Tag Archive | "court"

Aereo Launches ProtectMyAntenna.org To Explain Its Position Vs. Broadcasters

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California Court Rules In Favor Of Using Cellphone Maps While Driving

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Good news, Californians. You can now, once again, use Google Maps on your phone while driving. That is, legally. Until this court ruling, map use was in a shady legal gray area. This comes two years after a Fresno, Calif., man was ticketed for looking at a map on his iPhone while stuck in construction. He was looking for an alternative route. As you do. The cop issued the $165 ticket under a law… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

White House: Without Net Neutrality, The Internet Would Be An Inaccessible “Toll Road”

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In case you wondered whether the White House is deliberately ignoring its petition platform, the President’s Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, wrote an official blog post in support of net neutrality.

“Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries,” wrote Park about the contentious law that will allow Internet service providers to charge more money for some websites.

Park was responding to 105K people who signed an official petition on WeThePeople to prevent ISPs from charging websites different rates for different speeds. The AT&Ts and Verizons of the world could make a pretty penny by charging services, such as YouTube, to increase the speed of their websites. Major tech companies and civil liberty organizations fear that it would snuff out the savvy little guy who can’t afford the high prices, thereby ending the meritocracy of a net neutral web.

Last month, a circuit court threw out an important provision for the Federal Communication Commission’s jurisdiction over the law, potentially threatening the existence of net neutrality. Netflix, which stands to be hit the hardest by a change in the law, has been especially vocal in support of net neutrality after the court’s decision.

The FCC says it’s working on a potential solution that could withstand further court rulings. The president’s support could provide some cover as the FCC tries to maintain its role over this issue.

Obama’s support for net neutrality isn’t new, but responding to the official White House petitions is a nice sign that the executive branch is taking direct democracy seriously. According to the White House pledge, any WeThePeople petition that gathers more than 100K signatures will get an official response.

Some petitions are months old, however, leaving critics to question whether the petition system is being taken seriously. This goes to show that the White House can answer easy questions, like net neutrality, much faster. It does, however, take longer to figure out whether the president wants Justin Bieber deported.

Image by Flickr user Gage Skidmore under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Supreme Court Will Hear Aereo Case, Settling The Broadcaster Battle Once And For All

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Aereo, a streaming TV startup backed by media mogul Barry Diller, has been embroiled in a legal battle with network broadcasters for the better part of this year.

But the case has finally reached the home stretch, as the supreme court today decided to take on the issue and settle the matter once and for all.

Aereo takes OTA signals out of the air through miniature antennas and streams that content over the internet to any device for a low monthly fee. It’s the first major step toward disrupting the current TV/cable subscription model.

Obviously, broadcasters aren’t happy with it, despite the fact that courts have deemed Aereo to be as legal as cloud-based DVR or using rabbit ears.

So far, whenever Aereo wins in one market such as New York or Boston, broadcasters pick up the case in another one.

Tired of losing appellate cases, the broadcasters asked the Supreme Court to intervene and, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, Aereo agreed to have the case heard by the Supreme Court.

Why? Well, if the Supreme Court follows the decision of earlier rulings and deems Aereo’s operations legal, broadcasters can no longer implement the “divide and conquer” strategy of suing Aereo in various districts. Once the Supreme Court makes a ruling, that ruling is final.

By agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court will most certainly shape the future of the media industry. Aereo’s long term goal is to create a market place where content creators can sell content directly to those who want to view it, rather than selling bundles of content at higher prices.

By allowing Aereo to operate, offering customers access to what are ultimately free broadcast signals, the Supreme Court is opening us up to a more on-demand future.

Here’s the official statement from Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia:

We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case would be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition. We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.

This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry. The landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision provided much needed clarity for the cloud industry and as a result, helped foster massive investment, growth and innovation in the sector. The challenges outlined in the broadcasters’ filing make clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself and thus, undermine a critical foundation of the cloud computing and storage industry.

We believe that consumers have a right to use an antenna to access over-the-air television and to make personal recordings of those broadcasts. The broadcasters are asking the Court to deny consumers the ability to use the cloud to access a more modern-day television antenna and DVR. If the broadcasters succeed, the consequences to consumers and the cloud industry are chilling.

We remain unwavering in our confidence that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and our team will continue to work hard to provide our consumers with best-in-class technology that delights and adds meaningful value to their lives.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Apple Not Impressed That Court-Appointed E-Book Compliance Monitor Made $138,432 In First Two Weeks

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Apple has issued a formal objection to the court-appointed lawyer assigned to monitor its compliance with the decision handed down in its e-book pricing fixing case back in July. The monitor was assigned by the DOJ back in October, and has apparently been charging Apple a very high price for his services – he made $138,432 in his first two weeks on the job, according to Apple’s official filing on the matter.

Apple says that’s the highest rate it’s paid a lawyer in its history, which is saying a lot given the company’s decidedly litigious streak. Apple’s lawyers explained in the filing that they believe Bromwich is charging so much simply because he can, as Apple has no say in who is chosen for the position, and must pay for the court-appointed monitor as per the decision handed down by the DOJ in the antitrust price-fixing case. Apple also objected to a provision in the DOJ’s ruling that would allow Bromwich to interview company personnel and report back to the court without Apple’s own lawyers around to represent the company’s interests.

The anti-trust case saw Apple charged with colluding with ebook publishers to artificially raise prices, and the DOJ handed down a decision that means Apple must have the court-appointed monitor, and is forbidden from having special arrangement with publishers around price restrictions, as well as so-called “favored nation” clauses (which essentially ties the pricing deals it works out with one publisher to the arrangements it holds with others) for four years.

Bromwich has served as an independent monitor before, in the oil and gas industry and with the Metropolitan Police Department for the District of Columbia, but if lawyer loving Apple is taking exception, there might be something to the claim that this rate is excessive by any standards.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Fab.com Files Counterclaim Against JustFab, Says JustFab Is A “Predatory” Bargain Clothing Peddler

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Image1 for post EMI's Outrageous Lawsuit Against Developer Takes Its Toll

The latest chapter in the legal dispute between online retailers Fab.com and JustFab is unfolding. In July 2013, JustFab filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Fab.com, accusing it of infringing on JustFab’s trademark by using a “confusingly similar” name, along with related allegations including unfair competition. Now Fab.com has hit back with a counterclaim that accuses JustFab of “predatory conduct.”

In its counterclaim, Fab.com claims its reputation has been hurt by JustFab’s “questionable business practices,” which it says is just the latest in a string of misleading marketing tactics at companies operated by JustFab’s founders. Fab.com also says that a filing JustFab made to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) while applying to register its “Just Fab” trademark in 2011 contradicts its trademark infringement lawsuit. Fab.com asked the court to dismiss JustFab’s complaint and order it to pay for Fab.com’s legal fees. We’ve embedded the full complaint below.

“This case is an example of the old adage that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. We look forward to having the court hear the entire story regarding the two companies’ business practices rather than the selective, one-sided story presented in JustFab’s complaint,” Fab.com lawyer Lance Etcheverry told TechCrunch. We’ve asked JustFab for comment.

(In other Fab.com news, the company announced today that co-founder Bradford Shellhammer is leaving the site. Co-founder Jason Goldberg will stay on as CEO.)

JustFab has raised $149 million in funding, while Fab.com has raised $336 million. As Ingrid Lunden noted in July, the two have another interesting parallel. Both Fab and JustFab have projected that they will make $250 million in revenue this year. Fab.com and JustFab are targeting the same class of online consumers–those willing and able to buy fashion online–and as two of the biggest players in the market, it is unsurprising that the two are duking it out so aggressively.

JustFab’s lawsuit, filed on Oct. 21 in the U.S. Central District of California, requested that Fab.com be prevented from selling any items that compete directly with JustFab, and to pay for damages of any lost business resulting from confusion over the brands. Fab.com hit back at JustFab’s claim that Fab.com not only shares a similar name, but offers a service that is too similar to JustFab’s.

“Operating under the guise of a ‘designer-quality’ fashion retailer, Just Fabulous [JustFab's original name] is in reality a peddler of bargain-priced, often low-quality, women’s shoes, handbags, denim and jewelry that uses offers of discounted pricing and endorsements by celebrities (such as Just Fabulous’s President and Counterdefendant Kimora Lee Simmons) to lure unsuspecting consumers into a negative option continuous service membership plan,” Fab.com said in its counterclaim.

Fab.com referenced customer complaints that accused JustFab of using confusing marketing practices to get customers to sign up for a “VIP membership” in which shoppers who purchase a pair of JustFab’s $39.95 women’s shoes are automatically enrolled in the program and their credit or debit cards are charged $39.95 a month, whether or not they make another purchase on JustFab.

In its counterclaim, Fab.com also cited other instances in which companies operated by JustFab’s co-CEOs Adam Goldenberg and Don Ressler have been accused of questionable business practices. Goldenberg was COO of Intermix Media when the State of New York filed a lawsuit accusing the company of secretly downloading adware and spyware onto millions of home PCs. Intermix agreed to pay $7.5 million in penalties to the State of New York as a result of the lawsuit. 

Goldenberg and Ressler also founded the company Intelligent Beauty (of which JustFab is a subsidiary), which was sued by a group of California prosecutors for false advertising in its marketing of Sensa, a diet product that claimed to help consumers lose weight with a flavored food additive called “tastants.” Intelligent Beauty eventually settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $900,000 in penalties and restitution. The company was also ordered to give clear disclosures before enrolling customers in a membership plan, which Fab.com says echoes customer complaints against JustFab.

Fab.com also claims that statements JustFab made to the USPTO while applying to register “Just Fab” as a trademark invalidate its current claim that “Fab” and “Just Fab” are easily confused.
 
The USPTO initially refused to register the “Just Fab” mark because it said it would be confused with the mark Fab, which was registered in 2006 by a swimwear and lingerie  company called Fab Product Designs that is unrelated to Fab.com or JustFab. In response, JustFab (then called Just Fabulous) argued that “Just Fab” and “Fab” were unlikely to be confused. 

As JustFab told the USPTO trademark examiner: “To be ‘just fab’ (or ‘just fabulous’) means to be happy, wonderful or great in some way, shape or form. It connotes a present sense of being.”

“Fab,” on the other hand, does not share this same connotation,” JustFab explained to the USPTO. “While ‘FAB’ by itself could be taken to mean ‘fabulous,’ it could also be interpreted as an acronym for another phrase or an abbreviation for a different word. Because ‘Fab’ by itself does not share the same connotation as ‘Just Fab,’ Applicant submits the likelihood of confusion here is very remote.”

This is not the first time that Fab.com has dealt with a trademark infringement lawsuit, although last time it was on that plaintiff’s side (that suit, against Touch Of Modern, has now been settled). Meanwhile, Just Fab has been dealing with other fashion sites that use the word “Fab” in their brand names in another way – it’s been buying them. In January 2013, it bought Fab Kids; and in May it bought European site Fab Shoes. That route would be trickier with Fab.com, which is now apparently valued at $1 billion.
 

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Article courtesy of TechCrunch

FBI Seizes Deep Web Black Market Silk Road, Arrests Owner

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The feds have caught up to the Silk Road. The underground website long known for drug trafficking and other illegal activity was seized by the FBI who also arrested the owner on three criminal counts. New York State prosecutors charged Ross William Ulbricht with one count each of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, according to a court filing.

Silk Road has long existed in the corner of the Internet dubbed Deep Web and accessible only through the seemingly secure Tor Network. Launched in 2011, the site quickly gained notoriety for its shadowy marketplace of drugs and guns. Silk Road became the Amazon of illegal things. As of July 23, 2013, there were approximately 957,079 registered user accounts, and as the court docs note, this does not necessarily equal the number of actual users.

Although obscured, Silk Road netted big money. The total revenue generated from launch until July 23, 2013, resulted in approximately 9,519,664 Bitcoins and 614,305 Bitcoins of commission for Silk Road itself, court documents reveal. That converts to roughly $1.2 billion in revenue and $79.8 million in commissions, at current Bitcoin prices.

A Silk Road competitor, Atlantis, aimed to add a bit of whimsy and Web 2.0 marketing pizzazz to the same markets. It closed last month.

As the court documents note, the owner of Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, intentionally and knowingly violated U.S. narcotics laws. The document, available here, reads:

From in or about 2011, up to and including in or about September 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a “Dread Pirate Roberts,” a/k/a “DPR,” a/k/a “Silk Road,” the defendant, owned and operated an underground website, known as “Silk Road,” that provided a platform for drug dealers around the world to sell a wide variety of controlled substances via the Internet.

But that’s just the start of Ulbricht’s troubles. He is also charged with hacking conspiracy and money laundering. The site is currently down, seized by the FBI. It should be interesting, however, to see how the government handles this hydra of an organization. The vast majority of interactions on the Silk Road are anonymous, performed using Bitcoin transfers between parties and set up in secure email exchanges.

According to the court documents, law enforcement agents made over 100 individual undercover purchases through Silk Road, obtaining Schedule I and II drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, LSD and others.

Ulbricht was reportedly arrested yesterday, October 1, 2013, at the Glenn Park library in San Francisco.

This is a developing story. It will be updated when we receive additional information.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Verdict On Pakistan YouTube Ban Delayed As Case Is Moved To High Court Full Bench

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The year-long saga of the Pakistan government’s YouTube ban has just taken another twist, as a case to unblock the website has been referred to a panel of Lahore High Court justices who will now decide whether the country’s haphazard internet censorship regime is unconstitutional. It’s another reprieve for the government’s IT minister Anusha Rehman, who has overseen an increasing online censorship regime in the country.

Yasser Hamdani, the petitioner of the case and lawyer for internet rights group Bytes For All, told TechCrunch the move will deliver a more definitive ruling because the panel of three to five, as yet unnamed, High Court judges has the jurisdiction to issue binding constitutional writs — which wasn’t the case in the previous hearing. It comes five months after Hamdani legally challenged the ban, which was first introduced in September 2012. While disappointed that a seemingly imminent verdict on the lengthy saga has been postponed until next year, he said the elevation of the litigation before a full bench (which only hears about five cases a year) demonstrates the importance of the case.

“We don’t want to win the battle and lose the war. If the court decided to unblock YouTube now, it might have been overturned on appeal in a higher court, which would’ve meant a strategic defeat for the internet freedom cause,” Hamdani said.

It gives him time to hone his legal strategy based on lessons from the hearings over the past year. Originally, their argument was focused on the technical dangers of administering a YouTube filtering mechanism, rather than solely demonstrating how the government’s patchwork ban on YouTube, pornography, and other nominated sites contravened the country’s constitution.

“This is a constitutional issue as it pertains to freedom of speech. We’re not interested in technical solutions and how to manage filtering. The censorship in current form is completely unconstitutional,” Hamdani said.

“I’m kind of happy. While it’s not instant gratification of having YouTube opened, overall, whatever the judgement comes, it will have a profound impact on the freedom of expression in Pakistan.”

It also buys more time for the country’s elusive IT minister. She has already declined two invitations to appear before the previous court case but has previously told the media of her preference for blocking specific YouTube videos deemed insensitive and blasphemous – which activists believe is the start of a wider internet filtering regime. (the IT minister did not respond to requests for interview for this story).

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Court: NSA Violated Privacy Because No One Understood The Rules

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The National Security Agency improperly identified over 15,000 telephone numbers as “suspicious” because there was no one at the agency who understood the rules, according to a scathing court order declassified by the Director of National Intelligence (on Tumblr!).

“The court finds that the government’s failure to ensure that responsible officials adequately understood the NSA’s alert list process, and to accurately report its implementation to the court, has prevented for more than two years both the government and the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] from taking steps to remedy daily violations,” wrote Judge Reggie B. Walton.

The court has issued guidelines for what qualifies as “reasonable articulable suspicion”, but there was apparently no one at the agency with complete knowledge of how to apply those rules to suspected telephone numbers.

The declassified court documents were dumped with a requisite cover-our-butt statement from DNI Director, James Clapper. “As demonstrated in these documents, once compliance incidents were discovered in the telephony metadata collection program, additional checks, balances, and safeguards were developed to help prevent future instances of non-compliance.”

As we reported earlier today, another key Republican was calling to defund the NSA’s surveillance authority, so we may see actionable policies soon.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Court Eventually Stopped NSA From Collecting Millions Of Communications

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Two new fun facts today regarding America’s surveillance state: the National Security Agency was collecting hundreds of millions of communications up until 2011, but a military court stopped them.

In a recently declassified and heavily redacted court order, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled that a potentially defunct mass email snooping program violated the 4th Amendment. ”The court is unable to find that NSA’s targeting and minimization procedures, as the government proposes to implement them in connection with MCTs [Multi-Communication Transactions], are consistent with the 4th amendment.”

In the course of sweeping up communications directly from fiber-optic cables, including screenshots of emails, the government can inadvertently view the communications of Americans who are not suspected of terrorism. These “multi-communication transactions” disturbed the court enough to supposedly shut down a program that was reading the content of emails, not just the records (so-called “metadata”).

Judge John D. Bates found that the government “advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe.” In other words, the NSA was either ignorantly or willfully misleading the court charged with limiting its power.

While this is evidence that FISC does in fact have some meaningful oversight, it apparently can take a while for the court to exercise its power. It’s actually good news that the government can exercise restraint over spy agencies, but it’s disturbing how long it takes.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

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