Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

August 2013 Archives

If we were a record company, the last person we'd pick a fight with would be Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. With four degrees from Ivy League Schools, clerkships with Judge Posner and Justice Scalia, and a noted copyright expert, he seems like the last person you would accuse of copyright infringement.

But that's precisely what Australian company Liberation Music did, reports The Boston Globe.

Facebook hasn't had much luck turning its users' info into paid ads. Ars Technica reports that first, Facebook Beacon was shut down in a settlement as a result of a class action privacy litigation. Now, Facebook's Sponsored Stories is getting tweaked as a result of a settlement approved by a district court judge on Monday.

Flo Rida Can't Be Served via Facebook, Court Rules

An Australian appellate court recently ruled that rapper Flo Rida could not be served via Facebook in a breach of contract lawsuit. Reversing a lower court's decision, the court ruled the social media site was not an appropriate means to serve notice to the elusive hip hop artist.

Though the decision took place in an Australian court, the case raises an interesting question: Can you get served via Facebook in the U.S.?

Don't Buy a Phone This Week (Smartphone Rumors Running Rampant!)

Is there anything more frustrating than buying a state-of-the-art gadget right before the new version is introduced? Not only do you know have the "old" one, but you probably would've saved a few bills by postponing your purchase.

We don't handle frustration well, unleashing profanity-laced tirades at our computer screens (is that just me, or all lawyers?). We'll save your nearby inanimate objects from similar verbal abuse by rounding up the rumors for the wave of upcoming smartphones, all set to be released in the next few weeks:

Train Yourself to Read Faster With These Apps

I may not be a smart man, or a funny man, or a particularly good-looking man. (Okay, let's be honest. I'm all of those.) But one talent that I do possess is the ability to read rapidly, and retain nearly all of it. It has come in handy throughout my life, from standardized tests to late night cram sessions in law school, and even in the present-day gig as a blogger.

But why be good when you can be great? Plus, my editor beats me if I don't submit thirty-seven blogs per day. (A slight exaggeration.)

Who Do You Trust More With Your Data: Sea Pirates or the NSA?

It really is sad that this is a legitimate question. With each day bringing a new revelation about the National Security Agency's data collection activities, such as yesterday's that the NSA was spying on the United Nations, it really does seem that there is no end to this rabbit hole (red pill or blue pill? How much do clothes cost in the Matrix? Is any of this real? Ahhh!).

The only safe assumption is this: the NSA has copies of everything you do, and everything you say, especially when those activities are conducted online. If you do have something to hide, need to protect clients, or you simply value your privacy, would you then be tempted to store your data offshore, with a bunch of pirates?

Dying BlackBerry Releases Q10 on Sprint; You Shouldn't Buy It

We weren't ready to declare BlackBerry dead. We had hopes for the once-leader, now-follower. They were the only company to take smartphones with keyboards seriously. They were also the only smartphone company not entangled in that PRISM nonsense. Plus, their BlackBerry 10 OS looks nifty, and can even run Android apps if you install them manually.

That's a lot of promise that will almost certainly not be realized. It's been less than a month since BlackBerry (formerly known as Research in Motion) announced that it was looking to sell the company, or go private, or do anything to survive. So far, there have been no takers. It was with a yawn then, that we received the news that their newest QWERTY keyboarded phone would be for sale at Sprint.

You're getting ready for school -- you've purchased your books and technology -- now, the only thing left? Law apps. You guessed it, there's an app for that (never tired of saying that).

Here are some of our favorite legal apps to help get you through law school.

Google Keep (Or Creep) Just Added Some Insanely Cool Features

Google rules everything around me. At this very moment they provide my email servers, handle my test messaging and voicemail, allow me to work on a collaborative blog post with six other people on Docs, created my web browser, and they even designed the Nexus phone and tablet on my desk. Google has a hand in nearly everything I will do today.

And as of today's update, it'll even remind me to get a bag of brown rice when I drive by the grocery store on the way home. It'd be almost creepy if it wasn't so dang handy.

Obituaries: Legal-Tech Blog Groklaw, Two Email Services Shut Down

Privacy is dead, and now, as a result, Groklaw, Lavabit, and Silent Mail are too.

Groklaw, an award-winning law and technology blog that has served as an invaluable resource for tech-minded individuals that didn't understand law, law-minded individuals that didn't understand tech, and everyone in between, will be no more after its founder, Pamela Jones, issued a 2200 word goodbye Tuesday morning, stating "there is now no shield from forced exposure."

Similarly, two secure email services, Lavabit and Silent Mail, have also recently shut down, rather than turn over users' information to the NSA.

DIY: Create a QR-Enabled Modern Business Card in 5 Minutes

Sick of your tired old business card? Want something more modern, more compelling, and simply different? How many lawyers have business cards that, when you scan them with your phone, will either add the lawyer's contact information or give you directions to her office?

If you have five minutes to spare, these steps, and a trip to your business card printer, will provide you with slick, QR-coded business cards.

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

With potential reforms in the wind with respect to government surveillance practices, the National Security Agency (NSA) has issued a seven-page report that seeks to explain and justify its conduct.

The report, titled "The National Security Agency: Missions, Authorities, Oversight and Partnerships," begins with a quote from President Obama that calls for "reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, but also build in privacy protection to prevent abuse."

Back to Law School Tech Choices -- No Brainers and Not Needed

Quick story. Friend of mine, way back in law school, had a three-year-old laptop that she used for class. Two weeks before exams, the hard drive failed and she lost everything -- from notes to outlines.

Another story. Myself, I had no laptop. I could not afford one. I did the paper-and-pen note-taking, then typed my notes each night, for a few weeks until the Intel Atom-based netbooks were released. Of course, then I had to hear jokes about my "Game Boy" laptop from the class gunner.

The sweet spot, for most of you, will lie somewhere in between.

Chromecast: $35 Toy or Invaluable Asset for Your Practice?

It sold out within hours of launching, despite limited app support (the only non-Google app supported at launch was Netflix). It looks like a pudgy flash drive. But what is the Google Chromecast? And why should you order one now?

Chromecast is, to put it simply, a way to beam content to your television. You choose content in an app (such as Netflix) or a Google Chrome browser tab, tap the "Cast" button, and it appears on your screen.

You'd think frat boys across America would have learned from the mistakes of the Winklevoss twins, but in the latest "you stole my idea" claim, the founders of Snapchat are duking it out in court to see who maintains an ownership interest.

Frank "Reggie" Brown IV, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy all attended Stanford University and were members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Brown and Spiegel brought Murphy on to help them build Snapchat, an app that would allow users to send messages and photos that would delete after a few seconds. Brown was cut out of the deal, and is now suing Spiegel and Murphy.

What went wrong, bro?

5 Tips to Prep Your Tech-Savvy Practice for Hurricane Season

They call 'em natural disasters for a reason, and years ago, had a hurricane hit your office, many of your files would be completely destroyed. You'd not only have to rebuild your personal life, but you'd have to replace your office, furniture, tech equipment, and try to rebuild your client files, all while continuing to practice law.

While there aren't a lot of things you can do to protect your big heavy desk, or the paper copies of your files, with modern "paperless" and "cloud" technology, your downtime, practice-wise, may only be a few hours or days.

Here are five practical suggestions to help you prepare for a hurricane or major storm:

In a court filing, Google has in effect stated that its users should not have any expectation of privacy if they use its services, particularly Gmail. Putting pen to paper isn't sounding so bad after all, huh?

Google's admission comes on the heels of the Edward Snowden controversy over National Security Agency leaks and the closing of two email encryption services to evade government scrutiny, reports PC Mag.

Google is being sued in federal court for violations of the Federal Wiretap Act (as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act) along with wiretap statutes in Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act. In June, Google filed a motion to dismiss, where the controversial statements can be found.

WebRTC: Simple Video Chat Can Work for Your Law Practice

This geek just fell in love.

Google Hangouts requires a Google account, and a learning curve. Skype (now a happy member of the Microsoft family) requires its own login and learning curve. Facetime is Apple-only. Basically anything outside of Chatroulette (not linking to that dirty, dirty site, I promise) requires some sort of login and in some cases, downloaded software.

WebRTC, an open source project developed by Google and supported by Mozilla (the Firefox folks), is Web chat without any extra software, and is compatible with the newest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Chrome Beta for Android.

What does it do? It's video chat, in a browser, with no logins and no complications. Here's how to use it:

7 Gchat Etiquette Tips Every Lawyer Should Know

When it comes to Gchat etiquette, it can often feel like a free-for-all. But there are a few ground rules you should keep in mind before you ping someone at work.

First, before you even start chatting, you'll probably want to have a photo. If you must use a selfie, zoom in and make the frame tight on the face so it's more professional looking -- oh, and make sure you have clothes on.

With that tip out of the way, here are seven more tips for good Gchat etiquette:

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

Cyber threats are real and they're on the rise. In this climate, the White House is considering certain incentives for companies that follow government recommended cybersecurity measures.

While the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House in April, the Obama administration's cybersecurity program is only just taking shape, and its tentative concepts were recently unveiled.

FreedomPop Free 4G Internet: Handy, but Beware Coverage, Fees

It's rare that I need a 4G data connection. There is Wi-Fi at home. There is Wi-Fi at the office. There is even free Wi-Fi throughout downtown San Jose (though the city's moniker of "WickedlyFastWiFi" ought to be changed "WickedlyFlaccidWiFi").

For me, however, today is a day when 4G is a necessity, as I am reporting live from the Moscone Center at the ABA Annual Meeting. Though Moscone also has free Wi-Fi, the train ride up here didn't. And if you ask any person who has ever reported from a convention center, the free public Internet can become clogged and unusable very quickly.

With those considerations in mind, I brought along my FreedomPop 4G stick for testing in the wild.

When Jay-Z said "the Internet is like the wild west," he was on to something. One of the Internet outlaws du jour is Bitcoin, the ambiguous, invisible, electronic form of payment. Slowly, the government is starting to notice.

California issued a cease-and-desist letter to the Bitcoin Foundation, essentially accusing it of money laundering. After it was alleged drug dealers are using Bitcoin for illegal transactions Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) called for a crack down on Bitcoin denouncing it as "online form of money laundering used to disguise the source of money," NBC reports.

Now, we even have the SEC and federal courts weighing in.

The Importance of a Good Web Server

On Saturday, August 3, 2013, tragedy struck. At some point on that fateful day, the web server that hosts my personal and professional (non-FindLaw) sites, went down. Over the last twenty or so years, I've dealt with more than a few server crashes and server migration issues. This was, by far, the worst.

Ordinarily, when such a crash occurs, the hosting company scrambles to solve the problem. If your site is down for more than an hour or two, they'll typically notify you and provide an estimated time frame. The longest outage I've ever experienced was a bit more than three hours.

Until Saturday, that is. And by Saturday, I mean, the last five days.

3 Ways to Legally Recycle Old Gadgets

The exciting innovations of yesterday are the ever-increasing piles of tech trash of today, and you certainly shouldn't just chuck yesterday's unwanted gadgets in the trash can.

It's not just a good idea to recycle your old tech. In an effort to encourage citizens to dispose of electronics in an environmentally friendly way, laws like Illinois' Electronic Recycling and Reuse Act make it illegal to throw certain electronics away. Whatever the laws in your jurisdiction, here are three legal alternatives to the dumpster for your old smartphones, TVs, and tablets.

Obama Administration Vetoes Import Ban on Select Apple Devices

President Obama's administration put the kibosh on an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) which effectively banned select Apple products from being imported to U.S. markets.

The Saturday veto came from U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, the man tasked with presidential view of the USITC's ruling, who believed the ruling would "hurt the U.S. economy and its consumers" as well as encourage a strange result in a standard-essential patent case, reports CNET.

What does this mean for the future fights between Apple and other colossal tech corporations like Samsung?

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

We live in the always-on age. Around the clock we can log in and communicate electronically in many ways.

While this often is advantageous and convenient in the working world, this dynamic can create challenges and even risks when it comes to vacations.

How To Be an e-Discovery 'Shark'

With the Discovery Channel's famed "Shark Week" already upon us, lawyers using e-discovery could learn a thing or two. Sharks are slimy predators who ruthlessly scour the oceans for tasty morsels, constantly working to improve their methods of zeroing in on just the right information.

Here are a few tips on how to become an e-discovery shark and take a bite out of your competition.

It's been a busy month for nerds. Two weeks ago comic geeks converged on San Diego for Comic Con, and this week computer hackers swarmed to Las Vegas for Black Hat and Def Con. Both are hacker conferences, but Black Hat is geared toward the "buttoned-up corporate and government security analyst crowd", while Def Con targets the "counter-culture types," reports the Las Vegas Sun.

Cyber-security is a huge deal, especially now, with all of the Edward Snowden hoopla. The highlight of the conferences was probably a talk given by NSA Director General Keith Alexander at Black Hat, reports Ars Technica. But honestly, we're beginning to be more afraid of hackers than the government -- you won't believe what these hackers can do.

Basically if there's a computer in it, hackers can get to it. And these days, there's a computer in everything. For example:

Litigation With Friends: Zynga Sues 'Bang With Friends'

Poor, poor Zynga. They've gone from making insanely-popular social games, such as FarmVille and Words With Friends (a Scrabble clone), to a massively-overhyped IPO, to the laughingstock of Silicon Valley. Today, Slate called them the "Linsay Lohan of Silicon Valley startups." We couldn't top that comparison if we tried.

Now, in the absence of any successes in the gaming front, and shortly after abandoning their idea to expand into online gambling, they seem to be distracting themselves with litigation. Today's target? Bang With Friends.