement claim to be successful. However, as the Court noted, the nature of these types of technological processes often involve interactions between multiple parties, which can easily be induced to violate portions of another company’s patent rights in fulfilling their obligations. This decision, therefore, could have a substantial impact on future decisions relating to process patents and patent law.

Do Not Track: Good or Bad News?

With many people worked up about whether or not Do Not Track will affect the freedom of the internet, it may be time for everyone to decide how it will really affect their searches.  The ad industry, understandably, is arguing adamantly against the use of DNT.  They believe that by ridding the internet of personal data collection, the way that tracking-based advertising works will become ineffectual.  This may be somewhat true, but because there are so many other sources of advertising revenue, it is not going to seriously affect online ad sales.

Most browsers have chosen to move in this direction and Google Chrome—the biggest one to hold out—has announced that by the end of the year, they too will have a Do Not Track option for their users.  At this point I think it is better for readers to consider what the impact will be on their personal life rather than getting wrapped up in the potential complications of ad agencies.  At this point, it appears that no one is going to be hit by this act too seriously, but internet users may be able to retain a bit more privacy than they have experienced in previous months.

Phone Phishing?

While many people have heard of phishing in relation to their emails, a recent trend has shown that many scams now include phishing via text message.  This type of fraud, commonly referred to as SMS phishing or Smishing, may be on the rise because cyber criminals have recognized a lack of spam alerts on mobile devices.  PCs typically alert users to incoming messages that appear risky or potentially dangerous, but texts that link to websites may be more successful at getting users to follow the link.

Analysts at Symantec Security Response have commented that this growing trend is dangerous because it spreads malware throughout the device.  In some situations this virus sends personal information to the cyber criminal that could allow them to access a person’s financial accounts or even listen in on phone calls.

It may be a good idea for users to consider purchasing security software for the phones and carefully analyzing suspicious messages from both known and unknown contacts before following links.  By thinking of your cell phone as a computer, it may be possible to minimize the risks of fraud.  By checking with your bank’s policy on texting consumers, deleting suspicious messages, and enabling a text block feature available on many service plans, it is possible to reduce the dangers associated with phone phishing.

Social Media and Bankruptcy

Social media technology has become a part of our daily lives. Advances in mobile technology have made it so our social profiles are available from our mobile phones with the push of a button. People upload photos to their social profiles during the day and share photos of their family and activities with ease.

Our connection to social media can be harmless but if you are filing for bankruptcy or even considering filing then you need to change your social media habits immediately. Today everyone is using the internet to find out more about you.

If you are struggling financially or filing bankruptcy, creditors, debt collection agencies and bankruptcy trustees are using the internet to learn more about you. Your bankruptcy attorney will tell you to stop all social media posting and to avoid sharing any information that may complicate your case. Actions such as sharing vacation photos or the news of a new purchase on Facebook or updating your LinkedIn profile to show a raise or promotion can be harmful to your bankruptcy case.

For example, if you are making the agreed upon chapter 13 bankruptcy payments and your trustee sees online that you just got a promotion at work or went on an expensive vacation they can petition the court to re-evaluate your payment arrangement. Chapter 13 bankruptcy payments are intended to be the maximum you can afford and leaving you with enough money to live on. If it appears you have significant extra funds available to you then your creditor payments may be increased.

It would be naïve to think that privacy settings could help you protect this information. A trustee can easily subpoena access to these sites to review your online activity. Social media is typically very self-promotional which makes it very common for users to over-share.

Anyone who uses social media should consider the reach it has. If you are in the process of a divorce an attorney or investigator may scour social profiles to find incriminating information pertaining to infidelity or financial dishonesty. Employers and human resources professionals are searching social profiles to find out more about a potential new hire. If a new job or promotion comes down to you and another person and you have a social profile filled with inappropriate photos and language, it is likely that the other person will get the job.

There can be a lot of benefits of social media technology. The important thing is to remember how and when to use it and when to avoid or sensor it.

This guest post was provided by David Chang of Chang and Carlin, LLP. Their Chicago bankruptcy lawyers are committed to helping clients with chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy, real estate law, foreclosure issues and tax and IRS issues.

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Wi-Fi Privacy

Recent concerns about the privacy of Wi-Fi networks have many Americans wondering how secure their internet traffic is.  Although Congress amended the wiretap law to protect the privacy of everyone who relied on cellular phones rather than only corded telephones, they have not yet included Wi-Fi traffic.  Password protected networks are likely safe from this potential threat, but open-networks may not be legally protected.

The decisive, long-term ruling on this is currently unclear because this type of technology was not considered in previous amendments to the federal wiretap statute.  A class action lawsuit filed against Google ruled that although the networks were not specifically mentioned in the exclusions of the wiretap law, they should be protected even if they are not encrypted.  This case is currently being appealed, so the final outcome may be changed.  Future weeks will likely present further debate on this type of privacy issue.

Apple vs. Samsung

Tech powerhouses Apple and Samsung are facing off in court in order to determine possible patent breaches between their phone and tablet products.  Apple began the legal battle in 2011 when they filed a lawsuit against Samsung for copying the iPhone and iPad models.  Samsung retaliated with a counter-suit and in turn, Apple pushed for similar patent cases in other countries.

But fortunately, a verdict has been reached!  United States District Court Judge Lucy Koh determined that sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 should be postponed until Samsung can prove innocent in the lawsuit.  Should the infringement claims be found invalid, Apple has agreed to compensate Samsung’s potential losses up to $2.6 million.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed by Samsung, so possible changes to the ruling could go into effect in upcoming weeks.  Cases like this can be complicated and often requires the on-going dedication of legal teams, so it may be a while before we hear a final decision regarding the appeals process.

Americans With Disabilities Act

A ruling last week in the case National Association of the Deaf (NAD) v. Netflix, Inc. took the unprecedented stance that websites are obligated to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by ruling in favor of the NAD regarding their assertion that Netflix should be required to close-caption its online video library. The key issue in the ruling is the assertion that a website qualifies as a “place of public accommodation” and as such is subject to the ADA just as a brick and mortar shop is required to provide accessibility options such as ramps and handicapped accessible restrooms.

Many lawyers believe that this interpretation of the law could open up a variety of new opportunities for holding companies accountable for discriminatory actions. With this ruling as precedent, plaintiffs could sue websites for failure to make any online property accessible to disabled individuals, requiring significant changes to many websites and other online entities which are currently used by millions of Americans daily but are inaccessible to blind or deaf individuals.

Unfortunately there are many instances where citizens go against the Americans with Disabilities Act. If a person ever experiences this sort of unfair treatment, either in the workplace, or through another service industry, employment and some injury lawyers may be able to take your case.

Dating Just Became A Criminal Offense

State lawmakers in Rhode Island finally realized that having a law on the books that made lying in any form on the internet a crime might not be such a great idea, as the letter of the law made virtually every citizen of the state a criminal. The obscure 1989 law made the “transmission of false data” online a misdemeanor, punishable by fines of up to $500 and even up to a year in prison.

The purpose of the law was to stop fraud, scammers, and con artists, but the law never stipulates that the untrue information must be transmitted with the intent to harm or gain personal profit. The unfortunate result of such a broad law on the books was that listing your build as “athletic” on your dating profile, messaging your spouse that you were “working late” when you were in fact at happy hour with your buddies, or pretending you’ve actually read Dickens on your Facebook profile made you guilty of a misdemeanor in the state.

The repeal is step forward in protecting individual rights and interests on the internet, but it is still possible to be wrongly convicted of internet crimes throughout the country. An attorney may be able to help if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being prosecuted for an internet crime you did not commit.

Google vs YouTube-MP3.org

Google is finally taking steps to actively pursue the more obvious sources of copyright infringement that outside websites have committed by way of the company’s video streaming service YouTube, recently taking aim at YouTube-MP3.org with threats of legal action.

Google is accusing YouTube-MP3 of taking advantage of the application programming interface (API) available to YouTube users, which offers various means of using YouTube content and features in other websites, in order to download said content and make it available to other users on a non-streaming basis. Google asserts that this is in violation of user policy as well as copyright law.

On the other side of the aisle, YouTube-MP3 is countering by assuring Google that they have used the API features for nothing other than obtaining the video title and length of a specific video, both actions entirely permissible within the YouTube terms of service. Any recording of the stream is done with exterior software, which the organization likens to the use of a recording device to create a copy of something viewed on your television.

Google has long asserted that YouTube is exempt from liability for the actions and, specifically, copyright infringement of its users, making this move a significant indication that they are willing to protect the IP rights of posters and copyright holders to some degree in areas which can be easily managed, such as informing sites such as YouTube-MP3 that they are in violation of terms of service. No legal action has been taken as of yet, although following this case may prove to be worthwhile as the situation develops.

Frivolous Copyright Lawsuits Threaten Free Wi-Fi In St. Louis

The pornography industry has long relied on the defense of free speech and internet freedom advocates when facing persecution and prosecution from decency laws and organizations committed to protecting the public from the perceived threat that porn poses to the public. However, these same groups that came begrudgingly to the defense of the pornography industry are being forced to speak out against it as Liberty Media Holdings (LMH) has recently brought a lawsuit against two roommates for the alleged illegal downloading of a pornographic film to which the company holds the rights.

While pursuing a lawsuit against a defendant accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material is nothing new, this case bears the unfortunate distinction of attempting to extend liability to a party which LMH itself acknowledges did not commit any infringement. According to a prominent personal injury lawyer, the case asserts that because the Internet subscription was in the name of the roommate who did not download the material, and he might have known that his roommate sometimes made illegal downloads, he is somehow responsible for the copyright infringement.

While the execution is new, the strategy of attempting to pressure copyright infringement defendants with bogus claims and improper procedures is nothing new. The objective is typically to intimidate the target into settling out of court despite the presence of a strong defense against shaky claims. The ramifications of this particular case are much greater than others however, as it creates the potential for liability for any entity offering free access to a Wi-Fi connection. In the St. Louis area, cafes, libraries, schools, and entire cities have been making huge strides in creating a readily accessible and free to access Wi-Fi network, a development which has benefited the public mightily while arguably promoting public safety.

Access to free and readily usable wireless internet will likely face a sharp decline should the lawsuit be successful, as businesses may be unable to operate networks out of fear for their company’s good name and financial security.

Cyber Security that Fights Back

In response to repeated and seemingly unpreventable hacker inflitration, many companies are beginning to take a cue from William Gibson and developing Neuromancer-level ice which aggressively fights back against cyber invaders. Cyber security experts are concerned about the potential for an arms race involving retaliation between security firms and the organizations intent on penetrating their defenses.

The Oatmeal and IndieGogo Fight Evil

For those of you not up to date on the bizarre goings-on between cartoonist Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, and lawyer Charles Carreon will need to be brought briefly up to speed. Last month, Carreon sent a letter to the webcomic The Oatemal in response to a post from a year ago in which the cartoonist reviled the website FunnyJunk’s unauthorized use of his comics, as well as their treatment when he asked for them to be removed. This letter demanded that Inman pay $20,000 in damages or risk a defamation suit over the post.

Inman refused of course, and instead sent an insulting letter vowing to raised $20,000 for charity, take a picture of himself with the money and a comic of FunnyJunk’s owner’s mother attempting to seduce a bear, and send the image to FunnyJunk. All of this was documented on Inman’s website, resulting in a flood of internet outrage and an outpouring of spontaneous support for the fundraiser. Some of this support was not as productive as might have been hoped however, and Carreon appears to have suffered a flood of hate mail, spam, and other indignities which have roused him to even greater legal craziness.

Carreon has now filed suit against Inman, the Oatmeal, the website hosting the fundraiser IndieGoGo, the American Cancer Society, and the National Wildlife Federation; the two beneficiaries of the fundraiser. Under Carreon’s suit, he alleges defamation, incitement to cyber vandalism, and trademark infringement, demands that the fundraiser be shut down, and generally reeks of indignant rage and outright evilness.

The lawsuit has spurred various parties to action, but is still in the early stages of development. According to a San Diego lawyer, it seems to be willfully frivolous, but may indeed result in extended litigation which ends up costing legitimate charitable organizations significant legal expenses which could instead be spent on supporting cancer research and protecting wildlife.