Happy New Year Wishes for 2010

Wishing you health, happiness, prosperity and peace in 2010

In a tradition that started almost 4,000 years ago by the ancient Babylonians – although they celebrated the new year upon seeing the first new moon after the vernal equinox – please enjoy a very happy, safe and joyous new year celebration.  Those of you who look forward to Useless But Compelling Facts can read more about the history of new year celebrations, or how the new year’s festivities, now televised around the world, began in New York’s Times Square.

New Year's Greetings
This is the first year we have published in a blog format, and with your feedback – mostly positive and always constructive – and more than 17,000 visitors in slightly less than 11 months, I am grateful and appreciative for your support.  Thank you for reading Legal Bytes.

–  Joe Rosenbaum

Useless But Compelling Facts – Answers to the Last 2009 Quiz

Last month we asked a three-part question about U.S. history: Who is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms; which president became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court after leaving office; and who was the only president before 1900 to reach the ripe old age of 90 after leaving office? Four people got all three questions correct. In fourth place, a new name to Legal Bytes UBCF – Brad Mirkin. In third place, long-time fan and faithful Legal Bytes reader, Shari Gottesman. 

But in first and second, not only do we have two new winners (I couldn’t resist giving both prizes), BUT we also have some unique coincidences. Now you can’t make this up – I certainly didn’t. First is Sam Dressler. In between stickball and poker games and the “Wall” in Washington Heights (J. Hood Wright Park), Sam and I grew up around the corner from each other in New York City. We went to elementary school and junior high school together, parted ways for a brief rivalry between Science and Stuyvesant in high school, and then reconnected in our university days. In fact, we became fraternity brothers in Beta Sigma Rho – Xi Chapter, City College of the City University of New York.

Then in second place is Bernie Slome. I was a camp counselor (before I became a legal counselor) at Camp Beaver Lake (no longer in existence), and Bernie and I met on visiting day. You see, his younger brother Mark was one of my campers. Bernie was attempting to maul his brother with a Frisbee, while I was attempting to get a better tip by protecting him. Neither was particularly successful. Well it turns out that Bernie and I were to meet again (and Sam too). Bernie became a fraternity brother of both Sam and me during those college years, although Bernie was a much better Risk® player than a poker player. Then again, during his fraternity days, in between brushing up on the stairway, he was extraordinary at keeping lookout for Mongolian hordes – hey, like Legal Bytes and the New York Lottery, you never know. So congratulations to Sam and Bernie, nice work Shari and Brad, and hats off to the coincidences that make such a big planet with billions of people, a very small world indeed!

As we do every year in December, we take a break from our trivia – I mean "Useless But Compelling Facts" – contest. But rest assured, we’ll be back in 2010 to start the new decade challenging your physical and logical memories once again. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone.

Looking Ahead to 2010: To Boldly Go . . . .

Each year, at the end of the year, I create a Legal Bytes piece intended to be more thoughtful and philosophical than the articles posted during the year. Thank you, in advance, for reading and allowing me to attempt to provide some insight and thoughtfulness to your day, in what I hope is an enlightening and entertaining manner. While my normal postings are designed to bring you news, updates and thoughts about timely events, this is one is longer – and arguably less exciting – and asks you to indulge me in a bit of philosophy, or what passes for an attempt at philosophy about the year past and the year ahead.

This article will contain no hypertext links to distract you; it will not have citations to offer more information about a snippet; nor will it dazzle you with factoids or intrigue you with today’s news. It’s just me philosophizing, my one chance during the year to ramble about where we’ve been and where I think we might be headed – without any credentials, qualifications or expertise to do so. 

So loyal Legal Bytes’ readers, you don’t have to buckle up or fasten any seat belts. Just pull up an easy chair, open your Blackberry, your Kindle, your Droid, your iPhone, PC, Laptop, Netbook, Web-TV, PDA, or whatever your favorite Legal Bytes’ reading device might be; pour a glass of tea (or whatever your liquid of choice might be), sit back and enjoy . . . and again, thank you. So here goes.


I’m a Star Trek fan. I’ve watched all of the television episodes, starting from the day Captain Pike, bound to a wheelchair resulting from his own heroism, is taken to the very first virtual world I can recall being displayed in mass media. I’ve watched all of the Star Trek movies. I confess to being a victim of an "even number" preference, culminating so far in this last Star Trek – certainly among, if not the favorite of all of them. 

Computers that can search for anything and everything. Touch screens and voice commands. Warp speed and instant communication across multiple languages and without regard to geography or time zones. All that with a bit of humor, a bit of clever philosophy and a social network (crew) that have hugely diverse (one might say inter-planetary) ethnic, cultural and racial characteristics, and at the same time work seamlessly together as a team. More than science fiction, Star Trek is really science within fiction, and a fiction that might just be reality if we close our eyes long enough and hard enough. Most of all, to boldly go where most of us have never gone before isn’t really referring to space as the "final frontier," is it?

Now I know not everyone is a Trekkie, and I confess that while I am a big fan, I’m not really obsessed. I don’t go to conventions or wear uniforms, nor do I run around screaming "Beam me up," although I do confess to a feeble attempt at a Scottish accent when I respond "I can’t do it, Captain." So what is it that makes me able to watch over and over again and relish each scene and each episode, and look forward to each new motion picture? It’s not simply because I like science fiction. Nor is it solely because of an ensemble cast, made up of some extraordinarily fine individual actors who work extraordinarily well with each other and with scripts that combine serious science fiction with some tongue-in-cheek individualism, not always in human form.

Let me digress to a personal, but relevant anecdote. Many years ago I had the pleasure of actually meeting Leonard Nimoy. I won’t go into detail, but on behalf of a client, I had contacted Phil Gersh, the gentleman (a true gentleman) who represented Mr. Nimoy at the time, and Mr. Gersh must have relayed our conversation to Mr. Nimoy, resulting in a meeting in New York. It was over lunch, very relaxed and informal, but I admit to feeling an amazing sense of excitement, good fortune and privilege at being able to actually sit down and talk with someone I had long admired as an actor, writer, director and producer.

Continue reading “Looking Ahead to 2010: To Boldly Go . . . .”

Florida Judges Can’t Have Friends

Just last month, the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee in Florida issued an Opinion that Florida judges may not have social media "friends" if they are lawyers who may appear before them in court. While the average person may question what being a "friend" on any media platform really means in terms of the level or relationship outside the virtual world of web-based interaction – how many of you are "friends" with people you have never met and don’t even know? – the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee indicated that their main issue is not fact, but perception.

The Committee expressed concern that the "friend" identifier could create the impression or the appearance in a publicly available forum, that the lawyer might be in a position to influence the judge.

Influence the judge? Hmmm. So, let’s see. If I’m a government official or a corporate procurement officer, or perhaps I’m just campaigning for public office, I really can’t befriend anyone on any social media platform or network – unless I’m prepared to face potential charges of bribery, accepting bribes, improperly influencing a public official, or being improperly influenced in procurement and purchasing decisions. Can you think of other situations in which acknowledging another individual as a "friend" on a social media platform or social networking site might be considered a violation of some code of conduct? Have you read your employer’s code of conduct lately?

Not to worry, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Have you checked those "fan" pages recently? Are you a journalist? Celebrity endorser? Blogger? Check the revised FTC Endorsement Guides carefully. Perhaps you need to disclose your material connection when you became a fan! Oh, and you corporate employees and investment advisors (and journalists) better think twice before becoming a friend or a fan. After all, do you have to disclose to your clients or the Securities and Exchange Commission that you are a fan of "INSERT YOUR FAVORITE BRAND HERE"?

Now I don’t want to worry anyone needlessly, so here’s a tip for all of you Legal Bytes readers, whether you are a judge (are judges allowed to read Legal Bytes?), a lawyer or simply a normal person: If you wish to recuse yourself from a case, change the venue or forum for a trial, or simply avoid being picked for jury duty, I have a recommendation. Befriend the defendant, become a fan of the company, send a Facebook friend request to as many police officers (or, depending on your preference, inmates) as you can, and become a Twitter "follower" of as many products, services, public officials and political parties as you can.

Much to my regret, I have now been permanently removed from the White House guest list because I have become a fan of the Presidential Portuguese water dog "Bo" – the "First Dog." While it had never occurred to me that being thoroughly engaged by this adorable puppy would get me into trouble, the fact that the dog is "Portuguese" appears to have created the perception that there could be a conflict between my loyalties to our government and Portugal – although I confess to being partial to the food and the Algarve as an occasional vacation spot.

That said, I don’t feel alone any more since, even though the pup is officially registered with the American Kennel Club as "Amigo’s New Hope," I believe that the President and First Lady Obama, as well as their daughters Malia and Sasha, for whom Bo was an election day promise, are also under investigation for possible ethics violations in connection with their love for Bo. Strange, brave new world.

So keep your web browser tuned (or bookmarked) to www.LegalBytes.com for breaking news. The social media fun is just beginning, and if you haven’t checked your company policy lately (or revised it), or if you need help making sense of social media and the legal implications, you’ve come to the right place. Feel free to contact me—Joe Rosenbaum—or any of the lawyers at Rimon you work with. We are happy to help.

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.

Anti-Social? I’ll Still Share Our Social Media Presentations

In case you weren’t able to attend any of our three seminars on Social Media, we’ll still let you get a glimpse of what you missed. First, you missed Joe Rosenbaum and Anthony Traymore in San Francisco and Palo Alto, and in Century City (L.A.), where we were joined by Kate O’Brien, where we presented: “Social Media: It’s 10:00 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Brand Is?”

If that alone didn’t make you sad, you also missed all the substantive insights and experiences that were shared, the audio-visual effects, the examples and live experience of our presenters and local hosts, as well as the hospitality of three of Rimon’s West Coast offices.

What you don’t have to miss is a copy (in PDF form) of the presentations – each of which had slight variations. You can see and download each by selecting the live link on each city below.

While the base presentations were much the same in all three places, in San Francisco we focused a bit more on social media in financial services and corporate securities law. In Silicon Valley (Palo Alto), we did a somewhat deeper dive into the implications of social media in online gaming and entertainment, and in Century City, we focused on user-generated content, open-forum platforms and competitive advertising.

While the results are still being tabulated, we do know that a significant number of our clients and guests received continuing legal education credit (CLE) for attending, in addition to a meal – worth the price of free admission anywhere. We haven’t looked at all the evaluations yet either, but no one fell asleep, everyone stayed through the closing credits and a rousing rendition of the Social Media Blues, and many of our attendees stayed for follow-up questions.

We also received a number of inquiries about the possibility of individual companies or groups hosting a Social Media seminar presented by Rimon, and we are happy to do so for yours – we are an accredited CLE provider in most jurisdictions, if that is important to the legal folks – but many have asked about presenting to senior executives, business development, marketing, media and other professionals as well.

Not only can we tailor a seminar to your particular company, your brands and/or your industry, but we have developed, and will continue to develop, modules and focused presentation materials regarding online gaming and virtual worlds; promotions (e.g., sweepstakes, contests, product placements, branded entertainment); advertising and marketing (e.g., testimonials, endorsements, buzz, viral and word-of-mouth); labor and employment; corporate policy, public relations and crisis management; financial services; media and entertainment, including motion pictures and machinima; pharmaceutical, health and life sciences; technology and e-commerce; digital rights management (e.g., user-generated content, hybrid media); privacy, data protection and security; target marketing, location-based and behavioral advertising; regulatory requirements – both government and SRO (e.g., FTC, FCC, CSPC, FDA, PCI compliance, FACTA, GLB, HIPAA); cloud computing, and so much more – and we haven’t even mentioned our international or global experience, expertise or resources in other jurisdictions around the world.

If you are interested, please contact me (Joseph I. Rosenbaum) and we can work with you to help you engage us in your social media conversation with topics that are relevant to you. We will also be updating the research work already released in our Social Media White Paper with some of the materials and further work we continue to do in this area. Stay tuned – social media is not a fad.

Wandering Lonely as a Cloud? Not One Cloud Computing Inventor in Texas!

In 1804, William Wordsworth published what is certainly among the most well known and oft-read poems in the English language – it begins, “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils.”  Now even back in 1804, Wordsworth, no XML programming guru, was already talking about clouds, crowds and hosts . . . 

So we read recently that NetMass, a Texas company, reached a settlement and had a judgment issued in a federal patent case involving a lawsuit by an inventor, Mitchell Prust, alleging that NetMass infringed some cloud computing and cloud storage patents. Mr. Prust had apparently invented a mechanism to allow web browsers to access application programming – a fundamental aspect of cloud computing. The settlement and judgment entered by the Federal Court in Texas (Mitchell Prust v. Softlayer Technologies, Inc., et al., No. 2:09-cv-236) notes that NetMass had infringed three of Mr. Prust’s patents and enjoins NetMass from continuing to do so in the future. From current published reports, Mr. Prust also has a lawsuit pending in Federal Court in California against Apple.

This may be just the beginning of a wave of intellectual property lawsuits as cloud computing begins to evolve and become part of a commercial operational toolkit around the globe – not much different from those surrounding ATMs, online banking, networking and other once-emergent technology platforms. Stay tuned. You will be hearing more from us about clouds in the year ahead.

In the meantime, if your head is in the clouds (or perhaps just a fog), and you need help, feel free to contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Now, Web-Birds of a Feather Can Actually Flock Together

Well, it seems like almost yesterday (actually a little more than a month ago), that a subsidiary of Mixx, the popular social voting site, launched TweetMixx, a new service that enables companies, brands, politicians, and celebrities collect and aggregate all the mentions about them on Twitter on a single page. “TweetMixx Channels,” as the service is branded, enables you to create a branded page, tailored to you – from your own Twitter Tweets and RSS Feeds to comments from customers, reviewers, fans or pretty much anything you like. We’ll use “you” generically to mean any label that fits – people, brands, goods, services, you name it.

Ever see those vanity license plates on cars? Now you can have your own vanity Twitter Mixx channel, and the service uses “Tabs” to allow a variety of features and functions. There’s one that uses search terms to find links and tweets about you on Twitter, in apparent deference to the new Federal Trade Commission Endorsement Guides (see our post FTC (Revised) Endorsement Guides Go Into Effect earlier today; there’s an “Insiders” tab that identifies anyone with a material connection or that is associated with you (e.g., employees, agents, paid endorsers); and other tabs that enable you to customize and populate the channel. In addition, since the service appears to act both as an aggregation and a search tool for content about you, consumers can find all the Twitter traffic and channel information about you in one place, and at the same time, you can use the service to track and monitor conversations and references to you on Twitter. Right for consumers; right for you – clever.

Remember Facebook’s personalized URLs just a few months ago (Legal Bytes blog post Facebook Adds Personalization & a (Brand) New Dimension)? This is not simply another social media fad. Already companies are getting on the bandwagon (or should we say birdwagon). Today, the National Hockey League (www.nhl.com) will be among the first few enterprises launching its TweetMixx Channel – its own private label branded distribution platform using the TweetMixx service. TweetMixx even provides you with a widget that can be embedded on other websites (think bloggers, profile pages, etc.). The NHL’s “Chatter” tab on TweetMixx, for example, will provide streaming tweets from hockey fans, while a “Links” tab will keep track of the tweets that are retweeted most often, and will rank these favorites by putting them at the top of the TweetMixx Channel web page.

So for advertisers, brand managers, marketing professionals and agencies, this new tool is the beginning of enabling a clearer strategic use of Tweets. Just as branded pages and channels, enabling two-way conversations, have emerged on YouTube and Facebook, allowing brands and celebrities to engage with consumers and fans, TweetMixx seeks to provide an ecosystem for Twitter traffic. Chris McGill, founder and CEO of Mixx, noted that each TweetMixx Channel can be analogized to a “tree.” You have TweetMixx plant a customized tree of your choice, then you are given the tools to nurture it, to prune it and to watch it grow. Do it right and you have branches where Twitter users can “flock, sit and sing” about you – the people, products, services and things they care about. TweetMixx owns the forest!

Can you or your brand afford to stay out of the social media arena? Are you afraid of the new risk-reward paradigm and uncertain what to do? Do you know you have to do something, but are suffering from analysis paralysis? Have traditional models got you stuck in the mire? Call us. Our Advertising Technology & Media law practice group and our newly formed Social Media Task Force already have unparalleled depth, experience and bench-strength in understanding, working with, and advising clients in this brave new world. From developing policies to monitoring compliance; from protecting and enforcing your rights to developing relationships and partnerships with others to engage in the conversation. To win it, you have to be in it. If you need help, contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work. We are happy to help.

FTC (Revised) Endorsement Guides Go Into Effect

This post was written by John Feldman.

Yesterday, Dec. 1, 2009, the revised “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” released by the Federal Trade Commission came into effect. If you are a loyal Legal Bytes’ reader, you know we have been following this as early as November 2008, when we posted Endorsements & Testimonials – FTC Broom Proposes Some Sweeping Changes. Numerous updates and informational pieces have graced these pages since then (now when we say “pages,” we mean web pages), and you can refer back to any or all of them, or you can check out any you may have missed right here: FTC Testimonial and Endorsement Guides Stimulate Industry Comment (March 2009); a presentation given at the University of Limerick on the subject entitled “Trust Me, I’m a Satisfied Customer: Testimonials & Endorsements in the United States,” which you can download (If You Didn’t Make It to Ireland …); Ghostwriters: Medical Research or Paid Endorsers (and are they mutually exclusive?) and Rights of Publicity – Wake Up and Smell the Coffee! (both in August 2009); and FTC Releases Updated Endorsement & Testimonial Guidelines and Rimon Analysis of the New FTC Endorsement and Testimonial Guidelines (both in October 2009).

Yesterday, John P. Feldman, an authority in these types of advertising regulations and compliance and who is based in Washington, D.C., put together some thoughts concerning the implications of these Guides upon coming into effect, continuing his thoughtful and practical analysis. While we will maintain bringing you news and information about the Guides, John’s analysis is timely and helpful, and outlines some considerations every advertiser – online, in social media and off-line – and every blogger, viral marketer, celebrity endorser or consumer making a testimonial, should take into account. John’s analysis, which you can download and read in its entirety by selecting the link below, asks and answers the following questions about these Guides:

  • What does this mean for advertisers?
  • What is the most dramatic shift in enforcement policy?
  • What will this mean for advertisers that use celebrity endorsers?
  • How much control should sponsoring advertisers exercise over endorsers in new media channels?
  • What impact will the FTC’s new approach to clinical trials have on the OTC, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical industry?
  • Is there a role for self-regulation and what do you make of the proposed “best practices” recently announced by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA)?

You can download your own copy of John’s analysis or you can read it online right here: “FTC Endorsement Guides (Revised) – Some Thoughts As They Become Effective“. You won’t be disappointed. In addition, if you want to know more about these issues or have questions about your particular circumstances, please do contact John P. Feldman directly, or you can call Joseph I. Rosenbaum or Douglas. J. Wood or, of course, any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.