June 2009 Quick Links, Part 1

By Eric Goldman

Just a reminder that I post some items to Twitter that don’t make it into these monthly recaps. If you want even more, you can track a superset of my online activities at Friendfeed.

Search Engines

* All Things Digital had an interesting 3 part series on the role of humans in configuring Google’s algorithms: Scott Huffman; Matt Cutts; Amit Singhal. My initial 2005 blog post on the topic.

* More evidence of the deleterious consequences of latency on users’ enjoyment of search results pages.

* Google is stumping in favor of its book search settlement deal and putting on the “charm offensive.”

* Wired on niche search engines competing around the edges of Google.

* Google has dropped its feature that allowed quoted sources to reply in Google News.

* First, kosher phones. Now, kosher search engines.


* Wendy Davis on a trademark lawsuit against Craigslist for allegedly infringing ad copy supplied by one of its users.

* Rookie mistake: Tony LaRussa publicly announced a settlement deal in his trademark lawsuit against Twitter before the papers were signed. Guess what….NO DEAL! UPDATE: A deal was struck subsequently.

* Speaking of which…the WSJ on Twittersquatting.

* WSJ: Europe’s High Court Tries On a Bunny Suit Made of Chocolate. The EU struggles with trademarkability of chocolate bunnies.

* Productive People, LLC v. Ives Design (D. Ariz. May 29, 2009). TRO against a domainer.

* Oddee: 10 of the Worst Restaurant Names ever.


* Supreme Court declined certiorari in the Cartoon Network v. CSC case.

* Arista Records LLC v. Usenet.com, Inc., 2009 WL 1873589 (S.D.N.Y. June 30, 2009). Usenet service provider committed (1) direct copyright infringement (because it “actively engaged in the process so as to satisfy the “volitional-conduct” requirement for direct infringement”) as well as contributory infringement, vicarious infringement and inducement of infringement. This case was colored by defendants’ evidence spoliation and the lack of a viable 512 defense; in situations like this, courts smack down defendants hard. The court’s analysis would be troubling for many online service providers if this case isn’t an outlier. Mike Masnick has more on the import (or lack thereof) of this case.

* Brave New Films 501(C)(4) v. Weiner, 2009 WL 1622385 (N.D. Cal. Jun 10, 2009). BNF was denied summary judgment on its declaratory judgment request because (a) Savage never threatened BNF directly, and (b) ORTN, which did threaten BNF directly, isn’t the copyright owner. My previous coverage of this case.

User Agreements

* In the Matter of Sears Holdings Management Corporation. The FTC busted Sears for installing tracking software/spyware, even though Sears (1) asked all users to expressly opt-in, (2) paid users $10 to install the software, and (3) made full disclosure of the thorough tracking function of the spyware in the user agreement, albeit late in the installation process and in a buried fashion.

* Universal Grading Service v. eBay Inc., No. 08-CV-3557 (E.D.N.Y. June 10, 2009). eBay venue selection clause upheld.

* McMillan v. Wells Fargo, 2009 WL 1686431 (N.D. Cal. June 12, 2009). Wells Fargo asks some customers to agree to four different documents with differing governing law/venue selection clauses, leading to massive judicial confusion about how to determine governing law and venue.

* I’m using EFF’s new “TOSBack” tool to track changes to major online services’ user agreements. For my commentary on an article by Becher/Zarsky predicting the development of tools like this, see my writeup.