CLIP-ings: October 7, 2016

Internet Governance

ICANN Acquires IANA: In a symbolic move toward web decentralization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization that counts several governments and corporations as its members, has acquired ownership of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the database that stores all Internet domain names; although this move will not have many tangible implications, it will put more faith in foreign governments and corporations that the internet belongs not to the United States, but rather to everyone.

Self-Driving Cars: California has approved a new bill that will allow driverless cars to be tested in certain locations without requiring human oversight; Uber-owned Otto has already signed up for the tests, and Apple and Google have also expressed interest.


Government Surveillance of Emails: Yahoo has been accused of helping the NSA and the FBI conduct mass surveillance of individuals by scanning incoming users’ emails for a list of specific words and characters—a practice that may be legal under current laws expiring at the end of the year.

Wanted for Theft: The FBI has covertly arrested a Maryland man working as a secret NSA contractor, who allegedly took classified computer code developed by the NSA to hack into computer systems of rival nations such as Russia and North Korea; although it is unlikely that the man sought to be a martyr for transparency and it is also unclear whether he had any political motives, the leak falls in the wake of the Edward Snowden scandal.

Information Security and Cyberthreats

New Credit Card Security: Two French banks, Société Générale and Group BPCE, will soon introduce a new credit card that employs Motion Code, a system in which a screen powered by a three-year lithium battery will be installed into the waterproof card and will display an hourly changing security code to prevent fraud and render information stolen online by thieves useless.

Your Body Can Transmit Data: Researchers at the University of Washington have created a system that transforms the human body into a transmitter of passwords and encryption keys by passing electromagnetic signals from a fingerprint sensor or touchpad into receivers on the body, thereby preventing the information from being leaked into the air and becoming vulnerable to security threats.

Intellectual Property

Supreme Court to Hear The Slants Case: The Supreme Court will rule on whether the 1946 Lanham Act—which prohibits the trademarking of offensive terms—violates the constitutional right to free speech, in a case involving a Portland-based Asian-American band called The Slants who were denied a trademark for their band name; this case follows the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins who were stripped of their trademark registration by the US Patent and Trademark Office in a 2014 decision and whose appeal the Supreme Court has refused to hear earlier this week.

Copyrighted Computer Codes: In what may be a violation of the First Amendment, writers can potentially face jail time and other penalties for publishing books about methods of improving computer security, under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), even though such research and publication of copyrighted computer code obtained without authorization may be permitted as fair use under copyright law.

Free Expression and Censorship

Did the NYT Violate the First Amendment? After the New York Times published three pages of Donald Trump’s 1995 income tax returns for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, several news sources reported that the First Amendment would most likely protect the Times, although more specifically, the fact that they were state returns and received anonymously could further shield the publication from liability.

Amazon Bans Incentivized Reviews: To protect the integrity of its 5-star review system, Amazon is now prohibiting incentivized reviews—which are reviews that users write on behalf of companies in return for money or free or discounted products; Amazon has also sued individuals and businesses that offer fake review services.

Practice Note

UK Hacking Offense Prosecuted in the US: Though Parliament had intended the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to have global effect, i.e., allowing a UK-based hacker to be prosecuted in the UK despite the computer being located outside the UK, the extradition proceedings of Lauri Love—a British hacker with autism who accessed the computers of various US governmental agencies and who now faces a possible 99-year prison sentence in the US—is an example of the UK not using the CMA to prosecute and instead deferring to a foreign government.

On the Lighter Side

Let’s Take a Selfie: Mastercard is rolling out a new feature called “Identity Check Mobile” which will allow users of the Mastercard app to circumvent inputting a password and instead verify their identity with either a fingerprint or a selfie; for the selfie feature, users will first need to take a photo of themselves, which will be stored on the Mastercard servers, and will then need to blink to assure that an identity thief is not simply using a photo to gain access to their account.

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