FTC issues privacy guide for facial recognition technology

The FTC released a study and guide on facial recognition technology, and provided guidance on notice, transparency and options required when making use of, storing and sharing facial recognition information.  The case studies included a basic use (for example, a face is scanned and then the user may make changes to see what hair, clothes, jewelry or other things look like), a more advanced use – an interactive kiosk that takes a picture of a consumer, assesses their age and gender, and presents an advertisement specifically for that consumer, and finally an example of use of facial recognition in social media and sharing those images (a la Facebook).

Anyone making use of facial recognition technology should consult these guides as they would any other FTC advertising or privacy guide, before they commence collecting, using or sharing facial recognition images.

For more information on privacy law compliance, contact Mike Oliver or Kimberly Grimsley.

Copyright Infringement Claims to BitTorrent File Sharing on the Rise

BitTorrent is a peer to peer file sharing protocol that allows its members to share pieces of a file simultaneously such that each user can access and view the entire file without downloading it completely. It was designed to facilitate the sharing of large files and minimize the demand on an individual server. A seed user uploads the file and then peer users join the network, each simultaneously sending and receiving pieces of the file within the swarm of users.

BitTorrent file sharing has the capacity to be used for software and content updates as well as the authorized distribution of media content and comprises a significant amount of total web traffic and bandwidth consumption. Several BitTorrent sites index and catalog publicly-available media files, including movies, television shows, music, video games, and applications, while some files are shared only within a closed group.

When copyright protected material is shared using a BitTorrent protocol without the holder’s permission, each transmission among the users constitutes a copyright infringement. Media distributors, including movie studios, have begun targeting BitTorrent peers through their IP addresses and filing mass lawsuits against up to several thousand downloaders at time. Statutory penalties can be as high as $150,000 but are often much lower.

For the purposes of naming defendants in these sweeping lawsuits, internet service subscribers are identified by their IP addresses. For business owners, that means that any infringing downloads that occur over your connection by your employees, customers, and neighbors can be traced back to your business, in much the same way that a red-light ticket comes to the registered owner of a car regardless of who was driving it. While you may not be able to monitor all internet activity over your home or business network, especially if you have a large number of employees, network security and clear policies and training on internet use limitations can help to prevent unwanted copyright infringement in your business’ name. BitTorrent files and client software often carry viruses and malware as well and should be avoided unless needed for a designated purpose.

For more information on BitTorrent copyright enforcement contact Mike Oliver.

Perils of overpricing and responding to government RFPs

The article in Networkworld “Cisco network really was $100 million more” is a good example of the danger in responding to governmental requests for proposal (RFP) without considering the publicity downside of significant overpricing.

The article explains that in bidding on a large computer infrastructure project for California State University, Cisco’s bid was over 100 million dollars higher than the closest competitor for the same equivalent products and services.  Cisco’s bid, in fact was more than 5 times the accepted bid price.   While some premium might be attributable to Cisco’s products – superior quality, service or warranty, that difference is not likely to be worth more than 5 times any other manufacturer’s similar bid.

Government RFP responses in most cases become public.  Also, because an RFP is an “apple to apple” response, at least on a unit/performance basis, the only justification for real bid differences normally comes in quality of service (perceived or real), or in product quality distinctions.

With the amount of due diligence that everyone is doing on companies – investors, potential targets, potential joint venture partners, licensees, customers – any business that is responding to an RFP should consider that the response, whether accepted or not, will become publicly available.  The article suggests that Cisco might overprice on RFP responses when it senses it has no ability to win the bid.  Why?  It makes more sense to withdraw from the competitive bidding, than to overprice.

A similar risk presents itself for underpricing.  Many companies ask for “most favored nations” (“MFN”) clauses – clauses that require post contractual price adjustments based on later favorable pricing offered to other customers.  MFN clauses are dangerous for a host of reasons (one significant one is that if written incorrectly, they make literally every customer contract potentially relevant evidence in a dispute), but if a bidder underprices on an RFP response, in the hopes of later recouping the lower cost through add ons or change orders, that initial pricing is now public and can be used against the bidder if they had issued MFNs to other customers.

In short, many considerations must be reviewed in responding to any governmental RFP – not just pricing, units, metrics and services.

For more information, contact Mike Oliver.

Protecting Your Work Online

Dilemma: You find out that a company has copied an article that you created from your website, and it is using it on its website as if it had written the article itself. You want to stop them from using your article but you do not have a copyright registration for anything on your website. What can you do to stop them?

Copyright registrations offer numerous benefits, including the benefits of bringing an action for copyright infringement to enjoin the infringing company from using your work and obtaining statutory damages. A copyright registration is required to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. However, even at this stage where a company is using your work and you do not have a registration, you could file an application for copyright registration on an expedited basis and then file an action for infringement. Regarding damages, those are limited in this situation to actual damages, whereas if you had previously obtained a copyright registration, typically you could obtain statutory damages and be eligible attorneys’ fees, which could be significantly higher than actual damages.

In addition, even without a registration, you are still protected under United States copyright laws, and there are options available to you to stop others from using your material without your permission without filing a lawsuit.

One option is to send the infringer a demand letter stating that you are the owner the work, that they are using your material without your authorization, and that they must take it down immediately. Such a letter could cause the infringer to immediately take down the work. Another course of action is to send a notice and takedown letter to the web hosting company (i.e. GoDaddy) indicating that the site is infringing upon your copyright and requesting that the web hosting company take the work down. Additionally, many web hosting companies have their own policies in place, which can typically be found on their website and which will assist a party when their work has been infringed upon.

Also keep in mind that if the possibility of a working relationship could exist between the of the infringer and you or if the exposure may actually be helpful to you by giving you credit for your work, you could try a telephone call first to see if an arrangement can be made where the company can be given a license to use your work. If that does not work, you can proceed with the other options.

For more information, please contact Kim Grimsley.