Volume 11, Number 1 (2012)
Ensuring an Impartial Jury in the Age of Social Media
Amy J. St. Eve and Michael A. Zuckerman
Date posted: 3-13-2012
The explosive growth of social networking has placed enormous pressure on one of the most fundamental of American institutions—the impartial jury. Through social networking services like Facebook and Twitter, jurors have committed significant and often high-profile acts of misconduct. Just recently, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a death sentence because a juror Tweeted about the case during deliberations. In light of the significant risks to a fair trial that arise when jurors communicate through social media during trial, judges must be vigilant in monitoring for potential outside influences and in deterring misconduct.
In this Article, we present informal survey data from actual jurors on their use of social networking during trial. We discuss the rise of web-based social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and the concerns that arise when jurors communicate about a case through social media before returning a verdict. After surveying how courts have responded to jurors’ social media use, we describe the results of the informal survey. The results support a growing consensus in the legal profession that courts should frequently, as a matter of course, instruct jurors not to use social media to communicate about trial. Although others have stressed the importance of jury instructions in this area, we hope that the informal survey data will further the dialogue by providing an important perspective—that of actual jurors.
Topic: Media & Communications
Date posted: 3-18-2012
This Article explores the difficulties that high technology markets pose for patent law and, in particular, for patent injunctions. It then outlines the ways in which “open source innovation” is unusually vulnerable to patent injunctions. It argues that courts can recognize this vulnerability, and respond to the particular competitive and innovative benefits of open source innovation, by flexibly applying the Supreme Court’s ruling in eBay v. MercExchange. Having dealt with the lamentable failure of the International Trade Commission to exercise a similar flexibility in its own patent jurisprudence, despite statutory and constitutional provisions that counsel otherwise, the Article concludes with some recommendations for reform.
Topic: Patents & Technology
Date posted: 3-20-2012
Before striking down laws increasing copyright’s domain, judges and legislators are asking for evidence that information products will be created even if copyright protection is not provided. The future of Internet technology depends on locating this evidence in time to limit expansive copyright. United States law, however, already protects information products under copyright. Hence, this counterfactual evidence that judges request cannot be generated in the United States. In response to the demand for data, American legal scholars have attempted to mine evidence from open software and other non-commercial endeavors on the Internet. However, these endeavors have been dismissed as exceptions or “cults,” unrelated to mainstream industry needs. This Article, for the first time, provides evidence of growth in the commercial software industry without intellectual property protection. Between 1993 and 2010, the software industry in India emerged as the fastest growing in the world, accounting for $76 billion in revenues by 2010. In the same time period, the software industry in India remained unaffected by changes in intellectual property protection for software. By demonstrating industry growth without strong intellectual property protections, the Indian data fills the critical gap in American literature.
Moreover, the comparative data from India enables scholars to separate causality from outcomes in specific empirical and analytical studies emerging out of the United States. In the case study of California’s Silicon Valley, for instance, there is a risk that causality may be extrapolated to alternative California statutes, giving rise to errors of second order. The comparative analysis checks this potential inaccuracy. The industry in India also provides illuminating data from contracting practices—decisive evidence of the legal infrastructure firms need and will create by contract, if not found in a priori law. This study equips policy-makers to go beyond the “historic accident” explanation to understand why the software industry flourishes where it does.
Topic: Patents & Technology
Date posted: 4-1-2012
SoundCloud is an online service provider that allows users to upload, share, and download music that they have created. It is an innovative platform for both amateur and established producers and disc jockeys (DJs) to showcase their original tracks and remixes. Unfortunately, it is also a platform that lends itself to widespread copyright infringement. Looking toward potential litigation, several factors ought to be considered by SoundCloud and other similar providers. The Viacom v. YouTube case, decided in the Southern District of New York and now currently on appeal in the Second Circuit, sheds light on the potential liability service providers like SoundCloud face. It draws out the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) safe harbor provisions under which SoundCloud could potentially find protection. However, SoundCloud is unique among similar service providers because it provides users with a variety of viewing, sharing and downloading options that are built into the platform. These options could lead to infringement that would not fall under a DMCA safe harbor. This Issue Brief will discuss the various arguments to be made for and against SoundCloud’s liability, and examine whether the unique utility provided by the service to users could be sustained in the face of potential litigation. Ultimately, the safeguards used by SoundCloud to filter blatant infringement, combined with the DMCA § 512(c) safe harbor, should allow this innovative platform to maintain its current model without neutering its core functionality.
Topic: Copyrights & Trademarks
Date posted: 4-2-2012
“To the cloud!” trumpets a commercial by Microsoft, whose aim is to herd customers, and their checkbooks, into the cloud computing fold. But Microsoft, and other cloud providers like Amazon and Google, might inadvertently be doing just the opposite. It is not for lack of security or even early adopter apprehension that potential customers might turn away. Nor is it a lack of fantastic, cost-saving applications of cloud technology.
Rather, the problem is buried deep within these tech giants’ clickwrap agreements—the ones that customers rarely read and to which they invariably click “I Agree.” Hidden in these agreements are limitation on liability clauses, veritable safe harbors for cloud providers and submerged icebergs for the unwary cloud customer. Often, these clauses wholly abrogate a customer’s right to recover damages for his provider’s wrongful acts. In other words, a provider could purposefully delete its customers’ data or shut down its users’ websites, leaving the aggrieved customers with no cause of action and no right to recover.
While limitation on liability clauses are not new to the contract law vernacular, their inclusion in cloud computing agreements is particularly troublesome. The amount of potential liability that customers may waive through a half-cocked click is as enormous as it is troubling. While courts have recently held that these clauses are enforceable in other Internet-related areas, courts should be wary of blindly applying precedent and enforcing these clauses in the cloud computing context.