By Rob Ellis
The licensing practices of open source software developers have often centered around copyleft or permissive licenses that provide free public access to a project’s source code with only a few restrictions on how the code may be used. These licenses often require that any derivative work created from the source code must also be licensed under similar terms. Websites, GitHub being a prominent example, allow developers to post their code so that others can download the master code, make changes to it and push those changes back up to the master copy. Sites like these are described as “distributed reversion control repositories” (DRCRs). With advancements in DRCRs, some trends show that today’s open source developers do not take into account licensing considerations until well after a project has been created and made available to the public. Labeled the POSS (Post Open Source Software) approach in a 2012 tweet by James Governor of RedMonk, many open-source developers are now skipping past licensing and governance considerations regarding code, and simply posting their work to sites like GitHub. This trend may offer more risks than opportunities regarding the ability of the code to be adopted into the OS community, and may expose code developers to greater liability regarding non-disclaimer of warranties. Continue reading
Seems that in Illinois a noncompete covenant in an employment offer letter is unenforceable if the only consideration given the employee is the promise of continued employment.
A case in Illinois involving an individual who sued his former employer seeking a ruling that his noncompete was unenforceable illustrates a potential pitfall for employers trying to prevent employees from leaving to work for competitors. Employers in many states routinely make offers of employment through offer letters, containing compensation terms, job duties and, sometimes, noncompete restrictions that apply during and after employment. Sometimes – but not always – the noncompete is coupled with a pre-agreed severance payment negotiated at the start of employment that would kick in upon any employment termination.
The case, Fifield v. Premier Dealer Services, Inc., was issued in June 2013 and the report can be found here. The question raised in the Illinois case was whether the absence of such a pre-agreed severance payment made the noncompete unenforceable. The employer argued that the offer of employment itself was adequate consideration in exchange for the employee’s agreement to not work for a competitor. The First District of the Illinois Appellate Court said not so, and the Illinois Supreme Court declined to review the appeal. Continue reading
While Apple Inc. has been at the leading edge of the app revolution, it is also out front in setting the guidelines for app purchases. According to the FTC last week, it crossed that line to the tune of $32.5M. That’s the amount that Apple agreed to refund to settle an FTC complaint that the company charged for children’s in-app purchases without parental consent. At issue was the practice by which Apple allowed iPhone users unlimited in-app purchases for 15 minutes after providing initial consent for a single purchase.
Apple Inc. has been instrumental in solidifying the ubiquity and prominence of applications or “apps” in everyday life. With the release of the groundbreaking iPhone in 2007 and its corresponding App Store in 2008, users became familiar with the idea of using and purchasing apps for specific uses. From news feeds and video players, to single and multi-player games, apps came to represent a download that, with the simple tap of the thumb, would add another tool, resource or game to a device. Continue reading
If someone publishes something defamatory on the internet, and I later re-publish that statement, generally I can be held liable for defamation equally as the original publisher of the defamatory statement. (See for example, http://www.wassom.com/publication-republication-and-defamation-online-guest-post.html.)
So, for example, if I publish on my blog an unvarnished, clearly libelous statement – oh, I don’t know, say I write something like “Sheldon Adelson (the casino magnate and Republican party contributor) runs a prostitution ring in Macau” – and then my friend (let’s call him “Phil”) repeats that statement on his blog, then typically both Phil and I can be liable for defamation. Continue reading
With the explosion of mobile devices, app developers face a much broader scope of information that privacy policies must address. With the treasure trove of information available via users’ mobile devices, developers must take great pains to detail what information is gathered and how that information is used. Privacy policies not only inform a user-base and foster good-will, but also ensure that the application does not abuse its access to information and run afoul of the law. Continue reading
Social issues such as jobs, healthcare and education take priority for citizens over privacy issues, the public’s concern for digital privacy has grown and looms large. In the absence of Congressional action in favor of consumer privacy, state legislators have begun to take matters into their own hands.
The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta reports that in 2013 alone more than 10 states passed over two dozen state privacy laws. Sengupta quotes John Pezold from Georgia’s House of Representatives: ‘”’[C]onsumers [are] becoming increasingly wary that their lives are going to be no longer their own… We have got to protect that.”’ Continue reading
With the proliferation of mobile devices in the past few years, application developers may now target their services and offerings to an ever-widening, always-connected audience. These apps involve the interplay of code and data in new and innovative ways. Whether an app developer begins the project informally in a garage, or as part of a team of developers, a host of intellectual property (IP) concerns exists from the inception of the idea, to the day the app is available for distribution in an app store. One simple, and often overlooked aspect of development is this: who owns the code?
Copyright and Computer Code
17 USC Section 117 of the Copyright Act states computer code, or software, is considered copyrightable material, providing it protection from unauthorized reproduction or distribution. This protection serves to reward innovators for their works, allowing them to benefit from their creations for a limited time. For an app developer, this means that the code created from the inception phase to completion is subject to copyright protection. Unless explicitly stated, it is not always clear just who retains ownership rights to the code.
Earlier this year, our colleague Bryce Cullinane wrote here on this blog about cookies or the tiny files created by websites you visit that store your information and allow sites to recognize your browser. Although cookies may have a profound impact on your desktop browsing activity, they’re steadily becoming obsolete due to both the growing ubiquity of mobile internet usage (cookies don’t work on mobile devices) and users’ conscious blocking of cookies. So far, marketers have developed just a few new technologies (that we know of) to continue to track consumers and deliver targeted ads.
The New York Times recently reported that the work of several new startups is dedicated to figuring out how to track people without cookies and also determine that multiple devices belong to the same person. California based Drawbridge is one company that is attempting to tackle this task, although COO Eric Rosenblum tells Claire Cain Miller and Somini Sengupta of the New York Times that “tracking is a dirty word” and explains that what they’re instead doing is “observing your behaviors and connecting your profile to mobile devices” (emphasis added).
By combining alerts sent by partners companies when you visit specific websites or use certain apps with statistical modeling, Drawbridge and its competitor companies like Greystripe can conclude that several devices belong to the same person. Once a consumer has been identified in this way, advertisers can ensure that this user receives specifically-targeted ads across all devices based on his or her activities. Or in other words, cross-device advertising.
Think about this. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Maybe you check e-mail on your phone. (Maybe you do something else before even that, ok we’ll grant you that.) From there, you may use your tablet for a few minutes to catch up on some news or check the weather. Then you might browse from your desktop at work. Fast-forward (perhaps many hours) and you’re in bed with your tablet (sadly), checking out your social media steams. Cross-device advertising makes it possible for flights to Europe to display on your tablet at night when you had been looking up similar flights earlier in the day while using another device. The same goes for purses you’ve browsed, restaurants for which you’ve read reviews and so on.
Although privacy advocates may be sighing in relief as cookies become increasingly irrelevant, their rest may be short-lived and not so easy in light of the coming attractions of future (and creepier) developments in online advertising.