First Joint Consultations May Foreshadow Effectiveness of Privacy Shield

–  Stephen Díaz, Partner, Rimon, P.C. &  Claudio Palmieri, Of  Counsel Rimon, P.C. (Principal, Studio Legale Palmieri –Rimôn Italia)

On October 6, 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the so-called “Safe Harbor” that previously governed data transfers between the U.S. and the EU (Case C-362/14 – Maximillian Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner, 6 October 2015).

As you already know if you read our Legal Bytes’ posting in May concerning the US-EU Data Transfer Privacy Shield, personal data cannot be transferred to from the EU to a non-European Union/European Economic Area country, unless that country can ensure “adequate levels of protection” for such personal data. While the European Commission had identified a number of countries that met the ‘adequate protection’ test, the United States was not one of them and without the Safe Harbor understandings, transatlantic exchanges of data – both for commercial and national security reasons – were at risk of being non-compliant with EU regulations!  In an attempt to temporarily address the data transfer issues, the EU and the U.S. proposed a new framework for exchanges of personal data for commercial purposes, known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield (“Privacy Shield”) which was formally launched on July 12, 2016.

Further complicating matters, a new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on May 25, 2018.    In furtherance of a formal and more permanent agreement under the Privacy Shield and in contemplation of the new regulations, representatives of the U.S. and the EU have announced they will meet in Washington, DC during the week of September 18, 2017, for the first Annual Review of the Privacy Shield.  In advance of the meeting, the EU’s official Working Group (WP 29) sent the European Commission their recommendations and consistent with previous pronouncements, they believe the meeting should focus on enforcement of rights and obligations, as well as changes in U.S. law since the adoption of the Privacy Shield.  WP29 recommended discussions focus on these issue and that any formal agreement must deal with both commercial, as well as law enforcement and national security access.

These concerns and considerations are explored in more detail in our full Client Alert: No Certainty in Future of Privacy Shield as Transatlantic Consultations Set to Begin and it is clear that the September consultations may well be an indication of whether the Privacy Shield will prove an adequate regulatory regime for the transatlantic transfer of personal data and whether meaningful progress is likely in the current environment.

If you would like more information, a better understanding or need guidance regarding compliance with these regulations, contact Stephen Díaz Gavin, a Rimon Law Partner based in Washington, DC or Claudio Palmieri is of counsel to Rimon, P.C. and the principal of Studio Legale Palmieri –Rimôn Italia in Rome, Italy. Of course you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you regularly work.

 

OFAC Targets Sports & Entertainment Figures

Jill Williamson, Partner, Rimon, P.C.

On August 9, 2017, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the U.S. Treasury Department, issued a Press  Release and identified Mexican national Raul Flores Hernandez and the Flores Drug Trafficking Organization (Flores DTO) as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, also known as the Kingpin Act. OFAC also designated a large number of individuals and 42 entities for involvement with, and acting as fronts for, Raul Flores Hernandez.

Many of these individual and entities are in the sports and entertainment industries, including  professional soccer player, Rafael Marquez Alvarez (Rafa Marquez), Mexican singer Julio Cesar Alvarez Montelongo (Julion Alvarez), Mexican Soccer Club Club Deportivo Morumbi and the Grand Casino Guadalajara.

As of the issuance date of these designations, no U.S. persons, companies, nor any individuals in the US, are allowed to conduct transactions with these individuals or entities.  Penalties under the Kingpin Act can run as high as $10MM per violation, with individual violators subject to imprisonment for up to 30 years.  Even civil penalties for inadvertent violations can run over $1M per violation.  It is worth noting that OFAC violations are based on strict liability.

If you would like more information, a better understanding or need guidance regarding compliance with these regulations, contact Jill M. Williamson, a Rimon Law Partner based in Washington, DC. Of course you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you regularly work.

Missing Children, Genetics & the Law

As I mentioned in my Legal Bytes post a few weeks ago (Forensic DNA and Missing Children: The Legal & Ethical Issues), I had the honor and privilege of being a featured speaker on 25th of May 2017 – International Missing Children’s Day – at this year’s conference for Missing Children and Genetic Identity, organized and chaired by Patrícia Cipriano, President of the Portuguese Association for Missing and Exploited Children [Associaçāo Portuguesa de Crianças Desaparecidas] held at Lusófona University in Lisbon.

Featuring expert investigators, law enforcement, geneticists and forensic scientists, the conference explored how tough police work, forensic science, government legislators, judges and lawyers can work more effectively and cooperatively within and across national borders.  It also reminded us that DNA kits and learning aides for use by parents, coupled with greater educational efforts and more timely reporting, can help save children’s lives and futures.

The conference was attended by notable dignitaries, including Charlie Hedges, Police Expert, Missing Children and European Alert Coordinator for Amber Alert Europe, Professor Maria do Carmo Fonseca, President of the Institute of Molecular Medicine, Professor Maria do Ceu Machado, President of Infarmed, members of Portuguese Assembly of the Republic , senior law enforcement and forensic scientists with closing remarks delivered by His Excellency Dr. Fernando Negrão, a jurist and former Minister of Social Security, Family and Children, Minister of Justice, director general of the Judicial Police and chairman of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The conference highlighted the work being done in Portugal and, of course, the work that still needs to be done.  You can read and download the Conference Agenda & Brochure (Lisbon, PT) and feel free to take a look at my presentation Missing Children – Missing Opportunities, Legal Obstacles in our DNA (Rosenbaum) right here on Legal Bytes.

As always, f you would like to know more about this post, the conference, or the topics discussed at the conference, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum.

 

 

US Treasury Regulation Changes Could Impact Foreign Owned Single Member LLCs

Melinda Fellner Bramwit, Partner, Rimon, P.C.

Changes to US Treasury Regulations Under Section 6038 of the Internal Revenue Code could affect filings for single member LLCs owned by non-US individuals or entities.

Many non-resident individuals and non-resident entities maintain title to real estate and other assets in single member limited liability companies incorporated under state law in the United States, for a variety of reasons.  Under Federal tax law, such an entity is disregarded for tax purposes unless the owner elects otherwise.  From a corporate perspective, these limited liability companies can be used to harness assets in an entity separate from the owner, providing a layer of corporate protection and perhaps anonymity for the ultimate owner.  These entities are also reasonably simple to form and maintain.

Changes to U.S. Treasury Regulations effective December 13, 2016, throw a wrinkle into the use of this malleable entity in some circumstances, which can be managed with some planning.

These changes require that a non-resident owning 100% of a United States limited liability company (“LLC”) file a Form 5472, an information return, when certain transactions occur between certain parties (“related” parties) and the LLC.

The following example from the regulations illustrates a scenario where this filing would be triggered:

In year 1, F, a foreign corporation forms and contributes assets to US-LLC, a U.S. limited liability company that is a disregarded entity for US Federal tax purposes.  In year 2, F contributes funds to US-LLC, and in year 3, US-LLC makes a payment to F.

Under the modified regulations, F’s payment to US-LLC as well as US-LLC’s payment back to F are both reportable transactions for which a Form 5472 would be required with respect to US-LLC.

This is a simple, yet common situation which triggers the filing requirement. It is important to note that this requirement is applicable to tax years of entities beginning on or after January 1, 2017 and ending on or after December 13, 2017 (Note: This is not a typo. The date is the 13th, not the 31st).  As such, there is a window of opportunity for tax planning to avoid the requirement of this form and if you want to know more or need help, don’t hesitate to contact me, Melinda Fellner Bramwit, a partner here at Rimon, P.C.

Of course, if you need assistance, you may always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers with whom you routinely work at Rimon Law.

FCC Opens Radio and Television Broadcasting to Foreign Entities

by Stephen Díaz Gavin

For more than 80 years, Section 310(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 has been interpreted as prohibiting direct foreign ownership of more than 20% and indirect ownership of 25% or more of US radio and television broadcast stations.  Effective January 31, 2017, this will change as the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has removed longstanding prohibitions against these limitations on foreign ownership, although it has preserved the right, on a case-by-case basis, to block a foreign acquisition of a broadcast license in excess of 25% (e.g., for reasons of national security).

Foreign entities, for quite some time, have already been permitted to acquire control over non-broadcast licenses (e.g., nationwide cell carrier T-Mobile is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom). But the FCC has steadfastly enforced its longstanding foreign ownership control policies over broadcast station licenses.  Most famously, Rupert Murdoch had to become a U.S. citizen before being able to acquire control over what we know today as Fox Broadcasting.

Changes adopted to the rules of the FCC will enable approval of up to and including 100% aggregate foreign beneficial ownership (voting and/or equity) by foreign investors in the controlling U.S. parent of a broadcast licensee, subject to certain conditions.  The revised rules, which newly define and in certain respects create different rules for “named” and “un-named” investors, they will allow a named foreign investor that acquires less than 100% to increase its controlling interest to 100% at some time in the future.  If a named foreign investor acquires a “noncontrolling” interest, that investor will now be permitted to increase its voting and/or equity interest up to and including a “noncontrolling” interest of 49.99% in the future, if it chooses to do so.

Although the FCC’s expansive “public interest standard” in approving sales and investments in broadcast licenses, coupled with input from other Executive government agencies, could significantly delay or block investments from some countries, the strong support of this initiative by the remaining Republican members of the FCC would tend to indicate the FCC will be disposed to allow most transactions to proceed to closing.  Indeed, the FCC has already signaled its willingness to do so, by approving just such a foreign ownership acquisition in a recent declaratory ruling issued even before the new rules take effect, ending a decades long back-and-forth haggling over Mexican ownership of Univision.

For more information regarding the new FCC rules or assistance in handling the regulatory and transactional aspects of such an investment, contact the author, Stephen Díaz Gavin, or Phil Quatrini or Sandy Sterrett, all partners at Rimon, P.C.

Of course, you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, the Editor!

What’s in a (Domain) Name? ICANN by any other name would still…

On June 13, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) revealed the list of applications for new gTLDs to be launched as part of its proposed expansion of the top-level domain space. A total of 1,930 applications were filed for strings, including brand names, generic words and abbreviations, geographic terms, and non-ASCII strings (such as Chinese or Arabic). If this is allowed to move forward as it is currently envisaged, it will be a striking change to the domain name system, with dramatic new risks and evolving threats, as well as opportunities. Brand owners – applicants or not – need to strategize and prepare now, to protect their marks and brands. Some may also need to decide whether or not to challenge any pending applications. 

Rimon has assembled a global team of thought-leaders to counsel and guide you. Experienced lawyers who have been following and assisting for years – ever since the proposal was first announced. Rimon is now offering a teleseminar intended to cover:

  • How to develop a strategy to protect your rights – marks and brands
  • What brand owners should be thinking about now
  • Commenting on and objecting to applications
  • The Trademark Clearinghouse and other supposed protections in the new system
  • Updates on industry, governmental and regulatory efforts to provide more protection for brands and trademark owners

You can register through the link here: The gTLD Applications Have Been Revealed: What Brand Owners Must Know Going Forward.

As always, if you need legal or regulatory counsel, call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers highlighted in the full Client Alert or, of course, the Rimon lawyer with whom you regularly work.

China Announces State Internet Information Office

This post was written by Joseph I. Rosenbaum, Frederick H. Lah, Zack Dong and Amy S. Mushahwar.

On May 4, 2011, the Chinese government announced it was establishing the State Internet Information Office, an office dedicated to managing Internet information. According to the announcement, this office will be responsible for directing, coordinating, and supervising online content management. The office will also have enforcement authority over those in violation of China’s laws and regulations (see, for example, China sets up office for Internet information management). While there are reports that many believe the purpose of the new office will be to censor political and social dissidents (see, China Creates New Agency for Patrolling the Internet, the office may also have a key role in thwarting illegal spamming and other dubious data practices.

Further, many see the establishment of this office as another step forward for the Chinese in terms of establishing their own data-protection regime. China has long been considered as lagging behind other countries in terms of their data-protection standards (quite possibly by design), and with no comprehensive data privacy law, businesses have had little guidance concerning the handling of personal data. China published the draft Personal Information Protection Measures in 2005, but those Measures have not yet been adopted and little progress seems to have been made since then. However, in February 2011, China issued a draft of the “Information Security Technology – Guide of Personal Information Protection” (“Guidelines”) to address the lack of guidance and standards surrounding online information practices in China. The Guidelines include standards with respect to collecting, processing, and using data, and there are provisions related to the transfer of data to third parties. While the Guidelines are technically non-binding, they still provide important guidance for businesses in China on how to protect the online information of China’s citizens. With the Guidelines still under review, Rimon lawyers will continue to monitor developments to see what form the Guidelines will take in the future.

If you have or are considering a presence in China, you need to know and be attentive to many things, if you are to succeed in the Chinese marketplace. That’s why you should contact Frederick H. Lah in our Princeton office, Zack Dong in our Beijing office, Amy S. Mushahwar in our Washington, D.C., office, me, or the Rimon lawyer with whom you regularly work. When you need legal guidance or have questions about regulations that apply online, on the Web, and across the Internet, in almost any part of the world, let us know. We are here to help.

UK ICO Issues Guidelines for Online Compliance – C is for Cookie

The Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom, in furtherance of the European Union’s “browser cookie” laws (EU Privacy and Communications Directive), has just published a set of guidelines that commercial enterprises will need to comply with when the new law goes into effect May 26. Because the laws’ requirements relate to technology and marketing, the intention of the new guidelines is to provide guidance on compliance for businesses.

For background, in case you haven’t been following this closely, in November 2009, the European Parliament amended the Directive of Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58/EC (sometimes referred to as the e-Privacy Directive) that mandated that websites give consumers the right to opt out of receiving cookies (in most cases by changing settings on their web browsers). The 2009 amendments reversed the requirement, setting the default as “opt in.” Consumers will have to give permission (informed consent) to a website in advance, to allow a cookie to be placed on their computer.

The UK ICO’s guidance makes it clear that all businesses, private and public, will be required to get consent from the user, in advance of having a browser cookie downloaded and installed on the consumer’s computer. In addition, the ICO has amended the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations to mandate that clear and thorough information – to ensure informed consent – is provided to end users, explaining why their information is being stored and how it will be used by the commercial enterprise. Expect to see consumer-directed information soon, alerting consumers as to what their rights are and what to expect as businesses comply with the new law and regulations.

As you probably know if you are a loyal and longstanding reader, Legal Bytes in 2009 reported that the major players in the online advertising industry had issued self-regulatory principles concerning online behavioral advertising (Advertising Industry Collaboration Releases Self-Regulatory Online Behavioral Advertising Principles), and intended to create an industry self-policing mechanism, as well as disclosures to consumers concerning the use of their personal information. The self-regulatory mechanisms in the United States – these being similar – have followed an “opt out” approach to consumer privacy and the control of personal information. For multinational and international businesses worried about compliance (and that includes all you web browser publishers) – well, it’s complicated.

As always, if you need guidance for your advertising, marketing, privacy or data protection efforts, call me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon attorneys with whom you regularly work. Our lawyers deal with these issues every day.

Free Speech on the Internet – India Goes Schizophrenic

Unreasonable restraints on free speech? India? Well, you decide. According to an article published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, storm clouds are brewing over just how far the government should and can go in restricting free speech on the Internet. Indeed—just how ambiguous the regulations can be such that interpretation becomes a subjective problem, enforceable at the discretion of regulators.

Unfortunately, the new rules (referred to as “Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011”) stem from a 2008 amendment, widely supported by Internet service providers (I.T. Act 2008) to an Indian information technology statute first enacted in 2000. For a history of the Indian legislation, see Information Technology Act 2000 (ITA-2000).

The Amendment removed intermediary liability of Internet service providers, many of whom are represented by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, for any content created by third parties and for which the ISP played no active role in creating. While the removal of passive ISP intermediary liability is one of growing consistency in the international community, the regulations broadly empowering officials to curtail free speech on the web are not.

Growing trend, justified by security? Aberration spawned by immediate and local concerns? Abuse of power? Reasonable trade-off for protection of society? Ahh, but whose society? Where is the balance? Who decides?

Take a look at the regulations, then you decide. But if you need legal guidance or have questions about regulations that apply to the Internet—internationally, multi-nationally or domestically, in almost any part of the world—let us know. We are here to help.

Cloud Computing – Clouds Can Sometimes Be Storm Clouds

This post was written by Joe Rosenbaum and Adam Snukal.

Among others news publications, CNN Money just recently reported that Amazon.com’s cloud-based Web service EC2 suffered a “rare and major outage” this past Wednesday that affected several online sites it supports, including Reddit, HootSuite, Foursquare and Quora. Amazon.com hosts many major websites on its servers through its cloud-based service and, in total, “[t]housands of customers hitch a ride on Amazon’s cloud, renting space on its servers.” The recent outage crashed several customer sites and created glitches of varying degrees on others.

As cloud-based Web services have proliferated, the risks associated with major outages for companies dependent on cloud-based services have become a reality. This recent outage, and potentially others like it, could create reputational risk not only to the cloud providers, but also to those who use the cloud computing services of those providers for their technology infrastructure – processing, applications and data – exposing them to contractual liabilities for failure to meet promised service levels, breaches of performance representations and warranties, and even potential security and data breaches. All these and more, possible legal and contractual problems arising from the use of and reliance on cloud computing. These potential risks should be eliminated or mitigated, and while contracts cannot always guarantee operational integrity or performance, they can provide indemnities and remedies that offer a measure of protection or mitigation in many circumstances.

Rimon has been at the forefront of cloud computing legal thought-leadership and risk-mitigation strategy for our clients. Our lawyers have significant U.S., international and multinational experience in implementing strategies, such as service level agreements and risk-mitigating tools that help limit risks associated with cloud-based computing and cloud service outages. Indeed, to appreciate the risks, one need only look to one of the very first articles by Rauer Meyer, entitled When the Cloud Bursts – SLAs and Other Umbrellas, drawn from Rimon’s on-going series – one that you can view or download entirely in up-to-date form – entitled “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing.” You can access and download a PDF of the individual article or the entire “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing” compendium, up to date and including all of the previous chapters in one document.

Of course, feel free to contact Christopher G. Cwalina or Daniel Z. Herbst or Joe Rosenbaum or Adam Snukal (or the Rimon lawyer with whom you normally work) if you have any questions or require legal counsel or assistance. Make sure you subscribe via email or get the Legal Bytes RSS Feed so you are always in touch with our latest information.