BlueMail Maker Sues Apple for Infringement and Antitrust Violations; CCTV, Tencent Suspend NBA Pre-season Broadcast over Freedom Tweet; Premier League Warned of Revenue Drain by Piracy; HC Seeks Govt Views in PIL to Ban Telegram; Twitter Admits to Using Data for Ads; Class Action Against Tether and Bitfinex; CJEU: Facebook May be Ordered to Remove Identical / Equivalent Illegal Content; Twitter and Facebook May Face Fines from Ireland DPC; CMA Finds Fender Guitars Breached Competition Law and more.
BlueMail Maker Sues Apple for Infringement and Antitrust Violations
Blix Inc. has filed a suit against Apple in a US court in the state of Delaware, alleging that Apple infringed the BlueMail universal email application. The suit alleges that Apple used pioneering ideas like public interactions with email, in the “Sign in With Apple” feature for its own operating systems, without permission, attribution or payment.
The suit also alleges that Apple then removed the BlueMail app from the MacOS App Store, claiming that Apple did so with the intent to prevent BlueMail from competing with Apple’s own products. The suit alleges that this act was an abuse of Apple’s monopoly and control over the MacOS App Store, which was taken to extend and maintain its monopoly and eliminate competition against its proprietary mail clients.
As a result of the removal of Bluemail, the suit alleges that consumers suffer from reduced options and Apple’s behavior of adding innovative features to its own products and then removing competing products from its ecosystem.
Blix is seeking a permanent injunction restraining Apple from further infringement of its patent and further monopolization of the app market, treble damages for willful infringement, damages for the effect of Apple’s antitrust violations, and attorney’s fees.
CCTV, Tencent Suspend NBA Pre-season Broadcast over Freedom Tweet
Earlier this week, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, in a controversial tweet supported the ongoing Freedom protests in Hong Kong.
Morey publicly apologized, took full responsibility, and also removed the Tweet in an attempt to distance the NBA from the backlash on Twitter. The NBA has also published a statement of apology, but has been unable to stem the repercussions.
China Central Television (CCTV), has confirmed that it will not broadcast the two NBA pre-season exhibition games taking place in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Tech giant Tencent, the NBA digital streaming rights holder in China, has also confirmed its temporary suspension of the pre-season broadcast arrangement.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has also apologized for the incident, stating that the NBA has never attempted to regulate the conduct or opinions of players, employees and team owners.
Premier League Warned of Revenue Drain by Piracy
The chief executive of Qatar-based beIN Media Group, Yousef al-Obaidly, has accused Saudi Arabia-backed broadcaster beoutQ of broadcasting stolen beIN coverage on satellite technology to nearly half of the audience in the UK, out of which a third possibly do not know that they have been watching illegal streams.
Premier League clubs like Watford and Bournemouth earn 88% to 90% of their revenue from licensing their broadcast rights. For the term of 2019-2022, the Premier League has sold its broadcast rights for USD 11.25 billion with a drop in domestic revenue, making it clear that if piracy is not treated, the value of broadcast rights will reduce.
Obaidly urged the chief executives of federations, leagues, clubs and broadcasters to promote awareness of sports piracy and start protecting their intellectual property from online infringers.
HC Seeks Govt Views in PIL to Ban Telegram
The High Court of Kerala has sought the views of the Central government in a petition filed to ban the encrypted messaging app Telegram. The Public Interest Litigation petition was filed by Athena Solomon, an LLM student of National Law School of India University Bengaluru, last month to ban the Telegram app for promoting child pornography and terrorism.
The next hearing will be after 3 weeks, by which time the government is required to either submit its views or request for more time. The issue of social media abuse is under consideration by the Central government due to the Supreme Court’s directions in a separate matter to frame guidelines.
Proceedings involving social media platforms are underway in various other high courts as well, for issues ranging from online privacy to crime detection and state security.
Twitter Admits to Using Data for Ads
Twitter has recently admitted to having used private information (such as email IDs and phone numbers) provided by users for safety or security in two-factor authentication for advertising purposes by “mistake”. Facebook has also faced similar struggles in balancing user privacy with better advertising, which ultimately resulted in an investigation in the US.
Twitter has explained in its statement that private data was used in its tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising systems. It claims that the information was not externally shared and was only used internally for matching Twitter users with the advertisers marketing lists.
Twitter claims the issue was fixed in September.
Class Action Against Tether and Bitfinex
Controversial cryptocurrency Tether and the Bitfinex exchange face a class action lawsuit filed before a New York court for allegedly managing a sophisticated scheme to defraud investors, manipulate markets, and conceal illicit proceeds.
Tether or USDT is one of the world’s first “stable coins”, which means it is backed by tangible assets unlike other cryptocurrencies. However, Tether did not disclose that USDT was not backed by the US dollar in a 1:1 ratio, contrary to its marketing claims.
The complaint alleges that the two companies comingled their corporate identities and customer funds, concealed the extent of their cooperation, and attempted to manipulate the cryptocurrency market by lying to investors. It also claims that, between 2017 and 2018, Tether printed and used 2.8 billion USDT to flood the Bitfinex exchange, thus artificially inflating demand for cryptocurrencies and causing a huge increase in prices.
The liability for punitive damages is likely to surpass USD 1.4 trillion. Tether and Bitfinex are also under investigation by US government agencies for market manipulation.
CJEU: Facebook May be Ordered to Remove Identical / Equivalent Illegal Content
A suit filed before the Supreme Court of Austria by the chair of the Greens party against Facebook Ireland for the takedown of defamatory content has undergone wide-reaching developments. The Supreme Court of Austria asked the Court of Justice of the EU to interpret the Directive on electronic commerce, which exempts host providers from liability for stored information in certain circumstances, similar to the intermediary exception under the Information Technology Act in India.
Under the Directive, a host provider is not liable for stored information if the provider has no knowledge of or once brought to attention to that information the provider acts expeditiously to remove or disable access to that information. This exception does not prevent the provider form being ordered to terminate or prevent an infringement but it does impose restrictions on the monitoring of stored information or tracking of illegal activity.
The Court of Justice has ruled that the Directive seeks to strike a balance between the different interests at stake and that a member state can order a host provider/intermediary to remove content identical or equivalent to content previously declared to be unlawful. It has also ruled that a court injunction to block access to or remove such information may be applicable worldwide, within the framework of international law.
This ruling could have serious implications for companies which operate social media platforms and other platforms which rely on user-generated content for traffic. Under the laws of most countries, they are only required to take action against specific URLs or similarly identified content once it is brought to their notice, without having to actively search for and remove unlawful content (barring certain categories like child pornography).
Twitter and Facebook May Face Fines from Ireland DPC
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has concluded its investigation into Twitter and Facebook’s WhatsApp for a possible breach of EU data privacy rules.
Ireland’s chief data regulator, Helen Dixon, is expected to issue draft decisions by the end of the year, in which she will determine the penalty, which could be up to 4% of global annual revenue of the company. This could result in a fine exceeding USD 2 million for Facebook based on 2018 revenue. The draft decision will be reviewed by other EU regulators before becoming final.
This will be Ireland’s first decision related to US multinational companies since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 2018.
The decision could prove important in the long-term because of the number of multinational companies which have their EU headquarters in Ireland, largely due to its favourable tax structure.
Facebook and Twitter are yet to comment on the possibility of facing a fine.
CMA Finds Fender Guitars Breached Competition Law
UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) has issued a statement finding historic guitar maker Fender guilty of breaching competition law by deliberately setting minimum prices. The CMA alleges that Fender ran an illegal policy of resale price maintenance, which required resellers to sell at or above the floor price, thus guaranteeing Fender a profit margin.
The CMA has found Fender’s actions to violate competition law, as it restricts the price range at which customers can buy instruments, and prevents online retailers from selling at their preferred prices. The CMA will wait to hear any response from Fender before reaching a final decision on any potential breach of law.
Fender’s iconic instruments have found favour with rock legends including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and U2
Fender is cooperating with the CMA’s investigation and has due to the ongoing legal process reserved from commenting further on the topic.
Authored and compiled by Ashwini Arun and Snehaja Rana (Associates, BananaIP Counsels)
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