February 2007 Quick Links

By Eric Goldman

* The California Highway Patrol (which, for reasons unclear to me, has investigatory power here) has concluded that the Angelides campaign did not break any laws when they reverse-guessed URLs on Schwarzenegger’s website and found an unrestricted page with a video of the Gov wondering about Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia’s “hot” temperament because of her mixture of “black blood” and “Latino blood” and referring to Assembly Republicans as a “wild bunch.” The CHP did recommend that Schwarzenegger’s team tighten up their website security. Silly reminder: if you really want keep information a secret, don’t put it on a website without password protection.

UPDATE: Greg Haverkamp points me to this document, which explains that the CHP has enforcement power over Penal Code 502 violations involving state computers. Interesting. In my mind, I see Erik Estrada revving up his PowerBook to bust some baddies…

* Voda v. Cordis Corp., 2007 WL 269431 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 1, 2007). Patent owner can’t litigate infringement of foreign patent rights in US court as part of supplemental jurisdiction over a US patent infringement claim. Patry’s writeup.

* NYT on how YouTube indirectly motivates teens to deliberately do stupid things just for the opportunity to post them and perhaps get notoriety. I had a first-hand observation of this when I trolled through YouTube looking for a Listerine commercial that I might show in class while teaching a case involving Listerine. A search for the word “Listerine” in YouTube produces video after video of people doing stupid things with Listerine, like eating big stacks of their breath film or snorting the breath spray and then writhing in pain. Watching video after video of people repetitively doing stupid stunts, I felt like shouting to these people: “IF YOU’RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING STUPID ON YOUTUBE, AT LEAST BE ORIGINAL!”

* From Steve Bryant at eWeek: Shannon Stovall sues Yahoo for including her photo in Yahoo’s welcome email, claiming Yahoo violated her rights of publicity/privacy to the tune of $10M compensatory damages and $10M punitive damages.

* Digg users may mark content they don’t agree with as “spam.” The most recent example is Danny Sullivan’s post on SEO, which got Dugg and then was eliminated when anti-SEO Digg users flagged it as spam. If a website defers content grading to its users, it has to trust that they are reporting their feedback accurately. If they aren’t, the whole user grading process breaks down. And speaking of breakdowns, there is an active secondary market for Digg votes–check out how Annalee Newitz bought front page placement on Digg for about $100.

* The always-colorful Chris Hoofnagle has released a new paper, “The Denialists’ Deck of Cards: An Illustrated Taxonomy of Rhetoric Used to Frustrate Consumer Protection Efforts.” By his standards, I suspect I’ve dealt a full house with some of my rhetoric! Now, I wonder if he’s going to create a complementary deck for bogus rhetorical tactics used by consumer protection “advocates”?

* From the EFF: “Debbie Foster, a single mom who was improperly sued by the RIAA back in 2004 for file sharing, has won back her attorneys’ fees.” Capitol Records v. Foster, No. 04-1569-W (W.D. Okla. Feb. 6, 2007). Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the plaintiff from advancing nonsense arguments in the case, including the specious argument that a computer owner is automatically responsible if third parties use the computer to infringe copyrights. Fred at the EFF rightly debunks this argument.

* Wikipedia article: “Wikipedia is Failing.” Your perspective about success or failure may be influenced by the impressive traffic gains that Wikipedia is experiencing–Wikipedia is now one of the top 10 most trafficked websites. Most of that traffic is coming from Google.

* Doe v. Josef Silney & Assoc., No 07-04167CA15 (Fla. Cir. Ct. complaint dated Feb., 13, 2007). Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sues an alleged vandal of his Wikipedia page for defamation and related torts. Fortunately, he left Wikipedia out of the suit. However, he only knows the IP address of the person who modified the page, and that IP address is registered to the defendant. Is owning the IP address enough to establish liability? Or is this like an RIAA blunderbuss sue-first, ask-questions-later approach? It seems like the lawsuit should have been against a Doe, with a subpoena to find out who actually edited the page using that IP address.

* US v. Twombly, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 12664 (S.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2007). A spammer challenges some criminal provisions of CAN-SPAM as vague and overbroad, but the judge has no problems reading the statute to facilitate sending spammers to the slammer. Venkat’s writeup.

* CDT groks (and mostly bashes) a variety of online kid-protection bills proposed in Congress.

* From the NYT: Nancy Pelosi posted some videos from C-SPAN to her blog. The Republicans immediately attack her for “pirating” the videos. Turns out that those videos were actually recorded by the government, so they are in the public domain. Whoops! The Republicans had to issue a mea culpa retraction. However, Nancy did grab a C-SPAN-owned video elsewhere which she had to take down. If our legislative leaders can’t figure out what video they can recycle, how in the world can less-trained lay people do so? Patry has more.

* A bearish view on domain name speculation from CircleID. I share the sentiment that domain names don’t matter, so domaining and typosquatting strike me as a short-term arbitrage opportunity that inevitably will be mooted by a variety of forces. Thus, the idea of paying 40 or 60 years worth of revenue for a domain name is laugh-out-loud funny to me.

* The Long Tail notes that some brands, trying to build a more esoteric image, try to hide their ownership by mainstream mass-market brands, a phenomenon he calls “brand dis-synergy.” Examples: Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Joseph Schmidt, Cacao Reserve and Scharffen Berger chocolates (all owned by Hershey) and Converse (owned by Nike).

* Veritas busted for manufacturing revenues via round-tripping with AOL (Veritas bought AOL ads and AOL bought Veritas software; each at inflated prices).

* What does “or” mean? According to the 8th Circuit, it can mean “and.” Ken Adams is on the case.

* Ricky Hoggard Holman, a 18 year old high schooler in Sudbury, Canada, correctly blogged all 24 of the American Idol finalists. How? Online research, such as researching the MySpace pages of contestants and emailing their MySpace friends. He also talked to some of the booted final 40 contestants, a few of whom broke their punitive-laden confidentiality agreement to dish some dirt. Maybe he wasn’t studying, but clearly he’s learned a few things about the power of good old-fashioned research. (The article says he’s a straight A student, so he clearly can balance many things). Nice job, Ricky!