May 2009

Aiding and Abetting Prostitution? Wa?! I’m an Internet Executive – I Sure Hope My Mom Doesn’t Read That!

May 21, 2009

“We opened an investigation at 5:01 on Friday, as promised. . . . We are preparing for a prosecution. We are investigating. We are moving forward. . . . . The #1 defendant is Mr. Jim Buckmaster, who is the man in charge of Craigslist.. . . . Craigslist is a big promoter and facilitator of prostitution.” South Carolina Attorney General, on Sunday, according to the Craigslist Blog. Hmmm, this is the kind of thing that is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, assuming that the South Carolina AG is referring to third party postings.  Somehow I doubt that Mr. Buckmaster has become a South Carolina pimp. Apparently, law enforcement authorities in SC have been particularly aggressive in their comments about Craigslist. Why did Craigslist file this suit? The most obvious reason, from a semi-legal perspective, is to get into federal court in that state, rather than be subject to the whims of a state court judge that may not “get” the CDA. After all, SC is south of Mason Dixon, and these guys in California may have seen My Cousin Vinnie one time too many.  And, they be a little unclear on the geography of the American Southeast. Not to mention Easy Rider. The other reason may just be to fight publicity with publicity, rather than just sit around and take it. Whether a case like…

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Antitrust, Followed by Anti-Anitrust Followed by ….

May 19, 2009

All of the news articles I’m seeing about how aggressive the newly appointed antitrust enforcers may be puts me in a mind to reminisce. When I graduated law school in 1979 I went off to what was then called Howrey & Simon, at that time the self-proclaimed antitrust heavyweight of D.C., and maybe the entire country. We certainly believed this to be true, and maybe it was. Back then there was no American Lawyer, and no one was really keeping score. At Howrey it was all antitrust all the time. The firm was involved in massive trials in distant locations – a four month trial in Houston, requiring the rental of suites of condos and an entourage that would challenge a U.S. President and staffed like the U.S. army — was not uncommon; in fact, cases like that were taken for granted. And, according my “law of antitrust litigation” (which is: all antitrust cases must be tried twice, < appeal, > appeal), some of these trials were “seconds. ” The funny thing is, no one seemed to give this state of affairs a second thought -it was just assumed that this was the normal course of events, and as long as Jimmy Carter was in the White House, all was well for antitrust lawyers. This changed as quickly as the April weather in New England when Ronald Reagan took office…

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File Under "Hell Hath No Fury" or, "If You’re Protected By CDA 230, Don’t Waive Your Protection"

May 8, 2009

Cicilia Barnes’ choice in men was worthy of a Darwin Award. After she broke up with her boyfriend, he created fake personal ads for her on Yahoo and impersonated her on online forums. As the Ninth Circuit described it in Barnes v. Yahoo: Barnes did not authorize her now former boyfriend to post the profiles, which is hardly surprising considering their content. The profiles contained nude photographs of Barnes and her boyfriend, taken without her knowledge, and some kind of open solicitation, whether express or implied is unclear, to engage in sexual intercourse. The ex-boyfriend then conducted discussions in Yahoo’s online “chat rooms,” posing as Barnes and directing male correspondents to the fraudulent profiles he had created. The profiles also included the addresses, real and electronic, and telephone number at Barnes’ place of employment. Before long, men whom Barnes did not know were peppering her office with emails, phone calls, and personal visits, all in the expectation of sex. Barnes demanded that Yahoo take the information down, but Yahoo didn’t do so, despite a policy that it would remove fake profiles if the complaining party supported its request with a drivers license. However, attention from the press did get Yahoo to focus, at least for a short while. Again, from the court: . . . a local news program was preparing to broadcast a report on the incident. A day…

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What Happens When California and Massachusetts Law on the Enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements Clash in Massachusetts Superior Court? Read on ….

May 5, 2009

David Donatelli was an EMC Executive VP. He left EMC, and went to work for Hewlett Packard in California. EMC filed suit to enforce Donatelli’s one year non-compete agreement. Donatelli argued that the Massachusetts court should defer enforcement to California law, which is hostile to non-compete agreements. Judge Stephen Neel, in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, didn’t buy it. He held that California’s legislative policy against non-compete agreements does not trump Massachusetts common law, at least under the facts of this case. Once he got past this major bump in the road, Judge Neel held that continued employment sufficed as consideration for a non-compete agreement (he also noted that the agreement recited that it had been signed “under seal,” magic words that favor enforceability in Massachusetts), held that the agreement was not overbroad, and issued the injunction. Justice Neel did, however, hold a branch above the waters before Mr. Donatelli sank beneath the waves – he stated that Donatelli could move to modify the order if he could show that his job duties at at HP would not “overlap with products or services being developed, produced, marketed or sold by EMC.” However, since the entire purpose of Donatelli’s hire by HP (according to press at the time) was to head HP’s Enterprise Storage and Server Division, which would be competitive with EMC, it’s hard to see how Donatelli could both…

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Boston Bar Association CLE: Hot Issues in Internet Law, CDA Section 230

May 2, 2009

We had a great CLE at the BBA on Wednesday evening. The lucky folks who attended received three hours of (almost) nonstop legal info, and we barely scratched the surface of the topics. I spoke on CDA Section 230, which has seen a great deal of activity lately, and there are no signs it’s slowing down. Below, via scribd.com, are the slides and paper that I prepared for the program. CDA Section 230 Article, BBA April 2009

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Charlie Nesson on Second Life

May 1, 2009

Now that Prof. Charlie Nesson has grabbed a lot of attention with his defense in the RIAA v. Tenenbaum case, it may be worth recalling this video, which was posted on YouTube in August 2006.

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