Look here for news about the topics we're covering in the seminar.
Law 897: The Law in Cyberspace
12/7/10 -- I’ve posted the cookie recipe here.
Net neutrality update
12/1/10 -- Big news day today. The FCC set December 21 as the day it will vote on new draft net neutrality rules. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined the provisions in the current draft, which seeks to define a compromise that won't draw heavy political fire. Read Nate Anderson’s summary for Ars Technica. Genachowski’s fellow commissioners chimed in here, here, here, and here, pretty much along party lines. Wired’s Sam Gustin polled advocates and stakeholders on the proposal, and reports that the plan is more popular with Internet service providers and telecomm giants than with public interest advocates.
12/2/10 UPDATE — WIRED’s Sam Gustin reports that the Open Internet Coalition (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com, Netflix & their friends) doesn’t like the compromise proposal much, and has purchased an ad calling for support of "real Net Neutrality." The ad will reportedly run today in two DC political newspapers.
Online tracking update
The game of chicken between the Commerce Department and the FTC ended today, with the FTC moving first. The agency released its Online Privacy Report, which includes a recommendation for a "Do Not Track" cookie that allows consumers to decline behavioral tracking. Read Declan Mccullagh’s story for c|net News.com. And just in time! Tracy informs us that "the myth of anonymity just lost one of its last legs " — read Emily Steel’s report for the Wall Street Journal. Tracy continues:
EFF has posted a short, optimistic response to the FTC Report here.
RapLeaf is an online tracker that apparently matches names and e-mail
addresses to compiled information. Although it purportedly does not share
that information, the WSJ presents numerous instances in which it does
provide information that is just one step from a real name, such as a
Facebook ID number.
For lack of a better word and without much surprise: eeeps.
But this one did surprise me: an advocate from CDT was on RapLeaf's privacy
He has since resigned.
Today's Google update
12/1/10 --Google announced that it has tweaked its secret algorithm to reduce the ranking of businesses who receive multiple compalints of poor customer service. Read Chris Forseman’s story for Ars Technica.
12/2/10 Update --Theresa recommends the New York Times story here (in which the Times takes credit for inspiring the tweak).
Google Antitrust update
11/30/10 -- The BBC and the New York Times both report that the European Commission has launched an investigation of competitors’ allegations that Google manipulates the results of searches to give its own services preferential placement, and that it abuses its dominant position to include anticompetitive terms in its deals with advertisers. Google controls more than 80 % of the search market in Europe.
(Thanks to Tracy for the link!)
11/28/10 -- News sites have been chattering for the past week about the next Wikileaks document dump. Tomorrow’s New York Times (online today) reports that the new documents include 250,000 secret diplomatic cables. Times reporters Scott Shane and Andrew Lehren summarize some of the most explosive cables. Wikileaks itself delayed actually posting the documents while it responded to what it claimed was a mass distributed denial of service of attack.
12/1/10 Update: To avoid the DDOS attack, Wikileaks moved its files to the Amazon.com cloud servers. Senator Joe Lieberman persuaded Amazon.com to throw Wikileaks out of its cloud. Read Rachel Slajda's story for Talking Points Memo. Wikileaks remains accessible, even though it has had to move around.
and more privacy (or should that be "less"?)
11/27/10 --Tracy sent us one more link: according to the Steve Stecklow and Paul Sonne of the Wall Street Journal, two US companies are pitching business plans that use deep packet inspection to improve the aim of targeted online advertising. The technique has been especially controversial because of its perceived intrusiveness.
In re Online Health and Pharmaceutical Marketing
11/24/10 -- You have a worrying symptom, but rather than call your doctor, you look on the Internet for free medical information. There are a dizzying array of sites the offer lots and lots of knowledge on any imaginable disease. What you may not know is that many of these site collect personal information that they use to assemble drug marketing profiles. The Center for Digital Democracy and three of its friends filed a complaint yesterday urging the Federal Trade Comnmision to investigate. The organizations complain:
Read Natasha Singer’s story for the New York Times.
Consumers now confront a sophisticated and largely stealth interactive medical marketing apparatus that has unleashed an arsenal of techniques designed to promote the use of specific brand drugs and influence consumers about treatments for health conditions. Much of the online health marketing system has been deliberately structured to collect personal information and other data on consumers, including through the use of free e-newsletters on specific medical concerns; discounts for prescription drugs and services, and via the growing number of other online data profiling techniques.
Open Government (or not) Update
11/24/10 -- The National Highway Safety Administration maintains a searchable database at safercar.gov that includes government saftey ratings of autombiles, safety recalls, and consumer complaints. The Consumer Product Saftey Commission wants one too. The CPSC's three Democratic Commissioners, two Republican Commissioners Commission staff have been fighting over the details of the proposal. A vote is scheduled for
Wednesday morning, and the Commissioners, staff,and interested witnesses are fighting about it, now, on live webcast. If you miss the brawl, you can read Andrew Martin’s story for the New York Times.
are we feeling paranoid yet?
11/23/10 -- Tracy calls our attention to a Wall Street Journal article by Leslie Scism and Mark Maremont, which reports that the insurance industry is exploring the use of consumer data profiles to predict an individual's risk of expensive health conditions like high blood pressure and depression. The use of such profiles, life and health insurers say, is proving to be more efficient and less expensive than the traditional blood and urine tests.
COICA is back
11/17/10 -- Now that Congress is back in session, Senator Leahy is once again trying to push COICA through on the fast track. The EFF deplores it; YouTube activists deride it; Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson suggests that its proponents have failed to learn the lessons history should have taught them. Tune in Thursday for a webcast of the next exciting episode.
11/22/10 Update -- COICA passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously last week, but Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson reassures us that the law will not pass the Senate during this year’s lame duck session, because Senator Ron Wyden has stepped up to protect us -- for now.
today’s Google update
11/17/10 -- The New York Times’s Cathy Horn reports on the debut of Google’s Boutiques.com personalized fashion shopping site. Some of you will find the idea really cool; others will think it is truly creepy. By reading your mail, and looking over your shoulder while you search for examples of hate speech to bring to class, Google may be able to make better guesses about what pairs of shoes it might be able to entice you to buy. (Thanks to Theresa for the link!)
Google Algorithm rejoinder
11/16/10 -- If, like Brad, you bristled at the NY Times editorial urging greater scrutiny of Google’s search algorithm, Theresa suggests you might enjoy Danny Sullivan’s responsive post to Search Engine Land.
The Future of Music
11/16/10 -- The Future of Music Coalition has posted videos of most of the panels at last month’s 10th policy summit on its Vimeo page. Everyone (except for Julie, who was there) should take a moment to see what speakers had to say about the future of music in a networked digital world. Even more exciting than the Beatles on iTunes.
Surveillance proposal in Canada
11/16/10 -- Professor Michael Geist analyzes the recent Canadian government proposal to ease surveillance of online communications here. You can read the actual bills here, here and here. For comparison, check out the EFF's surveillance self-defense project to see what sorts of surveillance the US government routinely conducts (and how one might, if one were so inclined, evade it).
11/17/10 Update -- Charlie Savage covers the FBI’s current efforts to persuade ISPs to support expanded obligations to facilitate government surveillance of online communications in this morning’s New York Times. FBI Director Robert Mueller and general counsel Valerie Caproni are in Silicon Valley this week to meet with Google and Facebook.
Daou v. Huffington
11/16/17 -- Politico's Ben Smith reports that political consultants Peter Daou and James Boyce have filed a lawsuit against Ariana Huffington, claiming that the Huffington Post was originally their idea, but she stole it. (Perhaps they got the idea from watching The Social Network.)
Read the Complaint.
Tim Wu’s book tour
11/16/10 -- The op ed columns and interviews by Professor Tim Wu that Theresa mentioned in class yesterday are here, here, here, here, and here. Professor Wu is promoting the release of his book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (2010), available for purchase at a range of prices from these vendors.
data food fight
11/10/10 -- Facebook and Google are continuing to feud over who gets to take advantage of your friends and correspondents. See lots of juicy coverage here, here, here, here, here, and here.
11/15/10 Update: The EFF weighs in on why this "data portability deathmatch" is bad for consumers.
Online Privacy Update
11/10/10 -- A story by Edward Wyatt and Tanzina Vega in this morning’s New York Times describes the turf battle between the Department of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission over online privacy. Both agencies are due to issue reports on online privacy within the next few weeks. The FTC is said to be considering a "do-not-track" proposal modeled on the popular "do-not-call" list. The article quotes several online advertising executives who hate that idea a lot. The Commerce Department’s policy preference might more accurately be described as "please track" — it prefers to allow the online advertising industry to police itself. It is thinking about encouraging online advertisers to disclose their privacy practices somewhere in their online terms of service as the best solution to any privacy problems. As Wyatt and Vega tell the story, the two agencies are quarelling over whose report gets issued first. (For a different perspective, compare the Obama campaign promises from three years ago.)
Design Furnishings v. Zen Path
11/9/10 -- Cindy Cohn spoke yesterday about how rarely section 512(f) suits for abuse of takedown notices are filed. Evan Brown's Internet cases blogs about a recent decision enjoining Zen Path, an eBay wicker furniture merchant, from sending unfounded take-down notices to EBay to force the removal of its competitor's eBay listings for wicker furnitutre. After 63 takedown notices, Design Furnishings filed a suit seeking to enjoin further takedown notices. On October 21, District Judge William Shubb granted a TRO, enjoining furthere take-down notices until the Hearing on Design Furnishings’ motion for a preliminary injunction.
Google v. Groggle
11/9/10 -- ZDNet reports that Google has settled its trademark suit against Groggle, which styles itself "... the most comprehensive alcohol price comparison website that lets you find your favorite drink at the cheapest price nearest to you." Groggle has agreed to rename itself Drinkle.
11/9/10 -- The Michigan Daily reports that lame duck Attorney General Mike Cox fired Andrew Shirvell yesterday, because a disciplinary hearing had revealed that Shirvell "repeatedly violated office policies, engaged in borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately used state resources." Shirvell’s creepy blog had attracted national media attention, so the story of his dismissal hit CNN, the Wall Street Journal, CBS News, the New York Times, and Above the Law.
More vengeance in the 21st century
11/8/10 -- Tracy emailed a link to Katie Murphy’s New York Times Story about homeowners who use inexpensive video surveillance equipment to tape their neighbors’ anti-social behavior (i.e., dumping dog poop), and then post the video to YouTube to shame the neighbors into apologizing/making reparations. (I should probably look into this. Someone or someones stole three different Halloween pumpkins off my porch in the week before Halloween.)
Vengeance in the 21st century
11/5/10 -- School of Information graduate student Meg Hixon turned me on to the story of the day. Monica Gaudio got an email from a friend alerting her that an article she had written comparing 14th and 16th century recipes for apple pie had been republished by Cooks Source magazine. This struck Gaudio as odd; she'd never heard of Cooks Source magazine. When she investigated, though, she discovered that the magazine had lifted her article and published it, under her byline, in its online and print editions. She got in touch with the magazine's editor, who fired back a rude (and legally clueless) response, "...Honestly Monica, the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn't ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else's name on it! " So, Gaudio blogged about it.
Hundreds of outraged readers friended Cooks Source on Facebook to complain. Hundreds more wrote about it on their blogs, tweeted it, or wrote it up for mainstream media. Some of them checked into other articles the magazine had published, and discovered that lots of them had been copied from other sources, including Martha Stewart, the Food Network, Weight Watchers, and NPR. Others emailed the magazine’s advertisers. The story went viral. Outraged readers posted a new Facebook page devoted to identifying other instances of Cooks Source plagiarism.
Gaudio says that all she wants is an apology printed in the magazine and posted on Facebook, and $130 (the equivalent of 10 cents per word) donated to the Columbia Journalism School.
The rude, clueless editor appears to be in hiding for the moment, although some plausibly forged, rude, clueless comments have popped up purporting to be from her. Read Linda Holmes’s post for NPR, Doug Gross’s story for CNN, and Michelle Castillo’s post for Time.
11/10/10 Update — If you think you know how Judith Griggs and her Cooks Source crew have been spending the past several days, you are probably wrong. Cooks Source has posted a formal statement that apologizes, in a sullen-and-resentful way, for its unauthorized use of Gaudino’s article and reports that it has made the requested $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism. It has deleted its Facebook Account and taken down its webpage, and the stuff currently on Facebook that purports to be Coooks Source, the statement claims, is the work of an imposter. The statement requests people to report this abuse of Cooks Source’s intellectual property to Facebook by clicking the "report abuse" link.
It has the following addtional helpful suggestion:
"The Facebook Corporate phone number are 650-543-4800, 650-853-1300 and 650-543-4811 which hopefully will assist interested parties who feels these snipers who are perpetuating hate have gotten out of hand and want to report it. Interestingly, this phone number and any other contact info is not listed on the Facebook site, and has taken four people a number of days to track down."
11/17/10 Update -- MassLive.com’s S.P.Sullivan reports that Cooks Source is shutting down. Judith Griggs replaced the official statement on the magazine’s website with a whinier one that no longer urges the world to pick up the phone and harrass employees in Facebook’s corporate office, but that blames Gaudino for failing to cut her slack. (New York Magazine suggests that this latest statement is a fake, written by someone who hacked the site: "With Cooks Source, it's hard to tell what's genuinely misguided Internet behavior and what's the work of Internet trolls. But it strikes just the right note of oblivious self-pity, don't you think?")
Young v. Facebook
11/4/10 -- Eric Goldman and Evan Brown blog the dismissal of the complaint in Karen Beth Young's suit against Facebook for kicking her off Facebook and banning her from rejoining. Young claimed that Facebook violated her fiurst and fourteenth amendment rights, violated its own terms of service, and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and sought reinstatement of her Facebook account, damages and attorneys’ fees.
Capitol v. Thomas
11/3/10 -- The third trial in the recording industry case again P2P file sharer Jammie Thomas-Rassert is taking place this week, limited to the amount of damages Thomas-Rassert won't be able to afford to pay the plaintiff labels. The initial trial resulted in a statutory damages award of $220,000 ($9240 for each of 24 tracks). Judge Davis granted a new trial upon concluding that his jury instructions were wrong. The second trial generated a statutory damages award of $1,920,000 ($80,000 for each of 24 tracks). Judge Davis concluded that the damage award was wildly disproprotionate, monstrous, and shocking, and remitted it to $54,000. The Recording Industry plaintiffs declined the remittur and opted instead for a third trial, limited to the issue of statutory damages. To ensure that the proceedings aren't boring, Harvard law Professor Charles Nesson has decided, sua sponte, to kibbitz.
Read Nate Anderson's story for Ars Technica.
11/4/10 Update: This time, the jury awarded $1.5 million, or $62,500 per track. Read David Kravets’s story for Wired. It is not yet clear whether Judge Davis is still shocked.
Google v. US
11/2/10 -- The Depaartment of the Interior decided to standardize its 88,000 employee’s email software by selecting a single program. Google sought to persuade it to adopt Google Apps, but the Department allegedly decided to restrict its consideration to Microsoft products. On Friday, Google sued the Department of the Interior, claimining that the bidding process violated the Competition in Contracting Act.
Read Claire Cain Miller’s story for the New York Times.
Righthaven v. DiBiase
11/2/10 -- Former federal prosecutor Tad DiBiase is fascinated with homicide cases in which the victim’s body is never recovered, and keeps track of such cases on his website, NoBodyCases.com. DiBiase posts updates on the site’s blog, withexcerpts of news stories and links to the source newspapers. In June, DiBiase had the misfortune to post the text of a news story first published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the newspaper that forms the core of Righthaven’s copyright litigation business. (According to the EFF, Righthaven has filed more than 150 copyright infringement actions against blogs and other sites that quote the Las Vegas Review Journal.) Righthaven promptly filed suit. Dibiase insists that his quotation is fair use. Read David Kravets’s story for WIRED.
Amazon.com v. Lay
10/26/10 -- Amazon.com has sold millions of books and other products to North Carolina residents. North Carolina claims that Amazon.com should be collecting and remitting sales tax for every purchase. Amazon.com disagrees. The state opended an investigation of Amazon.com's tax liability, and, in connection with that investigation, insisted that Amazon.com send it "all information for sales to customers with a North Carolina shipping address by month in an electronic format for all dates between August 1, 2003, and February 28, 2010." Amazon.com complied, supplying information about each sale of an item shipped to North Carolina, but declining to identifiy the customers or their addresses. The state insisted that Amazon.com provide the names, billing and shipping addresses, and product description for each sale. Amazon.com refused, and filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the First Amendment and the constitution of Washington State bar North Carolina from requiring it to identify its customers and their purchases of specific books and videos. (Several of Amazon.com's North Carolina's customers intervened in the suit, seeking an injunction prohibiting the state from collecting personally identiable customer information linked to their expressive or private activities.) On Monday, the district court granted Amazon.com's summary judgment motion on the claim that North Carolina’s request for customer information violates the customers’ First Amendment rights:
Read Declan Mccullagh's post for c|net News.com.
The First Amendment protects a buyer from having the expressive content of her purchase of books, music, and audiovisual materials disclosed to the government. Citizens are entitled to receive information and ideas through books, films, and other expressive materials anonymously.
Another Wikileaks Update
10/25/10 -- Wikileaks came back online on Friday, posting the promised cache of 391,832 documents relating to the Iraq war. Major news organizations had gotten an advance look, and were ready with stories summarizing the documents. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
10/26/10 update-update --c|net.com's Declan McCullagh reports that Nevada Senator John Ensign announced that he is introducing a bill to amend the Espionage Act to target Wikileaks. Senator Ensign's press release is here.
Weekly Google tidbit
10/23/10 -- Google chose the dead, Friday-afternoon moment of the news cycle to reveal that the cars snapping photos for Street View had inadvertently collected entire emails, URLs and passwords belonging to WIFI users in the neighborhoods the cars cruised.
Read Don Reisinger's story for c|net. Over in Europe, where privacy is important, the weekend didn't prevent governments from expressing dismay. The British Information Commissioner's Office announced that it was pursuing an investigation, and the Italian government insisted that Google both publish the itinerary of its street view photo-collecting cars three days in advance, and ensure that they are prominently marked.
Righthaven v. Nelson
10/22/10 -- Michael Nelson is a Las Vegas Real Estate Agent who used to run a blog. Righthaven is a copyright troll that seeks to rescue the newspaper business by finding blogs that post quotations from newspaper articles, purchasing an interest in the news articles’ copyrights, suing the offending blogger for copyright infringement, and offering to settle for a tidy sum. The source newspaper gets some money for its journalistic efforts, Righthaven makes a pretty penny on its investment, and pesky news bloggers decide that competing with newspapers is a risky business. How is this not a win-win proposition? Mr. Nelson, however, declined to settle when Righthaven sued him for posting excerpts from the Las Vegas Review Journal on his blog. On Monday, Judge Hicks dismissed Righthaven’s suit, holding that Nelson’s reproduction of the article excerpts was fair use as a matter of law.
Read Nate Anderson’s post for Ars Technica. No word yet on whether Nelson will return to blogging.
10/22/10 -- c|net’s Declan McCullagh reports that Senator Leahy's "Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act," which was initially designated for fast track adoption by the Senate, but went into a stall just before the current Congressional recess due to vociferous opposition from scientific, political, technological, library, and civil liberties communities, has once again picked up steam. On Thursday, supporters of the bill, including Activision, Chanel, the
Church Music Publishers’ Association, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Major League Baeball, Merck, Time Warner, Viacom and Xerox, sent a joint letter to Senator Leahy urging Congress to enact the bill the minute it returns from recess, so that the government will finally be able to "tak[e] action against criminals whose products can kill and whose illicit profits steal American jobs...".
Twitter as a tool for stalking foodies
10/22/10 -- Gloria suggests we look at this report, by Gourmet Live’s Sarah Rich and Melinda Beck, about upscale restaurants’ use of social networks, twitter and search engines as sources of information they can use to customize their patrons’ dining experience.
Twitter as an economic indicator
10/21/10 -- The Twitter story Mike mentioned in class is a post by WIRED's Lisa Grossman, describing a study in which researchers measured the national collective mood over time by counting words in large scale twitter feeds and correlated upswings and downswings in collective mood with variations in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
10/18/10 -- In a news story that broke just in time for this week's class on social networks, the Wall Street Journal’s Emily Steel and Geoffrey Fowler report that "[m]any of the most popular applications, or ‘apps,’ on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people's names and, in some cases, their friends' names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies...." Facebook insists that the systematic privacy breach was completely inadvertent. Fowler’s follow-up story notes that Congress members Edward Markey and Joe Barton have sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing their concern.
10/14/10 -- Shortly after Wikileaks disclosed that it was about to post a "massive" collection of classified miltary documents related to the Iraq war, the site disappeared behind a scheduled maintenance message, and there it has remained. Journalists David Leigh and Rob Evans report in today's Guardian that Wikileaks claims that its funding has been blocked in response to U.S. and Australian Government pressure. Moneybookers, the company that collected and disbursed Wikileaks donations declined to comment beyond characterizing Wikileaks as its "former" customer.
10/15/10 UPDATE --WIRED's Kevin Poulson, Kim Zetter, and Spencer Ackerman report that the release of the Iraq documents will be "the largest military leak in U.S. history," and will probably happen within a matter of days.
Media Copyright Group v. US Copyright Group
10/13/10 -- The US Copyright Group, a.k.a. Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, files mass John Doe infringement suits against individuals accused of sharing independent films over peer-to-peer networks. (Check out the EFF’s Field Guide to Copyright Trolls here.) The Group&rsquo's latest adventure has been to demand that the Media Copyright Group, which files mass John Doe infringement suits against individuals accused of sharing porn films over peer-to-peer networks, change its name. The USCG complains that the MCG's name is confusingly similar. The Media Copyright Group responded by filing a declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of Illinois to defend its right to its name.
Read Nate Anderson's story for Ars Technica.
12/1/10 UPDATE -- Florida lawyer Graham Syfert came up with a scheme to fight the US Copyright Group John Doe suits and make himself some money at the same time. For $19.95, Syfert will sell a John Doe defendant a package of three forms, including a motion to quash the subpoena, a motion to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction, and an affidavit supporting the motions.
The package has apparently sold briskly, but Syfert didn't include any instructions on how to comply with local court rules when filing the documents. The US Copyright Group has spent a lot of time and money getting the filings thrown out on teachnicalities, and it’s not going to take it any more! The group has filed a motion seeking sanctions against Syfert for selling the forms, and thereby using up so much of its time. Read Nate Anderson’s story for Ars Technica. (Thanks to Tracy for the link!)
Robbins v. Lower Merion School District
10/13/10 -- The school district for Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, has settled invasion of privacy lawsuits brought by students after the discovery that the district had taken advantage of the webcams on 2300 school-issued Macbook laptops to spy on students in their homes. The settlement includes $185,000 in paymentts to the two students and $425,000 in attorney's fees. The school district’s insurance carrier has agreed to pick up the tab for the settlement and the district's legal costs, which the school district estimates at $1,200,000. Read David Kravets’s story for Wired.
Nebraska v. Drahota
10/12/10 -- Eric Goldman's blog reports on the case of a college student who exchanged angry political email messages with his political science professor. After a dozen or two email messages, the exchange got heated. (Quoth the professor: "I'm tired of this shit." Quoth the student: "Fuck you!") The professor asked the student to stop sending him email. The student apparently couldn't resist continuing the conversation, although he stopped signing his messages. He was prosecuted and convicted for breach of the peace for two anonymous email messages that accused the professor of treason and Al Qaeda sympathies. The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed his conviction, holding that "the State cannot criminalize speech ...solely because it inflicts emotional injury, annoys, offends, or angers another person."
not only .xxx
10/12/10 -- c|net's Stephen Shankland reports on ICANN’s plans to expand the number of generic top level domain names dramatically, and the reasons to believe that, this time, it might actually happen.
New Accessibility Law
10/12/10 -- Last week, President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 into law. The new law seeks to improve the accessibility of smartphones, the Internet and telecommunications services for people with impaired sight or hearing. Read the AP story.
10/8/10 -- CNN’s Stephen Jiang is reporting that the government of China has blocked any news of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize from publicly accessible Internet sites. (Indeed, CNN suggests that the government has actually removed information about Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Prize from search engines and blogs.) James Fallows’s blog post for the Atlantic explains why the government might be annoyed.
Privacy and Sausage
10/8/10 -- The House Energy and Commerce Committee has been looking at online privacy. Several bills have been floated, including H.R. 5108, which would require sites to remove personal information whenever the subject requests it, Representative Rick Boucher's discussion draft,
requiring notice of privacy collection and disclosure and the opportunity to opt out, and Representative Bobby Rush's Building Effective Strategies To Promote Responsibility Accountability Choice Transparency Innovation Consumer Expectations and Safeguards (wait for it) ["BEST PRACTICES"] Act. Tech Daily's Juliana Gruenwald reports that Microsoft, Intel and eBay have now said that they think that Rush's BEST PRACTICES Act is just dandy, or would be just dandy if Rush would delete a pesky provision allowing consumers to sue should companies fail to obey the law.
10/6/10 -- The District of Columbia and the Trust the Vote Project conducted a pilot project to test a system for allowing overseas and military voters to download and return absentee ballots over the Internet. Michigan Computer Science Professor Alex Halderman and his students had no difficulty finding and exploiting a security vulnerability that gave them control of the system and enabled them to change cotes and view secret ballots. To leave a calling card, the team reprogrammed the server to play "Hail to the Victors" on the ballot confirmation screen.
Armstrong v. Shirvell
10/5/10 -- The Michigan Daily reports that, yesterday, the Washtenaw County court postponed the hearing on MSA president Chris Armstrong's motion for a personal protection order against Andrew Shirvell, Michigan's Assistant Attorney General and the author of a truly creepy blog devoted to demonizing Mr Armstrong. The Daily's Robin Veeck quotes a court clerk's explanation that the hearing was postponed because of "service issues." Shirvell’s online and offline attacks against Armstrong have caught the attention of national media (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).
10/4/10 -- Mike recommends this talk on open-source economics by Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler (author of The Wealth of Networks).
who matters on the Hill?
9/30/10 -- Mary Kate draws our attention to COICA. On September 20, Senator Leahy introduced S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Ten Senators signed on as cosponsors. The following day, the Electronic Frontier Foundation denounced the bill, complainting that "Censorship of the Internet Takes Center Stage in ‘Online Infringement’ Bill". That same day, the US Chamber of Commerce released a letter supporting the bill, and four more Senators signed on as cosponsors. On 25th, Public Knowledge posted a blistering critique of the bill. Viacom announced its support. Another Senator signed on as a cosponsor. On September 27, the American Library Association wrote a letter to the Senators Leahy and Sessions, urging them to delay consideration of COICA. The bill gained a new cosponsor, and Leahy announced that the Judiciary Committee would take the bill up later in the week. On September 28, 87 prominent scientists signed a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their opposition to COICA. "If enacted," the letter warned, "this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. In exchange for this, the bill will introduce censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties' ability to communicate." The Recording Industry Association of America objected, "the answer from these self-styled public interest groups can't always be ‘no.’ Congressional and administration leaders have made it clear that doing nothing is no longer an option. If these groups have a better idea than the meaningful, bipartisan approach like the one put forward by Chairman Leahy, we welcome their ideas on how to insure that the Internet is a civilized medium instead of a lawless one where foreign sites that put Americans at risk are allowed to flourish."
On the 29th, Hollywood labor unions announced their support for COICA. In the morning of September 30th, major news organizations reported that the Senate was poised to pass COICA, perhaps as early as that day. At the last minute, Chairman Leahy postponed the Judiciary Committee meeting at which COICA was scheduled to come up for a vote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to keep up with all of the action here.
M.A. v. Backpage.com
9/19/10 -- The Village Voice was once a funky local alternative New York City weekly paper, which advertised all sorts of services on its back page that were arguably legal in New York City, but not in much of the rest of the country. In 2005, New Times Media bought the paper, and changed its corporate name to Village Voice Media. The company still publishes the Village Voice, as well as 13 other alternative weeklies. It has also launched Backpage.com, which posts online ads for a variety of goods and services, including the sort of services that used to be advertised only on the back pages of its alternative weekly papers. (With Craigslist suddenly out of the erotic services biz, Backpage.com is poised to capture a large slice of that market.)
M.A. ran away from home when she was 14, and was picked up by a pimp who sold M.A.'s sexual services to adults. The pimp (who has now pleaded guilty to criminal charges) advertised M.A.’s sexual services by placing ads, illustrated by explicit nude photos, on Backpage.com. On Thursday,
M.A. and her mother sued Backpage.com. The lawsuit claims that Backpage.com aided and abetted M.A.'s pimp in facilitating prostitution, child pornography, and child trafficking, in violation of the Child Abuse Victims Rights Act by posting these ads on its site.
Read Jacqui Cheng's story for Ars Technica.
EZ Texting v. T-Mobile
9/19/10 -- EZ Texting offers an inexpensive group text message delivery service, allowing bulk text messaging. The service is useful to broadcast texts to a large group. Businesses or non-profits can sign up to use EZ Texting to reach supporters, members and potential customers. The company claims to send the text messages only to individuals who have "opted in," and signed up to receive them. One EZ Texting customer is legalmarijuanadispensary.com, which operates a website that will direct visitors to the legal marijuana dispensary closest to their current location. T-Mobile apparently wants to protect its customers from learning about legal marijuana dispensaries. It allegedly started blocking any text messages sent via EZ Texting, whether they related to marijuana or not. EZ Texting reluctantly told legalmarijuanadispensary.com that it was suspending its account. T-Mobile, however, declined to stop blocking the service's text messages.
EZ Texting insists that what T-Mobile is doing is illegal, and seeks a TRO. Read David Kravets’s post for WIRED.
Achte-Neunte v. Does 1 - 4,577
9/17/10 -- The US Copyright Group targets individual P2P users of BitTorrent, and files John-Doe copyright infringement suits against them en masse. In May, it filed a single lawsuit in Washington DC against 5000 unidentified individuals who allegedly used BitTorent to share copies of the Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker. Last week, 40 of those defendants filed a motion to quash the subpoenas seeking their identity and to dismiss the suit. All 40 defendants argue that they lack minimum contacts with DC, and that their locations outside the District were easily ascertainable from the IP addressed used to identify them in the suit. The motion also seeks an award of attorneys' fees. EFF is helping to coordinate the defense and has assembled an archive of case-related documents. Read Nate Anderson's story for Ars Technica.
Aughenbaugh v. Ringleader Digital
9/17/10 -- Ringleader Digital offers targeted advertising on smartphones and other mobile devices. According to Ars Technica's Jacqui Cheng, RingLeader assigns each device a unique identifier ("RLDGUID" for RingLeader Digital Global Unique IDentifier), and stores its webbrowsing history on the device itself. The wonders of HTML 5 make the RLGUID resistant to removal, even by tech-savvy consumers.
On Wednesday, three California consumers filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and California criminal and consumer statutes. The suit also claims that Ringleader's storage of the RLDGUID on comsumer's smartphones consitutes common law trespass to chattels. Read David Kravet's story for WIRED.
Fox News v. Robin Carnahan for Senate
9/17/10 -- Robin Caranahan, a Democrat, is running against Republican Congressman Roy Blunt to become the next Senator from Missouri. Her campaign posted on her website, and on YouTube, a campaign commercial that features a combative interview of Blunt conducted by Chris Wallace of Fox News. On Wednesday, Fox News and Mr. Wallace filed a lawsuit in W.D. Mo. for copyright infringement and violation of Wallace's right of publicity. Fox and Wallace may be steamed to see their work used to support a Democrat against a Republican, but have probably filed the lawsuit more to get the commercial taken down than because they believe they can win it. Even copyright blogger Ben Sheffner (also a Republican), who has rarely met a plaintiff's copyright claim that he didn't like, says that he's skeptical about the suit's merits.
9/16/10 -- If you are planning on missing class on October 4, and can be in the Washington DC area, there are two terrific conferences that might tempt you. The Future of Music Coalition is putting on its annual Future of Music Policy Summit from October 3-5, on the campus of Georgetown University. The Summit is a consistently provocative program featuring musicians, arts advocates, music lawyers, policymakers, technologists, media representatives and industry figures, talking about issues at the intersection of music, technology, policy and law. FMC has a very reasonable reduced student rate for attending the full summit. The same weekend, TPRC will put on the 38th annual Research Conference on Communication,
Information and Internet Policy at George Mason University Law School in nearby Arlington. The TPRC conference features research papers by economists, technologists, social scientists and legal scholars and talks by policymakers. It offers somewhat less reasonable but still reduced student pricing. If you can't get to either conference, you can still take advantage of some of the insights of the program speakers. FMC plans to webcast the conference live (check out video of prior summits), and TPRC posts many of the research papers on its site.
"Creepy Google Stalker"
9/15/10 --Yesterday, online tabloid Gawker.com broke the story of David Barksdale, a 27 year old Google engineer who used his access to Google computers to break into the Gmail and Google Voice accounts of teenagers he met through a Seattle technology group. PC Magazine reports that Google apparently failed to detect Barksdale's unauthorized access, but quietly fired him in July after the teens’ parents complained. MSNBC's Helen Popkin has dubbed Mr. Barksdale the "creepy Google engineer stalker guy." Google has announced that it takes privacy very seriously and is upgrading its security controls.
Search Engines & Religion
9/14/10 -- NPR’s All Things Considered reports on the growth of search engines tailored to reflect the views of particular religions. The story profiles ImHalal.com, SeekFind.org, and Jewogle. (Trademark law fans might enjoy taking bets on how long Jewogle's current logo gets to stay that way.)
Not The Social Network
9/13/10 -- Jose Antonio Vargas has a profile of Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg in this week's New Yorker.
Lukewarm . . .
9/13/10 -- In a front page story, the New York Times’s Clifford Levy reports that the Russian Government has conducted multiple raids of dissident organizations on the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software, and that Microsoft has supported the raids. Microsoft's response emphasizes that company believes that protecting Microsoft software from piracy and respecting fundamental human rights are both worthy goals.
9/13/10 UPDATE -- Microsoft has now posted a stronger statement on its official blog, insisting that the people of Microsoft "unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain." The post promises that Microsoft will commission an independent investigation of the facts reported in the NY Times story, will deploy a new free NGO software license, and will create a program to assist Russian NGOs that do have licenses for their Microsoft software in proving to authorities that their software is duly licensed. Read Clifford Levy’s followup for the New York Times.
Wikileaks seeks to reassure its critics
9/10/10 -- WIRED's Kim Zetter reports that Wikileaks is about to post a "massive cache of previously unpublished classified U.S. military documents from the Iraq War."
In re Google Privacy Litigation
9/6/10 -- Last February, Google lauched Google Buzz, to immediate complaints about its privacy implications. Within the month, Eva Hibnick, a Harvard 2L, had filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all US Gmail users, complaining that the default settings on Buzz violated the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Federal Stored Communications Act and California law. Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a formal complaint about Buzz with the Federal Trade Commission.
Google tweaked Buzz repeatedly to improve its privacy options. On Friday, it announced that it had settled the class action suit for $8,500,000.00, and the promise to try harder. Read the settlement agreement.
Craigslist "Censors" Sex Ads
9/5/10 -- Craigslist has blocked access to its "erotic services" from United States locations, and replaced the link with a black box labeled "CENSORED". State Attorneys General and human rights groups have been pressuring Craigslist to stop carrying ads for sexual or erotic services, complaining that Craigslist is promoting crime and human trafficking by running the ads. Craigslist has not announced whether the move is temporary, nor whether it is in response to any particular threat or complaint. Read Clare Cain Miller's story for the New York Times.
(The link to erotic services remains accessible in the Craigslist page for nearby Windsor, Ontario.)
Davis v. Avvo
9/3/10 -- Avvo advertises itself as a site that allows prospective clients to find "the right lawyer." It lists lawyers by location and speciality, and rates them "using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a lawyer's profile, including a lawyer's years in practice, disciplinary history, professional achievements and industry recognition." Ratings range from 10 points ("superb") to 1 ("extreme caution"). (University of Michigan lawyers, Avvo reports, have an average rating of 7.58 —"very good") Avvo claims that its ratings are "unbiased" because they "are calculated using a mathematical model." Larry Joe Davis, a Florida health-care lawyer, received an Avvo rating of 3.7 ("caution").
Last week, Davis filed a libel suit against Avvo. Davis argues that because Avvo purports to rate lawyers based on an unbiased mathematical model, it can't claim that the ratings are statements of its opinion subject to first amendment protection. Avvo responded to the lawsuit in a blog post on its site, telling the world that "Mr. Davis was sanctioned by the Florida State Bar in 2007 and he doesn’t want you to know about it. And I get it — Mr. Davis has had some serious problems involving child support payments and failing to appear for court dates — so much so that he was twice convicted and spent eight days in the pokey (you can read more about it here)." Read Mike Masnick's post for Techdirt.
This week's net neutrality news
9/2/10 -- The FCC has announced its response to the controversial Google-Verizon proposal for compromise on network neutrality. The Agency has asked for additional comments from the public. FCC Chairman Genachowski assures the nation that "As we move forward, the FCC will continue to be vigilant in guarding against threats to Internet freedom." Both online and bricks-and-mortar media seem dubious. WIRED's Ryan Singel writes: "FCC Delays Net Neutrality Over Mobile, ‘Managed’ Services." C|net's Declan McCullagh titles his piece "FCC Appears to Delay Net Neutrality Rules." Edward Wyatt's story for the New York Times begins: "On the Internet, data moves at the speed of light. The Federal Communications Commission, not so fast. " Wyatt notes that "The F.C.C.’s decision to seek further comment during the next 55 days effectively precluded any commission actions until after the Congressional elections in November."
End-of-summer news doldrums
9/1/10 -- Gawker has launched a site it's calling "WikiLeakiLeaks", devoted to gossip and rumors about Julian Assange.
LaCourt v. Specific Media
8/26/20 -- Six California consumers have filed a class action suit against an ad-serving and tracking company, claiming that the company's use of Adobe flash to secretly recreate cookies after users have deleted them violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 USC § 1030, California Penal Code § 502, Calfornia Civil Code § 1750, California Business & Professions Code § 17200, and is actionable as common law trespass to chattels.
Read Ryan Singel's story for WIRED.com.
The latest Facebook privacy debacle
8/20/10 -- No sooner did Facebook introduce Facebook Places than it attracted complaints from privacy watchdogs. The ACLU of Northern California warned that "Facebook is rolling out ‘here now,’ privacy later." EPIC (The Electronic Privacy Information Center) complained that Facebook Places "makes user location data routinely available to others, including Facebook business partners, regardless of whether users wish to disclose their location. " Techcrunch's Jason Kincaid described the way Facebook designed the Places opt-in/opt-out configuration as "confusing as hell to users." Read Ian Paul's blog post for PCWorld.
This week's net neutrality news
8/16/10 -- Today's New York Times reports that Google's fans found last week's joint proposal with Verizon for an "open Internet" disappointing. (Professor James Grimmelman suggests that, in the long run, Google will regret having done this deal .) AT&T, though, says it likes the plan a lot. Read Ian Paul's story for PC World. Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo reports that the grassroots Conservative Tea Party Movement has taken a stance opposing Network Neutrality.
Has your connection been giving you trouble?
8/16/10 -- Ars Technica's Nate Anderson has posted a story explaining the letter that colleges and universities received earlier this summer, reminding them that the Department of Education's new rules implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 now require post secondary institutions to combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials through illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution.
Federal Legislation in the 110th Congress
There are hundreds of pending bills in the 111th Congress that seek to make Internet law. Here's an idiosyncratic sampling:
- S.43 , Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act
- S. 141 , Protecting the Privacy of Social Security Numbers Act
- S. 436 , Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth [SAFETY] Act
- S.773, Cybersecurity Act
- S. 921, United States Information and Communications Enhancement [ICE] Act
- S. 1047, Safe Internet Act
- S. 1447, Connecting America Act
- S. 1597, Internet Poker and Game of Skill Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act
- S. 1836, Internet Freedom Act
- S. 3110, Broadband Service Consumer Protection Act
- S. 3301, Online Voter Registration Act
- S. 3321, Public Online Information Act
- S. 3386, Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act
- S. 3480, Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act
- H.R. 780, Student Internet Safety Act
- H.R. 985, Free Flow of Information Act
- H.R. 2221 , Data Accountability and Trust Act
- H.R. 4098, Secure Federal File Sharing Act
Adobe Acrobat Reader
If you don't have a viewer for PDF files,
you can download an Acrobat reader free from Adobe, HERE
Look at earlier New Developments pages:
Return to the Sources
Return to the Syllabus.