“Woman in Gold”: Hollywood Explores the Restitution of Nazi-Stolen Art

The Nazi art confiscations and forced sales that occurred during World War II have been described as “the greatest displacement of artwork in human history.”[1] It has been estimated that between the years of 1933-1945, German forces, along with other Nazi agents, seized or forced the sale of approximately one-fifth of all Western art that was in existence at the time, a total of nearly 650,000 works then worth approximately $2.5 billion. Today, the looted art is valued at approximately $20.5 billion, with more than 100,000 works of art still unaccounted for.[2]

After World War II, the Allied Forces, along with several other governments of the United Nations and the French National Committee, entered into various voluntary post-war agreements and committed to the fair and just restitution of Nazi-looted art. One such post-war agreement was enacted in December 1998, when the United States State Department sponsored The Washington Conference on Holocaust Era Assets. The purpose of the conference was to develop a consensus to assist in the resolution of complex issues regarding the repatriation of Nazi-stolen art.[3] There, the United States and 43 other countries adopted the eleven protocols introduced at the Conference, known as the “Washington Principles,” and committed to searching for Nazi-stolen art in their public art collections and to resolve Holocaust restitution claims justly and fairly.[4] The Washington Principles are based on two fundamental propositions: “[a]rt museums and their collections should not be built with stolen property [and] that passion for art should not displace respect for justice.”[5] Continue reading “Woman in Gold”: Hollywood Explores the Restitution of Nazi-Stolen Art

The U.S. is Net-Neutral. The Rest of the world? Maybe Not So Much.

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted to regulate Internet service as a public utility. This move helps ensure that Internet service providers do not block content or divide the web into fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else.

This is the second time the FCC has tried to implement net-neutrality. In December of 2010, the FCC instituted regulations for Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) like Verizon and Comcast while still categorizing the Internet service industry as information services. In January 2014, a court ruled that while the FCC had the general authority to regulate Internet traffic, it could not impose net-neutrality on ISPs if they were being classified as information services. Instead, to impose tougher common-carrier regulations outlined in Title II of the 1934 Communication Act, the FCC must classify the ISPs as common carriers. This shift to common carrier status is the change the FCC made last month. Continue reading The U.S. is Net-Neutral. The Rest of the world? Maybe Not So Much.

Use of Copyright Law to “Take Down” Revenge Porn

The past year has shown that for many female celebrities, privacy in their personal photos and videos might be one of the few luxuries that they cannot afford. In late August of last year, hundreds of nude images of alleged household names, such as Jennifer Lawrence, were released on the Internet without the women’s permission. But celebrities are not the only targets of this severe invasion of privacy. Every year, tens of thousands of non-celebrities around the world have had their private photos posted on the Internet without their permission. Though undeniably a terrifying and absolutely devastating experience for most people facing such a situation, both celebrities and ordinary women have very limited legal recourse against the individuals that posted the photos, and even less still against the websites that host the images. This is because no single law, state or federal, criminal or civil, is currently capable of granting a victim the remedy they most likely desire: to have the unauthorized images completely removed from the Internet. Continue reading Use of Copyright Law to “Take Down” Revenge Porn

Patent Troll Loses Twice in Court; Meanwhile, a Patent Reform Bill Is Reintroduced

The phrase “patent troll” has been an Internet buzzword for almost a decade but the search for and implementation of effective tools to curb patent trolling is undoubtedly an ongoing endeavor. This blog post surveys current efforts to restrain patent trolling by the courts, lawmakers, and regulators.

First, some background: patent trolls—or the more polite “patent assertion entities” (PAEs)—use patents as legal weapons for economic extortion. A patent troll’s business model includes acquiring patents, often from bankrupt firms, that are overly broad or vague so that they can be interpreted to cover commonly used technologies. Instead of creating economic value by manufacturing products or providing services, PAEs exist only to enforce patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees. What ultimately enables this business model is the fact that patent litigation is extremely costly. Plaintiffs can rack up millions of dollars in discovery costs alone even if their claims later turn out to be frivolous. This incentivizes the alleged infringers to pay patent trolls for a license or settle before litigation gets too costly. Continue reading Patent Troll Loses Twice in Court; Meanwhile, a Patent Reform Bill Is Reintroduced

The API Copyright Saga Seems Likely to Continue

Two massive giants in tech, Google, Inc. (“Google”) and Oracle America, Inc. (“Oracle”), have been duking it out on different judicial stages. The fight is over Google’s use of Java API packages in the creation of the Android operating system. The Java API packages, first developed by Sun Microsystems, Inc. (“Sun”) in the mid-nineties, were owned by Oracle pursuant to their acquisition of Sun in 2010. It is important to note that the Java programming language is not at issue in this dispute.

For those who are not familiar with APIs, API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the developer space. While there are many reasons for using APIs, developers often include APIs in their code to leverage the pre-written code that they offer instead of re-inventing the proverbial wheel. Also, essentially all cloud technology providers, like Salesforce.com  for instance, expose APIs to developers who want to integrate other technologies with their platform.

After the acquisition of Sun in 2010, Oracle sued Google in the Northern District of California alleging copyright infringement (along with some patents claims) in various aspects of the Java API Packages, including the classes and methods as well as the structure, sequence, and organization (“SSO”) of the API packages. Judge Alsup, writing the 2012 opinion for the court, found that the APIs could not be copyrighted. With respect to the classes and methods, the court found that the idea merged with the expression (in copyright, this is known as the merger doctrine) and was therefore not protectable. As for the SSO of the API packages, the court found that it resembled a taxonomy, making it per se uncopyrightable pursuant to Section 102(b) of the 1976 Copyright Act. After round one, it appeared that Google was by and large, the winner. But the story doesn’t end there. Continue reading The API Copyright Saga Seems Likely to Continue

Criminal Athletes: The Expanding Necessity To Create Uniform Punishments In Professional Sports

On February 19, 2014, Ray Rice, star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, assaulted his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in a hotel elevator in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This incident brought an increased level of scrutiny towards professional athletes and their organizations by shining a spotlight on egregious personal indiscretions that had previously been overlooked. The four major North American professional sport organizations (Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and the National Hockey League) have all have dealt with incidents of violence and criminal activity on and off the field, yet there have not been any substantial changes to the policies within the leagues’ respective Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBAs”). It is undeniable that over the past several decades professional sports has been plagued with high profile athletes committing or allegedly committing violent, and occasionally severe crimes—a severe example would be former New England Patriot tight end, Aaron Hernandez, who is awaiting trial in Massachusetts on three separate charges of first-degree murder. While violence off the field has remained consistent, these organizations have not taken any initiatives to find a solution to this endemic problem.

A comparison of 2014 statistics, complied by Arrest Nation, to those of 2011 demonstrates that the problem of violence within professional sports has increased in most cases. In 2014, there were 58 arrests/citations/charges in professional football, 17 in professional basketball, and 4 in professional baseball and 5 in professional hockey. In 2011, there were 49 arrests/citations/charges in professional football, 14 in professional basketball, 14 in professional baseball, and 3 in professional hockey. These statistics reflect athletes who are arrested for both violent and criminal conduct; these arrests range from trespass to driving under the influence to manslaughter and murder. These statistics only reflect active professional athletes; when retired and former professional athletes are included in the sample the statistics increase.

Despite the statistics the four professional leagues fail to address the flaws existing within their respective CBAs regarding players who commit violent actions or criminal activities off the field. These problems stem from the ambiguous provisions that exist in the CBA regarding violence and crimes that lead to the lack of uniform punishments that are handed down to these athletes. This ambiguity leaves room for the players’ actions to exist in a gray area and avoid severe punishment for violence and crimes. These types of solutions are inadequate and do not significantly deter athletes from participating in violent and criminal activities. Even though professional athletes often receive some type of civil and/or criminal punishments, the sports leagues can provide an additional layer of deterrence and punishment for athletes. Frequently, after committing a criminal action, professional athletes return to their teams and continue to benefit from their lucrative salaries and endorsements for the remainder of their contracts. Continue reading Criminal Athletes: The Expanding Necessity To Create Uniform Punishments In Professional Sports

Your Samsung Smart TV May Not be Spying On You, But Here’s Why You Should Still Be Careful

Samsung has come under fire more than once in recent weeks. In one incident, owners of its Smart TVs have been complaining that Samsung is inserting Pepsi ads during the playback of their own locally stored movies. Samsung initially tried to sell ads on its Smart TVs, but quietly stopped the distribution of paid apps for its Smart TVs and connected Blu-ray players about a year ago because it realized that most people simply didn’t want to pay for TV apps. This isn’t a huge surprise, considering that publishers generally prefer subscription models such as Netflix that allow them to monetize their content across different platforms. (With Netflix, consumers pay Netflix directly, which allows the company to make its service available on mobile as well as connected devices without having to share its revenue with any platform operator.)[1]

In a second and more concerning incident, the company fell under criticism when an owner of a Samsung Smart TV discovered that the company’s privacy policy included warnings not to disclose private information while in front of the TV, with the implication that the device might be listening in on our all your conversations. The privacy policy cautions its customers with the following warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”[2] Samsung hands over the data to third parties in order to convert speech commands into text as well as to help the company improve its services. It isn’t clear from the privacy policy who the third party is, nor is it clear whether the transmissions are encrypted. Thus, although Samsung says it doesn’t retain the voice data or sell it to others for profit, the possibility remains that the recorded data could be extracted before transmission to the third party. In other words, if the data isn’t encrypted, it’s possible that the televisions could be hacked and used to eavesdrop on customers. Continue reading Your Samsung Smart TV May Not be Spying On You, But Here’s Why You Should Still Be Careful