Old Dominion Freight Line, a transport company facing a federal lawsuit over alleged violations of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), distributed a one-page waiver to its employees to sign voluntarily, releasing the company from the statute’s obligations. This move follows the state Supreme Court’s Cothron v. White Castle decision, which expanded the potential for huge damages awards under BIPA, leaving companies increasingly exposed to BIPA liability risks in Illinois. The release offers employees $500 if they voluntarily agree not to sue the company and its affiliates from all claims under BIPA. The strategy is seen as a legal attempt to mitigate exposure to BIPA liability risks. While Illinois law allows the validity of releases, the exception to the rule is willful or wanton conduct. No case law currently exists on retroactive BIPA exemption waivers, and whether the strategy succeeds is an open question. Privacy lawyers said releases such as the one used by Old Dominion aren’t uncommon and could help reduce BIPA litigation exposure, but some lawyers said the releases may not prevent employees from joining class actions.
Dominion Voting Systems' defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp has ended with a $787.5 million settlement, marking the end of a lucrative two-year legal battle for the large teams of highly-paid lawyers on both sides. At least 31 lawyers from nine different law firms worked on the case. Dominion accused Fox News of broadcasting false claims that the company’s voting machines were involved in a conspiracy to rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and won one of the biggest settlements paid in a defamation lawsuit. Law firm Susman Godfrey, one of two firms that represented Dominion in the case, was hired on a contingency, or success-fee, basis. Partners at large corporate law firms like those representing Fox sometimes bill more than $2,000 per hour. Dominion's lead lawyers at Susman Godfrey included partners Justin Nelson, Stephen Shackelford and Davida Brook. Staple Street Capital Group LLC, the small buyout firm that owns Dominion, is also set to receive a major windfall from the settlement.
The US Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Mall of America outside Minneapolis, allowing it to challenge an inexpensive lease signed with Sears Holdings Corp in 1991, which it claims it should no longer be bound to. The lease provided Sears with a three-story, 120,000-square foot location at the mall for a rent of just $10 a year. The Mall of America has argued that it should be allowed to charge more to rent the space Sears had occupied since it was subsequently sold to a new owner during the department store chain's bankruptcy. The ruling means that MOAC Mall Holdings can proceed with its challenge to the lease in a lower court. Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and its assets were sold for $5.2bn to former chairman Eddie Lampert and his hedge fund ESL Investments.
AI companies Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt are asking a San Francisco federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by artists Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz in January. The artists accused the companies of committing mass copyright infringement by using their work in generative AI systems without authorization. The companies argue that the AI-generated images are not similar to the artists' work and that the lawsuit did not identify any specific images that were allegedly misused. They also argue that the lawsuit does not identify any work by the plaintiffs that the companies supposedly used as training data.
The legal battle between artists and AI companies highlights the challenges of prosecuting copyright infringement cases involving generative AI systems. As AI algorithms are designed to create new works by training on large data sets, it is difficult to prove that any one image was used to create a specific output. The companies have thus asked a San Francisco federal court to dismiss the proposed class action lawsuit, arguing that the AI-generated images are not substantially similar to the artists' work and that the lawsuit did not identify any specific images that were allegedly misused – but if the underlying technology requires the use of the images, or images like them, in order to create the model that generates the output, is that not infringement? It is unclear. The case underscores the need for greater clarity on the legal implications of AI-generated works and the importance of developing new standards to protect the rights of artists and other content creators in the digital age.