IP Addresses Are Not People

This is probably not news to anyone. But it has been a significant issue in copyright litigation lately. A judge in the of the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a suit filed by the Steele Law Firm on the grounds that it hadn’t identified any individuals as defendants and hadn’t served anyone either. A list of IP addresses would not suffice. Much of the fury over the copyright troll litigation has been that the plaintiffs have a list of IP addresses and nothing more. They then subpoena ISP’s who disclose the name of the subscriber who was assigned the IP address. Plaintiff’s then contact that subscriber demanding money.

This leads to a number of problems, not least of which is that the person who’s name appears on the ISP billing statements is often not the person who did any infringing activities. The infringer, if there is one, might not be in the household or even known to the person being identified. There is often a great deal of pressure to settle however, even if the person identified by the IP address is totally blameless.

Story on Techdirt with Judge Baker’s Opinion

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?

“Tweakers” and “Pioneers” in innovation

I came across this post in the Freakonomics blog about how we value “pioneers” or people who make something entirely new and the “tweakers” who take existing works and improve them. Its a good article about an interesting problem because both “pioneers” and “tweakers” make art and technology better, but in different ways.

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.

Digital Locks Loosening?

The Librarian of Congress has recommended new exemptions from the prohibition on circumventing digital copy protections including one exemption for “jailbreaking” phones so that you can install your own software.

Another sign that perhaps section 1201 might not be as broadly applied going forward is this recent decision from the Fifth Circuit. That case involved the use of software that controlled uninterruped power supply devices. GE and PMI were accused of copyright infringement and circumvention because they had accessed and used the software which had an already circumvented or compromised dongle. The Fifth Circuit held that GE/PMI’s activities were not otherwise infringing and thus the circumvention was not actionable under section 1201. This seems to be a somewhat different position than that taken in the DeCSS case.

I’m not sure if this is really part of a trend, but it is encouraging for anyone who believed otherwise non-infringing activities should not give rise to a copyright lawsuit merely because a digital lock was circumvented. Section 1201 has been used unsuccessfully in the past to try to prevent competition in the markets for garage door openers and printer ink cartridges.

New Podcast on TechdotMN

I had the pleasure of talking to Harold Slawik of New Counsel about choice of entity, funding and securities law issues for startups. Check out the article and podcast at TechdotMN.

USPTO Director David Kappos at William Mitchell College of Law

David Kappos at William Mitchell College of Law

I was only able to attend the first 45 minutes of this event. Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law for making the whole program available online so I could see the rest. Director Kappos seems to be exactly the kind of person we should want to be heading up the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

A Victory for Open Source Software

Novell recently won a 7 year battle against the SCO Group over the copyright to UNIX source code. A jury in Utah found that Novell was the owner of the copyrights in question. Its a victory for open source software generally, because it was probably the most serious legal threat to development of Linux, an open source UNIX-like operating system. SCO had alleged that Linux infringed copyrights it held in UNIX. Though Novell’s offerings have changed over the years, currently it offers SUSE Linux and related software and services.

The blog Groklaw has been following this case in great detail over the years. There is an unbelievable amount of information there which illustrates how much work can go into litigating a case of this scale.

FCC Launches Spectrum Dashboard

The FCC has created a tool that allows people to quickly see how spectrum is allocated. You can use a map to find all the licensees in a particular county or state. All this is particularly interesting now as there is currently some interest in reallocating spectrum that was used for television broadcast and allowing more wireless broadband services.

FCC Spectrum Dashboard

HT to the CommLawBlog.

TECH{dot}MN Podcast with Justin Porter

Jeff Pesek and I recently interviewed Justin Porter who works with the University of Minnesota Office of Technology Commercialization. The OTC harnesses some great innovation that comes out of the University and helps bring it to market by either licensing it, or finding the right people to help start a new company to develop it.

Check out the podcast here at TECH{dot}MN

Check out the University of MN OTC here.