Quick Tip: Don’t Make False DMCA Claims

Automattic Inc. v. Steiner, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182295 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 6, 2014) is the first time a party which received a DMCA takedown notice with material misrepresentations has been awarded money damages.

What is DMCA?

DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, limits the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users but created a mechanism for those whose copyrighted works have been infringed to file a complaint to have the content removed. If they do not take appropriate action they may find themselves liable.   It is easy to file a DMCA claim and every site providing online services must have a DMCA policy to remove content that infringes the copyrights of individuals. Many sites like Facebook, Twitter, & WordPress even have forms that you can fill out to stream line the process and make sure you’re providing the information required under the law.

What happened in the case?

Automattic, the owner of WordPress.com and a major developer of the WordPress software, and blogger Oliver Hotham, Plaintiffs, sued the Defendant, Straight Pride UK, for using the notice-and-takedown provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to stifle criticism. Automattic alleged that the Defendant abused the provision and are seeking damages under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f) for misrepresentation. The Court agreed.

“[T]he Court finds that Defendant knowingly misrepresented that Hotham violated his copyright because Defendant could not have reasonably believed that the Press Release he sent to Hotham was protected under copyright. Moreover, there can be no dispute that Defendant knew, and indeed, specifically intended, that the takedown notice would result in the disabling of Hotham’s article[,]” Magistrate judge Joseph Spero wrote in the opinion.

Although the court awarded damages for the costs of the suit and for “lost work and time” spent responding to a fraudulent takedown notice for copyright infringement. The Northern District denied monetary relief for Plaintiffs’ alleged reputational harm, Hotham’s alleged emotional distress, and Hotham’s alleged chilled speech.

What does that mean?

Do not file DMCA claims lightly and be prepared for a fight. People do not often fight these cases so vigorously but is does happen. Make sure you have a valid claim for copyright infringement. Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, Web sites, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Unauthorized reproductions, derivatives and distribution are illegal unless they fall under the fair use exemption. Have a good understanding of your rights and theirs before filing.

Hotham’s original blog post is now available on several other WordPress-hosted sites, including here and here.  And his account of the tale is here.

Advertisements

Internet Updates March 2015

Three of the most popular social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter and Reddit—have recently amended their terms of use to state that they will remove digital images of nudes that have been posted without the subjects’ permission. “Twitter executives have said the company will lock the accounts of users who post content that violates their user policy,” Mashable reports. These policies are critical weapon in the war against revenge porn because they can be used to remove revenge porn photos before they have been widely disseminated.

The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) recently announced two new mechanisms that will allow consumers to manage ad preferences on their mobile devices. (Loeb & Loeb LLP summarized the new mechanisms in an Alert.) These new consumer opt-out tools, which are intended to complement the existing opt-out mechanisms that are part of the DAA’s self-regulatory program for online targeted advertising, complete the DAA’s self-regulatory program for the mobile environment and set the stage for the enforcement of the program, which is expected to begin this summer.

Twitter revamped its retweet feature on Monday, making it easier for users to plug other people’s tweets and add commentary of their own, according to Mashable.  This latest approach does not require copy-pasting instead you’re prompted to insert a remark before hitting the retweet button.

Twitter’s new harassment-reporting tool is making it easier for users to report threatening tweets to the police. Users who report threatening tweets now have the option of receiving an emailed report, summarizing the tweet, when it was sent and other information that may be relevant to law enforcement. It’s still up to individual users, however, to bring these reports to the attention of police and other officials. It’s not clear what, if any, impact this will have for police investigations. For more information read the rest of Mashable’s article.  This is part of Twitters overall initiative to protect users and address incidents quicker.

Advertising Services Is Not Use In Commerce

Your website for your new service has gone live! You are building momentum for you launch in a few weeks by advertising your services. You know you need to protect your intellectual property so you seek federal registration of your new trademark. Is that new website or other adverting materials sufficient to show “use in commerce” as required to secure a federal registration for use?

Seems like it could, right? Unfortunately, the answer is NO.

In Couture v. Playdom, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that the use of a mark on a website to offer services is not use in commerce sufficient to support an actual-use service mark application. As a result, the Court affirmed the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board’s (“TTAB”) cancellation of the mark.  The PTO granted the petition because, at the time of Playdom’s service mark registration, it had not rendered any services under the mark, but merely advertised those services on a website.

This case is a great example of the unnecessary risk in prematurely applying for an actual use mark, rather than an intent-to-use mark.

To apply for registration under Lanham Act § 1(a), a mark must be “used in commerce,” which requires – as to services – that, as of the filing date, the mark (1) is used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services and (2) the services are rendered in commerce, or the services are rendered in more than one State or in the United States and a foreign country and the person rendering the services is engaged in commerce in connection with the services. 15 U.S.C. § 1127; Aycock Eng’g, Inc. v. Airflite, Inc., 560 F.3d 1350, 1357 (Fed. Cir. 2009).

The Federal Circuit, in this case, explained the fundamental proposition that “[w]ithout question, advertising or publicizing a service that the applicant intends to perform in the future will not support registration;” the advertising must instead “relate to an existing service which has already been offered to the public.” Id. at 1358 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

So what does all of that mean? Advertising for a service you have not yet begun to offer to the public is not enough. To successfully register a service mark, services associated with the mark must have been provided prior to registration. Do not use advertising for a service set to launch in 3 weeks or a month. The mark is not in use in commerce as necessary to secure federal trademark registration. It may not be obvious when filing but if there is ever a challenge you could lose your protections as Couture did.

Any doubt about actual use should lead to the filing of an intent-to-use application; it’s not worth the risk of losing your mark. An intent-to-use application would have given Couture the benefit of the earlier filing date when the mark was actually used in commerce and issued as an actual use mark. See 15 U.S.C. § 1057(c).

Cartier Offers Amazing Opportunity to Women Entrepreneurs!

I had the pleasure of attending Cartier’s Women Entrepreneurs: The Changing Face of Innovation at the French Embassy.  We had the pleasure of hearing past participants speak about their experience in The Cartier Women’s Initiative and their successful businesses. The connections, financing, and networking were invaluable for these budding entrepreneurs and if you have a for-profit business that is 1-3 years old I encourage you to learn more and apply.

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards are an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, the Women’s Forum, McKinsey & Company and INSEAD business school to identify, support and encourage projects by women entrepreneurs.

The mission of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is threefold:
  • To identify and support initial-phase women entrepreneurs through funding
    and coaching
  • To foster the spirit of enterprise by celebrating role models in entrepreneurship
  • To create an international network of women entrepreneurs and encourage
    peer networking

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards aim to encourage the most vulnerable category of entrepreneurs in their most vulnerable phase: women entrepreneurs starting up. Since their inception in 2006, they have accompanied over 140 promising female business-owners and recognized 44 Laureates.

Cartier is currently accepting applications!!!

The annual competition involves two rounds:

Round 1 (in June): The Jury selects 18 Finalists*, the top three projects of each region (Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Asia-Pacific), on the basis of their short business plans. They receive coaching from experienced businesspeople to move to the next round.

Round 2 (in October): The Finalists are invited to France for the final round of competition which includes submitting a detailed business plan and presenting their projects in front of the Jury. They are also invited to the Annual Global Meeting of the Women’s Forum.

Based on the quality of the plan and the persuasiveness of the verbal presentation, one Laureate for each of the six regions is selected and receives a unique and comprehensive support package: US $ 20 000 of funding, one year of coaching, networking opportunities and media exposure.

Click here for information on how to apply: http://www.cartierwomensinitiative.com/how-to-apply

Great Opportunity for Women Entrepreneurs in DC!

fastrac2 fastrac

Dear Entrepreneurs,

DC Women’s Business Center has announced FastTrac New Venture is now open for enrollment!

This 12 week course assists early stage entrepreneurs in successful completion of their business plan. Through weekly classes and 1-on-1 business counseling, entrepreneurs will access the small business resources needed to grow a successful enterprise.

Topics for this course include:

  • Identifying and Meeting Market Needs
  • Setting Financial Goals
  • Reaching the Market
  • Planning for a profitable Business

Courses begin February 17, 2015 and will meet every week through May 19, 2015. All sessions are 2:00pm – 5:00pm unless otherwise noted. This is a competitive application process so they request you submit a thoughtful and complete application.

Click here to submit an application!

Quick Tip: Fast Track Your Community Trade Mark Application

The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), the European Union trade mark office, has announced the introduction of a new accelerated procedure for handling Community Trade Mark (CTM) applications.  ‘Fast Track’ guarantees that the early stages of the Community Trade Mark (CTM)  application process will be dealt with quickly by providing for the expedited examination and publication of applications (in just half the time of regular applications, according to OHIM).

Fast Track is free of charge.  An application will be automatically allocated to the track provided it meets certain conditions listed on OHIM’s website. Fast Track came into operation on November 24, 2014. Overall, it is good news for trade mark applicants who could benefit from obtaining EU-wide trade mark protection more quickly.  Fast Track is, however, unlikely to make a difference in the case of more complex, opposed applications.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 12.25.56 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 12.29.34 PM

What is a Community Trade Mark?

The Community Trade Mark (CTM) system offers trademark owners a unified system of protection throughout the European Union (EU) with the filing of a single application. If successful, this one application results in a CTM registration that is recognized in all countries of the EU. The countries covered by a CTM registration are Austria, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Quick Tip: Consider Foreign Trademark Rights Early

  1. U.S. trademark owners should conduct trademark searches both domestic and international markets that are of potential significance, even if the foreign search is merely a “knock-out” search for identical marks; and
  2. U.S. trademark owners should develop and implement strategies for global trademark protection sooner, rather than later.

International searching and registration are costly and often forgotten when small businesses develop and intellectual property strategy. Being proactive and paying for this search early can prevent the cost to either defend an infringement suit or change branding in an entire geographic region.  With some forethought it is possible to spread the costs of searching and registration over several months or years.  Do not underestimate the growth potential of your brand.

 

Two recent cases illustrate the importance of this kind of forethought:

The Glee Case and the Pintrest Case.

Before You Start Crowdfunding, Know the IP Concerns!

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/crowdfunding-sites/
http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/crowdfunding-sites/

Crowdfunding has become a major financing tool for small businesses from tech start ups to small services companies. This source of funding, made available by The 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startup Act (JOBS Act) which enables small businesses to raise funds from non-accredited investors.  An accredited investor must meet a personal net worth or income test that excludes the majority of the population. There are still rules about how much each person can invest for equity crowdfunding but Title III truly opens up the ability for the average American to invest.

If you are considering a crowdfunding platform for your new venture, or if you are contemplating investing in a crowd-funded project, attention to intellectual property protection is critical.  Often, companies considering crowdfunding are in the early stages of development and owners may not have the appropriate intellectual property (IP) protections in place yet. Here are a few things to consider about each of the major types of intellectual property:

Trademarks:
Securing federal and/or international trademark protection is an important early step to establishing a company and launching a brand.  This, however, can be hard to do or forgotten prior to using the mark in commerce, the standard set by the USPTO. Therefore, posting a project with a proposed trademarkcould serves as an open invitation for trademark infringers in the U.S. and abroad to file for registration first.  The same is true with respect to domain name registrations.  Additionally, without the proper research you could inadvertently launch a brand with a trademark already in use. This is not only bad PR but could open you up to suit before you’ve even begun.Action Items: Do a thorough search on potential marks and make sure it does not conflict with state, federal or international trademarks. Consider filing an Intent to Use trademark application if you are not at the place to file a trademark application based on use. Consult an attorney to make an informed decision based on a thorough search and knowledge of requirements for proving use such that you can file a trademark based on use.

Copyrights:
Although filing is not required to benefit from copyright protection, it is a prerequisite for a U.S. copyright owner who wishes to file suit for infringement in the U.S. If you are going to post copyrighted works in connection with your project disclosure or business plan, and if those works integral to the success of the project or business make sure you protect them. Additionally, make sure if you use the copyrighted work of others in your proposal you have the proper permissions to avoid copyright infringement.

Action Items: Review your copyrighted work and consider filing for copyright registration if any of the work you will loose is integral to the business.  If you plan to use images, music, or other content from third-party sources in your proposal, be sure to obtain appropriate licensing/permission prior to posting such works publicly.

Patents:
Disclosing the details of an invention before filing a patent application may bar patent protection due to required disclosures or missing the first to file window.  Some crowdfunding sites require projects that involve the manufacture and distribution of “gadgets” to “show as much as they can about how they’re going to make their project, including things like a production plan, an estimated schedule, and any details you can provide for backers.”

Action Items: Preserve your rights, patent applications should be filed as early as possible as required by the America Invents Act, under “first to file”. By filing a patent application prior to disclosing a project, the inventor can preserve patent rights and potentially avoid problems with both the statutory bar and potentially conflicting applications.  While U.S. patent law gives the inventor a year after disclosure in which to file, the same is not true in most of the rest of the world where a prefiling disclosure bars patent protection.  Keep this in mind for projects that will rely on foreign marketing and revenue for their success.

General considerations:

  1. Think about your IP on a local and global scale. Develop a state, federal and international IP development plan. As your brand grows, depending on industry and target market you want to make sure your protections are as robust as possible.
  2. Consult an attorney early and often to help you develop your IP strategy and think through the hurdles associated with crowdfunding.
  3. Investigate services like U.K.-based Creative Barcode. that are designed to provide a provide protection for early stage intellectual property. This is NOT an endorsement of these services but this is an option to consider.

Conclusion
Your intellectual property is one of your biggest assets and the last thing you want to do is damage your IP rights while trying to secure funding through crowdfunding. This is just a high level view of the general issues associated with crowdfunding. Depending on the project, the IP issues could be substantially more complex.

Additionally, potential investors should be worried about these intellectual property issues as well. Potential Investors must conduct a due diligence assessment of any venture they seek to invest in as the success or failure of the idea may hinge, at least in part, on the strength and protection of those IP rights.

Millions of Gmail Usernames & Passwords Leaked! How do you protect yourself?

This morning Freedom Hacker reported that 5 million gmail usernames and passwords had been dumped on reddit’s netsec section linking to the another website hosting the leaked gmail accounts. They caution against checking if your password is secure because it appears scams are already appearing or Reddit users are getting ready for the scams to come.
According to one security firm the data is old and likely sourced from multiple data breaches. “The security of our users is of paramount importance to us,” a Google representative said Wednesday via email. “We have no evidence that our systems have been compromised, but whenever we become aware that an account has been compromised, we take steps to help our users secure their accounts.”

It is highly recommended you change your email password regardless and turn on a form of two-factor authentication to heighten security and prevent any possible future attacks.

Here are some other tips to protect your accounts and private data:

  • Do no use the same password or variations of the same password for your accounts
  • Change your account passwords frequently.
  • Always check you bank accounts and other financial accounts fro fraudulent charges.
  • Review your credit report for fraud at least annually.
  • Have two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • The longer the password is, the exponentially more difficult it becomes to crack.
  • To help remember the password, use it immediately. Then log in and out several times the first day.
  • Do not provide your password or other private data when solicited via email or phone, this could be a social engineering attempt. Most reputable companies will not ask for this information via email and financial institutions NEVER do. If they claim there is an issue with your account do not click on the link provided go to the company’s main website and access your account from there.
  • Report attacks and social engineering attempts to the company being impersonated.
  • NEVER give your password to anyone!

Please go and change your gmail password and if you have not changed your other passwords in a while use this as an opportunity to do so!

Stay safe & smart!

 

Internet Law & Security Updates

So much is happening online that it can be hard to keep up. I have compiled some of the most recent events in Social Media, Internet law & Cybersecurity. Know how these changes affect your privacy and other rights. If you have any questions leave them in the comments!

Social Media

Comments on social media considered and Facebook “Likes” enjoy federal protection. On August 25, the National Labor Relations Board found in Three D, LLC, d/b/a Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille v. Sanzone, Case No. 34-CA-012915, and Three D, LLC, d/b/a Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille v. Spinella, Case No. 34-CA-012926, that an employer had violated federal labor law by terminating an employee who had “liked” a former co-worker’s negative comment about the employer posted on Facebook.  The Board also ruled that the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) by firing another employee for posting an expletive-laced comment about the employer in response to the former co-worker’s comment, and it found that the employer’s “Internet/Blogging” policy banning “inappropriate discussions” regarding the company unlawfully chilled employees’ exercise of their right to engage in protected, concerted activity under the Act.

BYOD

Reimburse employees for wireless service. A recent California ruling that requires companies to reimburse employees for wireless serviceAlthough the case raised more questions than it answered about what level of reimbursement is required, it seems clear that companies will bear a larger portion of the cost of BYOD programs than they had previously borne.

Security 
According to the New York Times, when one adds the compromised records in Target, PF Chang’s, Neiman Marcus, Sally Beauty, Michaels, UPS and others, the number of affected customers amounts to more than one-third of the U.S. population.

Home Depot the latest victim of security breach. Krebs has reported that it appears that two large dumps of purloined credit card numbers have made an appearance on the black market and that those numbers may have originated at Home Depot locations. Krebs’ reporting is here. This latest incident raises yet another round of concerns about the malware known as “Backoff” and the potential widespread effect on retailers. Home Depot has been hit with a class action lawsuit stemming from a suspected data breach at the home improvement retailer 

Using your cellphone’s gps to stay ahead of fraudsters. In a new effort to use technology to foil credit-card fraud, a company called BillGuard is testing a system that would monitor the precise whereabouts of mobile devices to detect possible payment issues. The tech firm is tracking mobile-phone locations in an attempt to stay one step ahead of fraudsters. Because smartphones are almost always near their owners, the technology would register and flag those occasions when a phone is not near the owner’s credit card. The technology would only be used with the consumer’s consent.

Healthcare.gov Server Hacked.The Department of Health and Human Services disclosed on Sept. 4 that malware had been uploaded on the Obamacare test server back in July. HHS officials say the malware was designed to launch a distributed-denial-of-service attack against other websites when activated and not designed to exfiltrate personally identifiable information. No consumer data was exposed in the incident, officials say (see HealthCare.Gov Server Hacked).

Apple plans to add safeguards to help address security vulnerabilities exploited by celebrity-photo hackers. The proposed changes include alerting users – using both e-mails and push notifications to devices – every time someone:

  • Changes an account password;
  • Uses a new device to log into an account;
  • Restores an iCloud backup to a new device.

After receiving a related alert, the user can immediately change their account password, or file a report of a suspected security breach with Apple. The company has yet to detail how exactly it will respond to those reports.

Privacy

Magazines in Michigan cannot share your personal information. The Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Act limits the ability of companies to disclose information regarding customers’ video rental activities. In a case filed by a consumer who alleged that a magazine company had improperly disclosed her personal information, along with information about the magazines to which she subscribed, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan recently held that the law does in fact apply to magazines. The court noted that the statute is directed to companies “engaged in the business of selling at retail, renting, or lending books or other written materials, sound recordings, or video recordings,” and that magazines constitute “other written materials.”