STLR Link Roundup – February 3, 2017

Uber Comes to a Standstill in Taiwan

Following protests from local taxi drivers in Taiwan and orders by the government to pay millions in back taxes and fines, Uber Technologies Inc. said on February 2, 2017 its services have reached a standstill in Taiwan due to the escalating dispute with the government over the legality of its operations. On the same day, Taiwan’s Investment Commission stated the government requested the suspension of Uber’s business because, though Uber registered in Taiwan 4 years ago as a software company, it functions as a transportation company. The government thus fined Uber for $4.25 million for what the government deems an illegal car-hailing service. If Uber seeks to resume operating in Taiwan, it will need to re-register as a transportation company. Uber has halted and resumed service in both U.S. and overseas markets previously due to conflicts with governments. For example, last year, it scrapped plans to exit Macau, citing strong support from residents. Uber said they will continue to work with the Taiwanese government through obtaining a local insurance policy, starting collaborative discussions with the taxi industry, and putting forth ride-sharing regulations that are similar to those overseas.

Facebook Loses Suit over Virtual Reality Headset Code

A jury found on February 1, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Facebook Inc.’s Oculus VR unit unfairly used ZeniMax Media Inc.’s code to build a virtual-reality headset, ordering the social media company and its co-defendants to pay $500 million to ZeniMax. The verdict comes after a long struggle with Oculus, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for more than $2 billion. Oculus’s mismanaged launch last year of its Rift virtual-reality headset already had them playing in defense, in the midst of growing competition from HTC Corp. and Sony Corp. Shortly after Facebook’s deal for Oculus was made public three years ago, ZeniMax sued – alleging one of its former employees, John Carmack, retained proprietary code with him when he joined Oculus. ZeniMax claimed Oculus illegally used the code and trade secrets belonging to ZeniMax to create the Rift headset. Facebook will appeal the decision and Zenimax will seek equitable relief.

Tech Giants Draft Letter to Trump over Immigration Ban

A draft letter is circulating among companies including Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., eBay Inc., and Uber Technologies Inc., expressing concern over President Donald Trump’s executive order—which bars entry to the U.S. by people from seven majority-Muslim nations out of concerns about the risk of terrorism. The letter states it could adversely impacr “many visa holders who work hard here in the U.S. and contribute to our country’s success.” The businesses’ draft letter, addressing the President directly, says the companies are offering to work with the administration to build screening procedures for refugees instead of a blanket ban and to help confirm the status of about 750,000 undocumented immigrants admitted to the U.S. under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Tech executives were among the earliest critics of the President’s immigration order and leaders from a mounting breadth of U.S. companies also have cautioned that it could negatively affect some of their employees and that it goes against their company morals.

Google Prevails in Japanese ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Case

Japan’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Alphabet Inc’s Google in a case brought by a man found guilty years ago of child-pornography charges who wanted articles about his arrest removed from Google searches.The court found Google search results, while machine-generated, a form of speech, and restricting the results could be seen as a restriction on speech. It held requests for taking down results, i.e. the ‘right to be forgotten’, should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, balancing the importance of the information and the benefits of having it available to the public versus the reputational harm incurred by the affected party.

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