Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

LegalZoom Sues North Carolina State Bar, Seeks to Register Legal Services Plan

October 11, 2011

Changes driven by the internet and “cloud computing” continue.  Where exactly is the line between providing forms for use via the internet and giving legal advice in a jurisdiction where the attorney is not admitted?  How does that change when the attorneys are actually giving advice on how to fill out the form?  How does change if the person giving advice is not an attorney? Technology continues to blur these lines and affect how business accomplish their goals.


The online legal document company LegalZoom has sued the North Carolina State Bar in an effort to gain registration for its legal services plan. The suit also seeks a ruling that its business model doesn’t constitute the unauthorized practice of law, according to a press release and the Raleigh News

via LegalZoom Sues North Carolina State Bar, Seeks to Register Legal Services Plan – News – ABA Journal.


Warning – Dropbox files may NOT be encrypted from viewing by Dropbox or its employees

May 18, 2011

There are many articles encouraging attorney’s to use Dropbox to share files with others or with themselves. Often it is suggested a great way to get files between a work computer and a laptop or iPad.  However, this is first time I have seen a claim that the files are not securely encrypted and that they can be viewed by Dropbox employees and subject to subpoena.   Please review the below information and take appropriate steps to protect the confidentiality of your client’s data.  I am sure we will hear more about in the days to come.

Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher has published the following information at  How Dropbox sacrifices user privacy for cost savings:

Dropbox, the popular cloud based backup service deduplicates the files that its users have stored online. This means that if two different users store the same file in their respective accounts, Dropbox will only actually store a single copy of the file on its servers.

The service tells users that it “uses the same secure methods as banks and the military to send and store your data” and that “[a]ll files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.” However, the company does in fact have access to the unencrypted data (if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be able to detect duplicate data across different accounts).

This bandwidth and disk storage design tweak creates an easily observable side channelthrough which a single bit of data (whether any particular file is already stored by one or more users) can be observed.

If you value your privacy or are worried about what might happen if Dropbox were compelled by a court order to disclose which of its users have stored a particular file, you should encrypt your data yourself with a tool like truecrypt or switch to one of several cloud based backup services that encrypt data with a key only known to the user.

The issue is also discussed in this Infoworld article, Dropbox caught with its finger in the cloud cookie jar  and for me the most interesting part of the article was this:

On April 12, the Dropbox help site said:

Dropbox employees aren’t able to access user files, and when troubleshooting an account, they only have access to file metadata (filenames, file sizes, etc. not the file contents)… All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.

Starting on or before April 14, Dropbox changed that help page, and changed it again on April 23, so it now says:

Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files you store in your Dropbox account, and are only permitted to view file metadata… we have a small number of employees who must be able to access user data for the reasons stated in our privacy policy (e.g., when legally required to do so). But that’s the rare exception, not the rule. We have strict policy and technical access controls that prohibit employee access except in these rare circumstances… All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256)

A little different, eh?

Dropbox followed up on April 21, discussing employee access to encrypted data, and explaining changes to its Terms of Service Agreement, including this new TOS provision:

We may disclose to parties outside Dropbox files stored in your Dropbox and information about you that we collect when we have a good faith belief that disclosure is reasonably necessary to (a) comply with a law, regulation or compulsory legal request; (b) protect the safety of any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of Dropbox or its users; or (d) to protect Dropbox’s property rights.

So Dropbox appears to be clearly stating they have access to your data and have the right to disclose it as they believe necessary.

Once again, the security of cloud computing for attorneys is brought into question.

Newspapers Fight To Keep Government “Notices”

April 26, 2011

Interesting article about several states reconsidering whether to continue requiring public notices to be published in a newspaper.  This could also affect how public notice of lawsuits is given. It discuss how newspapers are advocating that governments (state and local) keep advertising their notices via newspaper versus providing the information on a government website.  The question should perhaps be, which one is likely to reach the most people and has the newspaper lost its role as the medium best suited to give “notice”.

Click to read the rest on Business Insider

Army Sergeant Convicted of Threatening Judge in YouTube Video; First Amendment Appeal Possible – News – ABA Journal

April 2, 2011

Saying you will kill someone sounds like fighting words to me and not the type of free expression of ideas our founding fathers had in mind. Threatening to kill another human being is not the correct way to resolve a judicial dispute. I admit I am currently studying First amendment jurisprudence, but I do not foresee any such appeal being successful. In fact I wonder if it would be classified as frivolous. I do need to add the disclaimer that I am only commenting on the facts contained in the story linked below and did not seek out or watch the referenced video personally.

A federal jury in Tennessee has convicted an Army sergeant for threatening a judge in a YouTube video. Franklin Delano

via Army Sergeant Convicted of Threatening Judge in YouTube Video; First Amendment Appeal Possible – News – ABA Journal.

Time Warner Ordered to Hand Over IDs in Illegal Downloading Suit

March 31, 2011

From the Blog of Legal Times:

A Washington federal judge has ordered Time Warner to identify several hundred subscribers accused of illegally downloading movies, over the cable giant’s protests that the request is unfairly expensive and time-consuming.

U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, in an opinion (PDF)issued yesterday, struck down Time Warner’s motion to quash the subpoenas for subscriber information in two of the three cases pending before the court, meaning Time Warner will have to come up with the identities of about 250 subscribers.

Now that this has been granted, it will be interesting to see if Time Warner contacts their subscribers and notifies them to give them the opportunity to file objections, before their information is handed over. As they are not currently parties to the case as this time, this creates additional complications for anyone wishing to try and protect their identity.

Some Federal Courts Ban Smartphones Because They Could Be Bombs – News – ABA Journal

March 30, 2011

As always, it is important to check the local rules of a court before going there for the first time.

Some federal courthouses ban smartphones because of fears that could be used as weapons by terrorists.A memo issued last week by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts outlines the dangers, Wired’s Threat Level blog reports. “These common devices present security issues because some can be and have been converted for use as weapons, including explosives,” the report says.The report explains other dangers: Smartphones can be used to secretly record or transmit videos of court proceedings, and they can be used by jurors to research case details on the Internet.Courthouses vary in their policies, according to Threat Level. In San Francisco, for example, Wi-Fi connections allow access to the Internet in courtrooms, and live blogging and tweeting is common there.

via Some Federal Courts Ban Smartphones Because They Could Be Bombs – News – ABA Journal.

Court Holds that Data About Car Speed and Brake Usage Stored in Car’s Computer Protected by Fourth Amendment

February 10, 2011

This is a link to a post by Orin Kerr covering that the data contained in a car’s “black box” is protected by the fourth amendment and that police (at least in that area of California) need to a get a search warrant before retrieving it.

Quote from State v. Xinos opinion:

We do not accept the Attorney General’s argument that defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the data contained in his vehicle’s SDM. The precision data recorded by the SDM was generated by his own vehicle for its systems operations. While a person’s driving on public roads is observable, that highly precise, digital data is not being exposed to public view or being conveyed to anyone else. . . . We conclude that a motorist’s subjective and reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to her or his own vehicle encompasses the digital data held in the vehicle’s SDM.

Juror Study Shows More of a BlackBerry Effect than a ‘CSI’ Effect

February 8, 2011

The chief judge of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, Mich., had heard a lot about the so-called CSI effect—said to increase jurors’ expectations that technology can solve crimes with lightning speed, just as it happens on the television show CSI. But he hadn’t seen the evidence. So Judge Donald Shelton devised two studies of people called for jury duty, and found more of a BlackBerry effect, NPR reports.

The story goes to on to say that the wealthy and more tech savvy the juror is, the more they expect scientific evidence as opposed to their familiarity with “tv science”.


via Juror Study Shows More of a BlackBerry Effect than a \’CSI\’ Effect – News – ABA Journal.


For Lawyers, the Appeal of Social Media Is Obvious. It’s Also Dangerous

February 5, 2011

Sean W. Conway thought he was writing an ordinary blog post. He never suspected he would wind up facing ethics charges.

So starts an ABA article on the dangers of social media and online posting.

Seduced: For Lawyers, the Appeal of Social Media Is Obvious. It\’s Also Dangerous – Magazine – ABA Journal.



Class-action lawsuit filed over iPhone 4 glass strength

January 28, 2011

As reported by LA Weekly:

If you own an iPhone 4 and the glass casing has broken, you are not alone.

So many people have complained, in fact, that the phenomenon has even earned the nickname, “Glassgate.

Apparently fed up and pissed off, California resident Donald LeBuhn filed a class action lawsuit earlier this week in L.A. County against Apple, claiming the company knows about the design flaw and refuses to warn consumers that “normal” use leads essentially to a broken phone.

Consumer warranty provider Square Trade, has published their own study, which can be summarized as:

iPhone 4 glass breaking 82% more than iPhone 3gs – four months in

Synopsis: SquareTrade analyzed iPhone accidents for over 20,000 iPhone 4s covered by SquareTrade Care Plans and found a 82% increase in reported broken screens compared to the iPhone 3gs.

Highlights of the study include:

  • iPhone 4 owners reported 82% more damaged screens in the first 4 months compared to iPhone 3gs owners.
  • Overall, the reported accident rate for iPhone 4s was 68% higher than for the iPhone 3gs.
  • An estimated 15.5% of iPhone 4 owners will have an accident within a year of buying their phone.

Square Trade Iphone Glass Study.

Many industry pundits are predicting that the next version,  iPhone 5, will feature a redesign and move away from the glass back and perhaps revamp the external antenna as well.  Certainly, changes to the antenna have been made for the Verizon CDMA version.  I wonder if there are design changes, whether those would be admissible as evidence of Apple’s knowledge of the issue, or whether they would been seen as remedial steps and barred under Federal Rules of Evidence 407, which states:

Subsequent Remedial Measures

When, after an injury or harm allegedly caused by an event, measures are taken that, if taken previously, would have made the injury or harm less likely to occur, evidence of the subsequent measures is not admissible to prove negligence, culpable conduct, a defect in a product, a defect in a product’s design, or a need for a warning or instruction.  This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of subsequent measures when offered for another purpose, such as proving ownership, control, or feasibility of precautionary measures, if controverted, or impeachment.

Or California’s version (Rule 1151) which states:
When, after the occurrence of an event, remedial or precautionary measures are taken, which, if taken previously, would
have tended to make the event less likely to occur, evidence of such subsequent measures is inadmissible to prove negligence or culpable
conduct in connection with the event.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this progresses.

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