On July 10, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the “CFPB”) finalized its proposed arbitration rule that will prohibit providers of certain consumer financial products and services from requiring a consumer to utilize mandatory pre-dispute arbitration in lieu of a consumer filing or participating in a class action (“Arbitration Rule”). In other words, no longer may covered entities require a consumer to use arbitration in lieu of class action participation. This Arbitration Rule will likely have far ranging consequences for covered providers, including mandatory updates to consumer agreements, likely increases to legal and compliance costs and increased operational risks in new consumer products.

Background

Congress directed the CFPB to study pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“the Dodd-Frank Act”).  The Dodd-Frank Act also authorized the CFPB, after completing the study, to issue regulations restricting or prohibiting the use of arbitration agreements if the CFPB found that such rules would be in the public interest and for the protection of consumers.  In 2015, the CFPB published and delivered to Congress a study of arbitration.  On May 24, 2016, the CFPB proposed the Arbitration Rule with a request for comment.  Since May 2016 the CFPB has been silent, leading many in the financial services industry to believe that, with the change in administration, the CFPB had abandoned the Arbitration Rule.  In finalizing the Arbitration Rule, the CFPB has answered the industry’s long outstanding question.  Would the CFPB be more moderate in its approach in issuing regulation that drastically impacts financial services providers?  The industry has its answer.  The CFPB has answered in the negative. Continue Reading Another Day, Another Regulation: A Summary and Description of the CFPB’s Arbitration Rule

On June 19, 2017, the United States Supreme Court held that a portion of the first clause of the U.S. Trademark Law (the “Lanham Act”), which is commonly known as the disparagement clause, was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Specifically, the Supreme Court found that a denial of registration of a mark under the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act, which prohibits registration of a mark that may “disparage … or bring … into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead,” violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling, while rather shocking as to its reach, came as no surprise to the trademark community. This decision now casts a shadow on the remainder of what is called Section 2(a)1 and opens the door to further expansion of our understanding of speech.

This litigation began when Mr. Simon Shiao Tam, a humble guitar player in a band made up of Asian-American men that called itself The Slants, pushed to change the law. Mr. Tam’s fight began at the Trademark Office in 2010, when he filed an application to register the name of his band as a trademark.2 In 2011, Mr. Tam’s first application to register the band’s name as a trademark was denied under the disparagement clause. After Mr. Tam refiled a second application for the mark THE SLANTS and was rejected on the same grounds, he appealed the rejection to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court.3 Continue Reading The Slants Win in Matal v. Tam: Trademark Registration Cannot Be Denied for Offensive Terms

This is the fourth in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 4-5, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we discuss how CNN is using advertising guidelines to fight back at being labeled “fake news.” The intersection of technology, truth, and the First Amendment will be among the topics to be discussed at the 2017 seminar.

Since the 2016 presidential election, the term “fake news” has become a ubiquitous part of our media and political vocabulary. But as we all know, the “fake news” label is often, well, “fake.”  So what can media entities do when they are unfairly tagged with the “fake news” moniker?  Normally not much—the First Amendment would make it rather difficult to challenge the truth of a such a hyperbolic claim (and realistically, the media has no real interest in curtailing these free speech rights).  CNN, however, has found a way to fight back that is sure to stir debate in media, legal and political circles. Continue Reading Is It “Fake News” To Call The Media “Fake News?”

This is the third in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 4-5, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we discuss the Tor Browser and its relationship to privacy laws. Tor’s impact on anonymous speech and the tension between First Amendment rights and online threats to reputation, privacy and public safety will be among the topics discussed at the 2017 seminar.

Even among somewhat sophisticated privacy professionals and lawyers, the Tor Browser is sometimes a bit of a mystery. What is Tor, is it even legal, and, if so, what are the pros and cons associated with Tor? At a fundamental level, Tor is actually quite simple—Tor protects the privacy of its users by spreading communications across of a series of servers around the world to make it difficult to determine who or where the individual user is. Tor is a volunteer operation and it is available to anyone willing and able to download the free software from Tor’s Web site.

In some circles, using Tor has taken on a negative connotation because (not surprisingly) individuals engaged in nefarious activities online have turned to Tor as a way to mask their identities. But there is nothing per se illegal about using Tor, and it can be a legitimate way to avoid unwanted digital tracking from corporations and circumvent censorship in countries under the thumb of oppressive regimes. In fact, the U.S. State Department has contributed millions of dollars over the years to help with the development of Tor in the interest of encouraging free speech in other countries. Continue Reading Tor Presents Compelling Privacy Puzzle

This is the second in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 45, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we discuss a recent Ninth Circuit decision relating to the summary judgment standard for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) affirmative defense. The ins and outs of the DMCA will be among of the topics at the 2017 seminar.

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that will make it more difficult for Internet service providers to rely on the DMCA safe harbor to prevail at the summary judgment stage. In Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc., Case No. 14-56596 (9th Cir. April 7, 2017), the court overturned the district court’s summary judgment finding for the defendant, ruling that the common law of agency applied and there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the moderators at issue in this case were “agents” of the defendant. This finding will make summary judgment harder to achieve for Internet service providers and may make them rethink the roles that moderators play in assessing content on their Web sites. Continue Reading DMCA and monitoring – damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

Businesses have largely benefitted from the proliferation of mobile devices and text messaging apps that facilitate quick, round-the-clock communications. However, such technologies also make it increasingly difficult to monitor and control the unauthorized distribution of confidential data. On March 30, UK regulators fined a former managing director of Jeffries Group for divulging confidential client information. The banker, Christopher Niehaus, shared confidential information with two friends using WhatsApp, a popular text messaging app. The exposed information included the identity of a Jeffries Group client, the details of a deal involving the client, and the bank’s fee for the transaction. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this story is that the leak was discovered at all. Because data sent on WhatsApp are encrypted and Mr. Niehaus used his personal mobile phone to send the messages, Jeffries Group only viewed the communications—and subsequently informed regulators—after Mr. Niehaus turned his device over to the bank in connection with an unrelated investigation. Continue Reading Encrypted Messaging Apps Create New Data Privacy Headaches for Employers

If you follow developments in TCPA case law, you’ve probably heard by now that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals last week overturned the 2015 FCC Order that had required TCPA opt-out notices on both solicited and unsolicited faxes. The court held that the FCC’s rule was “unlawful to the extent that it requires opt-out notices on solicited faxes.” See Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley v. FCC, et al., Case No. 14-1234 (D.C. Cir.). In fact, the DC Circuit—despite years of FCC guidance, 13 consolidated appeals and more than two dozen lawyers participating in the briefing—seemed to view this as a relatively simple issue of statutory construction: “The text of the Act provides a clear answer to the question presented in this case. . . . Congress drew a line in the text of the statute between unsolicited fax advertisements and solicited fax advertisements. Unsolicited fax advertisements must include an opt-out notice. But the Act does not require (or give the FCC authority to require) opt-out notices on solicited fax advertisements. It is the Judiciary’s job to respect the line drawn by Congress, not to redraw it as we might think best.” Continue Reading DC Circuit Opts Out of Flawed FCC Ruling

The following March 3 blog post inspired the Law360 article, “Challenging Personal Jurisdiction In Online Conduct Cases,” published on March 24, 2017. See full article below.

Earlier this week, Judge Edmond Chang of the Northern District of Illinois rejected Google’s arguments that application of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) to facial geometry scanning by Google Photos is, on its face, an improper extraterritorial application of Illinois law. See Rivera v. Google, Inc., Case No. 16-cv-22714, Docket Entry 60.  Faced with Google’s arguments that the claims would require extraterritorial application of the statute and/or would violate the Dormant Commerce Clause by reaching beyond state boundaries, the court essentially punted, saying that “[d]iscovery is needed to determine whether there are legitimate extraterritoriality concerns.” Id. at p. 22.  The court also rejected Google’s argument that BIPA does not cover facial geometry scans pulled from photographs. Continue Reading Biometric Data Claims against Google Survive – But What about Personal Jurisdiction?

Yet another court has found that consent in a TCPA case is an inherently individualized issue that precludes class certification. In Newhart v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 168721 (S.D. Fla. Oct. 13, 2016), the plaintiff moved to certify a class of individuals who had received calls from defendant on their cellular telephones, allegedly in violation of the TCPA. The court denied class certification, finding that “resolving the consent issue will depend upon multiple layers of individualized evidence about each call and the circumstances that preceded it. Therefore, predominance is lacking.” Id. at *6. Importantly, the court did not need to decide “whether any class member actually consented.” Id.

The court held that the consent analysis had two parts. First, the trier of fact must determine “whether each challenged call was made for a telemarketing purpose.” Id. If so, prior express written consent would be required. If not, the consent need not be in writing. Id. Second, the trier of fact must determine whether the defendant “possessed the requisite consent before making each call.” Id. at *6–7.  The court’s decision that an individualized analysis was necessary turned largely on its finding that the trier of fact must look at each individual call, not the “purpose of the overall campaign. Id. at *7–8. Analogizing to the TCPA fax provision, the court noted that, “[t]he FCC has expressly recognized, in the unsolicited fax context, that even when some aspect of a series of communications might meet the telemarketing rule, others might not, and so it is necessary to examine the communications separately.” Id. at *8. Because evidence showed that the challenged calls in the case were not uniform in purpose, the telemarketing issue could not be resolved on a class-wide basis. Id. at *10.  Continue Reading TCPA Class Certification Denials Continue to Pile Up, This Time in Florida

Smiling PigPlaintiffs’ lawyers across the land have trumpeted the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo as a victory (or at least not a loss). Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016).  At least one plaintiff’s lawyer has gone so far as to suggest that defense lawyers who raise Spokeo-based arguments should fear sanctions.  As a Southern colleague of mine would say, those lawyers are trying to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear.

Although many post-Spokeo decisions have not yielded dismissal, many have, and they have done so based largely on Spokeo, which does more than reaffirm prior notions of standing and rather strengthens them in a way that is quite beneficial to corporate defendants facing trumped-up claims with no real harm.  One of the most recent defense victories post-Spokeo is Meyers v. Nicolet Rest. of De Pere, LLC, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 22139 (7th Cir. Dec. 13, 2016). Continue Reading Spokeo Was a Loss for Plaintiffs, Seventh Circuit Reaffirms