Technology

The New York City Bar Association’s recent report, The Cloud and the Small Law Firm: Business, Ethics and Privilege Considerations (November 2013) offers reasonable enough advice to solo and small law firms contemplating a move to the cloud.  Evaluate the vendor. Review and understand the terms of the service agreement, including the level of security promised, the ability to access data and data breach notification policies.  Assess the risks associated with housing certain types of data against the benefits of convenience and accessibility that the cloud provides. Understand that lawyers have a unique ethics obligation to protect and preserve client data.  In short, nothing that lawyers haven’t already heard in the more than fourteen state ethics decisions of the past five years addressing the cloud (though the Report has value in that it summarizes these opinions all in one place).

Still, while the Report offers solid advice to lawyers considering the cloud, I take issue with the proposed solutions.  We’ve reached a point where solo and small firm lawyers need more than just advice on evaluating the cloud. Rather, we need the bar associations to actually take action to facilitate adoption of the cloud in those situations where it is appropriate…

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In too many ways, 2013 was a year that vindicated the long-standing paranoia of many Americans, particularly the more conservative. A bewildering number of stories littered the news that seemed to confirm exactly the sort of gross government overreach that previously sounded like a delusion of someone whose eyes were scanning the skies for black helicopters. In spring 2013, for example, we learned that the IRS had been targeting the 501(c)(3) applications of conservative and libertarian organizations, apparently based solely on their political and philosophical affiliations. Nothing in 2013, though, fanned the flames of political paranoia quite like revelations of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.

In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, decided in February, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Amnesty International’s constitutional challenge to a portion of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. In its 5-4 opinion, the Court found that Amnesty lacked Article III standing, in part because the plaintiffs could not show that they had necessarily been targeted for surveillance. When Edward Snowden later disclosed details of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, civil libertarians experienced something of a Pyrrhic victory. Standing would not be a problem in many future lawsuits because the revelation of PRISM established that millions of Americans had been subject to some NSA spying. The only question was whether that surveillance amounted to a violation of the law.

As we leave 2013 and 2014 dawns, some new developments have emerged . . . .

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As they do every year, unfortunately, the good folks at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke have put together a depressing list of what should have entered the public domain yesterday. As you hopefully know, until 1978, the maximum amount of time that work in the US could be covered by copyright was 56 years (you initially received a 28 year copyright term, which could be renewed for another 28 years). That means, back in 1957, everyone who created the works in that list knew absolutely, and without a doubt that their works would be given back to the public to share, to perform, to build on and more… on January 1, 2014 at the very latest. And they all still created their works, making clear that the incentive of a 56 year monopoly was absolutely more than enough incentive to create.

And yet, for reasons that still no one has made clear, Congress unilaterally changed the terms of the deal, took these works away from the public, without any compensation at all, and will keep them locked up for at least another 40 years. At least.

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Ed. note: Happy New Year! We will resume our normal publication schedule on January 2nd. See you next year.

* A guy got pantsed twice. He then secured a six-figure judgment! And now he’s appealing that judgment!?!? God, this is exactly the kind of guy who deserves a wedgie. [Lowering the Bar]

* Professor Campos takes on George Will’s claim that the team name Redskins isn’t offensive because “Oklahoma” basically translates to “Redskin” too. Hey, I could get behind banning Oklahoma. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* A pro se inmate sues the state. The reporter tries really hard to treat the complaint seriously until the very end. [Times-Picayune]

* A Las Vegas judge (and son of a former mayor) suffered head wounds indicative of an assault. When asked about why LVMPD didn’t tell marshals that a judge had been attacked, they basically said, “Why would we?” Yeah, why alert a judge’s security team about a possible, persistent threat related to his job. [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* With Netflix about to purge a number of movies off its system, this is an interesting look back at a time when Hollywood tried to ban home movie rental because they generally adhere to the “cut off your nose to spite your face” business model. [Tech Crunch]

* More on the phenomenon of judges speaking out publicly. I don’t know about all these critics, but we’re sure big fans of these judges. [Wall Street Journal]

* Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA’s warrantless spying program is legal, noting that — if it had existed — the government could have predicted the 9/11 attacks. Good point, because intelligence agencies were in no position to figure out that there was an attack brewing without a Big Brother initiative. Oh… wait. [Huffington Post]

* On a related note, a cartoon from 1994 that predicted the NSA’s controversial programs. It’s really kind of scary…. [Slate]

* Britain’s clowns are furious that people are dressing up as clowns and trying to scare people. For their sake, let’s make sure they never hear about Pennywise. [Lowering the Bar]

* Professor Dave Hoffman evaluates the case for flat-rate tuition. [Concurring Opinions]

* The Wolf of Wall Street is about a criminal ripping off poor people. Bankers cheered at a recent showing. There is a lesson to be had there about what bankers would do if given an opportunity. [Business Insider]

* “Knockout,” a game where young boys cold-cock unsuspecting victims, is a serious issue. Nah, just kidding, it’s a crypto-racist overreaction. But at least one kid was stupid enough to try it and then tell a cop about it. Seriously. [Gawker]

John Yoo, who famously wrote the legal rationale for allowing the US government to torture people, has already defended the NSA’s activities, arguing that it takes too long for the NSA to obey the Constitution, so it shouldn’t have to. Given that, it was hardly a surprise to see his reaction to the recent ruling saying that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program was likely unconstitutional and should be stopped. Yoo is… not a fan of this ruling. In fact, he uses it to rail against judges daring to make any determination about whether or not something violates the 4th Amendment. According to him (and only him) that’s the job of Congress, not the courts….

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The kind of person who makes the rules about lawyer advertising through text messages.

When I find myself pontificating on lawyer propriety, you know things are bad. But a new ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court leaves me with no choice. Ohio has decided that it’s okay for lawyers to text message accident victims to advertise their services.

Can you imagine sitting in a hospital, recovering from injuries, and then getting a text message from an unknown number: “R U OK? I can get U $$$. I sue ppl 4 U!”

We live in a world where the Ohio Supreme Court said that such solicitations are “helpful.” In other news, we live in a world where old judges who don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about get to make the rules about technology they don’t understand….

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* Hughes Hubbard & Reed is doing its part to help fulfill wishes made in children’s letters to Santa at a time when the Post Office’s Operation Santa program is in desperate need. So to all you other Biglaw firms, the ball’s in your court. [USA Today]

* Judge Timothy Black cited Justice Scalia’s dissent to reject Ohio’s gay marriage ban. I’m sure this is a cite that warms the justice’s heart. [Associated Press]

* Professor Pam Karlan is off to become Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Voting Rights. Here’s the last article of the preeminent voting rights expert in her old role as a commentator at the Boston Review describing strange SCOTUS bedfellows. Good luck in the new job! [Boston Review]

* Good news for Florida lawyers! The Florida Bar has revoked its opinion banning LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations. Go back to patting each other on the digital back. [IT-Lex]

* Realtors are getting sued for using a home as a sex pad. Strangely enough, this isn’t even the first time we’ve talked about this at Above the Law. [New York Magazine]

* Do you have to work over vacation? Probably, but it’s worth researching. [TaxProf Blog via Corporate Counsel]

* We shouldn’t have been so surprised by the affluenza defense because North Texas is basically one big monument to the concept. [New York Times]

* Here’s an infographic showing the most popular TV show set in each state. What legal shows make the list? [Business Insider]

* The top 10 most ridiculous lawsuits of the year. Apple porn guy clocks in at a mere number 10? Outrage! Bigger outrage: they ultimately link to the HuffPo write-up of… the original Above the Law piece. Why no direct link, hm? Video embedded after the jump… [Faces of Lawsuit Abuse]

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We were just talking about the latest efforts to remove termination rights from musicians (and other artists), and a number of termination rights battles are still ongoing. Most of the existing ones are slightly different from the ones we’re talking about — and it gets pretty down in the weeds technically. In short, there are different rules for works created prior to 1978 and those after 1978. Most of the focus is on the termination rights for works created after 1978 — though there are some interesting ongoing battles concerning works created prior to 1978… including that song you just can’t stop hearing this time of year: Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

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* Is Scandal the best TV lawyer show? No, that’s Matlock. But here’s a bunch of arguments for Scandal’s worthiness. [Life of the Law]

* Lawyers face financial and emotional depression, says most obvious study ever. [TaxProf Blog]

* Paralyzed man achieves dream of being a lawyer. Great, so now he’s added crippling debt to his struggles. Seriously though, this is an actual feel good legal story. [MyFoxDC]

* “ALWAYS assume every Wall Street guy is snorting coke and screwing hookers. That’s Journalism 101.” [Gawker]

* The lawyer for the accused Harvard bomb threat guy says his client was under pressure. I mean, it’s scary to think about botching the final and maybe getting an A- or something. [Associated Press via Boston.com]

* Renisha McBride’s killer — who shot her in the face because she was asking for help and it’s his God-given right to shoot first and ask questions later — will stand trial. [Jezebel]

* Teaching lawyers to be more entrepreneurial. [Huffington Post]

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