Month: December 2012

FTC steps up regulation of apps aimed at kids

The FTC has amended the 1998 Child Online Privacy Protection Act to include provisions making it illegal via a mobile app to knowingly collect geolocation, photographs and videos from minors younger than 13 without a parent or guardian’s permission. The Biederman Blog recently reported on FTC concerns about inadequate protections for child privacy with apps for kids. Now there’s more clarity on the regulatory front for technology, entertainment and media companies on what’s permissible with these child-oriented products. The story has generated headlines, and rightfully, so considering parental concerns about their kids’ protection and the lucrative nature of apps for kids. While Hollywood has huge interest in the app biz — and even though the giants in the business  may covet the revenue, traffic and eyeballs, including and especially for kids — the industry doesn’t fund development: small start-ups carry through much of the hard, early slog and they must  demonstrate to major players a level of proficiency before they get snapped up as the next cool. Problem is they lack resources that are second-nature to studios to deal with legal and other concerns in the development phase. So developers are bristling at the feds moves to protect kids. Might the new regulations undercut app development for kids? Or is this small hurdle that developers can overcome with clever code? A recent Associated Press story reports on a devloper who considered innovating his 99...

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Judge finds too familiar a ring in this ‘Hobbit’

U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in Los Angeles has granted Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and producer Saul Zaentz a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum’s newest mock-buster, Age of the Hobbits. The flick was to be released straight to video three days before Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in theaters on Dec. 14. The judge said the hobbit trademarks fell into the fanciful or arbitrary category, which receive maximum protection as they are wholly made-up with no discernible meaning. He was unpersuaded by Asylum’s argument that the titles were not confusingly similar because they were not identical. Plaintiffs presented “evidence from a weekly tracking study conducted by Nielsen National Research Group, in which 30 percent to 40 percent of survey respondents exhibited confusion about the source of Age of Hobbits. Confusion rates of 25 percent to 50 percent offer support for likelihood of confusion ,while rates below 20 percent generally require corroborating evidence. The court held that the majority of factors weighed in favor of a finding of likelihood of confusion, particularly the similarity of the marks, relatedness of goods and use of similar marketing channels. The judge obeserved: “There is substantial likelihood that consumers will be confused by Age of the Hobbits and mistakenly purchase the film intending to purchase The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The court scheduled a late Janurary hearing on an order...

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Cyber savvy kids may dial up new legal woes

When federal watchdogs growled recently about privacy concerns for children and their parents over youngsters’ widespread use of nosy mobile apps, were there shamed or red faces all around Hollywood over this issue and the legal concerns it could raise? Should be, because underlying the U.S. regulators’ blast at app-makers was this reality: The entertainment industry has launched aggressively into creating, promoting and, potentially, profiting from kids’ mobile apps. So for entertainment counsel who are keeping up with the blitzkrieg changes in the bleed between their clients’ businesses, technology and societal change, it’s worth a little dig — especially in the midst of this holiday gift-giving season — into the matter of privacy and kids forays into apps, cyberspace and more. For evidence about the industry’s involvement, look no further than how media serving the business (notably Variety and the outfit known as iKids) both have launched and attracted notable attendance at summits-conferences on mobile apps and entertainment. Evidence: the list of folks who flocked to a NYC session this fall, all industry veeps … While mobile apps may be wondrous, the Federal Trade Commission’s report,  “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” wags a finger at app developers, distributors and interested third parties, pointedly saying grownups fail to adequately protect kids’ privacy when youngsters tap, tap, tap on these 21st century technologies. The FTC wants parental consent before children...

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Should celebrities seek a mark of distinction?

Your celebrity clients have a financial stake in the distinctive nature of their image and talent — and they don’t want unauthorized marketing that could dilute that value. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers an inexpensive solution to protect your clients from association with services, products or people that undermine or take unfair advantage of their image. Great! So what can you trademark? It can take almost any form as long as it is can be of identified and distinguished in specific goods and services. Such as?Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte has applied to trademark his catchphrase “Jeah,” just as Paris Hilton has trademarked the saying, “That’s hot.”  She sued Hallmark for using that phrase on a greeting card; they settled out of court in 2010. According to XFINITY, Michael Buffer has earned more than $400 million of of, “Let’s get ready to rumble.” But Donald Trump, intending to imprint his catchphrase on all kinds of merchandise, was rejected when he tried to trademark, “You’re fired!” NFL quarterback Tim Tebow owns the trademark for his knee-down prayer stance, tebowing, so it’s unsurprising that Anthony Davis, a New Orleans Hornets baseketball player, trademarked the phrases, “Fear the brow” and “Raise the brow” in evoking his uni-brow look. The New York Post reports that business savvy rapper 50 Cent, ne Curtis Jackson, sued Taco Bell for $4 million for trademark infringement in 2008 when the restaurant chain...

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Links on legal griddle in Europe’s high court

Well, hot links aren’t just a topic for food blogging: The disputes over sites that hyperlink to others that may be infringing have now been put before high judicial authorities in Europe. The Court of Justice of the European Union has received a request for a preliminary ruling from a Swedish court, the Svea hovrätt, concerning linking, a practice of embedding hyperlinks in websites to other sites with infringing material. The pending Swedish case, Nils Svensson, Sten Sjögren, Madelaine Sahlman, Pia Gadd v Retreiver Sverige AB (Case C-466/12),  concerns a third party subscription search engine linking to infringing material.  The request to the CJEU asks four questions which are simplified here courtesy of the 1709 Blog: 1. Does linking constitute communication to the public?; 2. Does it matter if the website being linked to imposes restrictions on access on its users? (It’s unclear from the questions what these restrictions on access are in this case, however they are likely to be the website’s T&Cs or paywalls requiring subscription.); 3. Should there be a legal distinction between linking and framing?; 4. Can a Member State expand the meaning of “communication to the public” to cover more than is set out at Article 3(1) of the InfoSoc Directive? In the United States, the oracular Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court Court of Appeals wrote in a ruling in Augustthat linking doesn’t constitute infringement. More on that and the opinion can...

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