Taser/Axon Separating Defense Lawyers From Body Camera Footage With License Agreements
from the how-badly-do-you-want-this-evidence? dept
Taser Inc.’s quiet takeover of evidence generation and storage — through extensive body camera offerings — was put on public display when the company rebranded as Axon. The company was willing to give away cameras in exchange for something far more lucrative: software licensing and footage access fees in perpetuity.
Axon even nailed down a choice URL: Evidence.com. This is the portal to law enforcement body camera footage stored in Axon’s cloud — the real moneymaker for Axon. The cameras are just the gateway drug.
But much of what’s stored at Evidence.com could be considered public records. Much of what’s stored there could also be subject to discovery by defense attorneys during criminal proceedings. But no one asked defense attorneys if this arrangement worked for them. It was enough that it worked for cops.
Defense attorney Rick Horowitz has a problem with contractual agreements he’s being asked to sign when attempting to gain access to records regarding his client. Instead of handing out files, prosecutors are handing out URLs. To obtain the records he needs, Horowitz is forced to use Axon’s portal… and sign agreements with Axon before he’s allowed to access anything. (via Simple Justice)
[I]n the case of Evidence.com, such access does come from Axon. In fact, I have so far been prevented from obtaining the discovery in my juvenile case. Why? Because I refused to sign the license agreement with Axon to obtain access to their—not the city, county, or city and county’s, but Axon’s—website.
The first thing that draws one up abruptly (again, aside from the fact that law enforcement is ignoring the law by disseminating juvenile records to Axon in the first place) is this:
“You consent to Axon’s access and use of the Account Content in order to….improve Axon’s Products and Services. In addition, for content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP Content”), you specifically give us the following permission: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, irrevocable, royalty-free, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use any IP Content that you post on or in connection with the Services (IP License).”
The EULA may be boilerplate, but the situation is anything but normal. Horowitz doesn’t care much for the fact that Axon’s storage of court records and discovery documents is controlled solely by Axon by forcing users to waive a great deal of their rights in exchange for access.
But it’s even worse in this case, which involves a juvenile. California law provides extensive protections for the privacy of juveniles — even those accused of crimes. But these appear to have been ignored by every law enforcement agency that agreed to do business with Axon. These are also being ignored by Axon, which treats all uploaded footage equally. It doesn’t meet California’s privacy standards — a problem that only seems to concern those defending juvenile arrestees.
[N]either Evidence.com, nor Axon—not even in its prior incarnation as “Taser International,” for that matter—are listed in WIC 827 as lawfully able to receive, or disseminate, juvenile records. No corporation is.
This is problematic not just because it means that law enforcement officers, and complicit District Attorney Offices—and, by the way, defense attorneys who signed up for the service, and thereby not only acquiesced, but agreed to give up certain rights regarding their clients’ data, too—have ignored the law. It is also problematic because, so far as I know, the courts are unaware of this. At least, I hope the courts are unaware of this, because if they are aware of this, that means that the courts have also sanctioned ignoring the laws of the State of California as pertains to juveniles.
If you don’t agree to a third party’s terms of service, you don’t get access to records that belong to the public. This isn’t just stored camera footage stashed away in Axon’s cloud. It’s evidence that’s supposed to be handed over to the defense. It’s evidence that’s supposed to be presented in court by prosecutors. It’s public records of public employees’ interactions with the public. It’s a lot of things that shouldn’t be tied up by a EULA that demands users give up some of their rights to access public records.
And if this seems to have been handled badly in regards to California’s privacy laws, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Axon is everywhere. Axon/Taser has locked down a majority of the body camera market. Its cloud storage and footage access front end is the moneymaker that allows it to lock down even more of the market by giving law enforcement free cameras subsidized by perpetual access and licensing fees. All of this is being agreed to with almost zero input from the public, which is now being forced to play by Axon’s rules if it wants to access public records and court documents.