Yelp for Free Speech

Posted by: Hillary Owen

April 20, 2015


yelpAnonymous speakers are at the heart of the first amendment’s free speech protection. Requiring identification to make speech protectable could chill the speech itself, so as long as what’s being said isn’t defamatory or knowingly false, the speaker can remain in the shadows. While the routes of communication are changing, that doesn’t mean that their protections should change. The internet is an immense platform where anyone can communicate locally and globally as long as they have sufficient access. The internet has also changed the way anonymity works. Continue reading


Pixel Police: DRM and Securing Photos Online

Posted by: Lauren Stewart

April 20, 2015

pad-lockA disturbing trend has emerged, primarily on Instagram, called baby-role playing. This is where a person, often a teenage girl, steals images of a child from the Internet, gives them a new name, and creates a user profile claiming the child as her own. Some even portray themselves as adoption agencies and followers request photos of specific babies they would like to adopt. Also labeled “digital kidnappers” the general reaction to this apparent fantasy role-play is that it is bizarre and horrifying. Worst, parents fear that some of these people might resort to more abusive or sexual fetish behavior. Once reported, Instagram will remove stolen photos pursuant to their terms of use and community guidelines. But parents are likely wishing they could prevent the thefts altogether.

Stealing photos is nothing new or surprising. Most people probably think that it is ok and that there is no harm in it. But baby role-play presents a chilling scenario where preventing digital photo theft seems more pressing. Without a doubt, stealing photos online is copyright infringement and if identified, a parent could file suit against a baby role-player. Ideally though, there should be a way, other than not sharing photos online, to prevent photo theft beforehand or to catch the thief when stealing occurs. Enter digital rights management. Continue reading

Upstream Data Dollars

Posted by: Lauren Stewart

April 20, 2015

480px-Network_neutrality_poster_symbolRegardless of whether the FCC’s Open Internet Order is effective in regulating net neutrality, the reality is that the Internet is a free market, not free. It’s easy to agree with net neutrality: to want network operators to treat all content the same and not prioritize and broker in online traffic, but so long as the entities that run the Internet are not public utilities, they need to turn profits to keep the cables and servers connected. If competitively monetizing traffic is not an option, what is?

Selling online data is much like the still commercially available bulk mailing lists that fill our mailboxes with junk circulars and catalogs. Use of this information has many benefits: it’s efficient, passive, and customizable. But unlike your mailbox, the information obtained from online data can be very detailed and reveal much more than your basic demographics and geo-location.

We know that companies collect and sell our data to third parties. We hopefully understand by now that this is the basis of the bargain in using online services, particularly with the ones that are free. We expect and trust that our personal information is reasonably protected and hope and assume that the law and the government will protect us when service providers overstep our boundaries. These boundaries, however, are shifting in the age of big data. Continue reading

Surveillance through the Internet

Posted by Angelica J. Simpson

April 17, 2015


EFF_version_of_NSA_logoOver the past few years there has been headlines making their way claiming the governments gross overreach in surveillance. Stories that the FBI can hack into your computer, or that NSA is gathering everyone’s phone records, down to tracking capabilities through GOOGLE Maps apps and technology. But just how true are these headlines? Does American law allows for and even facilitates the ability for the government to use technology to track and spy on people? The reality of it seems to be that while the law allows for some surveillance, it also constrains the power as well. Continue reading

Does Unlocking On-Disc DLC Violate the Anti-Circumvention Provision of the DMCA?

Posted by: Kyle Sol Johnson

April 20, 2015

dmcaIncreasingly videogames are released alongside downloadable content (DLC) the adds some aspect or function to the underlying game. These may be packs of maps, new zones, new weapons and armors, or even entirely new missions. Often it is a combination of the above. Traditionally, DLC is offered some months, or even years when it comes to expansion packs, after the release of the original game. However, many games of late have been released alongside so-called Day One DLC that is immediately available for purchase when the underlying game is released. Some videogame developers have taken this a step further, including unlockable content on the original game disc itself and later selling consumers a key that will allow them to access the encrypted data.

This ‘disc-locked content’ has drawn copious amounts of ire and criticism from consumers and game journalists. Consumers feel that they have paid for the disc and should thus have access to everything on it as the owners thereof. These consumers claim that disabling the encryption to gain access to the locked content constitutes a fair use because it is a noncommercial use under §107 of the Copyright Act. Continue reading

They’re Shutting Down the Internet: The Responsibility of Internet Service Providers in Combating Piracy

Posted by: Macaulay Christian

April 20, 2015


The Pirate BayImagine that, for some time and on a fairly consistent basis, you download and listen to all of your favorite music through one or more torrent sites. Whatever your personal beliefs are, you do know that, legally speaking, what you are doing is wrong. Your Internet service provider has even sent you periodic letters informing you that your conduct is infringing on various copyrights and that you should cease your activities immediately. You’ve allowed these notices to pile up, not even bothering to open the latest ones. Then, something happens, something that hasn’t happened before—your Internet is shut off. After playing around with your router, you phone your provider, wanting to have your service reestablished. You are informed that you have been permanently disconnected from the Internet because of your repeated copyright infringement, at the request of the major record labels.

The thought is almost scary, if not only that your ISP could be compelled to permanently disconnect your service, going on in today’s highly interconnected world without regular access to the Internet is borderline unthinkable. It’s difficult enough for Millennials to try and conjure up conceptualizations of what life was like before the Internet, before computers. To have to navigate modern expectations of productivity, entertainment, and communication one must have access to the Internet.

The crux of the matter is what responsibility does or should ISPs have in policing copyright infringement committed by its subscribers on its network? In the United States, the answer to that question may rest in a lawsuit initiated against Cox, while in the case in Ireland may given big content a reason to hope. Continue reading

Does the Constitution Follow the Net?: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Free Speech, & Fair Use

 Posted by: Macaulay Christian

April 20, 2015

dmcaTake a moment to think about computers. There isn’t an aspect of daily life that hasn’t been at least touched, if not outright revolutionized, by the advent of the computer. They no longer mammoth machines existing within the confines of a single, massive space—they’re portable. You probably have a laptop or notebook, maybe that’s what you are using to read this right now but, in the modern era, you aren’t shackled to just the more traditional idea of a computer, you could just as easily be reading this from you smartphone. Others still could be making use of an iPad or other tablet computer. Common accessories are becoming embedded with computing capabilities from watches to wristbands. Even the home is becoming more and more connected: Refrigerators, thermostats, and home automation technology. Your pet might have a GPS chip implanted in case they get lost. Your car speaks to you and understands your oral commands. Computers are everywhere in the 21st Century.

To put this revolution in some perspective, once the computer became a consumer good, civilization set sail from the old, analog world for a new, digital one. But, just as the first colonists who came to the Americas learned, not everything that worked in the old world works with the rules of the new one. Principally, how to strike the appropriate balance between an 18th Century Constitution and the technological realities of 2015? Do some constitutional protections not exist when applied to the digital world? Continue reading

Is a Take Down a Taking?

Posted by: Chase Millea

April 20, 1015

dmcaUnder the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Traditionally we think of a government taking in the context of real property. If the government wants to knock your house down to build a highway, they are going to have to pay you (probably not as much as you wanted) for it.

Okay, so what about revenue-generating material on the Internet? For example, what about video gamers streaming their game play on websites like If the video game manufacturer files a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and Twitch takes down the content in furtherance of obligations under the statute, does the video gamer get anything for having his or her product taken away? Continue reading

Penalties for Misrepresented Take Down Notices

Posted by: Chase Millea

April 20, 2015

Image_removed_DMCAIn the United States, a holder of a copyright under the Copyright Act maintains exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute work fixed in a tangible means of expression. In essence, that means that a person can protect against redistribution of original work without authorization.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) authorizes a copyright holder to issue a “take down notice” to an infringer to remove infringing works “expeditiously… or disable access to the material.” For example, a copyright holder may make a claim under the DMCA to require YouTube to take down a personal video that was uploaded without their authorization. The DMCA requires YouTube to comply or face a penalty.

Although the DMCA offers broad protections for copyrighted material, it also explicitly prohibits entities from citing the Act to unlawfully restrict others from using non-copyrighted material. Now, one of the first cases on the topic affirms that courts are willing to penalize breaches of this provision. Continue reading

How Far Should Companies Go to Protect Personal Data?

Posted by: Chase Millea

April 20, 2015

youtube-logo-300x204 internet-computer-securityAs nearly every analog form of communication transfers to a digital format, we input our personal data (e.g. credit card numbers, contact information) on a host of devices in an even greater number of settings. Do employers, retailers, and other users of the Internet have duties to protect personal information? In light of recent data breaches (including Target and Sony), many consumers are rightfully concerned that existing protections are insufficient.

Many states and the federal government are actively trying to combat breaches of personal privacy. For example, a U.S. House of Representatives bill seeks to improve responses to a data breach, including enhancing notice requirements for those whose data was compromised.

Interestingly, the bill also seeks to preempt state laws on the topic. If the proposed legislation becomes law, states would be prohibited form enacting supplemental legislation, which some argue would place consumers at similar or greater risk. In any event, companies have a strong incentive to ensure adequate privacy protections for employees and customers alike. Continue reading