FTC Moves Towards “Do Not Track” List

The FTC recently testified before Congress that there should be a function in browsers to allow a “Do Not Track” option. I am a bit cynical about how effective this might be considering I get robo-calls offering to lower my interest despite the “Do Not Call” list and I still get spam despite CAN-SPAM and other legislation. But as always, details matter. Is this going to work or cripple the free ad-supported Internet we have grown to love and loathe? I offer for your consideration a links:

FTC’s Statement
CNN’s “Do Not Track Would Cripple Web Giants”
Statement from the EFF
How Would Do Not Track Work?

Is Libel Online Going Away?

I found two interesting articles this weekend on the topic of libel online. The first is a post by Daniel Solove talking about the slow demise of privacy torts as well as libel and slander. The most interesting point to me was that the New York Times currently does not have any libel cases pending right now, whereas they used to have several at any given time.

Is Libel really going away? The next post made me think not. This one is a story of police officer is suing YouTube over parody videos of him. Apparently he was caught on video being particularly aggressive with a protester armed with bubbles. Yes, bubbles. He isn’t a public figure, but I don’t think any of the videos were doing anything beyond commenting on the reasonableness of his behavior.

I won’t comment on the merits of the case but I think its probably more representative of a growing type of libel case and why the lack of libel suits against the NYT probably doesn’t mean that libel is going away. With more people publishing there is more nasty stuff published, and probably more lawsuits. Professor Solove’s broader point was that we still should have access to justice for libel. I think we will, but the nature of the likely defendant is probably changing.

Wall Street Journal Adds Digital Privacy Series

The Wall Street Journal has added a investigative series to their blog titled What They Know. Sounds sufficiently scary.

I think this is noteworthy for two reasons. First, its a sign that the intersection of privacy and marketing is no longer an issue just for law geeks. Second, the blog seems to have done a fairly good job of visualizing how data is used by third parties.

It will probably surprise many to see that something as seemingly innocuous as online dictionaries can be used to collect so much information about people.

Dot Anything?

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) are .com, .edu, .org and so forth. There have been proposals before ICANN for a few years now to allow new gTLDs to be just about anything people want, such as .godfread. There are of course trademark and other intellectual property concerns and its not entirely clear how ICANN will address resolving the disputes that might arise when two parties both claim rights in a new gTLD. Nevertheless, it seems as though sometime in the not to distant future, we may see a whole new universe of domain names.
ICANN New gTLD Information Page

HT to Martin Schwimmer at the Trademark Blog

Yelp! sued in class action over extortion

There’s even a blog about it. I use Yelp! only occasionally but I do rely on reviews on Google and elsewhere. This can be a touchy subject for many small business owners as they can and do find customers through online reviews.I found my barber through those reviews and I know he takes those online reviews pretty seriously. Its also ripe for abuse as small businesses may be tempted to put as many five star reviews up as the can. What this lawsuit alleges though is that Yelp! asked for money to make the bad reviews go away. Yelp! denies this and states that they only remove reviews that they believe are illegitimate.


They Don’t Make Computer Manuals Like This Anymore

Actually, I don’t think they even make computer manuals any more. At least not ones that come with your computer. Either way, this manual from a Franklin Ace 1000 is seems so foreign, so unlike any documentation you might get today that its almost amusing. Its part rant, part manifesto and it breaks up the world into “THEM”, “US” and “YOU.” From the manual:

“Program manufacturers are natural paranoids. In their zeal to “copy protect” their programs, they tend to regard all customers as potential thieves”

Interestingly enough, Franklin made Apple computer clones and was successfully sued by Apple for copyright infringement of Apple’s operating system. Natural paranoids indeed.

Full article at Ironic Sans. HT to BoingBoing

Who owns your digital life?

I was recently quoted on the Agency Babylon blog about who owns your digital identity. It is an interesting topic and one that many companies and individuals probably haven’t fully considered in their social media policies. My comments were based on discussions with other attorneys on acceptable social media policies. Companies are often want to use social media tools to engage with their customers better, but sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are really designed for individuals so it can be difficult to control. It can also cause problems with data that would otherwise be confidential such as customer and contact lists, because your friends and contacts are at least partially public.

See the article and discussion at:
Thought leaders, issue followers weigh in on who has a stake in your professional digital life

Capitol Records Sues Vimeo for Lip-Dub Videos

While ordinarily an ISP or web service like Vimeo could get off the hook under section 512 of the DMCA, it does complicate things when your staff creates and posts a video that is allegedly infringing.

Link to the Trademark Blog which includes both the video in question and the complaint.

Top 10 Cyberlaw Developments of 2009

Great post by John Ottavianni on Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Blog recaps some of the more consequential developments in cyberlaw this past year.

Innacurate Copyright Enforcement

From the Freedom to Tinker blog, Mike Freedman gives a good description of how BitTorrent works as well as how some companies are handing out Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices without much proof of any actual infringement.

“I am not arguing that copyright owners should not be able to take reasonable steps to protect their copyrighted material. I am arguing, however, that they should take similarly reasonable steps to ensure that any claimed infringement actually took place. When DMCA notices are accompanied by oaths under “penalty of perjury” and these claims are accepted as writ, as they have de facto become, there should some downside for agencies that demonstrably do not act in “good faith” to verify infringement.”

If you receive DMCA takedown that you believe is inaccurate, you can and often should push back. The linked story confirms my suspicions that many companies do not review notices of alleged infringement before they send them. It isn’t yet entirely clear to what extent the sender of a wrongful DMCA notice would be liable, but certainly there is a good case to be made that if they must act in good faith.

UPDATE: There is now a part two to the initial post