Appeals Court Rules for Vimeo in Copyright Infringement Case

In a blow to record companies — and a win for Internet service providers, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York yesterday ruled that Vimeo cannot be held liable for copyright infringement if the video-sharing site unknowingly hosts older music that was uploaded by users. In addition, the court ruled that it is not enough to prove Vimeo ignored infringement if company employees had watched videos containing copyrighted sound recordings. The case, which centered on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was being watched closely by Silicon Valley. Continue reading Appeals Court Rules for Vimeo in Copyright Infringement Case

Facebook Reveals More on Ethical Regulation of its Research

Facebook collects data from 1.6 billion people, on everything from “likes” to social connections, to establish behavioral patterns. That went further — some would say, too far — in June 2014 when the company conducted a psychological test on 700,000 people to look at how omitting “positive” or “negative” words could alter mood. The resulting controversy about the company’s ethics moved Facebook to add an internal review policy in October 2014. But it is just now publishing new details on how it conducts that research. Continue reading Facebook Reveals More on Ethical Regulation of its Research

Court Rejects Telecom Industry’s Challenges to Net Neutrality

In a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the FCC’s net neutrality rules, “handing a defeat to cable and telephone companies trying to fend off tighter oversight of the consumer broadband business,” reports The Wall Street Journal. The ruling is also considered a victory for the Obama administration and companies such as Google and Netflix that see net neutrality as a defense against unfair competition from ISPs. The decision “opens the door to further pending FCC regulatory steps that cable and wireless firms have resisted,” notes WSJ. “It also sharpens a growing policy divide between Internet firms and the broadband-access industry.” Continue reading Court Rejects Telecom Industry’s Challenges to Net Neutrality

Supreme Court Rules on Awarding Damages to Patent Holders

The Supreme Court yesterday sided with patent holders in a decision that would make it easier to award financial damages when inventions are copied without permission. “The high court, in a unanimous opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, overturned a specialized appellate court that had adopted a hard-to-meet legal standard for winning punitive damages, even in cases where the defendant’s patent infringement was willful,” reports The Wall Street Journal. The decision provides leeway for judges regarding the amount of damages. While the Obama administration supported availability of punitive damages, tech companies such as Facebook and Google argued that strict limits on damage awards would protect innovation and curb unnecessary or abusive lawsuits. Continue reading Supreme Court Rules on Awarding Damages to Patent Holders

EU and U.S. Agree to Data Privacy Pact, Now Awaits Approval

After three months of often-tense meetings, Europe and the U.S. agreed to a pact to enable digital data to move back and forth across the Atlantic. Negotiating beyond the January 31 deadline, European and U.S. officials hammered out details of the “EU-US Privacy Shield,” which will enable Google, Amazon and thousands of other businesses to continue operations. But the agreement isn’t out of the woods: it still faces official approval by the EU’s 28 member states, and EU privacy advocates have vowed to oppose it. Continue reading EU and U.S. Agree to Data Privacy Pact, Now Awaits Approval

The Pirate Bay Returns After Being Shut Down by Authorities

Popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is back online following a two-month outage after police in Stockholm raided a data center and seized servers. Responding to complaints from Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, authorities shut down numerous peer-to-peer and torrent-related services on December 9. Later that month, The Pirate Bay page returned, went through several iterations, and eventually replaced its pirate ship with a phoenix logo. A countdown clock indicated a February 1 return, and the site now appears to be live. Continue reading The Pirate Bay Returns After Being Shut Down by Authorities

Broadcasters Offered Final Approval of Auction of Aereo Assets

Aereo, the controversial startup that captured over-the-air cable TV without paying licensing fees and allowed subscribers to watch the content on multiple devices, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November. A bankruptcy court in New York has approved the dismantling of the company, with its assets to be auctioned to the highest bidder. The auction is scheduled for February 24, and the broadcasters that initially complained about Aereo’s business model will have two weeks to decide whether they approve of any sales. Continue reading Broadcasters Offered Final Approval of Auction of Aereo Assets

Verizon Will Not Sue FCC Over Net Neutrality, Despite History

Verizon now says it will not sue the Federal Communications Commission over net neutrality rules as long as broadband providers are not reclassified as utilities. However, Verizon did sue the FCC (and won) the last time net neutrality rules were introduced, which is one reason the FCC is presently considering reclassifying broadband. “We are going to be sued,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week. In response, Verizon EVP Randal Milch e-mailed that Verizon would not sue if the FCC uses Section 706. Continue reading Verizon Will Not Sue FCC Over Net Neutrality, Despite History

California Law Protects the Right to Post Bad Reviews on Yelp

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new measure that bans businesses from preventing their customers from leaving negative reviews, especially online. Yelp and other sites have pushed anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) laws around the country to stop defamation lawsuits against their users who post negative reviews. California businesses can no longer force customers to waive their right to comment on their service, or they can face fines of up to $10,000. Continue reading California Law Protects the Right to Post Bad Reviews on Yelp

New California Law to Require ‘Kill Switch’ on Smartphones

Starting in July of next year, all smartphones sold in California must have a “kill switch,” a software feature that allows smartphone owners to disable a phone after it has been stolen. The “kill switch” will make it more difficult for thieves to resell stolen phones because the phone can only be reactivated with the owner’s correct password. Smartphone manufacturers will be required to ship these phones with the anti-theft technology activated as part of the default settings. Continue reading New California Law to Require ‘Kill Switch’ on Smartphones

Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that would allow consumers to open the digital locks on their cellphones, legislation that was already passed by the Senate. Unlocking mobile phones makes it easier to switch wireless carriers. Under current copyright law, however, consumers risk jail time and fines up to $500,000 for unlocking their phones without carrier permission. Such restrictions have proven unpopular with the public and last year a petition called for government action. Continue reading Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

U.S. Copyright Office Suggests Aereo is Not a Cable Company

In a 6-3 decision last month, the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo was in violation of copyright law by using tiny antennas to stream broadcast TV online to subscribers. Since the court said that Aereo acted too much like a cable company to broadcast without paying fees, the startup attempted to embrace the ruling by offering to pay retransmission fees. Whether or not the new approach will work with the networks (or in court), the U.S. Copyright Office is now siding with the content owners. Continue reading U.S. Copyright Office Suggests Aereo is Not a Cable Company

Aereo Shifts Gears, Tells Court it is Now a Cable Provider

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling that Aereo’s online TV streaming service violated copyright law, company lawyers have filed a letter with a New York district court claiming that Aereo now views itself as a cable provider. If Aereo can obtain a license, it contends that it is entitled to the same protections as other providers paying royalty fees. This is a dramatic shift in strategy for the company that previously said it would shutter if the Supreme Court did not rule in its favor. Continue reading Aereo Shifts Gears, Tells Court it is Now a Cable Provider

Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo in Favor of Broadcasters

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of broadcasters in a decision that could have far-reaching implications for the media industry. The court found that online video startup Aereo violated copyright law by allowing its subscribers to watch and record over-the-air broadcasts from electronic devices via a system of miniature antennas. Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC have been battling Aereo, arguing that the startup was accessing their programming without authorization. Continue reading Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo in Favor of Broadcasters

Apple’s Settlement in E-Book Case Will Likely Pay Consumers

Apple has ended its civil class-action lawsuit over the price of e-books with a settlement that is worth an estimated $100-$300 million. Last year, a federal judge ruled that Apple broke antitrust laws by driving up the prices of e-books in cooperation with five major U.S. publishers. If Apple’s appeal of last year’s case is unsuccessful, the tech giant may be paying out millions to e-book customers. The terms of the settlement also cancel a damages trial set for July. Continue reading Apple’s Settlement in E-Book Case Will Likely Pay Consumers

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