How Your Body Language Shapes You

How Your Body Language Shapes You

Amy Cuddy, a social scientists, focuses on nonverbal human behavior. Our posture, a handshake, an awkward hug, a smirk, and many other things fall under this category. She says our body language is a form of communication. Social scientists have spent a fair amount of time looking at the effect of our body language on other people. Our body language helps others make judgments and inferences about us. An example would be during a job interview. However, we focus a lot on how others are impacted by our body language but fail to look at how we are impacted by our body language. In her research, Cuddy focused on nonverbal expressions of power and dominance. For animals, they make themselves big and take up more space with their body. For humans, something similar takes place. To illustrate her point, Cuddy shows an image of Oprah and an Olympic runner stretching. A power pose is demonstrated by Cuddy in the image below.

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Cuddy then focuses on how men and women exhibit different body language and nonverbal expressions. As a professor at Harvard Business School, Cuddy has seen that male MBA students tend to take up more space around their desk area and be more dominant in the classroom. Females find their small space and prefer to be there and only raise their hands slightly, continuing to take up less space. This is not surprising because women feel less powerful than men. She then goes on to compare the minds of powerful and powerless people. In physiology, high power individuals have high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. This is evidence that the body can shape the mind and the mind can shape the body.

Cuddy and her colleagues conducted an experiment where they took a student’s saliva sample, asked them to do either a low or high level pose for two minutes, asked them a series of questions about taking risks/gambles, and then took a saliva sample again. They found that those who did the high power pose were more likely to take risks/gambles. High power people also had higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol in only two minutes. This shows that our nonverbal behaviors govern how we think and feel about ourselves. How can we apply to this everyday life?

Answering this question was very important to Cuddy. She found that displaying confident and high power nonverbal behavior is important where we are being judged by others. This can be during a job interview or at a lunch meeting with friends. Since most people experience nonverbal shutdowns during a job interview, Cuddy conducted an experiment where several people were sent to an interview where they interviewers exhibited absolutely no nonverbal clues. The candidates came out very stressed and with high cortisol levels. At the end of the experiment, third party reviewers came in and looked at the videos of the interviews. They only preferred to hire the high power individuals because their nonverbal communication was a lot better. Cuddy tells a personal story of how she faked it until she made it at her first few jobs as a professor and speaker. She says you should not fake it until you make it, but fake it until you become it. Lastly, Cuddy concludes by saying everyone should try a power pose before stressful event and share this science to help others.

Source referenced: TED

Insurer Found Liable for Settlement Negotiated by Insured

Insurer Found Liable for Settlement Negotiated by Insured

San Diego Apartment Brokers prohibited riding bikes in the complex’s parking lot and other common areas after receiving complaints from several residents. Despite the new changes in policy, Juse Urista’s child continued to ride his bicycle in common areas. Brokers noticed that Urista was not complying with the new policy and served him an eviction notice. Urista sued Brokers claiming the eviction was wrongful and discriminatory. He also claimed negligence and violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act. Urista said the eviction also caused him depression and bodily injury.

Brokers received the claim and tendered it to its general liability insurer California Capital Insurance Company (CCIC). Brokers had not yet evicted Urista from his apartment at this point. CCIC refused to defend Brokers because Urista had not been evicted. Brokers’ attorney said CCIC could not refuse to defend his client without a valid defense. CCIC reviewed the case once again, but concluded that they did not have the authority to defend Brokers under the policy. They provided four reasons for not defending Broker’s action.

  1. Urista did not claim a separate physical injury
  2. Broker’s actions leading to the incident were decisions, not accidents
  3. A wrongful eviction had not taken place
  4. Even though Urista’s family had moved out, Urista’s continued residence precluded coverage

After CCIC refused to defend Brokers, Brokers ended up settling the case with Urista for $20,000. Then, Brokers sued CCIC for breach of contract and bad faith. The jury found in Brokers’ favor and awarded them $30,552. CCIC appealed the verdict by arguing that they never acted in bad faith because there was no genuine coverage dispute. However, the court rejected CCIC’s argument by saying Broker’s wrongful evictions claim clearly fell under potentially covered lawsuits.CCIC was being unreasonable by not defending Brokers. CCIC also ignored many of the other claims made by Brokers. CCIC’s refusal to defend Brokers was not in good faith. This case showed that an insurer can be held liable for settlement costs of its insured when the insurer refused to fends it insured in bad faith.

Sources referenced:

  1. JD Supra
  2. San Diego Apartment Brokers, Inc. v. California Capital Ins. Co., No. D062945, 2014 WL 1613449 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 22, 2014).
Dan Dennett: The Illusion of Consciousness

Dan Dennett: The Illusion of Consciousness

Dan Denneet is a philosophy professor who focuses on the human mind’s consciousness. Dennett says people often laugh when he tells them he works on understanding other people’s consciousness. He says it is very difficult to change other people’s consciousness because everybody thinks they are an expert on their own consciousness. However, there is a difference between having a strong opinion and having expertise in a certain field. Take video games as an example. Everyone has a strong opinion on whether video games promote violence, but not everyone is an expert on the research behind video games. In his TED Talk, Dennett says he wants to shake the audience’s consciousness.

During the first several minutes of his talk ,Dennett compares magic tricks to our consciousness. He says magic tricks, like our consciousness, seem more marvelous than they actually are in reality. He goes on to show computer-animated demos to show that we do not notice many things that happen. Dennett tells the audience the screen will show blocks that change colors, but mentions that it is difficult to recognize the change even when you know it will take place. He shares his personal experiences of viewing a Bellotto painting in North Carolina. Standing far away, Dennett thought he saw people in the painting. When he got up close, the people ended up being blobs of paint. This, he says, is an example of how your brains expects certain details or things.

Dennett says there are many times when we are subjects of experiments going on inside our brain. There are even times when you do not even know you had certain beliefs. Dennett continues to wow the audience with different paintings and explains how the brain “fills in gaps” to explain the images we see. He also explains the concept of change-blindness. Dennett says scientist often tell us things about our own consciousness that we would never dream of. This shows we are not always the expert or authority on our consciousness. Dennett concludes his talk by saying that both scientist and psychologist are working on theories to explain the human brain.

Source referenced: TED

4th Circuit: No Warrant Needed to Track Cellphone Location

4th Circuit: No Warrant Needed to Track Cellphone Location

A three-judge panel in the 4th Circuit Court had previously ruled that police officers needed a warrant to track location services and access information on a subject’s cellphone. The court was split on this decision, but the three-judge panel prevailed in limiting law enforcement authority. On May 30, the en banc 4th Circuit Court reversed its own decision and said no warrant is required for law enforcement officials to track location information for a subject’s cellphone. The court said all that would be required would be showing the court that the cell phone is relevant to the subject’s case. As long as the cell phone is relevant, law enforcement authorities will be able to get information about the cell towers through which the calls were made and received.

The US Supreme Court mandated precedent saying that information voluntarily provided to third parties, such as cell phone service providers, lacks requisite confidentiality. Therefore, no warrant is needed to access this information. Cellphone location information can be seen as similar to hotel bills and credit card statements, which are also not considered confidential. The Supreme Court did mention that this “third-party doctrine” may be modified or eliminated in the future. Congress has the power to require a warrant for cell-site location, but the controlling law does not require a warrant for cellphone location. It has been argued that allowing authorities to gain access to a subject’s cellphone does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Many attorneys and legal scholars are concerned that this decision by the 4th Circuit gives law enforcement authorities unlimited power to gain access to every American cellphone user without a warrant. Cellphones for many Americans contain intimate information and they may not want the government to see everything they see on their personal devices. Attorney Meghan Skelton intends to appeal the 4th Circuit decision to the Supreme Court. As an attorney for the defendants in the Baltimore case the 4th Circuit ruled on, Skelton believes her appeal to the highest court in the nation will better protect Americans. Although Skelton is optimistic, it is unlikely the Supreme Court will even hear the case. All of the circuit courts in the nation now agree that cell tower information is not private and it is very unlikely the Supreme Court will disagree with them.

We have previously blogged about a Supreme Court decision where they found that GPS tracking does count as a search and therefore must require a warrant. In that case, a unanimous decision said that if the government attaches anything to your body or your property, it counts as a search. Once again, the Fourth Amendment and advances in technology seem to be contradicting. However, tracking the location of your cellphone is different from attaching something to your body to track you. Perhaps this was the reason the 4th Circuit Court reversed their previous decision and now allows law enforcement officials to get cell tower information without a warrant. While unlikely to succeed, it would be interesting to how an appeal to the Supreme Court would play out.

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Source referenced: ABA Journal

Why Your Office Needs Stand-up Desks

Why Your Office Needs Stand-up Desks

Stand-up desks are a glimpse into the future of office spaces. Many of us have heard about the benefits of using a balance ball instead of a regular chair when sitting at the desk. However, a new study out of Texas A&M shows that there is no need for any type of chair. The study found that employees were 46% more productive at their call center job while at a stand-up desk. The study lasted for six months and focused on 167 workers. Texas A&M measured the productivity of the workers by looking at the number of calls each worker completed per hour. The office workers were split into two groups. 74 workers used stand capable work stations, while 93 worked at their desk with a chair. At the end of the day, those at the stand-up desks spent 1.6 extra hours standing. Looking simply at this information, it may seem like standing up led workers to be more productive. However, researchers believe there may be another reason for the increased productivity.

Over the six month study, those using stand-up desks said they experienced less discomfort. This would be saying that sitting at a desk is more uncomfortable than standing up. Since these workers experienced less discomfort, they were feeling a lot better and feeling good leads to better customer service over the phone. In this age of technology where many of us are constantly glued to our phones, anything that forces us to stand and be physical is good for our bodies and makes us happier workers.

While this study was conducted at a call center and may not apply to all work environments, it never hurts to try out or modify something to see if it works for you. Mark Benden, director of Texas A&M’s Ergonomics Center, said he would be thrilled to even get 23% more productivity out of his workers. He and many other believes a small investment in changing the workplace layout and furniture may pay off very well in the future.

We hope this post has been informative and has hopefully inspired business owners to make some changes around the office. Not only have stand-up desks proven to increase employee’s productivity, they also decrease discomfort for the employee. Sitting on a chair all day can definitely be tiring. Perhaps changing around the furniture in your office can help your business run more efficiently in the future.

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Source referenced: ABA Journal

Spirit v. Led Zeppelin: “Stairway To Heaven” Infringement Lawsuit

Spirit v. Led Zeppelin: “Stairway To Heaven” Infringement Lawsuit

There were many issues surrounding the Spirit lawsuit against Led Zeppelin and we will try to break down those issues in this post. Spirit claimed that Led Zeppelin infringed on its copyright with the iconic guitar arpeggio opening of “Stairway to Heaven.” Spirit believes their instrumental track “Taurus” is very similar to Led Zeppelin’s track. In order to better understand the case, let us first take a look at the issues that may come forth at trail.

Statute of Limitations

Led Zeppelin released their song about 43 years ago. The US Copyright Act says action must be “commenced within three years after the claim accrued.” This means Spirit would not be able to recover for any alleged infringement during the first 40 years of the song’s release. Recovery of new formats or new releases of the song would also be limited. Since the song has historically performed well, Spirit may still be able to recover a large amount of money. However, Spirit is concerned with more than just money. The band is also seeking an injunction to prohibit a new Led Zeppelin’s album by Jimmy Page.

Copyright Infringement

Many listeners are conflicted on whether Led Zeppelin copied Spirit’s song or whether the two bands just used the same instruments. To determine whether or not actual infringement took place, it is necessary to look at the court’s two-prong test:

  1. Copying of a prior work; and
  2. A substantial similarity to the prior work sufficient to constitute improper appropriation.

(1) Copying

This first element can be proven by either direct or circumstantial evidence. The more access a party had to prior work, the easier it becomes to prove similarity. In this case, proving access will not be a problem because Led Zeppelin and Spirit performed together the day after Christmas 1968 and many times in 1969. Spirit played “Taurus” at many of these concerts and music festivals. Since there is evidence of both access and similarity in this case, it must now be determined whether the second element is met.

(2) Substantial Similarity

In addition to proof of copying, there must also be a substantial similarity to the work. Substantial is defined as “qualitatively or quantitatively” and similarity means “similar in the ears of the ordinary member of the intended audience.” If the case reaches the trial court, both parties will present expert witnesses to show the similarities and dissimilarities between the two songs. Ordinary members of the listening audience may also be called upon to give their opinion.

Possible Affirmative Defenses by Led Zeppelin

  • The chord progression in “Taurus” is not original.
  • The chord progression in “Taurus” is not protectable under copyright law.
  • “Stairway to Heaven” was independently developed by Led Zeppelin without referenced to “Taurus.” Any borrowing from Spirit’s song would be seem as so minor that is it disregarded by the law. This would be “de minimis use.”
  • Since only short portions of “Taurus” were used by Led Zeppelin, the recording could be covered under the “fair use” limitations. However, this may not be the best defenses since copyright owners are entitled to as sales and licenses of their work.

Likely Outcome

If the court and ordinary members of the listening audience see enough similarities in the work to fulfill the two elements of copyright infringement, Led Zeppelin will be held strictly liable. It does not matter whether or not the copying with intentional or accomplished subconsciously.

It is very unlikely this dispute will makes its way deep into the legal system. Led Zeppelin has resolved prior claims of copyright infringement brought by third parties outside of court. In the case, Led Zeppelin is most likely to conclude the dispute with a confidential settlement agreement. The agreement may involve payments to Spirit and writing credit for the song “Stairway to Heaven.” However, Jimmy Page testified on behalf of his band on June 16, 2016. The trial is heating up and may not turn out as previous copyright infringement lawsuits have worked out for Led Zeppelin the past.

Source referenced: Forbes

Think Twice Before Flying Your Drone

Think Twice Before Flying Your Drone

The State of California has always been very concerned about its citizens privacy and has done its best to protect it. In the 21st century, the biggest threat to someone’s privacy is a camera drone. California is tackling this problem with Assembly Bill No. 2306. This law makes it both illegal and costly for anybody seeking to invade someone else’s privacy by taking photos of them with a camera drone. Many people say this law applies to paparazzi, but this is not entirely true. Drone sales have been increasing and many people buy drones for personal use. This can lead to concerns over where they  can legally fly their drone in certain areas. As a rule of thumb, a drone should not fly anywhere someone would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. An example would be your neighbor’s backyard.

The bill is an attempt to “expand a person’s potential liability for constructive invasion of privacy  by removing the limitation that the person use a visual or auditory enhancing device, and would instead make the person liable when using any device…to engage in illegal activity.” California lawmakers felt that existing laws on invasion of privacy did not cover drones and adding Assembly  Bill No. 2306 would better protect people’s privacy. The full act can be read at the link specified below.

Past laws on privacy said that a person was liable

"for 'constructive invasion of privacy' for attempting to capture, in a 
manner highly offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, 
sound recording, or other physical impression of another person engaging 
in a personal or familial activity under circumstances in which the  
plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of privacy, through the use of a 
visual or auditory enhancing device."

Assembly Bill No. 2306 removes the statutory tort of “constructive invasion of privacy,” which required that device used to invade someone’s privacy either enhance the video or audio. Removing this part of the bill allows drones to fit the requirement.

The civil punishments for this act are very expensive and should serve as a deterrent for possible criminals. The act says any “person who comes within the description of this subdivision is also subject to a civil fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) and not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).” In addition, anyone in violation of this law would be liable for up to three times the amount of any general, special damages, or punitive damages. In the case of paparazzi or anyone else invading someone’s privacy for commercial gain, all profits from the invasion will be given to the victim.

Although drones are available to buy in many big box stores and on several online sites, we recommend everyone to be careful when flying their drones. Many experts recommend flying drones in rural areas and far from residential areas. The fines and penalties for violating this law are very expensive, so we highly encourage everyone to strongly consider the purpose behind flying their drone and taking all necessary precautions.

Source referenced:

  1. PetaPixel
  2. Assembly Bill No. 2306
  3. Assembly Bill No. 2306 Analysis

 

 

Why You Should Stop Carrying Cash

Why You Should Stop Carrying Cash

What is Venmo?

If you have ever visited a restaurant or bar with your friends and got stuck with paying the entire bill or tab, you know the struggle of asking them to pay you back. Asking your friends to reimburse you can be a never-ending struggle, but not anymore. Enter Venmo, a mobile app you can connect to your bank account and social media accounts to exchange money. The app allows users to have a digital wallet connected to the money in their bank account. Using Venmo does not cost anything, unless you decide to use a credit card. If you use a credit card, you are required to cover the 3% transaction fee. The app, used mostly by millennials, eliminates the need to use an ATM or wait around for checks to be deposited. While some youngsters were hesitant to start using the app because it seemed “sketchy,” they regularly use the app now.

Venmo as a Social Media

Not only does Venmo serve as a digital wallet, it doubles as a social network. Every time a user makes a payment to a friend, they can summarize what the reimbursement was for and post it on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media sites. This allows Venmo to be more communicable for its users. Many users say they enjoy seeing what’s going on with their friends. One user said, “I wouldn’t scroll through Venmo just for kicks. But when I’m there, making a charge or a pay request, I like to check out what’s going on. People are kind of entertaining. Everyone wants to be creative and sarcastic. It can be pretty funny.” More and more people across America are turning to Venmo to settle their payments. While Venmo did not want to disclose the number of users they had, they did say that the company processed $700 million in payment in the third quarter of 2014. This number is only expected to rise as more people are asking their friends to “Venmo them” instead of paying them in cash.

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The History of Venmo

Venmo was founded by two friends, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, both graduates of the University of Pennsylvania. After college, both friends worked at startup companies, but knew they eventually wanted to start their own business. Venmo was born when Magdon-Ismail went to New York to visit Kortina and forgot his wallet. By the end of the trip, Magdon-Ismail owed Kortina $200. Both friends knew there had to be a better way for Magon-Ismail to pay Kortina back without the hassle of depositing checks. This is when Venmo was born. In the early stages of Venmo, users were able to use text messaging to send payments and write a short message. However, the founders knew they wanted to switch to a mobile app. The startup raised over $5 million in its first years and was successful until it had its first major crisis. Many of Venmo’s early users were using their credit cards to make payments and Venmo was covering the 3% transaction fee. This was costing the company too much money and profit. When Venmo made users pay the fee, their sales plummeted. With cashing running low, the founders decided to go to Braintree for help. Braintree ended up acquiring Venmo for $26.2 million. Venmo now makes money by charging merchants, who pay a fee every time a Venmo user complete a purchase order.

The Rise of Mobile Payments

Many futurists have been predicting the end of cash, credit cards, and checkbooks. A 2013 study predicted that Americans would use mobile payments to spend about $90 billion in 2017. Due to Venmo and the rise of mobile payment, this number has increased to $12.8 billion. Mobile payments are becoming the mainstream and merchants are attempting to get in on the action. There are more than 1,400 digital-payments-related startups. Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Snapcash are just a few examples. Venmo believes their app is a great way to get consumers comfortable with using their phones to make payments. The future of mobile payments seems to be very bright.

Source referenced: Bloomberg Businessweek

Investing Spare Change with Lawnmower

Investing Spare Change with Lawnmower

What is the one thing young professionals spend the majority of their time using? You guessed it, their smartphone. What is something young professionals today might have a problem doing? You may have guessed it, saving money. With this knowledge, an app called Lawnmower was launched in 2014. The app tracks its users credit card and bank transactions and rounds each one up to the next dollar. The spare change is invested into buying Bitcoin. If you buy a book for $4.70, Lawnmower will round your purchase up to $5 and invest the extra 30 cents into buying Bitcoin. The goal of the app is that the spare change will add up over time and become a way for today’s generation to save money.

More and more apps are being designed to help young professionals accumulate their wealth. Another app, Digit, automatically sends small amounts of money from a checking account to a savings account. Acorns, similar to Lawnmower, automatically invests spare change into exchange traded funds. Mint is another app that helps people understand their spending and increase their savings. A trend among all these apps is that they charge little or no fees for their services. Lawnmower does not currently charge anything, but users may still pay a fee for using Bitcoin. Lawnmower plans to offer premium services to its users to generate revenue.

The founders of Lawnmower, Alex Sunnarborg, Pieter Gorsira, and Patrick Archambeau, hope that their app will be easier to use than Bitcoin, which can be overwhelming and complex for new users. The fact that Lawnmower’s success is completely dependent on the ongoing use of Bitcoin does not concern the three founders. As an entirely digital currency, Bitcoin has had its fair share of ups and downs. While there were days when the price point of Bitcoin hit over $1,000, there were also days in 2014 where it stood at a little over $200. Although not everyone is convinced that Bitcoin is the future of currency, Sunnarborg does not think Bitcoin’s success or failure with impact his users too much. This is because his user’s will only be jeopardizing spare change, not huge amounts of money. Sunnarborg makes a fair point, but one thing to keep in mind is that losing small amounts of spare change everyday can add up to a huge amount.

Source referenced: Fortune

Western Union vs. Bitcoin

Western Union vs. Bitcoin

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Western Union was not happy when Bitcoin “released” an advertisement comparing itself to Western Union. The image above shows the parody ad that was posted on Bitcoin’s Facebook page. Western Union filed a claim against Bitcoin under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) saying Bitcoin had infringed on its trademark of the image. However, DMCA only covers copyright material, not trademarks. Facebook removed the image from Bitcoin’s News Page immediately and the man who originally posted the image, Dave Aiello, wanted to charge Facebook for deleting his image. It is not clear whether Aiello was the one who originally created the image, but he was the one to post it on Facebook and later share it on reddit. Facebook told Aiello they would restore the image to Facebook, unless Western Union takes legal action within 10 to 14 days.

Parodies are usually considered “fair use” under DMCA. In addition, companies rarely take legal action based on images or content posted on social media sites. This raises the question of why Western Union was so fast to take action against Bitcoin. One reason could be that Western Union feels threatened by Bitcoin’s rise in popularity. Another reason could be that Western Union simply wanted attention. If this spoof had not surfaced on social media sites, Western Union would not have gotten the attention it received. If they decide to take further legal action against Bitcoin, it just brings more attention to the company.

While we may not know the exact reason Western Union is making such a big deal out of a parody advertisement, it will be interesting to see whether or not the DMCA holds that parodies fall under the “fair use” doctrine. In addition, DMCA does not cover trademarks, which is what Western Union wants to sue for. This controversy brought attention to Bitcoin and their services. It would be a win-win situation for both companies at the end of the day in terms of media exposure, especially if Western Union is not able to formally file against Bitcoin.

Sources referenced:

  1. ARS Technica
  2. Coin Desk