CLIP-ings: December 2, 2016

Internet Governance

Unwrapping North Korea’s Internet: Although internet usage is slowly increasing in North Korea in places like elite graduate universities and some governmental offices and ministries, the government maintains a strict hold on the internet and communications with the outside world, monitoring all channels and instilling a fear in citizens of the consequences of disobedience.

A Snoopy Christmas: Despite criticism from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo and even the UN special rapporteur for privacy who called the bill “worse than scary,” the Snooper’s Charter, an alleged counterterrorism measure, officially became law earlier this week in the UK and will allow the government to conduct mass global surveillance, including bulk hacking, bulk data collection, and the requirement that phone and internet providers store communications data for a year and provide it to law enforcement when asked.


Yule Be Tracked: Uber’s new update requests that users allow the app to track their locations even when not in use, sparking concerns about how the company will use this information, though Uber claims that it will only use this feature to improve the accuracy of location pick-ups and drop-offs.

Scrooges at the Border: The Fourth Amendment’s protections against unlawful search and seizure are suspended at the US border, where the U.S. Customs of Border Protection has been exercising its right to confiscate and access laptops and smartphones of regular passengers and journalists without any warrant or suspicion of wrongdoing; in particular, award-winning Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou was detained and had his phones and other materials confiscated before being denied entry into the country, preventing him from covering the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

Santa’s Little Alert System: Under the 2006 Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) may be sent to consumers’ cell phones in the form of an alert issued by the president, an alert involving imminent threats to safety or life, or an Amber Alert; as cell phone carriers can allow subscribers to block all of these alerts except for presidential ones, the question remains as to how President-elect Donald Trump will use this system, though his alerts will need to be issued through FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System before reaching the American public.

The Bells Are Not Jingling in Congress: Congress has failed to prevent new changes to the search-and-seizure provision in the FRCP from going into effect Thursday, meaning that FBI and other US law enforcement agencies will now have the authority to hack into computers and phones belonging to US residents no matter where they are located in the world, though a US-issued search warrant will still be required for such tracking.

Intellectual Property

A Christmas Miracle: Netflix has announced that it will allow offline viewing of content, although due to limitations imposed by licensing agreements, not all content will be available for download and users will be restricted from downloading too many titles at once.

Counterfeit Operation Near the North Pole: As part of its new “Don’t F***(AKE) Up” campaign, Europe’s police agency, Europol, teamed up with agencies from 27 countries, including the US and Canada, to seize more than 4,500 website domains involved in trading counterfeit products, leading to the arrest of 12 people across The Netherlands and the seizure of more than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods.

Free Expression and Censorship

The Grinch Who Didn’t Steal Free Speech: With just one signature from President Obama, the Consumer Review Fairness Act will make it illegal nationally for businesses to punish consumers who leave negative reviews of the establishment on or offline, partly in response to the 2013 case Palmer v. KlearGear in which the plaintiff was threatened with a $3,500 fine for posting a negative online review of a company.

The Censorship Tree-tment: In China, Microsoft’s chatbot, “Xiaoice,” refuses to speak when asked about controversial topics, such as Tiananmen Square, Chinese President Xi Jinping, or even Donald Trump, while in other parts of the world, Facebook is required to restrict certain content (Pakistan and Russia), has been pressured to censor anti-immigrant posts (Germany), and is being accused of aiding in the spread of fake news (US)—all examples of the problem tech companies face in balancing users’ rights with censorship restrictions imposed by the national governments in order to gain access to those markets.

Practice Note

Ho! Ho! Hold It Before You Post That Meme! The legality of memes has come into question in a false light invasion of privacy case in which a “Dancing with the Stars” contestant publicly humiliated a child with Down Syndrome by adding a derogatory caption on an already-circulated photo of the child; after the mother requested he take down the image, the accused refused and defended his actions by asserting that the child’s obesity was a matter of public concern.

On the Lighter Side

An Icy Disposition: Iceland Foods, which owns a European trademark for “Iceland” and also operates a supermarket chain in Britain under that mark, is being sued by the country of Iceland, which is trying to invalidate the trademark because it has impeded local Icelandic firms’ efforts to market their products using the geographic term.

Joel R. Reidenberg
Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law and Founding Academic Director, CLIP

N. Cameron Russell
Executive Director, Fordham CLIP

Editorial Fellows, CLIP
Nadia Kashem
Meghna Prasad