Trade Secrets

Publishing Trade Secrets

If you are thinking about publishing something that looks like a company's internal -- and possibly secret -- document or information, you need to think about the potential legal consequences under trade secrets law. As explained in Basics of a Trade Secret Claim, if a document or piece of information turns out to be a trade secret, then you might be liable for damages, and a court might order you to take down the material.

Basics of a Trade Secret Claim

If you obtain or publish a company's trade secrets, the company may have a legal claim against you for trade secret misappropriation. Generally speaking, a "trade secret" is secret information that confers a competitive business advantage on its owner by virtue of not being known to its competitors. The trade secret owner must exert reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of this information, or it ceases to be a trade secret.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is a form of intellectual property that applies to business secrets. If a company or other organization creates or compiles information that gives it an economic advantage over its competitors, it can protect that information as a trade secret -- in a sense becoming the "owner" of the trade secret.

MediaDefender v. and



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After internal e-mails from MediaDefender, a company that seeks to prevent the "spread of illegally traded copyrighted material over the Internet and Peer-to-Peer networks," were leaked, the company sent takedown notices to a number of sites that posted and linked to the information, including, a bitTorrent search engine and forum, and, a hosting company.

The e-mails, which were leaked by a group that calls itself MediaDefender-Defenders, allegedly contained sensitive corporate information, including details of MediaDefender's anti-piracy strategies, its torrent watchlist, and the effectiveness of its fake torrents, according to Ars Technica.

MediaDefender responded to the dissemination of its emails by sending takedown notices to websites and P2P services that posted and linked to the materials, based both in the United States and abroad. The purported legal basis of the takedown notices was breach of MediaDefender's trade secrets and confidential information.

It appears that the sites and services have not taken down the information in response to MediaDefender's takedown notices. According to BoingBoing, isoHunt responded by pointing out what it perceives to be legal deficiencies in the takedown letter, and several other threat recipients responded that they/their sites were located outside the US and beyond the jurisdiction of the US courts.

The identity of the teenage hacker who initially obtained the emails is still under wraps, but an individual going by the name of "Ethan" has given an interview to Portfolio magazine taking credit for the leak.


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Status checked on 6/5/2008 (AAB)

Making Sense of the Wikileaks Fiasco: Prior Restraints in the Internet Age

Yesterday, I reported that a federal judge in San Francisco had issued a stunningly broad injunction that brought down, a site that is developing what it describes as an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis." (I'll let the prescience o

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Court Orders Shutdown, Then Grants Limited Reprieve?

Last Friday, a federal district court judge in San Francisco issued a stunningly broad injunction that brought down Wikileaks, a site that is developing what it describes as an "uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis."


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