How can a resource that is written by anyone who has an inkling to say something be reliable? The rub on Wikipedia has always been that you can't trust it, because unlike Britannica, it is not written by a staff of paid Phd's, but rather volunteer online authors. That is not lost on the alert staff at my daughter's grade school. They have generally prohibited students from using Wikipedia in connection with researching their papers. However, it appears as though word has not reached our state and federal courts, which, according to the New York Times, have cited Wikipedia as authority in over 100 reported cases, including at least 13 from federal courts of appeal.
Priceline, Travelocity and Cingular All Settle Charges with New York AG Over Use of Deceptive Adware
The New York AG's office has entered into separate settlement agreements with these companies finding that they had engaged in deceptive business practices by using adware without consumer's consent. The AG had filed suit against DirectRevenue LLC earlier, and DirectRevenue evidently provided the adware service to these companies. One exerpt from the settlement agreements:
Direct Revenue installed adware programs onto millions of computers worldwide that delivered to users surfing the Internet a steady stream of advertisements for Direct Revenue's clients, such as Priceline. In selecting which ads to show, Direct Revenue programs also monitored the websites visited by users, along with data typed into web forms. Direct Revenue installed its adware programs on consumers' computers without adequate notice or the consent of consumers. Furthermore, Direct Revenue software was difficult to remove and also surreptitiously installed other programs and updates onto desktops already running its adware.
The Priceline Agreement goes on to state that the AG "finds that, by using Direct Revenue's adware programs to advertise its products and services on the Internet, Priceline has engaged in deceptive
The Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County ruled last week that in order to discover the identity of an anonymous online author, a plaintiff must first show that its interest in discovering that identity outweighs the speaker's constitutional right to speak anonymously. The precise standard used by the court required the plaintiff to " show that its claim would survive a Motion for Summary Judgment before being entitled to discover the identity of an anonymous speaker through any compulsory discovery process." The case is Paul McMann v. John Doe, and the opinion can be found here. Evidently, the plaintiff would not commit to continue the case if it was allowed to proceed with the defendant remaining anonymous, and the judge tossed it.
Anonymity a constitutional right? It's an interesting concept. Prior to the advent of the Internet, true anonymity had been very hard to establish in connection with widely disseminated published materials. Now it is the order of the day. This can be very beneficial in limited circumstances by allowing one to pass helpful information and evade direct retribution, such as with "whistleblowers" or the anonymous reporting of crimes. However, with true anonymity, extortion and harassment based on false information become commonplace. Personally, I like the general idea of holding speakers accountable for their words, rather than allowing anonymity as the rule. If you can't say something nice . . ..
With as many as 49 bloggers, online editors, and web based reporters behind bars as of the end of 2006, technology companies and human rights groups are collaborating to create an Internet Code of Conduct designed to protect free speech and privacy online. Participants include Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Vodafone, Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the San Francisco based Business for Social Responsibility. The focus of the code will be to hold companies accountable if they cooperate with governments to suppress free speech or violate human rights. You may recall Yahoo being in the spotlight for supposedly helping the Chinese government trace Shi Tao's email exchanges. Shi Tao was subsequently sentenced to 10 years for leaking state secrets. More detail here.
The following, in no particular order, are our top ten favorite TechKnowledgy stories of 2006:
1. Posner Appears Live as Avatar on Second Life. If the words in that headline are gobbledygook to you, you better get with it! Second Life is a popular online virtual world where users interact with each other through "avatars", which are basically animated cartoons of themselves. Judge Richard Posner appeared live on Second Life on December 7th, and was interviewed on a variety of topics for two hours. The illustrated transcript can be found here. The idea that one of the most influential legal minds of our time is willing to embrace this emerging technology is just, well, cool. . ..
2. Supreme Court Alit in Patent Cases. While the world focused on the drama of the appointment of Justice Alito, IP lawyers had some drama of their own, with a fully loaded patent docket. Decisions included
The meddlesome practice of Domain Tasting has ballooned from around 100,000 per day in 2004, to in excess of four million per day today. Domain Tasting describes the practice of domain speculators who abuse the 5 day grace period during which a domain may be returned for a refund of the registration fee. The speculators use this period to test expiring and other domains to see which ones have any residual or typo traffic. The issue is finally getting some attention in the media, but ICANN continues to permit the practice. Verisign, which manages the .com domain, and has an estimated $25 million on deposit at any one time from domain tasters is not eager to push for a change (the annual interest on $25 million is, well, enough to buy a few fruit baskets for the powers that be at ICANN) . In the meantime, the Internet and our search results are clogged with meaningless typo and jibber jabber domains seeking an elusive click or two that will provide the domain speculator with something more than the $6 per year registration fee. We could sure use a few million more sites like those. . ..
Image courtesy of SuperCapacity under Creative Commons
Another lure was dropped in the sea of deeplinking cases this month when a federal judge in Texas enjoined an internet site from providing deep links to motorcycle racing podcasts. The injunction involved SFX Motor Sports and www.supercrosslive.com, an internet site that provides services to the supercross racing community. The site's operator, Robert Davis, used his site to link to audiocasts copyrighted by SFX Motor Sports. The hyperlinks attached directly to the audio files, bypassing the SFX homepage and its advertising content.
This December, the US House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 1608 also called the "Undertaking Spam, Spyware, And Fraud Enforcement with Enforcers beyond Borders Act" or US SAFE WEB Act. The bill provides the Federal government with additional tools for the enforcement arsenal for spammers acting from outside the U.S.
Brobeck was a huge law firm that popped along with the dot com bubble. It filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2003. It's client list read like a Who's Who in the technology, life sciences, medical devices and venture capital industries. The 900 lawyer firm had offices in in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Diego, New York City, Denver, Austin and Washington, D.C. So, if you are a large company in those industries, chances are, you were a Brobeck client. PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: unless you affirmatively "opt-out", all of your files will be turned over to the Library of Congress. Read the Notice. Thought you might like to know.
Image courtesy of Velo_City
Doing what it does best, Google has now made each and every patent that you can find at the USPTO available as part of an easily searchable database using the Google search engine. This includes patents issued from the 1790's through today (although there is some lag on current patents). Using the same technology that powers Google Book Search, Google has converted the entire image database of U.S. patents into a format that’s easy to search. You can search the full text of U.S. patents from the Google Patent Search Home Page, or visit the Advanced Patent Search Page to search by criteria like patent number, inventor, and filing date. Very cool. You can find stuff like this device, that supposedly accelerates radio waves beyond the speed of light (who knew?), to the much maligned patent on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or the Wright Brothers patent on the flying machine, all as easily as looking for pizza in 90210.
The just concluded 109th Congress largely failed to deliver on technology issues, from data breach notification, patent reform, Net neutrality, H-1B visas, copyright/digital rights management, and the R&D tax credit. CNet has a good round-up here.
In a recent decision in the case of Omega World Travel, Inc. v. Mummagraphics, Inc., the Fourth Circuit federal court upheld a district court decision finding that the federal CAN-SPAM act preempted Oklahoma's anti-spam statute. The CAN-SPAM Act preempts state laws regulating commercial email unless the state law focuses on deception or falsity. The Mummagraphics court found that the Oklahoma statute was broad enough to encompass immaterial inaccuracies in email information and thus impermissibility exceed the scope of the deception or falsity exception. This runs counter to a 2005 decision which found that the CAN-SPAM act did
The Federal District Court in Los Angeles has held that a border search of a defendant's laptop computer violates the Forth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, because such searches must be supported by reasonable suspicion. The case is U.S. v. Arnold, No. 2:05-cr-00772 (C.D. Calif.), and it stands in direct contrast to U.S. v Romm, (see our earlier post on that case), wherein the Ninth Circuit reached the opposite conclusion.
Like the Romm case, the Arnold case also involved the discovery of child pornography on the computer's hard drive, leading to an indictment of the defendant. The court noted that although neither a warrant nor probable cause is required for ordinary border searches, cause is required for more intrusive border searches, such as body cavity searches. These "nonroutine" or intrusive searches require a heightened level of suspicion to be reasonable because they implicate the "dignity and privacy interests of the persons being searched."
Calling the current test of obviousness "gobbledygook", the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in KSR International v. Teleflex, a case which questions the very foundation of all of patent law. During the oral arguments, Chief Justice Roberts intimated that the current "teaching-suggestion-motivation" test relied too little on common sense, while Justice Scalia made the "gobbledygook" comment. Dennis Crouch provides a good background on the history of the TSM test at his PatentlyO blog. And if you have an appetite for Supreme Court arguments, you can find the transcript here.
Experts expect the Supreme Court to raise the bar on the obviousness test, which has been widely criticized, particularly in the area of software and business method patents, which would ultimately make it more difficult to obtain patent protection.