Tag Archives: Internet Law

Best of 2008: “‘Consumer fraud’: The New Online Speech Control Law?” (March)

Originally posted 2009-09-10 19:32:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

This was first posted on March 19, 2008.
confusion.jpg
Get this:

New Jersey prosecutors have subpoenaed records of JuicyCampus.com, a Web site that publishes anonymous, often malicious gossip about college students.

Language on the site ranges from catty to hateful and offensive. One thread, for example, on the “most overrated Princeton student” quickly dissolves into name-calling, homophobia and anti-Semitism.

JuicyCampus may be violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by suggesting that it doesn’t allow offensive material but providing no enforcement of that rule — and no way for users to report or dispute the material, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said Tuesday.

What a load of baloney! I have litigated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act frontwards, backwards and sideways, and believe me — this would be an unbelievable stretch. If Milgram’s interpretation were to fly, it would make that statute an omnibus be-a-good-person-online law with essentially no meaningful limitations. Not that I doubt that the Attorney General would love to have such power, but that would certainly be beyond anything contemplated by the New Jersey Legislature when it was passed.

Of course beyond what the Act itself provides, such an application of it would be unconstitutional too.  Unfortunately, neither of those are giant concerns to many judges in the Garden State.

By the way, this is not an endorsement of online defamation, especially when done anonymously. On the contrary. But please, let’s call a fraud a fraud.

UPDATE here from Overlawyered.

Comments are closed, but you can comment at the original post.

DMCA days

Originally posted 2008-07-21 21:27:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Mike Masnick on a key question:  Whether copyright fair use, no matter how obvious, may be ignored by a would-be copyright owner when sending a DMCA takedown notice that but for the fair use defense is “reasonable”:

The DMCA has provisions for a copyright holder to assert ownership, at which point the service provider needs to takedown the content. Whoever posted the content can protest that the content was legally posted — which is exactly what happened in this case. However, the DMCA also says that filing a false DMCA notice opens one up to damages from those whose content was taken down. This was in an effort to discourage false DMCA notices. This provision was used last year against Viacom for its false takedowns on satirical clips of the Colbert Report.

The question then, is whether or not filing a takedown notice on content that is used in a way consistent with “fair use” is a misuse or not. Universal Music’s claim is that it is not reasonable for the copyright holder to take fair use into consideration before sending a takedown notice. At a first pass, it sounds like the judge agrees.

As ridiculous as this whole situation is, the judge and Universal Music may be correct under the existing law.

A corrollary:  Is fair use grounds for a DMCA recipient to disregard a DMCA takedown notice?  Hat tip to aggregator Tech Verdict.

UPDATE from Carolyn Wright.

dot… Pineapple?

Originally posted 2013-04-01 00:01:28. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

LoC got wind—and then a copy—of this letter, dated as of the date of this post, to ICANN in support of the creation of a new top-level domain. Further updates as events warrant.

An excerpt:

Abstract

The undersigned respectfully present this white paper to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in order to advance the case for the creation of a new top-level domain (TLD), to wit: “.pineapple.” The creation of such a TLD would without question help resolve the longstanding debate over what Internet content is pineapple-related, and thereby aid service providers in discharging their responsibility under the Tropical Plant Communications Act of 1996.

View the entire white paper here.

 

Best of 2009: Impolitico

Posted September 17, 2009.

homelogo

I first read about the brouhaha over the Politico trademark claim against the College Politico blog on Instapundit:

ED MORRISSEY: “Who owns the word ‘Politico’?” The blogosphere has been very good to Politico, and I think they should bear in mind the ill-will they’re incurring as a result of their heavy-handed legal tactics. This is like me going after everyone who uses the word “pundit” in their blog name.

Almost everything about that post, and other things besides, made me very much not to want to have an opinion on this topic. Just think what that’s saying!

But now my public, namely Jimmie himself, is demanding that LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® speak!  As he writes:

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

The Politico’s case seems to rest on the “likelihood of confusion” standard as they claim it’s likely that people who come across Gutkowski’s site might think they were coming across a site affiliated with The Politico.I think that’s a pretty weak claim.The College Politico looks nothing like The Policito in design or content. It specifically claims a slant to the right and does not purport to be a straight news site in any way. “Politico” is also a commonly-used word and Gutkowski seems to be using the word as the dictionary defines it.

It seems to me that if The Politico’s claim is granted, the court would set a precedent for other people to claim ownership of other common English words. In which case, I’m going to go ahead and grab “blog” and “times”, and maybe “the”.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to play one in the blogosphere. However, my friend Ron Coleman is, and what’s more, he’s an expert in trademarks and copyrights, so he ought to know a thing or three about the . I’d definitely be interested in his take on The Politico’s claim.

Read More…

Best of 2009: Don’t be evil, much

Posted February 7, 2009.google-logo-874x288

It was bad enough that the government has gone “in house” on copyright issues.  Now not only is the government looking more and more “bought” on this, but the “Don’t be evil” kids — again, via Glenn — also continue to confirm everyone’s worst fears.  (No they’re not the government… not yet…)  First it was the turnover of YouTube to the RIAA.  Now it’s Google’s Blogger empire. This from TechDirt:

[M]any music bloggers are now fighting a much more invisible menace, with posts they’ve written suddenly disappearing from their sites (via Tyler Hellard) hosted on Google’s Blogger platform. An RIAA source says that the group sends Google a list of URLs it doesn’t

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

like, and Google “then deals with the problem.” Google says that it notifies bloggers after their posts have been taken down, in accordance with the DMCA. But it should hardly be surprising that many of those affected say they’ve gotten no such notice, nor that the offending material was either legally posted and/or supplied by the labels themselves.

Maybe.  Read More…

Best of 2008: No Social Networking Privilege

On Point reports that a New Jersey federal magistrate has, to the surprise of no actual attorney I could imagine, ruled that MySpace and Facebook postings and other social networking communications are discoverable in civil litigation.

A New Jersey judge has allowed an insurance company being sued for denying benefits to children with eating disorders to conduct a “cyber-investigation” into the children’s postings on social networking websites.

Such investigations are becoming more common in lawsuits and U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz’s decision isn’t likely to calm the fears of privacy advocates. The potential injury to the children from disclosure of their postings, she ruled, did not outweigh Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s need for the information.

Shwartz is handling discovery issues in two insurance coverage cases brought against Horizon by the parents of children suffering from anorexia or bulimia. The cases are Beye v. Horizon and Foley v. Horizon.

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

“The Court will require production of entries on webpages such as ‘MySpace’ or ‘Facebook’ that the beneficiaries shared with others,” Shwartz said in a Dec. 14 order.

According to a Seattle TV station, Chrysler has taken a similarly intrusive approach by requesting access to the MySpace account of a woman who is suing the auto giant over injuries suffered in an auto accident. Marissa Schneider’s MySpace page includes an admission that she smoked pot in the past.

“To say that anything posted on MySpace is gospel is ludicrous and it really paves the way for you to say, ‘I can never post anything on this site because it’s going to be used against me,'” her attorney told KING 5 News.

I’d consider sanctioning that attorney if he admitted making such a stupid and, really, contumaceous remark.

Read More…

Best of 2007: Ideological purity

First posted on January 24, 2007.

All Hail Chairman Google

Yahoo News:

Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao has vowed to “purify” the Internet, state media reported on Wednesday, describing a top-level meeting that discussed ways to master the countrys sprawling, unruly online population. . . .

Hu, a strait-laced communist with little sympathy for cultural relaxation, did not directly mention censorship.

But he made it clear that the Communist Party was looking to ensure it keeps control of China’s Internet users, often more interested in salacious pictures, bloodthirsty games and political scandal than Marxist lessons.

10 Years of Bloggy Ok-Ness

10 Years of LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®

Don’t kid yourself: This could be a very big deal.

China can’t be competitive as anything other than a source of slave labor if it shuts down the Internet, Cuba-style — and it wants to be. On the other hand, its leaders do not want to cede political control along with economic control, which history has proved to be a very difficult task. Read More…

GEICO Isn’t Good News for Google

Geico logo with geckoRemember the GEICO v. Google case? My former law partner and long-time spouse Jane Coleman does. She’s writing a chapter on secondary trademark infringement liability for the second edition of a book on trademark counterfeiting now being edited by our colleague Brian Brokate, a partner at Gibney Anthony & Flaherty.  wrote the definitive reference work on secondary trademark infringement.  (Brian is one of the leading anti-counterfeiting lawyers in the country. )  Her conclusion is one that Google and its lawyers doubtless know well: Having no trademark monitoring policy may be trouble, but a little policing may be worse than none at all.

The standard is set by a leading case in this area, Inwood Labs. Under Inwood, in a contributory trademark infringement case, a court will find contributory liability if the defendant has either (1) intentionally induced a third party to infringe the plaintiff’s mark or (2) supplied a product to a third party with actual or constructive knowledge that the product is being used to infringe the mark. The GEICO lawsuit, like most such cases, is a Prong Two case.

So, on to Prong Two, then: supplying a product to a third party with knowledge that the product is being used to infringe the mark. Product? Here there is no product; Google provides a service. But based on the principles synthesized in a later decision, Lockheed Martin v. Network Solutions from what are known as the “flea market cases,” the second prong of this definition of contributory infringement can apply to services, too. Then the court applies a modified version of the Inwood standard: It considers the extent of monitoring and control the defendant has over the infringing activity.

So, what happened in the GEICO case? GEICO, a discount insurance company, sued Google for using GEICO’s trademarks to sell advertising on Google’s search engine, alleging contributory trademark infringement. Two practices of Google were at issue:

  1. The sale by Google of GEICO’s marks as search terms or “keywords,” and
  2. The advertisements or “sponsored links” which contained GEICO’s marks in their text, generated by customers who selected those terms.

Regarding the sponsored links, GEICO had argued earlier that Google was contributorily liable, saying, “the advertisers themselves [made] ‘trademark use’ of the GEICO marks by incorporating them into the advertisements, which are likely to deceive customers into believing that the advertisers provide accurate information about GEICO products or are somehow related to GEICO.” GEICO also claimed — remember the “direct control and monitoring” standard of Lockheed — that Google in fact exercised significant control over the content of advertisements that appeared on its search result pages.

Last December, Google asked the U.S. District Court to grant judgment as a matter of law in its favor. It argued that GEICO could not win its contributory liability claim, because it could not prove that “Google affirmatively encouraged or knowingly assisted in violation of trademark law by the alleged infringers.” Google urged that its own internal trademark enforcement policy bans the infringing advertisements at issue, though “some ads occasionally slip through.” It insisted that the “inability to achieve perfect enforcement of that policy” did not give rise to contributory liability, and that there was no evidence that Google condoned or encouraged infringement.

But this would only matter if Prong One — intentional inducement– were at issue. Apparently, it’s not. Google understandably would have the court focus on its good intentions, but this is a Prong Two case such as Lockheed — where, again, the courts ask whether the defendant exercises a level of monitoring and control that Google acknowledges it does effect via its trademark enforcement policy. Google’s argument regarding its internal trademark policing policy may, in fact, prove too much.

It’s not clear that Google can get out of responsibility for ads that “slip through,” given its awareness of the existence of infringing ads. If it can police a little, perhaps it can police a lot. Judge Brinkema’s oral opinion did not address this, but a final written decision by her or an appellate court might. [UPDATE: As of early May, there is still no written decision. It’s a good bet that there won’t be one and the parties will settle…]

The court granted in part and denied in part Google’s motion, allowing the case to go forward on the question of whether Google was contributorily liable for trademark infringement arising out of the sponsored advertisements containing GEICO’s marks. The incentive to settle is high — and maybe that’s why it’s so quiet.

This is why I have argued that auction websites (read: eBay) should be subject to contributory liability for the sale of counterfeit or other infringing merchandise — because they (and other web auctioneers) do have control over the auctions. Courts have repeatedly found contributory infringement where a defendant claims “willful blindness.” Well, it’s certainly a sort of willful blindness to do some kinds of monitoring and not others.

Would it add to the cost of search engines and auctions to do more policing? Yes, of course it would: More fighting over rent. Considering the profits involved, and the tremendous costs imposed on brand owners to try and keep up with counterfeits and online infringers, an outcome that required more policing to protect the IP that contributes to those profits doesn’t seem like an unreasonable one.

“I didn’t make him for you”

Google is not a utility. Or an agent of the state, or a thing that owes anyone anything except to the extent they pay for it. At least for now. Eric Goldman has the decision from the U.S. Court for the District of Delaware, and the writeup.

UPDATE: Unrelated, but related:  the Google Censorship FAQ.

Major League Baseball steals from customers

“If You Purchased MLB Game Downloads Before 2006, Your Discs/Files Are Now Useless; MLB Has Stolen Your $$$ And Claims “No Refunds”

Compelling blog post title, no?

So typical of the bloated steroid brains running that business. Yes, guys, you’ll always be able to do just whatever you want to fans, because your product is in unceasingly great demand. Just ask the record companies.

Billed hat tip to TechMeme.