Blogs

Appeals Court Strikes Down the Child Online Protection Act (Again)

Yesterday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision ruling that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) violates the First Amendment.  COPA makes it a crime to knowingly post sexually explicit material that is "harmful to minors” on the web  “for commercial purposes.” Although Congress apparently intended that COPA app

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Candidate for U.S. Congress Threatens Legal Action Against Blogger

George Lilly, the Republican candidate for Colorado's First Congressional District, says on his website that he considers defense of the U.S. Constitution a "sacred oath."  But after he threatened a libel lawsuit against the Rocky Mountain Right ("RMR") blog, one wonders about his views on the First Amendment.

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Bronx D.A. Withdraws Subpoena Seeking Identity of Anonymous Room Eight Posters

Earlier this month, the District Attorney for Bronx County, New York, withdrew a subpoena seeking the identities of anonymous posters on political blog Room Eight. The posters had criticized local politicians and Bronx Republican Party officials in blog posts and comments. District Attorney Robert T.

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Citizen Journalist Invokes Oregon Shield Law to Fight Subpoena

Does Oregon's reporter shield law apply to an independent journalist who publishes online?  That question looks set to be answered, thanks to the refusal of Tim Lewis to comply with a grand jury subpoena for his video of a May 30, 2008, demonstration in Eugene, Oregon, where police tasered an 18-year-old protester.

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Revisiting Foreign Libel Law's Pernicious Impact on First Amendment Speech

Back in April, I blogged about New York's Libel Terrorism Protection Act, which bars the enforcement of foreign defamation judgments unless a New York court has found that the foreign court proceeding provided at least as much protection for freedom of speech and press in that case as would be provided by both the United States and New York Constitutions.

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eBay Shines in Tiffany Trademark Fight

In Tiffany v. eBay, decided today, the Southern District of New York gives helpful bounds to secondary liability for trademark infringement, saying eBay is not liable for its use of the term "Tiffany" nor for its sellers' sales of counterfeit goods. Judge Sullivan's careful analysis leaves the path clear for online marketplaces to flourish, putting enforcement burdens, where they belong, on trademark claimants.

First, the court finds eBay's advertisement, through "Tiffany"-keyed adwords on Google and Yahoo! searches, to be "nominative fair use." Some eBay sellers are offering genuine Tiffany merchandise, as trademark law recognizes is legitimate, and eBay has the right to use the brand name to identify them, rather than "absurd circumlocutions ... [such as] 'silver jewelry from a prestigious New York company where Audrey Hepburn once liked to breakfast.'" Even if search keywords are "use in commerce," therefore, the court finds them non-infringing.

Second, the court holds eBay not liable for the infringements of its users, under either direct or secondary liability theories. Instead, its contributory liability test looks much like the notice-and-takedown regime that the DMCA sets up for copyright: only specific knowledge of infringement can trigger liability, a "showing that a defendant knew or had reason to know of specific instances of actual infringement"; not the "generalized" knowledge of counterfeiting Tiffany would like to attribute to eBay. The court does not impose any prior monitoring obligation, implying only that a defendant must take appropriate steps after being notified of claimed infringement. (The court helpfully notes several times that Tiffany's "Notices of Claimed Infringement" are just claims, not proof, and that some listings have even been reinstated after incorrect claims.)

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Paparazzi Need Better Manners, Not More Laws

In Malibu City, an ocean-side enclave of Los Angeles, local government officials are considering regulations that aim to protect the privacy and safety interests of both celebrities hounded by the paparazzi and local residents, after local surfers went to fisticuffs with photographers trying to capture Matthew McConaughey surfing at Malibu's Little Dume Beach.

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New York Legislature Passes Open Records and Open Meetings Reforms

The New York Legislature recently passed several open records and open meetings reforms, adding New York to the long list of states that have taken steps to revamp their open government laws this year.

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Watchdog Group Counters Attorney General’s View of Improved FOIA Picture

A recent report by the U.S. Attorney General paints a mixed but generally positive picture of progress by the federal executive agencies in improving their responsiveness to Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Center for Social Media Launches Its Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

Today, the Center for Social Media at American University released its Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video, a publication meant to help online video creators, service providers, and copyright holders to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use.

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Privacy Falls into YouTube's Data Tar Pit

As a big lawsuit grinds forward, its parties engage in discovery, a wide-ranging search for information "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." (FRCP Rule 26(b)) And so Viacom has calculated that scouring YouTube's data dumps would help provide evidence in Viacom's copyright lawsuit.

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NY Law Would Allow Citizens to Record and Broadcast Government Meetings

A bill pending in the New York Legislature would allow the public to photograph, videotape, and audio record public meetings in New York, providing better access to government deliberations and information. It would impose two minor conditions: the photographing or recording activity must not be disruptive, and the public body holding the meeting can regulate where equipment and personnel are located in the room.

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Miami Judge Drops Hammer on Photojournalist Who Took Cops' Picture

“Photography is not a crime, it’s a First Amendment right,” proclaims the title of photojournalist Carlos Miller’s blog.  Nonetheless, a jury found Miller guilty of obstructing traffic and resisting arrest without violence during his encounter last year with five Miami police officers that he photographed on a public street.  As a result, Miami County Court Judge Jose Fernandez sentenced him to one year of probation,100 hours of community service, anger management lessons, and over $500 in court fees, well in excess of the three months

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Citing CDA 230, Court Dismisses Defamation Suit Against Wikimedia Foundation

News reports (here, here) indicate that New Jersey Superior Court Judge Jamie S. Perri dismissed Barbara Bauer's defamation lawsuit against the Wikimedia Foundation yesterday.

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Judge Says Former Congressman Can Get Names of Anonymous Posters from LoHud.com

LoHud.com, an online news site operated by The Journal News that focuses on New York's Lower Hudson Valley, reported on Friday that a Westchester County judge has ruled that it must turn over the names of three pseudonymous posters to former House Representative Richard Ottinger and his wife, June Ottinger.

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Lawyer Attempts End Run Around CDA 230, Finds a Stronger Defense Than He Expected

Following on the heels of a Virginia lawyer being sanctioned for improperly using a subpoena to silence a critic, we hear about a lawyer in California who is threatening to use a meritless lawsuit to force Julia Forte, who runs a forum for consumer complaints about telemarketers, to remove user-submitted comments that are critical of his client.

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