When the President of the United States, every governor, every member of Congress, and—as Justice Kagan remarked—virtually every under-30 and 35 year-old in the country has a Twitter account, it’s time for social media to be recognized as a pervasive and protectable form of speech. On Monday, during oral arguments in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to emphatically agree. The case concerns a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from “accessing” any “commercial social networking websites” whose membership also includes minors. In particular, SCOTUS made several statements on the nature of social media:
Last month, a New York trial court dismissed a complaint against Donald J. Trump and others brought by political consultant and commentator Cheryl Jacobus that alleged, in part, a defamation claim (libel) based on tweets by Trump. While the case is notable because it involves Trump and his penchant for tweeting personal attacks, it is also notable because it provides additional guidance on how the courts are handling defamation claims based on statements made via Twitter (and other social media networks).
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.
Earlier this month, the ACLU published a report alleging that it had obtained public records showing that social media user data such as location tracking, photos and hashtag usage may have been used by law enforcement to monitor activists and protests. ACLU claims that records show that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram provided user data access to Geofeedia, a developer of a social media monitoring program that is marketed to law enforcement agencies as a tool for such tracking. According to the report, law enforcement used the monitoring program to track protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
Tweet nicely to the Twitter bot, “LnH: The Band”—a newcomer in artificial intelligence music generation—and the bot will automatically compose melodies for you. The AI-based band is “currently working on their first album,” according to LnH Music, but who will own the rights and royalties to the album? Or what about Mubert, which is touted by its creators as the world’s first online music composer, and which “continuously produces music in real-time … based on the laws of musical theory, mathematics and creative experience?” In other words, if a computer program generates a creative work—be it a song, book or other creation—is there a copyright to be owned? If so, who owns and gets to collect on the copyright?
A recently published patent application filed by Twitter provides a possible glimpse into the future of social media and selfies—and it’s a future arriving on the wings of that poster child of modern technology, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone. The patent indicates that Twitter may be experimenting with a system in which its users can use messages such as tweets to control drones, including taking photos and videos that may be streamed and shared with others in real-time through their user accounts. When asked by CNBC about this system, Twitter offered only a two-word explanation: “Drone selfies.” While Twitter’s plans for this technology as yet remain unclear, any company considering a system to enable capture and sharing of drone selfies or other drone-captured content (e.g., event livestreams) should consider the potential legal implications, some of which include Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines and regulations, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and privacy and other tort-related laws.
Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. When it comes to acting on copyright infringement takedown notices, just how fast is fast enough for social media platforms? Some recent (and not-so-recent) cases reveal how difficult the question has proven for the courts.
We often espouse the value of comprehensive, up-to-date terms of service (TOS) that consistently reflect your current business. And for good reason! Plaintiffs’ attorneys will scrutinize your TOS before helping your users sue your business for “taking advantage” of them without their consent and knowledge. Wilford Raney’s attorneys did the same for Twitter’s TOS before bringing their class action lawsuit against the social media giant for allegedly invading Raney’s privacy (and the privacy of similarly situated individuals) by replacing user-provided hyperlinks with its own “t.co” short link in “private” direct messages.