Here’s something interesting: last week, a company called Personal Audio filed suit against three large podcasting networks, for allegedly infringing on its patents. We don’t talk about patents here a lot, but we do listen to a lot of podcasts, and the one here is not too science-heavy, so it’s worth discussing. Almost a year ago, Personal Audio received a patent called “System for Disseminating Media Content Representing Episodes in a Serialized Sequence.” Last week’s complaints were aimed at ACE Broadcasting (home of The Adam Carolla Show), HowStuffWorks.com and TogiEntertainment.com, and alleged that one particular claim patent was being infringed.
Canada- the land of maple leaves and delicious poutine is on our radar for some interesting biometric privacy overlaps. Both the Canadian military and Canadian immigration department are stepping up efforts to collect and store government databases of biometric data. The thought is that things like photographs can be easily faked, and passports can be forged- so how to tell who is who? Biometric data, things like a fingerprint, a voiceprint, or DNA, is generally accepted to be a more reliable way to tell who someone is, and to accurately keep track of folks.
Hey Illinoisians! Or is it Illinites? Either way, if you practice in Illinois, be aware of the new rules that kick in January 1, 2013 that are tres important in eDiscovery land.
“Phone spoofing” is a practice you may not have heard of before, but it exists, and it’s been getting a decent amount of attention. As the name suggests, it refers to the act of “misrepresenting [an] originating telephone caller’s identification (caller ID) to the call recipient” and it led to the 2010 Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (ASA) in Mississippi, which absolutely outlawed phone spoofing, and made it punishable by up to a year in prison. Two companies that provide phone spoofing services challenged the law, and last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ASA unconstitutional. [PDF]
Just a quick update today to say Happy Holidays to all our readers! We’ve got big things planned for 2013, including our Innovate Conference in the fall, and finding out who the best and brightest young technology law scholars are through our writing competition!
In a December 14, 2012 decision by the National Labor Relations Board , the Board majority affirmed an administrative law judge’s conclusion that an employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”) by terminating five employees for comments and criticisms posted on Facebook.
It’s a holiday-week special! If you’re doing some last-minute Christmas shopping this weekend, good luck to you. The crowds at stores and malls are going to be ridiculous. It’s a little late to order things online, but even so, it’s worth taking a look at McAfee’s festive blog post entitled “The 12 Scams of Christmas,” which basically reminds you to be both vigilant and terrified in all your online activity.
Elsewhere, there’s new malware on the market that specifically targets American and Canadian banks. We know that it’s probably Russian, and it can sell for up to $40,000. Make sure you keep an eye on your accounts.
Further south, in Iran, a “new piece of malware that deletes entire partitions and user files from infected computers has been found,” though security companies seem to agree that this malware is relatively unsophisticated, so it’s nothing to worry too much about.
Last week we told you about problems with Android phones’ security updates, and here’s another one. This new botnet causes the infected phone to send out thousands of spam text messages. It affects users of all wireless networks.
Finally, some good news: the Florida man who hacked various celebrities’ emails and shared their private photos, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay over $66,000 restitution. Christopher Chaney, the subject of an excellent GQ profile earlier this year, said:
“I don’t know what else to say except I’m sorry. This will never happen again.”
“I was almost relieved months ago when they came in and took my computer because I didn’t know how to stop.”
While we don’t normally do weekend posts, and this has nothing to do with technology law, we’d like to ask our readers (if they have a few minutes or a few dollars) to help victims of the terrible and senseless tragedy at the Sandy Hook school. Mashable has posted five ways you can help, one which is to simply post something for victims’ families to see showing solidarity and support for them. Please take a few seconds of your time to do something for them.
Last week, a federal appeals court in Washington DC upheld a Federal Communications Commission rule governing wireless calls. Verizon had challenged the provision that required “large wireless operators…to strike “commercially reasonable” roaming deals on their 4G LTE networks with any wireless operator interested in using a competitor’s network to expand territory.” As CNET reports:
We’ve talked about smartphone apps that help you summon a taxicab in major cities before. As we said then, companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have achieved significant success in a relatively short amount of time, but are also faced with substantial resistance from the traditional options (“Big Taxi” if you will). Over the weekend, the New York Times reported from the Interational Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR) Conference in DC, and there’s more bad news ahead for these start-ups:
While the regulators discussed ways to clarify the legality of these apps, they also proposed guidelines that would effectively force Uber, a San Francisco start-up, to cease operations in the United States. Uber also faces new lawsuits filed by San Francisco cabdrivers and Chicago car service companies, and a $20,000 fine from the California Public Utilities Commission.
The battle between Uber and city governments underscores the tension between lawmakers and technology companies at a time when Web sites and mobile apps can outmaneuver old rules.
The Times speaks to Matthew W. Daus, President of IATR, who is one of Uber’s biggest critics, calling it a “rogue” app. He refutes the company’s claim that it is not subject to the same regulation as other taxis, and criticized its business practices.
As an example, he pointed to Uber’s doubling of fares in New York after Hurricane Sandyin what the company calls surge pricing, a move that the start-up said was necessary to get more drivers on the storm-ravaged roads.
He said, “New Yorkers deserve an apology from Uber for price-gouging them during the hurricane.”
The co-founder and head of Uber is a man named Travis Kalanick, and as you might expect, he sees things a little differently.
To Mr. Kalanick, the rules being proposed by Mr. Daus’s committee are a classic example of regulators trying to stifle innovation. He says those making the rules are more interested in protecting the taxi and limousine businesses than in helping consumers.
The new regulations that are being proposed would effectively shut down Uber, as they focus very specifically on practices that the company uses. IATR argues that new regulations are essential to prevent any random person from setting up an app, and to protect the reputation and integrity of the cabs in its association. After all, Daus argues, if a passenger is ripped off or hurt, they are the ones who will be blamed, and not the makes of some apps.
Meanwhile, Uber is facing difficulties in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere. The Times article concludes with a nice snapshot of the gulf between the two sides of this dispute:
Uber is showing signs that it is getting ready to play more nicely with regulators, while still keeping its distance. The company did not directly participate in the Washington conference, instead choosing to set up its own meeting and [sic] an open bar in a room across the hall, where Mr. Kalanick told regulators how Uber worked and took questions.
Mr. Daus, who organized the conference, wasn’t pleased. “They can’t even comply with the rules of the conference,” he said.