Go Fund Yourself: The SEC finalizes Regulation A+

blog_6_26 By Christian Kaiser

In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved final rules of Title IV of the JOBS Act, changing Regulation A into “Regulation A+.” Entrepreneurs selling securities to private investors are no longer limited to using Regulation D or the old Regulation A. Entrepreneurs can now crowdfund their startup online through a “mini IPO.” Many believe these new rules show that the government has embraced technological changes. Some are optimistic about what they see as an opening of the crowdfunding floodgates, but the rules’ restrictions and requirements suggest such sweeping optimism may be misplaced.  Continue reading “Go Fund Yourself: The SEC finalizes Regulation A+”

Just Add Sugar: Home Brewing Morphine Using New Process

Red PoppiesBy Sam Hampton

On May 18, a group of researchers published an article describing a method for the conversion of simple sugar to opioids including morphine. Proponents believe this could change the way many useful drugs are manufactured, while others are calling for regulation that limits access to the required DNA. The process is not currently feasible outside of a laboratory, but commentators worry that refinement of the technique could lead to people creating morphine with the same equipment used to craft home brewed beer. Such a streamlined process could be developed within a year.

Morphine and other opioids are historically produced from the poppy plant. The cultivation of the crop is common in Latin America, as well as Southwest and Southeast Asia. Farmers in countries with weak drug enforcement, such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Mexico, supply the crop to drug cartels, who smuggle and distribute heroin throughout the world. In Afghanistan, which produces much of the world’s heroin, the value of trafficking of opium is estimated to be $8 billion dollars a year. The wide spread use of this new process could disrupt these established supply routes.

The DEA does not presently consider the development to be “an imminent threat.” However, commentators, such as Kenneth A. Oye, have voiced concerns over the implications of this new process. He is particularly concerned with the reaction of drug cartels. These cartels could adopt the technology and manufacture heroin domestically, without the need to smuggle drugs across borders. The loss of exclusive control over the supply could also lead to a violent reaction as it has in other drug markets; Mexican gangs have taken over farms growing marijuana in the United States. Moreover, the capacity to create the opioids could lead to widespread domestic manufacture, as in the case of methamphetamine, resulting in increased availability.

Heroin is extremely dangerous and addictive. According to a 2014 DEA report, both use and availability are actually on the rise in the United States. In recent years, heroin and opioid abuse have ravaged regions of the country, particularly the Northeast. In 2014 in Connecticut alone, there were around 500 deaths involving overdoses of heroin and other opioids. Widespread availability resulting from the new process could exacerbate these trends.

Yet proponents of the process think these concerns are overblown. Christina D. Smolke believes that the required skills for this sort of manufacture are beyond those without training. Furthermore, Robert H. Carlson argues that these prohibitions would simply fail to work, just as Prohibition failed to abolish illegal alcohol manufacture. This may be a practical reality, but the consequences of wide spread heroin availability are a far more dangerous proposition that may warrant tight control of this process.

Image Source: http://7-themes.com/6921476-red-poppies-field.html.

Securing Dr. Robot

unnamed By Brooks Lindsay

Medical device robots present a number of cybersecurity, privacy, and safety challenges that regulation and industry standards must address in order to safely and rapidly advance innovation in the field.

The University of Washington’s Computer Science Department recently highlighted the problem. Computer Science Researchers hacked a teleoperated surgical robot called the Raven II during a mock surgery. The hack involved moving pegs on a pegboard, launching a denial-of-service attack that stopped the robot, and making it impossible for a surgeon to remotely operate. The researchers maliciously controlled a wide range of the Raven II’s functions and overrode command inputs from the surgeon. The researchers designed the test to show how a malicious attack could easily hijack the operations of a medical device robot. The researchers concluded that established and readily available security mechanisms, like encryption and authentication, could have prevented some of these attacks.  Continue reading “Securing Dr. Robot”

Can Kris Jenner Trademark “Momager”?

kris_jenner By Denise Kim

We love them, or we hate them. Either way, we see them everywhere. I am referring to the one and only Kardashian family. Every month, members of the Kardashian-Jenner family are in the news for one reason or another. In May, Kris Jenner, the Kardashian matriarch filed legal documents to trademark the word “momager”. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “momager” is a manager that is your mom. Kris Jenner hopes to trademark the word in order to launch a new business platform and lifestyle brand to empower moms.

Kris Jenner would not be the first to capitalize on her celebrity status. Football player Tim Tebow successfully trademarked “Tebowing”, Paris Hilton trademarked the catchphrase “That’s hot”, and basketball player Anthony Davis trademarked “fear the brow” and “raise the brow”. In fact, this is not even the first time a member of the Kardashian-Jenner family registered a trademark. Earlier in May, Kylie and Kendall Jenner filed to trademark their names. Celebrities often seek trademark protection to protect their likeness and to prevent marketing that may dilute their image. However, Kris Jenner is attempting to trademark a new, hybrid word as opposed to her personal name. Continue reading “Can Kris Jenner Trademark “Momager”?”

Will Congress Allow Consumers More Privacy?

NSABy Naazaneen Hodjat

The courts are redefining the hot topic of privacy law in today’s digital age. The most recent ruling, American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, came in the wake of a series of disclosures by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. The Guardian revealed that the NSA had asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order Verizon to produce the telephone metadata for many of its subscribers. This order covered three months of information and included the numbers of both parties on a call, along with the location, time, and duration of the call. The Patriot Act classifies the contents as metadata, and the NSA can obtain the metadata without a warrant. The NSA network secured the telephone metadata indefinitely for its investigations.

The NSA Bulk Metadata Collection Program began shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the government “to make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things…for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a US person or to protect against international terrorism….” The ACLU sought a preliminary injunction against the Government claiming that the bulk metadata collection program violates consumers’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In response, the Government argued that bulk collection qualifies as business records and therefore falls within the ambit of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Continue reading “Will Congress Allow Consumers More Privacy?”

“Mobile Justice”? or Risky Vigilante Journalism?

camera+phone By Andrew H. Fuller

The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Oregon chapter and four other state chapters offer a smartphone app called Mobile Justice, which allows users to easily record interactions with the police. In addition to recording and transmitting footage, the app has a “Witness” button that sends out a user’s location to alert other Mobile Justice users in the area when they have been approached by the police. Once other Mobile Justice users have a user’s location, they can find that user and record their interaction with the police.

While this sort of Sousveillance activity is not unheard of—indeed, there are other apps that provide smartphone users with similar features—there are some serious concerns about these apps. Perhaps the most obvious concern is that a police officer may think that a user pulling out their phone to record is reaching for a weapon. In response to this concern, the ACLU of Oregon’s website for Mobile Justice has a portion of the page warning users on how to safely use the app. Continue reading ““Mobile Justice”? or Risky Vigilante Journalism?”

Telecoms’ Latest Attempt to Kill Net Neutrality

unnamed By Brennen Johnson

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission published its new net neutrality rules in the Federal Register. In response to the new rules, there has been an onslaught of legal challenges brought by telecom companies to defeat the rules before they go into effect mid-June. Within several days of publication, seven companies filed suit against the FCC over the rules. Rather than attacking the substance of the rules outright, the companies are instead seeking to block procedural aspects of the rules. The companies challenge both the FCC’s reclassification of the internet as a “public utility” as well as the legal standards and mechanisms that would allow the FCC to enforce the new rules.

By classifying broadband internet as a public utility, the FCC gains broader regulatory powers over internet providers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The reclassification addresses the FCC’s January 2014 failed attempt to enforce net neutrality. The FCC’s rules at that time were struck down in large part because broadband internet was not classified as a public utility, implying that the FCC could not regulate internet providers in the same broad manner as other utility providers. Speaking for the Court in that case, D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David Tatel wrote: “[g]iven that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.” These broader powers significantly fortify the FCC’s position to protect its net neutrality rules from legal attack. However, if telecoms can successfully challenge the FCC’s reclassification of the internet as a public utility, then it seems a near certainty that the FCC’s current attempt at ensuring net neutrality will fail for the same reason it did in 2014.  Continue reading “Telecoms’ Latest Attempt to Kill Net Neutrality”

Faking it by Omission? The FTC Targets Undisclosed Compensation for Online Reviews

Illustration for fake website testimonials By Julie Liu

When we sift through reviews for products and services, one of our top considerations is whether the words genuinely come from the customer’s experience and not a company’s imagination. There is no way, however, to determine a reviewer’s honesty beyond relying upon whatever disclaimers he or she provides. We have previously discussed the state of the law on fake business reviews. But what about “real” reviews incentivized by the reward of a good deal? If there was any question on the matter, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now provided a real-life example of how to abide by the rules.

In a recent chapter in the battle against unfair competition online, the FTC zeroed in on automobile shipment broker AmeriFreight for its persuasive approach to seeking customer feedback. The FTC alleged in its complaint that AmeriFreight offered $50 discounts to customers in exchange for writing reviews on an independent review website and advertised its services to consumers as being “top rated” based on those reviews. In addition to the discount, reviewers automatically became eligible for a $100 “Best Monthly Review Award,” further incentivizing customers to write reviews. The complaint indicated that the issue was not the encouragement of reviews; the complaint alleged that AmeriFreight portrayed the reviews as unbiased and failed to disclose that the reviewers were compensated—a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The case concluded late last month with the FTC’s approval of a final consent order which requires AmeriFreight to clearly disclose any “material connection” it has with an endorser and to not misrepresent customer reviews or product ratings. Continue reading “Faking it by Omission? The FTC Targets Undisclosed Compensation for Online Reviews”

Again? VMWare Accused of Violating Linux Kernel’s GPL license

penguinBy Chike Eze

Can’t we all just get along? At its core, an open source software license encourages software developers to share software with their community (i.e., the community of software developers). A software author grants a software copyright license to the public in exchange for requesting or requiring recipients to share their modifications with the public. Some open source licenses are permissive (i.e., the recipient may or may not share modifications), while others are restrictive (i.e., the recipient must share modifications).

The General Public License version 2 (“GPLv2”), a restrictive open source license, requires recipients of GPLv2 licensed software to share any modifications they make to the software with the community. This licensing model allows highly creative and intelligent software developers from all over the world to collectively author great solutions for the community. Sounds great, right? Well, in the real world, not everybody believes in sharing!  Continue reading “Again? VMWare Accused of Violating Linux Kernel’s GPL license”

Have a Break, Have a KitKat!


By Yayi Ding

Many of us grew up indulging in the famous four-fingered chocolate wafer known as the KitKat. Such glorious memories! However, KitKat may no longer have exclusive rights to its four-fingered design, because of ongoing lawsuits with its competitors.

KitKat is a product of the Swiss Nestle Company, and is produced by the Hershey Company in the United States. Needless to say, Nestle has had disputes with a fair share of its competitors, including British candy-maker Cadbury. In 2012, Nestle opposed Cadbury’s trademark application for its “purple packaging,” arguing that the mark lacked any distinctive character. Nestle won that battle, which allowed Nestle and other confectioners to sell candy with the same purple-colored wrapping. Continue reading “Have a Break, Have a KitKat!”