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Modern Privacy Policies License Collection of Personal Information

By: Kathryn Helin

Photo Credit: http://tacma.net

Photo Credit: http://tacma.net

How often do consumers agree to lengthy terms and conditions online to use Internet and other telecommunications services?

More importantly, how often do they, in fact, read these terms and conditions and know what they are agreeing to?

The 2013 documentary Terms and Conditions may Apply, directed by Cullen Hoback, explores just that.  The answer is captured in San Francisco Chronicle reporter G. Allen Johnson’s response that it is, “[t]he scariest movie I’ve seen this year, a horror tale that would have been science fiction had it been made in the 1990s.”

In the post Patriot Act era, companies’ terms and conditions, most notably privacy policies, are used to “inform” users and defend companies’ practices of collecting, compiling, storing and sharing personal information about individual users.  Essentially, these companies argue because users must agree to the terms and conditions prior to utilizing the services they must know what they are signing up for.  The problem is that due to the unequal distribution of bargaining power between multi-billion dollar companies and individual users, the user has no power to negotiate the terms and conditions.  Essentially, they must agree or forego using the service.  Further, as articulated in the film, companies are disincentivized from discontinuing these practices in two ways.

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The End is Near: Why College Sports May Change Forever

By: Eli Marger

Student-athletes shall be amateurs in an intercollegiate sport, and their participation should be motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived.”- NCAA Division I Manual

College athletics may look simple.  It is just another facet of the education industry—for now.

Just like any business organization, a university’s athletic department has revenues and expenses.  The money comes in via donations, ticket sales, and conference revenue sharing; it goes out via coach and staff salaries, scholarships, and operational expenses.  All of this supports the student-athletes, the ones actually playing the sports.

These student-athletes have been the center of attention recently, and not just for what they do in their respective sports.  Currently, student-athletes receive payment in the form of “grant-in-aid” (GIA) scholarships, which is generally the sum of tuition, mandatory fees, housing, and textbook costs.  While some may argue that this is more than adequate payment for student-athletes, critics of the current system—including the plaintiffs in the NCAA litigation—say that students should be able to earn money above and beyond the scholarship amount based on their monetary impact on the university. Continue reading »

Timing is Everything: Swatch Sues Target for Infringing Designs

By: Alexandra Braverman

Swatch Store

Swatch Store

As Coco Chanel once said, “Only those with no memory insist on their originality.” Regardless, fashion and accessory plagiarism is a contentious issue in today’s fashion industry.  With famous designers accusing each other of building a career off of copying, the line between “stealing” and “inspiration” becomes very blurry.  It is in the midst of this mess that we find the lawsuit under discussion.

In March of this year, Swatch filed an aggressive lawsuit against Target for blatantly copying the Swatch design for its “zebra” and “multi-colored” watches. Swatch, a Swiss company known for its fashionable plastic watches, claims that Target’s watches clearly infringe upon the aforementioned Swatch designs. Among the claims filed against Target, Swatch is asserting that first, Target has illegally copied the trade dress of the “zebra” and “multi-colored” watch lines produced by Swatch this season, and second, that the similarity of Target’s lower-quality, plastic watches, damages Swatch’s sales by stealing customers and creating confusion. In its complaint, Swatch claims, “by adopting the Zebra Watch trade dress and the Multi-Color Watch trade dress, defendants are unfairly competing.”

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The Sterling Clippers: Ousting Ownership in the Face of Outrage

By: Anastasia E. Bond

On April 9, Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, made certain racist comments to his companion, V. Stiviano.  Stiviano recorded these comments, and they were quickly publicized by TMZ.  This led to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling from the NBA for life, fining Sterling $2.5 million, and leading to a potential forced sale of Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers. 

How can the NBA force an owner to unwillingly relinquish that ownership?

When an individual or entity becomes an owner of an NBA team, that owner is subject to the rules set under the NBA Constitution.  The Constitution provides, under Article 13, for the termination of ownership if an owner willfully violates “any of the provisions of the Constitution and By-Laws, resolutions, or agreements” of the NBA, and subject to a vote of 3/4s of the Board of Governors. Continue reading »

NLRB’s Application of the Common Law Definition of Employee in the Northwestern University Football Decision

By: Stephen DeGrow*

Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) recently held that some football players at Northwestern University are university employees for the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. The “employee” designation allows grant-in-aid scholarship football players to vote for union representation. As it stands, 85 of the university’s 112 players receive grant-in-aid scholarships and will be eligible to vote.  Continue reading »

NLRB’s Distinction Between Football Players at Northwestern University and Graduate Assistants at Brown University

By: Stephen DeGrow*

Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board (the Board) recently held that some football players at Northwestern University are university employees for the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act. To reach this decision, the Board first looked at the common law definition of an employee. (A previous blog entry covers this aspect of the decision.) The Board then had to distinguish its decision from Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004). In Brown University, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate assistants are not employees. The NLRB based its decision on four factors: “(1) the status of graduate assistants as students; (2) the role of the graduate student assistantships in graduate education; (3) the graduate assistants’ relationship with the faculty; and (4) the financial support they receive to attend Brown University.”  Continue reading »

The Slaying of the Patent Troll: A Fairytale

By: Rebeca Echevarria *

When I was a child, I read stories of terrifying trolls that lived under bridges and ate children trying to cross.  They were the creatures of nightmares, and patent trolls are no different. Patent troll is the name given to people or companies that do not manufacture products or supply services, but instead raise meritless patent infringement claims in order to collect licensing fees from accused infringers.  Small companies typically lack the financial capital to fight the claims and large companies will often settle for sizeable sums rather than go through lengthy and costly patent proceedings.

All parties agree that patent trolls are harmful to innovation and the patent system, but there is no consensus on the best course of action.  Courts have been struggling with how best to handle patent troll claims that enter their courtrooms, but without legislative reform, there is little that can be done.

Like a legendary knight sworn to protect innovation, Senator Leahy has waged war on patent trolls.  Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and co-sponsor of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, is attempting to push a bill through the senate that would change the playing field and crack down on patent troll claims.  Senator Leahy, however, faces an uphill battle as he attempts to have his bill passed both by Republicans who support the change and Democrats who argue that further sweeping overhauls to the patent litigation will only reduce frivolous litigation at the cost of preventing legitimate inventors from being able to protect their intellectual propertyContinue reading »

Getty Images Upsets Photographers by Making Millions of Images Available for Free

By: Caitlin S. Hale*

I’m sure you have heard the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” That’s exactly the philosophy Getty Images has decided to take with 35 million of its photos.

Such images will now be available for free to online publishers, in part because Getty acknowledges that many of its images are already being copied anyway.

Getty Images | President Kennedy in 1961, surrounded by his father, mother, and wife Jacqueline.

Getty Images | President Kennedy in 1961, surrounded by his father, mother, and wife Jacqueline.

Getty is trying to establish “an alternative for people who otherwise would just copy and paste photos,” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University.

However, there is a catch: Getty will only allow “noncommercial” users, such as bloggers and Twitter users, to use its images for free. Furthermore, the image will still retain a Getty photo credit which will be linked to Getty’s website. There, viewers of the image can license the photo if they choose.

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SCOTUS hears arguments concerning birth control funding

By: Caitlin S. Hale*

Hobby_Lobby,_TrexlertownOne thing is clear in life: we don’t like to be told how to spend our money. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the frustration of our parents telling us to save our allowance money instead of spending it in the ever-appealing claw game to win stuffed animals at a local restaurant. The frustration grew as I got older and matured, and realized that the government was telling me how to spend my money through taxes. But, I imagine that frustration would be magnified by, well, a lot if I were forced to spend my money in a way that goes against my religious views.

That’s precisely what the plaintiffs in two appeals, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, are arguing in the Supreme Court. Continue reading »

The Trademarked Fans

By: Stephen DeGrow*

footballThe Seattle Seahawks finished the 2013 football season as Super Bowl champions. And, of course, a lot of the credit belongs to the fans. Throughout the football year, Seattle fans showed their reputation for passion by setting two world records for loudest crowd noise. The most recent record came on December 2, when the crowd clocked in at 137.6 decibels. And now that the NFLShop.com has released jersey sales figures for last season, it appears that Seattle fans put their money where their mouth is.

According to the espn.com and NFLShop.com, the Seattle Seahawks sold more jerseys than any other team in the NFL. In fact, four different Seattle jerseys are in the top ten most selling jerseys. Russell Wilson came in at number one. Not surprising. Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman came in at five and six, respectively. Not surprising either. And the fourth Seattle jersey in the top ten? A jersey with the name “FAN” and the number 12 on the back. Continue reading »