STLR Link Round-Up – Oct. 31, 2014

Applying Aereo

In June of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., holding that Aereo was in violation of the Copyright Act when it sells to its subscribers a service that allows them to watch television programs over the Internet as those programs are being broadcasted over the air. Since then, Aereo has vowed to remain operational despite the significant challenges it faces. Aereo’s saga continued last week when United States District Judge Alison J. Nathan ordered Aereo to cease relaying video to their subscribers while any part of the show was still on the air nationwide. However, Aereo did score a victory in that Judge Nathan rejected the major broadcasters’ request to prohibit Aereo from copying and storing copyrighted content for later viewing, at least for now. Perhaps most importantly though, she declined to treat Aereo as a cable company as they hoped. The full order may be read here.

 

The Growing Spotlight on Mobile Phone Searches

On October 17, the Nebraska Supreme Court held that a warrant for a suspect’s mobile phone that didn’t limit the information that the officers could search through violated the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment. The issue of mobile phone searches has only grown in importance since the Supreme Court of the United States tackled the issue in Riley v. California, holding that mobile phones must be excluded from warrantless searches incident to arrest and distinguishing mobile phones from other “containers” of information. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court recently took a different tack, ruling that a search warrant did not have to specify which functions of the phone were likely to contain the relevant evidence. It was enough to specify the suspect, phone, and crime. Needless to say, this area of jurisprudence will soon have a much more full body of case law.

 

Whisper Privacy Concerns

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), head of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, wrote a letter on October 22 to the CEO of Whisper, an anonymous social messaging app, requesting a committee staff briefing from the company’s CEO, Michael Heyward. The Senate’s attention was piqued by an expose published by the Guardian, claiming that Whisper tracks the location of users and shares information with the United States Department of Defense. Heyward responded to the Guardian article and denied the Guardian’s claims, saying their claims are “[f]alse” and that they gleaned most of their information from “non-technical people.” In the wake of the article and Senate inquiry, Whisper has suspended editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman and other members of the editorial board.

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