Tech Law Blog

2015 Review: Hot Topics in Tech Law

07 January 2016

2015 was a year of significant developments in tech law. The EU’s highest court – the CJEU – published a number of landmark judgments throughout the year. Privacy law was a particularly hot topic in 2015, not least in terms of US data transfers and the EU’s planned overhaul of its data protection laws. The ever-growing ecosystem of apps and smart devices also remained in the tech law spotlight.

We have put together a list of our 5 most popular blog posts in 2015. Not surprisingly, our explanation of the much talked about Schrems case came in at number 1, while topics such as data protection and intellectual property rights were also of particular interest to our readers. See below for our top 5 posts and click here to see all of our articles.

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1. Safe Harbor Submerged: What Next?

As has been well reported, in October 2015 the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its long awaited judgment in Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner (C-362/14).

The Court found that the Safe Harbor system facilitating the export of personal data from the EU to the USA is ‘invalid’. But what does this mean for international business, and what are the next steps?

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2. The Multi-Million Dollar Copyright Battle over ‘Happy Birthday to You’

Despite common belief, a US music publisher claims that copyright in one of the most performed songs in the world, ‘Happy Birthday to You’, is still in effect and, as the rights holder, it is entitled to a royalty payment for every public performance of the song. However, in a recent development in the on-going federal lawsuit over whether the song is in the public domain, the lawyers of a New York documentary filmmaker claim to have uncovered new ‘smoking gun’ evidence that the ‘Happy Birthday to You’ song is not under copyright – and hasn’t been since 1922. They are claiming that this evidence clearly proves the song is in the public domain and no permission is needed to use it.

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3. Court Rules for Ryanair in ‘Screen Scraping’ Dispute

Ryanair, the Irish airline, has been involved in multiple cases concerning alleged ‘screen scraping’ of its site – the manner in which price-comparison websites automatically collect and compare flight cost data from various air carriers. Europe’s highest court, the CJEU, has finally ruled on this issue. It considered whether a business can use its website terms to restrict others from using databases on its site in certain ways. Of particular relevance here was the fact that the databases in question were not protected by copyright or database rights. Despite this fact, Ryanair successfully argued that it can restrict screen-scrapers’ use of the Ryanair site by way of the website terms. 

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4. Who ‘Owns’ an Employer’s Contacts? New Judgment Provides Clarification

Contacts and connections are a key asset for many businesses, particularly those in the B2B space. However, disputes often arise as to whether or not the connections are ‘owned’ by the employee or the employer. This issue often comes to the fore in cases where a senior (and often well-connected) employee moves jobs and seek to leverage their existing rolodex to compete with their former employer. Despite the importance of this issue, there is not much case law addressing this point. Consequently, a recent decision of the Jersey Courts, though not binding in Ireland, is worth some attention.

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5. The Trend of BYOD: Personal Devices in the Workplace – Part 1

Bring-your-own-device (“BYOD”) – where companies allow employees to use their own mobile phones, tablets, and/or laptops for work – is a practice that is quietly growing year-by-year. In fact, in a study conducted by Tech Pro Research late last year, 74% of respondents said that their organisation either already allows BYOD or is planning to do so within 12 months. Further, numerous studies have shown that employees of organisations which do not allow BYOD are increasingly using unauthorised personal devices at work. And yet, this widespread practice often receives little more than a passing consideration at many companies. Given some of the exposures outlined below, every organisation should consider the legal implications of this trend and decide what measures are needed to mitigate the risks.

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The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.