International Travelers Beware! Your data may be searched and seized without probable cause at the border.
Many Americans know that the Fourth Amendment protects them from unreasonable searches and seizures by the state officials, but most are unaware that this protection is greatly reduced in the context of border crossings. Normally, a police officer or other official needs a warrant or probable cause to search someone’s laptop or other electronic device. However, when a U.S. citizen returns to the United States through an international border, the border officials may search and copy the traveler’s data without these traditional safeguards.
This loophole in data security is important to many professionals since it increases the risk that confidential information may get into the wrong hands. Business travelers, lawyers, doctors, or other professionals may have confidential or privileged information on their laptops or hard drives that they don’t want others to see or that they are obligated by law or contract to protect. Some travelers may simply have sensitive personal information on their computers, such as financial documents, medical records, or personal correspondence, which they wish to keep private. Regardless the types of documents travelers have in their possession, they all are at risk of being searched and copied at the border.
The eight-year legal battle between Google and the Authors Guild has come to an end. On November 14, 2013, federal district judge Denny Chin granted Google’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Google Books, Google’s massive book digitization project, falls under the fair use defense to copyright infringement.
This ruling marks the end of a lawsuit initiated in 2005 by the Authors Guild, an organization representing the interests of authors in copyright protection. The Authors Guild alleged Google committed copyright infringement by digitally reproducing millions of copyrighted books, making them available to the public for online searching, and displaying “snippets” of the books, all without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. Google’s asserted in defense that Google Books constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted books because it makes use of them only for the purpose of allowing readers to find books, not to read them in their entirety.
One rapper’s dying wishes may sabotage toy company GoldieBlox’s parody of the Beastie Boys song “Girls.” Both sides are getting no sleep while arguing the merits of fair use to protect a commercial recasting of the sexist 80’s track as an empowerment anthem for young ladies.
The internet has been in an uproar for weeks over toy maker GoldieBlox’s YouTube video showing young girls building a Rube Goldberg–style machine to the tune of the Beastie Boys’ 1989 rap song “Girls,” with altered lyrics making it clear that girls can do more than “do the laundry” and “do the dishes.” GoldieBlox, which has used versions of songs by Queen and other pop artists in its previous online videos, posted its now controversial commercial, titled “Princess Machine,” on November 17th and garnered more than 8 million YouTube views in just ten days. Following threats from Beastie Boys lawyers, the GoldieBlox legal team filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court asserting its right to use the music in the video under the doctrine of fair use.
By Max Burke
My housemates and I were both happy and perplexed when our landlord installed a new washing machine in our basement. We were pleased to see the rattling, coin-operated dinosaur gone, but we were puzzled by the sleek machine of the future that took its place. “That thing can connect to the Internet?” Yes, it can. Our washing machine, along with an ever-growing number of consumer products, is a part of the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things (IT)—which was the subject of discussion at a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) public workshop—generally refers to a worldwide network of real world objects that can collect, share, and control each other’s data. Nearly anything, from egg cartons to people to soil, can theoretically be a part of IT. Though it is still in its infancy, IT is expected to grow to a network of 30 to 50 billion devices by 2020. Such vast interconnectedness has many potential benefits, but, like other watershed technologies, IT will have enormous implications for issues of privacy, data security and physical safety. The problems will only be magnified when IT meets Augmented Reality—which is the combining of a surrounding physical environment with computer-generated imagery.
Edward Snowden, traitor-cum-hero, has, at the very least, set some interesting things in motion. Since his meteoric rise (or fall), we have discovered that the National Security Agency has repeatedly pressured service providers, inter alios, to turnover vast and diverse amounts of personal data. This new state of affairs leaves many wondering if there are constitutional limits to these actions and, ultimately, are such actions even legal?
On Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, The Supreme Court denied cert in In re Electronic Privacy Information Center, a direct challenge to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) broad domestic-surveillance programs. Rather than finesse a costly test suit through the lower federal courts, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, directly implored the nation’s highest court to force a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge (handpicked by C.J. Roberts) to vacate its judgment requiring Verizon to turnover a broad swatch of data to the NSA. Specifically, the petition asked the justices to consider (1) “[w]hether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its narrow statutory authority to authorize foreign intelligence surveillance, under 50 U.S.C. § 1861, when it ordered Verizon to disclose records to the National Security Agency for all telephone communications ‘wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls’”; and (2) “[w]hether Petitioner is entitled to relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a) to vacate the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or other relief as this Court deems appropriate.”
By Jeffrey Echert
Call it one more heartache for Robin Thicke. He’s at the center of another controversy—this time, a copyright infringement suit with Marvin Gaye’s heirs over Thicke’s summer hit, “Blurred Lines.” While allegations of plagiarism and copyright infringement in the musical world aren’t new by any means (in fact, it seems to be an industry pride and joy), this suit presents a different, potentially precedential angle: the Gaye family alleges not only copyright infringement but a breach of fiduciary duty by EMI (the music publisher that holds the rights to distribute Gaye’s works and supposedly co-owns “Blurred Lines”) for refusing to bring suit against Thicke. In so alleging, they add to their fairly interesting copyright claims an unexpected legal question: is an exclusive agent representing a copyright holder’s interests required to bring suit over infringing works that the agent also owns?
Autonomous vehicles—that is, cars that can operate themselves with little to no human interaction— once existed only in the world of science fiction. But they may soon be making an appearance on America’s roads. Manufacturers such as Google, pursuant to enacted legislation, are now allowed to test autonomous vehicles on the roads of Nevada, California and Florida. Many other states have similar pending or proposed legislation.
Public use of autonomous vehicles may have many benefits, from safer and more efficient driving to increased mobility for those that would otherwise be unable to operate a vehicle. However, the autonomous vehicle’s electronic nature and need to constantly connect with its surroundings suggest privacy and security concerns that are not immediately obvious.
With the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert’s 2013 national tour, Kinky Boots winning six Tony awards this past June, and the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race scheduled for early 2014, the art of drag and, most notably, drag queens are becoming a fixture in popular culture. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted one drag performer as saying, “drag has never been more mainstream.” But what legal obstacles can this unique art form expect? Copyright and personality laws may present issues. And, as one gallery in Atlanta recently demonstrated, drag queens might also encounter censorship.
Merriam-Webster defines drag queens as simply men who dress as women to entertain others. But a drag queen is so much more—a drag queen is an artist. First, as Emily Moorhouse says in a recent Sun Sentinel article, “impersonating a female involves serious cosmetic stunts that are…not only practical but fabulous tricks and techniques.” She goes on to detail the challenges “of turning a male face into something fabulously female” and concludes, “[C]oating and manipulating your God-given mug into something more fabulous becomes an art.” However, the artist’s job is not finished when the illusion is created—he has to put together a performance. As drag performer Stevie Zar told Posture, to “stay visible” on the drag art scene requires constant inspiration, experimentation, and collaboration with others to construct a show. With the facial hair masked and the newest dance steps memorized, a drag queen is not just a man dressed as a woman but an artist who has created a work for stage or screen.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found this past September that using the “like” feature on Facebook is a form of protected speech that is guarded by the First Amendment. While running for reelection in 2009, the sheriff of Hampton, Virginia expected his employees to give him political support. He also told them that people who showed support for his opponent would not be reappointed to their positions and specifically warned his employees not to support his opponent on Facebook.
After the sheriff was reelected, eleven of his employees were not reappointed to their old jobs. Six of these employees claimed they were let go because they did not provide adequate political support for the sheriff during his reelection campaign; two of those six had even shown their support for the sheriff’s opponent on Facebook, despite the sheriff’s warnings. One of these employees had “liked” the opponent’s campaign page and wrote an encouraging message on the page. The other just posted a message on the campaign page showing his support for his boss’s opponent. When they were not rehired, the six employees brought suit against the sheriff for wrongful termination.
By Chelsey Heindel
Amid dilapidated warehouses and bustling loading docks in Long Island City, Queens, stands an iconic, unabashedly informal graffiti museum called 5 Pointz. 5 Pointz, named in homage to New York City’s five boroughs, hosts over 350 individual works produced by artists willing to make the metropolitan pilgrimage from places like Kazakhstan, Japan, and Brazil. But 5 Pointz will soon become one of two 47-story luxury apartment towers, unless a rarely invoked federal law can preserve the street art landmark.
On October 9, 2013, the New York City Council unanimously approved a demolition plan that would eliminate the “Mecca of the Aerosol Art World,” thus jeopardizing the graffiti haven’s existence. Desperate for legal relief, 5 Pointz curator and director Jonathan Cohen responded to the Council’s decision by filing for a permanent injunction against G & M Realty LP, the private company that owns the abandoned 5 Pointz site.