April 2009

Judge Gants Holds StubHub Not Protected by CDA Section 230 (relying on Roommates.com Decision)

April 24, 2009

On January 26, 2009, in what may have been Judge Ralph Gants’ last opinion before departing Suffolk Superior Court for the Supreme Judicial Court on January 29, 2009, Judge Gants ruled on a number of issues in the New England Patriots lawsuit against StubHub.com. The claims are based on the fact that StubHub provides an online marketplace for the scalping of Patriot’s tickets, something that really pisses off the Patriots’ owners, who attempt to exercise a high degree of control over their ticket sales.  The Patriots’ various causes of action arise out of their claim that the tickets are a “revocable license” with printed terms, and civil claims related to the Massachusetts anti-scalping statute, G. L. c. 140, Section 185A. The discussion on 47 USC Section 230 is only a small part of the decision (which addresses a number of defensive theories set forth by StubHub on summary judgment, rejecting most of them) is as follows: CDA immunity “applies only if the interactive computer service provider is not also an ‘information content provider,’ which is defined as someone who is ‘responsible, in whole or in part,’ for the creation or development of the offending content.” Roommates, 521 F.3d at 1162;47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(3). The Ninth Circuit has interpreted the term “development” as “referring not merely to augmenting the content generally, but to materially contributing to its alleged unlawfulness. In other…

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"Sign This Contract. By the Way, We Can Modify It At Any Time." Is This Enforceable?

April 22, 2009

Here’s an interesting case out of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas.  In Harris v. Blockbuster the court refused to enforce an arbitration provision in Blockbuster’s online click-wrap agreement. The reason was that Blockbuster’s click-wrap contract was unilaterally modifiable by Blockbuster.  Here is the key paragraph, which is still on the Blockbuster Online site as of today: These Online Rental Terms and Conditions are subject to change by Blockbuster at any time, in its sole discretion, with or without advance notice. The most current version of the Online Rental Terms and Conditions, which will supersede all earlier versions, can be accessed through the hyperlink at the bottom of the blockbuster.com site. You should review the Online Rental Terms and Conditions regularly, to determine if there have been changes. Continued use of your BLOCKBUSTER Online membership constitutes acceptance of the most recent version of the Online Rental Terms and Conditions. Yep, I’m sure many Blockbuster subscribers check Blockbuster’s online T&Cs regularly to see if they’ve changed.  Shame on you if you don’t! The court wrote: The Court concludes that the Blockbuster arbitration provision is illusory . . . .  There is nothing in the terms and conditions that prevents Blockbuster from unilaterally changing any part of the contract other than providing that such changes will not take effect until posted on the website. The Court concludes that the Blockbuster…

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First Circuit: Judge Gertner, You Do Not Have the Authority to Permit Webcasting in Your Courtroom

April 17, 2009

The First Circuit’s decision upholding the RIAA’s challenge to Judge Gertner’s decision to permit webcasting of a motion hearing in the RIAA v. Tenenbaum case was issued on April 16, 2009, very shortly after oral argument. The First Circuit, interpreting a D. Mass. Local Rule, held that U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner’s interpretation of the local rule concerning photographing recording and broadcasting of courtroom proceedings was “palpably incorrect”. This result is quite disappointing for many people who had hoped that the First Circuit would hold that Massachusetts District Court Judges have have the discretion to webcast court proceedings in their courtrooms, and that this would be a first step toward allowing the public to view federal district court civil proceedings. The decision will, many hope, lead to a change in the pre-Internet Age Rule that was found to prohibit the webcast.

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First Circuit Affirms Preliminary Injunction in Copyright Case

April 13, 2009

Here is the First Circuit’s recent decision upholding a preliminary injunction in a copyright case  out of D. Puerto Rico.  The sole issue on appeal was the holding on substantial similarity.  The products were stuffed animals, specifically, frogs.  Or, more specifically, the Puerto Rican tree frog, the Coqui.   I’ve tried to find a picture of the defendant’s stuffed animal frog  with no luck. Link: Coquico, Inc. v. Rodriguez-Miranda.

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John Perry Barlow, Co-Founder of EFF, Poet, Musician, Lyricist for the Dead, Retired Wyoming Cattle Rancher and Public Intellectual . . .

April 11, 2009

has filed a most unusual “expert witness report” in the Tenenbaum case.  This will surely raise some novel admissibility issues under Daubert/FRE 702 standards.  And that, constant readers, is the understatement of the day.  More surprises to come from the Nesson/HLS defense team, I have no doubt.  

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Boring Lawsuit We Missed the First Time Around ….

April 11, 2009

How many residential driveways are there in the USA? I have no idea, but I would estimate tens of millions. So it figures that someone whose driveway was videotaped by Google and put on the Internet for all to view (!?) on Google Street View would sue Google for invasion of privacy and trespass. Copy of opinion here. Link to the Boring’s home on Google Maps here. My theory: these people actually crave attention for their property, and what better way to get it, than this? But then, I am married to a psychologist. Oh, and of course, there’s this.  No need to get paranoid, now …..

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Oh, Sweet Irony, How Thou Doest Tease Me

April 9, 2009

Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner issued an order permitting the webcast of a scheduled in-court motion hearing in the RIAA/Tenenbaum copyright downloading case.  The RIAA challenged the order, arguing that a federal rule prohibits the webcast.  Here is yesterday’s audio of the First Circuit oral argument, with Harvard Law Prof. Charles Nesson arguing for Tenenbaum.

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"Copyright in the Age of YouTube"

April 8, 2009

Great article by Steven Seidenberg in the February 2009 ABA Journal on the legal tensions between user-generated content sites (UGC, in the lingo) and the content owners under the “notice and take down” regime established by the DMCA. Interesting fact from the article: On YouTube alone ten hours of video content are put online every minute of every day, more than 250,000 clips per day. Cases and sites mentioned in the article: Lenz v. Universal Music Corp Io Group, Inc. v. Veoh Networks, Inc. Viacom page on the YouTube case

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DOJ to Senator Ted Stevens: “We Deeply Regret That This Has Occurred”

April 8, 2009

It’s not often that the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes a sitting U.S. Senator, obtains a conviction at trial, and then concludes it has no choice but to voluntarily dismiss the charges and let the former defendant walk free, totally vindicated.  But that’s what happened in United States v. Ted Stevens, the government’s case against the longest-serving Republican in the Senate’s history.  If this has ever happened before in the United States, I’m unaware of it. To quote from today’s New York Times: Judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed the charges against Mr. Stevens, which was expected given the way the case has disintegrated since the conviction in October. But the judge went well beyond that step, declaring that what the prosecutors did was the worst “mishandling or misconduct that I’ve seen in my 25 years.” Judge Sullivan spoke disdainfully of the prosecutors’ repeated assertions that any mistakes during the trial were inadvertent and made in good faith. He said he had witnessed “shocking and serious” violations of the principle that prosecutors are obligated to turn over all relevant material to the defense. The judge appointed the attorney Henry Schuelke as special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal contempt charges against the prosecution team. How could this happen?  The article suggests the lawyers may have been grossly overworked, rushed to trial by an aggressive defense (damn good move by the defense, if…

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Podcast Interview of Professor Charles Nesson: Why Statutory Damages Under the Copyright Law are Unconstitutional in the Tenenbaum Case

April 7, 2009

As everyone in the copyright law community knows by now, Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson, and a team of HLS students, are defending Joel Tenenbaum in an RIAA action. Nesson’s primary argument is that the copyright statute’s statutory (aka punitive) damages of as much as $150,000 per infringement is unconstitutional, least as applied to Tenenbaum who downloaded seven songs for personal use, not profit. Over $1 million in damages ($150,000 x 7) seems a bit much for such a violation, and Nesson argues that punitive damages of this magnitiude are unconstitutional. Nesson is courteously interviewed by Professor Doug Lichtman on the Intellectual Property Colloquium podcast here. Apart from the legal issue raised by Professor Nesson, this case has a great deal of humor in it, not the least of which is that Nesson and company are defending Joel Tenenbaum.  This is kind of like picking on a little kid on the playground, who then shows up with The Hulk, who just happens to be his big brother and refuses to go away until he’s fought the bully to the death. Oh, and Nesson’s team is “immortal” for all practical purposes – I suspect there’s nothing that Nesson would like more than to take the constitutional challenge to the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court.  I doubt that the RIAA ever expected this, but they can’t exactly back…

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Whither Antitrust?

April 6, 2009

A new administration often means a new approach to federal agency enforcement of the antitrust laws.  And, a shift from Republican to Democrat often means more aggressive enforcement by the DOJ and FTC.  The business and legal communities want to know, what can we expect? James W. Lowe and Thomas Mueller of Wilmer Hale attempt to answer some of these questions in their article Whither US Antitrust?, published in the March 2009 issue of the Global Competition Review.

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Second Circuit: Google Keyword Ad Practices Are "Use in Commerce"

April 6, 2009

A few days ago I discussed a decision by Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner holding that purchase of a trademarked keyword to trigger a sponsored link on a search engine constitutes a “use in commerce” of the trademark under the Lanham Act (the Federal Trademark statute). (Earlier post here). In that post I mentioned that among cases addressing this issues, only the Second Circuit had held otherwise. Now the Second Circuit seems to have changed its position on this issue. In Rescuecom v. Google, issued on April 3, 2009, the court reversed a motion to dismiss by the trial court, holding that Rescuecom properly alleged that Google’s keyword ad practices constituted a “use in commerce” under the Lanham Act. In a somewhat unusual step, the court attached to its opinion an Appendix entitled “On the Meaning of “Use in Commerce” in Sections 32 and 43 of the Lanham Act.” The Appendix, which is described as dicta, discusses at some length the statutory history of the “use in commerce” phrase in the Lanham Act. This decision appears to be a game-changer for Google, and will require it to modify its policies on selling key word search ads to competitors.

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