In Assessing Employee Status in Copyright Ownership Disputes, Technology Start-Ups Are a Special Case, Says the Ninth Circuit

8 04 2010

A technology start-up company can be an informal environment – both Apple Computer and Hewlett-Packard famously started out in garages, and Yahoo!, Google and Facebook were developed, initially at least, in college dorm rooms. But informality can, and frequently does, lead to legal disputes down the road. In JustMed, Inc. v. Byce, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 6976 (9th Cir. Apr. 5, 2010), the Ninth Circuit was faced with a dispute over ownership of the source code for a program that operated a digital audio device.

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DMCA takedowns: trampling on free speech rights?

6 04 2010

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, rightsholders have an easy way to take down online material they dislike: send a takedown notice to a website or an ISP. The target of the letter has the right to object by filing a counter-notice, but even if that happens, the targeted material must remain offline for 10 to 14 days before being reposted. If this restriction isn’t followed, the ISP or website in question could lose its “safe harbor” from lawsuits.

This provision of the law means that the DMCA can be used to silence speech, even in cases where the material has not be found by a judge to be infringing. This was an issue with John McCain’s presidential campaign, where news organizations filed takedowns with YouTube about several McCain clips which used their footage. Despite the urgency of the issue (the election was only weeks away), YouTube publicly refused to put the clips back up before the counter-notice window expired; it had the legal right to do so, but the company refused to expose itself to the liability.

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Facebook Preliminarily Wins Copyright Lawsuit over Third Party App–Miller v. Facebook

6 04 2010

By Eric Goldman

Miller v. Facebook, Inc., 3:10-cv-00264-WHA (N.D. Cal. March 31, 2010)

Miller developed a videogame called Boomshine. He is upset that Yeo made an allegedly infringing knockoff variation of the game, called ChainRxn, and distributed the knockoff as a Facebook app. Miller sued both Yeo and Facebook for copyright infringement. In January, I blogged on Facebook’s success invoking the venue clause in its user agreement to move the case to its home court.

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SCO loses again: jury says Novell owns UNIX SVRX copyrights

30 03 2010

The SCO Group was dealt a serious, potentially fatal blow today in its courtroom battle against Linux. The jury in the trial between SCO and Novell has issued a verdict affirming that Novell is the rightful owner of the UNIX SVRX copyrights. This verdict will make it difficult for SCO to continue pursuing its baseless assault on the open source operating system.

The SCO saga began in 2003 when the company claimed that Linux is an unauthorized derivative of UNIX. SCO filed a lawsuit against IBM, alleging that Big Blue misappropriated UNIX code and included it in the Linux kernel. Although SCO repeatedly claimed to have compelling evidence to support its accusations, the company has yet to provide proof in the seven years since. Internal SCO memos that came to light during the discovery process of SCO’s conflict with IBM revealed that SCO’s own internal code audits did not identify any evidence infringement.

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Craigslist Wins $1.3M Default Judgment Against Autoposting Facilitator — craigslist v. Naturemarket

25 03 2010

[Post by Venkat]

craigslist, Inc. v. Naturemarket, Inc., Case No. C 08-05065 PJH (MEJ) (N.D. Cal. March 5, 2010) [scribd] (report and recommendation adopted on February 5, 2010)

Craigslist obtained a 1.3 million dollar default judgment against defendants Naturemarket, Inc. and Igor Gasov.

Naturemarket (doing business as powerpostings.com [typical bad choice of name]) sold software which allowed its customers to automatically post listings to craigslist. As advertised by defendants, the software made “the difficult craigslist posting process child’s play and [helped users] manage and multi-post . . . ads.” Defendants also advertised “posting agent” services where defendants would post ads on behalf of customers. Finally, defendants sold software that scraped email addresses from the craigslist site.

Craigslist sued alleging claims under (1) copyright; (2) DMCA; (3) the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; (4) trademark; (5) breach of contract/terms of use. Defendants failed to contest the suit. The court granted default judgment against defendants:

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Secrecy Around Trade Agreement Causes Stir

23 03 2010

by Joel Rose

All things Considered, NPR
March 17, 2010

There’s a reason you don’t hear much about international trade agreements. They are kind of dull, and they’re usually not very controversial. But the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is different.

“One feels that you’re almost in a bit of a twilight zone,” says Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. “I mean, we’re talking about a copyright treaty. And it’s being treated as akin to nuclear secrets.”

For several years, the United States and other developed countries have been quietly working on ACTA. Geist has been one of the loudest critics of the proposed pact. He says it’s a counterfeiting agreement in name only, and he thinks the treaty would actually change some of the fundamental rules governing the Internet. But what makes Geist really angry is the way it’s been negotiated.

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Cleaning the barnacles from the S.S. Copyright

21 03 2010

Bashing current copyright law is easy—just ask Jessica Litman, a professor of law at the University of Michigan. She calls current US copyright a “swollen, barnacle-encrusted collection of incomprehensible prose.” Or, to change the metaphor to aging, copyright law is “old, outmoded, inflexible, and beginning to display the symptoms of multiple systems failure.”

Suggesting something new to replace it can be a harder job, and Litman turns her attention to that task in an unpublished new paper called “Real Copyright Reform” (PDF). Part of a spate of recent reform proposals (Public Knowledge is heading another high-profile effort, for example), Litman’s quest to reform the 1976 Copyright Act is, as she acknowledges, quixotic.

“None of these proposals is likely to attract serious attention from Congress or copyright lobbyists,” she writes. “Right now the copyright legislation playing field is completely controlled by its beneficiaries. They have persuaded Congress that it is pointless to try to enact copyright laws without their assent.”

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Viacom v. YouTube Summary Judgment Motions Highlights

18 03 2010

By Eric Goldman

Who doesn’t enjoy a good old-fashioned mud-slingin’ showdown? That’s exactly what we’ve got on our hands in the dueling summary judgment motions from Viacom and YouTube in the long-running copyright infringement case (see my initial post from March 2007). While we might have some voyeuristic fun watching the sparks, the latest salvos prove that the parties are both losers for not finding a way to settle this case. Only the lawyers win when two heavyweight contenders get locked into a cosmic death struggle. Everyone else would be better off if Viacom and YouTube instead had poured their millions of dollars of legal fees towards developing innovative and profitable ways to serve consumers’ interests. It’s ridiculous that they can’t find a way to do this.

Combined together, the filings tell a “Tale of Two YouTubes.” Viacom focuses on YouTube of Yore, circa 2005-06, while YouTube’s brief largely focuses on YouTube of Now. In that sense, the briefs largely talked past each other.

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Norwegian Court Cannot Order ISP to Block Pirate Bay

18 03 2010
A NORWEGIAN court has rejected a record industry appeal against telecoms operator Telenor for refusing to block access to popular file sharing website The Pirate Bay, a plaintiff says. The Oslo court of appeal said that it is not currently possible, under Norwegian law, for a judge to order an internet service provider to halt traffic to websites from which illegal downloading happens.

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CITIZEN 3.0: copyright, creativity and contemporary culture (film)

12 03 2010

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