Monthly Archives: January 2013

FTC’s Google Antitrust Ruling: Summary of Opinions

FTC's Google Antitrust DecisionSpin doctors expertly touted tendentious studies, but Google emerged the apparent victor from its U.S. antitrust investigation. Media outlets — both brawny and bitty — technology bloggers, pundits and pirates weighed in with their opinion. Questions abounded: Did Google get off lightly? Would the European Commission consider the FTC’s ruling in their ongoing investigation? Was it a pyrrhic victory? Opinions overflowed: The FTC Sucks! Anyone Who Thinks the FTC Sucks, Sucks! The Google Antitrust Ruling Was A Victory For The Free Market! The Google Antitrust Ruling Killed The Free Market!

Not wanting to be a wallflower at the Legal Punditry Ball, we’ve created a Reader’s Digest version of reactions to the Google antitrust outcome.

Time Magazine: Did Google’s Antitrust Victory Have To Do With Their Motto?

Time On Google Antritrust RulingAssuming the role of philosopher, Time Magazine’s David Futrelle asked the question: “Did Google’s Promise to ‘Do No Evil’ Persuade the FTC to Do Nothing About Its Search Bias?” After summarizing the search giant’s slap on the wrist, Futrelle suggested that Google defined their own parameters during the investigation. He then argued that the FTC’s 404-questioning-fail will ultimately murder innovation – cyborg style.

Time sought opinions from several industry luminaries, Gizmodo’s resident Google Critic Scott Cleland being one. He listed an index of previous offenses and concluded that Google is the second coming of Darth Sidious.

» Read Article

Wall Street Journal: How Will This Affect The International Markets?

Wall Street Journal On Google Antritrust RulingEver concerned with market-changing international imbroglios, the Wall Street Journal questioned whether or not the FTC’s decision would sway European Commissioners currently conducting their own investigation into Google’s search practices. EU spokespeople assured the WSJ that the Federal Trade Commission’s ruling will not have any “direct implications” on their inquiry.

A lawyer in Brussels who works with Microsoft said the European Commissioner has “identified practices that could be deemed illegal, and which the FTC walked away from.” The Conclusion: Europeans seem more concerned with “search manipulation” than Americans – so invest accordingly one-percenters.

» Read Article

Wired: Let’s Apply Some Actual Logic, Shall We?

Wired On Google Antritrust RulingDoug Miller took a different approach than many of his peers by asking the question: Did the true consumers of Google – whom he believes are advertisers – lose out in the FTC Google ruling? Using Nathan Newman’s logic, Miller averred that the “search market” is a mirage since netizens do not pay for the service. He punctuated his thesis by highlighting Google’s dependency on Internet marketers – a whopping 96% of their revenue pie is advertising.

Miller argues that Google’s practices hurt the true consumers of search, online marketers,  because “with no other viable alternative for search engine advertising, the prices spiral upward at alarming rates.” He reasons that Google does engage in monopolistic activity because the company uses proceeds from their advertising revenues to subsidize free-cost products – like email, Google Docs and Google Calendar – which creates an insurmountable barrier to entry in the industry.

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The Washington Times: The Federal Government Is Always Bad! (Except This Time.)

The Washington Times On Google Antritrust Ruling“Overcharging and under-delivering,” contends Daniel Oliver of the Washington Times, is the only market environment that “traditional antitrust law” seeks to conquer. In other words, the only functioning purpose of monopoly busting regulations is to stop industry smothering companies from raising prices on consumers.

In his “government-be-bad” analysis, Miller assured readers that “their favorite search engine will continue to be designed by private industry, not by government.” To further his assertion via one-dimensional rhetoric, Miller reminds readers that Bing and Yahoo! exist – so no harm, no foul.

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Reuters: Why Aren’t More People Talking About FRAND?

Reuters On Google Antritrust RulingNanny Neutral, Reuters, focused on the Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Licensing Terms (FRAND) aspect of the Google antitrust investigation. Though most people are talking about the search element, the investigation involved a handful of other issues. Chief among those was Google’s tendency to speak idealistically while carrying a patent-troll stick. As part of the deal, the technology behemoth agreed to ease up on frivolous aspects of their patent litigation. Specifically, they agreed to “[not] aggressively seek injunctions against products from rival companies.”

Reuters explained that the FTC-Google agreement is not like a court decision in that it does not officially establish legal precedence, but urged the FTC to use it as a “template” for other patent cases. A rightly suspicious expert quoted in their article, however, believes the vague wording of the Google agreement clears the field for bellicose patent litigation.

» Read Article

The complex nature of “e-mmunication” presents new legal challenges for both public companies and private people. If care is not taken when crafting decrees, law books could fill with special interest statutes that ultimately injure consumers. It’s too early to tell if the FTC called this one correctly, but if Google emerges as the Craken of commercial search, remember this decision as the root legal cause.

The Week In Internet Law: Illegal Downloading, Online Privacy & Gambling, FTC Happenings

criminal cat
LOL Cat of the Week: Cat was caught trying to enter a max security prison with a few shivs and other jail accoutrement duck-taped to its middle. Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/15z9wx/this_cat_was_found_trying_to_enter_a_maximum/

Catch up on the noteworthy, newsworthy and insignificant-but-interesting Internet law news for the week of December 31, 2012 – January 4, 2013.

Online Copyright Infringement

Prenda’s Legal Tantrum

The mystery of Alan Cooper continues to color Prenda’s illegal downloading dragnet. The story is now so sorted, I half expect Hercule Poirot to enter stage left. In the last installment of the copyright troll saga, a new character named Alan Cooper was introduced. A contractor who once worked for John Steele (the corporate plaintiff), Alan Cooper’s name appeared on official documents as being the CEO of AF Holdings (Steele’s company). Alan began to wonder if he was the “Alan Cooper” in the documents. Lawyering ensued and a decision was made: Prenda would have to produce evidence that Alan Cooper is not that Alan Cooper – signature verification too, please; K, thanks.

To find out Prenda’s unbelievable next move, head over to TechDirt…it’s a jaw-dropper.

USC & Hollywood: An Anti-Piracy Love Story

Will 2013 be the year of academic anti-piracy studies? This week, the University of Southern California – an academic institution happily entrenched in the Hollywood ecosystem — released a study of the top 10 pirate-supporting ad networks. Google and Yahoo! landed on the list.  USC was sure to highlight – with what seemed like a hint of smug satisfaction — that their data came from Google’s own transparency report. The problem is that Google’s transparency report doesn’t reflect invalid or bogus DMCA requests, rendering it an inchoate data set. Read Google’s “grok the cloud or GTFO” reaction to USC’s piracy report over at CNet.

3DS v. Homebrew v. Watsham

The Nintendo Homebrew community did it again. Word hit the wire this week that hackers successfully breeched 3Ds’ platform. Jools Watsham, head of Renegade Kid Gaming, wasn’t psyched about the news and posted an impassioned plea threatening to stop developing games if the platform is exploited. In his missive, Watsham also urged hackers to join “The Force.”

Federal Trade Commission Internet Law Issues

The FTC, Google and Microsoft: A Tale of Anti-trust

The FTC emerged from behind the curtain to formally announce their anti-trust deal with Google. In short, Google agreed to catch the FRAND spirit, not “scrape” review content from other sites, and perform some jiggery-pokery that will allow for easier data transfer to third-party advertisers. Upon learning of the deal, Microsoft had an understandable Veruca Salt meltdown.

The FTC Is Still After Diet Pill Pushers

America’s consumer protection agency also made an appearance on 20/20. This week’s hour was dedicated to weight loss and associated industries – including pound- dropping, product-pimping affiliate sites. The commission’s message is crystal clear: we’re on the hunt for sketchy product pushers with non-compliant websites; we are legion; we won’t be kind. You’ve been warned.

Online Privacy

New App Ain’t Making ‘Rents Smile

Snapchat is the new nightmare app for hand-wringing parents with sexting-curious teenagers. The gimmick: every “snap” sent self-destructs within seconds. But like nearly all digital communiqués, experts are now sounding the horn that those snapchats may not really disappear. Dun, dun, dun!

New Netflix Law: All Your Viewing Belong To Us

Don’t want your NASCAR friends to know you’re a faithful Downton Abbey fan? If so, you may want to read this article about changes made to the Video Privacy Protection Act that were signed into law a few days before Hogmanay. Brass tax: online rental (and possibly streaming) platforms can now share your viewing history with the world. You can opt out; but be sure to do it right the first time or prepare to be “borked” for at least two years.

International Internet Law Milestones

China’s New Big-Brothery Internet Laws Are Now In Effect

China’s got a whole new slew of Internet laws that would make Stalin smile. (Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that they said they were going to ease up on the whole Golden Shield thing? Oh well, c’est La China.) The most noteworthy of China’s new restrictive regulations: every broadband and web service provider must have the full “real names” of all their users on record – a huge problem for the country’s Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo. Site operators in China, from here on out, must follow a handy 12-point plan which outlines how to control what people post on their networks. To draw a workable – but not 100% accurate — comparison, China’s new Internet law is essentially the opposite of Section 230 of the CDA, which provides safe harbor for website operators in the event actionable third-party content is posted on their sites.

Antigua: “I Want My Two Twenty-One-Million Dollars!”

After being told “the check’s in the mail” one too many times, Antiguan officials are looking to legalize piracy against U.S. entities. Why is the island nation considering piracy as an embargo option? Well, they never received the $21 million the U.S. government agreed to pay back to the mid-90s as a result of a World Trade Organization judgment. Can they do that? Could it work? Skip on over to PokerFuse for the answers.

World Intellectual Property Organization Stats…Mean Very Little

A few “scare ‘em with stats” reports hit this week concerning an “All Time High!” number of UDRP cases filed with the WIPO in 2012. The thing is that an increase in cases doesn’t necessarily signal an increase in cybersquatting, just an increase in lawyering. Head on over to DomainNameWire to find out why more domain dispute cases are not another subtle sign of the coming apocalypse.

Internet Law Bytes

JDSupra’s outlines the hot Internet law issues for 2013

The United States Patent and Trademark Office announced two roundtable discussions that will focus on software patent reform.

New Social Media Privacy Laws For 2013

social media privacy in 2013
New Social Media Privacy laws will take affect in 2013 in several states. Is your state one of them?

A new year is here, which means a new set of state Internet laws. A number of bills dealing with social media privacy are set to hit the books — which isn’t surprising since online privacy was a hot topic, both abroad and at home, in 2012. Don’t expect the trend to slow this year, either; online privacy is likely to remain a big Internet law debate in 2013.

New Social Media Privacy Law In Michigan

On December 28, 2012, Michigan enacted the Internet Privacy Protection Act – House Bill 5523. It means that from now on in the Great Lakes State, employers and state schools are not permitted to penalize applicants for refusing to hand over access to their social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Specifically, the law prohibits:

Employers and educational institutions from requiring certain individuals to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of personal Internet accounts.”

When asked to comment on the new social media law, Gov. Snyder praised the bill and affirmed his belief that “potential employees and students should be judged on skills and abilities, not private online activity.”

New 2013 Internet Laws In California

Michigan isn’t the only state that rung in the New Year with a new law concerning social media privacy; California also passed an online privacy bill, which is very similar to Michigan’s HB 5523.  As of Tuesday in The Golden State, employees and public school students don’t have to hand over access to their social media accounts.

Michigan and California aren’t the only states cracking down on Internet privacy issues. North Carolina already passed an online privacy law in 2012 – but instead of protecting employees and students, its goal is to guard the online privacy of teachers. Delaware and Illinois are also expected to pass similar laws as Michigan and California this year.

And Don’t Forget About Mobile Privacy Policies

Another e-privacy issue for 2013 is mobile privacy. Due to FTC regulations and the California Online Privacy Protection Act, anybody building and selling apps or plugins had better make sure it now includes a privacy policy. California’s Attorney General made it clear at the end of December 2012, via a lawsuit against Delta for not having a proper privacy policy, that proper terms are a must for any app or plugin accessible in the state. If not, you could find yourself on the losing end of a lawsuit and forking over a large fine.

The Kelly / Warner law firm has experience with all types of Internet law and online privacy legal issues. If you need to speak with an attorney, contact us today.