Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

September 2018 Archives

Is Guitar Hero a Gamer Villain?

In a recently filed lawsuit, one video-game-playing, music-loving plaintiff has filed a lawsuit against Activision due to feeling burned by a recent purchase of Guitar Hero Live.

The lawsuit essentially claims that the Activision has misled consumers into buying the game title because 92 percent of the game will be unplayable in a matter of weeks. That limitation on the game are being imposed as a result of a planned shutdown of Activision's online servers that support the "Guitar Hero TV" mode.

When it comes to reviewing depositions, a little technology can really make a huge difference. If you received a digital file, chances are good that you should be able to run text searches on your computer to find relevant testimony or something you remembered being said from that day.

And if you're using the right software, then applying highlighting or underlining, or inserting notes, could be as simple as clicking along as you read. Other software allows you to go even further in the review process by categorizing testimony, having collaboration tools, and even grouping together certain depositions for easier document management.

New Apple Watch May Call the Cops on You

The new Apple Watch has an auto-dial feature to call 911 if it senses you fall down.

That would be good for elderly people or others who have fallen and can't get up. But if the cops show up and see you have a meth lab, you'll be doing some real time.

Voice-Control Hasn't Even Reached Puberty

You know that awkward moment in puberty when a boy's voice cracks?

That hasn't happened yet with voice-controlled devices. Developers say the technology is still in its infancy.

But that puberty moment is coming soon. Just ask Josh.

When it comes to lawyers buying new computers, most subscribe to the age-old wisdom: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

However, when you're heading into trial, or about to take an important trip, if your computer is on the fritz, it's a risk you probably shouldn't take. If you're having trouble figuring out whether your device is suffering from a potentially terminal problem, below you can read about a few of the tell-tale signs of device failure.

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

Concerns about foreign hackers have been heightened since the 2016 presidential election, given that various U.S. intelligence agencies reported foreign Internet efforts to influence that election. And with mid-term Congressional elections coming up, those concerns have not abated.

Meanwhile, the personal Gmail accounts of some U.S. Senators and Senate staff recently were targeted, as confirmed by a Google spokesperson to CNN. Indeed, CNN reports that Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has written a letter to Senate leadership stating that "at least one major technology company has informed a number of Senators and Senate staff members that their personal email accounts were targeted by foreign government hackers."

The Cyberwars Have Just Begun, or Have They?

The White House has "authorized offensive cyber operations" against U.S. enemies in a new policy that sounds like a declaration of war in a virtual world.

National security adviser John Bolton made the statement in a news briefing to unveil a cyber strategy ahead of the November elections. The United States knows what happened in the presidential race two years ago.

As with so many military operations, the U.S. announced its plan in advance -- as if the cyberwar had just begun.

New Amazon Echo Products: Time to Update Your Office Gadgets?

In "Castaway," Tom Hanks pointed at a clock and called it a "pulsating, accursed, relentless taskmaster."

And we know what happened after that -- five years on a deserted island. Losing time was the real curse.

Lawyers know that curse all too well -- the billable hour hanging over their heads. Well, Amazon thinks it's new smart devices can help with that.

In these highly partisan times, this week, the Senate showed everyone that, surprisingly, it can agree on something almost as divisive as pizza toppings: Music.

The Music Modernization Act passed through the Senate with a unanimous vote. The act promises to basically end the non-stop lawsuits that result from the patchwork of state copyright laws, mechanical licenses, and the explosion of streaming music services. It does this by creating a cooperative solution for both the copyright holders as well as services that want to be able to license songs for users to listen to over music streaming services.

Journalist Gets Partial Win Against FCC in Net Neutrality Case

In media law, The Journalist v. The FCC is almost David v. Goliath.

In Prechtel v. Federal Communications Commission, freelance writer Jason Prechtel sued the agency after it ignored his public records request for allegedly fraudulent comments submitted during its repeal of net neutrality. A judge has ruled he is entitled to documents to "prevent fraud in future processes."

It was a partial victory, however, because the judge said the FCC can withhold records about its deliberations. So the giant got hit between the eyes, but gets to keep its head.

On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at 2:18 p.m. EST, the national Emergency Alert System established by the W.A.R.N. Act of 2006, will test the "Presidential Alert System" by sending a test warning to most cellular phones in the country. The test was originally scheduled for Thursday, September 20, however, the test has been delayed amid massive public backlash.

One of the big reasons for the backlash involves the fact that, unlike other types of emergency alerts, there is no option to opt-out of these Presidential Alerts (at least for now). The system is designed to alert the public of natural disasters, manmade disasters, acts of terrorism, or other major threats to public safety. This new system is designed to target individuals who may not be plugged into the live-broadcast media on radio and TV due to the decreasing popularity of these traditional broadcast medias.

Last month, Tesla Motors succeeding in getting approval for the Tesla Semi (electric heavy truck) design patent. Notably though, that same design got the company sued for patent infringement by Nikola Motors earlier this year.

The two trucks' designs are rather similar, as any casual observer can see, and adding insult to the lawsuit, Nikola claims that Tesla's bad press, including batteries catching fire and self-driving vehicle crashes, harms Nikola's reputation as a result of Tesla's infringing design. But for Nikola, that claim just got a little worse thanks to the USPTO.

Stingray Can Find Bad Guys, but It Can't Avoid Warrants

No thanks to technology, this time the bad guy got away.

Quinton Redell Sylvestre allegedly robbed a Boca Raton restaurant, where he and two companions shot and killed a victim. Investigators found him later using a Stingray -- a device that intercepts cell phone signals to locate people.

With the guns, mask, and ammunition, it looked like they had their man. But then there was a legal problem with the Stingray.

Disabled Lawyers Compete With Tech and Time

It wasn't a joke when the law firm sent a yellow school bus to pick up a summer associate for a firm function.

It was just insensitive. Stuart Pixley had cerebral palsy and used an electrical wheelchair to get around.

The office party was two miles away and the firm couldn't figure out how to get him there. That was in the mid-1990s; in some ways, things haven't changed much.

The result of the San Diego Comic Con trademark lawsuit didn't just crush the producers of the Salt Lake City Comic Con under a massive pile of attorney fees, it's having more reach than some might expect, and likely to the delight of the SDCC's attorneys.

Recent reports explain that other comic cons are abandoning the practice of calling the gatherings a "con," which as anyone and everyone knows, is short for convention when placed after the word comic. However, despite decades of use by other conventions, it seems that for comic conventions the "con" convention is out due to threat and fear of scorched earth comic con litigation.

How New Tech Is Helping the Disabled

With technovations occurring every day, disability law may never be the same.

Take Douglas Wakefield, for example. As a blind child, he needed certain accommodations to succeed in school.

But as an adult, now he can do things he couldn't dream of as a student. He credits technology for opening a new world to him.

For lawyers, getting the newest iPhone usually isn't job-critical, like it would be for an app developer. However, having the latest and greatest in tech can sometimes be good for business, or at least help you operate more efficiently.

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, or you're just a die-hard Apple fan, the newest iterations of the iPhone (the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone Xr) are likely to please, though you might notice that there's one a big differences this time around. And while there are plenty of tech blogs where you can read about all the bells and whistles, below you can read more about two of the features we lawyers want to know more about, and whether it's worth the hefty price-tag to upgrade.

European Parliament Approves Copyright Bill Opposed by Tech Giants

The European Parliament approved legislation that will redefine the internet, and Americans are not going to like it.

That's because the changes will affect tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter in major ways. Critics say the laws will turn the platforms into tech police, upend copyright laws, and slow down information.

Wait, slow down information!? If anything could cause an American revolution, it's a slower internet.

Being a law student in the modern era may come with the drawback of a bleak job market, but maybe the technology makes up for it.

Law students, if you don't have at least the first and last items on the list below automated so that you don't have to worry about them during your day to day life, then you're just leaving free time on the table. Think about it, with those extra minutes you could be studying or getting some much needed distraction/relaxation.

Below are five things law students can automate thanks to tech to make their lives better.

Legal Tech Firm Gets $65M Boost for AI

We knew it was coming -- computers are replacing lawyers.

With $65 million in new money, legal tech startup Atrium is developing smart machines to take over more legal tasks. The year-old company already has applications for smart contracts, but machine learning is changing everything.

We just didn't expect it to happen so soon. If we're honest about it, however, we knew clients would have replaced us a long time ago if they had the technology.

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

Infections caused by surgical procedures are not uncommon and can be life-threatening. If only there were a way to cut (pardon the pun) the incidence of such infections ... But wait, Computerworld has just reported that the application of predictive analytics and machine learning techniques to real-time data from operating rooms at the University of Iowa Hospital had lowered the risk of surgical infections by a stunning 74 percent over a three-year period.

Given this success, the hospital has created Dash Analytics, a company devoted to commercializing this technology. Dr. John Cromwell, the CTO at Dash, and an associate chief medical officer at the University of Iowa Hospital, has stated the following: "We started work with the hypothesis that if we could predict which patients would get surgical infections we could change the wound management strategies at the time of surgery to reduce the risk of infection. Surgical infection in the US is the number one hospital infection and carries the most morbidity. It is also the most expensive type of of hospital infection to treat."

Apple Going Into Online Law Enforcement

Apple is launching a web portal for law enforcement and will train officers how to submit requests for data from the company.

The web portal will be live by the end of the year as part of Apple's new law enforcement program. The company says it is committed to "protect the security and privacy of its users."

It's not like the company is going undercover. It's really more about transparency as Apple deals with rapid changes in data management.

Based on what that one relative you wish never made a social media account posts, not to mention all that "fake news," it's clear that people are pretty much free to post whatever they want on the various social media platforms.

And while most, if not all, of the major social platforms have instituted both policy and technical changes to ensure a repeat of the 2016 election doesn't occur, the United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the DOJ is concerned that social media is "intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas."

Gadgets You Missed on Labor Day, but You Can Still Try to Buy

If you missed the Labor Day sales, it's not the end of the world. It's just the end of summer.

The good news is that this is the season of sales. Retailers are already pricing their goods for holiday discounts.

With tech gadgets, time is especially on the lawyer's side. That's because new tech drives prices down, even as old hourly rates go up.

For attorneys, getting on a video chat with a potential client, or an expert witness, is a great way to avoid actually having an in-person meeting. And with the prevalence of smartphones, and integrated microphones and webcams in computers, video calls are easier than ever before.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that not everyone's cellular phone service will be compatible for video calling (notably thanks to the Android/Apple divide), or will allow video or even regular calls across platforms, services like Skype can really stand in as a perfect alternative. However, attorneys have often questioned whether Skype was a viable and secure option, but that may no longer be an issue with the latest updates.

While cyberthreats may be on the rise, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that you don't need to buy an RFID blocking backpack, wallet, or anything.

Despite the fact that makers of RFID cases will tell you that RFID hacking is happening, nonbiased experts tend to disagree. Most notably, in addition to the fact that this type of hacking is beyond unlikely to actually happen to you, plain old tin-foil can apparently be more effective than some RFID blocking offerings sold on the market. Plus, while you're wrapping your devices and lining your bag with foil, you can make yourself a hat too.