December 2006 Quick Links

By Eric Goldman

* JP Enterprises, Inc. v. HDVE, LLC, 1:06-cv-01046-REB-PAC (D. Colo.). In June 2006, JP Enterprises sued Yahoo for selling its trademarks for keyword-triggered ads. In December, JP Enterprises and Yahoo stipulated a dismissal of the case against Yahoo (the remaining defendants weren’t affected), presumably based on a settlement.

* Domain name valuations continue to rise. The latest overvalued domain name? Vodka.com, selling for $3M. This totally perplexes me. Can you imagine what $3M of well-spent PPC advertising would do?

* Amidst the TLD proliferation, ICANN is thinking about retiring some TLDs, such as .su for the (extinct) Soviet Union.

* According to ClickTales, “76% of the page-views with a scroll-bar, were scrolled to some extent[, and] 22% of the page-views with a scroll-bar, were scrolled all the way to the bottom.” From a legal standpoint, currently we assume that content “below the fold” usually is legally irrelevant. However, if users routinely scroll down on pages, this may require rethinking.

* Forbes’ special report: “Books.” Especially interesting stories:

- The Secret Life Of An Online Book Reviewer

- Cory Doctorow, Giving It Away

- Stop Worrying About Copyrights

- Publish And Perish (about picking storage media to archive human knowledge)

- The Networked Book (about using blogs as a complement to the book authoring process)

* How about this manipulative practice? Yelp, the local consumer review guide, pays “marketing assistants” to leave positive comments for review authors to “help make Yelp appear to be a vibrant and outgoing community in hopes that it will actually become one.” As the BusinessWeek article says, “Some reviewers may be turned off by the notion that an ostensibly disinterested fellow user is getting paid to compliment their writing.” Ya think? Hiring professional back-patters crosses my line.

UPDATE: I got the following email from Jeremy Stoppelman, founder of Yelp:

The Businessweek article is misleading so I can understand how you got that impression. Our system breaks down as follows:

Community Managers – responsible for local marketing & pr, organizing yelp events (offline) and for welcoming people to the site. People who are active in the community generally know this person (and that they are an employee) since they are organizing local events and emailing users all the time.

Marketing Assistants – the first people in a new market (that has little-to-no community), they are paid to update our crappy yellow pages data and write some of the first reviews (e.g. make the site not empty). We initially suggested they get active (post on talk, compliment if someone shows up), but turned away from that quickly (for the same concerns you raised).

The only critique left is that these people aren’t badged and I totally understand this issue (minor, but real). Therefore we decided before Christmas break we should badge all our marketing & community staff. This change should be out later tonight.

* The magazine Nature has ended its experiment with an open peer review process. Why? According to the AP, “The journal concluded that many researchers were either too busy or had no real incentive in evaluating their colleagues’ work publicly. In addition, none of the editors found the posted comments influenced their decision whether a paper gets published.” No point in manufacturing metadata if it’s not going to change the decision anyway! But this raises a related question–what incentives are needed to produce useful metadata?

* As written up in the NYT, Sao Paulo has outlawed a wide variety of outdoor advertising, including billboards, leaflets, advertising on the sides of buses/taxis, and via airplanes and blimps, and has promulgated strict rules on commercial signage. This is a radical experiment in the effort to reduce visual clutter by squelching the availability of a major class of advertising. But Chris Hoofnagle (who pointed out the article to me) wonders, where are these ad dollars going to go? Presumably they will be redirected into different ad media, with uncertain consequences. For more on the effect of regulation in one advertising medium on advertising in other media, see my Coasean Analysis of Marketing article.

* In response to the Google/China flap, the State Department in February 2006 established the Global Internet Freedom Task Force (GIFT). On December 20, the GIFT issued a press statement outlining its “GIFT Strategy” consisting of 3 principal points:

- MONITORING Internet freedom in countries around the world

- RESPONDING to challenges to Internet freedom.

- ADVANCING Internet freedom by expanding access to the Internet.

I wonder if this effort will moot the need for the Global Online Freedom Act?

* BusinessWeek article on domain tasting (with the wildly hyperbolic title “The Great Internet Brand Rip-Off”–an editor ran amok!). Domain tasting always has struck me as a silly issue. Of course if you offer marketers a way to get exposure to consumers for free, some of them will abuse it! But I just have to believe that the legitimate utility of the 5 day refund period is low, if not zero. So the refund period should be killed, and consumers who make a typographical error when registering domain names should be SOL (much like it’s almost impossible to fix an error if a consumer buys the wrong non-refundable airline tickets).

* Rick Skrenta: “RIP DMOZ: 1998-2006.”

* AP Story updating the Steinbuch v. Cutler case. The case is in discovery now, and there’s no sign that it will avoid a trial.

* Tom Smedinghoff wrote an excellent recap of last year’s developments in the field of information security law: Where We’re Headed — New Developments and Trends in the Law of Information Security.

* In December, Shuman (Google’s click fraud czar) reportedly said that Google’s click fraud rates were less than 2%, but then Google backpedaled and obfuscated about what Shuman had really said. In yet another terrific post, Danny sorts through the mess and tells us what we know and don’t know about click fraud rates. Read the whole thing.

* Jeffrey Rohrs is one of the people I trust for expert opinions. I don’t agree with his plaintiff-side orientation, but I respect his perspectives. He’s written an analysis of the click fraud issue that he calls the Sausage Manifesto. A recap of Google’s responses to the manifesto.

* Jennifer Granick predicts that EULAs and the law of mass surveillance will be the hot legal issues of 2007. Both seem good bets; I’d add to that list that this year we’ll spend a lot of time irresolutely chasing our tail on the net neutrality issue.