A landmark decision in New York is setting a precedent for intellectual property on the internet. Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan, overseeing the ongoing case of Debra Schatzki v. Weiser Capital Management, found that stealing data stored in the cloud from a business competitor constitutes a crime.
Weiser Capital was found liable for downloading confidential information about over 12,000 of Schatzki’s clients during proceedings in early December. Weiser Capital joined forces with Schatzki’s company, BPP Wealth, in 2007. When the two split, Weiser Capital copied the confidential financial information out of Schatzki’s SmartOffice database and locked her out of her own database.
Sweet determined that BPP Wealth retained the license to those records through the partnership, and that WCM did not have rights to her records. According to her lawyer, this may be the first time that downloading information from the cloud by an unauthorized user will ever be prosecuted.
This comes on the heels of a decision by the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass a bill securing the privacy of electronic communications, forcing the government and law enforcement to secure a warrant before viewing the contents of any person’s e-mails or other electronically stored data, like images or videos. This includes communications stored by Yahoo, Google, and Facebook, among others.
This will go a long way in securing the market’s confidence in cloud based digital storage solutions, as the law finally begins to catch up to the realities of the technology.
When only business, especially the music industry, felt the sting of intellectual property theft, and the public mostly benefitted from it, regulation was a fairly unpopular thing. As more and more private individuals begin to rely on services like Dropbox and Google Drive, pressure on government has expanded from beyond that realm, however.
Now that most private individuals have a large portion of their lives and private personal data uploaded to the internet, the sword is cutting two ways. With surveillance scandals in the NSA and corporate exploitation of private information, as in the business models of Facebook and Google, the public is ready to get on board with setting a few ground rules.
In August it became apparent that a good three quarters of the world’s internet traffic is being monitored by the NSA. The White House has been avoiding prosecution by the Supreme Court by invoking the state secrets privilege, preventing the widely known information about the NSA’s surveillance programs from being used in court, effectively crushing the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.
The public is sensing that their privacy is no longer secure. As the internet transforms further, from a mostly public space to a large scale data storage network for business and private individuals alike, attitudes will continue to change.
Reanna Gutierrez is the Product Marketing Manager for OneNeck IT. Reanna engineers the marketing efforts to launch, position and differentiate OneNeck’s hosted application management, managed hosting services, cloud services and infrastructure services.
Photo source: PasswordGear.com