Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
July 3, 2001, 8:00 AM ET, Alert No. 221.
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Rep. Armey Criticizes Tampa Surveillance System
7/2. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) issued a statement regarding the city of Tampa's use of surveillance cameras and face recognition software to identify and track individuals. He wrote that "Contact between the police and the community is essential. Placing police officers in a remote control booth to watch the every move of honest citizens isn't going to make us safer. This is a full-scale surveillance system. Do we really want a society where one cannot walk down the street without Big Brother tracking our every move? We gave away our privacy in allowing red light and photo radar cameras to take the place of police on our streets. Now Tampa has taken the next step, and there's nowhere to turn for those who value their privacy."
FTC and Netpliance Reach Consent Agreement
6/27. The FTC filed a complaint [PDF] in U.S. District Court (WDTex) against Netpliance alleging violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and the FTC's Mail Order Rule. Netpliance is a Delaware corporation based in Austin, Texas, that sells i-opener, a basic Internet access device, and Internet access service. The FTC simultaneously filed a proposed consent decree [PDF] settling the matter.
Complaint. Count I of the complaint alleges that Netpliance engaged in deceptive advertising in violation of 5 of the FTCA by claiming that the i-opener provides access to all of the Internet's content and by claiming that the i-opener is equivalent to a personal computer with respect to its Internet related performance. Count II alleges that Netpliance misrepresented the price of the i-opener, in violation of 5 of the FTCA. Count III alleges that Netpliance failed to disclose that i-opener users must use Netpliance's ISP to access the Internet, in violation of 5 of the FTCA. Count IV and V allege deceptive billing practices and unauthorized charging of debit and credit card numbers, in violation of 5 of the FTCA. Count VI - VIII alleges violations of the TILA or Mail Order Rule.
Consent Decree. Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, Netpliance is enjoined from further deceptive advertising, required to reimburse consumers for improperly billed charges, and fined $100,000. This settlement is subject to court approval.
Metricom Files Chapter 11 Petition
7/2. Metricom filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court (NDCal). Metricom, based in San Jose, California, will continue to provide its Ricochet wireless data service. Metricom is represented by the law firm of Murphy Sheneman.
New Documents
USCA: opinion in Guest v. Leis re ECPA and search and seizure of computers, 7/2 (HTML, USCA).
FTC: complaint against Netpliance, and proposed consent decree, 6/27 (PDF, FTC).
Court Construes ECPA, PPA, 1A & 4A in Computer Seizure Case
7/2. The U.S. Court of Appeals (6thCir) issued its opinion in Guest v. Leis, a civil case against a police department arising out of the seizure of computer equipment used to operate BBSs. The District Court and Appeals Court ruled for the defendant police department on all issues.
Background. Plaintiffs are bulletin board service operators, host computer owners, and users. They filed two complaints in U.S. District Court (SDOhio) against the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department and various individuals. Plaintiffs alleged violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the First and Fourth Amendments, the Privacy Protection Act (PPA), and various state law claims. Defendants temporarily seized computer equipment, pursuant to warrants, that stored images that were illegal as obscenity or child pormagraphy. The District Court granted defendants either qualified immunity or summary judgment on all claims. Plaintiffs appealed.
Appeals Court Holding. The Appeals Court affirmed on all issues. The Appeals Court held that there was no violation of the ECPA because police had a valid warrant before seizing and searching the computers. The Appeals Court also held that there was no illegal prior restraint of speech. It wrote that "Police are permitted to seize evidence of a crime - even expressive materials - if the seizure is pursuant to a valid warrant."
The Appeals Court also affirmed on the PPA claims. The PPA prohibits the government from seizing work product materials that are intended for publication. The Appeals Court held that "The targeted files - obscene images or pirated software - would not qualify as protected work product or documentary material because both definitions exclude 'property designed or intended for use, or which is or has been used as, the means of committing a criminal offense.' "
7/2. Paige Anderson joined the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a Washington DC based non profit group that focuses on technology policy. She will work on a new project aimed at addressing the global digital divide through legal and regulatory reform in developing countries. Anderson was previously an attorney in the Washington DC office of the law firm of Akin Gump, where she had practiced communications law since 1996. See, Akin Gump bio.
7/2. The Washington DC based law firm of Arnold & Porter opened an office in Northern Virginia. It will be headed by Robert Ott, and will initially have 19 attorneys specializing in technology and commercial transactions, intellectual property protection, commercialization and litigation, venture capital, private and public equity financings, and IPOs. See, release.
7/2. The Washington DC based law firm of Shaw Pittman announced its merger with Klein & Martin, a 15 attorney Los Angeles law firm that focuses on complex business, technology and health care transactions. See, release.
7/1. Randy New, BellSouth's VP for Public Policy, left BellSouth effective July 1. See, release.
7/2. Georg Berrisch joined the Brussels office of the Washington DC based law firm of Covington & Burling. Berrisch is a German Rechtsanwalt and EU litigator. He previously was the the Managing Partner of the Brussels office of the German firm Gaedertz. See, release [PDF].
6/26. Annette Elinger joined the Seattle office of the law firm of Preston Gates & Ellis as of counsel in the firm's Business Department and, the emerging growth company and venture capital practice group. Her practice emphasizes business transactions and general corporate matters, particularly private and public equity financings, venture capital transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic transactions for emerging and developing entities, including technology and intellectual property agreements. See, release.
6/26. David Ogden joined the Washington DC office of the law firm of Wilmer Cutler & Pickering as a partner. He was previously Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. See, release.
The Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert will not be published on July 4, 5 or 6.
Gallup Conducts Poll on Online Privacy
6/28. The Gallup Organization released the results of a poll of e-mail users regarding online privacy. Gallup stated that 66% of respondents "think the government should pass more laws to ensure online privacy". Gallup also stated that "Frequent Internet users - those who spend 15 hours or more online each week - are more likely to favor the passage of new laws (75%) than are infrequent users (63%). Also, Democrats (73%) are more likely than Republicans (60%) to favor more privacy laws." See, release.
AMD and Alcatel Settle
7/2. AMD and Alcatel Business Systems announced the settlement of AMD's lawsuit against Alcatel. AMD filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against Alcatel alleging that it had breached a contract to supply AMD flash memory products. The action was removed to the U.S. District Court (SDNY). The two companies did not disclose the terms of the settlement. See, AMD release.
Sabre and EDS Complete Transaction
7/2. The U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, announced that it will not challenge the planned sale of Sabre's airline infrastructure information technology assets to EDS after the parties informed the DOJ that they were abandoning an agreement that would have transferred EDS' internal airline reservation system, known as SHARES, to Sabre. See, DOJ release. The two companies announced the completion of the transaction. See, Sabre release and EDS release.
More News
6/27. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) wrote a "Dear Colleague" letter [PDF] to members of Congress urging them to support HR 1542, the Tauzin Dingell bill.
7/2. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) began a pilot program under which 125 patent examiners will work at home using workstations provided by the USPTO. These examiners will have full electronic searching through encrypted transmission over high speed data lines. See, release.
7/2. Napster temporarily suspended file transfers. It stated that "There were problems with the databases upon which the new file identification technology relies ..." and that transfers would be resumed "as soon as possible but we don't yet have a sense of a precise time." See, Napster release.
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