DENISE HOWELL

internet and technology lawyer.  host, This WEEK in LAW.

In a recent decision, the Ninth Circuit held that drivers who signed up with Uber under its 2013 and 2014 contracts must resolve their disputes with the company in private, binding arbitration. The court found the contracts’ arbitration provisions enforceable, disagreeing with the trial court on this point. The court emphasized the agreements had opt-out provisions that were not illusory, because some drivers actually used them and exercised their choice not to arbitrate.

Though the decision has other nuances and implications, as far as arbitration opt-outs go it’s a roadmap for parties on both sides:

  • For companies presenting an agreement, including and publicizing a reasonably straightforward way to opt out of binding arbitration is a good idea. It will tip courts toward enforcing your arbitration provisions down the road.
  • For individuals presented with company-drafted contracts containing an arbitration clause — from gig economy workers, to medical patients, to tree trimming customers, to Pokemon Go players — it’s a good idea to look for an arbitration clause, and if it’s there, find the arbitration opt-out instructions and follow them. Preserving your right to a trial doesn’t rule out the ability to arbitrate a dispute if you’d like; the company would probably prefer it.

On This WEEK in LAW tomorrow, Venkat Balasubramani will join Mike Keyes, Emory Roane, and me to delve into the hazards of taking a selfie with your pit bull (or American Staffordshire Terrier), or your election ballot. We’ll discuss the first text-to-register voter registration chat bot, The Slants’ upcoming gig at the Supreme Court, Yahoo’s email surveillance, the FCC’s upcoming vote on broadband privacy, and much more. Browse our topics for the show on Tagpacker or Flipboard, and join us when we record live, October 7, 2016, 11 PT/18:00 UTC.

In 1998, fewer than 5% of Web sites contained Web trackers: code that logs what users view and do online, and creates dossiers logging their online activity. According to a recent study by security and privacy researchers at the University of Washington, more than 75% of popular sites now use such technology. Franziska Roesner, co-author of the study and Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UW, will join Mike Keyes, Emory Roane, and me on the next episode of This WEEK in LAW. We’ll discuss the parameters and findings of the UW study, the state of browsing privacy, and the pitched battle being waged over user control of such information. Also on deck are new federal and state rules on driverless cars, 2016 election hacking, ethical guidelines for robots and their owners, and much more. Browse more of our topics for the show on Tagpacker or Flipboard, and join us when record live, September 23, 2016, 11 PT/18:00 UTC.

Scot Refsland, Chairman of the Drone Sports Association, will join Mike Keyes, Emory Roane, and me tomorrow on This WEEK in LAW. We’re excited to pick Scot’s brian about the growing sport of drone racing, its role in incubating new technologies for augmented reality, virtual reality, and unmanned aerial systems themselves, its status in relation to the FAA’s rules for commercial and hobby drones, and what the sport is doing to steer clear of law enforcement eagles. We have much more on deck for the show as well, so be sure to join us at 11 PT/18:00 UTC.

RoboCop is real — and gives people another reason to turn off WiFi on their phone when they’re out in the world besides saving the battery. From Shan Li’s piece at the L.A. Times, Robots are becoming security guards. ‘Once it gets arms ... it'll replace all of us’:

“Now, this is controversial,” Schenk said. “Who has their Wi-Fi on right now?”

Almost everyone raised their hands.

“The robot will access your phone and take its unique ID,” he continued. That enables companies, he said, to “white-list and blacklist” mobile devices. If someone appeared on the blacklist — say a fired employee still toting their company phone — the robot would send an alert. A bag containing a phone not on the preapproved list could indicate corporate espionage, Schenk theorized, or even a bomb.

Interactive Dynamic Video Lets Inanimate Objects React and Bounce

Abe Davis, a PhD student at MIT, has come up with a fascinating new way to make video objects interactive. His Interactive Dynamic Video brings video objects to life so that other digital and real-world objects can appear to affect them and make them move. It’s an innovative take on creating lower-budget special effects, and has cool potential industrial, structural, and safety applications as well. Check out the video.

Dianna Labrien has a good piece at tech.co: Blockchain, Virtual Reality, and Others Disrupting the Music Industry. The innovations she mentions — blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and blanket licensing models — all are poised to play important roles in the successful futures of music, film, and video.

Bonus links, two music labels using innovative licensing strategies to broaden their reach:

I’m thrilled to welcome Professor Margot Kaminski back to This WEEK in LAW this coming Friday. Professor Kaminski focuses on so many areas we enjoy discussing on the show, including “media freedom, online civil liberties, international intellectual property law, legal issues raised by AI and robotics, and surveillance.” Co-host Mike Keyes and I are excited to see what Professor Kaminski thinks about the new FAA commercial drone rules as well as the legality of shooting drones out of the sky, the return of Naruto (and whether courts need to defer to the copyright office on questions of copyrightability), Pokemon Go (real world permits and cyberspace permissions), the Tolkien estate protects The Precious, whether Frank Ocean’s Apple Music exclusive ramped up piracy, and much more. I’m aggregating potential topics on Flipboard and Tagpacker; let me know if you have other suggestions!

Drones, Subjects, and Protecting Both

“I will not be surprised if future contracts with drone operators will include birds, balloons and fireworks coordination clauses.” (Udi Tirosh)

Drone pilots have unique, close-to-the-ground aerial considerations to navigate because (for example in the cinematography context) they may need to fly directly into and around obstacles other aircraft can better avoid. In addition to thinking about and planning for this with clients — which as this article demonstrates is a wise precaution — commercial drone operators should pay attention to insuring against their own loss/damage, and not just the risks their activities may pose to others. Consider too who should bear the expense of insuring particular jobs. The answer may be different if the footage is documenting a wedding or destined for a blockbuster.

[Update:] Sometimes, the hazard to the drone comes from the cinematic subject herself!

Seven years after the FTC’s paid endorsement guides took effect, disclosure rules and practices remain murky and controversial.

[I]t should be “clear and conspicuous” to consumers if a person endorsing a product “has been paid or given something of value.” However, while the [FTC] suggests putting “#ad” or “#sponsored” at the start of those kinds of social media posts, or providing verbal disclosures in videos, there are no hard and fast rules….For example, simply saying “thank you” to a brand or adding “#sp” or “#spon” probably isn’t clear enough, while saying a brand is a “partner” probably is[.]

The FAA released an 87-page study guide, any part of which test takers could expected to be quizzed on. It’s not light reading: It covers everything from the classes of US airspace, aviation-related acronyms, how to act as a pilot, how weather affects aircraft, the physics of flying, Morse code, and, of course, how to fly a drone.