“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” Edgar Alan Poe wrote those words over a century ago, yet if he were alive today he may opt for the darker: “Believe nothing you hear and nothing you see.” Over the past decade, advances in graphics technology have provided visual effects artists the ability to create fantastical new worlds on film and to populate those worlds with people, all with an astounding amount of realism. Of particular interest in this post is the ability of this technology to create realistic digital replicas of actors that can be manipulated like puppets to deliver new cinematic performances without the need for any further input from the actor—such as when the late Peter Cushing was digitally recreated in order to reprise the character of Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
After counter-protests ended in tragedy, a small group of social media users took to Twitter to expose the identities of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallying in Charlottesville, Va. Since last Sunday, the @YesYoureRacist account has been calling on Twitter users to identify participants in the rally. Twitter users identified several white supremacists, including Cole White. Users revealed White’s name and place of residence and his employer reportedly fired him from his job at a restaurant in Berkeley, Calif. Several other employers fired employees identified online as attending the rally. In the wake of what will likely be just the latest incident where such behavior will be exhibited and subsequently called out on social media, it’s a good time to look at doxing and the legal environment in which it exists.
Freelance writers are as integral to online content generation as migrant workers are to the harvesting of seasonal crops (and in many cases, about as poorly protected). And since content generation is always in season—and given that so many online platforms either use freelancers to generate content or rely in some manner on said content—employers would do well to take note when a large metropolitan area that serves as home for countless freelancers enacts new protections for the group as a whole. New York City did just that with the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which colleagues Rebecca Carr Rizzo, Kenneth W. Taber and Andrew J. Lauria discussed at length in a May client alert. Now that the law has gone into effect, final rules have been announced which further define what a hiring party can and cannot do in regard to the language of contracts that freelancers are asked to sign. In New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act Also Isn’t Waivable, our colleagues explore the law’s final form. While it’s likely New York-area employers are familiar with the law, anyone who hires freelancers based in NYC should take note.
In today’s political climate, the phrase “fake news” gets bandied about quite a bit. In addition to its more traditional meaning—news that is false, purposefully misrepresented or outright propaganda—fake news is also sometimes used to characterize any news published that the target or subject of disagrees with or dislikes. As the recent election cycle demonstrated, the proliferation of fake news has become an issue with which candidates and businesses alike must contend. But while the extent to which targeted misinformation can swing an election or otherwise affect a political environment is open to debate, for businesses, an ounce of fake can yield pounds of reputational and financial damage. The advent of social media has both catalyzed and weaponized the danger posed by all forms of fake news, and like so many technology-powered issues, the law lags behind in enacting new protections for businesses and individuals alike. Fortunately, some old causes of action may offer remedies for injuries inflicted by fake news stories.
As we previously discussed in our post “The ‘Commander-in-Tweet’ and the First Amendment,” the POTUS was criticized by the Knight First Amendment Institute for blocking certain Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account. According to the Knight First Amendment Institute, President Trump’s Twitter account functions like a town hall meeting where the public can voice their views about government actions and attendees cannot be excluded based on their views under the First Amendment. Therefore, according to the Knight Institute, President Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking users based on the content of their tweets. Subsequently, on July 11, 2017, the Knight First Amendment filed suit against President Trump and his communications team on this basis.
“Pleeeease?!” Buying a quick gift or giving in to your child’s pleas for a new toy is quickly becoming a more serious decision. In the age where toys can happily entertain kids by talking to them, the few precious moments those toys buy parents may not be without risk. It’s possible for anyone within an internet-connected toy’s Bluetooth range to connect to the toy and receive their audio recordings, while being up to 100 feet away. For example, in December 2015, VTech allegedly exposed the personal information of 6.4 million children, which included their names, genders and birthdays. Stealing a child’s personal information is, at the very least, concerning. However internet-connected toys come with an additional danger—localized hacking. Just look at Cayla, an internet-connected fashion doll manufactured and sold by Genesis Toys. My Friend Cayla answers fact-based questions, plays games, reads stories, and even solves math problems. Genesis uses third-party voice-recognition software by U.S.- based company, and the doll requires an iOS/Android application to use the software. The doll’s mobile application researches and supplies Cayla with factual answers to questions, but it also prompts children to set their physical location, parents’ names and school name.
“Baby it’s okay, you can Google my name.” This line from T-Pain’s hit, “Bottlez,” became a focus in a recent Ninth Circuit trademark case on my favorite intellectual property issue: genericide. Among other evidence, the court considered if T-Pain’s use of “Google” showed that the Google trademark had become genericide’s latest victim. Genericide occurs when the public appropriates a trademark and begins using it generically for a type of goods or services, as opposed to a source of goods or services.
Can you violate the First Amendment by blocking people from your Twitter account? According to the Knight First Amendment Institute, it’s possible if that account is @realDonaldTrump.
As we have mentioned before, Donald Trump’s Twitter habit has been a large part of his public persona in recent years. Unsurprisingly, his Twitter usage has continued to play a role in his presidency, at times even shaping the news cycle. In fact, the President’s tweets have garnered the attention of everyone from the writers at SNL to world leaders. The tweets even received a satirical “popup” library to commemorate Trump’s 140-character musings.
President Donald Trump loves to tweet. Although he has been a prolific tweeter since his days as a reality TV star, during his presidential campaign and subsequent time in office, President Trump has taken the “Art of the Tweet” to new heights. The media, in return, has done its part in slicing, dicing, mincing, chopping, deconstructing, and otherwise analyzing President Trump’s Twitter use six ways to Sunday. (Covfefe, anyone?)
Recently, though, it’s not just the content of President Trump’s tweets that has garnered attention. It’s also his audience.
Whether or not your friends and family get a kick out of your misery at work, that online post of yours might tick off your employer. But what rights do employers have to restrain their employees from complaining about them online? Can employers punish employees for posting their grievances online? How do courts differentiate between “protected” and “tantrum” posts? What is the Government’s view on employees’ social media postings? In 2011, Pier Sixty LLC fired Hernan Perez for labeling his supervisor a “nasty M.F.” and using similarly profane language against his supervisor’s family in a Facebook post that ended with a plea to “Vote YES for the UNION.” In a 2016 decision, the Second Circuit enforced the National Labor Research Board’s (NLRB) decision and found that the employee was protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because the post was in relation to a union-related activity.