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Top 10 Tech Legal Issues for 2015- Part 2

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

We’ve looked into the future, and at the first 5 legal issues in technology and entertainment law that we think will be big in 2015.  Now it’s time to round out the rest of the top 10 just in time to ring in the new year.

   6.Copyright

If the numerous Congressional hearings about copyright reform are any indication, copyright will loom large in 2015.  As we all are well aware, the current copyright law doesn’t always provide clear solutions in today’s fast-moving technological environment, and this uncertainty has led to calls for reform.  It will be interesting to see whether these changes come in the new year, and what the new reforms may bring.  If you want to get an idea, check out the recently released update to the Copyright Compendium over at the Copyright Office’s website over at www.copyright.gov.

   7.Online payments

Online payments have been a hot topic in 2014, particularly with the introduction of ApplePay as a feature on the iPhone 6.  From Google Wallet to ApplePay to changes in credit card technology, payment technologies look to continue to develop , as well as make the news in 2015.  There is a lot of potential for the growth of sales on smart phones, but the numerous hacking incidents this year illuminate the very real risk of identity theft if these technologies were to be hacked.  Regulators will also be watching the development of these technologies, and likely looking to introduce laws to help try to protect consumers using these devices, but as with many new technologies, the onus will initially be on the operators of these technologies to keep consumer information safe.

   8.Online threats

From Gamergate to the case that came before the Supreme Court this term that had Chief Justice John Roberts quoting Eminem lyrics, 2014 featured a lot of discussion of whether the First Amendment protects threats posted by people against others online.  While trolls seem to be as inherent to the internet as baseball and apple pie are to Americana, the serious and frightening threats that some Gamergate targets received (and ultimately caused them to leave their homes for fear of attack) are raising questions as to whether there should be repercussions for posting such threats.  The Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 should certainly shed light on the issue, but in this writer’s estimation will hardly be the last word on the matter.

   9. Hacking

It almost goes without saying that hacking will keep its lofty perch as one of the top issues in technology and entertainment law in 2015.  As the fallout from the Sony Pictures hack continues, and big companies like Target and Home Depot work to recover from their data breaches earlier in the year, companies and consumers alike will continue to be concerned about the security of their data, and looking for solutions to protect themselves from hackers.

    10. Royalties for Online Music

Taylor Swift made big headlines in 2014 for pulling her music off of the online music service Spotify in favor of selling it at Target, and through other online music outlets.  This move highlighted the very real tension between artists and streaming music services over the matter of how much artists are paid for having their music played, which can in some instances be far less than one would imagine millions of plays would generate.  In addition, as several lawsuits are pending over similar issues being litigated by the performing rights organizations, as well as satellite radio stations, it appears that we will see even more developments related to how much artists are paid for having their music played online in the new year. 

So that’s our list for hot issues in technology and entertainment law in 2015.  Now it’s time to wind down the new year here in the U.S.  Wishing you a safe and happy new year.  Cheers!

Top 10 Tech Legal Trends to Watch for 2015- Part 1

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

2014 is rapidly drawing to a close, and it’s time to look to what the new year will likely hold in terms of trends in technology and entertainment law. Here’s the first installment of issues that I think will be trending in these areas of law, or in some cases will continue to be trends in 2015:

1. Privacy.

From the data breaches at Target, Home Depot and other major retailers this year to the current Sony Pictures hacking scandal, data privacy will continue to be a big issue for companies and consumers in 2015. Look for lawmakers to try to find solutions in both federal and state law, and for consumers to continue to find better ways to protect their data.

2. gTLDs.

Speaking of hacking, it was revealed this week that the Internet Company for Assigned Names and Numbers itself had been a victim to the efforts of hackers. As you may have seen this year, a major issue for brand owners was the roll out of the new generic top level domain (gTLD) program. While recent years have involved a lot of crystal ball gazing to see what the future might hold as these new domains are introduced, this year actually saw many of them being introduced. In addition, the disputes over domains that were in contention by more than one party have largely been resolved through auctions, so there will be more new gTLDs than ever being introduced. Though it will be interesting to see how the .press and other domains are used by businesses and brand owners, I think I’m most anxious to see what results from the introduction of my favorite new gTLD, which is .sucks. .enjoy!

3. Projects using real life people

Among the many issues related to the ongoing international crisis that is the Sony Pictures hacking situation is that of the potential consequences of using the identities or personas of real people in fictional works. Right of publicity issues have taken on greater importance in recent years, and 2014 was certainly no exception, with the ramifications of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for its use of not only his likeness in television broadcasts and video games, but those of potentially thousands of other NCAA athletes looming large on the future of the organization. While these works can be defended on the grounds of parody or fair use, it’s important to keep in mind that if you are at a point where you are discussing these defenses, it likely means you are trying to ward off a lawsuit, or have already been threatened with one. While these situations are typically fact and personality specific as to the potential consequences, it is definitely advised that creators seek the advice of counsel before pursuing the use of the names, likenesses, voices or other identifying characteristics of real life people in commercial projects.

4. CalOPPA

Speaking of real life people, like many states, California regulators have been increasingly concerned about the privacy of its residents online. California implemented the law known as the California Online Privacy Protection Act, or CalOPPA in 2003, and has been making headlines in its efforts to enforce the law, which among other things requires app and website operators to conspicuously post privacy policies on apps and websites. While I understand that design is an important aspect of the work that app and web designers do, I would recommend that designers start finding ways to make the conspicuous of privacy policies and terms of service part of the design plan as a way to keep themselves and their clients in compliance with CalOPPPA and other regulations. In addition, the recent amendments to CalOPPA that are going into effect on January 1, 2015, call for website operators to implement a ‘delete button’ feature that will require them to implement mechanisms that would allow minors to request that their information be deleted from the site, as well as provide minors with notice of this ability to delete online content and instructions on how to do so. Yet another amendment prohibits operators from marketing certain categories of products or services to minors online. Amendments like these highlight the importance of treating a website’s privacy policy and terms of service as living documents that must be tended to and updated as laws change.

5. Kids’ privacy

And to round out the top 5, we’re back to privacy. While it may seem like splitting hairs to some, to parents and regulators, the privacy of children in the internet is a whole separate area of concern. In addition to the changes coming as part of CalOPPA, it is likely that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will continue to monitor apps and websites for COPPA compliance, as well as amend the law to better protect children online. It is also likely that companies like Facebook will continue to lobby for the loosening of COPPA and similar regulations in favor of letting companies develop their own mechanisms for protecting children online. Recent FTC settlements with TinyCo and Yelp over COPPA violations illuminated areas of concern for the agency, which primarily focused on the collection and handling of data gathered by apps targeted at children. In the case of Yelp, the FTC noted that while the site had the proper COPPA mechanisms in place on its full website, it was the lack of such a mechanism on the site’s mobile app that brought the attention of the agency.

What other issues do you think will be big in 2015? We’ll be listing the rest of the top 10 tomorrow, and as always welcome your insights.