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Legal News Roundup: April 22, 2016

by Missie Frandsen

on 25 April, 2016

Let’s take a look at this week in legal news.


Trial Date Set for Sandy Hook Lawsuit Against Gunmakers

In a landmark ruling, a trial date has been set for the lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook shooting victims against gun manufacturers Remington and Bushmaster Firearms. The lawsuit seeks to hold both companies and several distributors accountable for manufacturing and selling the semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle that Adam Lanza used in 2012 to fatally shoot 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

The gun industry have been claiming immunity under PLCAA, the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which protects manufacturers and dealers from liability when crimes are committed with their weapons. However, Sandy Hook families argue that this is a case of negligent entrustment, or knowingly selling a product to someone who is likely to commit a crime. They are asking for access to internal marketing documents, claiming that Bushmaster Firearms and Remington are purposefully marketing guns toward men who are dangerous and violent.

On Tuesday, Judge Barbara Bellis found that the PLCAA “does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is a military weapon and should not have been sold to civilians.” She set the trial date for April 2018, and opened discovery that could unlock not only internal documents, but depositions of gun company employees.

EFF Submits Amicus Brief In Lawsuit Against CISCO

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights organization in San Francisco, filed an amicus brief in favor of a religious group suing tech mammoth Cisco for aiding and abetting human rights abuses in China. The EFF claims, according to leaked Cisco documents, that the company custom built the “Great Firewall”, otherwise known as the Golden Shield project, for China, knowing that it would be used to target and harm national dissenters.

Starting in 1998, China’s Golden Shield uses tech legislation and programs to censor the internet and conduct surveillance in its citizens. Methods including IP blocking, URL, DNS and packet filters, and virtual private network recognition help Chinese authorities filter undesirable content, but also locate and arrest political activists or religious practitioners. In Doe I v. Cisco, the plaintiffs argue that Cisco custom built a special module specifically to target members of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice of meditation and holistic body movement. The module that Cisco built led directly to unlawful arrests and torture of the plaintiffs, and they are demanding justice under the Alien Torte Statue. The ATS allows foreign citizens to file lawsuits in U.S. courts for human rights violations committed outside the United States.

Verizon Attorney Drives Porsche Into Picket Line, Injuring Two

Last Wednesday, close to 40,000 Verizon Wireless workers went on strike after Verizon failed to come to a contract agreement with the union Communication Workers of America. Tensions have been running high since August, when the CWA contract ended, and workers

Verizon claims the strike isn’t hurting their bottom line and  that tech advancements have helped keep services running during the strike, but the Wall Street Journal calls their bluff; it’s not technology, but a shadow workforce of accountants, staff management, and lawyers, are being sent out into the field in lieu of striking telephone and Internet service installers.

Workers and customers alike are frustrated with Verizon’s response to the strike; the union has called for a boycott, and customers are reporting that replacement employees either terrible at their new jobs, or aren’t showing up for work at all. The temps, it seems, are irritated as well, but taking it to a whole new level. Seemingly enraged with the strike, a Maryland Verizon attorney drove his luxury Porsche into a picket line in Gaithersburg, injuring two strikers from the local CWA. After ignoring a police officer and attempting to flee the scene, the attorney was arrested. The telecommunications giant denies any involvement, stating “We have found zero evidence supporting these claims. There have been no formal complaints filed and no arrest records.”

Keep it classy, Verizon.

Pop Icon Prince Passes, Who Owns His Music?

Much beloved musician Prince passed away on Thursday at his home in Paisley Park. While many celebrities and fans mourned his passing and paid homage to his brilliant career, some are already asking practical questions; who legally owns his music, and what will happen to the songs he never released?
Over 35 years, Prince released 39 albums, but apparently has a vast library of unheard music stashed at his home, all of which he owned the copyright to. Prince has neither a partner or children to inherit his music, and supposedly he used a handful of different lawyers to handle his legal matters, so who will be managing his estate? Will they release the treasure trove of songs and music videos that Prince stashed away? Will his albums return to online streaming services, such as Spotify?