Internet Law

Defamation, BitTorrent Defense, & More

Internet Law is a broad topic encompassing many legal disputes, including those related to online defamation, copyright infringement, BitTorrent defense, and more.

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Blog posts related to Internet Law

Saved by the bell: Copyright troll Patrick Collins, Inc. too slow for data purge
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

On May 10, 2012, Patrick Collins, Inc., plaintiff in at least two of the notorious “copyright troll” cases, voluntarily dismissed all the John Doe defendants in a case filed in the Orlando…

Out-of-state blogger defaming a Florida resident
Yes, a Florida resident can sue an out-of-state blogger in Florida.
548 365 Cynthia Conlin

After out-of-state blogger Tabatha Marshall allegedly published a blog accusing website operator Internet Solutions Corp (“ISC”) of “on-going criminal activity, specifically ‘phishing’ and consumer fraud,” ISC sued Ms. Marshall for defamation in…

Anti-Cybersquatting: Brief Overview
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

Do you have a company or sell a product and want to register a domain, but find that the domain is already taken? If the person refuses to give up the domain, what can you do? One possible recourse is provided in the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

The ACPA is a federal law enacted in 1999. It allows someone with a valid trademark that is distinctive or famous to sue someone who purchased a domain that is identical, confusingly similar, or dilutive of the owner’s mark, in instances where the alleged cybersquatter used or registered the domain name with a bad faith intent to profit.

Addicted to gaming: Lineage II player sues game manufactuer
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

From 2004 to 2009, Plaintiff Craig Smallwood clocked more than 20,000 hours on Lineage II, a fantasy massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG), he claims in a current lawsuit. For perspective, that averages out to nine hours a day, seven days a week, for six full years.

Lineage II gave Smallwood such great feelings of euphoria and satisfaction that he became psychologically dependent and addicted, he claims. The psychological dependence and addiction caused by MMORPGs has been recognized; however, the games makers, NC Interactive Inc. and NCsoft Corporation, never gave any notice or warning of such dangers, Smallwood alleges.

Exactly what is ‘Fair Use’?
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

As you probably know, it is generally an infringement to use another’s copyrighted work without authorization. However, one common defense to infringement actions is “fair use.” But how can you determine whether something is used in “fair use”?

The courts follow a four-step balancing test, which can be quite complex and examines both the original and the copied works in much detail. Only after examining and weighing all four factors will the courts decide whether an item was used in “fair use.”

The first factor is the “purpose and character of the use.” For instance, non-profit educational purposes will weigh more in favor of fair use than for-profit uses. Uses exploiting an original work for commercial gain tend to weigh in the other direction. This factor also considers the transformative nature of the new work. For instance, a “parody” (assuming it’s a true parody) will weigh in factor of fair use in this factor.

The second factor is the “nature of the copyrighted work.” The more informational and functional the original work, the broader the scope of the fair use defense. For original creative expressions such as many songs and paintings, this factor generally weighs against fair use.

Bloggers beware! If you lift other’s content, it may cost you … up to $150,000
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

One Nevada attorney-turned-serial copyright litigant seems to have created a new legal niche — at the expense of bloggers and website owners nationwide.

Steve Gibson is an Illinois- and Nevada-licensed attorney living in Las Vegas, where he helms Gibson Lowry Burris LLP, a law firm that focuses on, among other things, copyright law. Around the beginning of the year, Gibson formed Righthaven, LLC, a company with the purpose of buying and registering copyrights of newspaper articles which have been lifted at least in part by bloggers and website operators, and then suing whoever he can find who has copied them.

Since the company’s formation, Righthaven has filed more than 80 copyright infringement lawsuits, sometimes several in a day, and all in the District Court for Nevada, against bloggers and website operators throughout the country.

Anonymous bloggers not always protected
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion resulting from a case where Amway-successor Quixtar, Inc. had sued it competitor Signature Management TEAM, LLC (“TEAM”) for allegedly carrying out an “Internet smear campaign” to induce Quixtar’s independent business owners to terminate their contracts with Quixtar and instead join a competing multilevel marketing company affiliated with TEAM. In re. Anonymous Online Speakers, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 14166 (9th Cir. Nev. July 12, 2010)

The alleged “Internet smear campaign” included a set of anonymous blogs of both text and video postings. At the lower court, during discovery, Quixtar obtained a court order compelling TEAM to identify the anonymous bloggers. TEAM, arguing that the anonymous bloggers were protected by the First Amendment, appealed the order to the Ninth Circuit. In response, Quixtar cross-petitioned the Court to order a TEAM employee to reveal the bloggers’ identity.

In the end, the Ninth Circuit held that the bloggers’ identity was not protected from the discovery process.

Court says porn site venue ‘CocoDorm’ violated city zoning laws
150 150 Cynthia Conlin

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided last month that Flava Works Inc., a company selling sexual images filmed in a house in Miami, had violated city zoning laws by “illegally operating a business in a residential zone.”

The case, Flava Works Inc. v. City of Miami, originated in 2007 when the City issued a zoning violation then order against Flava Works. Although Flava Works used a separtate office for its general office work, it also maintained a residential house, the “CocoDorm,” where independent contractors had “sexual relations which are captured by the webcams located throughout the house” in exchange for $1,200.00 a month plus room and board.

The City found that the CocoDorm violated two City Codes: (1) “adult entertainment not permitted in C-1 zone property” and (2) “illegally operating a business in a residential zone.”

Flava Works appealed the order to the Southern District of Florida and, at the District Court level, won. The District Court pointed to a 2001 case, Voyeur Dorm, L.C. v. City of Tampa, it found controlling. The “materially indistinguishable” facts of the Voyeur Dorm case included a house of women who disrobed and performed “intimate” acts on webcam in exchange for rent and payment. The Eleventh Circuit held that the Tampa “adult entertainment” ordinance at issue did not apply to the Voyeur Dorm because customers were never physically invited to the house, and the Voyeur Dorm only offered entertainment “over the Internet in ‘virtual space.’”

The City of Miami appealed the District Court’s decision and argued that, although the Voyeur Dorm decision may be controlling as it pertains to application of one of the zoning ordinances (specifically, the one prohibiting “adult entertainment” in C-1 zone property), it could not pertain to whether Flava Works had violated the other zoning ordinance: “illegally operating a business in a residential zone.”

Flava Works argued no actual “business” was conducted at the CocoDorm, as “no goods were bought or sold and nothing was manufactured” there, and all commercial transactions took place at a separate office, and that the second ordinance could not apply either.

Disagreeing with Flava Works, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said, “it can be reasonably asserted that raw video images, which were later sold over the internet, were created” at the CocoDorm. “While these images are not tangible goods, they have a commercial value and enable Flava Works to earn a profit.” Furthermore, the activities at the CocoDorm are “part and parcel to Flava Works’s business operation,” and “the sole reason individuals are paid to live and engage in sexual activities” is business.