The regulatory framework for online gambling recently took a wild turn when the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel (“OLC”) announced its view that the Wire Act (18 U.S.C. § 1084) applies to all forms of gambling—not merely sports betting. This marked a 180-degree reversal from the stance the OLC took just seven years earlier. The OLC’s 2011 opinion—which itself departed from public positions the DOJ had previously taken—was the foundation upon which today’s state-regulated online gambling industry is built. Four states—Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania—currently allow online gambling, and Michigan came close to legalizing it at the end of last year, although outgoing Governor Snyder vetoed the bipartisan bill in a surprise move. The OLC’s follow-on announcement gives now-unlawful online gambling businesses 90 days to bring their operations into compliance with federal law before Wire Act enforcement will begin under this newly expanded view. Below, we contemplate what enforcement of the industry will look like in light of this recent announcement.

Perhaps we will see a Cole memo-esque enforcement regime, where the feds will exercise discretion not to prosecute well-behaved online gambling businesses operated in accordance with robust state regulatory frameworks. After all, legal online gambling businesses and their service providers are already subject to extensive vetting, and in Delaware, online gambling is state-run. Regardless, we expect the DOJ to publish internal guidelines for how the feds should prosecute cases—this is a model that has been used in other areas, and would presumably outline the specific factors under which proposed enforcement would be reviewed and approved.


Continue Reading DOJ Reverses Course on the Wire Act, Changing the Odds on the State-Regulated Gambling Industry

Every brand that has designed a product label has felt the call of the asterisk. Visual real estate on packaging and in advertisements is limited, and marketing departments often groan at the piles of clumsy language that legal departments insist make it onto the page. But the elegant solution—dropping an asterisk and including the disclaimers, clarifications, or required disclosures in tiny print at the bottom—has traditionally drawn the ire of regulators or private plaintiffs who complain that such disclosures are ineffective because nobody actually reads them. Now, a line of California federal court cases has begun taking the plaintiffs’ argument at their word, and not in a way that class plaintiffs like: by using Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) to dismiss complaints that don’t specifically allege whether or not a consumer followed an asterisk and weighed the information in the disclaimer.

In Anthony v. Pharmavite, No. 18-CV-02636-EMC, 2019 WL 109446 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 2019), the court examined a purported class action by consumers allegedly misled into buying biotin supplements labeled with the claim, “May help support healthy hair, skin and nails.” According to the plaintiffs, the average human already obtains a surfeit of biotin in his or her daily life and any amount beyond what can be synthesized is automatically flushed from the body. Indeed, according to the plaintiffs’ studies, “99.9962 percent of people have no possibility of benefiting” from biotin supplements. Only those with exceedingly rare genetic disorders, the plaintiffs explained, could possibly derive any material benefit from supplemental biotin.


Continue Reading Think Asterisks Don’t Matter?*

“Slamming and cramming” might sound more appropriate in professional wrestling than telecommunications, but it’s the Federal Communications Commission and not the WWE that’s making moves in this area. On June 7, the Commission approved new rules aimed at stopping both slamming and cramming by telecommunications carriers, which we’ve summarized below. On August 16, these new

Self-driving cars have captured the imagination through television and movies (Knight Rider and Herbie the Love Bug, to name a few). Today, with advances in computing and other technologies, a number of technology and automotive companies are testing autonomous vehicles on public roads and expect to deploy such vehicles in the near future. Indeed, the potential of autonomous vehicles is promising— in terms of both mobility and safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”)—the leading federal agency responsible for automotive safety—fully autonomous vehicles (“FAVs”) have the potential to drastically improve transportation safety and decrease crashes. Currently, there are over 37,000 fatalities on the roadways, and crash data shows that 94 percent of crashes have an element of driver error. Autonomous vehicles will not only impact transportation, but will also provide advertisers a new medium to advertise their products and brands, posing exciting questions about how the technology works and what role regulators will play.
Continue Reading Exciting Questions and Opportunities for Advertising Through Self-Driving Cars

Following confusion in both the courts and the FCC, Congress is now looking to step in and resolve disputed provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). As readers of this blog know, earlier this year in ACA Int’l v. FCC, 885 F.3d 687 (D.C. Cir. 2018), the D.C. Circuit set aside the FCC’s interpretation of “automatic telephone dialing system” (ATDS) as it was defined in the FCC’s 2015 TCPA Order (2015 Order). In the same decision, the D.C. Circuit also vacated the 2015 Order’s approach to calling reassigned and wrong numbers. As a result, it’s now unclear what the relevant standard is for these provisions of the TCPA.

So far, courts have found addressing the fallout of the ACA Int’l decision to be Mission Impossible. They’re split as to whether the FCC’s prior 2003, 2008, and 2012 orders are still valid or whether the D.C. Circuit’s decision also vacated those rulings. One common question is whether all predictive dialers should be considered ATDS or if the definition should only encompass automatically dialed numbers that are randomly or sequentially generated. The District of Arizona, for example, has said that “this Court will not defer to any of the FCC’s . . . [earlier orders] regarding the first required function of an ATDS . . . .” Herrick v. GoDaddy.com, No. CV-16-00254, 2018 WL 2229131, at *7 (D. Ariz. May 14, 2018). See also Marshall v. CBE Group, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-02406, 2018 WL 1567852, at *4 (D. Nev. Mar. 30, 2018). The Northern District of Georgia, however, applied the 2003 Order in its decision on the issue. Maddox v. CBE Group, No. 1:17-cv-1909, 2018 WL 2327037, at *4–*5 (N.D. Ga. May 22, 2018). Meanwhile, the Southern District of Florida held that the FCC’s position is unclear and either interpretation of ATDS is acceptable. Reyes v. BCA Fin. Services, No. 16-24077, 2018 WL 2220417, at *9 (S.D. Fla. May 14, 2018). To sum it up, the ACA Int’l decision left courts confused as to what extent predictive dialers fall under the definition of ATDS and subsequently the TCPA.


Continue Reading Congress Takes TCPA Action: Clarifying or Confusing?

checking off agenda itemsOn April 11, 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) will hold its annual Agenda and Priorities Hearing to discuss fiscal years 2019 and 2020. The upcoming hearing offers a valuable opportunity for all stakeholders to help shape the CPSC’s near-term agenda. CPSC has broad jurisdiction over 15,000 product lines, including toys, cribs, power tools, ATVs, cigarette lighters, small appliances, furniture, electronics, and household products. For companies that sell, manufacture, or import consumer products, this is a chance to engage directly with the CPSC and have their concerns and suggestions heard.

CPSC has explicitly invited the public to submit comments regarding which issues it should prioritize and dedicate resources to and, conversely, which issues the Commission should consider de-emphasizing in the upcoming fiscal years.


Continue Reading CPSC’s Annual Agenda and Priorities Hearing Is an Important Opportunity for Stakeholders

virtual currencyThe Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing on Tuesday on virtual currencies and the role of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in overseeing the virtual currency industry. Witnesses included SEC Chairman Jay Clayton and CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo.

A key takeaway of the hearing was a concern among regulators and Committee members of opportunistic fraud taking place amid the hype around virtual currencies, also commonly known as cryptocurrencies.

Among these concerns were those involving celebrity endorsements of token sales in Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). In some cases these sales may be fraudulent. CFTC Chairman Giancarlo noted one example where his agency took action against a company that solicited customers for a virtual currency known as My Big Coin. Mr. Giancarlo stated that within the agency that coin came to be known as “My Big Con,” as the company used the funds to purchase personal luxury items rather than using the funds for their purported purposes.


Continue Reading Senate Banking Committee Holds Hearing on Virtual Currencies – Warns of Celebrity Endorsements

Is your website covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? The short answer is: possibly. This area of the law continues to evolve, with differences from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on the type of website. But make no mistake: lawsuits alleging lack of website accessibility are hot. The most common allegation is that the company

For Medical Use OnlyAs of this last election, eight states and our very own District of Columbia have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana consumption. The rest of the states have either passed laws only legalizing medical marijuana consumption or marijuana consumption continues to be unlawful. Similarly, marijuana use continues to be illegal at the federal level (so. if you’re in DC. don’t light up on federal property.) However, it seems likely that the number of states decriminalizing marijuana will continue to grow. There are, of course, a whole host of legal issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana, many of which have probably not yet been fully fleshed and thought out. However, since this is an advertising blog, we were curious to see to what extent states have already begun to regulate the advertising of legal marijuana. Somewhat to our surprise, many of the states where marijuana is legal have fashioned some rules around its advertising. In many cases, these rules are similar to those that have been fashioned around the sale of other adult products such as alcohol and tobacco.
Continue Reading Marijuana Advertising Sparks Legal Questions