The Battle for Copyright Protection in the Digital Era

The age of the Internet poses many new challenges to those individuals seeking to protect and enforce their intellectual property rights online. As the Federal Court of Appeal in Canada recently stated: “Under the cloak of anonymity on the internet, some can illegally copy, download, and distribute the intellectual property of others, such as movies, songs and writings.”  (Voltage Pictures, LLC et al. v. John Doe #1 et al., 2017 FCA 97 at para. 1 [Voltage Pictures].)  As a result, Canada has slowly began modernizing its copyright regime in order to allow the cloak of anonymity to be lifted and the identity of alleged infringers to be revealed.  (See e.g., Copyright Modernization Act, S.C. 2012, c. 20, s. 47.) Continue reading

New German Law on Hate Speech on Social Media

June of 2017 ended with the German parliament approving the bill targeted at eliminating hate speech and fake news on social media, including on Facebook, YouTube, and Google. The law will take effect in October of 2017, and could carry fines up to EUR 50 million.

We previously discussed the bill on this blog post.  Now that the bill has been passed into law, social media companies are required to remove illegal hate speech within 24 hours after receiving notification or a complaint, and to block other offensive content within seven days.  The law also requires social media companies to report the number of complaints they have received, and how they have dealt with them, every six months. Continue reading

How to use social media – and the consequences if you step out of line

In South Africa, employees are under the mistaken belief that what they do in their time away from the office, specifically on social media, is private and beyond the reach of their employer’s control.

They fail to consider that they could face disciplinary action for their online rants and comments. This could be fatal to their employment. The reality is that with the escalating use of social media during working hours as well as outside of company time, employees are regularly coming under fire for what they post online. Continue reading

Anonymity of former employee reviews

In March of 2017, a California court of appeals prohibited the disclosure of an individual’s identity after the individual anonymously posted negative information about his former employer on the website Glassdoor.

Glassdoor, Inc. operates a website that allows individuals to post reviews anonymously about their employment experiences.  One such post was published to the website on June 21, 2015 by an individual claiming to be former employee of Machine Zone, Inc. The post included negative comments about the company, including: Continue reading

Private social media posts can get you kicked out of university and worse

Each year Harvard University, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, receives over 30,000 applications from prospective students for about 2,000 places in its first year class. Recently, ten of those successful applicants, due to graduate in 2021, had their offers of admission revoked before they set foot onto campus.  The reason?  The content of the offensive memes they had shared on a private Facebook group, which at one stage had been named “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens”. Continue reading

Chatbots: Some Legal Issues

What is a chatbot?  Essentially it is a computer program which simulates human behaviour online, including on social media. Chatbots are not a new concept but are becoming increasingly sophisticated in what they can do and how closely they can mimic human behaviour online, such that they are increasingly replacing humans in populating social media for organisations.

Chatbots are widely used by corporations to stimulate conversation, promote products/services, increase consumer engagement and generally enhance the user experience. For example, RBS has announced an intent to launch a chatbot “Luvo” to help its customers with more straightforward queries; H&M has a chatbot on Kik, which learns about a user’s style though viewing photographs and recommends outfits; and Pizza Hut has a chatbot on Facebook and Twitter, which allows customers to place order via those platforms. Continue reading

Use of Twitter to Broadcast Courtroom Proceedings

In 2017, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications (the “Commission”) issued an advisory opinion that the conveyance of information via microblogging platforms, such as Twitter, does not constitute prohibited “broadcasting” under Rule 2.17 of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Under Rule 2.17, judges are required to prohibit the broadcasting of courtroom proceedings to the public except under a narrow set of circumstances. Although this issue may seem geographically limited at first glance, courts and commissions around the country are considering this issue as microblogging activity becomes more prevalent. Continue reading

Expert Witnesses May (Still) Be Used in U.S. Litigation to Explain Basic Social Media Use

On March 8, 2017, federal Judge Sidney Fitzwater, of the North District of Texas, issued a memorandum opinion and order in Charalambopoulos v. Grammer, No. 3:14-CV-2424-D, 2017 WL 930819. The case had already been in litigation for years and involved allegations of domestic violence and defamation.  According to earlier opinions issued in Charalambopoulos, the parties had been staying in Houston, Texas where the defendant – a reality television star and former wife of Kelsey Grammer – was undergoing cancer treatment.  The parties, who were dating at the time, got into an argument at their hotel during the trip.  Days later, the defendant tweeted about the incident to her roughly 198,000 Twitter followers. Continue reading

WhatsApp group administrators may be responsible for members’ content

In India, an administrator of a Whatsapp group has recently faced arrest, following the sharing of what is alleged to be a defamatory photo-shopped image of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.  South Africa has yet to test the liability of a group admin with regard to what is shared on their group.  However, given the rise in online racism and hate speech, paired with the millions of people around the world who use the Whatsapp application, it could only be a matter of time before a case like that in India comes before the South African courts. Continue reading

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