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Nowadays, we’re using the web for numerous purposes, including, but not limited to, online banking.  So, we should be able to protect our financial information. There are many options for hackers to gain access to financial information, and without the prerequisite security, financial information can be accessed by hackers.  The law outlines the rules for financial institutions, such as data protection, data sharing, data preservation, security breach notification, or insurance requirements.  Also, there are different standards when it comes to consumer and business bank accounts.  For example, businesses face different prerequisites that must be fulfilled prior to submitting a claim towards a financial institution.

How might hackers commit banking fraud?

Looking at how hackers may even access your financial information, there are a few tools that need to be highlighted. Among them are Pivoting, Rubber ducks, and Pineapples. While this perhaps sounds odd, the way they can work is terrifying. Pivoting is a process hackers can use to break into a computer system by accessing it through an already-compromised device. For example, a hacker may access a web server by gaining access to an email server within the same network.  These discrepancies can also occur between smart devices, which indicate a downside to the Internet of Things. Rubber ducks are special USB drives with small processors. They act as a “Trojan Horse” by downloading and re-uploading information quickly and autonomously without causing alerts. Pineapples, in comparison, are more likely to come across, but more difficult to avoid.  These are devices that “clone” Wi-Fi networks. They will function in the same way, allowing individuals to connect and access the web, but can also be used to access and hack data after someone is connected. Pineapples and Rubber ducks are dangerous because they can download “keyloggers” onto computers, which would record and transfer confidential information (e.g., passwords, financial data) to the hacker’s computer.

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In today’s globalized world, with international markets becoming a stage for events to take place, how would you enforce a judgment in a foreign jurisdiction? After going through a lengthy process, it may seem unfair to go through the same procedure again without a guaranteed result.  So, simply because you obtained a judgment in your favor, if the court decision isn’t enforceable in a foreign jurisdiction, then how can you ensure you can collect? How can you ensure that things will end in your favor, and that the other side will not get away because he/she retreated to another country?

What needs to be in place to enforce my judgment?

You need the following items to enforce your judgment in a foreign jurisdiction: (1) a treaty with the foreign country agreeing to enforce the judgment; and (2) a domestic judgment in your favor that was issued within the United States. What makes this difficult is how the United States does not have treaties with other countries regarding the enforcement of judgments. While there is a treaty in place through the Hague Conventions on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, only a few select countries are part of it, including, but not limited to, Kuwait and the Netherlands. Unfortunately, beyond that there is little else you could do to enforce a judgment. While we will discuss this in the next blog, arbitration agreements can bind those in other countries, and there is an effective convention that applies in those cases.

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We have discussed protecting someone’s image using the right of publicity, right to privacy, and the privacy laws that protect biometrics. Yet, images are first and foremost images.  So, certain rights exist for the protection of images. Firstly, it includes copyright laws. An ongoing trend is how individuals, famous and otherwise, use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to demand takedowns and manage photographs. While this is still moderately controversial, it begs several questions. For example, what is required to use these claims to protect images? Why might someone use the DMCA takedown demand instead of one of the other methods of protecting images? How is this controversial if it allows individuals to protect privacy?

How would the DMCA work?

The DMCA allows individuals to issue “takedowns” to internet hosting services and to websites to remove copyrighted materials. The first hurdle is to yield actual copyright over the photograph. To be eligible, the work must be a type of copyrightable work (e.g., photograph, sound, written word), written by a human author and either created or arranged with a minimum amount of originality and creativity. In most cases, this might include, a “selfie” or a similar picture that has been taken by you. It’s worth noting that this is something that only applies within the United States, and the other elements to register a copyright, like creativity, are relatively easy to meet.

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We’ve discussed the nature of this before, but the EU-US Privacy Shield has gone into full effect. This program essentially restricts the ability of U.S. commercial entities to do business in the European Union due to the ability of the U.S. government to use international businesses to improperly conduct surveillance on citizens within the European Union.  In response, the European Union removed the blanket ability of U.S. companies to do business with European Union members as part of the Safe Harbor provision. The Safe Harbor provision was loosely drafted in its self-certification, prompting the switch to the Privacy Shield today. As it stands now, this program is still in its fledgling stages, with registrations beginning on August 1, 2016.  These registrations begin with a murky area of international commerce. So, how could one join the privacy shield? Is your organization even be eligible? What might happen if an organization refuses to participate?

How can you join the Privacy Shield?

The Privacy Shield is open to any business that is subject to regulation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Department of Transportation (DOT).  In general, conducting business and affecting commerce would qualify entities under this regulation, although, there are some exceptions, such as, financial institutions, labor associations, and non-profit organizations that may not qualify.  After meeting the base qualifications, an entity may then “self-certify” by coming up with a plan that meets the basic requirements of the EU-US Privacy Shield.  This would include measures to protect the data of European customers and employees stationed in Europe, even after ending participation in the Privacy Shield.

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The internet, with its “remix culture” often appropriates images and videos to create new things. Yet, this also includes personal images. Be it “Bad Luck Brian,” “Overly Attached Girlfriend,” or some exploitable image, how could one protect his or her personal image from being remixed and exploited for a financial incentive?  This is also a question appearing outside of the internet in particular with book covers and music videos. How might one protect his or her own face and body? What is the best method of protecting one’s image?  Is this related to the right of privacy or right of publicity?

How could a person protect his/her own face and image?

Outside of simply preventing your image to be published online by avoiding social media, preventing photos to be taken, or spending your days behind a mask, the only way to protect your image comes up after an incident has occurred online.  The right over one’s own image can be boiled down to privacy claims, with three main types of laws protecting it. First, the right to privacy. Second, is biometric privacy law.  Third, is the right of publicity. Of the three, biometric data is the newest, with statutes in Illinois and Texas, with minor provisions drafted in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and New York.  The idea of a biometric privacy law is that it creates a privacy “right” over an individual’s biometric features (e.g., fingerprint, retina, iris scans). Yet, ultimately this would only serve to protect one from larger entities.  To that point, the law in Texas lacks a private right of action, but permits the State Attorney General to instigate legal action.

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In the current news is another emerging technology, which is called Augmented Reality. In general, augmented reality (“AR”) uses technology to artificially create the reality a person experiences. For example, this could be a pair of glasses that shows a person’s contact information when his/her face is seen, or mobile apps, like Pokemon Go, which interact with your location and surroundings to create aspects of the game. Yes, Pokemon Go, the new mobile app juggernaut that has emerged into the market, is something that up to now, hasn’t taken place on such a massive scale. Yet, this new application has created unique legal questions. What can we do with this experience that encourages people to travel all over? How might one protect his/her property from players? Is there any way to stop Niantic, the creator of the game, from using your property in the game?

How does Pokemon Go work?

Before addressing the legal problems that arise from the game, it’s important to know how the game works. As stated before, Pokemon Go is a form of AR, using GPS data from the location to help generate the variety of creatures that can appear in a location.  In addition, certain locations and landmarks are coded to either give players items, or act as “goals” for them to capture for a team. There are small images on the markers, with titles and occasionally small descriptions. While many of these locations may be in public, or on publicly-accessible property, there are others that appear to be on privately owned or closed-off property.  While it appears that there are some deals with Niantic to add goals at the locations of real-world partners, however, it is not the norm.

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For entrepreneurs who seek to engage in international business, it is important to keep abreast of developments in other countries. Political problems, exchange rates, and legislation may affect the business climate when engaged in international business.  The most recent shake up in international legal requirements seems to have risen from “Brexit” and what it means for those doing business with the United Kingdom, European Union, and United States. Brexit (which comes from the merger of “Britain” and “Exit”) is the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.  While this decision has had repercussions on the value of the British Pound, Euro, and U.S. Dollar, it also serves to show that the UK will no longer be bound by the European Union’s rules or regulations.  So, what law applies now? How soon will the United Kingdom be unbound from the European Union’s rules or regulations? What should American businesses take out of this referendum?

What does “Brexit” do?

The UK has voted to leave the European Union as part of a referendum voted on by its citizens. The EU is an economic and political partnership between various member states, sharing a common currency, with the exception of the United Kingdom, which uses the British Pound. The EU imposes certain restrictions when working with member states (e.g., Privacy Shield, Digital Single Market initiative). It serves to allow the free movement of people between member states. However, Brexit does not mean that right now, the UK has officially separated from the European Union.  Brexit has set in motion the process to fully remove the United Kingdom from the European Union.  It needs to invoke “Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty,” to initiate the process, which grants both sides two years to negotiate the terms and conditions.  Essentially, the referendum will start the process, but does not remove the United Kingdom from the European Union immediately.

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So, you’ve worked on your crowdfunding and you’ve registered a trademark. What’s next? Well, ideally you’d have decided on this before, but every entrepreneur needs to decide what kind of entity he/she best fits the business structure. Now, there are different kinds of entities: sole proprietorships, LLCs, LLPs, S-corporations, C-corporations, and LPs. This alphabet soup of entities each stands for a different type of organization that changes the liability, and tax benefits or burdens that can be available. What is there to choose from? What are the benefits and burdens with each choice? How would someone choose which entity to form?

What kinds of entities are there to choose from?

Entities are best divided up into three major groups: (i) sole proprietorships; (ii) partnerships; and (iii) corporations. The major differences tend to be in terms of liability and how they are taxed. Sole proprietorships and partnerships tend to be taxed to the individual, with liability being imposed on those individuals who are directly responsible for the business operations. However, this can be changed in part through types of partnerships like LPs, LLP, and LLLPs. These are “Limited Partnerships,” “Limited Liability Partnerships,” and “Limited Liability Limited Partnerships.” These partnerships are formed according to state law, with LLLPs currently not allowed under California law, but if formed in another state, they must be registered with the California Secretary of State prior to doing business in the state. Among the three, they generally function by having general and limited partners. In Limited Partnerships, there are at least two general partners with unlimited liability, and a limited partner who is only liable for what he/she had put into the company.  Limited Liability Partnerships are similar, but unlike a general partnership, or a limited partnership, one would be isolated from the wrongdoings of their partners. LLCs can be used as a sort of partnership, as well, but can elect to be taxed as a corporation instead, with a tax through the company, and then to the owners.

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For any business entrepreneur, intellectual property is key.  How will a business build value if not through protecting its valuable assets? Thus, intellectual property is something that needs to be protected. This is the purpose of trademark law, which allows to register and protect trademarks.  So, what types of marks can be registered? What is the registration process? Why register at all? Is it really needed to protect your marks?

What’s eligible for registration?

In applying for a trademark registration, the material generally consists of a mark, some sort of drawing or another non-conventional mark. For example, the McDonald’s “Golden Arches,” the Apple logo, or even a single color, under certain circumstances can be registered.  While there used to be restrictions on the manner of the mark in regards to immoral, deceptive, or scandalous marks, it has recently been placed into question on constitutional grounds.  As such, offensive names are more likely to be approved now, although, there has not been a final decision in some cases.

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We know that the JOBS Act has been officially confirmed by the government. We have written about the JOBS Act in the past, and Title III has provided various new rules regarding equity crowdfunding, specifically on who can donate, and where the participating entities can receive funds.  Yet, even with these developments, few issues have emerged with various blind spots in the law, prompting new efforts to patch them to make crowdfunding viable for startups.  So, what are the new rules? What are the blind spots? How are they being addressed by lawmakers?

What’s Title III?

As it stands, Title III allows entities to raise money for their projects, or business in general, through an equity format. This would differentiate itself from the more prominent crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter, which have projects that would not give an investor any stake in the company, instead selling copies of the product, akin to an advanced order. Instead, under Title III, unaccredited investors can invest over $2,000, or 5% of their annual income or net worth—whichever is higher—if they have an income under $100,000, or 10% of an individual’s net worth or income if they make $100,000 annually.  However, this is capped at $100,000 per investor, per year, with a larger cap of $1,000,000 in fundraising for the entity.  In addition, the money must be gathered through a fundraising portal, such as Crowdfunder, and those portals are not currently exempt from liability.  Unfortunately, while this law has been a positive step towards fundraising, however, it has fallen short on certain issues.  For example, there are issues with the fundraising caps, as well as, the responsibilities and liabilities of the portals.  In capping the investments, investors are limited in the aggregate to how many projects or entities they may wish to support, while an entity may need to undertake various crowdfunding efforts for larger projects costing over one million dollars.