July 2008

“[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. … [n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section. . . . . [However this law] shall [not] be construed to limit or expand any law pertaining to intellectual property.”

Communications Decency Act (“CDA”), 47 U.S.C.Read the full article

One of the things that drives people crazy is how easy it is to file a lawsuit, and conversely how difficult it is to persuade a judge to dismiss a lawsuit before the defendant incurs the costs of discovery and summary judgment. It has long been the law in Massachusetts that a complaint should not be dismissed “unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Nader v. Citron, 372 Mass. 96 (1977). This is a very difficult (some would say metaphysical) standard. Under it dismissal has been limited to black and white situations where the plaintiff has failed to allege the basic elements of a cause of action, or where (for example) a statute of limitations defense is apparent on the face of the complaint.

No more. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court rejected this standard in the federal court (Bell Atlantic Corp.Read the full article

It’s probably fair to say that there are thousands of software license and development agreements entered into every business day in the U.S. Only a very small number result in a lawsuit, and an even smaller number end up with a jury verdict and ruling under 93A by a Massachusetts trial judge. So, when a case does go the distance, it’s worth paying attention.

The recent decision by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Leila R. Kern in Perfectyourself.com v. Accusoft Corporation discusses the evidence in a jury trial that resulted in a more than $400,000 verdict against Accusoft. In Massachusetts the trial judge, not the jury, decides claims under M.G.L. c. 93A, Massachusetts’ “little FTC Act.” Depending on the violation, Chapter 93A allows the judge to award double or treble damages and attorney’s fees to the prevailing plaintiff. The Accusoft decision is the trial judge’s discussion and analysis of the evidence that the jury heard for purposes of her analysis and decision under 93A.… Read the full article

Is it Under Copyright? Check Here

by Lee Gesmer on July 24, 2008

Whether a U.S. work is protected by U.S. copyright is often a difficult question to answer. It can depend on factors such date of first publication, whether the work was published with a copyright notice, whether the copyright was renewed, whether the author is living or dead and, if dead, when the author died. Technology to the rescue!, sort of ….

Click on the graphic below to go to the American Library Association “Copyright Advisory Network” website where you can use the “digital slide rule” created by Michael Brewer (ALA member from the University of Arizona Library) to find the answer. Drag the red arrow up and down beside the various data points and see what the boxes to the left say (yes, no, maybe). Of course, “maybe” is the answer far too often, requiring the user to click the asterisk, read the explanation, do more research and …. oh well.… Read the full article