Technology and Business Law Blog

Federal Court holds – Employee SMS messages Private under 4th Amendment

The 9th Circuit Court held that text messages of employees was private and the employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy to it even if the texting was done on the pagers given by the employer for official use.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer and others who claimed that the city of Ontario, Calif., violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which provide citizens with a reasonable expectation of privacy, by reading the contents of their text messages. It also ruled that the company providing the department’s paging service falls under the Stored Communications Act. That means carriers cannot reveal the contents of SMS or text messages without authorization from the end user — even if the user is an employee. Read here.

The facts of the case was that police officers were given pagers for official use but they routinely used it for personal use too and reimbursed the police department for overage costs which were accepted. The department’s informal policy of accepting reimbursement and not auditing the communications led officers to expect privacy, which makes the search and seizure illegal and employers need to get a search warrant before they can got through an employees personal communication even if they used an employers devices.


June 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Bloggers and Copyright

Fair use is one of the most debated areas in copyright law. Recently in the limelight was the Harry Potter’s Lexicon litigation in which Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project Defends RDR Books against Copyright Lawsuit Brought by J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. Other fair use cases have been litigated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) but the most recent fair use issue that grabbed the attention of people like me is the Associated Press (AP) sending DMCA take down copyright notices to blogger Roger Cadenhead of Doudge Retort.

According to AP it wants to “limit the amount of original content that gets copied” and the “use of content directly in the blog”. Blogging has become very popular since it allows anyone to put forth their point of view and share their thoughts out there and good blogs make interesting reading and creates a resource pool consisting of the community’s thought process.

Blogging and other journalistic pursuits thrive on the foundation of fair use based on voicing their opinion on other people’s literary creations. The trouble with fair use is that is overly broad and according to the Copyright Act of 1976, in determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2. The nature of the copyrighted work;

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fair Use defense and its application will vary greatly depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, since there are no set standards and courts decide whether a particular use is fair or not on a case by case basis.

EFF had put forth has set forth legal guidelines and blogger legal liability issues on their website, and it is a good idea to get oneself familiarized with it while blogging.

In the world of blogging the copyright rules are minimally followed and on a particular day most popular blogs carry the same story and lot of the material is recirculated. The web is a bedrock of copyright infringement but interestingly if not for this one would not get to hear the different view points of people from various walks of life on the same subject matter. Copyright infringement makes journalism more alluring, vibrant, spiced up and interesting.

It does not matter how many DMCA’s takedown notices are sent or how many copyright infringement law suits are filed, now that the flood gates of the Internet have opened there is no going back or stopping of infringement over the Internet. The only solution is rewrite the copyright laws and accept the inevitable.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Copyright, Copyright Infringement | | 1 Comment

Demise of the Print Media

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft looks into his crystall ball and states that in about 10 years or so there will be no print media and everything will be in digital format. Here is what he says in an article in the Washington Post.

In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down — my opinion.

Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.

New media with all this digitization has created numerous copyright issues and one is confronted with them on a daily basis. If there is only going to be an online media which could be accessed by everyone around the world then, does it not make sense to have uniform Intellectual property laws that would be applicable to the whole world? The concept of jurisdiction or forum would become less meaningful and then a set of courts adhering to the same IP laws will have to established around the world. In this age of IP infringement and the muddled state of the law in this area, this would make sense even if it sounds like a fantasy now.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Copyright, cyberlaw | Leave a comment

Social Networking’s End?

Social networking is one of the most popular market segments in terms of business and even from a consumer perspective. Almost everyday a new social networking site seems to pop up somewhere in the world and I receive requests on a regular basis to join one or the other and so what do I do — I don’t join any of them. I am worried about scattering my personal information all over the cyberspace and having it infiltrate and stored in places and in hands of people I wouldn’t it to be in.

Another reason is that once you are a member of all these various sites then it is hard to remember all the different passwords and logins and what information I gave out where. Third, but most important is that I am sheer lazy.

The popularity of social networking has a direct impact on the loss of privacy and in the U.S. the most popular sites are Facebook and MySpace and both of them allow  third party developers to set up different applications like playing poker, getting daily horoscopes and sending one another virtual cocktails and according to this article in Washington Post

But it is often difficult to tell when developers are breaking the rules by, for example, storing members’ data for more than 24 hours, said Adrienne Felt, who recently studied Facebook security at the University of Virginia.

She examined 150 of the most popular Facebook applications to find out how much data could be gathered. Her research, which was presented at a privacy conference last month, found that about 90 percent of the applications have unnecessary access to private data.

If developers and others whom the Facebook user does not know and did not intend to give out their information gets hold of it, there is no saying what the information is being used for.

I get a feeling that once this euphoria of online social networking cools down in about 5-7 years especially when people see that their private information has been misused one way or the other and it has an affects on their lives then people will revert back to good old fashioned getting to know one another on  a personal basis networking.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Facebook, privacy, Social networking | , , , | 1 Comment

Google Intrudes On Privacy Laws

In an earlier post of mine I had complained about Microsoft’s Visual Earth’s aerial pictures of neighborhood residences and about invasion of privacy. Few days ago while searching my own home address I could see on Google’s street view colored images of the entire front view of my home at real close quarters with the cars parked in the driveway, clearly showing the models of the cars.

Here is an interesting story about a small town in Minnesota which sent a letter to Google asking it to remove the images of the street views of its town or risk being cited for trespassing on private property, as the street of the town were privately owned and had signs to keep off trespassers.

My current house sits facing public street but our earlier residence was a privately owned community but still one can find street view images of that property too. For some reason Google seems to flaunt all privacy laws and seems to get away with it, but I am sure that a time will come when the company will pay a heavy price for that.

June 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Happy or Sad

I just read about something that makes me proud. I read that India is the undisputed outsourcing powerhouse. In a recent Forbes magazine survey it states that five out of the seven billionaires in the outsourcing industry in the world are in India with a grand total of 20.1 billion U.S. dollars.

Three of the five – N.R. Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Senapathy Gopalakrishnan – are from Infosys Technologies. The others are Azim Premji of Wipro and Shiv Nadar of HCL Technologies. Read here. None all these people were born rich or inherited money, which is real motivating and also reinforces my belief that we don’t have to leave money to our children.

I also read something that makes me sad. India is said to have the highest rate of murder in the world. India has earned the notoriety of being the country where maximum number of murders take place in the world, three times more than its neighbor Pakistan and double the figures in the United States. Meanwhile, the number of rape cases were maximum in the U.S., which recorded 93,934 such assaults followed by South Africa 54,926 and India 18,359. Read here.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment