STLR Link Roundup – September 7, 2013

Big Brother Isn’t the Only One Watching

With all eyes on the federal government’s wiretapping activities, commercial interests have tapped into consumer devices with little to no repercussions.

Corporate America – and apparently also Corporate Great Britain with approval from the British government – has been tracking consumer activities and movements without consumer permission or often without consumer knowledge. By tapping into consumers’ cell phones or other wireless devices, wireless network owners access a wealth of knowledge about would-be shoppers – information that may be translated into increased sales by sending targeted advertisements or coupons to individual devices as well as protecting against loiterers and would-be shop-lifters.

As a consumer, you may stop the collection of your personal data, but only by turning off your wireless-enabled device. So when the stakes are increasing GDP, the onus is on you, the unknowing consumer; but when it is national security at risk, the onus shifts to the federal government. If only the government knew that including some clippable coupons would turn the tables in their favor…

Globalization Means Everyone is Responsible

In an ever-expanding and interconnected world, physical proximity has lost much of its significance. Distance has become almost meaningless with remote purchase agreements, long-distance relationships, and… boundary-free liability. ‘Proximate cause’ has taken on a whole new meaning after a New Jersey court ruled last month that a non-present texter could be held liable for a textee’s car accident and any resulting injuries. As an extension of the concept of joint tortfeasors, the texting scenario feels like somewhat of a stretch. The argument didn’t extend liability in that particular case, but now you need to avoid more than just the drunk-dial text. Remember that there is always more than enough liability to go around.

Mutual Benefits of Copyright Infringement

YouTube has offered copyright owners a lucrative alternative to cease-and-desist letters. YouTube rolled out its program in 2010, leading YouTube to profitability and bringing many of its partners with it.  However, the real question is whether YouTube will adapt its unique model as it pushes forward and attempts to capture a new slice of the digital media market.

In an attempt to compete with companies like Netflix and Hulu, YouTube unveiled a Paid-Channel pilot program, partnering with a few mid-range channel owners. Now YouTube viewers may watch unlimited and commercial-free episodes of Sesame Street for a monthly fee. This is obviously good (if people sign up) for both YouTube and Sesame Street, but it is only the first step. YouTube has shown that real profitability lies with self-made copycat videos. It is only a matter of time before YouTube allows copycats to charge for access to their channels, with a hefty cut for both YouTube and the copyright owner.

About the Author

Adina Stohl

Adina Stohl is a Submissions Editor for the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review. She is a 3L at Columbia Law School.
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