Can the feds make conspiracy/aiding and abetting charges stick against software maker Taylor Huddleston, creator of a software tool that can be used by both bad and good players? “Because NanoCore has both legal and illegal uses, establishing that Huddleston wrote it for criminals is crucial for prosecutors. ‘It’s a dual-use technology case,’ says [Cornell law prof James] Grimmelman. ‘And you typically don’t get criminal liability in dual-use technology cases unless there’s a pretty clear intent to promote the criminal use instead of the legitimate ones.'” [Kevin Poulsen, The Daily Beast]
Last week’s Ninth Circuit case of Facebook v. Vachani is making many observers uneasy. Orin Kerr writes:
For those of us worried about broad readings of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the decision is quite troubling. Its reasoning appears to be very broad. If I’m reading it correctly, it says that if you tell people not to visit your website, and they do it anyway knowing you disapprove, they’re committing a federal crime of accessing your computer without authorization. … This was a civil dispute, but the CFAA is also criminal statute.
It’s possible that the Circuit might clarify the ruling should it grant en banc review.
A California court has dismissed an intended class action suit against Google claiming that it reaped undeserved profit when users solved CAPTCHA letter-recognition problems that assisted in solving passages that had gone undeciphered in Google’s own OCR scanning. The ruling “reinforces [the principle] that not every asymmetrical economic benefit exchanged online must be compensated. Parties in a mutual exchange rarely get the exact same amount of value from the exchange, but the fact that one party derives more value from the exchange than the other shouldn’t create a federal case.” [Eric Goldman]
Almost at once after the Paris attacks, speculation began to circulate that the murderers had used encrypted communications to plan their operation and that legislation giving government backdoor tools to break encryption was therefore needed more urgently than ever. Later reports have suggested, however, that the plotters employed a combination of plain vanilla unencrypted messaging with in-person communication. [Karl Bode/TechDirt, The Verge, Vice “Motherboard” (“How the Baseless ‘Terrorists Communicating Over Playstation 4’ Rumor Got Started”)] Related: Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg View. A contrary view: Alex Spence and Duncan Gardham, Politico Europe.
Amy Maxmen, Wired on the advances in DNA editing (via Jason Kuznicki):
But the attorney filing for Zhang checked a box on the application marked “accelerate” and paid a fee, usually somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000. A series of emails followed between agents at the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Broad’s patent attorneys, who argued that their claim was distinct.
A little more than a year after those human-cell papers came out, Doudna was on her way to work when she got an email telling her that Zhang, the Broad Institute, and MIT had indeed been awarded the patent on Crispr-Cas9 as a method to edit genomes. “I was quite surprised,” she says, “because we had filed our paperwork several months before he had.”
“…Still Say We Should Give Them Cybersecurity Powers” The spectacular breach of Office of Personnel Management records, which exposed to China-based hackers information on every federal employee as well as the obviously sensitive contents of security clearance applications, was revealed when a vendor of security services was allowed to do a sales presentation on the federal network in question and discovered the already-exploited vulnerability. But of course the feds will be totally competent in prescribing practice to the private sector, right? [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] Earlier on regulation of private-sector electronic security here, here, etc. Related: W$J (DHS couldn’t move to secure networks without engaging in collective bargaining first). Related: pending bills “authorize government to impose data retention mandate on private businesses”
Updating a post from five years ago (related), a New Mexico appeals court has upheld the dismissal on summary judgment of Arthur Firstenburg’s lawsuit against next-door neighbor Raphaela Monribot for refusing to turn off her cellphone, computer, dimmer switches, and other electronic paraphernalia, which Firstenburg alleged cause him injury because he experiences electromagnetic sensitivity, or EMS, an acute sensitivity to electronic radiation, a condition on which (per the court) he has been drawing Social Security disability payments since 1992. The trial court excluded the proffered testimony of Firstenburg’s expert witnesses on causation; without it, it found that his claims of causation necessarily failed for lack of admissible evidence. More: George Johnson, New York Times.
“…and Nobody Knows What To Do About It.” How can you resist clicking a headline like that? [Daniel Rivero, Fusion]
- “Government Is the Biggest Threat to Innovation, Say Silicon Valley Insiders” [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]
- Acrimonious split between Overlawyered favorite Geoffrey Fieger and long-time law partner Ven Johnson [L.L. Brasier, Detroit Free Press]
- Case against deference: “Now More Than Ever, Courts Should Police Administrative Agencies” [Ilya Shapiro on Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association; boundary between “interpretive” and “legislative” agency rules]
- “The Canary in the Law School Coal Mine?” [George Leef, Minding the Campus] Ideological diversity at law schools [Prof. Bainbridge and followup]
- Familiar (to economists) but needed case against state auto dealership protection laws [Matt Yglesias, Vox; our tag]
- Trial lawyers dump millions into attempt to defeat Illinois high court justice Lloyd Karmeier [Chamber-backed Madison County Record, Southern Illinoisan]
- A genuinely liberal regime would leave accreditation room for small Massachusetts college that expects students to obey Biblical conduct standards [Andrew Sullivan, more]