…And Now A Word From the FCC

The FCC is looking into regulations regarding disclosures for product placements and has been soliciting comments on its proposed changes. Should feature films produced for theatrical release and then aired on TV, and which have traditionally enjoyed an exemption from the sponsorship identification required of TV programming—have that exemption removed? should product placements be identified when the product is shown on screen? Should embedded advertising be completely prohibited in children’s programming? Increasing product placement and integration into programming has stimulated concern among consumer advocacy groups and Congressional legislators that the rules, many of which are decades old, do not address the new wave of advertising and promotion that has arisen as DVR technology and marketing has migrated away from the traditional “30-second spot.”

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The War on Privacy Opens a New Front

In the aftermath of many well publicized data breaches, in the past few years, more than 40 U.S. states have enacted data breach disclosure laws—“identity theft” statutes—which, among other things, require consumers to be notified when personally identifiable information is or may have been compromised in a database. But recent reports citing ineffectiveness of such legislation (e.g., Carnegie Mellon University researchers found notification laws only reduce identity theft by around 2 percent) and a growing sense that notification laws don’t prevent the problem, have caused some states to examine other approaches. At least two states, Nevada and Massachusetts, have enacted different legislation aimed at prevention, and Washington and Michigan are actively considering new measures.

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Japan Arrests Woman for ‘Killing’ Her Virtual Spouse

Last week, Japanese authorities arrested a woman for killing the digital avatar of her online husband—no, we didn’t make this up. Arrested in her home in southern Miyazaki, she was taken to Sapporo in Northern Japan. The woman became angry on learning her online husband divorced her. She used his ID and password to log onto the “Maple Story” interactive game to execute the virtual murder. Although not yet formally charged, she was arrested for suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data. Although the police thus far have no reason to believe she was contemplating any real world criminal act, she still could face five years in prison or a fine of as much as $5,000 if she is ultimately charged and convicted of the computer access and manipulation charges. Maple Story, like many interactive, online virtual world games, allow real world participants to create digital characters called “avatars.” While many virtual experiences are essentially sophisticated online interactive games themselves, even non-game based virtual worlds enable avatars to engage in social networking, relationships with other avatars, transactions involving the exchange of value, and the creation or deployment of intellectual property—content ranging from video programs to musical concerts to creating wardrobes for their avatars. Because avatars exist in a virtual, digitally created world, their owners often engage in activities they would never consider in the real world.

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Recent Publications

Legal Bytes editor Joe Rosenbaum has authored a chapter in a new book, Inside the Minds: Managing Advertising & Marketing Legal Issues, published by Aspatore Publishing. The chapter is entitled “The Tension Between Advertising & Privacy: Whose Information Is It (Déjà vu)?” The text looks back at a Jurimetrics Law Journal article he authored 10 years ago entitled “Privacy on the Internet: Whose Information Is It Anyway?” and examines how the evolution of web-based and mobile advertising continue to have a profound effect on our notions of privacy in the digital world.

Useless But Compelling Facts – September 2008 Answer

Last month we asked you to tell us where the expression “passing the buck” or “the buck stops here” came from. This month’s winner comes to us from Australia, where Peter Le Guay, a Partner of Thomson Playford Cutlers and member of the Global Advertising Lawyers Alliance (“GALA”), correctly noted that in the latter half of the 1800s, the game of poker became very popular in the United States, with no shortage of “cheats.” To minimize cheating, the dealer regularly changed and the individual next to deal was given a marker—usually a knife with a handle made from a buck’s horn. The marker became known as a “buck” and “passing the buck” meant card dealing was passed to the next person. There is widespread belief that as time went on, silver dollars were used, and the use of “buck” as slang for a dollar originated.