Apple Music versus Spotify

Apple Music versus Spotify

Apple is perhaps one of the most popular and successful companies in the world right now. However, this may come at a price. Several months ago we heard about Apple versus Samsung. After the San Bernadino shooting, we heard about Apple taking on the Federal Government. Now, there is something else Apple can add its its list, Apple versus Spotify. Spotify, the music streaming service, says Apple is making it harder for the company to compete by blocking a new version of its iPhone app. Apple cited “business model rules” when rejecting Spotify’s app and said they would approve it if Spotify agreed to use Apple’s billing system. Spotify claims the real reason Apple is not allowing their app to be accessible for users it because they are attempting to promote Apple Music, which launched June 2015 and has not been too successful. They believe Apple is using the App Store as a weapon to harm its competitors.

Spotify is not alone in claiming that Apple’s subscription policies punish third-party music services that use Apple’s platform. Many other music streaming services have complained about the same thing. Apple’s comment about the billing system may also be an attempt for the company to make more money. Apple charges a monthly billing fee of up to 30% for those who use its billing system. These policies were introduced in 2011 and after much hesitation, most publishers agreed to them. If Apple does not change its App store policies, Spotify has no real market to go to in order to sell to iPhone users. Having only Android users may not be enough for the company to thrive. Spotify, possibly knowing that they would have problems with Apple in the future, started asking users to visit their website to get a three months of service for $0.99 in Fall 2015. In June 2016, Spotify revived its offer for new users. Although Spotify did not promote this offer, they turned off the App store billing option. This is what really started the dispute.

Spotify published the letter it wrote for the public to see and even handed it out to members of Congress. Spotify is powerful voice in the streaming media market. In June 2016, Apple Music had 15 million paid subscribers, while Spotify has 30 million. This may be one reason for Apple to take a step back and consider what they are requiring of Spotify. Both Apple and the music streaming service declined to comment on the debate over the App store billing option. We look forward to seeing how this debate unfolds.

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Source referenced: Recode

The Landmark Case of Riley v. California

The Landmark Case of Riley v. California

This Supreme Court case from 2014 brought the Fourth Amendment into the digital age. David Leon Riley belonged to a gang in San Diego, California. In August of 2009, Riley and other gang members opened fire on a rival gang member while driving past him. Everyone fled in Riley’s car. A few weeks later, Riley was pulled over for an expired license registration tag in a different vehicle. Riley’s license turned out to be suspended and his car was going to have to be impounded. According to police policy, a car must be searched for all of its inventory to protect against the police department from liability claims  in the future. During the search, the police located two guns and arrested Riley for possession of firearms. The police also confiscated Riley’s phone and a detective analyzed his pictures and videos. He found that Riley was a gang member and was tied to the shooting earlier that month. Riley was charged with shooting at an occupied vehicle, attempted murder, and assault with a semi-automatic firearm. As the case progressed through different courts, the issue became whether or not the information/evidence gathered through Riley’s phone was admissible. The California Courts said it was okay to admit evidence from Riley’s phone. The Supreme Court differed and their decision made this case one of America’s landmark cases.

The ruling now requires that authorities obtain a warrant before searching a seized cell phone after an arrest. A warrantless cell phone search violates the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Although this ruling may not seem like anything extraordinary to the average person, it hints at the fact that the Court is ready to engage with challenges it will face in the digital age ahead. This ruling also signals that the Court is concerned with the privacy of its citizens in this age of technology. We may see the court taking a pro-privacy approach in the future as well.

The Court identified many reasons for affording cell phones greater Fourth Amendment protections than physical records. Chief Justice Roberts explained these reasons:

  1. Cell phones have an immense storage capacity and can store millions of texts, pictures, and videos.
  2. Cell phones are able to aggregate many distinct types of information in one place.
  3. Data on cell phones usually includes “private information never found a home in any form.”
  4. Cell phones can serve as a portal to private records stored on remote servers. One click on a phone can give someone access to data stored elsewhere. This refers to cloud computing.

Not only did the Justices focus on the quantity of data stored in cell phones, they also looked at the quality of personal information. The Fourth Amendment was put in place by the Founding Father’s in order to maintain the privacy of the colonists. When British officers started rummaging through the home of people looking for criminal activity, the Founding Fathers knew there was a problem. This Supreme Court decision shows the privacy of Americans still needs to be protected. Many of the statements Chief Justice Roberts made along with the unanimous court showed that the NSA’s bulk record collection program may not be the best route for increased national security either.

Chief Roberts concluded the unanimous court decision by saying something that will definitively go down in the history books, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.” We hope this in-depth analysis of Riley has helped our readers better understand their rights.

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Sources referenced:

  1. SCOTUS Blog
  2. Oyez
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).
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

“I Don’t Answer Questions”

“I Don’t Answer Questions”

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution is often misunderstood. The right to remain silent protects the innocent more than that it helps criminals. News media and television shows often make it seem as if pleading the 5th is only something criminals do when they don’t want to admit to a crime. This is not true. Many innocent people plead the 5th when it comes to answering questions by law enforcement agencies. In the past couple of years, there has been a change in the way you should invoke your 5th amendment rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in Salinas v. Texas that Americans are now expected to know their 5th amendment rights. We are expected to know that unless we specifically invoke this right, anything you do or say can be used against you in a court of law. We are now encouraged to specifically say the phrase “I don’t answer questions.” Being silent can be used against you. The type of investigation or interrogation does not matter. A common occurrence is being stopped by a police officer who is prying for more information. The video below shows how you can immediately, verbally, and clearly invoke your 5th amendment rights and avoid self-incrimination.

If you watched the video closely, you see that the drivers hand the police officers a card. This card is similar to a business card, with two sides. The first side of the card says, “I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the following rights and privileges afforded to me by the United States Constitution. I invoke and refuse to waive my 5th Amendment right to Remain Silent. I invoke and refuse to waive my 6th Amendment right to an attorney of my choice. I invoke and refuse to waive my 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If I am not presently under arrest, or under investigatory detention, please allow me to leave.”

The second side of the card says, “Officer, I Assert My Fifth Amendment Rights As Stated On This Card, Pursuant to the law, as established by the United States Supreme Court, my lawyer has advised me not to talk to anyone and not to answer questions about any pending criminal case or any other civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter.  Following his advice, I do not wish to talk to anyone about any criminal, civil, administrative, judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory matter, without my lawyer present.  I waive no legal rights, nor give any consents, nor submit to any tests or other procedures, without my lawyer present.  I ask that no one question or talk to me, without my lawyer here to advise me.”

We advise all of our clients to have something similar to this card with them at all times. Not only is it important to know your rights, it is equally as important to clearly invoke your rights. While you may be in a stressful situation when a law enforcement official is questioning you, you must remember your rights and the importance of the Salinas ruling. We hope the video above and the article referenced below is useful to our clients and helps them protect their constitutional rights.

Source referenced: The Free Thought Project

Vinod Khosla’s Martins Beach Dispute

Vinod Khosla’s Martins Beach Dispute

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up to protect oceans, beaches and the public’s access to them. In September of 2014, Surfrider brought suit against Vinod Kholsa to open the gates to his Martins Beach Property. Khosla, the founder of Martins Beach 1, LLC and Martins Beach 2, LLC, bought the property from a previous owner and continued their practice of charging a car parking fee to allow access to the beach. This continued until 2011, but then Kholsa closed and locked the gates leading to Martin’s Beach. He also hired security guards to be sure their were no trespassers. Surfrider filed suit against the billionaire at the CA Superior Court in San Mateo County. Surfrider wanted public access to the beach, as well as penalties against Khosla for a violation.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach sided with Surfrider in saying that Khosla had violated the California Coastal Act by blocking public access to the beach. She said permanently locking the gates and hiring a security guard clearly prevented public access to the beach. Judge Mallach said Khosla and his company must apply for coastal development permits if they want to lock the gates and prevent public access. Until the correct permits are granted, the beach must be publicly accessible. Surfrider also wanted Khosla and his companies to pay penalties for locking their gates, but Judge Mallach did not agree with the foundation. She said since Khosla’s behavior was “in good faith,” penalties were not justified.

Surfrider celebrated a victory and claimed that “great wealth cannot be used to circumvent and ignore the law.” Vinod Khosla is expected to appeal the decision. He said he was disappointed with the court’s decision and says he “will continue to seek protection of the constitutional rights of private property owners that are guaranteed by the U.S. and California Constitutions .” Fast forwarding into 2016, Kholsa’s years-long dispute is headed to trial. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has approved the case against Khosla and his attorney’s are eager to protect the right’s of coastal property owners in the upcoming trial.

Sources referenced:

  1. Silicon Valley Business Journal
  2. Fortune
What are Blockchain Smart Contracts?

What are Blockchain Smart Contracts?

Smart contracts are “contracts between parties stored on a blockchain” or “any computation that takes place on a blockchain.” The term can be used to identify a specific technology (smart contract code) or a specific application of that technology (smart legal contracts). The two uses of this term often lead to confusion and debates among individuals. Understanding the difference between the two uses of the word smart contracts will help you answer questions and better take a stand for your position on smart contracts.

Smart Contract Code

Smart Contract Code is the term used to identify a specific technology. Individuals who develop blockchain technology used the term “smart contract code” to refer to blockchain code. However, many people generically use this term to refer to any complex program that is stored and executed on blockchain. The reason we call these codes contracts is to show that they hold something valuable. Think of it as something equivalent to money or someone’s identity. Unlike legal contracts, smart contracts are not actually “contracts.” They do need conditioned financial language at all times.They can also hold balances of cryptocurrency. Augur, Slock.it, and Boardroom are examples of application that are made out of smart contract code. As the use and understanding of this term increases, we may be able to get out of using the analogy to legal contracts. Instead, we may be able to refer to smart codes the same way we refer to JavaScript or HTML.

Smart Legal Contracts

The terms smart legal contracts refers to “a way of using blockchain technology to complement, or replace, existing legal contracts.” Unlike Smart Contract Code that can operate on its own, smart legal contracts need the assistance of the law. In other words, it would require a blend of code and natural language. An example would be a supplier of goods who enters into a contract with a retailer. While the payment may be automatically made when the delivery is made, an indemnification clause would no bring any value to a smart legal contract because a court would be needed to enforce it.

When can you use a Smart Contract?

There are many different uses for smart contract. In the past, they have been used by the financial field as instruments for stocks, bonds, or derivative contracts. This allowed them to simplify the process related to trading. In the future, real estate and intellectual property can be exchanged and traded over the blockchain system. The hope is that smart contracts can be used to facilitate new types of commercial arrangements and make more commercial relationships possible. Machine-to-machine commerce and the growing system of smart devices with the ability to communicate to one another is also a region for smart contracts to grow. While smart contracts will not necessarily work for legal contracts, they are commercially viable if there is a trusting relationship.

We hope this article has cleared up confusion on the term smart contracts and has provided information on when to use smart contracts. The different uses of the term in the field only adds to the confusion of blockchain technology and smart contracts. With more and more technologies emerging, we should see an increase in the use of smart contracts for commercial purposes. Using them for legal matters is not recommended for the reasons stated above. Lawyers looking at smart contracts often see them as marginally approved legal agreements, but fail to see the potential of blockchain-code to extend beyond law’s reach.

Source referenced: Coin Desk