Technically Legal

Technology and the law. Done right.

Some BitTorrent Search Engines Violate US Copyright Law

This is going to get more coverage. Trust us. But the short of it is that ISOHunt was found to induce infringement of copyright. This is essentially the same outcome of the Grokster case. While Grokster didn’t host any of the infringing files, they brought people on to the service with the promise that it was a replacement to Napster. Grokster encourage (induced) people to infringe copyright, and therefore they can he held liable for it.

Again, more to come.

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 28, 2009

Episode 30: Don’t Friend Me

Can juror’s friend each other on facebook?, Psystar moves closer to conclusion, and Ohio weighs in on cell phone searches.

You can download the podcast here. Please e-mail us with questions, comments or story suggestions.

Jurors and Social Media

Jurors’ Wikipedia Research, Friending at Issue in Two Md. Cases
For Judges on Facebook, Friendship Has Limits

Psystar One Step Closer to being Done

Psystar banned from copying any version of OS X, helping others install it
The Injunction

Ohio on Cell Phone Searches

The opinion

Comments Off Posted in: Podcast on December 22, 2009

Apple Wins Injunction against Psystar

AppleInsider reported that Apple won a permanent injunction against Psystar. Psystar has until December 31, 2009 to comply with the injunction. They will no longer be allowed to copy or sell copies of OS X, they cannot circumvent copy protection, or sell programs that circumvent the copy protection.

What’s unclear, because of conflicting reports (and our inability to find a copy of the injunction), is whether this injunction applies to OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard. Apple worked very hard to keep 10.6 out of the California litigation, and it is currently the subject of a case in Florida.

As always, we’ll keep you updated.

Update: A copy of the injunction can be found here

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 17, 2009

Terry Childs’ Trial Begins Today

The San Francisco Sys Admin who’s been in jail for 18 months on $5 million bail is set to begin his trial today. The only charge that remains against Childs stems from his refusal to release the password to the network. He did, eventually, turn the password over the mayor of San Francisco. The trial is expected to last several months (it’s unlikely that they will take testimony more than a day or two a week). We last covered the case in September, in Episode 15.

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 15, 2009

Episode 29: The Supreme Court Justice Is Playing Beer Pong

TechCrunch v. Fusion Garage, Judge gets Last Word in Tenenbaum Trial, and Facebook changes is privacy policy.

Please download the podcast, and e-mail us your questions and comments.

TechCrunch/CrunchPad/FusionGarage Imbroglio

CrunchPad Federal Lawsuit Filed; Some Additional Thoughts
The complaint
The End Of The CrunchPad
CrunchPad Litigation Imminent
CrunchPad renamed joojoo, sells Friday

Judge Gertner on Nesson

Court enters judgment in SONY v Tenenbaum

Facebook’s New Privacy Policy

More heat on Facebook as privacy advocates slam changes
Facebook unveils privacy changes
Facebook’s New Privacy Changes: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 14, 2009

Charges Dropped Against Party Filmer

We mentioned earlier that an Illinois woman was detained and arrested for recording a birthday party in a movie theater. Since we posted that the charges have been dropped, and the woman is now considering suing the theater. As we mentioned the statute makes it virtually impossible to recover against the theater, but if nothing else this has raised the profile of the law, and may get it modified or taken off the books.

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 14, 2009

Stunningly Good Net Neutrality Post

Marvin Ammori from Balkinization put up an incredible post about Net Neutrality including the legal arguments for and against it. It’s a must-read.

Comments Off Posted in: Links on December 10, 2009

Episode 28: Bond, James Bond

Mininova turns away from a life of crime, Yahoo and Verizon don’t want to disclose their price lists for government spying, and the EFF sues to see how the Government spies on us using Facebook.

Please download the podcast. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, e-mail us.

Mininova goes straight and narrow

Mininova buries pirate booty in its index, aims to go legit
Mininova limits its activities to Content Distribution service
Mininova considers appealing in Brein case
Mininova ordered to purge all links to copyrighted files

Verizon, Yahoo! refuse to disclose price lists

Yahoo, Verizon: Our Spy Capabilities Would ‘Shock’, ‘Confuse’ Consumers
Yahoo!’s Response Letter
Verizon’s Response Letter
Sprint fed customer GPS data to cops over 8 million times
Slight Paranoia
Yahoo! Sends Takedown for Price List

EFF sues of Gov’t Facebook Policies

EFF sues feds for info on social-network surveillance
The Complaint

Comments Off Posted in: Podcast on December 7, 2009

Filming Anything in a Movie Theater or BestBuy is Illegal in Illinois

A 22 year-old Chicago woman was arrested and charged with a felony after she recorded bits of a birthday party in a theater playing “New Moon.”

The woman was recording parts of her sister’s surprise party using the video recording function on her digital camera. She also recorded approximately four minutes of the movie before she was spotted by a theater employee and arrested by police.

The woman was charged with “Criminal use of a motion picture exhibition facility,” a Class 4 felony that carries up to three years in prison. The statute reads:

“Any person, where a motion picture is being exhibited, who knowingly operates an audiovisual recording function of a device without the consent of the owner or lessee of that exhibition facility and of the licensor of the motion picture being exhibited is guilty of criminal use of a motion picture exhibition facility.”

What’s shocking about this is that by one reading, there is nothing in the statute even requires you to have filmed any part of the movie. It’s totally feasible to commit a felony by recording only seconds of seats you’re about to sit in. On the other hand, you could (and in my view should) construe “where a motion picture is being exhibited” to mean that the recording has to be contemporaneous with the movie being shown. However, even that doesn’t require that you actually film any of the movie to be guilty.

The statute also allows the movie theater to detain anyone they “in good faith believe[] to have violated this Section while awaiting the arrival of law enforcement authorities.” The detainee can only recover damages if they show “by clear and convincing evidence that such measures were manifestly unreasonable or the period of detention was unreasonably long.”

And, yes this statute also prohibits recording people in a BestBuy, unless you are only operating the recording function to “demonstrate the use of that device for sales or display purposes.” Again, there is no exception for not actually recording the movie.

3 Comments Posted in: Analysis on December 3, 2009

Martin Goetz’s Perspective on Software Patents

This afternoon I came across Martin Goetz’s guest article on the patent law blog Patently-O.  As a long-time software developer and recipient of the first software patent issued, Goetz provides an interesting perspective on the ongoing software patent issue presently before the Supreme Court.

As lawyers, we’ve been trained to think from the legal perspective.  This sometimes contrasts sharply with the laymen understanding of why particular laws exist and why they function as they do.  In the last couple years, I can recount multiple watercooler conversations with non-lawyers, including software engineers and corporate executives,  who have difficulty understanding the unique problem of patenting software inventions under the current standard imposed by the Federal Circuit (the “machine or transformation test“) and the close relationship to non-patentable abstract ideas.

Often, their frustrations can be simplified to: “it’s mine, I developed it with my own ingenuity and the sweat of my own brow, no one else has done it, therefore I merit a patent and the exclusive rights afforded under the law like other inventions.”  While each of these factors are among the recognized reasons in favor of issuing patents, they fail to address the precise problem found in the boundaries of non-patentable inventions and patentable subject matter when applied to software inventions.

Of course, not every layman’s justification I’ve heard falls short of addressing the problem.  In fact,  Goetz’s article confronts several core issues in the debate with a perspective based on development experience.  Though his article does not describe the legal problems, it attacks the notion that software is an abstract principle or idea through a variety of analogies and thoughtful descriptions of enterprise software development.  He notes that the similarities of software development to hardware development process and other physical items of manufacture which are clearly within the realm of patentable inventions.  Interestingly, Goetz also describes software as being closer to a machine than a mere abstract principle when one considers the amount of R&D, workmanship, problem solving, and necessary infrastructure required to achieve a functional high-technology product.

Overall, I appreciated the perspective from a seasoned practitioner in the trenches and recommend the read, especially if you already have a good grasp of the legal principles before the Supreme Court.   Though many of his arguments are compelling on certain points, the Supreme Court will likely focus on many of the nuanced patent principles in addition to other counterbalancing factors in their final decision.

Comments Off Posted in: Commentary, Links on December 2, 2009

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