Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

August 2009 Archives

Best of the ABA TECHSHOW

Legal technology is developing rapidly, and changing faster.  Even if you read the latest articles, follow relevant Twitter and Facebook accounts, and subscribe to RSS feed to keep your law firm up to speed on legal technology innovations, you may still benefit substantially from actually experiencing legal tech developments live. 

The annual ABA TECHSHOW aims to do just that by introducing attendees to practical technologies for transforming their legal practice.  Hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA), the conference covers topics such as e-commerce, trial-specific software, cybercrime, tools to building a paperless office, electronic briefs, scanning options, e-discovery, video deposition technology, and more.

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

Internet users are subject to all sorts of online advertising. Often, that advertising appears directed to their specific interests and preferences. How does that happen? It occurs because of what has been referred to as behavioral or targeted advertising.

Based on information collected from Internet users relating to their prior browsing and purchasing habits, advertisers seek to customize the Internet experience so that users receive advertising content that reflects their own individual interests.  While this presents some advantages to Internet users, allowing them potentially to receive and view content that may be relevant to them while possibly avoiding irrelevant content, there are some perceived disadvantages.

Adapting to Changing e-Discovery Needs: r(e)-Discovery?

What do you call an industry that has experienced a 5000% increase over the span of 9 years?  Some may say saturated.

But the e-discovery sector is not backing down, the players are looking to adapt, merge, and continue developing technology and practices in this popular junction of law and technology.

The American Bar Association (ABA) reports that the electronic data discovery industry has expanded from featuring about a dozen providers in 2000 to the 600 that now reside in its domain. 

eDiscovery for Dummies---A Free Copy

Are you new to the world of virtual discovery?  First off all, welcome.   

E-discovery involves all of the aspects of civil-litigation discovery, and applies it to electronic information.  If you are foraying into this tech version of discovery, be ready to hear words like metadata, spoliation, ESI, and raw data.  If your eyes aren't already glazed over, relax.  There is lots of help, and luckily most of it is available in just a few convenient clicks.

One way to get up to speed is to read the book for e-discovery newbies---not suggesting you are a dummy in any way---titled "Electronic Discovery for Dummies".  And the book is actually available for free through RenewData.

How Courts Can Cite Internet Materials in Opinions

Well, Technologist reader, we thought you would like to know that the federal government is weighing in on the best practices for citing and hyperlinking internet materials in court opinions.

It began as a pilot project conducted by circuit libraries and organized by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM).  The pilot project involved observing and noting how webpages were cited in opinions over a six-month period and resulted in a body of "suggested practices" for courts across the country.

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

No question, Google is the search engine beast of the Internet. And when you are the beast, you are subject to attacks.

Earlier this year, for example, John Beck Amazing Profits, LLC (Beck) took aim at Google by filing suit in federal court in Texas, arguing that Google's AdWords program has caused trademark infringement and has created liability under other legal theories.

While Beck's complaint apparently has not yet been served, Google is not sitting still and has filed its own lawsuit back against Beck in Google's backyard, federal court in San Francisco. Google seeks a declaration from the court that its business model does not run afoul of trademark and other laws.

In its complaint, Google in essence concedes its status as the beast of the Internet, by touting its "mission of organizing the world's information and making it accessible and useful."

Microsoft Issued Permanent Injunction Not to Sell MS Word

No, you read it right.  A court in Texas issued Microsoft a permanent injunction, banning it from selling or importing any Microsoft Word products to the U.S. that have capability of opening .XML, .DOX, or DOCM files (XML).  And Microsoft was ordered to pay up $290 million to boot.

The order stems from a patent infringement action brought by Canadian company i4i.  The Toronto-based company claimed that Microsoft's word processing software infringed on its patent by using a built-in XML editor to display information.

Facebook Buys FriendFeed, Goes Lite. Twitter Retweets.

Law firms big and small are using dynamic, interactive such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with the public.  Here is rundown of recent social networking tech news that your firm should be aware of.

  • Facebook did some back-to-school shopping this week, grabbing up the 12-member company FriendFeed for $50 million.  And to further primp and preen for the new school year, it also starting testing out "Facebook Lite"--a streamlined, Twitter-like feed for microblogging. 

Barnes & Noble Offers Free Wi-Fi and Opens eBook Shop

During the tough economic times when companies are downsizing and cutting costs, Barnes & Noble decided to buck the trend and go big.  The chain that made hanging out at bookstores cool, is offering free wireless connectivity at all of its 777 U.S. stores and launching an eBookstore to enable its customers to buy and read ebooks on handheld platforms such as the iPhone, iPod touch, Blackberry smartphones, and laptops.  

The wireless service is powered by AT&T--which also works with Starbucks to offer that franchise's patrons internet access.  Starbucks internet is free with a few strings attached--including the requirement of a Starbucks card and a time cap on free connectivity.  Though Barnes & Noble has worked exclusively with AT&T to provide Wi-Fi connectivity in the past, it did so by billing the customer at a hourly rate of nearly $4. 

Free Wi-Fi and there a connection?

Looking for a Little e-Education? Webcasts Available.

The hyphenated world of technology that brings us e-mail and i-Phones meets the world of law in the arena of e-Discovery.  If we lost you at a vowel, don't worry, there is help using another law-tech innovation, the educational webcast.

Below are a few upcoming webcasts on a variety of e-law topics. 

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

Maine Seeks To Be The Tail Wagging The Dog

There have been prior efforts to regulate online marketing to children, such as the enactment by Congress of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). But now along comes Maine, with its Act To Prevent Predatory Marketing Practices Against Minors (the Maine Act), as the latest governmental crusader seeking to protect the rights of children against abusive marketing. Is this a positive development, with Maine seeking to be the governmental tail wagging the dog in this arena? Read on.

COPPA, which has been on the books for a decade, demands verifiable parental consent before Web sites may collect personal information from children under the age of 13 years old. The Maine Act, which is scheduled to go into effect next month, goes farther in several respects.

Mobile Banking goes iPhone?

USAA Federal Savings Bank developed an iPhone app to allow subscribers the ability to deposit checks by taking cell phone photos of the front and back of the check and hitting "send" on their iPhones.

USAA is a bank intended for military personnel and features programs and services for those serving in the U.S. and abroad.  Though it already offers scanning-in options for check depositers, this foray into mobile banking would not only simplify the process but also enable more timely depositing.  In concern for potential fraud, USAA's app will only be open to customers with a minimum credit score and who are also insured by USAA.  The company recommends destroying or voiding the physical check once its digital twin is sent off digitally to the bank.

FCC to Apple: Why the Google iPhone App Ban?

If it wasn't enough that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has Apple and Google on its radar for their board of directors selections, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants in on the Apple-Google action too.  The FCC is investigating Apple's rejection of the Google Voice iPhone app which would enable users to send international text messages and make inexpensive calls.

FCC's initial step was to pose questions to Google, Apple, and AT&T via snail mail to get to the bottom of who said what and why the app was rejected.   The FCC's letter to Google requested a description of the application and a rundown of other Apple-approved apps by Google.  And, for good measure, the FCC also asked for how Google evaluates approval of apps for its own Android platform.

E-Discovery: Who Pays The Freight?

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

As litigants are coming to appreciate, electronic discovery is expensive, and indeed so much so, that at times it can be the dog wagging the tail in driving financial decisions when determining the value of a case from a resolution standpoint.

The general rule of thumb in litigation is that parties responding to discovery must incur the costs of that exercise.  However, e-discovery opens up new realms of expense, as parties potentially must extract phenomenal quantities of data from myriad sources, such as servers, hard drives, PDAs, backup tapes, etc.  Moreover, parties may be asked to change the format of electronic information to be produced. 

Kindle Lawsuit, Digital Rights Go Courtroom

1984 is back and making up for lost time.  

A public and self-critical apology may have smoothed ruffled feathers for the vast majority of Kindle users who purchased e-books of George Orwell's classic novels 1984 and Animal Farm; however, it was not enough for two readers who recently filed a class action suit against Amazon for the abrupt removal of the books from their Kindle accounts and as well from the accounts of any users who purchased one or both of the e-books.

As covered earlier, Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos recently apologized publicly for the removal of the e-books from users' Kindle accounts.  However, for Antoine Bruguier of California and high school student Justin Gawronski from Michigan, the apology fell short of perceived justice.  Their complaint sets forth six causes of action including a claim for conduct violating Amazon's own Terms of Use, which promises buyers a "non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy..." of the e-book upon purchase.  Also cited in the lawsuit is a claim for breach of contract, another for violation of property rights claiming trespass and conversion, as well as a couple of claims for violation of state and federal codes guarding against computer abuse.

The Gavel Falls in Illegal Music Downloading Trial

Joel Tenenbaum, Boston University graduate student, was handed down a guilty verdict by a federal judge late and pegged with a $675,000 penalty last week in his trial for violation of copyright infringement for illegal downloading and sharing of music online in a case brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2007.  

The trial had its share of quirks and surprises.  Even before the opening remarks, presiding U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, held that Tenenbaum's proposed defense of fair use would not fly.  In her ruling, that took a major line of defense away from Tenebaum's team, she stated that Tenenbaum "propos[ed] a fair-use defense so broad that it would swallow the copyright protections that Congres created."