Why Does Privacy Matter Online?

Why does privacy matter online? This philosophy generally falls into one of two camps – the strong belief that internet surveillance on such massive scales is inherently wrong, or that privacy is just an afterthought provided you have nothing to hide. Glenn Greenwald would argue this line of thinking – seeing the digital world as black & white – is potentially very dangerous.

Greenwald was one of the very first reporters to write about the Edward Snowden files, bringing to light revelations about the United States’ extensive surveillance systems aimed at private citizens. In a recent TED Talk, Greenwald makes a powerful argument that those of us who are unmoved by the shrinking margin of privacy in America have every reason to hide.

In a notorious interview in 2010, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg stated, “Privacy is no longer a social norm.” While many powerful figures of Zuckerberg’s stature have suggested privacy is otherwise irrelevant in the digital age, only recently he purchased all the adjacent property near his new home with the obvious intent to secure a zone of privacy.

Greenwald suggests that all of have things we’d rather not publicized – it’s not a simple classification of being a terrorist or plotting a criminal act. Our emails contain sensitive documents we share with our spouse, our physicians and therapists that we’d be mortified were it to be released. Privacy does matter on an instinct level, despite our social nature.

The fact of the matter is that humans behave differently when aware they’re being watched – Greenwald illustrates that surveillance drives compliant behavior, thus making it a more powerful tool than brute force. If monitoring individuals causes them to behave submissively, we should be sure that surveillance is an attractive tool to tyrants.

Greenwald closed his speech with a quote from social activist Rosa Luxemburg: “He who does not move does not notice his chains.”

To watch the entire TED Talk, visit the official TED site.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Tagged , , , |

Superheroes Vs The Supreme Court

Many of Marvel’s caped crusaders may yet have their day in court. The next major premier for Captain America and company is in all likelihood a Supreme Court case.

Several decades before, heroes such as Thor, The Fantastic Four and even the X-Men were originally dreamed up in Jack Kirby’s smoky basement – it was the dawn of Marvel Comics.

These larger-than-life characters found mainstream success, eventually catching interest from Walt Disney Co. Marvel Entertainment would carry a hefty price tag of $4.2 billion.

The Marvel franchise has continued to display otherworldly power across major industries. Blockbuster movie The Avengers managed to gross just over $1.5 billion – successful toy and video games lines have generated millions in residual sales.

Does Marvel’s success entitle Jack Kirby’s children to a piece of the pie? The Supreme Court may be asked to make a sensitive ruling with potentially Hulk-like legal ramifications for future copyright cases.

Legal analysts consider the chances that Kirby’s descendants are financially rewarded registering on the map as a tiny blip – but then again, a company of heroes is no stranger to overwhelming odds. A legal loophole could make the seemingly impossible a reality.

In accordance with federal copyright law, characters like Captain America are considered “works made for hire,” works subsequently commissioned and paid for through Marvel. Throughout the majority of copyright cases, authors and artists retain their rights after 56 years – provided they were not “works made for hire.”

So what if compelling argument can be made for Kirby working as an independent contractor? At the very least, this godfather of the comic book world could be considered a co-creator of the Marvel heroes alongside Stan Lee, the writer and editor who brought life to Kirby’s drawings.

If the argument is compelling enough, Marvel would lose exclusivity and be forced to include Kirby’s children among the share of profits. A ruling in their favor is all but guaranteed to change the face of profit-sharing among other heroes of the literary world.

Original story reported by USA Today.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , , , |

Fear of Deep Web Applies Criminal Stigma to Anonymous Browser, Tor

Yesterday, Internet rumors surfaced claiming Comcast would begin blocking users of Tor, an anonymous web browser often associated with pirating. Comcast Vice President Jason Livinghood was quick to cry foul, knowing full well that preventing anonymous Internet browsing could infringe upon user privacy.

The story was later put to rest following a report from Business Insider, called, “Comcast Denies It Will Cut Off Customers Who Use Tor, The Web Browser For Criminals.”

The trouble with such headlines is they serve to reaffirm that anonymous browsers like Tor are strictly used for criminal purposes. Such sensationalism is indicative of a culture that misinterprets the full application of deep web utilities.

The developers behind Tor maintain there are several key benefits often overlooked when it comes to anonymous Internet browsing and providing the gateway to the deep web of cyberspace.

Project Tor is a campaign designed to rebuke the ‘criminal’ label with stories from actual users. The Tor user base have relied on the browser to protect themselves from identity thieves, keep their communications private from corporations and keep their children protected online. International users living under oppressive regimes have even used Tor to network political dissent.

Representatives of Tor suggest Tor’s bad reputation is simply a mark of generating news – people are less inclined to read a story about the positive application of the browser. This stigma often exists among budding Internet applications until they achieve mainstream success – only a short time ago, Bitcoin was considered little more than a medium for illicit transactions online.

Tor’s executive director, Andrew Lewman, believes the deep web has been stigmatized because the general public is not aware of its application. He suggests that the Internet used to be considered a playground for thieves, child pornographers and other criminals – it wasn’t until Internet connections became commonplace that there was a noticeable shift in perspective.

Sensational headlines blasting Tor will likely continue until knowledge of the deep web is more universal.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , , , |

Copyright Law Could Stunt Hollywood Privacy Breach

Here’s a hypothetical for you: intimate photos of yourself you believed to be private are suddenly made available to Internet users. In the span of an hour, the material is shared among millions of users. This nightmare scenario ultimately proved reality for dozens of high-profile women within the entertainment industry.

Multiple family celebrities became the latest victims of a violation in privacy. The incident, currently under national investigation, stems from the actions of an anonymous hacker. The hacker raided private cloud storage accounts and leaked their content to a worldwide audience.

Victims of the breach have already vocalized a determinedness to find the anonymous hacker responsible. Some legal experts believe the best weapon currently available for combating the further spread of the private materials is copyright law.

Domestically, copyrights are appointed to the individual whom originally captured the photo. The vast majority of photos in the recent leak were self-portraits, meaning the women behind the camera should retain copyright privilege.

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) earlier in 1998. The measure was designed to stiffen penalties for violations of copyright that occurred online. This piece of legislation could prevent the explicit material from being hosted altogether.

In accordance with the “Safe Harbor” provision, websites like YouTube and Facebook are not responsible for predetermining copyright violation exists among content submitted by users – instead these domains are responsible for ‘takedowns’, removing reported content that violates copyright.

Individuals who find their copyright has been violated can pursue legal action in the form of lawsuits, pressuring sites that host the material to remove the content or pay millions in damages.

Although the strategy might prove effective in this happenstance, other legal critics suggest it’s the equivalent of legal ‘whack-a-mole’ – there are no shortage of copyright violators online willing to host private images.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , |

Monkey Trouble Spawns Copyright Controversy

Now here is a copyright battle that is downright bananas – a British photographer is squabbling with Wikimedia over who owns the rights to a photo a monkey took of herself. That’s right – a monkey selfie.

The British photog makes a compelling argument – he believes he retains ownership rights because the photo was originally snapped with his equipment. On the other side of the aisle, Wikimedia disputes the photo should be freely distributed as they believe any animal’s self-portrait is not subject to existing copyright law.

The monkey trouble all began with a 2011 wildlife photography field trip to Indonesia. A smiling crested black macaque would curiously nab some unmonitored camera equipment and snap a selfie. The macaque actually appears to be smiling in the photo, perhaps foreshadowing the looming legal battle her mischief would spawn.

Obviously, the situation raises plenty of questions – for instance, how exactly did the monkey grab a hold of the photography equipment? According to the photographer at center, “One of [the monkeys] must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy.” Accidents do happen – even in nature – but the bigger question remains – is it still grounds for property rights?

The curious apes reportedly took hundreds of photographs. Despite their innate technological abilities, their photography skills will need some work – the majority of the photos taken were out of focus.  The monkey ‘selfie’ was far and away the most famous. The photo was immediately licensed for use throughout various media outlets.

Despite the amusing subject, the controversy remains. Wikimedia has since reaffirmed their stance on the issue – the media outlet has refused to reclassify the image as open-copyright. For now, the monkey selfie remains active in the media database of the Wikimedia Commons.

At press time, it remains unclear whether the macaque will represent itself in a subsequent court case.

Original story reported by NPR.

Posted in Copyright | Tagged , , , |

3D Printing Latest Tech to Threaten Intellectual Property

The advent of 3D printing technology introduced many new exciting possibilities, possibilities that may directly impact intellectual property rights. As the technology matures and inevitably becomes more common, what’s to stop 3D printers from infringing certain property rights?

Some marketing analysts consider this the next stage in the stormy relationship between technology and IP. The main issue of concern is regarding accountability – who is liable when a company’s intellectual property rights are broken? The answer might not be so simple.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: an individual with access to a 3D printer begins selling figures from a popular television series. Who does the parent company target in legal action? Arguments can be made against the individual selling counterfeit merchandise, the printing company, the designer and even the supplier of the material.

Questions about the future of intellectual property might find answers from the past. When the VCR was introduced to the public, concerns relating to copyright infringement took center stage. What would stop individuals from copying and displaying television shows and movies?

Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled the VCR was capable of significant non-infringing purposes and allowed the technology to flourish. However, years later, the file sharing service Napster was shut down as copyright infringement was deemed a regular occurrence throughout service usage.

Contrasting the two previous examples proves there is a line when it comes to IP. New technologies like 3D printing require lawmakers to reexamine the traditional rules, to constantly evolve. The process certainly amounts to more than a few growing pains along the way.

As legislators debate where the line should be moved regarding 3D printers, some printing servicers are already cashing in. Popular public opinion maintains it’s only a matter of time before lawsuits relating to 3D printing begin to dominate the headlines.

Posted in Intellectual Property | Tagged , , |

Tesla Releases Patents to Open Market

Tesla Motors recently surprised the business world by releasing their patents to the open market, meaning their engineered technology can now be utilized by direct competitors. Perhaps even more surprising is business analysts are already hailing CEO Elon Musk’s bold decision as a savvy business plan.

Many observers viewed Tesla’s patents as a major competitive advantage – so why release it to their competitors? Analysts mark that Tesla’s situation is unique as electric cars are considered an emerging technology. Recent figures from 2013 indicate these cars are responsible for less than 1% of all traffic, a number that closely relates to total sales. Tesla is banking on increased competition similarly increasing the demand for electric cars overall – what better choice than the company that opened the door?

It’s a stark contrast to intellectual property wars constantly dominating American headlines in recent months. Companies like Apple have even been accused as being ‘patent trolls’, entities that impede the regular advancement of technology. The key differences in patent philosophy between companies like Apple and Tesla certainly suggest the issue of intellectual property is a complex issue.

Tesla’s strategy is considered non-translatable across many industries. Biotech startups could easily sink their operation by making their drug patents available to the open market. Large pharmaceutical agencies and generic drug manufacturers would be able to copy the drug and utilize their existing systems to force the startup out of business. Examples like this suggest intellectual property rights will always have their place in the market on some level.

The traditional argument for legal patents is they provide startups with the ability to protect their technology against larger incumbents, parties which could potentially box them out of the market. The decision to release Tesla’s patents almost certainly would prove disastrous had they lacked the means to produce their cars on a major scale.

For now Tesla Motors is comfortable enough with their hand to invite more players to the table. While time will ultimately decide whether the gamble pays off, it certainly bodes well for consumers in the near future.

Original story reported by Entrepreneur

Posted in Intellectual Property | Tagged , , , |

Trade Secrets: Hacked and Unaware

We are not an IT Security company.  We are a law firm that focuses on protecting your intellectual property.  But in today’s world, everything is on the computer, and therefore, computers are where, and how, trade secrets are stolen.

Bloomberg recently reported on a study that happened to be conducted in the United Arab Emirates, but which has sobering lessons for us all.  You might expect the UAE, with all their money and sunshine to be able to afford the best and brightest computer security people from all over the world.  (Actually, the story of wealth in the UAE is more complex than that).  But the study claims that fully 90% of companies there, that have been attacked by cybercriminals are unaware of the fact.

Protect your trade secrets, by all means possible. 

You can watch a world map of hacking attempts, in near real-time, here.  It is animated in a “War Games” style to make a point.  Once the shock of what you are looking at wears off, you need to make some calls and start improving your IT setup.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Posted in Trade Secrets |

Beautiful Risk-Takers Plan 2,250-foot Tower in Yuma

We are an Arizona Intellectual Property law firm.  We deal with inventors, entrepreneurs and risk-takers.  What they do is risky and beautiful – awe-inspiring, at times.  This article (link below) updates us on the story of a technology that works on paper, but can’t be demonstrated at less than full scale.  That makes the project more of a leap of (faith?  science?) than usual.

The prize, if they are successful?  Clean energy creation, night and day, at rates 60% lower than other green technologies (like solar), for an estimated one-million people.  That is a high goal to shoot for.  The perfect location:  Yuma, Arizona.

Full Disclosure:  Solar Wind Energy (Maryland) is not a client of ours.  This is not a puff-piece for their project.  It’s pure admiration.  Follow the link and look at the artist’s rendition.  Who wouldn’t want to build that thing?

There are informed critics and naysayers, of course. 

The creativity and spirit of the inventors and backers is something to be proud of.  We are privileged to work with creative people who pursue their bold dreams.  May they never stop inventing.

Original article in the Washington Post

Posted in Uncategorized |

Before You Accuse Trade Secrets Theft: Consider the Source

Theft of trade secrets is something you want to avoid, of course.  When it is first suspected, the evidence is often sketchy, and often pivots on one person’s word.  You may feel grateful to the reporter, who after all, may be saving you millions of dollars by reporting early.  You want to act quickly – but not too quickly.

This article reports on a case in which the person who reported the crime turned out to be unreliable.  After the defendant was acquitted of the theft of trade secrets, he found himself jobless and having spent all his money on a legal defense.  He then turned around and filed defamation libel suits against his accuser, and now the appeals court is allowing the civil suits to move forward.

The article considers the issue of when an employee reports a trade secret violation, but does so not in the company’s best interest, but for personal reasons.  There are repercussions for this, as the case shows.  Investigate reports of trade secrets violations thoroughly, including the source.

Original analysis in Lexology, but Teresa M. Thompson and Kristen M. Barlow Rand.

Posted in Trade Secrets |