Monthly Archives: July 2012

Patent Troll Lawsuits’ Effect On SMEs

patent troll lawsuitsTrolls, trolls, trolls! Everywhere you look these days, litigation trolls – with their greedy little paws and Smegel-like sensibilities – are pouncing onto the scene out of nowhere – frightening visionaries, harmless bystanders, and small business owners, alike. And if you ask me, the increase in trolls, coupled with an outdated patent system, is creating perfect conditions for an innovation-killing storm.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, could we be heading into an era where mega-corps are actually the “big brother” they themselves warned against in their start-up days? Is the current trend in patent litigation unfairly and disproportionately favoring big-business, so much so that it may thwart digital innovation and market competition?

Intellectual Property Trolls & FRAND

For the past couple of years, copyright trolls have received the bulk of the attention, but patent trolls are on the prowl now too. One of the more alarming aspects of patent trolling is how Fair, Reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND) – also known as RAND – seem to be an after-thought for many trolls and the attorneys who do their bidding, which is a huge mistake in this lawyer’s opinion, considering that the standard should be a paramount factor in modern-day technology patent negotiations.

In brief, FRAND is a required licensing obligations rule, established by standard-setting organizations (like the IPO), whose job it is to “address the needs of a wide base of adopters” and ensure interoperability of devices that are manufactured by different companies.

In other words, if you develop widget X, there are certain standards you need to meet if you want to bring your product to market, so as to ensure cross industry compatibility. If one of those standards is associated with a patent, the rule of thumb is that it must be able to be adopted by other parties on “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.”

In many of today’s patent lawsuits, however, the FRAND standard is either over-looked or the facts of the case are manipulated and presented in a misleading way. If, as an industry, we’re committed to reforming the nation’s tech intellectual property statutes, it’s important that we push for clearer FRAND guidelines that are uniformly enforced.

The Cost Of Patent Troll Lawsuits On Small Businesses

Greed-based lawsuits only lead to clogged courts and intimidation litigation, which severely damages small- and medium-sized businesses – especially tech businesses. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in 2011 alone, patent litigation cost approximately $29 billion. $29 billion!

If that figure didn’t shock you, what James Bessen and Michael Meurer revealed in their book, “Patent Failure” should be cause for alarm:

  • 62% of software patent lawsuits brought forth by non-practicing entities (a.k.a., trolls)
  • Small businesses end up paying disproportionately higher legal fees than larger corporations with in-house legal teams.
  • Small businesses, when faced with patent litigation, have to divert funds from R&D and marketing, making them less competitive.

The bigger tragedy is that many small business owners choose to just pay troll’s settlement fees out of fear, even if they think they have a strong case. As such, it can be argued that the current patent statutes allow for extortion camouflaged as legitimate litigation.

Current Patent Lawsuits & Working Groups To Watch

As of late, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the software patent issue. Several high-profile patent lawsuits and cases are making news, like Apple’s recent acquisition of “The Mother of All Software Patents.” On the opposite end of the software patent spectrum is Judge Richard Posner, who recently threw the Motorola/Apple case out of court, but not before censuring both parties for failing to prove damage. And today, Samsung and Apple will be facing off in court in what is shaping up to be a hard-fought technology patent showdown.

In addition to the throng of lawsuits, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has also created a website dedicated to the topic of United States patent reform – defendinginnovation.org. On it, they outline their suggestions for patent reform in the United States. Anyone interested in the topic should make time to check it out.

If you’re a small business owner looking to avoid future legal headaches, it’s important to get your intellectual property house in order from the beginning. An AV-rated firm that is also on the EFF’s list of recommended copyright troll defense litigators, Kelly / Warner is who to call when looking to register and protect your intellectual property. For those embroiled in a software patent lawsuit nightmare, we know a vast network of troll-fighting lawyers, with whom we can pair you, based on your specific needs. Contact us today to begin the conversation.

Defamation By Omission – A Legal Explanation & Definition

Defamation by omission is when one person harms the reputation of another by neglecting to report or include vital information that significantly impacts the case. For example, let’s say you were charged with a crime, but were later acquitted. If a local newspaper then printed a story about your involvement in the crime, but failed to mention your absolution, that would be defamation by omission since the paper led people to believe you committed the act.

Moreover, if a journalist leaves out critical information, the publisher – not just the reporter – can be charged. In the same situation, if a blogger were to post stories about you – again leaving out your absolution — each individual post that does not include the disclaimer would constitute one act of defamation.

Defamation by omission, however, is a nuanced statute. To illustrate, if you are included in a news report, and the reporter forgets to mention something that would make you look better, but does not have a material effect on the framing of the story, you probably will lose a defamation by omission claim.

Examples Of A Few Current Defamation By Omission Cases

Rachel Maddow and Bradlee Dean are reportedly involved in a defamation by omission legal tussle.  In brief, Rachel Maddow is a left-leaning political pundit on MSNBC; Bradlee Dean is a conservative Christian rocker and youth minister. A couple of years ago, Dean made a comment on a radio show in which he allegedly lauded certain terrorists groups for fighting against homosexuality; he also made a disclaimer saying that he did not condone violence against the LGBT community. Maddow read Dean’s statement on air; she did include Dean’s caveat. Nevertheless, Dean sued Maddow for defamation claiming that she neglected to mention a disclaimer he had made about the controversial statement.

The obvious problem for Dean’s legal team is that she supposedly did make the statement Dean says she omitted, and it was aired. As such, all signs point to the case being dismissed.

In another high-profile defamation by omission case, Ex-American Idol contestant, Corey Clark, is suing MTV, Viacom and an MTV personality for defamation. According to reports, the defendants allegedly left out information about Clark being cleared of legal charges in a series of blog posts that ran for nearly five years.

Bloggers & Defamation By Omission

Bloggers must be especially careful about defamation by omission. In many ways, the name of the game these days is to get lots of content up, quickly. Being the first to post a story is still the goal of journalism. However, with the amount of content produced daily, sometimes the research is lacking. If you aren’t sure of all the information, or if your sources aren’t solid, don’t publish it. And remember, if you do several posts on the same topic, and omit precious information in each post – each post counts as one act of defamation – which can add up. Don’t try to sensationalize your posts, for hits, by omitting pertinent information.

Do you need to speak with a defamation attorney about a situation? If so, we’re here to help and answer any questions you may have. Kelly / Warner is an AV-rated firm, with a stellar defamation litigation reputation. Contact us today to get started.

A Freelance Writers Guide To Content Scraping: What To Do If You Get Hit

Anyone in the online marketing biz has heard the phrase a million times: content is king! And it’s true. Internet advertisers are constantly looking for ways to increase the amount of quality content on their websites. That’s where “content scraping” comes in. It’s a common practice that marketers just accept as part of doing business – but for freelance writers, the practice is a little more damaging to the bottom line.

The main legal question: Is content scraping legal or illegal?

What Is Content Scraping?

And as we all know, when there is a demand, innovative individuals figure out ways to fill it. In the case of Web content, many have turned to software that scours the Net and collects relevant content, thus allowing the individual who is using the software to post others’ content on their Web properties. This practice is commonly known as “content scraping.” What usually happens is that an agent of one site – either an electronic bot or a human – steals the content of another site and posts it on their own. Sophisticated scrapers may also inject backlinks to their own sites, to make it look like the original author was the one who “stole” the content from the scraper.

Now, some marketers depend on scraping software. And to be perfectly frank, it’s a fairly common practice in the industry; folks often turn the other cheek. But if you’re the person who writes the original content, you may find scraping a bit more insidious; after all, you’re the one who spent hours crafting that content; they’re your hard-fought words and ideas.

How Does Content Scraping Hurt Content Creators?

Why does posting nearly identical content on different websites present a problem? The answer has to do with search spiders and bots who are not fond of duplicate content across the Web; and now they’re advanced enough to sniff out and penalize sites that engage in the activity. Google, for example, significantly devalues the rankings of websites with significant duplicate content. Now imagine you were the original author, but the non-sentient bot categorized you as the plagiarizer. It’s happened to thousands of other freelancers, and could happen to you too.

How Can Freelance Writers & Blogger Fight Content Scrapers?

So the question becomes: can you, as a content writer, with very little technical knowledge, beat the super-smart scraping software? Yes you can. But it does take patience and a tiny fee. So how do you fight back? Use the provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Many bloggers and website owners have turned to the DMCA to protect their work. Since scraping is seen as modern-day plagiarism on steroids, they use takedown provisions provided for in the DMCA, and send requests to websites infringing on their content. If a request to the website goes unanswered, then they send one to the hosting company. If that still fails, there are also ways to get a court order to have the scraped results removed from search engine indexes.

If You Relinquish Rights You Have No Rights

If you write for a content provider, like Textbroker or Constant Content, and agree to hand over all copyrights to the buyer, than you relinquish rights to the content once the buyer accepts and pays for the work. If, however, the buyer never ended up buying the work, and you come across it online, then you have every right to snatch that copy back from them using the DMCA takedown provisions.

If you are a freelance writer who is interested in a copyright protection package for your portfolio and future work, contact us today. We work with many freelancers and offer flat-fee pricing for legal packages specially developed for your industry in mind. Contact us today to begin the conversation.

Jury Slaps BlackBerry Maker with $147.2 Judgment for Patent Infringement

software patent lawyer
Research in Motion was slapped with a multi-million dollar patent infringement fine. Can they bounce back?

Between a declining market share, delays in releasing their new operating system, and the loss of roughly 5,000 jobs due to corporate restructuring, one would think that business for Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of BlackBerry, is having a rough time. But that’s only part of the story.

A jury in United States District Court in San Francisco recently ruled against RIM for infringing a patent held by Mformation, a player in the mobile technology sector. RIM was ordered to pay $147.2 million in damages. That comes to $8 per royalty received for roughly 18.4 million users in the United States. The judgment, however, does not include damages for users located outside of the United States, or public sector customers. Had those customers been included in the judgment, the total damages would’ve been well in excess of $600 million.

According to the civil complaint, RIM violated two patents held by Mformation, producers of mobile management software. Mformation stated in a civil complaint that they gave patented technology details to RIM while the two companies were discussing licensing issues, but RIM passed on the deal. Mformation further alleged that RIM made some modifications, and used the software for their BlackBerry mobile devices.

Displeased with the jury’s verdict, RIM’s counterargument is that Mformation’s patents lacked validity. That said, according to RIM, a motion has been filed in federal court to undo the jury’s verdict. A spokesperson for RIM indicated the court will have to rule on the “obviousness” of whether or not RIM violated Mformation’s software patent.

The recent verdict against RIM appears to be another bad omen for RIM’s continued viability. Over the past few years, BlackBerry’s advantage in the PDA market has shrunk considerably. An increase in Apple and Android options, combined with a decline in sales during the first quarter of their fiscal year, BlackBerry doesn’t seem to have the mojo they once enjoyed.

Perhaps things will turn around for RIM once they finally unveil their BlackBerry 10 operating system, which is viewed by some as a jumpstart for Research In Motion’s continued success.

As you can see, copyright, trademark, and patent infringement litigation is costly. Even though your business may never knowingly infringe on another company’s patent, there’s always the possibility that’ll have to defend against a plaintiff’s claim of patent infringement. That’s why it makes sense to have an experienced intellectual property lawyer advising you and your business on these issues. An attorney who understands copyright, patent, and trademark law can possibly save your business from ruin.

On the flipside, if you have reason to believe another company is infringing on a patent owned by your business, a lawyer specializing in patent and trademark law can help protect your patented product, idea, or methodology.

Contact us today to begin the conversation.

Is A Federal Online Gambling Law On The Way?

Will 2013 be the year that online poker becomes legal across the U.S.?

Gambling is — and always has been — an oft-discussed legal issue in the United States. When the Internet came along, questions surrounding the online gambling arose. And now, with states starting to pass their own online gambling statutes, things may become even more complicated. For example, Arizona’s gambling laws are such that residents are often prohibited in taking part in nation-wide, online fantasy sports leagues, but Delaware just passed a law that essentially makes online gambling legal. In an effort to standardize legislation, we could see a federal online gambling law in the near future.

Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator John Kyl of Arizona have been drafting an online gambling bill, and according to various industry publications, the two have finally agreed on terms. Word on the street is that Kyl sees this bill as important to his “legacy” – and as such agreed to a poker compromise.

So the question now remains: when will we get to see a draft version of this bill? Unfortunately, it probably won’t be for awhile. With the election around the corner, neither party wants to wake a sleeping dragon. As such, don’t expect to see anything having to do with online gambling on a national level until 2013.

The contents of the draft have yet to be released, but that hasn’t stopped pundits from pontificating as to whether or not a national online gambling act – developed by Reid and Kyl – would actually pass. Common sentiment is that the bill will easily pass in the House, but will dead-lock in the Senate. Why? As Texas representative Joe Barton explained, “neither party is going to put this up if it’s going to be a dogfight. It will only be put up if people are willing to vote for it.”

The common assumption is that the Reid-Kyl bill will contain exemptions for poker, similar to the provisions for online fantasy sports in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

News of a potential federal online gambling law comes in the wake of Delaware legalizing online gambling. Since the draft has not been made public, it is too soon to tell whether or not the Reid-Kyl bill will in any way affect Delaware’s new statute.

Attention Marketers: New Business Opportunity Rules In Arizona

Arizona State Seal
The Arizona House made changes to the Telephone  Solicitation Act resulting in new biz op rules for the state.

Several months ago, the Federal Trade Commission released a new set of rules for “biz ops” – a category of commerce which consists of single-operator, turn-key and work-at-home businesses. In April, the Arizona legislator also passed a similar business opportunity rule – Arizona House Bill 2825.

Specifically, HB 2825 amends the Telephone Solicitation Act by clarifying the definition of “business opportunity.” It also clarifies that “telephone” now covers all digital devices. In the simplest terms, the Arizona House made it so Internet and mobile devices are now subject to the Telephone Solicitation Act.

Of particular import to those who market or sell work-at-home opportunities and other types of bizops, the new bill includes very specific steps one must take when pitching and closing a business opportunity deal.

What Are Business Opportunities?

The most common types of business opportunities are:

  • Vending Machines
  • Rack Card Businesses
  • Display Cases
  • Envelope-Stuffing
  • Businesses and Gambling Machines

Over the past 10 years, the number of online and work-at-home business opportunities has also increased. Essentially, business opportunities are usually companies you can buy in-tact, which can be operated by a single person. In many cases, the buyer does not need to have any prior experience in the field to get the company up and running.

The new bill defines a business opportunity in Arizona to be “the sale or lease, or offer for sale or lease, of any goods or services to a consumer for an initial payment of five hundred dollars or greater for the purpose of enabling the consumer to start or operate a business, which sale or lease is not limited to sales initiated or made by the telephone.”

Arizona Business Opportunity Rule: Changed Definition in Telephone Solicitation Act

In addition to defining bizopps as any “offer for sale or lease” over $500, the new bill goes a long way in detailing the exact parameters of what constitutes a business opportunity in the state of Arizona. Specifically, the law delineates business opportunity as a solicitation in which the seller says or implies that:

1) The consumer will earn more than the initial payment if they purchase;

2) A profitable market exists for the opportunity;

3) They, the seller, will provide locations or assist the consumer in setting up the business;

4) They, the seller, will buy services or goods from the consumer;

5) The consumer will make money – either conditionally or unconditionally — and that if they don’t, a refund – either partially or in whole – will be given if bizopp buyer is unsatisfied;

6) They will provide a marketing plan, unless the marketing program is offered in conjunction with an already trademarked plan that could be sold as a standalone product.

Arizona Business Opportunity Rule: Changed Disclosure Requirements

In addition to laying out a concise definition for ‘business opportunity’, House Bill 2825 also features a few new disclosure requirements. Namely, the following must be disclosed, to the buyer, before the final purchase, in the registration statement:

1) A factual description of the business, training, and assistance that the seller will provide;

2) A statement describing any goods, services signs or fixtures relating to the establishment of the operation that the consumer is required to purchase, lease or rent either directly or indirectly from the seller.

Sellers must now also disclose:

1) Their sales experience, including the length of time they have sold the bizopp in question or any other business opportunity;

2) The names of all businesses that have previously purchased the bizopp in question. Presumably this is done so potential buyers can do their own due diligence with regards to the viability of the opportunity.

Arizona Business Opportunity Rule: Changed Notice Requirements & Cancellation Standards

Amendments to cancellation and notice requirements are also an element of the updated telephonic law. The new statutes state that at least five days before the contract execution, a written disclosure must be given to buyer with highly-specific cover sheet that includes precise information.

Cancellation provisions included in the bill state that any business opportunity contract or agreement can be canceled for any reason within 10 business days “after the date that the consumer signs the contract or agreement or the date that the seller notifies the consumer in writing that the contract or agreement is accepted by the seller, whichever is later.”

And lastly, which may be of particular significance to mobile telemarketers, all solicitations made to home phones, cell phones or any type of mobile device must be identifiable on the caller ID mechanism. Even if you are operating from another state and soliciting individuals or businesses in Arizona, you must comply with the statute.

House Bill 2825 was signed into law on April 4, 2012 and slated to go into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ended – which was in the beginning of May.

If you’re an online or mobile marketer who wants to discuss the legal ramifications of the revised Telephone Solicitation Act and how it may affect your operation, please give Kelly / Warner law a call. We’re here to help answer all your questions and assist you with any marketing compliance issues.

Idol Defamation: Who Will Come Out On Top In The Corey Clark v. Viacom/MTV Lawsuit

corey clark defamation lawsuit
Will Ex-Idol, Corey Clark, win his defamation lawsuit against MTV?

UPDATE: Welp folks, it looks like the final score is MTV 1, Corey Clark, 0. Viacom emerged victorious in this celebrity defamation lawsuit because the judge ruled that Viacom and its representatives spoke the truth about Clark — and as such an act of defamation was not committed.

Remember Corey Clark? Season 2 American Idol contestant? He was the guy who was disqualified for not telling producers about a few unresolved legal issues. Clark was also was the crooner who insisted that he and then judge, Paula Abdul, shared more than just a mentor/mentee relationship. Corey has been out of the national spotlight for nearly a decade, but last week he came roaring back after announcing a $40 million defamation lawsuit against Viacom, MTV and on-air personality, Jim Cantiello.

Why Is Corey Clark Suing For Defamation?

Why defamation? Clark feels his reputation and earning potential were irreparably damaged by the defendants. His past legal problems involved allegations of assault against his sister, but the charges were eventually dropped. MTV personality, Jim Cantiello, however, cared little about the dismissal and lambasted the ousted Idol on his blog between 2007 and 2011.

According to the lawsuit, Clark claims Cantiello urged readers to boycott his music, plus called him an “alleged sister-beater” and “degenerate” even after the charges were dropped. As such, Clark is asking for around $40 million and accuses the media outlet of “abusing the constitutional privileges of ‘freedom of the press’ … with the intent to permanently impair …state property rights and decimate his mental well-being.”

Will Corey Clark Win His Defamation Lawsuit Against Viacom and MTV?

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read the actual filing yet, so I’m basing my win-lose analysis solely on what has been reported widely in the press. And to be honest, I think Clark may have a case here. That being said, he may be asking for too much. (But hey, that’s the point sometimes, so as to entice your adversary into a settlement.)

But let’s put the monetary aspect to the side for a moment and just examine the facts of whether Corey has a quality defamation claim or not.

The first thing the judge will consider is whether or not Clark is a “public figure” or “private citizen.” My bet is that his appearance on Idol, and his desire to become a known music entity, puts him squarely in the “public figure” category. As such, Clark will have to prove that the defendants acted with actual malice – meaning they knowing lied, or acted with reckless disregard for the truth (i.e., they didn’t do much fact checking before reporting).

Now, here’s where reading the actual lawsuit would probably help. If Cantinello did not make mention on every blog post about Clark that the singer was cleared of the charges, then Clark’s lawyers could certainly argue “defamation by omission” – and each blog post without the disclaimer would constitute one act of defamation. If Cantinello did point out in every Clark-centric post that he was cleared of charges, then Corey may not have a leg to stand on.

If Corey’s team is trying to argue that the use of the word “degenerate” by Cantinello constitutes defamation, they may have a tough time. Calling someone a “jerk” or “degenerate” in most cases does not qualify as slander or libel in the United States, as it’s an opinion.

The idea that Cantinello urged his readers to “boycott” Clark’s music leaves the door wide open for Clark’s attorneys to argue “actual damage” – the question then becomes if Clark’s records would have sold better if Cantaniello hadn’t trashed him. And you know what, they very well may have. Clark’s publicity mainly centered around his disqualification from “Idol” due to these charges. If an entity continues to “broadcast” those charges, even though Clark was cleared, then it really is a clear-cut case of defamation and Clark very well may emerge victorious. Even if the Viacom/MTV legal team argues that Clark had “no sales” prior to this incident, in an attempt to mitigate, Clark’s lawyers could simply say that he was at the beginning of his career, “Idol” was the platform, and then point to Idol successes like Carrie Underwood or Clay Aiken as examples of what could have been.

Kardashian QuickTrim False Advertising Lawsuit Could Be Significant

Kardashian QuickTrim lawsuit
Will the Kardashian sisters ignite a significant change in online endorsements and Internet marketing? Possibly if they don’t come out on top in a recent false adverting lawsuit.

Get ready for some pop-culture publicity regarding false advertising legalities.

Thanks to a diet and detoxification product line, promotional tweeting, some Internet ads and an appearance on a morning news program, four frustrated weight-loss hopefuls in New York filed a false advertising lawsuit against the Kardashians and QuickTrim. According to multiple reports, sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney have taken legal action to get their names removed from a multi-million dollar claim.

Reason for the False Advertising Lawsuit against QuickTrim and the Kardashians

The “QuickTrim Four” argue that both QuickTrim and the Kardashian sisters knowingly made false statements about the product line. The customers also admit that they only bought the product because they believed Kim, Kourtney and Khloe wouldn’t lead them astray. After all, Kim tweeted “Our QuickTrim cleanse will be massive! Khloe has already lost so much weight!” – [sarcasm]why would fans think Kim was not telling the truth?[/sarcasm] Moreover, since it’s difficult to fit much into a 140 character missive, there was no disclaimer for the customers to review and consider. (Interesting, social media advertising disclaimers is an issue that the FTC recently tackled in a fact-finding workshop.)

Kardashian Kamp: “Not Our Problem, People”

But if you think the ubiquitous sisters are going to take this lawsuit lying down (Freudian slip), you’re wrong. Despite the fact that Kim and Khloe went on TV to promote the program, and pointed out that:

a) They don’t “just put [their] name on anything,”

b) They “helped develop the product” and

c) It “really works,”

the Kardashians are now saying they’re simply spokespeople who having nothing to do with product development.

If a judge decides that the Kardashians’ public statements and digital proclamations render them more than just product pushers, the move to have their names removed will most likely be rejected and have a significant impact on social media marketing.

Why Affiliate Marketers Should Pay Attention to the Kardashian QuickTrim Lawsuit

If the Kardashian cabal loses, it could have a significant impact on affiliate and Internet marketing, as judges may feel more empowered to apply stricter interpretations of endorsement standards. After all, just this year, the FTC tightened biz op rules to ostensibly protect consumers from fraudulent “turnkey” business and work-at-home opportunities.

A dismissal refusal would most likely have an effect on the number of celebrity endorsements in the future. In fact, the era of celebrity Twitter endorsements could die a slow death — and reality show super-stars may find themselves down one revenue stream.

What’s bad for celebs, though, could be brilliant for affiliate marketers. After all, if celebrities are not as willing to sign up for an endorsement for fear of litigation, it may just level the playing field.

New Internet Law In South Korea Puts Parents In Control Of Online Gaming

south korean online gaming law
Tons of South Koran teenagers probably had a pretty bad week. Their parents were given legislative control to limit the number of hours they’re allowed to game each day.

Cue the Kvetching of Game-Loving South Korean Kids!

While we struggle to codify cyberbullying laws, South Korean officials have been considering a different type of Internet law that allows moms and dads to set online gaming limits for their kids.

Why does the south Koran government feel the need to protect their youth from the evils of over-gaming? Well, if you believe the government minister in charge, it’s because Internet gaming is the equivalent to a gate-way drug; a scourge so damaging parents need legislative assistance to take control of the situation.

South Korea’s Online Gaming Problem

The South Korean government looks at online gaming like the RIAA looks at piracy – a threat that must be eradicated. And if you believe the agitprop, South Korean officials may be right. Minister of Gender Equality & Family, Younghee Choi, explained that “[o]nline games are the same as drugs. Parents can’t deal with the problem, so the government must take responsibility.”

Is Minister Choi exaggerating like the RIAA or is her concern based in facts? As you’d expect, most adults agree with Choi, but the students – while acknowledging their generation’s love for gaming – are skeptical about the efficacy of this new online gaming bill.

Shop owner, Kim Yeonsu, told a harrowing tale of how he once had to rush a patron to the hospital after they passed out from over-gaming in his Internet café. Bosung Hwang, a student, explained that “Korean students study a lot and have a lot of stress. They have to [sic] so many exams…so they try to ease that stress by playing video games.” (Does that mean university campus medics in South Korea are better equipped at handling acute carpal tunnel syndrome rather than alcohol poisoning?)

What Are The Rules Of The New South Korean Online Gaming Law?

The goal of the law is simple: curb the gaming of South Korea’s youth. To further this objective, the government mandated online gaming companies to provide a way for parents to communicate with their platform and set limits for their children’s allowable game-play time.

How Do South Korean Officials Plan to Enforce The New Gaming Law?

You may be wondering, “how in Kim Il-sung’s nemesis does South Korea monitor the amount of time each kid spends online?” The answer is a little shocking. Despite being a constitutional republic, complete with a check-and-balance three-branch system of government, every South Korean citizen does, indeed, have an “Internet user I.D.” they must use to access most websites. Yes, you understood that correctly. For all intent and purpose, using the Internet in South Korea requires a government issued I.D. number.  As a result, developing personalized controls is easier (it also makes it a whole lot easier for officials to monitor their citizens…but that’s another topic for another day.)

Not the First Online Gaming Legislation in South Korea

The new parental control law is not the first gaming statute enacted by South Korean officials. A few months ago, they passed the Shutdown Law, which is popularly known as the “Cinderella Law” – but instead of a pumpkin and rag dress, South Korean kids risk a police record if found gaming after midnight.

As you’d imagine, the under 18-set in South Korea is scoffing, “Do you really think teenagers will not play…[we]’ll just [find and] use our parents ID.”

One last thought: Korean students are considered the most technologically savvy in the world and consistently rank #1 in international educational studies for problem solving. In other words, expect crack-codes to hit the Internet in 3…2…done!

ABC’s 20/20 Slapped With A Defamation Lawsuit

20-20 defamation lawsuit
Will ABC have to pay out large damages to David Williams for allegedly defaming him on the news program, 20/20?

Imagine you were taking it easy on a Friday night and plopped on the couch to watch “20/20.” Now think about what you would do if one of the segments featured your ex, who was announcing to the world that you’re the lying, no-good, jerk-face inspiration for their background-check service.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to David Williams. His ex-girlfriend, creator of icheckmates.com, Kelley Cahill, was featured in a 20/20 piece entitled “Blinded by Love: Kelley Cahill’s Ordeal.” In it, Cahill accused Williams of being a dastardly cad. Williams, however, says Cahill is lying and filed a defamation lawsuit.

Williams v. Cahill: The 20/20 Defamation Lawsuit

According to David Williams, he was shocked after viewing the 20/20 episode entitled “Blinded by Love: Kelley Cahill’s Ordeal.” The piece was about his ex-girlfriend, with whom he’d allegedly broken up with 5 years earlier. During the episode, she accused him of scoundrel-like behavior, ans cited it as the inspiration for her business icheckmate.com – an online service that allows Internet daters to check-up on potential mates before making substantial contact.

In a television segment hosted by Christopher Cuomo and edited by Jack Pyle, Cahill accused Williams of cheating, concealing a marriage and raking her over the coals financially. Williams insists that Cahill knew he was separated and not fully divorced when they were together; he also insists he lavished Cahill with gifts and supported her financially while dating.

During the program, Cuomo allegedly reported that Williams declined to comment. But Williams avers that Cuomo’s statement was false and that when he was contacted by ABC, he instructed them to look at public records that would prove she was lying. Williams also says he did not offer a statement to the news program because he didn’t have enough time to procure legal counsel before the segment aired.

Williams’ defamation claim asserts that ABC failed to engage in “meaningful research to determine whether Cahill was being truthful, and failed to give Williams any, or any adequate, opportunity to [refute] Cahill’s allegations treating her story objectively.” He’s asking for a jury trial and claiming publication of private faces, intrusion, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Celebrity Defamation Considerations: Will Williams Be Considered A Private Citizen or A Public Figure?

United States defamation law provides for different defamation standards for private citizens and public figures. And as social media and reality television grow in popularity, the lines between a “purely private person” and a “public figure” are increasingly blurred. For example, in a recent publicity rights lawsuit, a judge ruled that “everybody is famous on Facebook.

So in the case of Williams vs. Cahill, will the fact that the 20/20 episode was publicly broadcast effect the case? Will Williams automatically be considered a “celebrity” or “public figure” because his story was told on a prime-time network program, even though he may not have authorized the use of his name? To be honest, it may come down to the judge. But if Williams can provide ample evidence that he did not commit the acts attributed to him on the television segment, he may come out on top. Since he didn’t ask for the attention, a judge may decide Williams doesn’t have to meet the “actual malice” standards of a “celebrity defamation” lawsuit.

What Will Williams Have To Prove To Win This Defamation Lawsuit?

In order for David Williams to win this defamation lawsuit, he’ll need to prove that Cahill was lying and that said lying harmed him materially. He could submit public records that prove his side of the story; he can call witnesses to attest to his claims; he can gather any and all personal evidence that absolve him of any wrongdoing.

Williams would also need to have evidence proving that he was in some way harmed by the broadcast. Did he lose his job over the incident? Is he now unable to find new work because his reputation has been tarnished? In the simplest terms, any plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit should gather as much evidence as possible to prove that the material in question is connected to their harmed his reputation and/or diminished bank account.

If Williams can prove that Cahill harmed his reputation for the sole purpose of promoting icheckmate.com, she could find herself out of business — as puffery is one thing, but blatantly defaming another individual to promote a service will not win over many judges and juries.

If, however, Cahill is in the right and the powers that be find that she did not commit defamation, then Williams may have worsened his own reputation by calling further attention to the issue via the lawsuit.

Papers were filed in Orange Country California Superior Court.

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The Legalities Of Teacher Blogging: Munroe v. Central Bucks School District

teacher blogging
What happens when a public school teacher has a blog that talks about their students? Is it illegal? Will the teacher lose their job?

Teacher blogging is becoming more popular, but is it legally dangerous for educators to indulge in the act?

Part of our societal contract is to provide a public education system. And in said system, we tend to favor affable teachers who understand — and enjoy working with — young people. As such, where does our allegiance land when a public educator maintains a semi-anonymous blog, wherein they disparage students, parents and school administrators? Does free speech win out over the arguable well-being of the targeted students?

Natalie Munroe, an eleventh grade English teacher in Pennsylvania, found out her community’s answer to that conundrum last month. She was fired.

But Munroe is fighting back in the form of a $5,000,000 federal lawsuit which essentially asks:

  1. Is free speech more important than a student’s right to a positive, unbiased and encouraging teacher?
  2. Are teachers legally obligated to refrain from blogging about students?
  3. Do educators have a moral obligation not to disparage students online?

Teacher Natalie Munroe’s Blog: Catalyst for the First Amendment Lawsuit

The fracas started over Munroe’s blog entitled “Where are we going, and why are we in this Handbasket?” Munroe’s lawsuit maintains the blog was “anonymous” even though it included pictures of the teacher. She also blogged under the name, Natalie M. – a pen-name that doesn’t do much to obfuscate her real name, Natalie Munroe. Nevertheless, Munroe insists it was meant to be a private blog, which only her friends and family were invited to follow. It was, however, publicly indexed; as such, even if  people weren’t invited to follow, it could be found via a search engine.

Like many blogs, Munroe’s was often used as an outlet to vent her daily frustrations. Being a high school teacher, those frustrations included her students, parents and superiors. At times she stuck to fairly innocuous quips about her students and called them “out  of control;” at other times, she arguably went for the jugular and opted for phrases like “dunderheads,” “frightfully dim” and “utterly loathsome.”  Munroe once declared that one of her students was “a complete and utter jerk in all ways.” Natalie M. also lamented about “canned report card responses” and wished that she could put “dresses like a streetwalker” on a few of her students’ quarterly grade analyses.

Teacher Blogging: Munroe v. Central Bucks School District

Word got out that “Handbasket” was the work of Natalie Munroe and within a few months she got her walking papers. The tenured teacher believes her blog is to blame for the firing, while school officials insist it has more to do with “poor performance.”

Munroe filed a “First Amendment Retaliation case” on June 21, 2012 in federal court  alleging her firing violated her first amendment rights. Named defendants include the Central Bucks School District, the superintendent and the principal of her school. Munroe is asking for reinstatement, back pay and front pay, in addition to punitive damages related to civil rights violations, emotional distress and reputation damage – a package totaling $5 million dollars.

Public Education v. The Internet: Striking the Right Jurisdictional Balance When It Comes To Teacher Blogging

Munroe’s case is intriguing because of the questions it raises about the intersection of public education, digital technology and the law. As the world we live in becomes more digitized, what legislative and societal rules should be adapted to ensure both personal freedoms and a healthy learning environment for the “next generation”?

Should teachers be censured for lambasting their students online? If a teacher is going to maintain a blog about their students, should statutes exist to ensure it’s not publicly searchable — for student privacy right reasons? Do parents have the right to demand that a demeaning teacher be removed? If so, where is the law-line drawn?

Blogging teachers aren’t the only issue involving Internet law and the public school system. In fact, many states are in the process of examining cyber bullying legislation and deciding whether or not schools can enact punishments for cyber harassment that occurs off campus.

The more we integrate the Internet into our lives, the more gray-area Internet law implications will arise. Moreover, it’s likely these issues will involve ethical questions that may force a robust public discourse about online free speech and how it relates to students’ rights versus teacher bloggers.