February 2014

Everything That Can Be Digital Will Be

Dylan J. Quinn, MJLST Staff

This past spring, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark decision in regard to the first sale doctrine by reversing the Second Circuit in John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v Kirtsaeng. The First Sale Doctrine allows a buyer or recipient of a copyrighted work to dispose of, lend, or distribute that copy as they see fit. In Wiley, the Court ruled in favor of the Defendant – who bought books in another country at a lower cost, imported them to the U.S., and then re-sold them at a higher market rate – thereby solidifying that the doctrine applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully obtained abroad.

A year prior to the ruling, in Volume 13, Issue 2, of the Minnesota Journal of Law Science & Technology, Benjamin Hamborg critiqued the Second Circuit for ruling against the Defendant, arguing that the Supreme Court needed to overturn the decision because the Circuit Court failed to give proper weight to the legislative history of the first sale doctrine and the negative public policy implications that would arise from affirming the ruling. The Supreme Court was in agreement with Hamborg, and seemingly eliminated those public policy concerns and the uncertainty surrounding the doctrine.

Hamborg discussed the potential dangers posed to libraries if they were not allowed to distribute works that were manufactured abroad, and while Wiley seemed to put an end to those issues, the movement of libraries into a more digital age has raised recent concerns about libraries’ ability to lend or distribute e-books and other digital works. Currently, redistribution of a digital work is not given the same “first sale” protection from copyright infringement claims because digital works do not decay over time and copies are just as valuable as the original – thereby having unknown consequences on the market for the copyrighted works. As libraries convert more and more of their collections into digital formats, we could be moving into an era where a dispute over a licensing agreement removes a large portion of a library’s collection instantly.

The recent concerns over libraries by no means represent the first discussion about a potential “digital” first sale doctrine, however it is just another example of the pressure pushing down on Congress to address the proper application of the first sale doctrine in a digital age. Back in 2001, the Copyright office addressed proposals for a digital first sale doctrine, and responded that “there was no convincing evidence of present-day problems” and that no expansion of first sale would be recommended. In the years since, there have been few developments that suggest Congress is ready to address the issue, until recently.

In the last two years, the Department of Commerce solicited comments on a possible digital first sale doctrine, the Director of the Copyright Office discussed possible options Congress could weigh if addressing the issue, and a court ruled against expanding the first sale doctrine into the digital sphere – stating that it is an issue for Congress. The recent resurgence of concerns over libraries is just another indication of the pressure facing Congress to address the application of the first sale doctrine on the internet.

While the issue clearly impacts libraries, the issue has massive implications on the entire online market place. It is a tall order to address such a large issue, but eventually something has got to give. At some point there needs to be alternative legislation or expansion of the first sale doctrine on the internet. The slogan surrounding the early days of internet sums it up best: everything that can be digital will be.


A Farm Bill for Hansel and Gretel

Ke M. Huang, MJLST Staff

Once upon a time, a farmer and his new wife, who had no means to support the farmer’s first wife’s children, decided to abandon the children in the woods. These children–Hansel and Gretel–found in the woods a charming little house made of sweets. A wicked witch lived in that house.

Earlier this month, President Obama signed into law the Farm Bill of 2014. According to a New York Times article, the President called the Farm Bill a “jobs bill,” and “innovation bill,” a “research bill,” and a “conservation bill.” Yet, amid the provisions of the Farm Bill that addressed topics such as crop insurance, conservation, and trade, there were also provisions that touched on the issue of healthy nutrition of families.

Senator Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the author of the Farm Bill, emphasized that part of the Bill’s purpose was to improve nutrition choices in families. Changes such as doubling SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps) for buying healthier foods and financing new grocery stores in underserved areas reflect that purpose.

A question remains whether the Farm Bill of 2014 will be effective in achieving that purpose. Especially for nutrition among the children, the article by Termini et al. in the Volume 12, Issue 2 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology offers some answers. In other words, the article addresses the predicament of modern day Hansel and Gretel who are lured by sugared snacks, french fries, and company.

In Food Advertising and Childhood Obesity (2011), Termini et al. (1) provide some alarming data about nutrition-related health complications among American children, (2) discuss the relationship between the health complications and food advertising, and (3) propose several solutions to address these health complications. While Termini et al. mention advocates of consumer choice, the authors primarily propose measures for the food industry, the government, and parents. For example, akin to the SNAP benefits for buying healthier foods, Termini et al. propose tax incentives for buying healthy food.

In final analysis, even if the often-regarded villain in the story of Hansel and Gretel is the witch, at least the government was partly responsible for the predicament of the children. Had the government funded a SNAP benefit program for the children’s family, or even subsidized the family farm through a crop insurance program, the parents would not have to leave the children alone in the woods. Just some food for thought.


Forensic Science Reform: A 2014 Update

Eric Maloney, MJLST Lead Managing Editor

My article in Volume 14, Issue 2, Two More Problems and Too Little Money: Can Congress Truly Reform Forensic Science?, detailed a number of problems and key players in the field of forensic science reform. Given that this is an ever-changing issue and the problems I examined were, at the time, still largely unresolved, I present this as a quick update on what has happened since the article was published.

Annie Dookhan

Annie Dookhan was the Jamaica Plains, MA forensic drug analyst who resigned from her position and faced various criminal charges stemming from misconduct that included false test results and contamination of drug samples.

In November 2013, Ms. Dookhan eventually plead guilty to a grand total of twenty-seven (!) crimes, including misleading investigators, filing false reports, and evidence tampering. She was sentenced to 3-5 years in state prison, two years of probation, and possible mental health counseling. The sentencing judge described Ms. Dookhan as a “broken person undone by her own ambition.”

However, the consequences of Ms. Dookhan’s conduct have ranged far beyond a sole criminal proceeding. According to the Boston Globe, the state of Massachussetts has spent $8.5m reviewing past drug cases and holding hearings, with the final amount budgeted to be twice that number. State courts have held nearly 3,000 hearings for affected defendants or convicts, not to mention the 600-plus defendants the Globe had found that had had convictions erased or set aside, pending new trials, resulting from Ms. Dookhan’s lab misconduct.

The lab in Jamaica Plains has remained closed since the scandal began, and at least one other analyst who worked with Ms. Dookhan has also been fired, for allegedly claiming to have a college degree she did not have.

St. Paul Crime Lab

The St. Paul Police Department’s crime lab in St. Paul, MN came under scrutiny due to lack of training, documentation, and proper operating procedures, and closed in 2012. At the time of the article, it was largely unknown what potential effect this could have on defendants facing charges or those already convicted.

In contrast with the Dookhan situation, the fallout from the St. Paul lab has been much more minimal. The lab re-opened in August 2013, thanks to a $1m refurbish that included new equipment, new personnel, and a narrower focus on fingerprint analysis, as the lab would no longer perform drug testing. The lab also plans to seek accreditation within the next two years.

The effect on criminal proceedings has also been minimal. Defendants haven’t had much success in challenging their convictions based on evidence tested in the St. Paul lab. While 1,700 drug cases had been cited as possibly qualifying for relief based on their use of St. Paul crime lab evidence, the Star Tribune only identified seventeen cases where public defenders have challenged past convictions. A Minnesota state crime lab re-tested 197 samples from the St. Paul lab and found an innocent substance wrongly identified to be illicit only once; the state lab actually found suspected drugs in two samples that had been cleared by the St. Paul lab.

National Commission on Forensic Science

While Senator Leahy’s legislation did not survive the 112th Congress, there is progress happening at the federal level to study forensic science issues. The Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have come together to form the National Commission on Forensic Science, which recently appointed a number of forensic science experts to the commission. The commission is aiming to develop formal training and certification requirements, as well as policy recommendations and guidelines for professional responsibility. While it’s far too early in this process to judge the efficacy of the commission, its existence will hopefully constitute a step in the right direction for forensic science nationwide.


Athletic Performance Heavyweights on Verge of Patent Battle

Comi Sharif, MJLST Staff

Last week, athletic apparel giant Adidas filed a complaint accusing Under Armour of patent infringement. The complaint identifies ten Adidas-held patents that are used in mobile applications to collect and share workout-related data. The patents currently implemented in Adidas’s “miCoach” product line are allegedly being put to similar use in Under Armour’s “Armour39” products. The technology allows users to monitor their workout progress, and record and share statistics such as calories burned, heart rate intervals and distances traveled.

Both companies are major players in the fast-growing wearable technology fitness market. Adding fuel to the rivalry is the fact that Under Armour’s director of product and innovation previously worked as a senior innovation engineer at Adidas for over a decade. In addition, Under Armour recently announced a sponsorship deal with the University of Notre Dame, which ended a run for the school as one of Adidas’s biggest partners.

Though this dispute is only just getting underway, the results will be an important indicator for future events. If Adidas can succeed in preventing Under Armour and others from using the identified patents in its products, Adidas could put itself in a strong market position moving forward, while Under Armour would be relegated back to the drawing board. As fitness and mobile interconnectivity continue to trend worldwide, the intensity of the competition to gain market share is sure to increase as well. Holding and protecting patents could be the key that separates the winners and the losers in this race to the top. Stay tuned.


Oops! They Did it Again . . .

Roma Patel, MJLST Staff
The Affordable Care Act is making its way back to the Supreme Court, this time with a different mandate under judicial scrutiny. In November the Court announced it would hear Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., regarding the comprehensive, yet controversial, health care law. Unlike National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, where the Court upheld the ACA’s individual mandate to buy health insurance as a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power, the Hobby Lobby case involves a religious liberty challenge against the ACA’s requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception and some drugs that some believe cause abortions.

Hobby Lobby is a private corporation that owns arts-and-crafts stores throughout the country. The company is owned by the Green family, Evangelical Christians who believe that life begins at fertilization. Because Hobby Lobby is a for-profit employer of more than 50 people, the ACA will require it to provide insurance coverage of a full range contraception.

In June 2013 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, stating that corporate entities are entitled to religious freedom. The 3rd and 6th Circuits split from the 10th Circuit and held that for-profit corporations do not have religious rights on two other cases challenging the ACA. On September 19, both Hobby Lobby and the 3rd Circuit case, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, were appealed to the Supreme Court.

Commentary on the Hobby Lobby case can best be described as dicey. Conservative and religious bloggers have hurled phrases such as, “atheist bullies” and “an attack on First Amendment rights” while the left cry, “war on women” and “crazed bible thumpers.” The broader issues at stake here are understandably divisive and extremely personal.

Amidst the often-exacerbated discussion of the case and the issues surrounding it is a desperate need to set the record straight: this is not a First Amendment issue, per se. What the Supreme Court will decide is Whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., which provides that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless that burden is the least restrictive means to further a compelling governmental interest, allows a for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.

Hobby Lobby argues the provision forces it to pay for methods of contraception which the owners find religiously immoral; namely the Plan B morning-after pill, an emergency contraceptive called Ella, and two different kinds of intrauterine devices (IUDs) that may sometimes work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus.

Counsel for the government argues that rights to religious freedoms do not apply to for-profit corporations and that health decisions should be between a woman and her physician, there is no place to an employer to impose his or her personal beliefs on someone else’s.

Amicus briefs have been flooding the Supreme Court’s doors defending both sides of the issue. Questions of corporate personhood and whether the Court’s decision could open a huge hole in the longstanding history of religion and the practice of medicine remain relevant. For example, some religions don’t believe in blood transfusions, so does that mean business owners with such beliefs can refuse to provide insurance coverage for an employee’s transfusion? Religious beliefs are personal and deeply subjective, how can health policy makers expand on patient coverage without being at odds with subjective beliefs?

The ultimate question is whether the ACA unduly infringes on the right to religious expression or if it pursues the least restrictive means of enforcing its provision on contraception with regard to the First Amendment. The result of Hobby Lobby will be close and the case will be one to watch.


Akamai Provides a New Induced Infringement Standard, But How Do We Use It?

Ryan J. Connell, MJLST Lead Articles Editor

In the spring 2013 issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology Mr. Roy D. Gross examined the use of circumstantial evidence to prove inducement of infringement. Mr. Gross’s article is titled Can an Inference of Intent to Induce Infringement of a Patent Be Drawn Where Other Reasonable Inferences Exist? An Examination of the Use of Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Inducement of Infringement. Mr. Gross ultimately argues that that the doctrine of specific intent to infringe in patent cases should be harmonized with the standard used for inequitable conduct.

It is important to discern the boundaries of specific intent to infringe in light of the recent Akamai case. Akamai Techs. Inc. v. Limelight Networks Inc., 692 F.3d 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012). In Akamai the Federal Circuit arguably made it easier for a patent owner to hold a person liable for induced infringement of a method claim when no single person performed all the steps of the method. The Akamai decision still requires the alleged inducer to have the specific intent to induce infringement. Akamai, 692 F.3d at 1308. The results of Akamai are mixed then, on one hand patent owners can now go after those who induced infringement but never induced a single party to infringe the patent. On the other hand the patent owner must still provide evidence of a specific intent to induce infringement.

Proving induced infringement is a difficult task. Direct evidence of inducement is often hard to come by and the patent owner must often resort to using circumstantial evidence to prove specific intent. Mr. Gross suggests courts to weigh the following three factors, in light of circumstantial evidence, when determining if the requisite intent is present: (1) nexus; (2) control; and (3) mitigating evidence of intent not to infringe.

Akamai has closed an undesirable loophole in patent law. For Akamai to reach its full potential however, courts and litigators need to understand how to weigh circumstantial evidence that may be more strained in cases where a patent is collectively infringed as opposed to directly infringed by one actor. Articles such as this can help the legal community understand how to use circumstantial evidence in light of the new induced infringement standard.


Crime and Treatment: A Creative Drug Policy

by Shirshira Kother, MJLST Staff

In our society, it seems as though drug addiction is a commonality for prison inmates. It tends to play some role in every crime scene and horrific headline that we hear about. Drugs have been a driving force for many criminals because it significantly alters their decision-making and ultimately affects their actions. While there is no mistake that those who act under the influence of drugs will be subject to justice system, there perhaps a better way to discourage this behavior by redefining addiction.

An article titled Why Neuroscience Matters for Rational Drug Policy in volume 11 of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology, explores the possibility of addiction as a neurological problem that may be solved by specific treatment to rewire an individual’s brain. David M. Eagleman, Mark A. Correro & Jyotpal Singh analyze how consistent use of chemical substances destruct areas of the brain that control voluntary actions.

David M. Eagleman, Mark A. Correro & Jyotpal Singh analyze how consistent use of chemical substances destruct areas of the brain that control voluntary actions. The article continues to explain how policy regarding drug use and addiction should be more geared toward treating those affected by the condition versus punishing them for becoming addicted. They suggest that chronic users may not actually continue their use on their own accord but are driven their brains. Chemical abuse can restructure the functions within the brain and lead many criminals to act out of deprivation of the drug. This concept has come across several arguments, most of which revolve around the policy effect of allowing criminals to “blame their brains” for their actions. The authors however suggest that the mere explanation of chemical abuse and how its effects have led to a crime does not, relieve the individual of their responsibility. It allows the system to better rehabilitate the individual.

The process suggested would mirror the procedure used to treat an aliment in order to restore one’s health. The use of drugs is associated with positive stimulus and once the brain has been repeated exposed to a chemical, it becomes dependent on that stimulus to function and destroys behavior inhibition, which often leads to impulsivity. Depriving it of the substance can cause severe side affects to the individual and drive them to act without thought or reason. The article introduces two new radical methods in rehabilitating these individuals. Most medications used to treat addicts either reduce the positive response the drug elicits or counter acts the reaction by producing a negative one. By using real time neuroimaging, doctors can better understand cues associated with craving and try to override the responses to those cues. A second suggested method is a vaccine to block the receptors related to the positive response addicts experience when using drugs. This vaccine would not allow the addict to get high thus reducing their use.

While still fairly new, these two innovations can change rehabilitation of those incarcerated from chemical use and abuse related crimes. Perhaps, the biggest concern is whether these options will have long-term positive effects and keep the individuals off of drugs. If successful, this method would not only remove potentially dangerous individuals from society but also groom them to rejoin the world: chemical free.


Guest Commentary – Climate Change: Is Anyone Ever Going to Do Anything about it?

by Myanna Dellinger, JD, MA – Associate Professor at Western State College of Law and Director of the Institute for Global Law and Policy

Extremely cold weather conditions still haunt the American North and Northeast. Meanwhile, California is suffering through July temperatures in January and the worst drought since 1895. No doubt about it, we are witnessing ever more frequent extreme weather events. Since nations still can’t agree on what to do about this urgent problem, it may be up to local actors such as cities, states, companies, and NGOs to take the required action now.

Nations have agreed to “try” to limit global warming to 2° C and to agree on a new climate treaty by 2015 to take effect by 2020, but in reality, we are headed towards a 5.3° C increase. Even if the 2° degree target were to be met, vast ecological and economic damage would still occur in the form of, for instance, severe economic disruptions to our food and water supply.

Disregarding climate change is technologically risky too: to meet the target of keeping concentrations of CO2 below the most recently agreed-upon threshold of 500 ppm, future generations would have to literally pull CO2 out of the air with either machinery that does not yet exist and may never become technically or economically feasible, or with bioenergy crops that absorb CO2, which would compete with food production.

My article “Localizing Climate Change” argues that effective and urgent action is likely to come from the local and not the national or international levels.

In fact, the parties to the climate treaty framework UNFCCC similarly recently agreed that cities, other subnational authorities, and the private sector must play a role in future treaty-making contexts. This makes sense. Local actors may be the ones best situated to find out what can be done technically and politically in each location. Meanwhile, nations are almost unbelievably playing two fiddles at the same time, subsidizing fossil fuel development much more than cleaner energies. That’s right: although renewable energy policies are becoming more prevalent, they are financially and politically outcompeted by the rapid growth of fossil fuels in the USA and elsewhere. Perhaps indicative of the true state of affairs is the fact that climate adaptation talks are intensifying as mitigation agreements seem to be stalling. It doesn’t help that a secretive network of conservative billionaires is pouring billions of dollars into a vast political effort attempting to deny climate change and that–perhaps as a consequence–the coverage of climate change by American media is down significantly from 2009, when media was happy to report a climate change “scandal” that eventually proved to be incorrectly reported. Little wonder that the most recent IPCC report concluded that it is “extremely likely” (i.e. with 95-100% certainty) that human activity is the principal cause of climate change.

If you think all this is driving you crazy, you may be right. Shifts in climate have been strongly linked to human violence around the world, such as spikes in domestic violence in Australia, increased assaults and murders in the United States, land invasions in Brazil, police violence in Holland, and civil conflicts throughout the tropics.

What are we, as a nation, doing about this? In the summer of 2013, President Obama announced the first-ever United States Climate Action Plan. This relies on a number of Executive Orders, as the Senate is still unlikely to ratify a climate treaty. As with other recent Congressional gridlock, this highlights the importance of local action. If the United States was willing to ratify a new climate change treaty, this could spur much-needed action by the relatively low number of nations needed to make a big impact on the problem. After all, the world’s top ten emitters account for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This leads to my questions: Where is the most likely and substantively effective action going to come from: local or national/supranational entities? If you think climate change must be countered at the national and international levels, who is then responsible? For instance, should it be the historically largest emitters (among them, the USA and China), the most capable (the industrialized world), the most progressive (arguably the EU), or . . . ? Is anything even going to happen at all, or are we as human beings simply incapable of worrying about the future as a recent study indicated?