Feb. 2008 Quick Links

By Eric Goldman


* BusinessWeek: Monetizing social networking sites isn’t as easy as everyone had hoped, clickthrough rates are through the floor (0.04%!), and ad proliferation on the sites is driving users away.

* Wilbur, Kenneth C. and Zhu, Yi, “Click Fraud” (January 2, 2008). This paper appears to argue that search engines can increase their profits by failing to disclose the true rate of click fraud on their network.

* In re Miva, Inc. Securities Litigation, 2008 WL 450037 (M.D. Fla. Feb. 15, 2008). This lawsuit alleges that Miva and some associated individuals understated or misreported Miva’s reliance on click fraud, spyware and third party distributors in its public statements and thus inflated the company’s stock price. Last year, the court dismissed many of the allegations but let a couple survive. In this ruling, the court dismisses a few more defendants from some statements and lets the rest of the case proceed.

* Going-out-of-business sales are often just another scam. (HT ContractsProf). Note this is completely consistent with economists’ theoretical predictions of final-period behavior of trademark owners.


* Google’s stock has lost $70B in market cap in 7 weeks. Oh darn. Clickz offers some theories about why Google’s clicks are declining. Could lower rates of click fraud be part of it?

* Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist, argues that Google’s marketplace success is solely due to its “secret sauce” (i.e., the advantage of learning by doing) rather than any defects in the marketplace.


* Jaynes v. Virginia (Va. Sup. Ct. Feb. 29, 2008). By a 4-3 vote, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld Jeremy Jaynes’ 9 year sentence for violating Virginia’s spam law.

* Silverstein v. Experienced Internet.com, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 3364 (9th Cir. 2008). Ninth Circuit dismissed a CAN-SPAM lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction when the defendants attest that they didn’t send the message and aren’t local.

Domain Names

* NSI has been sued for its practice of grabbing pre-registration domain names based on WHOIS searches. The complaint. Good luck defending those practices, NSI!

* Two more breathy articles about the economics of domaining from the New York Times and Network World.

47 USC 230

* Johnson v. Barras, 2007 CA 001600 B (DC Superior Ct Feb. 1, 2008). Court dismisses a lawsuit against a website for republishing a defamatory story per 47 USC 230.

* Yet another doomed lawsuit against MySpace for facilitating communications between an adult male and an underage female that led to sex. Sam Bayard’s comments.


* NY Lawyer (login required): “Defense Bar Sees Growing Practice in Internet Sex Crimes

* A federal obscenity prosecution for publishing graphic short stories (without pictures) on the Internet? As Tim Wu says, “astonishing.”

* The Utah legislature is considering entering the marketplace again, this time through a certification mark program for Internet access providers who are willing to combat porn. See HB407. Of course, the Utah legislature has had terrific success in the past creating successful new business opportunities that the marketplace has overlooked.

User-Generated Content

* Nick Carr: “What we’ve seen happen with self-regulating communities, both real and virtual, is that they go through a brief initial period during which their performance improves – a kind of honeymoon period, when people are on their best behavior and rascals are quickly exposed and put to rout – but then, at some point, their performance turns downward. They begin, naturally, to decay.” Like, I think, Wikipedia.

* Slate on the top-heavy nature of contributions to Wikipedia and Digg.

* Christian Science Monitor: Teachers Strike Back at Students’ Online Pranks.

* Sam Bayard on a motion to quash in the AutoAdmit case.


* eBay no longer lets sellers leave negative/neutral feedback for buyers. This putatively stops sellers from retaliating against buyers who leave legitimate complaints, but it also skews the database towards only positive reviews, which ultimately undercuts its credibility.

* In India, where courtships remain very brief by US standards and grooms can be paid dowries by the bride’s families, there is an emerging trend for brides to hire “wedding detectives” to ferret out the scoop on grooms and whether their representations are correct.

* Funny article on being a secret shopper for Consumer Reports.

* Dan Solove’s book, The Future of Reputation, is now available online for free. Ethan’s review of the book.


* Six years later, eBay finally buys it now: eBay v. MercExchange settles with eBay buying out some of MercExchange’s patents and licensing others.

* Mike Masnick: “Psst! Patent Examiners Do Not Scale


* Mike Masnick: “Why We Should All Want Politicians Who Plagiarize.”

* Do Not Resuscitate…My Copyrights (funny).


* Citizen Media Law Project has a useful discussion on getting insurance for cyberlaw risks.

* People v. Fernino, 2008 WL 382348 (N.Y. City Crim. Ct. Feb. 13, 2008) (woman violated a no-contact order when sending a MySpace message to the person).

* Mike Masnick: “We Need A Broadband Competition Act, Not A Net Neutrality Act

* A retrospective on some of the leading dot-coms from the 1990s.