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”

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.
Continue reading “Man or Machine? EU Considering “Rights for Robots””

Are My Emails Beyond the Grasp of the U.S. Government?

gavelBy Mackenzie Olson

Companies like Microsoft and Google store a lot of customer data in storage centers overseas. As of July 2016, 2nd Circuit precedent indicated that, due to the foreign location of those centers, the U.S. government could not compel these companies to turn over data, even by issue of a search warrant. The case that rendered this decisions was In the Matter of Warrant to Search a Certain E–Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corporation. (But also take note of the dissent in the denial of en banc review). As the Southern District of New York adjudicated the Warrant case, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was its final arbiter. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals’ judgment only controlled as precedent in that jurisdiction. And though its opinion has been persuasive elsewhere, at least one judge, based in the Third Circuit, now disagrees with its outcome.

On February 3, 2017, Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued an opinion and subsequent orders compelling Google to turn over certain data stored in overseas facilities, per the request of two previously issued search warrants.

In his opinion, Judge Rueter explains that, “the present dispute centers on the nature and reach of the warrants issued pursuant to section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 (“SCA”).

He frames the relevant issues as follows: “The court must determine whether the [g]overnment may compel Google to produce electronic records relating to user accounts pursuant to search warrants issued under section 2703 of the SCA, or in the alternative, whether Google has provided all records in its possession that the [g]overnment may lawfully compel Google to produce in accordance with the Second Circuit’s ruling.” Rueter ultimately holds that “compelling Google to disclose to the [g]overnment the data that is the subject of the warrants does not constitute an unlawful extraterritorial application of the [SCA].”

In its reporting of the decision, news outlet Reuters particularly emphasizes Judge Rueter’s reasoning that “transferring emails from a foreign server so FBI agents c[an] review them locally as part of a domestic fraud probe d[oes] not qualify as a seizure . . . because there [i]s “no meaningful interference” with the account holder’s “possessory interest” in the data sought . . . [the retrieval] has the potential for an invasion of privacy, [but] the actual infringement of privacy occurs at the time of disclosure in the United States.”

Orin Kerr, law professor at The George Washington University School of Law, notes numerous problems with Judge Rueter’s decision. “The issue in this case is statutory, not constitutional. Even if you accept the (wrong) framing of the issue as being whether the SCA applies outside the United States, the answer has to come from what Congress focused on, not where the constitutional privacy interest may or may not be. Where you place the Fourth Amendment search or seizure strikes me as irrelevant to the extraterritorial focus of the statute.”

Kerr further contends that, “Even accepting the court’s framing, I don’t think it’s right that no seizure occurred abroad. As I see it, copying Fourth Amendment-protected files seizes them under the Fourth Amendment ‘when copying occurs without human observation and interrupts the stream of possession or transmission’. . . . That test is satisfied here when the information was copied. The court suggests that bringing a file back to the United States is not a seizure because Google moves data around all the time and ‘this interference is de minimis and temporary.’ I don’t think that works. Google is a private company not regulated by the Fourth Amendment, so whether it moves around data is irrelevant.”

It will come as no surprise that Google plans to appeal the Third Circuit decision. Likely a slough of other tech and media companies that previously filed amicus curie briefs in the Microsoft case will file briefs again, such as Apple, Amazon, AT&T, eBay, and Verizon.

Key questions that remain, then, are what will the Third Circuit decide on review?

Will the court follow the precedent set by the Second Circuit in Warrant?

Will it adopt the reasoning of the dissenters in the denial of Warrant‘s en banc review?

Will it follow Judge Rueter’s reasoning in the case at bar?

Or will it render an entirely novel opinion?

And though we can be sure that the losing party will petition the Supreme Court, one also must consider whether a final player emerge, in the form of Congress directly intervening? After all, the SCA was enacted in 1986, and many consider it not only out of date, but also relatively unworkable for modern technological issues. The time certainly seems ripe for a statutory update.

Image Source

 

There is Also an App For That

 

judge-aiken
The Honorable Judge Ann Aiken

By Jessy Nations

At the risk of sounding older than my years, it seems we are now demanding an app for everything these days. Even when we don’t need or want an app for something, one inevitably appears. That is, except, for legal apps, which are notably absent from the app store. Sure, I can download a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary, and Google is more than happy to direct me to lawyers in my area, but last I checked the smartphone revolution hadn’t done much for the criminal justice system … for now.

However, in an effort to modernize the reentry process for former inmates, a group of developers, lawyers, and judges are working on a reentry app . The idea is to turn the justice system from Big Brother into little brother. Continue reading “There is Also an App For That”

A Tale of Two Cameras

By Daniel Healow

cmera
Depending on your views about privacy and police accountability, it may be the best of times or the worst of times. Either way, it is clear that sensors, specifically cameras, have taken center stage as communities seek to objectively reconstruct confrontations between law enforcement and the public.

In what many call the “fastest technology upgrade in policing history”, body-worn cameras (BWCs) are quickly being deployed by police forces throughout the nation, inspiring widespread public support. Although a recent New York Times profile on the rollout of BWCs in Seattle highlighted the growing pains of rapidly deploying new technology, a summer survey found that  70% of Americans support BWCs becoming standard issue throughout all law enforcement. As an added bonus, the cameras appear to be increasing public accountability as well. Studies show public complaints of police misconduct down a whopping 93% in municipalities that have deployed the cameras. So the more cameras the better, right?

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Cameras”

The Arrival of CRISPR: Why The Genetically Modified Human Is No Longer Science Fiction

gattacaBy Miles Bludorn

The 1997 film Gattaca, set in “the not too distant future,” envisioned a world where parents possess complete control over the DNA they pass on to their children. The “future” forecasted in the film is now closer than ever with the latest advancement in genetic engineering known as CRISPR-Cas9 (“CRISPR”).

With the use of CRISPR, scientists, for the first time ever, can precisely edit, delete, and rearrange the DNA of nearly any living organism, including humans. Genetic editing using CRISPR takes place inside an embryo on what is known as the germ line. This allows scientists to edit the genetic material that can be inherited by the next generation. After altering, a genetic trait can be passed on to future generations. The potential of editing the germ line does not just mean that we will be able to control a child’s eye or hair color, it could also mean the ability to eliminate hereditary diseases altogether.

Continue reading “The Arrival of CRISPR: Why The Genetically Modified Human Is No Longer Science Fiction”

Design Patents Taking Center Stage in IP Litigation

Center Stage.pngBy Toban Platt

In Apple v. Samsung, the Federal Circuit court of appeals showed how valuable a design patent can be by affirming the trial court’s award for over $500 million dollars to Apple based largely on its design patents. This decision put design patents in the spotlight of intellectual property protection. The case first started in 2012 and revolved around design patents on particulars of Apple phones, including D618,577 (black rectangle with rounded corners), D593,087 (bezel on surrounding rim), and D604,305 (colorful grid of 16 icons). Apple was able to show that several Samsung phones were substantially similar to the iPhone, which included the design patents at issue. The court found this entitled Apple to collect all of the profits Samsung had made from its infringing phones.

Continue reading “Design Patents Taking Center Stage in IP Litigation”

Uber for the Skies Gets Shot Down by Federal Regulators

FlyNowBy: Samuel Daheim

In December 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rightfully concluded that private pilots, using a web-based service to offer flights to potential passengers, presented themselves as common carriers willing to transport persons for compensation.  Thus, the pilots had violated the terms of their noncommercial pilot licenses.  The pilots petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States for certiorari, and a response came on August 1, 2016.

Continue reading “Uber for the Skies Gets Shot Down by Federal Regulators”