Virtual Deputies

The article below discusses how local citizens or virtual deputies use social media to assist the police in capturing the bad guys. The key point here is that the virtual deputies do the initial sleuthing but leave the actual apprehension up to law enforcement. Granted, sometimes virtual deputies get it wrong but it looks like they made the right call here. Ubiñas: Twitter Justice League to the rescue

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Only ‘Scraping’ the Surface: The Copyright Hole in the FTC’s Google Settlement

Michael A. Carrier

Abstract (to read the entire article go here): 

Each generation, a new-economy case tests the ability of antitrust law to respond to an innovative technology. Most recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spent 19 months investigating Google. The FTC decided not to challenge the conduct at the heart of its scrutiny, relating to the company’s search algorithm. It nonetheless required that Google not misappropriate, or “scrape,” material from rivals’ websites.

Upon first glance, it may sound ominous to scrape rivals’ content. But this conduct cannot be considered apart from the context of U.S. copyright law. In failing to consider (1) whether the scraped reviews (for services like restaurants) were copyrighted, (2) whether sites such as Yelp owned any such copyrights, and (3) whether a fair use defense could be invoked, the FTC waded into the complex intersection of antitrust and intellectual property (IP) without the copyright section of the “instruction manual.” And while allowed use under the IP laws does not automatically prevent antitrust scrutiny, at a minimum it needs to be carefully considered in determining whether the conduct violates antitrust law.

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Police Say Use 911 Not Facebook to Report a Crime

In Kettering, Ohio city officials have had to inform residents that they should report all emergencies to 911 as opposed to posting the information on the Facebook page of the local police department.  This is because unlike 911 the police do not monitor their Facebook page 24-hours a day. Maybe it would be a good idea to incorporate the department’s Facebook page into the 911 emergency response system.


Dayton Daily News: Report Crimes to 911, Not the City’s Facebook Page

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NY Judge Allows Service via Facebook: Noel B. v. Anna Maria A., F-00787-13/14B

A NY Family Judge has allowed a plaintiff, who was seeking to modify his child support order, to serve the defendant (the mother of his child) via Facebook. According to the judge in case,

…the Petitioner is to send a digital copy of the summons and petition to the Respondent via the Facebook account, and follow up with a mailing of those same documents to the previously used last known address. The Respondent can receive communications via social media, whereas her actual physical whereabouts are uncertain. The method detailed here by the court provides the best chance of the Respondent getting actual notice of these proceedings.

The case is Noel B. v. Anna Maria A., F-00787-13/14B. 

New York Law Journal: Facebook Service Allowed in Support Change Action

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Twitter Must Turn Over User’s Information: Lemon Juice v. Twitter Inc., 502898/14


Last month, a New York court (Lemon Juice v. Twitter) ordered Twitter to disclose the basic subscriber information for the following Twitter handle:


This civil case was brought by a man who goes by the name Lemon Juice. He wanted to know the identity of the person who used that Twitter handle in order to sue him or her for infliction of emotion distress. Apparently, the owner of that handle tweeted a picture of a 12-year old rape victim who was testifying in court. This was in direct violation of the judge’s order not to photograph the girl. Initially, everyone, to include the police, thought that Lemon Juice sent the tweet. Lemon Juice was even arrested and detained. The police eventually determined that Lemon Juice did not send the tweet so the charges against him were dropped.

However, Lemon Juice has now brought this civil action and requested that the court order Twitter to reveal the subscriber information for LemonJuice@moseh718.  In siding with Lemon Juice, the court determined that

“…the behavior of the creator of the subject Twitter account was so extreme and outrageous that it went beyond all possible bounds of decency…In naming the account ‘LemonJuice@moseh718,’ the creator gave the public the false impression that Lemon Juice was the owner and operator of the account. The creator then obtained a digital image of the infant victim while she was testifying against her rapist in direct violation of a court order.

As you might expect, there is a big back story to this case.  To read more about that story go here.

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Police and Twitter

The article below discusses the various ways law enforcement agencies around the world employ social media, especially Twitter to interact with the community and apprehend suspects.  Like with posting mug shots on Facebook discussed yesterday, the use of Twitter by law enforcement raises some privacy concerns.

Deseret News:  Police in Spain arm themselves with social media to fight crime

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John Shaming and Social Media

The article below talks about how some California police departments are using social media to shame individuals arrested for prostitution. According to the article, officers in the Richmond police department have started to take pictures of individuals arrested for solicitation and placing them on Facebook. This is not the first time that police have used shaming techniques to deter individuals from soliciting prostitutes. However, unlike previous efforts, the use of social media has a much more lasting impact, which is troubling in light of the fact that these individuals have not been convicted just accused of a crime.

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘John-shaming’ a potent tactic for Bay Area police

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The Next Great Youtube: Improving Content ID to Foster Creativity, Cooperation, and Fair Compensation: New Law Review Article

Ben Boroughf


Abstract (to read the entire article go here)

YouTube prides itself on its automatic copyright detection and filtering program known as Content ID because it goes beyond YouTube’s legal responsibilities under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and because it allows copyright holders to control and profit from their content. However, Content ID is not the technological paragon YouTube and some scholars see it as. By relying on a system that automatically matches, blocks, and monetizes videos that allegedly contain any amount of infringing content, both YouTube and copyright holders have promoted a system that opposes the Copyright Act and YouTube’s goals of promoting creativity and protecting fair use. Without earlier human review and involvement, this costly Content ID system is susceptible to false positives and accidental matches, harming the public’s access to new forms of creativity. Without limiting monetization to the proportion of matched content in a video, Content ID also encourages copyright holders to take advantage of the hard work and creativity of YouTubers by stripping away all of their monetary incentives. This article demonstrates why these problems exist and it sets forth a proposal that seeks to slightly modify Content ID to better align it with the Copyright Act and YouTube’s own goals, while encouraging communication, cooperation, creativity, and fair compensation between copyright holders and YouTubers.



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Facebook ‘Like’ Deemed Concerted Activity

In January 2011, employees of the Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille were having a discussion on Facebook about the tax withholding from their respective paychecks. In discussing this matter one employee, Jillian Sanzone, used profanity to voice her displeasure with how the taxes were withheld. Another employee, Vincent Spinella, made no comments on Facebook but did ‘Like’ the comments of Sanzone. These two employees were eventually terminated for violating the Internet/Blogging policy of the sports bar.  The fired employees subsequently brought action against the sports bar alleging unfair labor practices under the National Labor Relations Act.

The case was heard by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which decided in favor of Sanzone and Spinella.  The employer appealed but the initial decision was upheld.  It remains to be seen if the employers will now take this case to federal court.

According to the NLRB, the actions of Sanzone and Spinella were protected concerted activity. Furthermore, the NLRB did not find the Facebook discussion to be disloyal, defamatory or confrontational. The NLRB also deemed the Internet/Blogging policy of the sports bar to be unlawful because it was too imprecise and restrictive.

To read the NLRB opinion go here.

To read a more in-depth discussion of the opinion go here.

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Blogger to Remain Anonymous: In re John Doe A/K/A “Trooper”

In a 5-4 decision (In re John Doe A/K/A “Trooper”) the Texas Supreme Court determined that an Ohio company (Reynolds and Reynolds) could not use the Texas courts to discover the identity of a blogger who was highly critical of the company’s CEO.  The decision overruled an earlier Harris County district judge who ordered Google, which hosted the now defunct blog, to disclose the blogger’s identity. 

The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion, which did not address the 1st Amendment defense raised by the blogger, was decided on jurisdictional grounds.  The majority opinion found that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that the anonymous blogger had ties to Texas.  The blogger had previously submitted a sworn affidavit stating that he did not live in Texas.  According to the majority opinion, 

We recognize that this burden may be heavier in a case like this, in which the potential defendant’s identity is unknown and may even be impossible to ascertain. But even so, (Texas) does not guarantee access to information for every petitioner who claims to need it.  

In contrast, the dissent wrote,

With the simple touch of a button, an anonymous speaker can disseminate defamatory statements to millions of readers, ruining reputations and sabotaging careers. To make matters worse…anonymous online statements–and the people who issue them–are impossible to track without the help of the Internet service provider.

I think at some point Congress will take steps to make it easier for individuals to challenge statements made online. 

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