Technologist: January 2013 Archives
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

January 2013 Archives

Gizmodo calls the upcoming Q10 Blackberry’s “most important phone.” We couldn’t agree more. At this week’s big unveiling of the long-awaited Blackberry OS 10 and the two new accompanying phones, the Z10 got far more attention. After all, it’s the flagship competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Nexus. It’s the big touchscreen device with fancy specs.

And it is almost completely irrelevant already. That phone will not cause people to flock, en masse, back to the Artist Formerly Known as RIM’s ecosystem. It is, spec-wise, a standard touchscreen device. Blackberry’s OS might be spectacular - we haven’t tried it yet - but to reference the new spokeswoman for Blackberry, “everything means nothing, if I ain’t got [apps].”

We're big fans of DropBox around here. It auto-syncs files to the cloud, which allows us, and our coworkers, to access our files from anywhere, on nearly any device. However, unless you want to pay a monthly fee, storage space is limited. There have been security breaches in the past, which would give us pause to store clients' files on their servers long-term.

Being the geeks that we are, we're always curious when a new (free!) provider emerges, especially when that provider gives you 50 gigabytes of storage and state-of-the-art encryption.

'CrackBerry' Reboot? BlackBerry Announces Z10, Q10 Models

If you are firmly committed to your QWERTY keyboard (beloved by so many lawyers), new BlackBerry options are coming to the market.

Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal's CIO Journal voiced concerns about Research in Motion's ongoing financial health and viability, noting that BlackBerry had devolved from the "symbol of corporate mobility," to a mere "curiosity." But the BlackBerry death watch may have been premature.

Research in Motion, now rebranded simply as "BlackBerry" has introduced two new BlackBerry models -- BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 -- and the new BB10 operating system, CBS News reports. Both phones have 4G LTE capabilities.

Yesterday was apparently Data Privacy Day. Didn't notice? We don't blame you. Like the concepts of temperance, abstinence, and alchemy, it might seem like a bygone idea. After all, we live in the days of eroding social media privacy settings, data breaches, and online advertisers tracking your every breath.

Google, while doing much of the latter, hasn't completely abandoned the noble idea of data privacy. While they will track your every keystroke for advertising purposes, they will supposedly fight for your right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement agencies across the globe.

Is It Illegal to Unlock Your Smartphone?

Back in the Wireless Dark Ages, you actually had to get a new phone number if you hopped between cell phone carriers. In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission adopted local number portability rules, and made it all better.

Last week, you could legally unlock or "jail break" your cell phone, and take it with you if you hopped between cell phone carriers. Now, the Library of Congress has made it all worse.

Saturday, it became illegal to unlock a new smartphone without permission, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Who has time to tweet? We're lawyers, not twitter-ers. Still, if you've embraced online marketing beyond a basic website (and you should), you probably have a Facebook and/or Twitter account for your office. From this account, you can post updates about the office, notes on victories or landmark cases, and if you blog (and you should), links to your posts.

The problem is, tweeting and status updating takes time. Sure, it's 140 characters or less so it shouldn't take time, though you do have to update regularly to stay relevant while avoiding procrastinating by Facebook stalking others or tripping on trillions of tweets. You'll also want to remain active throughout the day so that you have exposure to as many customers as possible (think the opposite of "out-of-sight, out-of-mind").

Is it Time for Twitter to Reconsider its Terms of Service?

Twitter has a bit of a P.R. conundrum on its hands this week after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an Indiana law banning sex offenders from social networks.

The problem: Should the micro-blogging platform amend its terms of service (TOS) to keep known sex offenders away?

Laptop v. Tablet: Which is Better for Lawyers?

Last week, my beloved, five-year-old MacBook Pro was on its way to that big tech heap in the sky, and I was facing an impossible choice: MacBook Air or iPad? (I love Apple. Sorry, I'm not sorry.)

My oversized Pro is great, but it's practically a desktop compared the sleek little laptops on the market now. It has a 17 inch screen and weighs almost 7 pounds, so it's never been that portable. My next computer, by contrast, needs to be tiny.

But does it need to be a laptop?

Describe your ideal smartphone. Take a moment. Think about every ideal quality it should have.

Your list probably included affordable, future-proof, and stable. Lawyers need to spend time working, not troubleshooting. And no, we're not being paid by Google to write this post. The Nexus 4 is just a really, really amazing device ... if you can find one.

Way back in the day, when a young blogger was in law school, he was challenged by his professor to envision what the future of law firms would look like. After making jokes about drive-thru divorce firms (they exist!?!), he set his tech geek mind to the task and really thought: "how would I design a firm?" He wrote this, later republished as a blog post.

So why hasn't it happened yet? The answer is simple: the software infrastructure hasn't matured enough.

These darn youngins with all their fancy new lingo. What in tarnation are they talkin' about?

We get it. It seems every day there is some new amorphous concept bandied about as the future of technology and the future of law firms. If you took the time to learn every one, you'd be a tech blogger instead of a real lawyer. Who would want that, right?

We're going to do the work for you. This is all about the cloud and how it will shape the future of how law firms are run. Our future "and Why Lawyers Should Give a Damn" columns will address other important tech issues that will affect your practice.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Technology is advancing at warp speed, and the way we live is changing constantly. Indeed, what was once lifestyle bedrock is now going the way of the dinosaurs.

For example, when I backpacked in Europe more than three decades ago, I kept in touch with my family by way of aerogrammes and postcards. Those days are gone. My daughter just started her study abroad program in Copenhagen, and within hours of hitting Danish soil, I heard from her by way of Facebook messages and mobile telephone calls via Skype.

On top of this example, I recently read an email that is spreading across the Internet that suggests the imminent disappearance of certain aspects of life that we have been accustomed to for a very, very long time.

We haven't seen it. You shouldn't. We're certainly not going to link to it. You could Google "2 Girls, 1 Cup," but there is a strong possibility that your soul will die after a few seconds of grainy YouTube footage. We'd recommend avoiding it.

So what is it? It was a scat fetish video that sexualized two women doing odd things with fecal matter (that was in a single cup). Bad times. The shock video quickly became a viral video sensation. It also drew a lot of attention to the video's distributor, Ira Issacs.

Issacs' day job is filming, selling, and distributing the sort of video that would make most people vomit: bestiality, scat porn, and other things of that ilk.

He calls it shock art. George W. Bush's administration called it "obscene."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren Introduces 'Aaron's Law' to Amend CFAA

Earlier this week, we discussed the tragic news of Reddit pioneer Aaron Swartz's suicide on this blog. The feds, as you may recall, had been building a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) case against Swartz over the last two years, after he allegedly violated the terms of service (TOS) for JSTOR, a digital library of academic journals and books. The case was set to go to trial in April, and Aaron faced millions of dollars in fines and up to 35 years in prison, The New York Times reports.

JSTOR, notably, urged prosecutors to drop the case, according to Silicon Valley's KNTV.

Swartz's family blames the government for their loss, claiming the death was "the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach." Now, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, is introducing Aaron's Law, a CFAA amendment that would eliminate future TOS violation prosecutions, The Guardian reports.

You've probably heard of lawyers using iPads in practice and in court. But you're not one of them, either because you didn't want to plunk down $500 for something so sinfully luxurious or perhaps you are simply an Android user and didn't want the fragmented ecosystem that comes with mixing mobile operating systems.

Until recently, Android tablets have received some less-than-favorable reviews. They were (allegedly) iPad ripoffs with cell phone software stretched to fit an overpriced $500 screen. Google fixed the software with the release of Android 4.0. Did they fix the hardware issues with the Nexus 7?

The Legal Legacy of Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz, a famous Internet activist and computer programmer, committed suicide Friday. He was 26.

In Silicon Valley, it seems that everyone has a story about how Aaron influenced one of their projects. But while Aaron will be remembered for developing the RSS standard and his contributions to Reddit, he also left his mark on the legal world.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Once upon a time, the production of information in civil litigation primarily consisted of the exchange of hard-copy, paper records. Those days are long gone.

We now are in the electronic age, and productions feature all sorts of electronic data. It is important to get it right when it comes to eDiscovery, as the downside consequences for getting it wrong can be severe.

Make Sure Microsoft Word's 'Track Changes' Doesn't Ruin Your Case

Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature has some obvious benefits. After all, you can see the edits you or someone else made to your document and can compare different versions of documents to one another.

However, seeing the edits you made may not always be a good thing. This is especially true if you are sending documents to opposing parties, who in many cases can simply click "track changes" and get some sense of your thought process.

So to protect yourself, here are three tips to avoid getting tripped up by Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature:

Java Security Warning: Disable It Now, Homeland Security Says

A Java security warning was recently issued by the U.S. government, which left many people wondering if they should uninstall or disable the software. And if so, how do you do it?

Java is a piece of software that was created by Sun Microsystems, now owned by Oracle, that is mostly used in online games and other Internet applications. If you've ever seen a small steaming coffee cup icon come up in place of an online game, that game was built with Java.

The software was incredibly popular in the 1990s but since then, competitors have eaten away at its market share. At this point, you may be able to get rid of it without even noticing.

But there's still the question, do you need to?

3 Legal Threats for Bloggers and What to Do About Them

If you know someone who's a blogger, and you surely do, then you also know someone who's at risk of certain kinds of legal threats.

You might have a blog, or perhaps a friend from law school does, or your cousin's girlfriend posts regularly online. There's also a good chance that at least one of your clients is a blogger, either professionally or just for fun.

Even when it's not done for profit, blogging is often met with legal threats; some are real, while others are just empty threats disguised as legal claims. Here are three common types of threats faced by bloggers:

Social Media Policies: 5 Common Mistakes

The National Labor Relations Board's recent decisions on the right and wrong way to craft a social media policy aren't just about how big companies should act.

Every lawyer who works with a business, including owning your own practice, should know what kinds of phrases are likely to invalidate a social media policy. That way when you create one, you won't fall into the same problems that others have dealt with.

Given the NLRB's recent rulings, there are certain things that are now on the "don't" list for making a social media policy. Here are the Top 5 things not to include:

8 Reasons Windows 8 Doesn't Really Work for Lawyers

Windows 8 has been out for a few months now, but reviews seem to indicate that it's not a good pick for lawyers who work on a laptop or desktop.

It's always a little jarring when a software upgrade comes out and users are forced to learn all the small differences in the newer version. But in this case, the difference is stark and the overall effect is that Windows 8 is confusing for many users.

There are lots of little problems with how Windows 8 works, and it all leads to the conclusion that it's not ready for lawyers to use just yet. Here are eight issues that attorneys may find annoying:

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

The FTC has issued a press release claiming that it has reached agreement with Google to resolve competition concerns in the markets for smartphones, games, tablets, and online search.

The FTC states that pursuant to a settlement agreement, Google will comply with earlier promises to permit access to competitors on reasonable terms to patents on certain popular devices. And as a result of an independent commitment letter, Google will provide greater flexibility to online advertisers to manage advertisement campaigns on Google's AdWords platform and to make sure not to misappropriate content from vertical sites that target specific categories (such as travel) for offerings.

Top 5 High-Tech Tips for Lawyers From 2012

Technology is constantly changing, but who has time to keep up?

Even the most tech-savvy law students can quickly fall behind the curve. So as a lawyer with a busy practice, you may feel like it's next to impossible to keep abreast of all the changes that may affect your bottom line.

As we review some of our most popular Technologist stories from 2012, here are the Top 5 high-tech tips that lawyers found particularly helpful in the past year:

Why the FTC's Google Antitrust Investigation Went Nowhere

There's good news for Google, as the Federal Trade Commission has announced it's settling an antitrust investigation into the search giant's practices.

Two years ago, the FTC launched a probe into Google's search engine algorithms to determine if they violated antitrust regulations. But on Thursday the Commission unanimously voted to close the investigation.

As part of the closure, Google made a voluntary pledge to change some search and ad practices, and agreed to stop using patents as weapons. So how did they get off so leniently?

Apple's Amazon 'Appstore' Lawsuit Loses Some of Its Bite

Apple's lawsuit against Amazon is still ongoing but at least one claim, relating to Amazon's Appstore, has been resolved.

That doesn't mean the case is over. Back in 2011, Apple filed suit against Amazon for trademark infringement, false advertising, dilution, and unfair competition. Only the false advertising issue has been resolved.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton dismissed Apple's complaint as it related to false advertising. Her Jan. 2 decision also suggests that Apple's other claims may not succeed.

5 High-Tech Ways Small Law Firms Can Go Paperless

Heading into 2013, the trend for law firms big and small is to go paperless, as a survey by Iron Mountain recently found. But what are the best ways to do it?

Not only is going paperless good for the environment, it can also be good for your bottom line. Paper costs money, toners cost even more money, and replacing your printer can cost thousands.

Thankfully, for even attorneys in the smallest of offices, there are many options for you to go paperless. Here are five suggestions you may want to consider: