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.
It depends on the state.
As a social media use and competition for jobs increase, people are becoming more concerned with their online image. Recently, the media focused on employers gaining applicants' login information to access their social media accounts. Many states (at least seven so far) have decided that it is necessary to pass legislation protecting job seekers from overzealous employers. I've heard reports that at least 35 states have pending legislation.
Despite this push from state governments, I'm not sure that the hype is necessary. For starters, although I've had inappropriate questions asked during interviews, no one has gone this far. Secondly, I expect that all potential employers will Google (or Bing) my name, and with the exception of my Facebook, I have a public online presence that should keep them busy. Finally, even if a potential employer accessed my login information, there would be nothing for them to find.
In any event, the news stories outraged people, and the state governments acted. As of late April, Washington became the latest state to adopt legislation (SB 5211) that prevents employers from gaining access to social networking account logins.
Probably not. But it is likely that two high profile trolls (Prenda and Righthaven) are dead.
Urban Dictionary defines a troll as someone "who posts deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument." The term copyright troll is now common amongst legal circles, and generally refers to someone who abuses copyright law for profit. Several high profile trolls and repeated bench slaps have helped bring attention to the copyright troll.
Although a variety of copyright trolls exist, two recent cases likely spell the end for the Prenda and Righthaven business model. For starters, Prenda may be headed to criminal and/or tax court courtesy of United States District Court Judge Otis Wright. Prenda, one of the first trolls to the game, used the social stigma attached to pornography and the high statutory damages associated with copyright infringement—up to $150,000—to force individuals into settlement. Prenda filed suits against "John Does," claiming that the persons downloaded online porn illegally, in order to subpoena the names of the owners of the IP address. Once armed with a person's name, Prenda contacted the person and offered to make it all go away if the person would settle. At first, all seemed well: the guys behind Prenda were making millions. But things quickly disintegrated once people stopped and asked questions. On May 6th, Judge Wright gave an impressive(ly nerdy) bench slap, complete with Star Trek references, that ordered Prenda to pay monetary sanctions and referred the case to the United States Attorney's Office and the Criminal Investigative Division of the IRS.
Then, three days later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion concluding that Righthaven lacks standing to enforce copyright claims under the Copyright Act, making it the first court of appeals to decide the issue. The court's opinion is in line with almost every other district court that has looked at it. Righthaven's exploits have also been the subject of much online criticism. Righthaven's sole purpose was to acquire revocable rights to copyrights in order to sue copyright infringers. In theory, Righthaven's goal sounds almost noble. But in reality, it used the high statutory damages to scare unsuspecting bloggers into quick settlement, even if the bloggers would be entitled to fair use. But after more than three years of Righthaven's online reign of terror, the 9th Circuit decision makes it clear that Righthaven's business model does not work.
But even if these particular business models are dead, it doesn't mean that the copyright troll is dead. Copyright law, with the high statutory damages and little oversight, is still ripe for abuse.
It is unclear, but we will soon find out thanks to two Washington state cases.
Think about it. When was the last time you sent a real letter? It takes a lot of energy to send a letter as opposed to a text message or an email. You need paper, pen, stamp, and envelope. What if you only have one thing to say? Forget about it; just send a text message. And that is what people do. Text messaging is a normal part of everyday communication, especially for the younger generation. It's quick. It's easy. Many people only own cell phones, giving up on the idea of a "house" phone entirely, and regularly use texts to communicate—I happen to be one of those people.
And the average person—as opposed to a lawyer or judge—likely expects that their text messages are reasonably private. At the very least, people generally think of it is a private conversation between themselves and the owner of the cell phone they texted.
On Tuesday, two cases were argued before the Washington State Supreme Court involving the right to privacy in text messages: (1) State v. Hinton and (2) State v. Roden. Both cases involve an officer using a suspected drug dealer's cell phone to text message the defendants and set up drug deals. The defendants moved to suppress the evidence, which the respective courts denied. Now the state supreme court will decide if there is a privacy right in a text message once that text message has been sent to another person's phone.
The short answer is yes. The government has the capabilities to install software on your computer that will hijack all of your information, and under the right circumstances, a court might issue a warrant allowing the the government to do it.
But recently, a magistrate judge in Texas very publicly denied an FBI warrant request to install invasive software on an unidentified “target computer” used to access someone’s local bank account. Although the accessed bank account is local, the IP address of the target computer resolves to a foreign country.
The magistrate judge noted at least three problems with the warrant: (1) it was not authorized under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41 (Rule 41); (2) the Fourth Amendment particularity requirements were not met; and (3) the invasive nature of video surveillance required greater Fourth Amendment protections. For the full text of the opinion, click here.
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.