Copyright infringement, invasion of privacy and potentially defamation claims could exist when your photo, naked, pornographic or otherwise, is posted on a website without your permission. CNN Reports on one lawsuit which is being brought against a revenge porn website where ex-boyfriends can post naked or pornographic pictures of girlfriends who have broken up with them. The website allegedly will take the picture down if you pay them money. For many web visitors, this smacks of extortion.
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As reported in the ABA Journal, Tennessee law makers have passed a bill making it illegal to share a friend’s login to listen to music or download and watch movies from services such as Netflix and Rhapsody. The bill, which takes effect on July 1, was pushed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in light of the billions of dollars it loses as a result of illegal music sharing. The bill was proposed to battle hackers who sell passwords in bulk. However, it may be employed against people who share their subscriptions with family members and friends.
Under the bill, violators caught stealing $500 or less will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500. Theft over $500 would be a felony with more serious penalties. The RIAA hopes the bill will spread throughout the states but specifically targeted Tennessee because of its close ties with Nashville.
Breach of Privacy Across Social Media Sites Addressed by Two Court Rulings in New York and California
Anita Ramasastry’s article posted Wednesday on Facebook and MySpace Postings pointed out two cases that highlight a schism in the U.S. court system over the handling of the admissibility of comments, pictures and other information hosted on social-networking sites.
The first is a New York court decision wherein the court reached the determination that comments and posts across social networking Websites are not protected under the SCA because such social networking communications are not ‘private communications.’
The federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) acts as congressionally created bar to limit the U.S. government’s ability to compel Internet Service Providers (ISP) to “disclose information in their possession about their customers and subscribers.”
New York Court Finds No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in "Private" Facebook and MySpace Postings;
In the New York lawsuit between plaintiff Kathleen Romano and defendant Steelcase, Inc. (the manufacturer of office chairs, founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1912 and assumed its current name in 1954), over injuries and loss of enjoyment of life suffered by Romano as a result of her Steelcase chair collapsing during the normal course of carrying out her clerical duties.
Stored Communications Act Prohibits Service Providers from Divulging Electronically Stored Information to Third-Parties
In Crispin v. Audigier Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52832 (C.D. Cal. May 26, 2010) the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that third-party civil discovery subpoenas issued to Web mail service providers and providers of social networking services is unenforceable under the Stored Communications Act.
The Crispin decision is worth looking at because the court promulgated an extensive analysis of the applicability of the Stored Communications Act (SCA) to recent technologies including web mail and social networking sites (ex: Facebook). It is important to note that the SCA was drafted before these technologies were in mainstream use and as such this court’s handling of the SCA can be likened to the historical handling by the U.S. legislature and the U.S. judicial system of the interaction between other developing technologies and aging rules and regulations.
District Court Ruling Reinforces Recent Trend in Caselaw Suggesting Internet Users Have No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Concerning Their ISP
Another district court has delivered a ruling that follows a pattern of similar rulings holding that an internet user does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning subscriber information conveyed to a third party (the Internet Service Provider (ISP)).
This most recent case is Worldwide Film Entertainment, LLC v. Does 1-749, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47238 (D.D.C., May 13, 2010). A PDF of the full ruling is can be found here courtesy of Docs.Justia.com.
In this case Plaintiff Worldwide Film Entertainment, LLC., served a subpoena upon an internet user’s ISP in another multi-defendant copyright infringement allegation alleging the internet user is liable for copyright infringement. Allegedly, the user (and the other Defendants in the suit) downloaded Plaintiff’s copyrighted movies without authorization.
US Supreme Court Attempts to Tackle Employees Right to Privacy in Electronic Communications via Company-Issued Devices, Gets its Feet Wet
United States Supreme Court (USSC) recently decided a case involving a government employee’s right to privacy of electronic communications made over a company-issued device. The Court delivered a narrowly tailored decision and held that a police department’s review of an employee’s text messages did not violate the employee’s Fourth Amendment rights.
The USSC rendered its verdict on June 17, 2010 for the case of City of Ontario, California v. Quon, No. 08- 1332, (it is important to keep in mind the plaintiff in this suit is the California located City of Ontario, not to be confused with the Canadian Province).
Defendant in this suit is Jeff Quon who was a police officer and member of the SWAT team for and employed by the City of Ontario. The cause of action accrued after the City issued pagers to its SWAT team in 2001 so the team could more quickly respond in cases of emergency. Apparently the City paid for a limited number of characters to be electronically transmitted monthly for each pager it handed out. Quon quickly exceeded this limited number (from the first month on) and was given an option by his supervisor either to pay the overage costs or have the City to conduct an audit of his texts to determine whether the overages were work-related or personal. Quon chose and continued to pay the overage fees.
The common-law right of privacy is said to protect against four types of invasion of privacy:
(1) intrusion upon the plaintiff's seclusion or solitude, or into his private affairs;
(2) public disclosure of embarrassing private facts about the plaintiff;
(3) publicity that places the plaintiff in a false light in the public eye; and
(4) appropriation, for the defendant's advantage, of the plaintiff's name or likeness. [Ruffin-Steinback v. dePasse, 82 F.Supp.2d 723, 728 (E.D.Mich.2000), aff'd 267 F.3d 457 (6th Cir. 2001)]