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'Coal King' Is Suing John Oliver, Time Warner, and HBO

'Coal King' Is Suing John Oliver, Time Warner, and HBO

Reader Daetrin writes: Robert E. Murray, CEO of one of the largest coal mining companies in the US, is suing John Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation (alternative source) over a comedic report on the status of the coal industry in John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight”. The report began with the decline of the coal mining industry, Trump’s promises to revive it, and the plight of the workers involved, but was also highly critical of the business practices and safety record of Murray Energy Corporation and Robert Murray’s leadership of the company. When the company was contacted about the piece before airing they responded with a cease and desist letter and threatened to sue. John Oliver continued with the segment anyway, saying “I didn’t really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kinda forced my hand on that one.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court

Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called “The Slants,” will be able to trademark the name of his band. It’s also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark. The court unanimously held that a law on the books holding that a trademark can’t “disparage… or bring… into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead,” violates the First Amendment. Tam headed to federal court years ago after he was unable to obtain a trademark. In 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Tam’s favor, finding that the so-called “disparagement clause” of trademark law was unconstitutional.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Microsoft Wins Xbox Class-Action Fight at US Supreme Court

Microsoft Wins Xbox Class-Action Fight at US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Microsoft in its bid to fend off class action claims by Xbox 360 owners who said the popular videogame console gouges discs because of a design defect. From a report: The court, in a 8-0 ruling, overturned a 2015 decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed console owners to appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit by a federal judge in Seattle in 2012. Typically parties cannot appeal a class certification ruling until the entire case has reached a conclusion. But the 9th Circuit allowed the console owners to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit so they could immediately appeal the denial of a class certification. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing on behalf of the court, said such a move was not permitted because a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit is not a final decision and thus cannot be appealed. The approach sought by the plaintiffs would undermine litigation rules “designed to guard against piecemeal appeals,” Ginsburg wrote.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
When Sentencing Criminals, Should Judges Use Closed-Source Algorithms?

When Sentencing Criminals, Should Judges Use Closed-Source Algorithms?

Some judges in America have recently started using a closed-source algorithm that predicts how likely convicts are to commit another crime. Mosquito Bites shared an article by law professor Frank Pasquale raising concerns about the algorithms:
They may seem scientific, an injection of computational rationality into a criminal justice system riddled with discrimination and inefficiency. However, they are troubling for several reasons: many are secretly computed; they deny due process and intelligible explanations to defendants; and they promote a crabbed and inhumane vision of the role of punishment in society…
When an algorithmic scoring process is kept secret, it is impossible to challenge key aspects of it. How is the algorithm weighting different data points, and why? Each of these inquiries is crucial to two core legal principles: due process, and the ability to meaningfully appeal an adverse decision… A secret risk assessment algorithm that offers a damning score is analogous to evidence offered by an anonymous expert, whom one cannot cross-examine… Humans are in charge of governments, and can demand explanations for decisions in natural language, not computer code. Failing to do so in the criminal context risks ceding inherently governmental and legal functions to an unaccountable computational elite.

This issue will grow more and more important, the law professor argues, since there’s now proprietary analytics software that also predicts “the chances that any given person will be mentally ill, a bad employee, a failing student, a criminal, or a terrorist.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Bruce Perens Explains That 'GPL Is A Contract' Court Case

Bruce Perens Explains That 'GPL Is A Contract' Court Case

Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond — and he’s also Slashdot reader #3,872. Bruce Perens writes:
There’s been a lot of confusion about the recent Artifex v. Hancomcase, in which the court found that the GPL was an enforceable contract. I’m going to try to explain the whole thing in clear terms for the legal layman.

Two key quotes: “What has changed now is that for the purposes of the court, the GPL is both a license, which can be enforced through a claim of copyright infringement, and a contract, which can be enforced through a claim of breach of contract. You can allege both in your court claim in a single case, and fall back on one if you can’t prove the other. Thus, the potential to enforce the GPL in court is somewhat stronger than before this finding, and you have a case to cite rather than spending time in court arguing whether the GPL is a contract or not…””Another interesting point in the case is that the court found Artifex’s claim of damages to be admissible because of their use of dual-licensing. An economic structure for remuneration of the developer by users who did not wish to comply with the GPL terms, and thus acquired a commercial license, was clearly present.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' Temporarily Wins Right To Call Himself An 'Engineer'

Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' Temporarily Wins Right To Call Himself An 'Engineer'

Mats Jarlstrom, an electrical engineer fined by the Oregon engineering board for calling himself an “engineer” and talking about traffic lights, has been granted the temporary right by a judge to both publicly call himself an “engineer” and talk about traffic lights. Jason Koebler reports via Motherboard: Last month, Jarlstrom sued the engineering board for violating his First Amendment rights, and Tuesday a federal judge gave Jarlstrom the temporary right to call himself an engineer, pending the results of his case. “Plaintiff Jarlstrom may study, communicate publicly about, and communicate privately his theories relating to traffic lights throughout the pendency of this litigation as long as [his] communications occur outside the context of a paid employment or contractual relationship,” Anna Brown, a federal district court judge for the district of Oregon, ordered. He “may describe himself publicly and privately using the word ‘engineer’ throughout the pendency of this litigation.” Jarlstrom’s attorneys say this is a promising sign and a “critical first step in protecting Oregonians’ First Amendment rights.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Silk Road Founder Loses Appeal and Will Serve Life

Silk Road Founder Loses Appeal and Will Serve Life

OutOnARock quotes a report from Yahoo: Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the darknet marketplace known as Silk Road, has lost his appeal of a 2015 conviction that has him serving a life sentence on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, according to a federal appeals court decision released Wednesday morning. Ulbricht argued that the district court that convicted him violated the Fourth Amendment — which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures — by wrongly denying his motion to suppress evidence, and that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial. “On the day of Ulbricht’s arrest, the government obtained a warrant to seize Ulbricht’s laptop and search it for a wide variety of information related to Silk Road and information that would identify Ulbricht as Dread Pirate Roberts,” states the decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Downtown Manhattan. “Ulbricht moved to suppress the large quantity of evidence obtained from his laptop, challenging the constitutionality of that search warrant.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred

The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred

Long-time Slashdot reader lactose99 writes:
One of the original copyright trolls finally got their comeuppance. From TFA: “John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged ‘honeypot’ schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court.” John L. Steele, as you may know, is one of the principals of Prenda Law, a notorious copyright troll who has been featured on /. several times. The article goes on to describe how the Prenda lawyers used honeypot-like tactics to trick people into downloads and then subsequently scammed them for copyright violations.

Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding “While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
Engineer At Boeing Admits Trying To Sell Space Secrets To Russians

Engineer At Boeing Admits Trying To Sell Space Secrets To Russians

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in Culver City, Calif., has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, Calif., was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation employee. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). “In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. “During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show ‘The Americans.'”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court
PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo

PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo

PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company’s minimalist logo “dilutes the distinctiveness” of its own branding. “Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful,” the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed “P” into the chunky, sans serifed “P” that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal’s logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking “P” in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal’s mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted “Ps,” whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P’s lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal’s lawsuit also points out Pandora’s current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it “has no obvious path to profitability,” especially given “overwhelming competition” from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely “latched itself on to the increasingly popular” PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, court