We continue our review of interesting and unique legal tech
issues. Here are some recent developments we are watching.
Tech trouble in the workplace
Employers have long struggled with policies for allowing
employee Internet use on workplace networks. Historically, the
focus has been on preventing time-theft and guarding against
liability issues. But a new concern is on the rise: limited
bandwidth. Many companies are seeing their monthly bandwidth limits
stretched as employees spend time surfing, watching videos and
streaming music on their workplace computers. And in many cases,
the use of such tools may be integral to the actual work being
done. Now, rather than simply providing general policies and
guidelines, many employers are finding the need to block specific
media sites like Netflix, Pandora and YouTube.
But it's not just employees that are the problem. The rise
of cloud computing has increased the need for bandwidth to access
legitimate company data that would formerly have been stored
It's an IT department's nightmare. And it's only
expected to get tougher.
Name, rank and... Facebook password?
Employment lawyers and Human Rights Code proponents are sounding
alarm bells recently as more and more employers have begun asking
applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords during job
interviews. Some employers justify the practice as an effective way
to check employee backgrounds. Employees call it an invasion of
privacy and a violation of human rights legislation. But with the
job market remaining stagnant, they feel pressured to reveal the
For its part, Facebook itself has spoken out publicly against
the practice, even going so far as to threaten legal action against
such employers for violating its terms of service with its users.
The American Civil Liberties Union also plans to take a firm stand
against the practice. It's possible that an interesting test
case may be on the horizon.
Mistrial by Google?
In the Summer 2010 issue of Tech Central, we mentioned the
growing problem of technology and social media in the courtroom,
with jury members causing mistrials by texting, emailing,
"Tweeting," and otherwise using the Internet and tech
tools to obtain and publish information relating to trials. The
problem has not eased since then.
Many U.S. courts have continued to see a growing stream of
mistrials due to jurors' use of tech tools:
"Googling" parties, witnesses and lawyers during the
course of trial; blogging derogatory comments about the accused and
their counsel; searching Wikipedia for explanations of legal and
In response, judges are becoming more clear and more forceful in
their jury instructions. Some are even threatening to impose fines
and jail terms on violators. To this point, we are not aware of any
cases requiring such extreme measures, but we are keeping our eyes
Blogging made easier
At Lawyers Alert, we have often encouraged lawyers to
enhance their online presences. For many lawyers, that process
includes operating legal blogs. But running a blog isn't always
an easy task. Beyond the need to maintain fresh and interesting
content, many bloggers struggle with moderating the related forums
and discussions, where blog readers chime in with their own
comments in response to the bloggers' posts. They are part of
the appeal of a blog, but can also be the greatest burden for the
But a new company in Montreal has developed a tool to make this
task easier for the blogger, while also improving the quality of
the online discussions. Vanilla Forums provides blog and forum
hosting services with a structure that allows blog readers to rate
the posts of other discussion participants. The result, according
to the company, is a more customized discussion community that
rewards positive participation, automatically curates content, and
lets members drive moderation, thereby easing those tasks for the
blogger or moderator.
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Software license agreements generally require the customer to pay fees for the software license and related services, which fees are usually based upon the duration of the license and the manner in which the customer is allowed to use the software, together with applicable taxes and withholdings.
In less than nine months, on July 1, 2017, persons affected by a contravention of Canada's anti-spam legislation will be able to invoke a private right of action to sue for compensation and potentially substantial statutory damages.
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