New York Moves To Expand the Right of Publicity

As New York law currently stands basically the only right of publicity that is recognized in New York is the right to prevent appropriation of a living person’s name or likeness (e.g., portrait, picture, image) for commercial purposes.  A violation of the law can have both criminal and civil consequences, although only civil actions currently include the misappropriation of ones’ “voice,” in addition to names and photographs. New York courts have also allowed claims based on the use of look-alike models (Onassis v. Christian Dior-New York, Inc., 472 N.Y.S2d 254 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1984)).

New York does not recognize any common law right of publicity (Stephano v. News Group Publications, 474 N.E.2d 580 (N.Y. 1984)). Consequently all New York rights of publicity are purely creatures of statutory law.  Of interest in recent years is the fact that unlike over 20 other States in the United States and many jurisdictions internationally,* New York has never recognized any post-mortem rights of publicity. In other words, only living New York persons have any right of publicity and those are governed exclusively by statute!

Well that may change if and when New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signs a bill recently passed by both houses of the the NYS legislature and although the bill differentiates between “deceased personalities” and “deceased performers,” if signed into law it would broaden the current law and create a new transferable (and inheritable) right that would protect those rights of publicity after death – rights that would last for 40 years after the death of the individual.

This new legislation is likely to have implications to performers, celebrities and others who are domiciled in New York, as well as to advertisers, advertising agencies and sponsors, among others.  Once the bill is signed into law, watch for updates on Legal Bytes for more detail. In the meantime, if you have questions or want more information, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

* Note: In some jurisdictions, rights of publicity are referred to as “personality rights” and one should never assume these rights are identical in scope or effect.

 

Brazil Adopts Comprehensive Data Protection Law

Katie Hyman, Partner

Brazil’s Lei General de Proteção de Dados (“LGPD”) officially came into effect on Friday, September 18 2020. This Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD), Federal Law no. 13,709/2018, was published on August 15, 2018, is heavily influenced by the EU GDPR and is Brazil’s first comprehensive framework regulating the use and processing of personal data. Prior to the LGPD, data privacy regulations in Brazil consisted of various provisions spread across Brazilian legislation.

The LGPD applies to businesses of all sizes, with only a few listed exceptions, such as where data are collected for artistic or academic purposes, or for national security and public safety. It will apply when data is collected or stored in Brazil or where data is processed for the purposes of offering goods or services to individuals in Brazil.

The LGPD defines “personal data” broadly: it means any information regarding any identified or identifiable natural person, including data that could be aggregated to identify a person. The general principles underlying the LGPD are set out in Article 6, and these will be used by the Brazilian data protection authority to determine a company’s compliance with the law. The principles are purpose, suitability, necessity, free access, quality of the data, transparency, security, prevention, non-discrimination and accountability.

In line with these principles, the rights of the data subject are set out in Article 18, and these are very similar to those in the GDPR, including access to data, correction of inaccurate data, portability, deletion of data processed with consent, information about entities with which the controller has shared data, information about the possibility of denying consent and revocation of consent.

Companies are required to report data protection breaches to the local data protection authority, but no deadline for reporting is included in the LGPD. Guidance on this is to come from the data protection agency, which is yet to be established. Companies that violate the LGPD can be fined up to 2% of the revenue of their organization, up to a total of R$50 million (approximately US$9 million) per violation. However, penalties for infractions will only start to be applied from August 1, 2021.

An official English translation is not yet available, but the IAPP has provided a translation and you can read it here: Brazilian General Data Protection Law.

If you want more information about this article feel free to contact Katie Hyman or me, Joe Rosenbaum or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

Swiss-US Privacy Shield

In July, we reported that the EU Court had invalidated the viability of the US-EU Privacy Shield (EU Invalidates the Privacy Shield . . BUT Says Contracts May Save the Day!).  A few weeks ago (September 8, 2020), the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) also decided to remove the United States from a list of nations that are considered to be providing “adequate level of data protection.”

Unlike the EU Court’s decision, decision by the Swiss FDPIC does not automatically invalidate the applicability of the Privacy Shield, because the list of countries on or off the list is technically not legally binding. That said, if your company is relying on the Swiss-US Privacy Shield to continue to transfer data from Switzerland to the United States, it would not be prudent to assume these transfers will continue to be viewed as complying with the adequate protection standards under Swiss law.  It seems to make sense to re-assess the risks and start relying on corporate policies and regulations, as well as legally binding contract clauses to ensure they are consistent with Swiss data protection law.

Even when the company policies and contract provisions are properly constructed, there still remains the risk that even these protections may be considered inadequate.  For example, if local authorities have the right to obtain the data without safeguards and legal protections consistent with those required under Swiss regulation, the transfer may be considered in contravention of Swiss law.  Similarly, if the entity to which the data is being transferred is not legally obligated, for any reason, to cooperate with the enforcement requirements that may apply under Swiss law this too creates a problem.  While encryption technology exists that can ensure no personal data can become available in another country, that approach only makes sense for pure storage capability (e.g., cloud based storage) but NOT if the data is intended to be used, displayed or otherwise handled in another nation.

While further guidance and information may ultimately be promulgated by the FDPIC, at present, a review of current procedures and data transfers, the exercise of caution and consideration of implementing additional steps to deal with this development in Switzerland, as with the EU Court decision, seems to be a prudent course of action.

At Rimon Law, our professionals are available to answer question about these developments, so feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work for information about this or any other matters.

EU Invalidates the Privacy Shield . . BUT Says Contracts May Save the Day!

Today (July 16, 2020), the EU Court of Justice, (the EU’s highest court) struck down the validity of the Privacy Shield – a mechanism that well over 5,000 U.S. companies have been using and relying upon in order to legally justify the transfer of personal data across the Atlantic into the US.  This same court had previously invalidated the “Safe Harbor” protocol, concluding the Safe Harbor failed to adequately protect privacy rights of EU citizens, since it accorded law enforcement in the United States priority over the rights of EU citizens – permitting law enforcement virtually unrestricted access to the data.

This new case began when Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate, complained to Irish data protection regulators that Facebook’s reliance on standard contract clauses to permit data being transferred from the European Union to the United States did not provide adequate protection. Schrems argued that it didn’t prevent intelligence officials and other third parties in the United States from getting at the information. The Commissioner at the Irish Data Protection Authority took the complaint to Ireland’s high court and they referred certain questions regarding the validity of standard contractual clauses to the EU Court of Justice. Although Schrems’ complaint never raised the Privacy Shield issue, it was raised in oral argument before the court, opening the door for the court to include it in their opinion and decision.

While the European Court invalidated the Privacy Shield, it didn’t buy Schrems’ argument that standard contractual clauses should be deemed invalid as a matter of EU law or regulation. They basically said that standard contract clauses could be among the “effective mechanisms” if they required both sides involved in the transfer to ensure information is accorded the equivalent level of protection as required under EU law. They went on to note that the parties should not use those clauses if they can’t comply with that requirement.

As a result, while neutering the Privacy Shield, they did uphold the validity of the use of standard contractual clauses to legally move personal information outside the European Union, if these clauses were effective in providing the same level of privacy protection as the EU requires.

The case is Between the Data Protection Commissioner and Facebook Ireland Ltd. and Maximillian Schrems (Case Number C-311/18) and as always, if you have any questions or need more information about this posting, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you regularly work.

Cyberspace Lawyer: The Force (Majeure) is Strong

Honored to have an article I (Joe Rosenbaum) wrote: “Managing Contract Risks & Remedies in a Time of Coronavirus”, published by Thomson Reuters in the June 2020 issue of Cyberspace Lawyer!  Many thanks to the Editor-in-Chief, Michael D. Scott, a long-time professional colleague and good friend!

Since that article was submitted for publication, an interesting new development arose at the end of June which was also posted here on Legal Bytes. A bankruptcy judge in Illinois has opined on at least one instance where a party to a real estate lease agreement can take advantage of such a clause. You can also read that update right here: COVID-19 and Force Majeure: What’s In Your Contract?

 

US Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Extended

If you have been following Legal Bytes, then you know we have been following developments related to the various relief, incentive and stimulus programs being enacted and signed into law in the US (See Congress Provides Additional PPP Flexibility which includes links to many of the prior postings).

After Congressional passage of the legislation earlier last week, over this past July 4th weekend, President Donald Trump signed into law an extension of the application period for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) until August 8, 2020 and this morning applications were once again being accepted for the loans.  According to the SBA, there is still over $130 billion available in the fund.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available and as always, if you need more information or assistance you can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon Law lawyer with whom you regularly work. Stay safe, stay well!

Unsung Cyber Hero Adventures

On June 4, 2020, Steven Teppler and I (Joe Rosenbaum) were guests of Gary Berman, host of “Unsung Cyber Hero Adventures”.  You can watch the entire interview “The Judicial System & Cybersecurity” and many more on his “Unsung Cyber Hero Adventures” TV Network!

There is also a comic series and you can find out more by looking at  The CyberHero Adventures: Defenders of the Digital Universe.  The comic series, the streaming interview series and much more are all the brainchild of Gary L. Berman, a career marketing consultant and entrepreneur whose company – and the families it supported – fell victim to a prolonged series of insider cyber attacks.  Feeling powerless, Gary decided to educate himself about cybersecurity, attending conferences, listening to podcasts and learning from the real heroes, the cybersecurity experts in law enforcement, government, education, and business.

COVID-19 and Force Majeure: What’s In Your Contract?

At the beginning of April, Legal Bytes highlighted some of the pros and cons of attempting to use a Force Majeure (Excusable Delay) clause in contracts as the basis for delaying or even failing to perform under a contract. See COVID-19: May the Force (Majeure) Be With You.   Now in early June, a bankruptcy judge in Illinois has opined on at least one instance where a party to a real estate lease agreement can take advantage of such a clause. For those of you inclined to read the entire decision you can check out In re Hitz Restaurant Group, No. 20-B-05012, 2020 WL 2924523 (Bankr. N.D. Ill., Eastern Division, June 3, 2020).

The specific language in the lease agreement is critical to this analysis, so this is the relevant language in the contract the court cites in the opinion:  “Landlord and Tenant shall each be excused from performing its obligations or undertakings provided in this Lease, in the event, but only so long as the performance of any of its obligations are prevented or delayed, retarded or hindered by … laws, governmental action or inaction, orders of government…. Lack of money shall not be grounds for Force Majeure.” (emphasis is mine).  The Bankruptcy Court held Executive Order 2020-7, the Stay-at-Home Order, issued by Illinois Governor Pritzker on March 16, 2020, “unambiguously” triggered the force majeure clause, holding the order constituted both “governmental action” and an “order of government.”

In its motion, the landlord claimed banks were still open, the tenant was still able to write checks and mail them to the landlord, that the tenant could still operate it’s take out and delivery service, that in order to obtain funds the tenant could have applied for and received an SBA loan, but more importantly that lack of money was specifically and explicitly stated in the clause as “not grounds for Force Majeure. ”  In dealing with the landlord’s motion, the Bankruptcy Court first noted neither the bank’s being open or closed or the tenant’s ability to write checks and mail them were relevant or responsive to the tenant’s arguments or for that matter the specific language of the force majeure clause.  More significantly, the Court rejected the landlord’s argument that the failure to perform was due to a lack of money – something specifically noted in the clause. To this the Court stated that not only was the tenant under no legal obligation (either in the lease or at law) to apply for an SBA loan to pay the rent, but the Illinois Governor’s Executive Order was the proximate cause of the tenant’s inability to pay rent and that the Executive Order clearly impaired the tenant’s ability to operate fully and generate the same amount of revenue as it might under normal circumstances.

That said, the Bankruptcy Court did take into account the fact that the restaurant (tenant) was not completely shut down and could still provide take-out and delivery services and decided that the tenant should still pay some rent, but in an amount “in proportion to its reduced ability to generate revenue due” as a result of the imposition of the Executive Order.  Neither landlord or tenant had suggested a way to determine a reasonable proportion so the Court essentially decided that since the tenant estimated the kitchen (the facilities within the premises still available for use in fulfilling a take-out and delivery service) represented about 25% of the total square footage, the Court partially excused the tenant from paying the full rent while the Executive Order remained in effect.

It is important to note this is a proceeding in bankruptcy court and even in that context is technically not binding on other jurisdictions.  It is also important to note that even though the contract clause carved out “lack of money” as a basis for invoking the clause, the specific reference to “governmental action” and “orders of government” gave the court a foothold to decide that these facts, although perhaps causing a lack of revenue, where the basis for invoking the clause and awarding the tenant partial relief from it’s full payment obligation.  As with all decisions of the courts, they are very fact-specific, although it may be interesting to see if other courts begin to use the reasoning as having some precedent value in these unprecedented times.

If you need more information or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Angela Gonzalez or me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Rimon Law lawyer with whom you regularly work.

Congress Provides Additional PPP Flexibility

H.R. 7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, passed by Congress on June 3rd, was signed by the President and became effective on June 5. 2020. The legislation makes some significant changes to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). For our previous posts on the subject go to our most recent post on the subject PPP Loan Forgiveness Application which has links to all our prior postings.

If you want to read the entire text of the new law, you can read or download a personal copy Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 , but in short (OK, it’s actually not that short) here goes:

Loan Maturity:  PPP loans made on or after June 5th will have a maturity of at least five years up to a maximum of ten years from the date  the borrower applies for forgiveness.  Although the new law only applies to loans made after June 5th, it does allow borrowers who received loans prior to that date to mutually agree to modify the maturity dates and conform to the extended time periods;

Covered Period Extended:  Under the new amendment, for both existing and new loans, in order to determine the amount to be forgiven, the period will now start on the origination date of the loan (i.e., the date the funds are disbursed per the SBA) and ending either 24 weeks (168 days) after the loan origination date, or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.  If you received a PPP loan before June 5, you can decide to use the 8 week period under the original CARES Act if you prefer;

Reduction of FTE/Salaries Safe Harbor Deadline Extended:  The new deadline for restoring FTE and salary/wage levels to their February 15th status, originally required by June 30th has now been extended to December 31, 2020.  In addition, the recently enacted amendment to the CARES Act provides that the amount of the loan that will be forgiven will be determine without regard to any reductions as a result of: (a) an inability to rehire individuals who were employees on February 15th and to hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions on or before December 31, 2020; or (b) the inability to come back to the level of business that existed before February 15th in order to comply with requirements or guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the CDC, or OSHA, from March 1st until December 31, which inability is related to requirements needed to maintaining standards applicable to COVID-19 for health, sanitation, social distancing or other worker or customer safety.  PPP borrowers should be prepared to substantiate (document) their good faith inability to hire/re-hire or return to pre-February 15th business levels and it is likely that information will be requested with any applications for forgiveness.

Using Loan Proceeds:  For both existing and new PPP loans, the new legislation provides that at least 60% must be used for covered payroll costs and up to 40% can be used to pay covered non-payroll costs (e.g., timely payment of interest on covered mortgage loans, covered lease, rent and utility payments.

Payment Deferral Period Extended:  Payments of principal and interest on PPP loans will be deferred until SBA determines the amount of the loan that will be forgiven and pays that amount to the lender.

If a Borrower Doesn’t Apply for Forgiveness: If a borrower does not apply for PPP loan forgiveness within 10 months after the end of that borrower’s “covered period,” payments of principal and interest will begin at the end of that 10-month period.  If a borrower has a pre-June 5th PPP loan who choose to continue to use the 8 week covered period under the original CARES Act, if the borrower hasn’t applied for forgiveness, those payments will begin 10 months after the end of that 8 week period.

Employer Payroll Taxes:  Under the new law, even if a Borrower receives forgiveness of the PPP loan, they can still defer paying employer payroll taxes as permitted by the original CARES Act.

While it is likely there will be additional clarifications and updated or revised guidelines as new questions arise, the new law provides welcome relief by extending deadlines, especially how forgiveness rules will be interpreted and applied.  We will keep you posted, but as always, if you have questions or need more information you can contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the legal professionals with whom you regularly work at Rimon Law.

 

PPP Loan Forgiveness Application

Following up on our previous posts (Paycheck Protection Program & Disaster Relief Loan Information Released (Updated) and Paycheck Protection Program (Updated FAQs)) this past Friday (May 15th), in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application with detailed instructions explaining how to apply for forgiveness of PPP loans, consistent with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  The announcement also states the SBA will also issue regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications, and provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities. Here are copies of the Press Release, as well as the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application with detailed instructions, you can read and download directly.

We will post further information as it becomes available.

As always, if you need more information or assistance you can contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you regularly work. Stay safe!