Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

June 2009 Archives

China Bans the Use of Cybercash to Purchase Real Stuff

China's been getting a lot of attention for its actions surrounding the internet these days.  First, there was the requirement (now postponed) that all new PCs come installed with a filtering software known as Green Dam.

Then China shut down Google's website and several of its web applications after accusing the company of facilitating access to pornography.  (C'mon, China, you're just now figuring that out?  That's downright embarrassing.)

Now, China has outlawed the use of virtual money to buy real items.  For example, many stores allow the use of a popular virtual currency, called QQ Coins, to purchase real items or services that are outside the realm of the network that created the currency in the first place.  Such policies now run afoul of the new law.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Remote-Storage DVR Case

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Hollywood and network television channels in the Cablevision remote storage DVR case, which ends the litigation and clears the air regarding Cablevision's service.  For now, at least.

The product that Cablevision offers to its customers allows them to perform normal DVR functions, like recording shows and pausing live TV, without pruchasing or renting an actual hardware device.

Instead, the content is recorded on Cablevision's servers while the user controls the actions of the DVR across the network.  The user makes all the decisions about what and when to record, but the actual recording occurs on Cablevision's hard drive instead of a hard drive inside a device in the subscriber's home.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act contains two important components.  The first, 47 USC 230(c)(1), is the famous section that immunizes interactive computer services from liability for content that third parties submit. 

The other provision, 47 USC 230(c)(2), offers the services safe harbor for any decision to remove content they make.  Thus, a website can't get into trouble if it decides to remove an offensive comment or explicit materials.
The events that have unfolded in Iran following the contested presidential election have transfixed the world.  Much of the information that has come out of (and into) the country has traveled over social media services as a result of censorship and blocking of communications systems by the government. 

The crisis in Iran has allowed Twitter, the microblogging service, to mature into a legitimate and important communication tool.  Twitter has played such a prominent role in allowing mobilization and documentation of the Iranian opposition that the US State Department at one point even asked the company to put off a scheduled maintenance so that Iranians could continue using the service.

Answers in Italy Google Trial Will Have to Wait

A case that could have major implications for websites that accept user-generated content in other countries was supposed to get underway in Italy yesterday, but the unplanned absence of an interpreter meant that the trial was delayed until late September.

The case involves Google's YouTube service, which Italian prosecutors allege violated Italian defamation and privacy laws by not removing a video from its library quickly enough.  The prosecutors have filed charges against four Google executives and are trying them in absentia in Milan. 

Ninth Circuit Cleans Up Confusing Opinion in Barnes v. Yahoo!

Eric Goldman, author of the Technology & Marketing Law Blog, has written a nice post detailing the Ninth Circuit's changes to the opinion it released last month in Barnes v. Yahoo.

As many of you may recall, the Ninth Circuit declared that Yahoo! was not responsible for the publication of fake profiles on its site (thanks to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act), but also kept the suit alive to determine whether Yahoo! was liable to the plaintiff under a theory of promissory estoppel after a Yahoo representative allegedly promised to remove the profiles but never did.

How to Justify a Kindle as a Business Expense

A while back, when the new Kindle was first released, I wrote two posts about its possible applications for the legal industry.  Specifically, I looked at how law schools and publishers of legal textbooks might incorporate the Kindle into the legal education world, and I also lamented the dearth of legal titles available for the device in the Kindle store.

As it turns out, there are many more ways that the Kindle can streamline and enhance the practice of law. 

A Big Week for Email Privacy

A lot has already happened in the email privacy arena this week.  To begin with, members of Congress are starting to make noise about the National Security Agency's interception of domestic emails, according to a report in the New York Times.

A wiretapping law passed by Congress last year allows the NSA to intercept domestic emails as long as the interception was inadvertent and the byproduct of an investigation of individuals "reasonably believed" to be in a foreign country.

Some members of Congress have started to wonder whether the NSA has exploited the loophole in order to systematically read Americans' emails.
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Lest you think the FTC is sitting back and letting rogue Internet Service Providers run wild in cyberspace, please consider the FTC's recent shutdown of Pricewert LLC.

According to the FTC, Pricewert knowingly hosted and actively participated in the distribution of spam, child pornography, and other harmful electronic content. 

Microsoft Gets Into the Click-Fraud Game, Files First Lawsuit

Click-fraud involves the manipulation of clicks on Internet advertisements.  Most websites charge their advertisers for each click that their ads receive.  In one form of click-fraud, fraudsters run up the number of clicks on a company's ads in order to drive up costs and exhaust the company's advertising budget.  That opens up room for the ads from the fraudster's company, or a company that hired the fraudster, to show up on the site. 

That's exactly what Microsoft alleges that three people did for insurance and World of Warcraft ads.  The investigation went on for more than a year, and involved a game of cat and mouse where Microsoft would erect defenses against the manipulation, the alleged click-fraudsters would learn how to evade them, Microsoft would come up with new defenses and the process would repeat.

Building eDiscovery Teams

There's a good report over at Information Week (registration required) that discusses how creating eDiscovery teams can help to lessen the eDiscovery burden and relieve some of the pain typically associated with the process.

IT and Legal departments within companies don't often see eye-to-eye when it comes to eDiscovery.  It makes sense considering that they come from different backgrounds and have different goals and responsibilities when it comes to eDiscovery. 
The days of the lawless internet are long gone, and we all have cyberlaws that we wish didn't exist or would like to see changed.  Now, one group has come out swinging against internet laws in the works that it sees as counter to the interest of online businesses.

NetChoice, a group supported by AOL, Yahoo, eBay, Oracle and other online companies, has published its iAWFUL (Internet Advocates' Watchlist for Ugly Laws) list of the top ten worst proposed laws affecting ecommerce and open communications. 

The list, which includes mostly state legislation, attacks laws that the group believes "
threaten to undermine the foundation of the free and open Internet." 
June is a fun month for Apple lovers.  The company holds its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, thus June is when the company announces some of its sexiest, most high-profile new products.

This year did not disappoint.

The Cupertino-based company announced a new iPhone series, the iPhone 3G S.  It also announced a new operating system that will add or upgrade many features for users of the existing iPhone OS. 
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Last week, I told you about how college admissions offices are considering the social networking pages of prospective applicants.  I now am here to report that social networking is not a passing fancy; indeed, the time spent by Americans on social networking sites is increasing dramatically.  And, of course, where people go, the law will follow.

According to a recent report from Nielsen Online, the time that Americans spend on social networking sites is up a staggering 83% from just one year ago. 
FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section about legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

High school students spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites.  They freely post spontaneous comments and communications, they upload provocative photos, and they send and receive racy videos of themselves and their friends.  

Good fun, eh?

Well, there can be some serious repercussions.  According to a paper just released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), fully one fourth of colleges surveyed report that they implement Web search or social networking technology to find out more about applicants to their schools.  Perhaps the number of colleges conducting such social networking "research" about prospective students will rise over time.

Sotomayor Sings Content Industry's Tune on Statutory Damages

If any of the current file-sharing cases make it to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor's potential vote would likely go for the music and movie industries, based on a decision she authored in 1998 while she was a district court judge in the Southern District of New York. 

In the opinion, she endorsed the idea of high statutory damages as a means to deter future copyright infringement rather than a system based on the actual economic damages to the plaintiff resulting from the defendant's infringement.