New Media and Technology Law Blog

A Host of Biometric Privacy/Facial Recognition Bills Currently Circulating in State Legislatures

We’ve written extensively about the numerous lawsuits, dismissals and settlements surrounding the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The statute, generally speaking, prohibits an entity from collecting, capturing, purchasing, or otherwise obtaining a person’s “biometric identifier” or “biometric information,” unless it satisfies certain notice and consent and data retention requirements. The statute contains defined terms and limitations, and parties in ongoing suits are currently litigating what “biometric identifiers” and “biometric information” mean under the statute and whether the collection of facial templates from uploaded photographs using sophisticated facial recognition technology fits within the ambit of the statute. Moreover, in two instances in the past six months, a district court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging procedural and technical violations of the Illinois biometric privacy statute for lack of Article III standing.

Thus, the epicenter of biometric privacy compliance and litigation has been the Illinois statute. A Texas biometric statute offers similar protections, but does not contain a private right of action.

The biometrics landscape may be about to get more complicated. An amendment has been proposed to the Illinois biometric privacy, and a number of biometric privacy bills mostly resembling BIPA have been introduced in other state legislatures. While most of the new proposed statutes are roughly consistent with the Illinois statute, as noted below, the Washington state proposal is, in many ways, very different. If any or all of these bills are enacted, they will further shape and define the legal landscape for biometrics. Continue Reading

Biometric Privacy Claims over Facial Recognition Feature in Videogame Dismissed for Lack of Concrete Harm

For the second time in the past six months, a district court has dismissed a lawsuit alleging procedural and technical violations of the Illinois biometric privacy statute for lack of Article III standing.  In Vigil v. Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., No. 15-8211 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2017), the court dismissed Illinois biometric privacy claims against a videogame maker related to a feature in the NBA 2K videogame series that allows users to scan their faces and create a personalized virtual avatar for in-game play.  In a lengthy opinion, the New York court provided Take-Two with a resounding victory when it ruled that procedural violations of the notice and consent provisions of the Illinois biometric privacy statute are not in-of-themselves sufficient to confer standing.

Biometric technology such as facial recognition, iris scans, or fingerprint authentication is being used and further developed to improve the security of financial and other sensitive transactions.  At the same time, social media sites, mobile apps, videogame developers and others are employing biometrics for other cutting edge uses to improve services.  The current Vigil ruling is particularly important, however, as it may buoy companies that collect biometric data under reasonable notice and usage policies, as they hope that the approval applied in Vigil is affirmed, if appealed, and followed in other jurisdictions.

Continue Reading

U.S. Copyright Office Rolls Out New Electronic DMCA Agent Designation System

A service provider seeking to take advantage of certain of the safe harbors under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is required to designate an agent to receive takedown notices. The service provider is required to post the DMCA agent’s contact information on its website and to provide such information to the Copyright Office. On November 1, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office, pursuant to its authority under 17 U.S.C. §512(c)(2), issued a final rule (codified at 37 C.F.R. § 201.38) establishing a new electronic system to designate  agents to receive takedown notifications under the DMCA. Service providers that previously designated an agent with the Copyright Office via a paper filing will have until December 31, 2017 to submit new registrations through the electronic system or lose their safe harbor protection. It is extremely important that all service providers who rely on DMCA safe harbors are aware of, and comply with the requirements of, this new rule.

The new rule became effective on December 1, 2016, the date that the new online DMCA agent registration system and directory was launched, replacing the paper-based system implemented through the interim regulations adopted in 1998. Since December 1, 2016, the Office no longer accepts paper designations of DMCA designated agents.

Read the full Client Alert on our website.

Illinois Biometric Privacy Suit over Collection of Fingerprints Settled

Earlier this month, an Illinois state court approved a $1.5 million settlement in a class action against L.A. Tan Enterprises, Inc., operator (directly and through franchisees) of L.A. Tan tanning salons.  The settlement resolved allegations that L.A. Tan violated the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) by collecting Illinois members’ fingerprints for verification during check-in without complying with BIPA’s notice and consent requirements. (See Sekura v. L.A. Tan Enterprises, Inc., No. 2015-CH-16694 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Cook Cty. First Amended Class Complaint filed Apr. 8, 2016)).   Under the settlement, approximately 37,000 class members who had their fingerprints scanned at a L.A. Tan location in Illinois between a specified three-year period (Nov. 13, 2013 to August 11, 2016) will receive a pro rata share of the settlement. Moreover, L.A. Tan agreed to comply with BIPA in the future and ensure the compliance of its franchisees. Continue Reading

Website Design Implicated in Two Rulings on Enforceability of Online Terms – Highlights the Importance of Legal Review of Design Decisions

This past summer, we wrote about two instances in which courts refused to enforce website terms presented in browsewrap agreements.  As we noted, clickthrough agreements are generally more likely to be found to be enforced.  However, even the enforceability of clickthrough agreements is going to depend, in part, on how the user experience leading to the “agreement” is designed.  Two recent decisions illustrate the importance of web design and the presentation of the “call to action” language in determining the enforceability of a site’s clickthrough terms.

In a decision from early November, a D.C. federal court ruled that an Airbnb user who signed up on a mobile device had assented to the service’s Terms and was bound to arbitrate his claims. (Selden v. Airbnb, Inc., 2016 WL 6476934 (D.D.C. Nov. 1, 2016)).   Conversely, in a notable decision from late August, the Second Circuit refused to rule as a matter of law that the plaintiff was bound by the arbitration clause contained in Amazon’s terms and conditions because the plaintiff did not necessarily assent to and was on constructive notice of the terms when he completed the purchase in question. (Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2016 WL 4473225 (2d Cir. Aug. 25, 2016)). Continue Reading

Claims against Cloud Storage Service Hinge on Grant of Rights Clause

In a dispute that touches on the intersection of copyright, contract law and cloud technology, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of copyright claims against Barnes & Noble (“B&N”) related to ebook samples stored on a user’s B&N-provided cloud-based locker. Notably, the Second Circuit dismissed the case on contractual grounds, declining the opportunity to opine on two important modern copyright doctrines that are often implicated when users store copyrighted content on the cloud.

In Smith v. BarnesandNoble.com, LLC, 2016 WL 5845690 (2d Cir. Oct. 6, 2016), an author contracted with Smashwords, an online ebook distributor, to market his book.  In accordance with this contract, the book was offered to B&N, which listed the book for sale on bn.com and made free samples available.  When a B&N customer downloaded a free sample (or purchased an ebook) the content was stored on a cloud-based digital locker associated with the customer’s account from which the content could be downloaded to devices whenever and wherever the user wanted. Continue Reading

Second Circuit Finds Use of “Who’s on First” Routine Not Transformative and Not Fair

Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a consequential opinion on the meaning and scope of what has become the “transformative use” factor of the fair use defense to copyright infringement. TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum, No. 16-134-cv-, __ F.3d __, 2016 WL 5899174 (2d Cir. Oct. 11, 2016). While transformative use is one consideration within the first of four factors applied to determine whether a use of a copyrighted work is “fair” and thus not an act of infringement, it has become the predominant consideration in the Second Circuit. And while it is fair to say that the Second Circuit in recent decisions has stretched the scope of what had previously been considered a transformative use, McCollum appears to pull back on that expansion.

In a unanimous 3-0 ruling, the Second Circuit ruled that a Broadway play’s verbatim performance of a full minute from the iconic Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s on First,” in a scene between an introverted, small-town boy and his demonic sock puppet, was not transformative or otherwise fair use as a matter of law. In doing so, the court rejected Southern District of New York Judge George B. Daniels’ dismissal (at the pleading stage) of the plaintiff (“TCA”)’s copyright infringement action on the basis of fair use. (The Circuit affirmed on the separate ground that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege a valid copyright interest.)

Read the full post on our website.

New York Court Dismisses Antitrust Defense to Breach of Distribution Contract

Your client is sued for failure to pay on a contract and says it shouldn’t have to pay because the prices were fixed by a cartel or that it was strong-armed into paying for a “bundle” of services or distribution channels even though it only wanted a subset of the bundle. Is that a defense? After all, aren’t contracts for unlawful ends unenforceable?

The answer, most often, is “no.” A recent decision by a New York Commercial Division judge provides a useful reminder of the fairly limited allowance of antitrust defenses to contract claims.

In Time Warner Cable Enterprises LLC v. Universal Communications Network, Inc., Justice Oing granted Time Warner Cable’s (“TWC”) motion to dismiss the defendant’s affirmative defenses under federal antitrust laws.

Read the full post on our Minding Your Business Blog.

Satellite TV Provider Not Required to Offer Credit When Channels Go Dark

Expanded Basic. Choice. Choice Plus. Cable and satellite TV customers pay monthly fees for bundled channel packages of different sizes. The packages are becoming “skinnier,” allowing you to customize your service from a set of modules (i.e., the Family package, the Sports package, various language packages, etc.). But each module is still a pre-set bundle of channels.

In the meantime, class action lawyers have launched a series of cases to try to “break the bundle.” Antitrust attacks have had middling results. See e.g., Brantley and Cablevision. And now the Eighth Circuit has decisively rejected claims that bundled monthly services contracts are “illusory” or include an implicit guarantee to consistently provide the same channel lineup.

In Stokes v. DISH Network, LLC, customers brought a class action against DISH after Turner and FOX News channels went “dark” on DISH for about a month each during 2014-2015 license disputes. The customers argued that they had paid for the advertised bundle and, therefore, either (i) DISH was required to credit customers for the missing pieces of the bundle or (ii) the entire monthly service for fee contract was based on an illusory promise and, therefore, unenforceable.

Read the full post on our Minding Your Business Blog.

Know Thy Software Vendor: Website Operator Cannot Sidestep Copyright Infringement Claims over Link to Allegedly Infringing Software

Last month, a New York district court refused to dismiss most of the copyright infringement claims asserted against a website operator based on an allegation that the website linked to an infringing copy of plaintiff’s software stored on a third-party’s servers. (Live Face on Web, LLC v. Biblio Holdings LLC, 2016 WL 4766344 (S.D.N.Y., September 13, 2016)).

The software at issue allows websites to display a video of a personal host to welcome online visitors, explaining the website’s products or services and, ideally, capturing the attention of the visitor and increasing the site’s “stickiness.”  A website operator/customer implements the software by embedding an HTML script tag to its website code to link the website to a copy of the software on the customer’s server or an outside server. When a user’s browser retrieves a webpage, a copy of the software is allegedly stored on the visitor’s computer in cache. Continue Reading

LexBlog