Technically Legal

Technology and the law. Done right.

Man Arrested For Refusing to Tweet

It’s rare that I feel confident saying that a particular criminal prosecution is clearly unconstitutional. This is one of those times.

Police arrested a senior vice president from Bieber’s label, Island Def Jam Records, James A. Roppo, 44, of Hoboken, N.J., saying he hindered their crowd-control efforts by not cooperating.

He was in custody Friday night, pending charges that could include criminal nuisance, endangering the welfare of a minor and obstructing government administration, Smith said.

“We asked for his help in getting the crowd to go away by sending out a Twitter message,” Smith said. “By not cooperating with us we feel he put lives in danger and the public at risk.”

There are prohibitions against compelled governmental speech, which is exactly what they were trying to do here. If the government cannot force you to display “Live Free or Die” on your license plate, they certainly cannot force you to tweet anything.

1 Comment Posted in: Commentary, Links on November 24, 2009

Episode 26: Steamrolled by a Snowball

A first decision in the Psystar case, Google Bing and Mark Cuban, and the Google Book Settlement.

Please download the podcast. E-mail us with suggestions, comments, and your thoughts.

Psystar Decision

Apple Wins Like a Champ – Psystar is Toast — What? You’re Surprised?
The opinion.

Google, Bing and Mark Cuban

Google, Murdoch, Madoff

Google Books Settlement

Google Book Search Settlement Revised: No Reader Privacy Added
Revised Settlement

1 Comment Posted in: Podcast on November 23, 2009

Episode 25: Where’s My IHOP

Bilski, International Copyright Treaty, and Using Facebook as an Alibi

Please download the podcast, and e-mail us with comments, questions, or story ideas.

Bilski Arguments

Analysis of Oral Argument

ACTA Internet Provisions

The ACTA Internet Provisions – DMCA Goes Worldwide

Facebook Alibi
His Facebook Status Now? ‘Charges Dropped’

Comments Off on Episode 25: Where’s My IHOP Posted in: Podcast on November 16, 2009

DeFUD: No, Microsoft Did Not Patent Sudo

Groklaw has a story claiming that Microsoft was just awarded a patent for sudo with a GUI.

That’s not really the accurate. The patent covers a computer program that:
(1) Pops up when you don’t have permission to do something
(2) Figures out what users do have permission to do it
(3) Gives you a list of those users, and
(4) Lets you enter a password to do the process under that account.

Sudo, on the other hand, really only does the last element. Notably, sudo doesn’t tell you when you can’t do something, the shell does. Also, sudo doesn’t offer a choice of users to log in as.

While the patent may be invalid as a software patent, it certainly isn’t defeated by the prior art that is sudo. Also, it’s really bad security practice. Why should that user get a list of users who are allowed to do a process they can’t?

2 Comments Posted in: Commentary on November 11, 2009

Episode 24: A Bushel of Claims

School Punishes students for MySpace postings, Above The Law Suit Dropped, EMI sues to get Beatles songs of the web.

Please download the podcast, and e-mail us with suggestions, comments, or questions.

A couple of notes this week: We’re trying out funnier titles. Do you like that? Second: David Lu was calling from what sounded like inside a small box.

School Sued Over Punishment

School sued for punishing teens over MySpace pix
The complaint

Above the Law Suit Dropped

Law Professor Sues Over ‘Above the Law’ Blog Posts–Jones v. Minkin
That Was Fast! Above The Law Lawsuit Dismissed

EMI Sues Over Beatles Songs on the Web

Bizarre legal defense after EMI sues over Beatles MP3 sales
Judge hits Beatles MP3 seller with restraining order

Comments Off on Episode 24: A Bushel of Claims Posted in: Podcast on November 9, 2009

No Tweeting in Federal Court

A Federal Court has found that live tweeting courtroom events violates Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits simultaneous broadcast of federal criminal proceedings.

Essentially, the court said that a twitter stream is equivalent to a broadcast. This doesn’t say anything about civil cases, but it’s a fair bet that judges just don’t want this going on in the courtroom.

Update: Dave O’Brien pointed out a few things on the civil-proceeding side of this…

Live tweeting and blogging from either state or federal court is potentially covered under the local court rules in each jurisdiction–regardless of whether it is a civil or criminal case.  The usage of electronic devices is typically either prohibited or limited under these rules and is often left up to the discretion of the presiding Judge.

For instance, Local Rule 83(b) in the 8th Circuit notes:

In the Northern District, computers, cell phones, and other portable communication devices are not permitted in courtrooms or their environs unless specifically authorized by an administrative order or other order of the court.  If a computer, cell phone, or other portable communication device is permitted in a courtroom or its environs by an administrative order or other order of the court, it must be disabled from making an audible sound while in the courtroom or its environs.”

So, even though Fed. R. Crim. P. 53 was found to prohibit tweeting from court in federal criminal proceedings, tweeting during civil proceedings is still subject to some level of judicial scrutiny.  There have been numerous instances since 2004 where journalists and bloggers have been permitted to cover both civil and criminal proceedings over a live blog or tweet stream in both federal and state courts.  Still, the concept has yet to gain mainstream acceptance.

Comments Off on No Tweeting in Federal Court Posted in: Links on November 9, 2009

Bilski at the Supreme Court Today

Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments on the Bilski case.

While you can’t (yet) listen to a live stream of the arguments, the transcript is here.

In the meanwhile, here’s a smattering of news and analysis, courtesy of Google News. If you’re in the mood for something more incisive, take a look at Gene Quinn’s analysis of Bilski.

UPDATE 3:00 PM: SCOTUS Blog has the first post about the Bilski argument. In short, no one on the Court supported Bilski’s patent, but whether the Court will address software patents is up in the air.

UPDATE 6:40 PM: The post now has links to the transcript above, and here.

Comments Off on Bilski at the Supreme Court Today Posted in: Links on November 9, 2009

Is There an Impending DROID Fight?

Verizon recently announced two phones branded with the “DROID” mark. One of the phones is made by Motorola, the other by HTC. The name likely comes from the fact that both phones run the Android operating system.

Typically a trademark answers the question “Where am I from?” Not, “What am I?” For example, Swingline on your red stapler lets you know that the stapler is from Swingline. It doesn’t tell you that it’s a stapler.

DROID here doesn’t fall into either category. It doesn’t particularly tell you where it’s from, because the phones are on Verizon but made by two different companies. It also doesn’t describe the product itself.

Regardless, if Verizon filed for a trademark on the name DROID for cell phones, they would probably be given the trademark.

That is, if Lucasfilm hasn’t beaten them to it.

On October 9th, Lucasfilm filed an applcation to register the word “DROID” for “Wireless communications devices, including, mobile phones, cell phones, hand held devices and personal digital assistants.” The serial number is 77845682, and you can search for the application through the TESS Engine at the Trademark office. Sadly, I can’t find a way to directly link to it.

We’ll follow this as it develops because a lot of issues might arise if these two companies clash. Stay tuned.

4 Comments Posted in: Commentary on November 5, 2009

Another E-mail Privacy Case

The EFF has a great post up comparing the Oregon case we talked about on this week’s podcast with a New York case.

In the New York case the government conceeded that the e-mails were protected by the Fourth Amendment (something that wasn’t quite at issue in the Oregon case). There, the judge found the warrant, which allowed the police to get access to all the defendant’s e-mails was overbroad and invalid. But, the judge never decided if the Fourth Amendment protects e-mails.

It’s an interesting read, but I think we disagree with the EFF’s characterization of the Oregon case, and whether it actually decided that e-mails were unprotected by the Fourth Amendment.

Comments Off on Another E-mail Privacy Case Posted in: Links on November 4, 2009

Technically Legal Podcast: Episode 23

Metadata in Public Records, Warrants and E-mail, Facebook awarded million in SPAM case.

Please, download the podcast. E-mail us with questions, comments and requests.

Arizona Says Metadata are Public Records Too

“Ariz. court rules records law covers ‘metadata'”
The opinion

Court Says Personal Notice Not Required for E-mail Search

On Gmail and the Constitution
The opinion
District Judge Concludes E-mail Not Protected by Fourth Amendment (But See Correction)
Stored Communications Act
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedue 41

Facebook Wins Big in CAN-SPAM case

Facebook Wins $711 Million in CAN-SPAM case
The complaint

4 Comments Posted in: Podcast on November 2, 2009

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