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.

Tweets Not Private

Hach & Rose, LLPRecently, Twitter decided to hand over deleted tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protestor’s account to a criminal judge in New York. Prosecutors had subpoenaed the social networking giant to receive access to the tweets, but until recently, Twitter had refused to turn them over. However, after months of pressure, Twitter capitulated and gave prosecutors access to the information they sought.

At issue in the case is whether or not an individual’s tweets should be considered private communications. In this case, the protestor’s tweets are alleged to contradict his claim that police led protestors into the street in order to arrest them for obstructing traffic. According to a New York personal injury lawyer, the “social” nature of tweets and similar communications renders them ineligible for privacy protection, as they are intended to be broadcast to a public audience.

Apple vs. Samsung Decision

Nerd Law recently discussed the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit that was ongoing for several weeks.  Now, we have the results.  Late last Friday night, a jury voted in favor of Apple and awarded the company $1,049,343,540 in damages.  Samsung was not awarded any financial compensation by the jury at this time.

The complex case centered mostly around whether or not Samsung products infringed on Apple patents and vice versa.  The lawsuit included the consideration of over 30 different devices, 12 patents, and the jury was asked to make over 700 decisions about the case in order to come to a decision about the infringement issues.

Samsung is expected to appeal this decision, so the case is far from over.  Apple is now engaging in a legal battle with HTC over similar concerns, and it will be interesting to see how this verdict will affect future patent infringement cases.

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.

SHIELD Act

The issue of patent trolling, or nonpracticing entities (NPEs) who collect technology patents for the sole purpose of suing legitimate companies while they themselves produce nothing, has long been a limiting factor in American software and technology innovation. According to a study released by James Bessen and Michael Meurer at the Boston University School of Law, defendants suffered $29 billion in direct costs from frivolous lawsuits in 2011, and a previous study indicated that troll lawsuits like this ended up costing tech companies $500 billion in legal fees, out of court settlements, awards, and hits to share value between the years of 1990 and 2010.

New proposed legislation is targeted at forcing the trolls back under the bridge however, as two congressmen have introduced the Saving High-tech Innovators from Egregious Legal Disputes (SHIELD) Act which would require patent lawsuit plaintiffs to pay their defendent’s legal fees should they lose the suit. In the majority of patent lawsuits, NPEs target smaller firms with the objective of forcing a settlement for a few hundred thousand dollars. In cases such as this, the SHIELD Act would be an effective deterrent as the NPE would have more to lose than they had to gain in pursuing a lawsuit. Hopes are high for the bill, but similar legislation such as the America Invents Act was dismantled in Congress by the influence of lobbyists, leaving it largely ineffective.

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.

Dangerous Nerd Toys!!?

Millions of wonderfully nerdy products reach consumer shelves annually in the United States.  With so many products available for purchase, it’s critical that electronics manufacturers ensure that these products are safe to buy and use.  Unfortunately, sometimes the importance of safe product release escapes manufacturers, and consumers are injured or become ill from dangerous products.  When this happens, a manufacturer may be held legally responsible for any injuries or illnesses that their products lead to, and may have to pay out compensation to victims.

Any products have the potential to be dangerous, if they are not handled, packaged, or distributed correctly, but some products are implicated in product liability cases more often than others.  Some of the industries that tend to be involved in more product liability lawsuits include:

  • Child care and toy industries
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Packaging industries
  • Tool and machinery industries

These industries are used by millions of Americans, and it’s critical that their products are not dangerous for consumer purchase and use.  Unfortunately, sometimes their products are released with some kind of defect or flaw, which increase the chances of an unsuspecting consumer to be injured.  Fortunately, a victim of an unsafe product may have the legal ability to hold a manufacturer financially responsible for an unsafe product. If you’re interested, this Urbana personal injury lawyer recently made some good recommendations about the defective products.  In case you’re wondering, Urbana is somewhere in Illinois.

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.

HIPAA Personal Injury Issues In Southern California

The status of patient information in the healthcare system has evolved rapidly over the last 25 years as new technologies have been created and subsequently applied to the healthcare industry, and a recent brief released by the Consumers Union states that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CMIA) do not do enough to address the issue of security and privacy in patient health data.

With the development of extensive marketing techniques targeting potential customers on the basis of any personal information that the marketing engine can get a hold of, HIPAA and CMIA are no longer sufficient to safegaurd the information which should always remain private outside of the healthcare system in which information exchange is freed up in order to facilitate the treatment process. The vast number of companies who now interact in the healthcare system is a large part of the problem, as HIPAA guidelines focus only on the insurer and the healthcare provider, leaving technology companies which provide many of the new means of data transmission to avoid responsibility for security and privacy breaches which they might otherwise prevent.

Many a personal injury lawyer are concerned that their patient’s information is being put in an unsecure position with the proliferation of tablets, smartphones, and various other devices on the market which can easily be breached and used for unintended or even malicious purposes.

Patent Trolls

Non-practicing entities (NPEs) are what we all recognize as patent trolls: individuals and firms who own patent rights to technologies for the sole purpose of suing people with the audacity to actually put said technology to use in innovative ways. These firms do not use the tech which they hold the rights to in any way, but instead rely on the patent rights to generate income by trapping legitimate companies in lengthy and costly lawsuits which siphon resources away from research and development efforts.

In recent years, the litigation costs associated with these types of lawsuits has absolutely skyrocketed, rising from $6.7 billion in 2005 to more than $29.2 billion in 2011. That figure doesn’t even take into account the indirect costs associated with defending against frivolous litigation such as resource diversion, new product delays, and significant losses in market share sustained during the litigation process.

Small businesses are among the most negatively affected by NPE litigation, as they are frequently forced to settle out of court in so-called “nuisance suits” for a few hundred thousand dollars. Small potatoes to bigger tech companies, but these kinds of suits can be absolutely devastating to the viability of a small business. The assistance of a personal injury lawyer can help protect your business against frivolous lawsuits, as a skilled attorney may be able to have baseless claims against your company dismissed.

Cure or Killer?

The most potent threat that many of us face on a daily basis is nothing more than a scrape or an illness that we pick up from someone around us.  Although, there are an array of vaccines and medicines available to help those who do get sick or injured, one of the most popular drugs on the market has, frighteningly, recently been linked to serious heart conditions.

Zithromax, commonly called Z-Pak, is an antibiotic used to help fight a variety of bacterial infections, but a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine has linked this drug to cardiac complications.

It’s almost certain that a great number of current and former users will need the services of a Z-Pak lawyer soon, as it seems class action litigation is all but guaranteed.  The complications listed at this point include cardiac death and irregular heartbeats that require emergency treatment.  At this point, Z-Pak is still available with a prescription to those who need it, but you might think twice about taking this medicine if you have a history of heart problems.

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.

New Jersey Red Light Ticketing Halted Over Bogus Timing

It seems that what we always suspected was happening turned out to be absolutely true: municipalities in Jersey are gaming red light ticketing devices in order to bilk more money out of taxpayers. After an investigation revealed that a great number of ticketing intersection, 63 out of the 85 examined in fact, failed to meet the legal requirements for timing the signals in order to be used in a red light ticketing format. All of the lights have since been prohibited until such time as they can be individually certified as correctly timed because of issues with distracted driving.

Despite the presence of extensively rules on the application of red light ticketing systems, the vast majority of municipalities blatantly ignored them in favor of calibrations which generate significantly more revenue for the city. This is in part because the legislation which allows the pilot program uses a different formula for determining the proper yellow light duration for a particular intersection than NJDOT uses when installing basic lights elsewhere.

The proper duration of yellow lights at these signals is set to be 10% of the speed limit, which is intended to be the speed at which 85% of the traffic passing through the intersection moves at. According to a New Jersey criminal lawyer the break in the chain occurs when municipalities set these speed limits too low, resulting in light times which motorists are unable to gauge whether they need to stop in order to make the light safely. Studies have shown that yellow lights which are shorter by only a second than the time recommended result in a 110% increase in citations, with the vast majority of these infractions coming within the first .25 seconds following the light turning red.

In other states, increasing the yellow time on intersections using automated ticketing by just one second resulted in an immediate 80 percent reduction in violations, indicating that improper timing is the direct cause of most violations, and not error on the part of those cited.

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.

Somebody in the UK court system…

has finally admitted out loud that it’s possible that a tongue in cheek tweet about blowing up the airport if they don’t open back up in time for your flight does not constitute a direct terrorist threat. This case could provide a new precedent for how social media postings are treated in a security context.