Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2011 Archives

Social Media Fishing Expedition Denied in NY Court

Think about all the damaging, embarrassing, and ultimately private information you post onto your Facebook account. It's not that surprising that for some attorneys, social media is akin to an appetizing treasure trove of discovery just waiting to be harvested.

With technology advancing and more users going online, courts are starting to catch up.

But the way that courts treat social media seems to be in flux. In one New York case, a judge ruled that a defendant can't have access to a private Facebook account during the discovery process. The rationale being that discovery is supposed to lead to relevant evidence. Discovery shouldn't be a rampant fishing expedition through a person's personal life.

Samsung Sues Apple Over Emoticon Patent (Sad Face)

The patent wars have gotten downright silly. Or smiley, if you will.

No one was surprised when Samsung added four new patents to its German lawsuit against Apple on Monday. But then news got out that one of the patents covers an "emoticon input method for mobile terminals."

That's right -- Samsung is suing Apple over emoticons. And oddly enough, Samsung's emoticon patent is based on the crude smiley faces of yore.

Facebook 'Sponsored Stories' Lawsuit Can Go Forward, Judge Rules

A lawsuit challenging Facebook's "sponsored stories" can go forward, according to a federal judge in California.

Sponsored stories popped up in January as a way to connect "likes" and advertising. Facebook generates the ads when a user's friend "likes" a product, page or company. The ads contain the friend's image, name and  endorsement.

A group of plaintiffs sued under California's right of publicity statute, arguing that Facebook misappropriated their names and images.

New iPhone PACER App is Free, But Just for the Holidays

Do you want to easily look up cases on PACER using your smartphone? The iPhone PACER app FedCtRecords is free for a limited time during the holidays. The app usually sells for $19.99.

The application was developed by Newton Oldfather, a recent graduate of UCLA Law. He coded the app with the assistance of his father and a friend.

The app helps remove some of the frustrations of working with PACER, including dealing with its clunky interface.

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

Well, it’s that holiday time of year again. Have you been naughty or nice?

If you have been naughty, perhaps we will give you the low-tech equivalent of a lump of coal — a broken typewriter.

That’s right, we are talking about an old machine that actually requires some finger strength when you push down on the keys. And you are correct, this baby is so wireless that it is not connected to anything, not even an electric outlet. To add insult to injury, not all of the keys even work.

Juror's Tweets Result in Overturned Death Sentence

Juror's tweets are wreaking havoc, and this time they're costing Arkansas a lot of time and money. The Arkansas Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the murder conviction of death row inmate Erickson Dimas-Martinez.

Prosecutors can blame Juror 2, who tweeted a number of times during trial despite repeated warnings not to do so. He even continued to tweet after being reprimanded by the judge.

One of his followers also happened to be a local reporter.

Law Firms Slow to Embrace Social Media: Only 29% on Facebook

Law firms and social media aren't exactly best friends. The Wall Street Journal looked at how 110 different global law firms used social media. The results: not many of them do.

Many firms have basic Facebook or LinkedIn profiles set up. Some of the findings, as reported by The Journal, include:

Paul Ceglia's Facebook Lawsuit is a 'Shakedown,' Says Motion to Dismiss

Paul Ceglia's Facebook lawsuit might finally be nearing its end. It appears that new evidence has surfaced which may demolish any chances that Ceglia's claims are true.

It seems that Ceglia might be lacking in a crucial area of his case: evidence.

Ceglia's suit alleges that he owns half of Facebook. Since the company is now valued at over $50 billion, the stakes are quite high.

Megaupload Sues Universal Over "The Mega Song"

Megaupload plans to sue Universal Music Group over the takedown of its viral video, "The Mega Song."

File hosting site Megaupload has long been the target of RIAA and the MPAA. The two industry organizations claim that sites like Megaupload promote piracy because it easily allows users to upload and download illegal material.

So why is Megaupload the one suing Universal instead of the other way around? Megaupload has filed suit against Universal for its alleged misuse of YouTube's takedown procedures.

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

Most of us have heard about sexting -- the practice of people sharing naked pictures of themselves online. Indeed, there have been press reports that suggest texting has become the latest teenage craze. Fact or fiction? Perhaps a bit of both.

Recent studies by the journal Pediatrics show that 1% of children between the ages of 10 to 17 have engaged in sexting. About the same percentage have shared less explicit but still suggestive photos of themselves. And 7% report that they had been the recipient of either type of photo.

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

The FTC is intent on stopping online deceptive health claims. It has been especially interested in shutting down sites that make false and misleading dietary claims.

As part of its crackdown efforts, the FTC, along with the State of Connecticut, filed a complaint that sought to stop a specific operation based on Connecticut.

And the FTC has now announced that the parties have agreed to a court order that temporarily halts the allegedly illegal conduct.

Did Game Maker Use 'Notched Pickaxe' as a Nod to 'Minecraft?'

Last August, video game maker Bethesda filed a trademark infringement complaint against the makers of Minecraft, a sandbox-style game.

Minecraft developers were creating a new game called Scrolls, which Bethesda believed to be a little too similar to their own blockbuster video game franchise, The Elder Scrolls.

The suit garnered attention when Minecraft developer Markus "Notch" Persson's challenged Bethesda to a Quake 3 duel. If Bethesda won, Notch promised to change the name of Scrolls to anything that Bethesda would sign off on.

Bethesda declined.

A growing trend called "reverse mentoring" is bridging a technological, and generational, divide at many companies. Law firms could also learn a thing or two by adopting the practice, experts say.

Reverse mentoring is a fancy name for something many older workers already do every day: Seek the help of younger, more tech-savvy coworkers to learn new technological tricks.

The practice was widely implemented by General Electric in 1999, when 500 top executives were assigned to underlings to learn how to use the Internet, The Wall Street Journal reports. Older workers got up-to-speed with new technology, and young mentors "got visibility," GE's former CEO Jack Welch told the Journal.

Here's a clause you may not have noticed in your law firm's cell phone policy: Your employer may have the power to delete everything on your cell phone -- regardless who owns it.

Any cell phone used for business purposes is likely covered by your law firm's cell phone policy. That includes personal cell phones that are used to access the firm's email system.

But look closely. Many cell phone policies today allow employers to send a self-destruct message via your email server -- and delete all data from your phone.

The tech world is abuzz with concerns about Carrier IQ, a pre-installed app used to monitor smartphones -- including questions about its legality and the consequences of its use.

Never heard of Carrier IQ? You're not alone. The application, ostensibly hidden on a wide range of mobile phones, was largely unknown until software researcher Trevor Eckhart found it on his phone and posted his discovery online, Wired reports.

While Carrier IQ maintains its app is only used for analytic purposes such as tracking battery use, Eckhart found the software also kept a log of every keystroke -- including numbers entered on a smartphone's keypad.