June 2009 Quick Links, Part 2

By Eric Goldman

State Regulation of the Internet

* iAWFUL, the Internet Advocates Watchlist for Ugly Laws

* Texas HB 2003. Part of the anti-cyber-harassment mania. Very broad statute with lots of room for prosecutorial mischief.

* BNA (BNA subscription required): “State Legislatures Consider Criminal, Civil Restrictions on Ticket Purchasing Software”: “At least six state legislative bodies are considering bills this session that would place restrictions on the use of “ticket bots.””

* Because states are embracing the Amazon affiliate tax, the online affiliate industry is shrinking as we speak (1, 2, 3). But in one of his rare good moves, Schwarzenegger has vetoed CA’s attempt to impose the Amazon tax.

* Clive Thompson in Wired: “By severing the link between location and geography, the internet turned everything upside down. Now mobile phones are inverting everything again, in the other direction — because your location becomes most important thing about you. So how is the return of geography going to change our lives?” My previous commentary on geolocation and the law.

Blogs/Social Networking Sites

* Yath v. Fairview Clinic, 2009 WL 1751767 (Minn. App. Ct. June 23, 2009). Posting illegitimately obtained health information to a MySpace page qualified as “publicity” for purposes of an invasion of privacy claim. The court says: “Yath’s private information was posted on a public MySpace.com webpage for anyone to view. This Internet communication is materially similar in nature to a newspaper publication or a radio broadcast because upon release it is available to the public at large.” As a result, the publication qualified as “publicity” even if the material was posted for less than 48 hours and the plaintiff could only prove that a small number of folks actually saw it. Compare the Moreno v. Hanford Sentinel case, where republication of information the plaintiff voluntarily published on her MySpace page could not support an invasion of privacy claim.

Nevertheless, the defendants were excused because they had not created the MySpace page, even though they had supplied the information republished on the MySpace page.

* Richerson v. Beckon. Ninth Circuit upheld reassignment of teacher-mentor based on negative blog comments. My blog post on the district court opinion.

* Kaufman v. Islamic Soc. of Arlington, -2009 WL 1815641 (Tex. App. Ct. June 25, 2009). An online-only journalist qualified as a “member of the electronic or print media” for purposes of an interlocutory appeal statute.

* After von Brunn committed his hate crime outside the US Holocaust Museum, a bunch of his digital trails went dark as websites newly realized his vitriol was posted there.

* If you’re looking for a paper topic, here’s one: the use of MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites in family law disputes, especially over child custody. I’m seeing cases every week where social networking site postings are being introduced to corroborate or contradict testimony about a parent’s fitness.

Security

* FTC v. Pricewert. The FTC takes down an allegedly rogue Internet access provider. To the extent that the IAP is engaged in criminal activities, no problem; but it’s less clear to me if the FTC can get a civil injunction under its Sec. 5 authority to stop the IAP from serving its putatively illegal customers. Such an action could be preempted by 47 USC 230. The FTC, in its brief, says the IAP fits into a Roommates.com exception, an argument presumably bolstered by their 10th Circuit win in FTC v. Accusearch.

* Johnson v. Microsoft Corp., 2009 WL 1794400 (W.D. Wash. June 23, 2009). This is a putative class action over Microsoft’s use of Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to validate copies of Windows XP. In this ruling, Microsoft gets SJ on the claim alleging that the contract prevented Microsoft from doing WGA validation. Especially interesting is the court’s conclusion that IP addresses are not personally identifiable information.

* Microsoft v. Lam. Microsoft brings a lawsuit against alleged click fraudders who caused Microsoft to issue $1.5M in credits to advertisers. The NYT article.

* EFF on the most recent amendments to the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act.

Miscellaneous

* Expedia tagged for $184M in damages for improperly marking up its service fees.

* In re Jamster Mktg. Litig., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43592 (S.D. Cal. May 22, 2009). Wireless carriers aren’t liable under RICO and false advertising laws for various deceptive practices by wireless content providers.

* New unmeritorious patent lawsuit trend: lawsuits over patent markings for expired patents.

* NYT: Investing in Lawsuits, for a Share of the Awards

* Oddee: 15 geekiest license plates:

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