Amici Curiae: The Offensive Apple App, Unsettling Settlement, and Firms-on-Alert Edition

Canada Pulling Its Weight In Libya

As a ‘coalition of the willing’, including members from Europe and the Arab League, began enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya last week, Canada wouldn’t be left out. The no-fly zone was agreed upon internationally and embodied in UN Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1973. Interestingly, although deciding not to exercise their veto power, Russia has come out against the intervention. And while the US is momentarily leading the mission, there is a widespread understanding that they will pass off control to the international force shortly.

Canada’s contingent includes six CF-18 fighter jets as well as 150 military personnel. Although some have attributed Prime Minister Harper’s  ‘hawkish’ attitude to political showmanship, the move seems to be universally accepted in the House of Commons. The Conservative motion in support of the mission received unanimous support from the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

While concerns over defining the precise objectives of the mission and disagreement over whether to support the opposition in Libya are valid questions, there is no denying that Mr. Gadhafi’s treatment of his people, and specifically his opposition, has been barbaric. Lloyd Axworthy’s R2P doctrine has captured the hearts and minds of many a Canadian. While not explicitly recognized, it seems to be precisely these sentiments that motivated the Harper government and indeed the entirety of the Commons to act. One hopes this bipartisan commitment to a greater good will be rewarded.

iPhone App Enters Hot Water

Apple is under fire for approving an app that encourages ‘the freedom to grow into heterosexuality’. The app was created by anti-gay religious group Exodus International. In response, a senior director at Exodus has said that referring to the app as a “gay cure” is misleading and that both the app and the organization have been mischaracterized by the media.

Apple, which is known for controlling everything in its apps from sexually explicit content to hateful speech, has remained mum thus far on the Exodus app. Apple has received significant criticism as a result. In particular, Dr. Gary Remafedi, whose research is cited by Exodus, claims his information was falsely represented.

While there might be some room to discuss the issue in light of freedom of expression, given Apple’s historically progressive policy with regard to potentially offensive apps, it is difficult to understand why this app deserves to remain available given its obviously offensive content.

Google Books (Un)Settlement

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the proposed class-action settlement between Google Books and book publishers. Judge Chin said that the settlement was “not fair” and would “grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners.” The decision can be read here.

To build their Google Books library, Google scanned more than 12 million books since 2004 and made them available for online search in their electronic database. However, Google did not obtain copyright permission to scan these books. In 2005, certain authors and publishers brought this class action, accusing Google of “massive copyright infringement”.

Judge Chin wrote that the settlement plan “would give Google significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copyright of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.”

During the proceeding, Canadian lobby groups had filed objections to the settlement, arguing that it violated international law such as NAFTA and the Berne Convention on Copyright. In addition, Novelist Ursula Le Guin had launched a petition, signed by almost 300 authors, arguing that the use of written material should be controlled by the author, and that the government should not allow a corporation to dictate the terms of that control.

The parties can now take this opportunity to renegotiate and resubmit. However, given Judge Chin’s opinions, the parties might now have to satisfy the interests of all authors, publishers, digital libraries, and the public.

Law Firms on Cyber Attack Alert

Slaw has recently published an interesting blog raising the awareness of possible cyber attack by hackers targeting law firms. The idea of cyber attack is not new—just in 2011 alone, cyber attacks targeting oil and energy companies as well as the Canadian government have been reported. And many could have easily gone unnoticed or unreported.

Sharon Nelson and John Simek wrote that, because of the confidential and sensitive information they possess regarding clientele, financial information, or litigation tactical advantage, law firms may easily become the targets of hackers. The authors further suggested that law firms should implement security measures including antispyware and data encryption to protect themselves against cyber espionage.

So what happens, or should happen, if a law firm gets hacked due to inadequate security measures? If a lawyer is working on a laptop without data encryption and the data got stolen by hackers, what kind of penalty would the lawyer or her law firm face for breaching solicitor-client privilege?

Stanford Drops $7.2 Billion Lawsuit

Allen Stanford, the 58-year-old Texas-born multi-billionaire, decided to drop his $7.2 billion lawsuit against the government, including Justice Department officials, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) agents.

Stanford alleged that these officials have used illegal tactics to prosecute him for running a $7 million Ponzi scheme, including using more than $51 million of his own assets to build a case against him. He claimed that his constitutional rights including his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendment rights have been violated during the investigation of the lawsuit.

In 2009, Stanford was arrested for fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and obstruction in investigation. Recently, he has been denied bail by a federal appeals court.

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