Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2009 Archives

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

Whole body image scanning machines are designed to peer through clothing and capture three-dimensional images of individuals as if they are completely undressed. This raises a lot of questions about the impact of a citizen's civil liberty rights and a citizen's privacy interests.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research organization that monitors federal actions to determine their impact on civil liberties and privacy interests, has wanted to find out how whole body imaging machines have been used on US citizens by the federal government. 

Accordingly, EPIC submitted a Freedom of Information of Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ).  Because the DOJ did not provide the requested information, EPIC has filed a lawsuit in United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Best Things In Life Are Free: GPL Lawsuit Filed in NY

A General Public License (GPL) lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this week. According to ARN, this lawsuit will feature a particularly large number of named defendants.

The GPL is a software license which cover much of what is commonly called "open source" software. It allows other to use the covered software, but under specific terms, including that modifications of GPL covered source code, if released to the public, be made openly available themselves.

Because a GPL work is copyrighted, a licensee has no right to redistribute it, not even in modified form (barring fair use), except under the terms of the license. The terms of the license require that users keep the software available for free.

A user is required to adhere to the terms of the GPL if the user wishes to exercise rights normally restricted by copyright law, such as redistributing the covered software or modifications of it.

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

Tiger Woods has disappeared from the golfing scene while there has been a media feeding frenzy. Numerous women have come out of the woodwork claiming sexual relationships with the megastar.  And while Tiger has sought respect for his privacy in this delicate time for his family, his attorneys have taken a more aggressive approach in court to protect their client.  But can this approach work, especially in the Internet era?

As previously written about in FindLaw's Celebrity Justice blog, Mr. Woods' attorneys apparently have gained an injunction from an English judge that bars the publication of photos of Tiger Woods nude.  The sweeping UK injunction reportedly prohibits the dissemination of any photos, video or images of Tiger while naked, any naked parts of his body, or showing him in any sexual activity.  The order apparently threatens imprisonment, fines and the potential seizure of assets for violations.

Ethical Issues for Lawyers, Judges Using Social Networking

We all know that as using social networking gains more and more ground, that it will eventually infiltrate our judicial system. Whether it is an alibi via Facebook status, violating a protective order via "poke" on Facebook, or even cyberbullying, social media is poised to enter the legal arena. It also brings up ethical issues for lawyers and judges.

We've already seen one judge reprimanded for discussing a case with defense counsel through Facebook.

Trying to head off such situations before they occur, the Florida Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee has issued an opinion about the ethical issues that crop up when Florida judges use social networking sites. While this opinion addresses Florida judges, it highlights ethical issues that all legal professionals should think about. Here are some of the issues that were discussed in the opinion:

By Lauren A. Allen and Bryan Dawson*

As in-house counsel know all to well, wrestling with e-discovery demands is an ongoing challenge. It used to be that discovery consisted of paper files in boxes--now, discoverable materials can include emails, faxes, instant messages, text messages and voicemails. No one sends hard-copy memos anymore; instead, information flows between employees, contractors, vendors, suppliers and customers, and any of that may be potentially discoverable in a lawsuit. While evolving case law and the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have offered some clarity to in-house counsel dealing with e-discovery, it has not helped reduce the sheer amount of data that may be subject to e-discovery, the number of potential custodians who may have responsive data and the timeframes in which organizations have to conduct discovery.

When it comes to e-discovery, organizations can take several different approaches. Some acquire the necessary tools and staff and do as much as possible in-house, while others outsource wherever possible. Both of these methods are valid, so when deciding which approach to take, in-house counsel should carefully consider a number of factors, including the organization's culture, e-discovery expertise, Information Technology resources, specific objectives and the frequency and types of litigation.

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

When it comes to teenagers behind the wheel of automobiles, perhaps it is time to be afraid, very afraid.  Indeed, recent research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project  presents some fairly sobering statistics about texting and driving. Pair that with some statistics about car crashes and car crash fatality numbers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and it gets downright scary.

According to the research, 75% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 own a cell phone, and 66% of them use their cell phones to send and receive text messages.  So far, so good.

Probably not surprisingly, older teenagers are more likely to have cell phones and to send and receive text messages, as 82% of Americans ages 16 and 17 have cell phones and 76% of them engage in text messaging.  OK, fair enough.

ABA Launches Tech EZ to Promote Legal IT

The American Bar Association has announced that it will launch a new technology marketplace called ABA Tech EZ for its members to take advantage of.

The purpose of ABA's Tech EZ will be to serve as an educational tool as well as to offer ABA members competitive pricing on legal information technology (IT).

According to the press release by the ABA, they believe that this collaborative initiative will help solo practitioners and small law firms who do not have the luxury of having an in house legal IT staff to help them run their businesses. Legal software can help with billing, legal research and other law firm computing needs.