New Media and Technology Law Blog

Ninth Circuit Issues Important Decision on Software Licensing Practices and Web Scraping

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit issued a noteworthy ruling in a dispute between an enterprise software licensor and a third-party support provider.  The case is particularly important as it addresses the common practice of using automated means to download information (in this case, software) from websites in contravention of website terms and conditions.  Also, the case examines and interprets fairly “standard” software licensing language in light of evolving business practices in the software industry. (Oracle USA, Inc. v. Rimini Street, Inc., No. 16-16832 (9th Cir. Jan. 8, 2018)). Continue Reading

Canadian Court Asserts Jurisdiction over Craigslist Based on Cloud-Based Virtual Presence in Canada

A Canadian appellate court ruled that a lower court had jurisdictional authority to issue a production order to craigslist based upon its virtual (but not physical) presence in British Columbia. The production order requested that Craigslist produce to Canadian officials documents relating to a user post in connection with a criminal investigation. (British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Brecknell, 2018 BCCA 5 (Jan. 9, 2018)).

This decision highlights another situation where a court blurred the distinction between a physical and virtual presence of a corporation that engages in global e-commerce.  Indeed, we had written about an important Canadian decision last year that involved an American company objecting to an order to delist certain search results globally.  With U.S. companies already concerned about the territorial scope of the EU’s GDPR, they also have to address legal risks associated with jurisdiction by a virtual presence north of the border (and possibly other jurisdictions).  Continue Reading

Google Extends Commitments with the FTC over Crawling of Third-Party Content for Use in Own “Vertical” Sites

In a blog post last month, Google announced that it would extend certain commitments it made to the FTC in 2012 that were set to expire relating to, among other things,  the scraping of third-party content for use on certain Google “vertical search” properties such as Google Shopping.  The announcement came days before the commitments were set to expire on December 27th and months after Yelp had claimed that Google was not living up to its promises by allegedly scraping Yelp local business photos for use in certain Google results (e.g., local business listings). Continue Reading

Google App Disables Art-Selfie Biometric Comparison Tool in Illinois and Texas

We have been closely following the legal and legislative developments relating to biometric privacy, and in particular, the flow of litigation under the Illinois biometrics privacy law.   It was interesting to see how the Illinois law (as well as a similar Texas law) influenced Google’s  offering of a new facial recognition feature on the Google Arts & Culture app. (It is also interesting to note that the media coverage of the app has made the Illinois and Texas laws subjects of mainstream discourse.)

The Google Arts & Culture app, which was originally released a couple years ago, offers users virtual tours of museums and a searchable database of other art-related content.  What recently made it one of the hottest free apps is a new entertaining tool that compares a selfie to a database of great works of art and presents the results that most closely match the user’s face.  [Note: My classical art doppelgänger is “Portrait of a Gentleman in Red” by Rosalba Carriera. What’s yours?].  However, out of an apparent abundance of caution, Google has disabled this art-twinning function in Illinois and Texas, presumably because those states have biometric privacy laws that regulate the collection and use of biometric identifiers like facial templates; while the Texas statute can only be enforced by the state attorney general, Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) contains a private right of action and remedies that include statutory damages. Interestingly, Washington users are able to access this tool, despite Washington having enacted its own biometric privacy law last year.  Perhaps that is because, as described in the referenced blog post, compliance under the Washington statute is less demanding than under the Illinois or Texas statutes. Continue Reading

Litigants Alleging Procedural Violations of Illinois Biometric Privacy Statute (BIPA) Are Not “Aggrieved” Parties That May Seek Legal Remedies

As 2017 drew to an end, we noted the continuing flood of Illinois biometric privacy suits filed over the past year.  There are literally dozens of cases pending, most in Illinois state courts, alleging violation of Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which regulates the collection, retention, and disclosure of personal biometric identifiers and biometric information.  The suits initially targeted the use of biometrics on social media platforms, but, perhaps reflecting the increased use of biometrics in the workplace, have increasingly been asserted against businesses that collect biometric data to authenticate customers or employees.

While federal courts have weighed in on whether litigants have standing for asserting procedural violations of BIPA, it was not clear if mere procedural violations of BIPA’s consent and data retention requirements, without any showing of actual harm or data misuse, were actionable under the statute (i.e., whether persons pleading procedural violations are “aggrieved” under the statute, as BIPA expressly provides that “any person aggrieved by a violation” of the BIPA may pursue money damages and injunctive relief against the offending party).

As the year came to a close, an Illinois appellate court may have cooled the New Year’s Eve celebrations of BIPA class action lawyers a bit, as the court issued a decision which could provide defendants with a shield against BIPA suits.  The court ruled that if a party alleges only a technical violation of BIPA without alleging any injury or adverse effect, then such a party is not “aggrieved” under the Act and may not seek remedies (i.e., monetary damages or injunctive relief).  (Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corp., No. 2-17-0317, 2017 IL App (2d) 170317 (Ill. App. Dec. 21, 2017)). Continue Reading

Reflections on Technology-Related Legal Issues: Looking Back at 2017; Will 2018 Be a Quantum Leap Forward?

As we approach the end of 2017, it is a time to reflect on the dizzying pace of technology evolution this year, and the amazing array of legal issues it presented. Similarly, it is a time to look forward and anticipate what technology-related issues we will be thinking about in the coming year.

For 2017, the list is long and varied.

This year, the true potential of blockchain was recognized by many in the commercial sector. While recent blockchain-related headlines have focused on the rise (and regulation) of cryptocurrencies, a great deal of the blockchain action has been in back office applications in financial services, supply chain and other areas.  Industry wide consortia have been formed, trials and proof of concepts have been run, and, as evidenced by the recent announcement by the Australian Stock Exchange to replace its clearing and settlement system with a blockchain based system, we are moving into full production implementations of blockchain systems.

Cybersecurity garnered major attention in 2017. Unfortunately, data breaches continued to be a constant headline item, as were related class action litigation. As a result, cybersecurity was a “top of the agenda” item for state and federal agencies, state legislatures, regulators, corporate boards, GCs and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

As a related matter, privacy issues were also front and center this year. In particular,  we saw increased activity in some of the cutting edge areas of privacy law, including biometrics-related litigation (particularly under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (known as BIPA)), video streaming privacy (particularly under the Video Privacy Protection Act, or the VPPA)) and mobile-related privacy issues.

There are many other issues that occupied our minds this year, including artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, online copyright liability (including application of the DMCA in online contexts), and publisher/distributor liability for third party content online (under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act).  Additionally, parties involved in agreements of all types have been increasingly focused on technology-related legal risk, and were more intent on addressing and shifting technology-related risks with very specific contractual provisions. Continue Reading

Proskauer Launches “Blockchain and The Law” Blog

I am pleased to announce that Proskauer has recently launched a new blog focused exclusively on the use of blockchain in business. The blog will be wide ranging in nature, covering the legal issues associated with blockchain as applied to financial services, health care, real estate, supply chain management, media and entertainment, advertising, content delivery, e-commerce and many other areas. We will also cover legal developments in the cryptocurrency space and ICO developments, “smart contracts” and the like.  The issues span all areas of law. The blog will be a companion blog to this one, which will continue to cover legal developments in the tech and  media space generally.

So check it out, blockchainandthelaw.com, and subscribe to that blog as well as this one!

No Liability for Self-Publishing Platforms over Author’s Use of Unauthorized Cover Photo

In a brief, unpublished opinion, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of right of publicity and privacy claims against a host of self-publishing platforms and service providers for distributing an erotic (and purported “less than tasteful”) book whose cover contained an unauthorized copy of the plaintiffs’ engagement photo because the plaintiffs failed to plead more than an “incidental” use of the photo by the service providers. (Roe v. Amazon.com, No. 16-3987 (6th Cir. Nov. 21, 2017) (unpublished)).

This dispute initially raised our interest because it raised the larger issues of how to define a “publisher” and “distributor” in the modern e-commerce environment and to what extent an ebook platform or print-on-demand service could be protected for distributing third-party content by the immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA Section 230”).  While we anticipated that such issues would get a full examination on appeal, the Sixth Circuit sidestepped these novel issues and decided the case on the merits of the privacy claims.  Continue Reading

Wave of Illinois Biometric Privacy Suits Continues Unabated

After noting the flood of Illinois biometric privacy suits in September, it appears that the flow of such suits remains robust.  Dozens of suits have been filed in Illinois state court against Illinois-based employers and other businesses alleging violation of Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which generally regulates the collection, retention, and disclosure of personal biometric identifiers and biometric information, and encourage businesses that collect such personal data to employ reasonable safeguards.

In recent years, biometric privacy suits initially involved social media services and video game makers, but have increasingly been asserted against businesses that collect biometric data to authenticate customers or employees, especially Illinois-based employers that use biometric timekeeping devices to verify employees when clocking in and out.   Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rejects VPPA Claims of Roku Channel User, Declining to Adopt Broad Definition of PII

In a decision that clarified aspects of the video privacy landscape, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action alleging a violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) based on an assertion that ESPN’s WatchESPN Roku channel had shared a user’s Roku device number and video viewing history with a third-party analytics company for targeted advertising purposes.  (Eichenberger v. ESPN, Inc., No. 15-35449 (9th Cir. Nov. 29, 2017)).  The appeals court found that such a disclosure of a device identifier did not constitute “personally identifiable information” (PII) under the VPPA.  In doing so, the court declined to take a broad interpretation of the 1980s era statute originally aimed at video stores, but which in recent years has been applied to online video streaming services and mobile and video streaming apps. Continue Reading

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