Because celebrities closely guard their names and likenesses, lawsuits claiming high-dollar amounts for violations of those rights are not unusual. But a lawsuit for $2.2 billion dollars for a non-celebrity claiming a restaurant improperly co-opted her photograph for an ad campaign? That’s rare. At year’s end, just before the expiration of the statute of limitations, a Sacramento woman named Leah Caldwell sued Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill, the company’s photographer, and Chipotle’s chief executive officer in just such a suit. In doing so, Caldwell showed that you don’t have to be famous to think your face is worth a billion dollars. But is it?
As more and more content that has traditionally only been offered over-the-air, through cable, or on satellite becomes increasingly available via the internet, television content providers must take care in scrutinizing their existing broadcasting agreements to avoid potential conflicts with their current distribution affiliates. Although the internet offers content creators the ability to distribute media directly to their audiences, television networks will face a host of issues if they are not careful in structuring their approach to this new media paradigm.
Much has been written about how the Trump family uses their name to market their own businesses, but the Trumps are equally gifted at trading on others’ notoriety to promote themselves and their businesses. Consider the tweets or public disclosures that follow after the President-elect appears with or receives correspondence from celebrities (à la Floyd Mayweather, Kanye West, Bill Belichick, etc.). But what happens when a celebrity or, as the case may be, an artist, has not consented to be a part of a social media post promoting a Trump brand? As Ivanka Trump is learning (again), use of an artist’s work without their permission can ignite social media firestorms and raise intellectual property issues.
On December 14, 2016, operators of online extramarital dating and social networking website AshleyMadison.com came to an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, and several States, to settle FTC and related state charges that the website deceived consumers and failed to protect 36 million users’ account and profile information. As we discussed immediately following the July 2015 breach (and in several later posts) the data of some 36 million AshleyMadison.com accounts was posted online. It was reported by KrebsOnSecurity that the breach included the theft of user databases, financial records (including salary information), and other records from AshleyMadison, Cougar Life, and Established Men, three social networking web sites operated by the Toronto, Canada-based firm Avid Life Media, now known as Ruby Corp.
Worried about a company retaliating against you when you post a negative review on Yelp or TripAdvisor? Worry no longer because Congress has your back. Last week, Congress passed a law that will make it illegal for companies to retaliate against U.S. consumers who post negative reviews online.
The U.S. Copyright Office issued a final rule effective December 1, 2016, addressing one of the requirements for social media operators and other companies that allow users to post content online to qualify for the DMCA safe harbor. In “DMCA Safe Harbor: Registration Time,” colleagues Michael Heuga and Cydney Tune discuss what companies with a DMCA designated agent need to do to satisfy the new registration requirement under the updated rule.
FriendFinder Networks is a company in the adult entertainment, social networking, and online dating space. Several databases from FriendFinder Networks web sites with more than 412 million accounts, including usernames, e-mails, and passwords, have been breached and leaked.
November reports of this data breach on The Verge, LeakedSource and TechCrunch, to name a few, describe it as of one of the largest security breaches of 2016, and possibly the largest breach to date, surpassing the breach of approximately 360 million Myspace usernames, passwords and e-mail addresses reported earlier this year.
Following up on our earlier post regarding the Era of Hashtag Surveillance, the FBI has published documents indicating that it intends to enter into a deal with a Twitter data miner, appropriately named Dataminr (and partially owned by Twitter), for access to its monitoring technology. Techcrunch reports that the FBI disclosed its intent to enter into a licensing agreement with Dataminr for access to Twitter’s “firehose” data stream. As opposed to the normal data streams that Twitter makes available to the public which only provide access to a fraction of the posts made to the site, the “firehose” stream contains all public posts made on Twitter and would essentially allow a user to search, in almost real-time, every post made to the service.
It is unlikely that when Stephanie Lenz posted a home video of her children dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” on YouTube, she could have anticipated that, nearly a decade later, she would be seeking U.S. Supreme Court review in connection with that video. In Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., Ms. Lenz sued Universal Music Corporation for taking her video down from YouTube pursuant to a takedown notice sent to YouTube. That was in 2007. Universal claimed that the video violated their copyright in the “Let’s Go Crazy” song. As we previously discussed, the takedown notice is a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allows copyright holders to require a service provider, like YouTube, to “expeditiously” remove copyright-infringing content in order to avoid any liability for the infringement. Critics of this provision complain that it is often abused by corporate copyright holders to unjustifiably take down content that might otherwise constitute fair use. Ms. Lenz sent a counter notification to YouTube claiming fair use, and the video was subsequently reposted weeks later. Nonetheless, Ms. Lenz sued Universal for misrepresentation based on a little used provision of the DMCA and sought a declaration that her use was non-infringing. That provision, or Section 512(c)(3)(A)(v), requires that for the takedown notice to be effective, the copyright holder must have a “good faith” belief that use of the content is not authorized by the copyright holder, its agent or the law.