California Parents Could Soon Sue For Social Media Addiction

California could soon hold social media companies responsible for harming children who have become addicted to their products, permitting parents to sue platforms like Instagram and TikTok for up to $25,000 per violation under a bill that passed the state Assembly on Monday. The Associated Press reports: The bill defines “addiction” as kids under 18 who are both harmed — either physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally or materially — and who want to stop or reduce how much time they spend on social media but they can’t because they are preoccupied or obsessed with it. Business groups have warned that if the bill passes, social media companies would most likely cease operations for children in California rather than face the legal risk.

The proposal would only apply to social media companies that had at least $100 million in gross revenue in the past year, appearing to take aim at social media giants like Facebook and others that dominate the marketplace. It would not apply to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu or to companies that only offer email and text messaging services. […] The bill gives social media companies two paths to escape liability in the courts. If the bill becomes law, it would take effect on Jan. 1. Companies that remove features deemed addictive to children by April 1 would not be responsible for damages. Also, companies that conduct regular audits of their practices to identify and remove features that could be addictive to children would be immune from lawsuits. “Monday’s vote is a key — but not final — step for the legislation,” adds the report. “The bill now heads to the state Senate, where it will undergo weeks of hearings and negotiations among lawmakers and advocates. But Monday’s vote keeps the bill alive this year.”

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Judge Rules California Law Requiring Women On Corporate Boards Is Unconstitutional

A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California’s landmark law requiring women on corporate boards is unconstitutional. CBS News reports: Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said the law that would have required boards have up to three female directors by this year violated the right to equal treatment. The ruling was dated Friday. The conservative legal group Judicial Watch had challenged the law, claiming it was illegal to use taxpayer funds to enforce a law that violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution by mandating a gender-based quota.

The state defended the law as constitutional saying it was necessary to reverse a culture of discrimination that favored men and was put in place only after other measures failed. The state also said the law didn’t create a quota because boards could add seats for female directors without stripping men of their positions. Although the law carried potential hefty penalties for failing to file an annual report or comply with the law, a chief in the secretary of state’s office acknowledged during the trial that it was toothless.

The law required publicly held companies headquartered in California to have one member who identifies as a woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. By January 2022, boards with five directors were required to have two women and boards with six or more members were required to have three women. The Women on Boards law, also known by its bill number, SB826, called for penalties ranging from $100,000 fines for failing to report board compositions to the California secretary of state’s office to $300,000 for multiple failures to have the required number of women board members. Fewer than half the nearly 650 applicable corporations in the state reported last year that they had complied. More than half didn’t file the required disclosure statement, according to the most recent report.

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‘Club Penguin Rewritten’ Allegedly Shut Down By Disney, Website Seized By London Police

“Club Penguin Rewritten,” a popular remake of Club Penguin enjoyed by thousands of gamers, has been seized by the City of London Police, with three people in connection with the site’s shuttering reportedly arrested for allegedly distributing copyrighted material. “Over 140,000 users were members of a Discord server for the game until today, when every message on the Discord disappeared,” reports TechCrunch. From the report: In 2007, Disney purchased Club Penguin — the children’s RPG that served as my first introduction to online fandom — for a whopping $700 million. Even then, as a child with little context about tech industry acquisitions, the purchase seemed foreboding (at least my friends thought so on the Miniclip forums, where I fraudulently claimed to be 13). But eventually, those of us who were dedicated fans of virtual sledding games and dance parties grew out of it, and after once boasting 200 million users, the game was shut down due to lack of interest in 2017. Disney tried to shuttle remaining players to a new mobile game called Club Penguin Island, but it only lasted for a year. But ever since the end of Club Penguin — when the iceberg finally tipped in a strangely emotional moment — there have always been remakes out there for nostalgic adults to relive their days of collecting puffles, dancing in the pizza shop and speed-running bans.

Only one message on the Discord remains, posted early this morning by an admin: “CPRewritten is shutting down effective immediately due to a full request by Disney,” the admin said. “We have voluntarily given control over the website to the police for them to continue their copyright investigation.” TechCrunch reached out to the City of London Police and Disney to verify these claims but did not hear back before publication. In 2020, Disney shut down “Club Penguin Online,” another copy of the game that acquired over a million new players during the pandemic.

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Google Could Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over Free G Suite Legacy Account Shutdown

On Wednesday, Google announced that it is getting rid of the G Suite legacy free edition, “which allowed those that snuck in before 2012 to get free Google apps services tied to a custom domain rather than Gmail,” reports Android Police. Since a lot of people will be left “in the lurch” after the shutdown, attorneys at Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith are opening an investigating into the matter for a potential class-action lawsuit. From the report: No lawsuit has been filed yet; the attorneys involved are just collecting information for a potential lawsuit in the future once all the facts are straight (and Google has had time to reconsider its actions). When we covered the original news of the legacy G Suite shutdown, it seemed unreasonable to us, because customers using those legacy accounts are unable to transfer purchases or things like grandfathered subscription discounts to new accounts. When we asked if moving purchases between accounts might be possible, a Google representative confirmed it wasn’t. […]

That means years of purchases tied to Google Play — potentially hundreds to thousands of dollars of assets like movie and music purchases for a given customer, across thousands of affected customers — could be tied to broken accounts because of the transition. Google explicitly confirmed to us that was the case, though customers could elect to keep using their broken suspended account alongside a working one. In essence, everyone that migrated to one of these accounts while they were still offered (from 2006 at least until 2012, so far as I can tell) will have to pay extra money to keep their existing purchases tied to a fully working account, and we think that’s pretty ridiculous.

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Snap Suing To Trademark the Word ‘Spectacles’ For Its Smart Glasses

Snap is suing the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for rejecting its application to trademark the word “spectacles” for its digital eyewear camera device. But the USPTO has maintained that “spectacles” is a generic term for smart glasses and that Snap’s version “has not acquired distinctiveness,” as required for a trademark. The Verge reports: In its complaint filed Wednesday in US District Court in California, Snap claims that the Spectacles name “evokes an incongruity between an 18th century term for corrective eyewear and Snap’s high-tech 21st century smart glasses. SPECTACLES also is suggestive of the camera’s purpose, to capture and share unusual, notable, or entertaining scenes (i.e., “spectacles”) and while also encouraging users to make ‘spectacles’ of themselves.” Snap first introduced its camera-equipped Spectacles in 2016 (“a wearable digital video camera housed in a pair of fashionable sunglasses,” according to its complaint), which can take photos and videos while the user wears them and connects with the Snap smartphone app. […]

Snap’s new complaint posits that there’s been enough media coverage of Spectacles, bolstered by some industry awards and its own marketing including social media, to support its claim that consumers associate the word “spectacles” with the Snap brand. Snap first filed a trademark application for Spectacles in September 2016, “for use in connection with wearable computer hardware” and other related uses “among consumer electronics devices and displays.” During several rounds of back-and-forth with the company since then, the USPTO has maintained that the word “spectacles” appeared to be “generic in connection with the identified goods,” i.e. the camera glasses. Snap continued to appeal the agency’s decision. In a November 2021 opinion, the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (pdf) upheld the decision, reiterating that the word “spectacles” was a generic term that applied to all smart glasses, not just Snap’s version. Despite the publicity Snap claimed its Spectacles had received from its marketing and social media, the board noted in its opinion that Spectacles’ “social media accounts have an underwhelming number of followers, and the number of followers is surprisingly small,” which didn’t support the company’s argument that there had been a high enough level of consumer exposure to Snap’s Spectacles to claim that consumers associated the word with Snap’s brand.

In its Tuesday complaint, Snap’s attorneys argued that “spectacles is an old-fashioned term popular in the 18th century,” and that it “is not often used today in the United States,” especially by Snapchat’s young audience. “This indicates that modern-day usage of “spectacles” in the United States — especially among a younger demographic of consumers who are the relevant consumers of Snap’s SPECTACLES camera product — is not commonly understood to mean eyeglasses, and certainly not a wireless-enabled video camera product.” But the USPTO appeal board said in November that the evidence didn’t support that argument, and that the word “spectacles” still retains its generic meaning and therefore can’t be trademarked. The board noted that in its own marketing, Snap had demonstrated that its Spectacles “eyeglasses form is a feature, function and characteristic of the camera, not only functionally but aesthetically.” Snap’s lawsuit, which names acting USPTO director Drew Hirshfeld, seeks to have the appeal board’s November decision reversed.

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Lawsuit Says Google Pays Apple To Keep Away From Internet Search Market

A class action lawsuit has been filed in California against Google, Apple and the CEOs of both tech giants for allegedly violating antitrust laws, according to a press release. The complaint calls for the breakup of Google and Apple into separate and independent companies in keeping with the precedent of the of Standard Oil company into Exxon, Mobile, Conoco, Amoco, Sohio, Chevron and others, the release stated. reports: Charges in the suit allege that Google and Apple have agreed that Apple would keep out of the internet search business against Google, according to the release. It also claims Google shares its search profits with Apple and gives Apple preferential treatment for all Apple devices; annual multi-billion-dollar payments by Google to Apple not to compete in the search business; suppression of smaller competitors to keep them from the search sector; and acquiring competing companies. Allegations also include higher advertising rates than rates that would be in a competitive system, the release stated.

Attorneys are seeking an end to the alleged billion-dollar payments to Apple from Google and asking the court to prohibit non-compete agreements between the two companies and end the profit-sharing agreement and the preferential treatment for Google on Apple devices, according to the release. “These powerful companies abused their size by unlawfully foreclosing and monopolizing major markets which in an otherwise free enterprise system would have created jobs, lowered prices, increased production, added new competitors, encouraged innovations and increased the quality of services in the digital age,” Joseph M. Alioto of Alioto Law, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in the release.

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