(Notes on the status of federal legislation are at the bottom of the page.)
WIPO has issued an Interim Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process, outlining tentative recommendations to solve the trademark problems raised by the domain name system. The Interim Report recommends modifications in the registration system and a new administrative dispute resolution process. It also endorses the idea that owners of "famous" marks should be able to preclude the use of those marks as domain names across all TLDs. Read Professor Michael Froomkin's Critique.
AOL announced that in the wake of three court victories in the Eastern District of Virginia against spammers LGCM, Prime Data Systems , and IMS, it had filed nine new spam lawsuits in five different states. Read Chris Oakes's story for WIRED.
C|net's Stephanie Miles reports that Judge Christopher Droney (D. Conn.) has granted what is apparently the first preliminary injunction under the DMCA, prohibiting Imagine That from distributing software that disables the locking mechanisms used to prevent the use of Mastercam CAD software on more than a single, licensed computer.
In 1997, Boston University filed suit against several Internet term paper mills for selling term papers to BU students in violation of a Massachusetts criminal statute. BU sought an injunction prohibiting the sale of term papers to students in the state. Writing for CyberTimes, Pamela Mendels reports that District Court Judge Patti Sarris dismissed the lawsuit in December, ruling that the criminal statute BU relied on did not support an implied civil cause of action. BU vows to try again. For now, though, A1 Termpaper, the Paperstore, and Research Assistance remain open on the web for your online business. (Buyer beware: among the choice items available from A-1 is 1-11655: Copyright Law and Computer Software, an 8 page paper written in 1990, which can be yours for $71.60. For about the same price, Research Assistance will sell you Number 15497, Colorization of Films, a ten page effort (with 14 footnotes!) dating from 1987.)
RIAA has continued its campaign against MP3, a file compression format that the RIAA claims faciliates widespread piracy. As well as the lawsuit it filed to prevent Diamond Multimedia from marketing its Rio MP3 player, it has encouraged its members to forbid artists to post their music in MP3 format. (One widely reported incident involved Public Enemy's Bring the Noise 2000.) On December 15, the RIAA announced that a consortium of record companies and technology executives had agreed to develop a Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) that would permit copyright owners to retain control over downloadable (and downloaded) music files. Those who attended the news conference reported that the consortium did not yet have a plan to sell the new, secure format to the myriad consumers who now use MP3.
The Internet community seems bitterly divided over whether RIAA is responding sensibly to a genuine threat or trying to wrest control of recorded music from artists and their fans. C|net has posted a roundup. WIRED has a Special Report.
In an article by Jennifer Sullivan and Craig Bicknell, WIRED reports that Pfizer, who brought the world the impotence drug Viagra and operates a promotional site at www.viagra.com, has obtained a court order closing down viagrafalls.com. Jon and Cherie Messner used the viagrafalls.com site to point to their X-rated web page at www.wetlands.com. (By all means, go take a look -- be warned, though, that the Messners' site has some bells and whistles that make it irritatingly difficult to leave.) Pfizer alleged dilution and tarnishment. Jon Messner argued, unsuccessfully, that his site and Pfizer's offered complementary products. Pfizer's claim for damages is pending.
Blue Mountain Arts (the electronic greeting card company whose site Lillian Coccimiglio recommended for the December 8 class) has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft, alleging that Microsoft has blocked delivery of Blue Mountain's electronic greeting cards with its "junk mail filter," in order to prevent Blue Mountain from competing effectively with Microsoft's own electronic greeting card business. Blue Mountain has posted the complaint on its web site.
Update: Reuters reports that Judge Baines granted Blue Mountain an injunction requiring Microsoft to enable Blue Mountain greeeting cards to pass through the junk mail filter. Judge Baines also ordered Microsoft to warn customers who download the Beta 5.0 version of Internet Explorer that its filter can block legitimate email as well as spam.
The ACLU of Michigan has posted the complaint in Akella v. Michigan Department of State Police, a lawsuit filed to enjoin the Department from posting the names and addresses of people listed on the Michigan Sex Offenders Registry on the Internet. Plaintiffs live at an address once occupied by a registered sex offender. The sex offender has moved on, but Plaintiffs' address remains in the registry. Read the National ACLU's Press Release for background on the case.
WIRED's Craig Bicknell reports that the Be Free company has received U.S. Patent No. 5,848,396, covering " the ability to target advertising based on user preferences" including "what sites you visit, how often you visit, what ads you view, how often you view them, what you click, and what you buy" according to Be Free's co-founder. WIRED speculates that Be Free's patent will allow it to demand royalties from other targeted Internet advertising concerns. The new Be Free patent joins several other patents issued recently on key Internet-related technologies, including Mark Tornetta's patent on interactive real estate maps, Surfwatch's patent on its software content blocking system, Intermind's patent on the technology underlying P3P, and Coolsavings.com's patent on an Internet-based coupon delivery system.
Ken Hamidi used to work for Intel as an engineer. When he was fired in 1995, he formed FACE INTEL [Former and Current Employees of Intel], an organization devoted to Intel-bashing. Hamidi's web site accuses Intel of age, race and disability discrimination, and reports a variety of other information that paints Intel in an unflattering light. Hamidi has also sought to reach current Intel employees by electronic mail, both to warn them about their employer and to recruit them to join FACE INTEL. He has on several occasions spammed current employees with unsolicited email. Intel has blocked his messages, but by changing his email address and mail server, Hamidi was able to evade Intel's blockade.
In an article by Jim Hu, c|net reports that Intel's lawyers persuaded a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge to enjoin Hamidi from sending email to current Intel employees on the theory that the mass email amounted to a trespass to chattels, draining the resources of Intel's proprietary computer system.
(This isn't the first case to treat spam as a trespass to chattel; Compuserve v. Cyber Promotion, (S.D. Ohio 1997), which we read for Corinne Galusky's class on spam, upheld a trespass to chattel claim against a commercial spammer under Ohio law. Professor Trotter Hardy has suggested that the law should recognize that unwelcome visitors to a web site may be held liable for trespass to land, taking the "cyberspace" metaphor about as far as anyone has. )
Carl Kaplan's December 4 Cyberlaw Journal contrasts the recently decided Loudoun County case, which successfully challenged the use of Internet filtering software, with Kathleen R. v. Livermore Public Library, which seeks to hold a public library liable for failing to use Internet filtering software. Filtering Facts, which advocates the use of filtering software in libraries to protect children from the harmful effects of pornography, claims that more than 1600 public libraries are currently using filtering software.
Techweb's Mary Mosquera reports that the U.S. Commerce Undersecretary for International Trade, David Aaron, announced that the United States had persuaded European nations to impose U.S.-style export restrictions on strong encryption software. A variety of folks contacted by Techweb for reactions found the development baffling. US software companies have complained that tight export restrictions imposed by the US government put them at a competitive disadvantage internationally, and have repeatedly urged the U.S. to lift them. Aaron told Reuters that the new agreement "is very important in terms of bringing a level playing field for our exporters." Read Declan McCullagh's story for WIRED. Tech Law Journal has an analysis with links to the relevant documents.
The newest draft of proposed UCC Article 2B: Software contracts and Licenses is now available online. It reflects a title change; the old name was "Article 2B: Licenses." As to whether the title change accurately reflects changes in the underlying draft, check out some of the new comments recently posted on Carol Kunze's 2B Guide site.
Diamond Multimedia, the defendant in the lawsuit filed by the RIAA this fall to enjoin the distribution of the Rio portable MP3 player, has countersued the RIAA for violations of US and California antitrust laws, according to Reuters. Diamond claims that the RIAA's lawsuit against it is part of a conspiracy among record companies to restrain trade in portable MP3 devices.
AP reports that Mark Tornetta, who holds a patent for a map-based, point-and-click interface to find available real estate using a computer, has filed a patent infringement suit against Microsoft and Moore USA for use of his patented method at MSN's homeadvisor.com site and Moore's cyberhomes.com site. Tornetta offered both companies the opportunity to purchase a license for the method, but neither company was interested.
The Virginia Governor's Commission on Information Policy released its Legislative Framework for the Virginia Internet Policy Act on December 2, proposing a comprehensive package of state law to handle a variety of Internet-related issues ranging from Internet taxation to Cybercrime and spam. C|net's news.com has put together a round-up of its stories on Virginia's emerging Internet policy.
The White House released a Report on November 30, evaluating its success at promoting electronic commerce over the Internet in the 18 months since it issued Ira Magaziner's Framework for Electronic Commerce. Unsurprisingly, the White House reports that it has done an excellent job. You can read the White House press release, or look at the transcript of the press conference accompanying its delivery. The government overcame its initial "technical difficulties," and posted an Adobe .pdf version of the U.S. Government Working Group on Electronic Commerce Report at http://www.doc.gov/ecommerce/E-comm.pdf on December 1. On December 4, the entire Department of Commerce Web server went down, and stayed down for several days. If you can't connect to www.doc.gov you can look at this copy of the Report instead. Tech Law Journal has a review.
In a story by Matt Friedman, WIRED reports that, following a series of recommendations by a hate crimes working group, the government of Canada proposes to expand extant hate crimes laws to make it illegal to possess material for the purpose of distribution to promote hate. The legislation is thought to be likely to be an effective tool for prosecuting hate speech on the Internet.
The European Commision has proposed a directive to establish a coherent legal framework for electronic commerce in the EU single market. The directive includes provisions for electronic contracts, and for limiting online service provider liability for the content of transmissions when they act as mere conduits.
In a story by Courtney Macavinta, c|net reports that the EU has signalled its dissatisfaction with the Commerce Department's proposal to comply with the terms of the EU data privacy directive by encouraging US businesses to agree to adhere to voluntary privacy principles.
Another Update:Techweb's Mary Mosquera reports that the U.S. Department of Commerce and the European Commssion have agreed conduct additional negotiations at the end of January, and to postpone the enforcement of the EU data privacy directive to prevent data transfers to the U.S. until then. EU officials are reportedly unpersuaded that the U.S. proposal represents meaningful protection of data privacy. Since the Commerce Department has so far been unable to secure the agreement of US businesses to abide by its proposed voluntary principles, however, the adequacy of the approach is still hypothetical. Commerce predicts that by the end of January, more industries will have signed on to its proposal.
The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission began public hearings on November 23, focusing on whether and how Canada should regulate the Internet. Read James Baxter's story for the Ottowa Citizen. Pierre Bourque is following the Hearings for WIRED. The most controversial issue, according to Bourque, is whether the Canadian government should impose regulations on the Internet analogous to extant broadcast regulations requiring a minimum percentage of content originating in Canada. Bourque's report on Tuesday's testimony focuses on what AOL had to say.
On November 23, Federal District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that Loudoun County Library's policy requiring filtering software to be running on all library computers at all times vilated the first amendment, reports People for the American Way, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. Read Declan McCullagh's story for WIRED. Tech Law Journal has posted a story on the case and a copy of Judge Brinkema's opinion.
UPDATE: Declan McCullagh's follow up story reports that in response to Judge Brinkema's injunction, Loudoun County officials have disconnected all library computers from the Internet.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tech Law Journal reports that the Library Board met on December 2 and voted to instruct its attorneys to preserve its right to appeal Judge Brinkema's ruling. Meanwhile, however, the Board adopted an interim policy supplying Internet access with or without content filters, at the discretion of the adult patron or the minor patron's parent or legal guardian.
On November 24, America Online and Netscape Communications confirmed that they had reached an agreement under which AOL would acquire Netscape in a stock swap. AOL is planning to enter into a joint venture with Sun Microsystems to exploit Netscape's browser and business software in combination with Sun's Java software. Read c|net's report. Meanwhile, the Bloomberg News reports that on November 23, Ernest Hack (his real name), a Netscape shareholder, filed a shareholder suit in Delaware claiming that the reported stock swap grossly undervalues Netscape shares. Hack is seeking class certification.
On November 19, Judge Lowell Reed (E.D.Pa) granted plaintiffs' motions for a 10 day TRO in the constitutional challenge to the Child Online Protection Act. Read Declan McCullagh's story for WIRED. The ACLU has posted copies of the legal papers filed in the case at http://www.aclu.org/features/f101698a.html.
Carol Kunze's 2B Guide has posted news from the November 13-15 meeting of the U.C.C. 2B drafting committee. The committee chair, Carlyle Ring, has written a Summary of the meeting indicating that the committee agreed to narrow the draft of the scope of the article, and to accept some of the suggestions made for public policy limitations and consumer protection provisions. NCCUSL also issued a Press Release, with a little extra positive spin. For a more jaundiced account, read Cem Kaner's notes from the Emeryville meeting.
Judge Ronald Whyte granted Sun Microsystem's motion for a preliminary injunction in its suit against Microsoft over Java. Tech Law Journal has posted the text of the injunction along with its story. You may also want to read Sun's press release and Microsoft's press release.
Surfwatch Software has announced that it is about to receive a patent on its software content blocking system, covering a process that
"includes the steps of maintaining a database of filters, comparing information in an Internet request to filtering information ... and determining whether to prevent or allow the transmission in response to the comparison."
A news report in WIRED discusses the impact of the patent on competing products. Proprietors of competing content filtering software say they won't know whether the patent will impinge on their products until they review the breadth of the patent claims.
c|net's Tech Law Journal has posted two stories about the recent Federalist Society convention. The convention included a panel discussion on the impact of the Internet on Securities regulation, moderated by former SEC Commissioner Ed Fleischman, with contributions from the SEC's Pat Dudek and private attorneys Neal Sullivan and Joseph McLaughlin. In another session, FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky outlined his views on the appropriate use of antitrust laws to police high technology industries, and criticized the appeals court decision in the US v. Microsoft case. Tech Law Journal's report includes links to the text of Pitofsky's speech and the criticized appellate decision.
Gabriel Battista, chief executive officer of Network Solutions, Inc., announced his resignation, reports Cyrus Afzali for Internet.com. Battista said he was leaving to take a job at Tel-Save, a long distance telephone company.
John Pareles has an excellent story, With a Click, a New Era of Music Dawns, in November 15th's New York Times, about the implications of Internet distribution of music and the MP3 format. Nikhil Hutheesing 's shorter article, The Web plays on , in the November 16 Forbes discusses some of the same issues
Earlier this year, Playboy sued Terri Welles for trademark infringment and dilution because her (commercial) website identified Welles as the 1981 Playboy Playmate of the Year. District Court Judge Judith Keep denied Playboy's motion for a preliminary injunction in April, and, on October 27, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Carl S. Kaplan has been following the case for Cybertimes, and Welles's lawyer, Michael DeCicco, has put up a web page with links to many of the litigation documents. For lawyers and others interested in evaluating the trademark issues for themselves, DeCicco has thoughtfully included a link to Welles's site.
Copyright infringement suits can drag on and on. F.A.C.T.Net has posted Judge Kane's November 5, 1998 Opinion in the Scientology v. F.A.C.T.net copyright litigation. Judge Kane denied the Church's motion for summary judgment on the issues of validity of Scientology's copyrights in the allegedly infringed works. The Judge ruled that F.A.C.Net has presented credible evidence that many of the works were published without notice more than five years before they were registered, and that some of the works may not have been authored by L. Ron Hubbard.
The World Wide Web Consortium has been at work for several years on P3P, or "Platform for Privacy Preferences." P3P is a technology that will enable individuals to program their browsers to compare the user's individual privacy preferences to the privacy policies of any websites the user visits, and to transmit information only to websites with privacy policies that satisfy the preset preferences. The P3P specification was to be incorporated in upcoming versions of America Online's browser, Netscape Communicator, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. In a story by Chris Oakes, WIRED reports that one of the companies that participated in developing the P3P standard has filed an application to patent the underlying idea and technology, and has announced that the PTO is expected to grant the patent. Intermind, the company in question has announced its willingness to license the patented technology on a non-discriminatory basis for a $50,000+ annual royalty. Many of the participants in the collaborative P3P project are reported to be furious.
The students in Professor Susan Brenner's Cybercrimes Seminar at the University of Dayton Law School have drafted a Model State Computer Crime Code and posted it on the web for public comment. Students invite anyone who is interested to review the Model Code and send comments, by email, to Professor Brenner.
Domain-name speculator Dan Parisi, owner of more than 50 domain names, including the x-rated domain www.whitehouse.com, is threatening legal action against Netscape over the Netscape Navigator 4.5's new "smart browsing" feature. Smart browsing, developed to thwart people like Parisi, uses Netscape's keyword search capability to find websites using keywords. If a user types "whitehouse" into a browser, the browser will consult a database associating keywords with domains, and then show the page at www.whitehouse.gov rather than Parisi's porn site. Netscape doesn't currently charge domains for including them in its keyword database. (A competing service, Realnames.com, charges $50.) Mr. Parisi's lawyers complain that by diverting the surfer who types "whitehouse" rather than a complete URL to www.whitehouse.gov rather than sending it, by default, to www.whitehouse.com, Netscape is committing trademark infringement and dilution. Parisi has vented his spleen with a web page at his netscapesucks.com domain. Read Malcolm Maclachlan's story for Techweb.
UPDATE: In an article by Jim Hu, c|net reports that Netscape has responded by threatening to sue Parisi for trademark infringement if he doesn't stope using the Netscape mark as part of his domain name.
The US Department of Commerce has released a privacy proposal intended to bring the United States into compliance with the European Union data privacy directive. The proposal seeks to create a privacy "safe harbor" for companies doing business with Europe that voluntarily agree to abide by seven privacy principles. EPIC complains that "the plan falls short of standard fair information practices and leaves open the question of when actual privacy safeguards will be adopted in the United States."
The Federal Trade Commission has weighed in on proposed article 2B of the UCC. The FTC's letter to NCCUSL and ALI is available online at the FTC's website.
Jurist has posted links to a video recording and a transcript of Bill Gates's testimony in the US v. Microsoft case at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/.
The infamous Matt Drudge discovered that abcnews.com had posted apparently complete results for the November 3 election on its website by the morning of November 2. After Drudge published his discovery, an embarrassed ABC took the files down. Drudge has mirrored them on his site, however, at:
Courtney MacaVinta's story for c|net, Court Oks Nude Dr. Laura photos, reports that the federal court for the Central District of California denied Dr. Laura Schlessiger's request for a preliminary injunction barring the Internet Entertainment Group from posting nude photos of Dr. Laura taken 30 years ago in her more youthful days. IEG persuaded the court that it had purchased the copyright in the photos from the copyright owner, and was therefore entitled to post them on the Internet. The 51 year old radio personality preaches personal responsibility and sexual abstinence before marriage.
UPDATE:A variety of other Internet sites were so tickled by the Dr. Laura story that they posted copies of the infamous photographs. Internet Entertainment Group, which paid $50,000 for them, is determined to protect its investment. IEG has announced that it has sent cease and desist letters to more than 50 sites, and will file suit against any site that persists in displaying the photos. Read Janet Kornblom's story for c|net.
Another UPDATE: After Hours Production, which posted copies of the Dr. Laura pics at its space city news site, declined to remove them when it received IEG's nasty letter. On November 20, IEG filed a copyright infringement suit against After Hours in federal district court in Houston. Read Polly Sprenger's story for WIRED.
The newly consituted board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers [ICANN] has announced a Public Meeting to be held on November 14 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at which ICANN's critics will have the opportunity to object publicly to ICANN's proposal that it assume the responsibility for administering the Internet Domain Name System. The U.S. Government has indicated in a recent letter to ICANN that it was reluctant to approve ICANN's proposal until ICANN had done a better job that it has to date of answering a variety of objections raised by its critics. Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net suggests that the controversy over ICANN is only getting more intense.
Associated Press reports that the Exective Council of Australia Jewry has brought an antidiscrimation complaint against the Adelaide Institute before Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, claiming that the Adelaide Institute's website denies that the Holocaust occured and contains other anti-semitic statements, in violation of Australia's antidiscrimination laws. According to AP, the director of the Adelaide Insitute intended to argue during the administrative hearing that the mass extermination of Jews never occured, and left the room when he was denied permission to do so.
A jury acquitted Johnny Wise, Ed Grebe and Oliver Emigh of plotting to assassinate President Clinton by using a modified cigarette lighter to shoot lethal cactus thorns at him, Reuters reports, but convicted Wise and Grebe of sending email threats to federal officials warning them that their families had been targeted for destruction.
"A total of 13 suspects were nabbed as part of the four-nation crackdown of the self-named Pedo University, an on-line organization of pornographers that freely traded in electronic images of pre-teenagers engaged in graphic sex acts.
"Called Operation Sabbatical, the probe sprung out of a single arrest resulting from Attorney General Vacco‚s far-reaching Internet child pornography initiative, Operation Rip Cord and included law enforcement authorities from 12 states, led by New York, as well as from Canada, Sweden and New Zealand.
"Organizers of Pedo University, which bestowed on its members lofty titles usually associated with academia, described as their purpose the free exchange of erotic pictures of pre-teens younger than 13. . . . "
As of 11/12/98, it remained unclear whether the stunt, if that's what it was, had been effective. New York Authorities have begun counting absentee ballots to determine whether Vaaco had succeeded in his bid for reelection.
UPDATE: On November 24, Dreamscape filed a federal class action lawsuit in the Northern District of New York to enjoin the state Attorney General from prosecuting Internet Service Providers for failing to prevent subscribers from posting pronographic material, reports Paul Vesta for c|net. Dreamscape also seeks damages for violations of its civil rights in the course of the Pedo U. bust.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The New York Times reports that Vacco "all but conceded defeat" on November 30.
Matthew Peter Bowin, the man responsible for one of the first initial stock offerings conducted entirely over the Internet, was convicted of 54 felony counts in connection with the IPO. The SEC's civil action against Mr. Bowin for securities fraud is still pending.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 27, the SEC charged 44 stock promoters with Internet Securities Fraud, according to Mary Mosquera's story for Techweb. The SEC's news releases on the enforcement actions are on the web at http://www.sec.gov/enforce/litig.htm.
The Washington State Attorney General has filed suit under the state's anti-spam law against Jason Heckel, reports Deborah Scoblionkov in WIRED. Heckel allegedly sent spam from a forged email address and the subject heading "Did I get the right e-mail address?" The messages contained ads for Heckel's book "How to Profit from the Internet." The suit seeks fines of $2000 per spam.
A California state court has dismissed a Livermore parent's suit against the local public library to force the library to install filtering software, according to a c|net story by Janet Kornblum. The judge ruled that the suit was barred by provisions of the communications decency act shielding access providers from liability for content provided by third parties. Most of the pleadings in the suit are available at a website maintained by the Filtering Facts organization.
UPDATE: On November 3, Kathleen R. filed an amended complaint alleging a violation of her son's substantive due process rights.
The ACLU announced that it filed a lawsuit on October 22, on behalf of its members and 17 other named plaintiffs, challenging the new Internet content law enacted as part of the omnibus appropriations bill.
UPDATE: The Plaintiffs in ACLU v. Reno II filed a motion requesting a temporary restraining order on November 18. The ACLU has posted copies of the legal papers filed in the case at http://www.aclu.org/features/f101698a.html.
Nobody admits to having read the omnibus appropriations bill that Congress enacted on its way out of town, but the consensus among purveyors of second-, third- and fourth-hand accounts is that it contained the provisions of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the Child Online Protection Act, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and language requiring service providers to supply filtering software to their subscribers, but no provisions to prohibit Internet Gambling or regulate spam
Colgate-Palmolive has abandoned its attempt to divest Ajax.org of its domain name, reports Paul Festa's story for C|net. Ajax.org launched a public-relations offensive that apparently persuaded Colgate-Palmolive to reconsider its initial conclusion that consumers would confuse the site with Colgate-Palmolive's registered trademark for Ajax Cleanser.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General has filed suit against Alpha, an Aryan hate group based in Philadelphia, which allegedly posted threats against named state employees on its website. The suit seeks an injunction forbidding Alpha from posting threats or threatening images on its web page. Alpha has toned down the threat that sparked the lawsuit. Read John Borland's story for Techweb.
InternetNews.com reports that coolsavings.com, holder of a patent for a method of targeted marketing that involves delivering coupons over the Internet, has sued a competitor, Emaginet, Inc., for patent infringement.
The trial in US v. Microsoft begins October 19. C|net's news.com has a special report.
Jon Postel, head of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and principal architect of the leading plan to privatize the domain name system under a new non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, died of complications from heart surgery on October 16. Read James Glave's story for WIRED, AP's news report, Rob Guth's story for the Industry Standard, or Janet Kornblom's story for c|net.
Jeremy Strohmeyer, sentenced on October 14 to serve multiple life sentences for the murder of a 7 year old girl in a Las Vegas Casino, claimed to have been the unwilling recipient of Internet pornography, according to WIRED. The easy availability of Internet porn, Strohmeyer is reported to have said, helped to push him towards the crime.
In a possibly related story, Reuters reports that the White House has dropped its opposition to the Oxley Child Online Protection Act, H.R. 3783. The provisions of the bill will be included in the omnibus appropriations act Congress is planning to vote on before adjourning on October 20.
Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net reports that c|net plans to join with ACLU, EPIC, EFF and CDT to challenge the constitutionality of the law in court.
On October 12, the House voted unanimously to adopt the Senate's amended version of H.R. 3494. The bill is now headed to the White House, where the President is expected to sign it. Read Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net.
On September 17, the Senate took up the version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed last August by House of Representatives, and voted to amend it by striking the entire text of the bill and substituting the text of the version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed by the Senate last May. As amended, H.R. 2281 passed the Senate by unanimous consent.
A conference committee, composed of Senators Hatch, Thurmond, & Leahy and Representatives Bliley, Tauzin, Dingell, Hyde, Coble, Goodlatte, Conyers, & Berman agreed on a compromise version of the Bill. Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net gives the details.
The Senate adopted the conference committee's version on October 8; the House was expected to follow suit the same day. Aaron Pressman's article for Reuters, however, reports that Republican members of Congress decided to take H.R. 2281 off the calendar on Thursday in a fit of pique. The Electronic Industries Alliance, which represents a number of groups that have been involved in negotiations over the provisions of the bill, selected former Democratic Representative Dave McCurdy as its president instead of any of the retiring Republican lawmakers that it had interviewed. House leaders decided to delay the vote on 2281 in order to signal their displeasure.
After the story of the delay hit the wire services, the House leadership restored H.R. 2281 to the suspension calendar, and passed the bill on Monday October 12. Read Courney Macavinta's story for c|net.
To celebrate the enactment of the DMCA, Online Monitoring Services, a business that searches the Internet for "illegal e-commerce activity, misuse of copyrighted material and trademarks, damaging information and pornography", has changed its name to Cyveillance. Cyveillance's clients include the RIAA, the MPAA, ASCAP and the SPA.
The Recording Industry Association of America has filed suit against Diamond Multimedia, charging that Diamond's Rio portable MP3 music player violates the Audio Home Recording Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1010. MP3 is one of the most popular formats for distributing music (both licensed and unlicensed) over the Internet. The RIAA has aggressive in seeking to shut down illegal MP3 music distribution sites on the web. The RIAA claims that the Rio, which permits storage and play of up to 12 hours of music in MP3 format, capitalizes on and is likely to exacerbate illegal distribution of music over the Internet. The complaint charges that Diamond has failed to comply with the Audio Home Recording Act's requirements that manufacturers of digital audio recording devices incorporate serial copy management systems into the devices, and pay royalties on each device manufactured or sold. Diamond responds that the Rio is a playback device, which doesn't record, so it is not subject to the Audio Home Recording Act's SCMS and royalty provisions. The RIAA's press release about the suit is at http://www.riaa.com/press.htm; Diamond Multimedia's press release is at http://www.diamondmm.com/company/public/PressRelease.CFM?ID=211. Malcolm Maclachlan filed a story on the lawsuit for Techweb.
UPDATE: On Oct. 26 the court denied RIAA's motion for a preliminary injunction, freeing Diamond to distribute the Rio for now. Read John Alderman's story for WIRED.
Another UPDATE: On November 23, Diamond shipped the Rio. You may purchase one for $199 from any number of retail stores in North America, or can buy one online. In reponse to the lawsuit, Diamond has now incorporated SCMS into the RIO. An article by Stephanie Miles quotes Diamond's director of marketing communications, who believes that the RIAA suit ended up boosting awareness of the Rio, and thereby will probably result in increased sales.
In what was originallly supposed to be the final week of the session, the Senate incorporated provisions from S. 1482 and S. 2326 into S. 442, The Internet Tax Freedom Act, and passed S. 442 on October 8.
On October 7, the House brought up H.R. 3783, the Child Online Protection Act by unanimous consent, and passed the bill by voice vote.
Aaron Pressman's story for Reuters explains that obstacles to enactment remain. Although the Senate has passed a couple of similar measures recently, it is unclear whether the House and the Senate will be able to enact identical versions of the bill in the remaining days of the 105th Congress.
The NTIA has posted four different private sector proposals for administering the domain name system on its website at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/domainhome.htm, and is accepting (and will post) public comments on the proposals through Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Meanwhile, on October 6, NTIA announced that it had reached a deal with NSI, under which NSI's contract to register domain names will be extended for two years. In return, NSI promised that it would develop software to permit shared registration of .com, .net, and .org, and would phase in competition in registration services in the spring of 1999. NSI also agreed to cooperate with the new private sector corporation established to administer DNS at such time as one comes into being. Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net and Niall McKay's story for WIRED both describe the deal.
The House Science Committee's Technology Subcommittee held a Hearing on Transferring the Domain Name System to the Private Sector on October 7. Testimony submitted to the Subcommittee is available on the Committee's home page.
John Manley, Canadian Minister of Industry, announced a new government policy on cryptography in his October 1 speech to Canada's National Press Club.
The Associated Press reports that the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have filed a copyright infringement suit against the Free Republic, a conservative online bulletin board. The Free Republic site includes links to both newspapers' web sites. It encourages readers to post verbatim excerpts from commercial online news reports to Free Republic "forums," to generate online discussion. A Free Republic Forum thread typically begins with the verbatim text of a news report, and is followed by comments from regular readers. The Free Republic says that its use of copyrighted materials is protected by the first amendment.
Chrysler, proprietor of the domain 4adodge.com filed a trademark infringement suit this week against the Net and Host Networks, Inc., over their operation of a pornographic web site at www.foradodge.com. Chrysler complained about the site, and claims that defendants offered to sell it the foradodge.com domain name for a price.
According to Rebecca Fairley Rainey's article for Cybertimes, a political consulting firm that goes by the name Politics Online has rolled out a new fundraising mechanism, the Instant Online Fundraisertm. Candidates can insert links on their web pages to the Instant Online Fundraisertm. Eager donors will be able to click on the link, fill out a form, and authorize a donations charged to their credit cards. Politics Online will collect and forward the donations, minus a 10% processing fee. Click HERE for a demo.
The world as we know it, scheduled to end on Wednesday, September 30, when Network Solutions' contract to administer the domain name system was set to expire, has been given a one-week reprieve. NTIA and NSI announced on Tuesday, September 29, that they had agreed to extend the contract until October 7. Read about it in Janet Kornblom's story for c|net, or click on NSI's press release.
The Putnam Pit is a newspaper, published online and in hard copy form, that reports on local issues in Cookeville, Tennesee. Last October, the Pit filed a lawsuit in state court against the city, complaining that the City's refusal to release copies of the "cookie" files on City government computers violated the Tennesee Public Records Act and the First Amendment. The Pit argued that cookie files were public records under the Tennesee Act, and that it needed to examine them in order to report whether city employees were using their computers for non-governmental purposes. The City removed the case to federal court and moved for summary judgment. Judge Higgins held that denying the Pit access to city computer cookie files did not violate the Pit's first amendment rights. The state law claims were dismissed without prejudice. You can read the district court's decision at the Putnam Pit home page. The Pit intends to appeal.
California enacted two anti-spam laws last week, according to John Borland's story for TechWeb. One, Assembly Bill 1629 authorizes Internet Service Providers to sue bulk emailers who violate ISP rules; the other, Assembly Bill 1676, requires bulk-emailers to label their advertisements and honor requests to be removed from mailing lists.
The GAO has issued a Report concluding that serious weaknesses in federal government agency information security put post significant risks to critical government operations and leave sensitive data vulnerable. The Report, titled Information Security: Serious Weaknesses Place Critical Federal Operations and Assets at Risk, is available in Acrobat PDF format from the GAO web site.
In response to continuing controversy over the Independent Counsel investigation of the sexual relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and the resulting impeachment inquiry, a new organization named "No Privacy for Privacy Hypocrites" announced its intention to send a privacy survey to all members of Congress on Sept. 28, and post their responses on the Internet. The survey is short, including only three questions:
1. Do you believe any branch of government should investigate allegations
that elected officials
have committed adultery, including allegations that they have lied about it?
( ) Yes
( ) No, these matters are private.
2. If you answered yes to question (1):
a). Have you ever committed adultery?
b). If yes, have you ever lied about it?
3. Do you think that any public official who has committed adultery and lied about it should
resign from public office?
( ) Yes
( ) No
The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee announced that, beginning Wednesday 9/23, all Committee Hearings would be simulcast over the Internet. The press release calls Wednesday's hearing on the Emergency Food Assistance Program Enhancement Act, the "first-ever Congressional hearing over the Internet." That's true only if one employs a Presidential definition of "first-ever." The Senate Commerce Committee held a Hearing on encryption policy in March, 1997, that was simulcast over the Internet by democracy.net. The House Science Committee Hearings on domain names on September 25 and 30, 1997, were also simulcast on democracy.net.
According to Carl Kaplan's September 25 Cyberlaw Column, on Sept. 21, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real dismissed a copyright infringement claim by celebrity portrait photographer Gary Bernstein against Elizabeth Arden Co., producer of Passion® perfume.
ABC News reported earlier that Bernstein filed the suit last April against the Elizabeth Arden Company, JC Penney, and the Internet Movie Database, when he discovered that a November, 1997 America Online chat session promoting Passion® included a link to a Passion® promotion page at the JC Penney site, which linked to the Internet Movie Database's page containing information about Elizabeth Taylor. On the Internet Movie Database page was a link to the Swedish University Network photograph archive, and there, Bernstein found unlicensed images of two of his photographs of Taylor. Bernstein had licensed one of these photos to Elizabeth Arden to use in promoting Passion®, but that license had expired.
Kaplan's column reports that Bernstein withdrew his suit after Judge Real dismissed the claim against Elizabeth Arden.
--Thanks to Prof. Thomas Blackwell for finding the IMDB link
Professor Pamela Samuleson reports that the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Magazine Publishers of America and the Newspaper Association of America sent a letter last week to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafting committee working on proposed UCC article 2B, describing the current draft, which seeks to supply uniform state contract rules to govern all licenses in information and information works, as "fatally flawed in its fundamental premise." The authors of the letter conclude that their "differences involving critical business issues cannot be adequately resolved within the constraints of the present process."
You can find background on proposed article 2B at the U.C. Berkeley Conference on Intellectual Property and Contract Law in the Information Age web page.
UPDATE: The letter (in Adobe Acrobat PDF format ) and a response by Carlyle Ring, chair of the 2B drafting committee, have been posted at Carol Kunze's 2B Guide web site.
The White House has issued new crypto export rules, relaxing somewhat its restrictions on the export of strong encryption. Reaction from affected industires was mixed. Courtney Macavinta's story for c|net gives the background and analyzes the changes in policy.
And now, you can get your J.D. from the same folks who prepared you for the LSAT, and all without leaving your home. Kaplan --that's right, the test prep sevice -- has launched an online law school, where you can "attend" all of your classes over the World Wide Web. Concord University Law School boasts: "Because it is offered over the Internet, students may access lectures and materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." Ready to apply? You can read Robert Greene's story for the Associated Press
The British organization Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties has posted an English translation of People v. Felix Somm. Mr. Somm was the managing director of Compuserve GmbH, the German subsidiary of Compuserve. A local German prosecutor filed a complaint alleging that by giving German subscribers access to Usenet newsgroups like "alt.sex.pedophilia" and games like "Doom" and "Heretic," Compuserve had violated German law. Mr. Somm was indicted, and charged with CompuServe USA's failure to block German access to newsgroups that unambiguously indicated violent, child, or animal pornography, or to games identified as morally harmful to youth. He was convicted of 13 counts of disseminating pornography and one count of negligently failing to block access to material morally harmful to youth. He received a suspended sentence of two years in prison.
CNN reports that a group of hackers, acting on a dare, broke into the New York Times website on Sunday morning , and replaced it with a page named "HFG: H4CK1NG FOR G1RL13Z".
Congress has announced that it will release the Independent Counsel's Report over the Internet on Friday. In anticipation of the rush to read the Report, the Library of Congress has modified the front page of the Thomas web site in order to separate visitors seeking to read the Report from those seeking to use the database to do conventional legislative research. The Washington Post promises that it will make the entire report available on its web site.
Last spring, anonymous posters to one of Yahoo's finance message boards had some nasty words for ITEX Online Trading Center. One poster called ITEX management "blind, stupid, and incompetent;" another suggested that "senior executives may be party to a wrongful termination lawsuit." According to c|net news.com, ITEX has filed a defamation lawsuit against Yahoo and the anonymous posters (John Does #1-#100), seeking to hold Yahoo liable for the posts and to force it to identify the anonymous individuals responsible for them. Courtney Macavinta's news story is at http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,26134,00.html (A search for "ITEX" in the Yahoo message board search engine reveals what some of the message board subscribers have to say about the suit.)
The Federal Communications Commision released a working paper, Internet Over Cable: Defining the Future in Terms of the Past, evaluating the regulation of cable-provided Internet access. Cable television is pervasively regulated by the FCC; Internet access services provided over telephone lines are not. The working paper discusses different regulatory approaches the FCC might take to Internet services provided by cable television operators.
In an article by Amy Harmon, the New York Times reported on August 30 that Carnegie Mellon University's HomeNet project had released a study demonstrating a strong correlation between time spent using the Internet and increased depression and loneliness.
According to USA Today, a Nielsen Internet Survey released on August 24 reported that 70.5 million adults in the US (or 1/3 of the US adult population) use the Internet. More than half of US adults between 26 and 34 years old use the Net. 48 million use the Net to shop, and 20 million have made purchases online. Janet Kornblum's story for c|net reports that the combined figure for Uniteds States and Canada is 79 million adults. (Access to the full report is available for commercial purchase at http://www.commerce.net/research/gideon/.)
On August 24, California Governor Pete Wilson signed Assembly Bill 1614, the California Internet Tax Freedom Act, into law. c|net news.com has posted a story on the new law by c|net staff writer Tim Clark.
(Didn't find the bill you were looking for? CDT posts frequently-updated information and commentary on the progress of Internet-related legislation.)
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