Virtual Shareholders’ Meetings: Yay or Nay?

Picture1By Alex Bullock

Next month, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will hold their annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ meeting is a spectacle unlike any other, bringing investors from around the country (if not the world) to middle America for a weekend of free swag and corporate governance. Along with a 5k run, a movie screening, and endless corporate partner booths, the shareholders will take formal corporate action to vote to elect directors, to give an advisory vote on executive compensation plans, and to act on shareholder proposals, among other things. Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ meeting is a significant event; indeed, I myself have thought about buying stock in the company just to see what their shareholder meeting is like in person. Continue reading “Virtual Shareholders’ Meetings: Yay or Nay?”

Twitter Fights Back in the ‘Trump Era’ to Protect ‘Rogue’ Government Accounts

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By Jeff Bess

During the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, Twitter accounts purporting to represent unofficial “resistance” factions of federal agencies emerged and proliferated alternative perspectives on the inner workings of the Trump administration and its policies. These accounts claim to represent holdover factions from the Obama administration and career officials in agencies and government organizations such as the National Parks Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The accounts issued frequent tweets critiquing the Trump administration’s policies across a variety of issues. Agencies “represented” by “alternative” Twitter accounts run the gamut from the Department of Justice to NASA to the National Weather Service.

Continue reading “Twitter Fights Back in the ‘Trump Era’ to Protect ‘Rogue’ Government Accounts”

$5.3 Million Settlement over “Find Friends” iOS Feature

Picture1By Kiran Jassal

Eight companies (Foodspotting, Foursquare, Gowalla, Instagram, Kik, Path, Twitter, and Yelp) have agreed to a proposed settlement of $5.3 million in a case surrounding the “Find Friends” feature in iOS apps. As the name suggests, “Find Friends” allows consumers to quickly discover if any of their contacts are also using an app. Interestingly, both Apple and LinkedIn are among the companies named in the lawsuit; however, they are continuing to fight the case while the aforementioned entities have decided to settle. Continue reading “$5.3 Million Settlement over “Find Friends” iOS Feature”

Guns, Knives, and GIFs: Using a Graphics Interchange Format Image as a Dangerous Weapon

pistol-1686697_1280By Toban Platt

A gun, a knife, and a GIF image – which one seems out of place? According to a recent decision by a Texas grand jury – none of them. All three are now considered dangerous weapons. Continue reading “Guns, Knives, and GIFs: Using a Graphics Interchange Format Image as a Dangerous Weapon”

Snap, Crackle, and Stop? No Voting Rights for Snap’s Public Shares

By Beth St. ClairSNAP IPO

Overheard: “I deleted all my social media accounts. But I kept my Snapchat account. That’s why it’s worth buying.” – As spoken by a millennial.

But what exactly are Snap’s investors, like this one, getting?

Continue reading “Snap, Crackle, and Stop? No Voting Rights for Snap’s Public Shares”

The Immigration Non-Cooperative?

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By Ari Mead

Local governments across the country fought federal immigration policy under Obama. Under Trump the fight continues. Specifically, the President has directed federal immigration agencies to more aggressively enforce current immigration laws and prevent residents with legal documentation from entering the United States based on country of origin.

But, for the first time, states are adopting state-wide policies that attempt to prevent cooperation with federal immigration policies.

The following is an overview of what’s happening:

CALIFORNIA

Several members of California’s legislature have responded with two proposed bills, which aim to protect immigration status, national origin, and religious belief from getting into the hands of federal officials.

Current California law requires that when state or local law enforcement arrest someone they believe is not a citizen, they must report that individual to the federal government. SB 54 would repeal that provision. In addition, the bill prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies, along with other state agencies – including schools – from using any local resources for immigration enforcement purposes. Sb 54 also directs state agencies to adopt the confidentiality policies that the Attorney General defines.

Another proposed bill in California, SB 31, requires state agencies to secure databases containing names, places of birth, addresses and nation of origin. Additionally, the bill disallows California from creating any databases that compile personal information.

WASHINGTON

On February 23rd, Washington State beat California lawmakers to the punch, as Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee signed an executive order blocking state officials and agencies from cooperating with federal immigration raids, sharing private information in agency databases or creating any religious based databases. Although city level non-cooperation policies have existed for decades, these state-wide non-cooperation policies are the first of their kind.

FEDERALISM CHALLENGES

Meanwhile, city non-cooperation policies have been around and have been tested in court, shedding light on some of the legal issues they pose. City of New York v. United States, from the United States Court of Appeals of the Second Circuit, concerned a provision in The Welfare Reform Act that prevented localities from prohibiting their local law enforcement and other agencies from sharing information with the federal government. The City of New York challenged the provision as violating the Tenth Amendment, and argued that the federal government could not interfere with how it instructed their local employees outside of a federal agency. Ultimately, the Tenth Amendment prevents congress from passing laws requiring states to administer civil immigration law. The Second Circuit decided that in the face of federal policy requesting cooperation, a city policy cannot prevent an official from voluntarily sharing immigration information. At the same time the ruling from the Second Circuit does not discuss whether a federal policy could require a state agency or city official to obtain information to report to the federal government.

Another case that considered the legal issues imbedded in non-cooperation policies was Sturgeon v Bratton. Sturgeon, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, involved an LAPD policy called S.O. 40, which stated that obtaining immigration information was not a matter for local authorities. A group of citizens challenged the policy as unconstitutional, arguing that that federal immigration law preempted the city policy. The Court of Appeals disagreed and said that the Tenth Amendment “shields state and local governments from the federal government requiring them to administer federal civil immigration law.”

In the months and years to come, more courts will likely have plenty of opportunities to decide whether state non-cooperation policies are also shielded by federalism. Whether states themselves are shielded by federalism depends on the federal government’s actions moving forward. The federal government could limit funds tied to immigration, or test the Tenth Amendment in this area again, challenging state laws that prevent local authorities from acting to enforce immigration laws.

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Who’s Sharing? Why You Can Still Use My Netflix Password

netflixBy Amela Zukic

You can relax for now. Sharing your Netflix password probably won’t get you in trouble anytime soon. Though you may have had some anxiety this past summer following the Ninth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Nosal, in which the appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, held that the sharing of passwords could be found to be a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Social media went into frenzy over the possible implications of its decision regarding the legality of sharing Netflix passwords. While this decision is unlikely to have an immediate effect on users of streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, etc., the long-term repercussions remain unclear.

The CFAA, also known as the “worst law in technology,” renders unauthorized access of computers a federal crime. Under the CFAA, anyone who, “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization” can be convicted. Yet, “unauthorized access” is not defined within the scope of the CFAA. This, therefore, leaves judges with the utmost discretion when interpreting the meaning of “unauthorized access.” The CFAA was initially drafted to criminalize the activities of hackers, but it is now increasingly being used to criminalize activities the public would consider normal – such as password sharing.

Continue reading “Who’s Sharing? Why You Can Still Use My Netflix Password”

Jury Finds Facebook’s “Oculus Rift” Runs on Stolen Technology; $500 Million Verdict

By Adam Roberts

oculusOn February 1, 2017, a jury in the Northern District of Texas found that Facebook’s recently acquired virtual reality (“VR”) technology, “Oculus Rift,” infringed on copyrighted source code owned by ZeniMax Media LLC. Resultantly, the jury awarded ZeniMax $500 million in damages. This case comes as a significant blow to Facebook’s recent venture into VR gaming.  And as “Oculus Rift” is being outpaced in sales numbers by Sony’s “PlayStation VR,” and HTC’s “HTC Vive,” it is unclear where the future of the device stands.

But first, how did “Oculus Rift” get to this point? A little history:

Continue reading “Jury Finds Facebook’s “Oculus Rift” Runs on Stolen Technology; $500 Million Verdict”

Man or Machine? EU Considering “Rights for Robots”

robotBy Grady Hepworth

Isaac Asimov’s 1942 short story “Runaround” is credited for creating the famous “Three Laws of Robotics.” Asimov’s Laws, although theoretically fictional (and most recently featured in the 2004 motion picture I, Robot), require robots to i) not hurt humans, to ii) obey humans, and to iii) only protect themselves when doing so wouldn’t conflict with the first two rules. However, the European Union (“EU”) made headlines this month when it took steps toward making Asimov’s Laws a reality.
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Journey to the Past?

anastasiaBy Danielle Ollero

Last October, our Blog discussed the legal woes of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. It may come as no surprise that Hamilton is not the only show plagued by litigation.

Many of us may remember the animated film Anastasia released in 1997, with its melodious songs and heart-warming story of a girl in search of her forgotten family. What girl doesn’t dream of discovering that she is a lost princess? Lucky for us, on June 28, 2016 Playbill made the happy announcement that Tony-winning writer Terrance McNally and composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty were seeking to resurrect this childhood fantasy for live audiences as a new Broadway musical. However, a lawsuit may prevent Anastasia from ever becoming a theatrical reality.

At issue is the way in which McNally, Ahrens and Flaherty  wanted to reimagine the story, unveiling the plot in a manner closer to the historic life of Anastasia rather than the whimsical fantasy depicted in the film. One of the most noticeable changes would be the absence of the film’s villain Rasputin and his humorous talking bat sidekick, Bartok. Instead, new villains would be introduced through characters who represented the Communist Regime. What’s more, the group hoped to have several new songs added to the score. This new version premiered during the spring of 2016 at the Harford Stage in Connecticut.

On December 8, 2016 plaintiff Jean-Etienne de Becdelievre accused the writers of stealing their plot from a play written by playwright Marcelle Maurette in 1952. Becdelievre, heir to Maurette, alleged several copyright law violations in his complaint, and asked that the musical be barred from opening its doors on the planned date of April 24, 2017 at the Broadhurst Theatre. Of mention, he argued that Fox Animation Studies had a license to produce the 1997 film as an adaptation based on Maurette’s play. However, the musical is significantly different from the film version, with “multiple characters, plot lines, and other creative elements that are in the original play” and not in the film. Therefore, the limited film license does not cover the new musical and, arguably, the produces and writers have no license to produce the musical based off of the play.

In response, the producers, including Bill Taylor, called the lawsuit “wholly without merit,” arguing that a license is not necessary because the musical’s story is not taken from the previous play, but from “the historical story or the real-life Anastasia Romanov.” Based on this argument, they filed a motion to dismiss the case.

On January 24, 2017 New York Southern District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein denied the motion to dismiss the case. Judge Hellerstein explained that the “motion asks me to dismiss a claim for copyright infringement by comparing the copyrighted work to facts that are alleged to be historical, to another play based on the same facts, and to a current work that is said to be infringed. Defendants’ motion . . . asks me to make this comparison before Answers are filed, and without guidance by experts. I am unable to make such a complicated comparison. In order to do so, I would need to take judicial notice of facts said to be historical—an inappropriate exercise. I would also have to analyze similarities and differences among different literary expressions.”

After Judge Hellerstein’s ruling, the defendants filed an answer to the complaint on February 7, 2017. Their attorneys said that they remained “confident” in their position to prevail on a substantive ruling.  “The works simply are not substantially similar,” said Dale M. Cendali, attorney representing Terrance McNally. “They have different settings, different characters, and different plots.  In fact, none of the dialogue is the same.  Any similarities are due to unprotectable historical facts or ideas.”

However, this ongoing battle probably means that the show is unlikely to meet its opening day, though its website still appears to be selling tickets. It will be fascinating to see the way that this case unfolds in its substantive legal questions, as well as for the life of the show. Perhaps this production team did not journey enough into the past when creating this historic musical.

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