New Media and Technology Law Blog

Fourth Amendment Appeal before Georgia Supreme Court over Airbag Crash Data Could Have Implications for Autonomous Cars and Related Technologies

Today, the Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear oral argument in an appeal brought by a defendant convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges related to a fatal car crash. (Mobley v. State, No. S18C1546).  The defendant is appealing the lower court’s order that denied his motion to suppress evidence that was downloaded and obtained from the car’s airbag control module by the police without a search warrant at the scene of the accident (note: a search warrant was obtained for the physical device the next day). Thus, the principal issue in the appeal is whether a search warrant was required to retrieve the data from the vehicle’s airbag control module. Continue Reading

The Tor Browser Afforded CDA Immunity for Dark Web Transactions

The District of Utah ruled in late May that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. §230 (“CDA”) shields The Tor Project, Inc. (“Tor”), the organization responsible for maintaining the Tor Browser, from claims for strict product liability, negligence, abnormally dangerous activity, and civil conspiracy.

The claims were asserted against Tor following an incident where a minor died after taking illegal narcotics purchased from a site on the “dark web” on the Tor Network. (Seaver v. Estate of Cazes, No. 18-00712 (D. Utah May 20, 2019)). The parents of the child sued, among others, Tor as the service provider through which the teenager was able to order the drug on the dark web. Tor argued that the claims against it should be barred by CDA immunity and the district court agreed. Continue Reading

On the Mark: Understanding the Supreme Court’s Latest Decision Regarding the Treatment of Trademark Licenses in Chapter 11

On May 20, 2019, in Mission Product Holdings, Inc. v. Tempnology, LLC, 587 U.S. ___ (2019), the Supreme Court resolved an area of ongoing concern for parties to trademark licenses. The court addressed a circuit split on whether a trademark licensee may continue to use a trademark for the term of the license, after the license has been rejected in bankruptcy.  In Mission, the debtor-licensor rejected a trademark license agreement and sought to terminate the licensee’s right to use the debtor’s trademark. This decision has important ramifications to parties to trademark licenses. Continue Reading

Get All of Your Bots in a Row: 2018 California Bot Disclosure Law Comes Online Soon

During the 2016 election, certain Russian operatives used fake social media profiles to influence voters and also created bot accounts to add likes to and share posts across the internet.  And more recently, in January 2019, the New York Attorney General and Office of the Florida Attorney General announced settlements with certain entities that sold fake social media engagement, such as followers, likes and views.  Moreover, many of the social media platforms have had recent purges of millions of fake accounts.  Thus, it’s clear that bots and automated activity on social media platforms has been on everyone’s radar…including state legislators’ too.

Indeed, California passed a chatbot disclosure law (SB-1001) last September that makes it unlawful for persons to mislead users about their artificial bot identity in certain circumstances, and it is only now coming into effect on July 1st.  In essence, the purpose of law was to inform users when they are interacting with a virtual assistant or chatbot or automated social media account so that users could change their behavior or expectations accordingly.  Entities that may interact online or via mobile applications with their customers regarding commercial transactions via a chatbot on their own website or automated account on another platform should certainly take note of the new California law’s disclosure requirements. Continue Reading

Quantum Computing in the News

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal featured a substantial article on the growth of quantum computing, and the risks and opportunities it presents. It is a thoughtful article, and a must-read for people interested in the area.  We have been working with clients in the area, and identified it as an area of increasing importance in our blog’s 2017 and 2018 year-end reflections on what’s ahead. Much work is being done as we speak to both advance quantum computing and to deal with the challenges it presents to the existing information system infrastructure. (For more information on the race to build a quantum computer and post-quantum cryptography, see the NIST Quantum Revolution page). We will continue to keep readers apprised of significant new developments as they occur.

Filtering Actions by Anti-Malware Software Provider Protected by CDA “Good Samaritan” Immunity

Three recent court decisions affirmed the robust immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. §230(c), for online providers that host third-party content: the Second Circuit’s decision in Herrick v. Grindr LLC, No. 18-396 (2d Cir. Mar. 27, 2019) (summary order), the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s opinion in Daniel v. Armslist, LLC, No. 2017AP344, 2019 WI 47 (Wis. Apr. 30, 2019),  and the Northern District of California’s decision in P.C. Drivers Headquarters, LP v. Malwarebytes Inc., No. 18-05409 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2019). Continue Reading

CFAA Claim Dismissed in Scraping Suit, While Contract Claim Survives

This month, an Illinois district court considered another in the series of web scraping disputes that have been working their way through our courts.  In this dispute, CouponCabin, Inc. v. PriceTrace, LLC, No. 18-7525 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 11, 2019), CouponCabin alleged that a competitor, PriceTrace, scraped coupon codes from CouponCabin’s website without authorization and displayed them on its own website.

After discovering PriceTrace’s scraping activities, CouponCabin sent PriceTrace a cease and desist letter demanding that PriceTrace stop scraping data from CouponCabin’s website.  CouponCabin alleged that PriceTrace continued to access and scrape data from CouponCabin’s website even after the C&D letter was sent. As a result, CouponCabin brought several causes of action against PriceTrace, including claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), tortious interference and breach of contract.

The court found that CouponCabin’s C&D letter had revoked PriceTrace’s access to its site and that PriceTrace’s alleged continued access to the website plausibly stated a violation of the CFAA’s “unauthorized access” provision (18 U.S.C. §1030(a)(2)(C)).  Ultimately, however, the court dismissed the CFAA claims with leave to amend, due to plaintiff’s failure to plead the requisite amount of damage or loss as required to maintain a civil action under the CFAA.

“CouponCabin is simply alleging that PriceTrace was able to circumvent CouponCabin’s website security, with no allegation that such evasion impairs or harm the website. Absent allegation of impairment, CouponCabin has merely alleged that PriceTrace accessed CouponCabin’s website without authorization.”

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Recent Bill Introduced in Illinois Legislature Would Curtail BIPA Litigation

UPDATE:  Both bills failed to be reported out of committee by March 28, 2019 and were not debated during this year’s legislative session.

In the wake of the Illinois Supreme Court decision that held that claimants need only allege a procedural violation to have standing to bring an action under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) and the continued wave of BIPA-related litigation, the Illinois legislature is considering an amendment to BIPA that would strip the statute of its private right of action. SB2134, as currently written, would amend BIPA by deleting the private right of action and instead provide for enforcement under the Department of Labor (for violations concerning employment-related biometric data collection) or generally by the state attorney general under the state’s consumer protection statute. The end result would be a statute similar to Texas and Washington’s biometric privacy bills which may only be enforced by the respective state attorney general. [Note: There is also another BIPA amendment pending, HB3024, which would expand the definition of “biometric identifier” to include “an electrocardiography result from a wearable device” in an effort to keep up with the latest technologies]. Continue Reading

Bipartisan Facial Recognition Privacy Bill Introduced in Congress

Senators Brian Schatz (D) and Roy Blunt (R) recently introduced S.847, the “Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act of 2019,” a bill that would, subject to certain important exceptions,  generally prohibit the commercial use of facial recognition technology to identify and track consumers without consent. The bill, as drafted would place limitations on the third-party sharing of collected faceprint data, as well as require covered entities to meet certain minimum data security standards. As this bill wends its way through Congress (it has been referred to the Committee of Commerce, Science and Transportation), it is worth watching because it is a bipartisan bill with a narrow scope that has garnered the early conceptual support of Microsoft and other technology companies. Continue Reading

Registrations, not Applications: Supreme Court Says Copyright Owners Must Wait to Sue

This Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, 586 U.S. ____ (Mar. 4, 2019), that a copyright owner may commence an infringement suit only when the Copyright Office determines whether or not to register a copyright, as opposed to when the owner submits an application and fee for registration. The widely-followed case resolves a simple question, but has far-reaching practical implications for U.S. copyright litigation. Continue Reading

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