April-May 2011 Quick Links, Part 3

By Eric Goldman

Search Engines

* Google is working on a deal with the DOJ over illegal pharmaceutical ads and has set aside $500M for fines. Some background on the problem. Google isn’t the only search engine with problematic pharmaceutical ads. Will the other companies be getting the DOJ’s call too?

* Kevin Kelly: “This is the great gift of the free web. It has made some goods so cheap to acquire — like answers, encyclopedia facts, directions, weather reports, recommendations — that we generate entirely new realms of activity by doing far more of them. More is different. We ask so many more questions than before that this ask-and-answer is something new. Have you ever wondered where all our questions were before search engines? We didn’t even bother to ask them.”

* Vitaly Borker, who tried to game Google’s algorithm by seeking out bad consumer reviews, will be going to prison.

* Google won ALM’s Best Legal Department in 2011. This article has a great inside look at Google’s legal department and how it makes decisions.

* More winners and losers from Google’s algorithmic update.

* Latest antitrust enforcement challenge for Google: South Korea.

* More search censorship in Argentina. The ruling in Spanish.

* Yahoo changed its search log retention period from 3 months to 18.

* Market America is appealing its court loss to Google to the Third Circuit. Most recent blog post.

* Apple jiggers with the ranking algorithm for apps in its app store.

* CNET: “Bing head says ‘traditional search’ is dying.”

* Realcomp II, Ltd v. FTC, 11a0084p.06 (6th Cir. April 6, 2011). A monopolistic real estate electronic network violated antitrust laws when it provided only limited syndication of real estate listings subject to non-standard brokerage fee arrangements. Implications for Google?

* JC Penney’s 90 day timeout from Google for black hat SEO appears to be over.

* Gord Hotchkiss: “Why Results Quality Is So Important to Search Engines”

Privacy and Security

* Facebook tried to conduct a whisper campaign to bash Google on privacy. That backfired. Steven Levy: “Facebook’s Stealth Attack on Google Exposes Its Own Privacy Problem.” Danny Sullivan: “How Facebook Enables The Google Social “Scraping” It’s Upset About.”

* Not everyone loves the WSJ “What They Know” series.

* Kate Kaye of ClickZ on which of the half-dozen Congressional privacy bills the ad industry should favor.

* WSJ: Schmidt: Google Trying to Simplify Privacy Policies, but Lawyers Get In the Way.

* Less than 1% of Firefox users are using Do Not Track TPLs.

* Third party misuse of an open wifi leads to an unhappy wake-up call for the wifi owner.

* FTC gets $3M settlement from Playdom for COPPA violations. Among other purported defects, Playdom asked kids their ages and purported to bounce underage kids, but gave those kids the option to proceed just by checking a box rather than obtaining verifiable parental consent.

* An IP address can now pin down your location to within a half mile.

* The Sony Playstation hack of 70M member records will probably make my year-end list of top 10 Internet law developments. This event will be horking the law for the better part of a decade.

* EFF on how the Kerry-McCain privacy bill would preempt state law.

* Apple tried to squash the Mac Defender malware in its latest operating system release, but didn’t get very far. Microsoft has made such benevolent dictatorship decisions before as well.

Publicity Rights and Trade Secrets

* Reality TV show participants were sued for prematurely revealing the show’s outcome (in a lawsuit over the show’s alleged failure to pay). See my first year Contract Law problem on maintaining secrecy in reality TV shows.

* Stars on the red carpet grant an implied license to their publicity rights in photos taken there.

* Basketball player Chris Bosh sues the mother of his child to prevent her from appearing in a reality TV show “Basketball Wives.”

* Larry Montz v. Pilgrim Film and Television, 08-56954 (9th Cir. May 4, 2011). In an idea submission case, “We again hold that copyright law does not preempt a contract claim where plaintiff alleges a bilateral expectation that he would be compensated for use of the idea, the essential element of a Desny claim that separates it from preempted claims for the use of copyrighted material.” The panel also reversed the district court conclusion that a “breach of confidence” claim was preempted.

* Many publicity rights complaints over Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories”: Fraley v. Facebook; JN v Facebook; and EKD v. Facebook. Filings in the Cohen v. Facebook case: motion to dismiss and supplemental brief on 47 USC 230.

* Litigation over Donald Trump’s licensing of his name to home developers. Interesting issues about a trademark licensor’s liability for a licensee’s activity and liability by endorsers for bum offerings.

* MGA spent $130M in its legal battle with Mattel.