Since May, I have been writing three blog posts a week for a fantastic technology law non-profit called IT-Lex. During that time, I've cross-posted many of the articles to this blog (though I've written many more than I cross-posted). While writing for IT-Lex, I had the opportunity to learn about social media law, intellectual property law, and eDiscovery. Some of my posts were outside of my area of expertise, but it was always fun to learn about the crazy legal things that can happen with new technologies. Unfortunately, my time writing for IT-Lex has come to an end. I am expecting my first child at the end of the month, and I was unable to continue the commitment to writing the posts for the foreseeable future. (But who knows? Maybe I can write some more posts for them one day!) For the same reason, my legal posts on this site might also drop in number until I am able to get a routine down. I hope to continue updating my personal blog regularly though!
Last Thursday, my last post was published on their site, and it seems a fitting one. As I've mentioned before, I love researching the legal issues that surround the use of social media. And this case involved a Missouri prosecutor who decided to tweet fairly salacious details about a child sexual-assault case. The defendant, who was convicted by the jury, moved to dismiss the verdict based on the prejudicial nature of the tweets, and, when the motion was denied, he appealed.
Ultimately, the court didn't overturn the conviction, but it did issue a strong warning against this type of behavior in the future:
[E]xtraneous statements on Twitter or other forms of social media, particularly during the time frame of the trial, can taint the jury and result in reversal of the verdict. We doubt that using social media to highlight the evidence against the accused and publicly dramatize the plight of the victim serves any legitimate law enforcement purpose or is necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s actions. Likewise, we are concerned that broadcasting that the accused is a “child rapist” is likely to arouse heightened public condemnation. We are especially troubled by the timing of Joyce’s Twitter posts, because broadcasting such statements immediately before and during trial greatly magnifies the risk that a jury will be tainted by undue extrajudicial influences.
This type of warning is unsurprising, and, in my opinion, this prosecutor is lucky. The only thing surprising to me about this case is that a prosecutor would think it was okay to post that type of information on Twitter. As someone with a legal background, I know better than to put anything about the cases that I work on online. In fact, I would never post any information about any job online--especially if the information was not 100% positive. I wonder how much longer these types of cases will arise before attorneys learn that that isn't Twitter's purpose.
I am sorry for the long absence from cross-posting my IT-Lex posts. Although I have still been writing them, I was writing them while I was on vacation in Texas. So, I just didn't have the time to cross post them once they were published.
In any event, here is one of my more recent ones that I really enjoyed researching. It involves a case out of New York that concluded a news organization could be liable for a privacy lawsuit when it posted a picture of an aspiring lawyer (incorrectly) claiming that she was the younger sister of Kimora Lee Simmons.
The aspiring lawyer sued the news organization and another news organization that had debunked the story for violating her right to privacy under New York law. The court concluded that the incorrect story was so "riddled with fiction" that it didn't qualify for a newsworthiness exception. But, the news organization that got the story right did qualify for the exception. So what is the moral of the story? If you post a picture of a person online, you better make sure that the accompanying story of that person is factually accurate, especially if you use the person's name.
These types of online defamation and privacy claims are quickly becoming my favorite type of lawsuits to research. And luckily for me, these lawsuits continue to rise with the rise of social media.
Have you ever received a robocall on your cell phone? Personally, I get them (and robo-text messages) all the time from my bank, various stores, and the radio. I always assumed it was an annoying fact of life, but as it turns out the Telephone Consumer Protection Act allows me to opt-out of receiving them.
A recent Third Circuit decision allows you to opt-out of these calls, even after expressly consenting to them. To see my full break down of what happened, check out the post I wrote for IT-Lex.
Full disclosure: I know a little bit about cyberbullying. But in this day and age, I have to wonder who hasn't been cyberbullied? Let's face it. Kids can be mean, and the Internet certainly makes it easier. Cyberbulling is a serious problem, and one that people need to address. But it appears that passing laws against cyberbullying isn't a good way to do it.
I've written a couple of articles now about recently passed cyberbullying laws that broadly punish behavior out of context and don't actually provide any protection for the people the laws were meant to protect. Cyberbullying laws have even been used to punish students for talking bad about their teachers (not the people who are meant to be protected from these types of laws) online. And here is my most recent post about a cyberbullying law out of Nova Scotia, which scholars believe is truly awful.
No doubt, cybersecurity is a big deal. Some websites take it very seriously - like those ones that require a number AND a special character for a password. Others, well, they are more concerned with user convenience. It's a fine line that websites have to straddle, and some definitely do it better than others.
Here is a post about an OKCupid "feature" that allowed anyone to access a user's profile if the user forwarded an OKCupid email with a link in it.
As social media use becomes more prevalent, more and more people seem to be using it incorrectly. What's the correct way to use social media? Well, for starters, don't use it to post your illegal activities online.
For a round-up of people posting stupid things and getting in trouble, check out my post here.
A recent court decision out of Germany may have effectively killed modern file-hosting websites. It requires the file-hosting site, RapidShare, to "police the internet." The court will require RapidShare to make sure that other sites are not providing links to copyrighted material available on RapidShare.
It seems that this decision could have massive implications for file-sharing sites, as RapidShare will not be the only site affected by this new rule. To see my full write-up of the decision, click here.
My presence on Twitter isn't very active, but I have a presence, and I love my right to free speech on it. There is always unprotect speech, like defamation, obscenity, etc. But free speech is an important part of social networking. Of course, not all countries have the same free speech rights that are granted to Americans through the U.S. Constitution.
For example, a woman working for the Australian Government was recently fired after she criticized the government on an anonymous Twitter account. The judge even made a point that Australian citizens do not have an “unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression." To see my full write up on the story, click here.
As you can see, I have taken a very extended absence from blogging on this site. But I haven't abandoned blogging entirely. Although there are several reasons for my absence, the number one reason is that I am currently writing three blog posts a week for IT-Lex, a wonderful technology law site.
With the amount of blogging I do for IT-Lex, it didn't make sense for me to continue writing about similar legal issues on my personal blog. Although some of the posts that I write for IT-Lex are outside of what I would normally write about here, it is a lot of fun getting exposure to a new variety of legal issues. I've taken a crack at eDiscovery, dissected a click-through contract, and had some fun with online defamation cases.
And, in the spirit of promoting where I am currently devoting my blogging efforts for the foreseeable future, I plan to provide a link to the posts I write in the future. I hope you will take some time to go over to IT-Lex, support the work they are doing over there, and check out some of my work!
It was actually pretty easy.
The Dark Knight Rises was the second highest grossing film domestically in 2012. So it is unsurprising that outsiders attempted to cash in on the profits. Notably, Fortres Grand, a software company, sued Warner Bros. over the trademarked term "Clean Slate." Fortress Grand trademarked the term in 2001 for its software, which scrubs all evidence of prior users on public access computers. Twelve years later, the Dark Knight Rises used (fictional and different) "clean slate" software as a major plot device. Selina Kyle (later becoming Catwoman) attempted to obtain the "clean slate" program, which would erase her digital footprints from every computer in the world.
Based on this, Fortres Grand sued Warner Bros. for trademark infringement. Trademark infringement claims require "consumer confusion" over the source of a product. And U.S. District Court Judge Philip Simon concluded that a fictional movie product cannot create the required confusion. The court reasoned that there was no plausible claim that consumers would make mistaken purchase decisions about the tangible products: one product is a movie, and the other product is real computer software.
The court also upheld the use of the term "clean slate" under the 1st Amendment.
About this Blog
I was once a licensed attorney (in Washington), but my license is now inactive. I like to geek out about entertainment,
internet, and privacy law. This blog is a place for me to do that. All of the views expressed are my own and should not be considered legal advice.
My personal blog is located under the tab Pax's Page.
Rachel is a typer of words.