Launch of TECHdotMN

I am pleased to announce the launch of the TECHdotMN blog. This is a collaboration between a number of people who are interested in startups and technology in Minnesota. I will be contributing as the legal correspondent. There are already a number of local startup spotlight posts written with much more to come. Here is a link to my “welcome post.”


Philip K. Dick’s estate threatens Google over Nexus One

The movie Blade Runner is based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? written by Philip K. Dick. The androids or replicants in question were Nexus-6 series. I am still confused how a phone, however awesome, is going to evolve into a sophisticated killing machine in only five more revisions. In all seriousness, it is a difficult case to make that brands of fictional products in novels automatically have any trademark protection. As a side note, I believe Google’s use of DROID is under a license from Lucasfilms.

Link to the Wall Street Journal story.

Hat tip to the always interesting

USPTO Director coming to William Mitchell College of Law

From the William Mitchell alumni website:

David Kappos, undersecretary of commerce and director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is coming to William Mitchell College of Law to discuss his vision for the USPTO. Save the date.Tuesday, April 6, 20104:30 pmWilliam Mitchell’s Auditorium The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited

Here is the link to register.

Happy 2010

Merry Christmas!

Capitol Records Sues Vimeo for Lip-Dub Videos

While ordinarily an ISP or web service like Vimeo could get off the hook under section 512 of the DMCA, it does complicate things when your staff creates and posts a video that is allegedly infringing.

Link to the Trademark Blog which includes both the video in question and the complaint.

Top 10 Cyberlaw Developments of 2009

Great post by John Ottavianni on Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Blog recaps some of the more consequential developments in cyberlaw this past year.

MPR Reporter Accused of “Hacking”

Texas based Lookout Services has accused a Minnesota Public Radio reporter with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The reporter was doing a story about how Lookout had exposed the private data of a number of Minnesota consumers. Apparently doing your job as a reporter carries with it the risk of being a “hacker.”

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has both civil and criminal provisions and prohibits the “unauthorized access” of a computer. The phrase “unauthorized access” is pretty vague and has allowed prosecutions to go forward for such things as creating a phony Facebook account as Lori Drew had done to harass her daughter’s classmate. But unlike the Drew case, there is the new twist of a reporter doing the unauthorized accessing. So, which should be more important: a company’s right to be secure in its data, or a journalist’s right to discover and report? If the reports are true, perhaps a company should be expected to take reasonable security precautions before having CFAA remedies available.

See more at the MinnPost article.

Proposed “Loud Commercial” Regulation

I hate how TV commercials are about twice as loud as the regular programming. Nevertheless, I can’t see how this proposed legislation would be implemented effectively. From what I gather from this story at Yahoo! News, the FCC isn’t especially keen on the idea either.

HT to

Innacurate Copyright Enforcement

From the Freedom to Tinker blog, Mike Freedman gives a good description of how BitTorrent works as well as how some companies are handing out Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices without much proof of any actual infringement.

“I am not arguing that copyright owners should not be able to take reasonable steps to protect their copyrighted material. I am arguing, however, that they should take similarly reasonable steps to ensure that any claimed infringement actually took place. When DMCA notices are accompanied by oaths under “penalty of perjury” and these claims are accepted as writ, as they have de facto become, there should some downside for agencies that demonstrably do not act in “good faith” to verify infringement.”

If you receive DMCA takedown that you believe is inaccurate, you can and often should push back. The linked story confirms my suspicions that many companies do not review notices of alleged infringement before they send them. It isn’t yet entirely clear to what extent the sender of a wrongful DMCA notice would be liable, but certainly there is a good case to be made that if they must act in good faith.

UPDATE: There is now a part two to the initial post