Oct.-Nov. 2007 Quick Links, Part 1

By Eric Goldman

I was so jammed at the beginning of November that I didn’t have time to post my quick links from October. Never fear; that omission is being corrected with a double shot of quick links covering October and November:

Wikipedia

* Slashdot: Has Wikipedia peaked? If true, I’m not surprised.

* The new status symbol of the digital age? A personal Wikipedia page. FWIW, my personal Wikipedia page was crunched and rolled into a general criticism of Wikipedia page. I found this ironic given that the Wikipedians had already caucused about the merits of my page and decided not to kill it; and then a single Wikipedian swept through and ignored that decision. Sounds like the process worked really well there, guys.

* The newest fork from Wikipedia: Veropedia.

Google

* Webmasters give preference to the Googlebot over other search engine robots in robots.txt files.

* Searchers prefer Google results in a blind taste test. But…searchers also prefer search results when they are branded Google!

* For years, people have speculated that Google advertisers get extra bounce in organic search results. Search Engine Guide lays out the case.

* Carl Person isn’t giving up in his (unquestionably futile) fight against Google. The latest: he’s appealed his case to the Ninth Circuit. HT Links & Law.

Adware/Spyware

* FTC Commissioner Leibowitz thinks bigger civil fines would help shut down more spyware operators. Then again, it seems like the market is doing that job for them; another adware vendor, DirectRevenue, has gone under.

* Zango has appealed Zango v. Kaspersky to the Ninth Circuit. I wasn’t a fan of this lawsuit from the outset, so pursuing the case sounds like a mistake to me.

Virtual Worlds

* Herman Miller (maker of the famous Aeron chairs–I had one at Epinions) is combating the makers of fake virtual Aeron chairs in Second Life.

* Bragg v. Linden Lab has settled. The case involved a claim that Linden Lab improperly impounded some virtual assets.

* Wired: “Cheaters in multiplayer online games beware: Game developers are turning to advanced financial fraud-detection software to keep you from crooking your way to online riches.”

47 USC 230

* Roskowski v. Corvallis Police Officers’ Ass’n, 2007 WL 2963633 (9th Cir. Oct. 10, 2007). A summary opinion upholding a dismissal based on 47 USC 230. See my blog post on the district court ruling. Michael Erhman’s comments.

* The US Supreme Court denied certiorari in Perfect 10 v. ccBill.

* The AutoAdmit plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that dropped Ciolli as a defendant and reworked the substantive allegations. Coverage: Above the Law, Concurring Opinions (1, 2), WSJ Law Blog.

* A former student informed me that a judge on the show Boston Legal (the Nov. 13 episode, “Attack of the Xenophobes,” episode 74) applied 47 USC 230–correctly!–to dismiss a lawsuit against YouTube for a defamatory video. See the episode recap.

Online Contracts

* Adsit Co. v. Gustin (Ind. Ct. App. Oct. 16, 2007). Daughter-in-law gives credit card number to mom-in-law to complete online transaction. Court holds that mom-in-law acted as daughter-in-law’s agent and thus bound the daughter-in-law to the vendor’s clickthrough agreement. Accord: the Hofer and Abramson cases.

* Whitnum v. Yahoo, Inc., 2007 WL 2609825 (NY Supreme Court, Sept. 5, 2007). Woman sought damages because Yahoo shut down her website the same day she got a good publicity hit. Yahoo pointed to the liability limits in its user agreement, and the court found that those limits supported a motion to dismiss. Given the ubiquity of similar provisions in web hosting contracts, this case nicely illustrates that web hosting customers really don’t have any recourse if their vendor just shuts them down. This is also why I find 17 USC 512(g) (the DMCA limit on liability if a web host honors a counter-notification) so baffling—web hosts don’t need any help from the statutory safe harbor when they have already eliminated the risk through their contracts.

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