Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
Fri 4/14 - EPA Emissions Stds, Deepfakes and Right of Publicity, Google v. Sonos, a Leaker and Free Speech vs. Attorney Conduct Rules

Fri 4/14 - EPA Emissions Stds, Deepfakes and Right of Publicity, Google v. Sonos, a Leaker and Free Speech vs. Attorney Conduct Rules

In today’s episode we have new aggressive emissions standards from the EPA, Deepfakes and publicity law, Google v. Sonos, a leaker and a free speech challenge to attorney conduct rules.

The Biden administration's plan to reduce emissions from the transportation sector through tailpipe emission rules will face industry litigation, but environmental lawyers believe the rule will hold up during inevitable challenges. The proposed standards, revealed by the Environmental Protection Agency, were called the most aggressive ever for cars and trucks. Challengers are likely to argue that the rule is too transformative, but advocates will contend, rightly,  it is rooted in tried-and-true Clean Air Act authority. The standards would put electric vehicles at 67% of new light-duty vehicle sales in 2032, and set light-duty vehicle efficiency at 82 grams per mile in model year 2032, a 56% bump from 2026 levels. Industry groups are already opposed to the proposal, with American Petroleum Institute President Mike Sommers stating that the "deeply flawed proposal is a major step toward a ban on the vehicles Americans rely on". Some states are already using the major questions doctrine, which we covered in a previous Max Min Comp, in a lawsuit against an earlier round of vehicle rules, and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has hinted at a lawsuit. Despite the threat of litigation, advocates of the standards believe the rule is on solid legal ground, with Earthjustice Senior Climate Attorney Hana Vizcarra stating that the agency is "improving the standards as they go in light of what’s happening in the marketplace".

Biden Tailpipe Emission Rules Face ‘Major Questions’ Legal Wave

The increasing use of "deepfakes" technology, which allows users to digitally blend or swap faces and voices, has raised legal questions about exploiting someone's image and voice without permission. Those unwillingly featured in deepfakes and other AI-manipulated content can use right of publicity laws as a legal remedy, but these laws vary from state to state. Generally speaking, right of publicity laws protect an individual's right to control the commercial use of their name, image, likeness, or other recognizable aspects of their persona. The contours of these laws vary by jurisdiction, but generally give individuals the exclusive right to use their name or image for commercial purposes, such as in advertisements or merchandise. In some cases, these laws may also protect against unauthorized use of a person's identity for non-commercial purposes, such as in a work of fiction or in news reporting. Right of publicity laws can be controversial, as they can clash with other forms of free expression, such as the First Amendment right to free speech.

Although California and New York provide clear statutory guidelines for right of publicity, other states have less defined bodies of law. The mesh of statutory regimes could create a patchwork of decisions as generative AI applications continue their rise, and litigation mounts. The lawsuit against Reface, which was created by the Ukrainian company NeoCortext Inc., was brought by Kyland Young, a finalist on the reality competition show “Big Brother.” The First Amendment is a prominent legal defense against publicity rights lawsuits, especially in cases where the underlying product or service is protected by free speech, like comic books or documentaries. Other federal statutes may also be shields against the lawsuits, such as Section 230, which immunizes online platforms from liability over user-created content. This is clearly a burgeoning area of litigation, with new AI models rolling out on a seemingly daily basis.

AI Celebrity ‘Deepfakes’ Clash With Web of State Publicity Laws

A San Francisco federal judge ruled on Thursday that Google must face a trial in a patent lawsuit brought by Sonos Inc over wireless audio technology. The judge failed to invalidate all of the patents before a trial but did narrow Sonos' claims. The case is part of a contentious intellectual property dispute between the former business partners over their smart speakers, including lawsuits in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Sonos won a limited import ban on some Google devices from the US International Trade Commission (ITC) last year, while Google has sued Sonos for patent infringement at the ITC and in California. 

Google must face trial over Sonos patents, California judge says | Reuters

Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the US Air Force National Guard, has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly leaking classified military intelligence records online. He will appear before a federal judge in Boston on Friday. The leaked documents, posted online in March and potentially even earlier, include records showing purported details of Ukrainian military vulnerabilities and information about allies including Israel, South Korea, and Turkey. It is believed to be the most serious security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos, and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010. The Justice Department opened a formal criminal probe last week into the current leaks. Anyone convicted of willfully transmitting national defense information can face up to 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a longer sentence depending on the charges. The Pentagon said that the leak was a "deliberate, criminal act" and that the military had taken steps to review distribution lists and ensure people receiving information had a need to know. The number of documents leaked is likely to be in the hundreds. 

Man suspected of leaking secret US documents to appear in court | Reuters

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia questioned whether a free speech advocate and Pennsylvania attorney can pursue his First Amendment challenge against the state's adoption of an anti-harassment and discrimination professional rule for lawyers. The Pennsylvania rule prohibits lawyers from knowingly engaging in conduct constituting harassment or discrimination based on race, sex, religion, and other grounds. Plaintiff Zachary Greenberg claims he is at risk of violating the rule because of presentations he gives about offensive and derogatory language. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel has said it would not prosecute such conduct. U.S. District Judge Chad Kenney blocked the rule in March 2022, finding it to be overbroad and in conflict with the First Amendment. The rule has attracted support from the ABA and other bar groups and opposition from conservative and religious groups, including on the grounds that it could be abused by bar officials in the future.

U.S. appeals court weighs free speech challenge to attorney conduct rule | Reuters

Minimum Competence - Daily Legal News Podcast
Minimum Competence
The idea is that this podcast can accompany you on your commute home and will render you minimally competent on the major legal news stories of the day. The transcript is available in the form of a newsletter at