August 2008 Quick Links, Part 2

By Eric Goldman

Net Neutrality

* The FCC gets on Comcast’s case for deceptively blocking BitTorrent connections without disclosure. While I don’t know anyone who has defended Comcast’s behavior here, at the same time there is an undercurrent of concern about the FCC’s authority to regulate Internet activities. Could this be the FCC camel’s nose in the Internet’s tent? We will learn more about the FCC’s authority because Comcast has appealed the FCC’s decision.

* A topic I haven’t seen discussed very much: how the doctrine of trespass to chattels intersects with net neutrality principles. The only article I found in a 60 second search on the topic was a couple of paragraphs in J. Gregory Sidak, A Consumer-Welfare Approach to Network Neutrality Regulation of the Internet, 2 J. Competition L. & Econ. 349 (2006).

Contracts

* Jacobsen v. Katzer (Fed. Cir. Aug. 13, 2008). This ruling has been hailed as a validation of open source licenses, but I’m not sure what to make of this opinion. If the opinion merely says that breach of a copyright license can support copyright infringement, that’s no big deal. However, among other conspicuous omissions, the court does not discuss how the licensor formed a contract in this case. Thus, if the court’s conclusion is that copyright owners can impose conditions on licensees’ enjoyment of their copyright without properly forming a contract, then this opinion could undo the entire scheme of online contract formation. For example, it could support a conclusion that browsewrap-style “contracts”/terms of use should be enforceable as conditions on the accessing of copyrighted web pages. See, e.g., Ticketmaster v. RMG.

* Interactive Retail Management, Inc. v. Microsoft Online, L.P., 2008 WL 3851691 (Fla. App. Ct. Aug. 20, 2008). This is a click fraud case I hadn’t heard about previously. Microsoft won at the trial court on jurisdiction grounds. This court revives the lawsuit for more jurisdictional investigation.

* Jeff Neuburger on a Wisconsin case saying that the UCC governs contract formation via email instead of UETA.

* Request for your guidance. Wikipedia has some photos that simultaneously say they are released under both a Creative Commons license and the GFDL. See, e.g., this photo. The license terms are irreconcilably inconsistent. If someone wants to use such a photo, now what?

Competition Restrictions

* Edwards v. Arthur Andersen (CA Sup. Ct. Aug. 6, 2008). The Ninth Circuit was wrong to create a narrow restraint exception to B&P 16600, the California statute voiding non-compete clauses.

* XPEL Technologies Corp. v. American Filter Film Distributors, 2008 WL 3540345 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2008). Rebecca on an odd case involving (once again) the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions as an anti-competition tool.

Miscellaneous

* Two interesting studies recently about people’s response to spam. Despite the animosity, a quarter of consumers have responded to cellphone spam and 30% say they have made purchases in response to spam. For more complementary statistics and my attempt to explain this seeming dichotomy, see here.

* The First Circuit issued an interesting DMCA 1201 case that I haven’t seen discussed. The BNA summary: “District court properly granted summary judgment to plaintiff cable television service provider on claim that defendants violated Digital Millennium Copyright Act by selling low-frequency signal filters, within plaintiff’s service area, that were capable of bypassing plaintiff’s pay-per-view billing mechanism, since plaintiff’s pay-per-view delivery and billing system is technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted works, and digital cable filter allows subscribers to “avoid” or “bypass” that technological measure (CoxCom Inc. v. Chaffee, 1st Cir., 8/4/08)”

* AP v. Moreover settles. My initial post on the lawsuit.

* Funny YouTube video: “Here Comes Another Bubble,” set to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

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