December 2008 Quick Links, Part 1

By Eric Goldman


* Stockwire Research Group, Inc. v. Lebed, 577 F .Supp. 2d 1262 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 18, 2008). $2.5M default judgment for violation of anti-circumvention provisions.

* The RIAA announced that it is shifting away from suing its customers to putting more pressure on Internet access providers to do their dirty work. Fred at EFF and Mike Masnick weigh in. But Mike wonders if the RIAA is really changing its practices?

* Capitol Records v. Thomas, No. 06-1497 (MJD/RLE) (D. Minn. Dec. 23, 2008). In the Jammie Thomas case, the judge refused to certify the “making available” theory for an interlocutory appeal.

Trademarks/Domain Names

* Nerds on Call (Indiana) v. Nerds on Call (California), 1:07-cv-00535-DFH-TAB (S.D. Ind. Dec. 22, 2008):

The court realizes that a simple internet search for “nerds on call” could return the Nerds/California site. If a person has lived in Indiana and used Nerds/Indiana’s services before, the person might be confused momentarily. Given trademark law’s explicit approval of concurrent uses of marks in different geographic areas or product markets, see 15 U.S.C.A. §1052(d), this momentary confusion on the internet is not a sign of intentional targeting. The internet is available worldwide. Use of a locally established trademark on a website may cause momentary confusion among consumers. The solution to that problem is not to require that all trademarks be given worldwide effect even if their non-web use is limited to a narrow geographic area. Instead, users of the web simply need to understand that a worldwide web search may turn up results from distant businesses.

* Saint Louis University v. Meyer, 2008 WL 5412263 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 24, 2008). SLU allegedly threatened to close the student newspaper, so the paper’s faculty advisor registered a new non-profit organization with the secretary of state under the name “The University News, a Student Voice Serving Saint Louis University Since 1921” in case the students wanted to go independent. The university and the students worked out a deal, and the faculty advisor promptly dissolved the organization without ever having done anything with it. Still, the university sued the advisor for trademark infringement, dilution and other claims. In this ruling, the court rejects most of the claims because the advisor never made a “trademark use in commerce.” Why was the university suing its own tenured faculty member for forming and then promptly dissolving a non-profit organization without ever using it? Makes no sense to me.

* 1-800 Contracts, Inc. v., Inc., 2008 WL 5191705 (D. Utah Dec. 10, 2008). In a trademark lawsuit over keyword purchases, is hit with sanctions for discovery abuses.

* The EFF has collected amicus briefs in the Tiffany v. eBay appeal to the Second Circuit.

* WSJ on the growth in numerical SLDs.

* Paul Levy shines the spotlight on yet more questionable marketing practices by Lifestyle Lift.


* GateHouse v. New York Time. The CMLP page. Another silly anti-deep linking and headlines-as-copyright infringement lawsuit, this time between two media companies. Some of the claims are clearly off-base, like the trademark claims. Note to dilution plaintiffs: it is almost impossible by definition to be both a hyper-local business and a famous trademark. Also oxymoronic is the allegation that the sites are competitors when a competitor is prominently promoting the website and apparently passing PageRank. If you are my competitor and would like to pass me some PageRank, I would be happy to chat. The most novel part is the plaintiff’s attempt to use the Creative Commons license as an affirmative contract to claim breach of contract. I can’t recall a similar allegation in the past where the Creative Commons license was used as a sword instead of a shield. Finally, the complaint doesn’t mention anywhere that the plaintiff’s website apparently offers RSS feeds, which raises a bunch of problems for its arguments.

* McVey v. Day, 2008 WL 5395214 (Cal. App. Ct. Dec. 23, 2008). This is a dispute between rival members of the teacher’s union. Among other activities, the defendant sent an email linking to a website that had allegedly defamatory statements about the plaintiff, but the website’s statements were authored by third parties. In this ruling, the court grants the defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion, saying that the defendant wasn’t liable for the emailed links per 47 USC 230. This is another nice anti-SLAPP win for Internet content, following on December’s Higher Balance case.

Some Personal Notes

* I’ll be at AALS and plan to attend the blogger’s get-together Thursday night. If you’re going to be around, hope to see you there!

* If you’re in the Sacramento area on January 13, come to this free event!

* Most of you know that I maintain my personal blog for posts that don’t really belong on this blog. But you may not know that I’ve also been Twittering with some regularity. Check it out!

* Good news: this blog is a finalist for Best Law Blog from Weblog Awards.