All posts by Eric J. Sinrod

The First Amendment Protects Radio Hosts Covering Online Attacks Against A Sports Referee

The University of North Carolina (UNC) NCAA men’s basketball team ended the 2017 season for the University of Kentucky (UK) in a controversial game. Indeed, many UK fans blamed their team’s loss on supposed bad calls by a referee, John Higgins.

The wrath of the UK fans was so intense that Higgins received criticisms at his private job. On top of that, two Kentucky Sports Radio (KSR) hosts, Drew Franklin and Matt Jones (the hosts), vented negative comments about Higgins’ officiating. In so doing, the hosts conveyed online attacks that had been posted about Higgins. While reporting about the online attacks, the hosts at times repeated the attacks word for word, while minimally suggesting that fans not promulgate further attacks.

Higgins believed that the attacks and the reporting harmed him personally and his business. He filed suit against KSR and the hosts, alleging various causes of action. The federal district court dismissed the lawsuit based on the First Amendment, and Higgins appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In a recent decision in Higgins v. Kentucky Sports Radio, the Sixth Circuit agreed that the district court correctly dismissed the case on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading The First Amendment Protects Radio Hosts Covering Online Attacks Against A Sports Referee

FTC Clamps Down On Unreliable Coronavirus Marketing Claims

The coronavirus pandemic has caused illnesses, deaths, isolation and tremendous economic disruptions. Not surprisingly, many people are feeling desperate for solutions, and unfortunately, they can fall prey to misleading coronavirus marketing claims.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking to prevent these marketing practices. Indeed, the FTC recently sent ten warning letters to multi-level marketing companies (MLMs) telling them to remove and address claims that the MLMs or their participants are making regarding the supposed ability of products to prevent or treat the coronavirus or about the alleged ability of people to recoup lost income. Continue reading FTC Clamps Down On Unreliable Coronavirus Marketing Claims

The Internet Can Help When It Comes To The Coronavirus

Modern life of planes, trains and automobiles brings people together in close physical proximity like never before. Once upon a time, and actually not that long ago in human history, most people never saw anyone else outside of their own village or tribe. Those days are gone, and now we frequently are exposed to people from other cities, states, and countries. That is all well and good for the most part in terms of business and pleasure, except, of course, when it comes to the transmission of communicable diseases.

Just a couple months ago, most Americans had not even heard of the coronavirus which began in China and then started to spread. Now we are bombarded 24/7 with news, facts and fiction about the virus on television, radio, news sites, social media, podcasts and in everyday conversation. We are told that the coronavirus is highly contagious, is spreading exponentially, is a pandemic, could be with us for quite some time, and poses grave health dangers for at risk segments of populations. Continue reading The Internet Can Help When It Comes To The Coronavirus

Risks From Data Breach Sufficient For Standing?

Data breaches, unfortunately, are not entirely uncommon. A question that has arisen is whether there is standing to sue for people whose data has been stolen but who have not yet suffered actual damages. The Circuit Courts of Appeal have been split on the issue, with a recent decision by the D.C. Circuit, In re U.S. Office of Personnel Management Data Security Breach Litigation, 928 F.3d 42 (D.C. Cir 2019) (“OPM“), extending standing in this context farther than before in a case that may make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Continue reading Risks From Data Breach Sufficient For Standing?

Artificial Intelligence Errors Potentially Heralding Litigation and Regulation?

When we think of artificial intelligence (AI), we often think of machine learning and decision-making that far surpasses that thinking of mere humans.  Many jobs once employed by humans now are being handled by AI, which over time can prove to be less expensive, and causing greater productivity and accuracy in terms of performing job tasks.  But is AI truly a panacea?  Not so fast.  Some problems reportedly have emerged. Continue reading Artificial Intelligence Errors Potentially Heralding Litigation and Regulation?

A Light Touch When It Comes to Federal Regulation of Self-Driving Cars

Technology tends to explode out of the box at warp speed, with laws addressing new technology trying to catch up at a comparative glacial pace. There are various reasons for the slow pace of legal regulation. Often the impacts and ultimate consequences of new technology are not immediately known. In addition, it takes time for lawmakers to truly understand new technology before they can even contemplate how to go about regulation. And in certain instances, lawmakers want certain technologies to have the opportunity to grow and flourish unfettered by legal restrictions. Continue reading A Light Touch When It Comes to Federal Regulation of Self-Driving Cars

Patents Created by Artificial Intelligence?

Machine learning is increasing exponentially. As a result, artificial intelligence (AI) now is powering many aspects of our lives. If you ask Siri or Alexa, they will tell you that AI computers are performing surgeries, flying planes, driving cars and winning at games. What’s next?

What’s next might include inventions created by AI. Indeed, several months ago, the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) sought public comments on this topic.

Continue reading Patents Created by Artificial Intelligence?

Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

In 1996, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to provide Internet service intermediaries with general immunity from liability with respect to third-party content posted on their sites. Congress wanted the commercial Internet to flourish, with great benefits to the U.S. economy, and therefore did not want Internet intermediaries to be burdened with the phenomenally costly task of having to monitor and referee third-party content.

Calls for Section 230 Reform

Of course, as we know, the commercial Internet has flourished since 1996 to the advantage of the U.S. economy, and some of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies are Internet intermediaries that host third-party content. But there have been some complaints about the immunity provided by virtue of Section 230. For example, there have been complaints that some Internet intermediaries should have been and should be more active in monitoring and removing false information posted on their sites that is designed to influence political elections. In the wake of these complaints, there have been suggestions that Section 230 is ripe for potential amendments.

Continue reading Potential Amendments To CDA Section 230 Relating to Immunity Provided To Internet Intermediaries

Oregon Senator Proposes Robust Federal Privacy Legislation

Frustrated by privacy lapses by US companies, Democrat Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has introduced proposed federal legislation referred to as the Mind Your Own Business Act (the Act). If enacted, this law could put serious teeth into efforts to protect consumer data.

Serious Penalties for Noncompliance

Indeed, the Act could cause certain executives to find themselves in prison for as many as twenty years if their companies are found to have lied to legal authorities about improper use of consumers’ personal information. On top of that, the Act could lead to such companies incurring special tax penalties corresponding to executives’ salaries.

If this were not enough, the Act would empower the Federal Trade Commission with the ability to fine companies for violating this law up to four percent of corporate annual revenues. For some companies, this could amount to fines in the billions of dollars. Continue reading Oregon Senator Proposes Robust Federal Privacy Legislation

Your Smartphone: Friend or Foe?

Wherever we go these days, whether at work, at home, in restaurants, outside, or practically anywhere else, people reflexively go to their smartphones constantly.

Why? Because those little handheld devices can accomplish so much. We can send communications across various platforms, conduct business tasks, check on the news, shop, participate in social media, listen to music, watch videos, and the list goes on and on. Continue reading Your Smartphone: Friend or Foe?