Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

January 2012 Archives

A court system in Washington State has touched on what could be a technological trend: It's implemented perhaps the nation's first iPad juror check-in system.

Yes, apparently there's an app for that.

The iPad jury check-ins began earlier this year in the Benton-Franklin Superior Court system, which covers two rural counties. No longer are jurors slowly shuffled into different waiting rooms while they get checked-in by hand, the Tri-City Herald reports.

FileSonic Disables File Sharing After Megaupload's FBI Bust

In the wake of the FBI's takedown of Megaupload, FileSonic, a popular cyberlocker site, has disabled its "sharing" feature.

FileSonic users are now only able to download files they personally uploaded.

And it seems that other sites may soon follow. Another cyberlocker site, FileServe, has also recently taken down its sharing services, as Ars Technica reports. Yet the recent crackdown on Megaupload has some critics wondering about the future of file sharing.

The Fastcase iPhone App Delivers the Goods for Legal Research

There is no shortage of smartphone apps for lawyers. In fact, there might be too many. You may wonder which apps are actually worth your time. Here's one that is: Fastcase.

First and foremost, the app is free. Yes, you can actually conduct free legal research on your iPhone or iPad.

Signing up for an account only takes a few minutes. The app also offers a surprisingly wide breadth of legal coverage.

Should Judges Consider Facebook Posts at Sentencing?

About a month ago, Tomasz Maciaszek stood before Illinois Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak and apologized for a 2008 reckless driving incident that left a teenager dead. He told the judge he's been "haunted" by the girl's death, secluding himself in sorrow.

But prosecutors refuted those statements, presenting the judge with print-outs from Maciaszek's Facebook page.

Was this appropriate? Should judges consider Facebook when sentencing?

Legal News Hits Your iPad, iPhone with FindLaw's News App

Everybody needs their daily fix of current events. The question is -- where do you get yours? There are some news sites that are subscription-only. Others offer clunky mobile interfaces. As an attorney, you're on the go. You want something on your smartphone that can keep you up-to-date on the latest legal trends and news.

Enter the free FindLaw Legal News app. Granted, we are partial to this app for a variety of reasons -- including the fact that we created it.

But let's look at some of the other reasons why the app may be a good addition to your iOS device.

Among the new gadgets at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: an upgrade for a mobile credit-card reader. It's part of a trend that's changing the way merchants, including law firms, get paid.

Software maker Intuit showed off its redesigned GoPayment Card Reader at CES, the website iSource reports. The reader is a small device that connects to a smartphone or tablet to allow users to swipe credit cards for payment processing.

Meantime, a competing mobile credit-card reader made by Square is expanding its retail reach. Square announced new partnerships with OfficeMax and The UPS Store that will make its reader available for sale at 10,000 retail locations nationwide, Daily Deal Media reports.

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

There is little doubt that Steve Jobs was at the forefront of the tech revolution. He was an innovator in the realms of computers, music, film and handheld devices. His passing in late 2011 led many to consider the incredible impact he had on modern society. A number of articles and books have covered the life and times of Mr. Jobs. But what about the creation of a Steve Jobs action figure?

Earlier this month, the head of In Icons, a company based in Hong Kong, announced the company was producing a Steve Jobs doll. The doll was to closely resemble Mr. Jobs, with his closely cropped beard, jeans, a dark turtleneck shirt and frameless spectacles.

Judge Orders Woman to Decrypt Laptop, Finds No 5th Amendment Issue

Can criminal suspects be compelled to decrypt their laptops? Or does the Fifth Amendment prohibit such orders?

They can, and it doesn't, according to a federal judge in Colorado.

Judge Robert Blackburn has ordered Ramona Fricosu to provide prosecutors with an unencrypted copy of her laptop hard drive by February 21. The encrypted laptop is believed to contain evidence of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Fricosu has adamantly refused to share her password, instead choosing to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

The verdict is in on a free new e-reader, custom-designed for lawyers. The Thomson Reuters ProView app for iPad promises to make legal research easier, with unique features that attorneys will appreciate.

ProView boasts all the features of a regular iPad e-reader, like text searches, clipboards, and the ability to change fonts. But because ProView is specifically built for lawyers, it also touts features that other products can't touch.

Here are three ways Thomson Reuters ProView packs a punch for legal professionals:

New Evidence Seems to Confirm Apple's Poaching Lawsuit

Things aren't looking too great for the defendants in an antitrust class action filed by Silicon Valley's high-tech workers.

The suit accuses Google, Apple, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Intel and Intuit of illegally agreeing not to "poach" one another's employees. A Justice Department investigation into the matter settled in September 2010, but it is only now that some of that evidence has been released.

The evidence appears to validate many of the claims made in the Apple poaching lawsuit.

The Justice Department's Megaupload shutdown raises questions about a pair of anti-Internet piracy bills being considered by Congress: Do the feds even need SOPA or PIPA to combat piracy by foreign websites?

Federal prosecutors pulled the plug on the website Megaupload on Thursday, and charged its executives with violating Internet piracy laws, the Associated Press reports. Megaupload is a foreign file-sharing website with more than 150 million registered users.

The feds' Megaupload shutdown followed a widespread Internet "blackout" campaign to protest the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act and a companion bill in the Senate, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

But the shutdown seems to suggest SOPA and PIPA may not be as necessary as its supporters claim. Here are arguments on both sides:

EA's Battefield Court Battle: 1st Amend. Right to Depict Helicopter

Game maker EA's Battlefield is now a court -- instead of a virtual warzone. The company has filed for declaratory relief. It wants a California court to rule that their depiction of military helicopters in their popular war game Battlefield is protected by the First Amendment.

EA says that it "has a reasonable and strong apprehension" that Textron will soon file a trademark action. Textron manufactures real-life military helicopters.

Perhaps EA's fear is grounded in reality. Textron has sued in the past. In December 2006, EA faced a suit from Textron over trademark infringement. The case eventually settled for an undisclosed amount, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Police Target Xbox Users for Stakeouts, Console Searches

First, it was computers. Then it was cell phones. And now? It's gaming consoles.

Hacktivist group Anonymous recently targeted the email account of a cybercrimes investigator with the California Department of Justice. That hack netted a treasure trove of information related to police use of Xbox and other gaming consoles.

The practice is apparently becoming more and more common.

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

Are George Orwell's fears of a governmental "Big Brother" from his novel 1984 coming true now? Well, let's hope not, but read on.

Recent press has reported on a particular government document: a Privacy Compliance Review issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in late 2011. The document reveals that the DHS command center regularly monitors social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, popular sites like Hulu, controversial sites including WikiLeaks, and news and commentary sites like Drudge Report and The Huffington Post.

Man Gets 1 Year in Prison for Uploading Pirated 'Wolverine' Movie

About a month before its 2009 theatrical release, Gilberto Sanchez uploaded a bootleg copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine to popular download site Megaupload. The industry was in a tizzy -- how would this affect sales?

The film went on to gross $373 million worldwide, but Fox still vowed to prosecute the Wolverine pirate to the fullest. Sanchez ended up pleading guilty in March, and has now been sentenced.

He will serve 1 year in a federal prison and 1 year of supervised release during which his computer use will be restricted.

Wikipedia Blacks Out for SOPA Protest

Enjoy your Wikipedia while you can tonight. When the clock strikes midnight Wednesday morning, the entire world will be unable to access Wikipedia's English-language pages -- except for those relating to SOPA, PIPA and Internet censorship, of course.

Though other sites are planning to participate in Wednesday's online SOPA protest, the Wikipedia blackout will likely be the largest and most drastic of actions.

Other websites, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, oppose the legislation but have no plans to implement a complete blackout.

SOPA Blackout: Facebook, Amazon, Twitter Consider SOPA Protest

What would you do without Google? Or Facebook and Twitter? What if you couldn't rely on secondary sources like Wikipedia or buy things on eBay or Amazon?

If you're predicting a personal Armageddon, you better think of a backup plan soon. Rumor has it the net's biggest companies are planning a full-blown SOPA blackout.

If carried out, search engines and social media websites will "black out" just days before the bill is scheduled for a vote. The sites will turn black, and users will be greeted with an anti-censorship warning and a plea to contact their representatives.

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

Happy New Year! We're just a week into January, but 2012 seems to be firing on all tech cylinders.

The other night, I went to a shopping mall with my family. While most of the traditional retail stores were not terribly busy, the Apple store was an amazing hive of activity.

In the one room that makes up the store, I literally counted as many as 40 Apple employees who were swamped fielding questions from and helping a never-ending parade of customers. It seemed that everyone and their kid brother and sister was hunting for the latest iPad, iPod, and Apple computer.

iPad Price Drop: Tablet Price War Could Bring $399 iPad 2

Rumors are swirling that an iPad price drop is imminent.

It's a new year, which means Apple will likely be unveiling new products in the coming months. One new product could very well be a new iPad 3.

Some media outlets are predicting there will be several different models of the new iPad. Apple may produce an entry-level unit and a higher-priced model. The estimated price points: anywhere between $299 and 499.

Is this too good to be true? It could be. The iPad's price has never really dropped that low.

Forget SOPA. Now that a Chinese company is set to release an unofficial Steve Jobs action figure, a more pressing question may be: Who's going to stop overseas toy piracy?

The answer: Lawyers from the late Steve Jobs' estate, most likely.

A company called In Icons, based in China, unveiled images of a prototype Steve Jobs action figure on its website earlier today, the Los Angeles Times reports. Within hours, the company's website was overwhelmed with traffic and could not be accessed.

Pogoplug Offers Free 5 GB of Mobile Cloud Storage

There's a new free cloud service out there, and it's perfect for attorneys who are addicted to their smartphones.

Pogoplug Cloud is providing 5 GB of free cloud storage, which can be tied to your mobile phone.

The company is heading into a market that is already inundated with cloud storage options. There's Apple's iCloud, then Amazon's cloud service, Dropbox, Box, and more. But Pogoplug is a reputable company according to MSNBC - so this latest cloud storage option may be something worth your consideration. There's nothing wrong with getting more free storage space.

Amazon Silk Browser Raises Privacy Concerns

News over Carrier IQ's smartphone monitoring has set the tech world afire with renewed concerns over privacy. Now Amazon, one of the nation's most popular online retailers, is facing some potential privacy issues of their own.

Congressman Ed Markey, who is the co-chairman of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, has raised concerns over Amazon's Silk browser.

Silk comes pre-installed on Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablets, which has been projected to become the nation's second best-selling tablet behind Apple's iPad. Silk allows Kindle Fire owners to browse the web. One key feature of Silk is its cloud-based acceleration. It's this very feature that has drawn Rep. Markey's ire.

A new book-borrowing service for Amazon's Kindle e-reader is coming under fire. Several writers groups are suggesting they may sue, alleging the new Kindle Lending Library is a breach of contract.

Amazon launched the Kindle Lending Library earlier this month. It allows Kindle users with an Amazon Prime membership to borrow one ebook per month for free with no due dates, The Guardian reports.

Customers have more than 5,000 titles to choose from. But some authors say Amazon shouldn't be allowed to put their books up for borrowing, and insist they are overdue for extra compensation.