Advertisements going Mobile – something new or just the matrix reloaded?

Wow! I thought I was cool playing “Going Mobile” by The Who (from their album – remember albums? – Who’s Next, released in the United States August 14, 1971) to introduce my presentation about the legal implications of mobile advertising and mobile marketing (see Advertising on the Go – Mobile Marketing or Mobile Mayhem).

But I tip my hat to you Legal Bytes readers. You are on the ball. After blogging about the presentation, a friend and avid Legal Bytes reader reminded me of an article I wrote in 2005, published in the New York Law Journal Magazine, entitled “Transformed“, in which I stated: “No longer tied to desks or offices located in centers of commerce and society, we carry our electronic tool boxes with us wherever we go. We have pagers, cell phones and wireless PDAs with names like Treo™ and the BlackBerry® . . . whose addictive qualities . . . (make us refer to them) as ‘crack’ berries! We carry them with us into restaurants, Broadway shows, buses and even bathrooms.”

Wow, déjà vu all over again (with respect to Yogi Berra). Can you make it through the day without your BlackBerry or your Smartphone (we didn’t call them that in 2005)? What’s the first device you look at in the morning? What about before going to bed? Now I can even access Legal Bytes with a scan using my mobile. Wow!!

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from George Santayana, Spanish American philosopher (perhaps most remembered for his remark, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”). My personal favorite quote of his is, “We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that once it was all that was humanly possible.” (The Philosophy of George Santayana, Northwestern University Press, 1940, p. 560). Oh, and if you actually like The Who, you can listen to Going Mobile:

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=tQ5pi3UR5dY

 

Indeed. Déjà vu all over again!

Advertising on the Go – Mobile Marketing or Mobile Mayhem

February 9, 2011—one day before the Association of National Advertisers held its TV & Everything Video Forum—Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum had the privilege of presenting a pre-conference legal educational seminar at the New York offices of Rimon. Joe’s presentation, in PDF format, is available for your personal viewing right here: “Mobile Advertising, or I Know Where You Will Be Next Summer & Other Mobile Marketing Myths”.

You won’t be able to see the embedded videos – if you want to see those or any other presentations Joe and the Advertising Technology & Media practice has presented over the years, or if you want to arrange a customized presentation on any or all things ATM-related, contact Joe at joseph.rosenbaum@rimonlaw.com.

Comcast v. FCC Fallout

This post was written by  Judith L. Harris and Amy Mushahwar.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has just voted to open a formal proceeding regarding how best to respond to the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Comcast v. FCC (see our previous blog post, FCC Caught by (not in) the Web). In the Comcast case, the court reversed an FCC decision finding that Comcast had violated the Commission’s non-discrimination principles by interfering with traffic from broadband subscribers using an online peer-to-peer file-sharing technology from BitTorrent. The appellate court ruled the Commission, under the FCC’s previous (Republican) Chairman Kevin Martin, had improperly stretched its ancillary jurisdiction pursuant to Title I of the Communications Act to enforce one of its net neutrality principles against an Internet services provider. Earlier, the Commission had classified Internet access as an information service, only subject to light-touch Title I regulation, rather than as a telecommunications service, subject to more extensive Title II regulation, traditionally applied to common carriers.

At stake, in the minds of many, is nothing less than the future of the Internet: whether it is to be free and open and, assuming so, who is best positioned to determine what that means. In the eyes of some, especially the large Internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, a free and open Internet equates to a complete government hands-off approach. Investment and innovation has flourished under the prior deregulatory steps, they argue. Others, especially edge players, including content and application providers such as Google, Amazon.com and Apple, focus on increasing Internet facilities consolidation and vertical integration in the industry. They see the need for a “cop on the beat” and explicit (e.g., net neutrality) rules to insure that those who control the “pipes” don’t interfere with consumer choice and play favorites when it comes to content.

In the two months that have ensued since the Comcast decision, handed down only two weeks after the FCC’s release of the Congressionally mandated National Broadband Plan, the debate has raged as to whether, and if so, how, the FCC should proceed to exercise oversight over the activities of Internet service providers. Not surprisingly, the question of increasing significance is where the FCC might turn for the power it needs to implement many of the recommendations contained in the National Broadband Plan. Everyone, it seems, has weighed in, from all branches of government (the White House, Congress and all the Commissioners at the FCC), to all of the private stakeholders, trade associations, coalitions that have come into existence to lobby the issue, media, academics, and Wall Street analysts (witnessing the recent volatility of ISP stocks).

Yesterday’s action by the FCC finally gets the ball really rolling. While Congress has threatened legislation (in both directions) and a court challenge is inevitable no matter where the Commission ends up, the FCC’s 3-2 decision opening this new proceeding is a necessary first step in breaking the current logjam.

The Notice of this new action is worded in neutral terms and presents three alternative solutions to the Commission’s current dilemma. The Notice also seeks other ideas from the public. However, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has made no secret of the course he prefers. In the aftermath of the Comcast ruling, he outlined what he dubbed a “third way,” (the third option, obviously not accidentally, in yesterday’s Notice). His approach, he believes, represents a middle road between continuing to limp along regulating ISPs under Title I, despite the limited power that would afford the FCC to implement some aspects of the National Broadband Plan, and simply reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II, with the potential that would introduce for heavy-handed regulation – such things as oversight of rates and the imposition of interconnection and unbundling obligations. This “third way” envisioned by Chairman Genowchowski, WOULD involve Title II reclassification, but would also include explicit forbearance from use of those powers most feared by telcos and cable companies.

One thing is clear: it’s going to be a long, hot summer in Washington. The Chairman is determined to keep the proceeding moving (perhaps in part to encourage industry and public/private working groups that have already sprouted to come up with a negotiated solution). Comments from the public are due July 15, 2010, less than 30 days from now, with reply comments due August 12, 2010. An Order by the Commission is expected before year-end (and the start of a new Congress), with a decision possible as early as October. The effect of the outcome of the midterm elections and, before then, the tremendous amounts of money the upcoming election will infuse into the system from all of the stakeholders, create wildcards. The stakes are high; the decisions are likely to affect the shape of the Internet for a very long time.

Whether you want more information or need help filing comments with the FCC, look no further than our own Judith L. Harris and Amy Mushahwar in our D.C. office – authorities in the area. Of course, you can always call me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

U.S. Supreme Court Case Tests Privacy in Employment Context

This post was written by Paul Bond.

Companies routinely issue communications devices to employees for on-the-job use. Employees routinely use such devices to conduct personal business, wasting company resources and sometimes violating company codes of conduct. Under what circumstances may a company monitor messages to and from an employer-issued device? That question is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case City of Ontario v. Quon.

The CSO Breakfast Club, an organization of Chief Information Security Officers from around the country, recently interviewed Rimon attorney Paul Bond about the potential ramifications of the case.

The City issued Sergeant Quon a pager for work use and he signed an agreement acknowledging he had no expectation of privacy in his communications. When Sergeant Quon kept going over his character quota, a supervisor told him the supervisor would not audit communications, provided Sergeant Quon paid for the overages. A departmental audit revealed that Sergeant Quon was regularly sending highly inappropriate texts to his wife, girlfriend, and a fellow officer. All of them sued the City for violations of their constitutional rights to privacy. The Supreme Court briefing and a transcript of the spirited oral argument are available at SCOTUS Wiki, (neither Legal Bytes nor Rimon can vouch for the accuracy of the material or analysis on this external link).

Employers are watching this case closely to see if the nation’s highest court will provide any guidance on the ground-rules for monitoring employee use (and abuse) of company-issued communications devices; but whether you want to stay in tune with developments or you need help in this area, contact Paul Bond. Of course, you can always call me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

FCC Caught by (not in) the Web

This post was written by Judith L. Harris.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit handed down a unanimous decision in the case of Comcast v. the FCC, holding, in effect, that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) could not use its ancillary jurisdiction under Title I of the Communications Act to exercise broad oversight over the activities of Internet service providers (“ISPs”). The case involved a 2008 decision under prior FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, seeking to enforce 2005 “net neutrality” principles by banning Comcast’s blocking or slowing of traffic from broadband subscribers using BitTorrent, an online peer-to-peer file-sharing technology. You can download and/or read the entire case here Comcast v. FCC.

 At first blush, the ruling appears to be a total victory for Comcast but,as no one knows better than Comcast itself, nothing in the Nation’s capital is ever that cut and dried. Thus, Comcast was wise to respond in a conciliatory fashion: “We are gratified by the court’s decision today to vacate the previous FCC order. Comcast remains committed to the FCC’s existing open internet principles, and we will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant internet.” .

After all, Comcast is awaiting the FCC’s judgment on Comcast’s $30 billion merger with NBC Universal. The Commission (along with the Department of Justice) has the power to sideline the deal altogether or to impose conditions that, depending on their severity, could place significant constraints on the business plan of the wanna-be merger partners. Stated another way: Comcast knows that its time for customer golf. Moreover, and possibly even more significant, the only options now available to a highly motivated FCC appear to be far more draconian to the ISP community than the relatively innocuous exercise of power that Comcast successfully challenged in court. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.

Not that any of this leaves the FCC smiling. From their perspective, the court’s ruling could cast a long shadow over the FCC’s ability to proceed with its pending rulemaking designed to codify even bolder net neutrality policies across all broadband platforms, including wireless. Moreover, the issue of the reach of the FCC’s jurisdiction over Internet services could constrain the FCC’s ability to deliver on President Obama’s promise of universal broadband access at high speeds and reasonable prices, and the FCC’s marquee project: implementation of the National Broadband Plan. That plan was released to Congress by the Agency just a few weeks ago (March 16), amid much fanfare and after a year’s worth of intensive effort involving no less than 36 public workshops, nine field hearings, and 31 public notices that produced 75,000 pages of public comment!

But, soldiers march forward. Only two days after the court’s decision, the FCC announced its “Broadband Action Agenda,” explaining the purpose and timing of more than 60 rulemakings and other proceedings recommended for action by the FCC in the plan, and quoting FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski defiantly proclaiming: “We are putting the National Broadband Plan into action,” immediately adding, “The court decision earlier this week does not change our broadband policy goals, or the ultimate authority of the FCC to act to achieve those goals.” Well, maybe not.

The ISPs will undoubtedly act with all deliberate speed to nail down the Comcast victory by vigorously lobbying Capitol Hill to oppose any effort by the FCC (and potentially other providers such as Google and Amazon.com, and tech companies such as Apple), to entreat Congress to mandate network neutrality or to enact legislation giving the FCC clear authority to regulate broadband. From the ISP perspective, even worse could be an effort by the FCC to unilaterally reclassify broadband transmission as a Title II telecommunications service, empowering the FCC (at least until the next court challenge) to regulate with impunity. This latter action, often referred to around town as the “nuclear option,” would only require an affirmative vote by three of the five Commissioners, a low hurdle given the unrestrained, unambivalent public reactions of all three of the Democratic Commissioners (including the Chairman) in the immediate aftermath of the court’s pronouncement.

This week (on April 14), Chairman Genachowski is scheduled to be the only witness at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. That hearing was originally planned to focus exclusively on the National Broadband Plan. But now, in addition to examining the FCC’s substantive proposals, the hearing will likely focus on its power, in light of the Comcast decision, to move forward with its implementation plans. With lobbyists swarming the halls of power, expect fireworks. Hopefully, all-out war won’t be the only avenue considered. The public and private stakeholders would do well to take a deep breath and earnestly consider an immediate, good-faith attempt at serious industry self-regulation, with agreed-upon standards of conduct and meaningful enforcement mechanisms.

Time’s a-wasting. As the FCC moves to implement the administration’s broadband agenda, over at the Federal Trade Commission, net neutrality and open Internet advocates are undoubtedly pondering how best they can use their own powers to protect consumers from potentially abusive trade practices by vertically integrated ISPs with enormous market power in a world where the FCC might, in the end, have limited enforcement tools. Who knows, the FTC and the Antitrust Division might decide that its time to burnish tried and true antitrust laws as a way of curtailing any anti-competitive conduct. Comcast, to be sure, is ahead at half time but, as  they well know, there is still much more of the game to be played.

Whether you want to stay in touch and in tune with developments, you wonder how “net neutrality” and these skirmishes might affect your business; or if you need legal advice and representation, you need look no farther than our very own Judith L. Harris – she’s the authority, and she graciously contributed this timely and insightful post. Of course, you can always call me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Social Media Risks and Rewards

On February 18, 2010, the International Law Office (ILO) published an article authored by Gregor Pryor and Sachin Premnath in the London office of Rimon, and Joe Rosenbaum in New York. It discusses the benefits and pitfalls of social media, and raises issues and concerns applicable to global companies—not just those on either side of the pond!

The article was derived from one published in Legal Week, and you can download your own PDF copy of “Commercial risks and rewards of the social media phenomenon” right here.

FINRA Issues Guidance in New Social Media Websites Notice

In November, Legal Bytes reported (Regulators Poised to Give Financial Institutions a Slap in the Facebook) that Richard Ketchum, Chief Executive of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), acknowledged Wall Street is eager to use social media to interact with customers. In the course of his remarks at a recent meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), he noted, “We continue to witness the advent of technologies that will challenge your ability to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements,” and “Social networking is one such innovation.

Now, supplementing existing FINRA Rules, FINRA has released a notice concerning online media rules (you can download and read a copy of the notice below) whose key components include requirements that securities firms:

  • Must develop policies and require its employees to comply with the new regulatory requirements
  • Must retain records of communications (a compliance requirement of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934) when social media is used to communicate
  • Must ensure that recommendations made through social media are suitable to all investors to whom the recommendation is made (e.g., by limiting or filtering access based on investor/consumer qualifications)

FINRA’s notice takes the position that securities firms must adapt existing rules to social media and essentially mirror the 2003 FINRA definition of “public appearance.” This definition noted that chat room postings were no different than if a firm representative was in a room making statements to a room filled with investors. FINRA’s current notice indicates that information posted or content placed online (static information) is subject to these same rules and must be approved by a firm principal – presumably, even information about individuals in the firm that may be part of an individual’s profile on the firm’s website or in social media platforms. But online interactions that are occurring on the fly (e.g., in real time), while subject to supervisory requirements (e.g., they must be supervised, perhaps even monitored), do not require such approvals.

You can read or download the FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 (Social Media Web Sites) [PDF] here.

As mentioned in the Legal Bytes November post, SEC disclosure rules apply to Tweets, blog postings, wall postings and other communication platforms provided by social media sites, and other regulatory agencies are seeking to address the use of social media sites by the entities they regulate (e.g., the FCC, the New York State Insurance Department). So if any of this is of interest and if you need to know more or need help, please contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work. We are happy to help.

Update:  Rimon lawyers Christopher P. Bennet, Amy J. Greer, Jacob Thride and Kevin Xu have prepared a Client Alert on the subject which you can read by going to: FINRA Issues Notice for Financial Firms Using Social Media.

2010 ANA Advertising Law & Public Policy Conference

Join top legal professionals and government regulators March 17-18, 2010 in Washington, D.C., at the 2010 Annual ANA Advertising Law & Public Policy Conference, where you will hear from Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC and Doug Gansler, Maryland attorney general, as well as leading legal experts both from law firms and client-side marketers.

Connect with key industry leaders and policymakers as we discuss the most volatile and fast-moving legal and political environment for advertising and marketing in decades. Learn about the new regulations, legislation and major court cases that are fundamentally changing the business environment, and how you can keep up!

Legal Predictions for 2010 – Ad Age Book Of Tens

As it does every year at this time, Advertising Age has again published its Book of Tens. For as long as I can recall, that has included an amazingly prescient set of legal prediction ‘Tens’ from my partner, Douglas J. Wood, and this year is no different.

Go. Look. Read. Recall last year’s. Save this one for December 2010. It’s amazing how good his track record is . . . but then, if you know him, that shouldn’t surprise you. But some of his predictions this year, just might: Book of Tens: Legal Predictions for 2010.

You can contact Douglas J. Wood directly to tell him how ‘on target’ he is, or you can contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work if you need more information or help in areas related to advertising, media, technology and entertainment. We are here to help.

H.R. 4173 = CFPA = Amend FTC Act. Why Should You Care?

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote (and likely pass) H.R. 4173. H.R. 4173, entitled the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009, but commonly referred to as the CFPA (Consumer Financial Protection Act), has been blogged about on Legal Bytes before (see Congressional Hammer Poised to Strike at Financial Advertising). The provisions to which advertisers might wish to pay particular attention are those that would amend the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Rather than summarizing industry concerns over this legislation, I’ve posted a copy of the Industry Letter, signed and sent to members of Congress on behalf of at least these twenty two (22) U.S. associations and coalitions: American Advertising Federation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Escrow Association, American Financial Services Association, American Herbal Products Association, Association of National Advertisers, Consumer Data Industry Association, Consumer Electronics Association, Direct Marketing Association, Direct Selling Association, Electronic Retailing Association, Financial Services Institute, Inc., Financial Services Roundtable, Interactive Advertising Bureau, International Franchise Association, Internet Commerce Coalition, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Professional Background Screeners, National Business Coalition on E-Commerce and Privacy, National Retail Federation, Natural Products Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

If you need more information, or if you believe you should have a voice in this process and don’t already have one, Rimon is here to help. You can contact me (Joseph I. Rosenbaum) or, of course, any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.