Chilling effects of the surveillance state [Glyn Moody, ComputerWorld UK]:
Groklaw is shutting down, as a direct result of the revelations that the world’s communications – including our emails – are being spied upon by the NSA and GCHQ. That’s a huge loss for the open source world: Groklaw played an immensely important part in fighting off the absurd but dangerous SCO attack on free software. Alongside that main work it has conducted countless legal analyses of various other attempts to use patents and copyright to undermine open source. And it has done it applying the open source method of collaboration, a significant achievement in itself.
But the guiding force behind Groklaw, PJ, feels she can’t go on when something so fundamental as the privacy of her communications can no longer be taken for granted. In her final post, she compares the feeling to an earlier one when her flat was broken into, and someone went through all her belongings.
More: Brian Barrett, Gizmodo. We’ve cited Groklaw a number of times in this space.
Not unrelated: “What Should, and Should Not, Be in NSA Surveillance Reform Legislation” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
Having defeated a Righthaven suit filed against the political site Democratic Underground, lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation now would like the court to award attorneys’ fees. [Kravets, Wired "Threat Level"] Among the claims advanced by EFF in that case were that Righthaven had engaged in barratry and champerty, concepts familiar to many Overlawyered readers if in desuetude in some sectors of the legal world these days. It had also pointed out that some of the newspapers facilitating the suits themselves, or websites they operate, appear to engage in or encourage practices that might be considered wrongful under Righthaven’s theories, such as “cutting and pasting” potentially copyrighted text.
Separately, Groklaw has analyzed what happened in one sample case. Of the furor aroused by the lawsuits, “I think the benefits are worth the negative publicity,” said one executive with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s owner at a September panel.
The entrepreneurial copyright litigation firm has also now signed up the Denver Post as a new affiliate, and has made a splash by suing the owner of the Drudge Report over its use of a photo allegedly swiped from the Colorado newspaper, an offense (if proven) presumably not as readily defended under “fair use” doctrine as some others over which it has sued.
Bankrupt SCO Group Inc., much loathed for its (sometimes successful) efforts to extract copyright royalties from users of the open-source Linux system, has suffered another humiliating defeat in a Utah federal courtroom. The court proceedings determined, among other things, that SCO didn’t in fact own the copyrights it claimed to own, and had breached its fiduciary duty under an earlier agreement with Novell. (Ars Technica, Information Week, GrokLaw). At the height of SCO’s notoriety, the high-profile law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner was pursuing its anti-Linux claims on contingency. Earlier here, here, and here. [Update Sept. 18, 2009: in dramatic reversal, 10th Circuit, McConnell writing, reinstates SCO's suit; Boies firm still representing SCO. See WSJ Law Blog, 8/25/09]
In other news, progress is being made on a scheme of “defense patent aggregation”; an outfit called the RPX Corp., with subscriptions from large technology-using companies, aims to buy up (presumably lower-value) patents to keep them out of the hands of trolls (WSJ Law Blog).
- “Dog owners in Switzerland will have to pass a test to prove they can control and care for their animal, or risk losing it, the Swiss government said yesterday.” [Daily Telegraph]
- 72-year-old mom visits daughter’s Southport, Ct. home, falls down stairs searching for bathroom at night, sues daughter for lack of night light, law firm boasts of her $2.475 million win on its website [Casper & deToledo, scroll to "Jeremy C. Virgil"]
- Can’t possibly be right: “Every American enjoys a constitutional right to sue any other American in a West Virginia court” [W.V. Record]
- Video contest for best spoof personal injury attorney ads [Sick of Lawsuits; YouTube]
- Good profile of Kathleen Seidel, courageous blogger nemesis of autism/vaccine litigation [Concord Monitor*, Orac]. Plus: all three White House hopefuls now pander to anti-vaxers, Dems having matched McCain [Orac]
- One dollar for every defamed Chinese person amounts to a mighty big lawsuit demand against CNN anchor Jack Cafferty [NYDN link now dead; Independent (U.K.)]
- Hapless Ben Stein whipped up one side of the street [Salmon on financial regulation] and down the other [Derbyshire on creationism]
- If only Weimar Germany had Canada-style hate-speech laws to prevent the rise of — wait, you mean they did? [Steyn/Maclean's] Plus: unlawful in Alberta to expose a person to contempt based on his “source of income” [Levant quoting sec. 3 (1)(b) of Human Rights Law]
- Hey, these coupon settlements are giving all of us class action lawyers a bad name [Leviant/The Complex Litigator]
- Because patent law is bad enough all by itself? D.C. Circuit tosses out FTC’s antitrust ruling against Rambus [GrokLaw; earlier]
- “The fell attorney prowls for prey” — who wrote that line, and about which city? [four years ago on Overlawyered]
*Okay, one flaw in the profile: If Prof. Irving Gottesman compares Seidel to Erin Brockovich he probably doesn’t know much about Brockovich.
The SCO Group is famous for its business strategy, which in large measure consists of filing a barrage of suits against IBM, Novell and other makers and users of Linux-based and other software products based on purported infringements of its intellectual property rights in Unix (see Nov. 6, 2003). On Oct. 31 SCO signed an agreement with Boies, Schiller & Flexner and a second law firm that will cap (at $31 million) the legal bill it will owe over and above a generous contingency share of any recoveries. (Stephen Shankland, “SCO seals deal for legal expense cap”, CNET News, Nov. 5). For more on the controversy, see Jim Kerstetter, “The Most Hated Company In Tech”, Business Week, Feb. 2; “SCO’s Suit: A Match Made in Redmond?”, Mar. 11. While to date it seems SCO has been unable to produce much hard evidence of IBM’s having infringed, SCO says that’s because the larger company has been unwilling to provide a helpful “road map” to its code to help in identifying violations (Nick Farrell, “IBM says SCO has no evidence”, The Inquirer, Sept. 17). SCO’s side of the controversy may be found at its website, while GrokLaw provides a wealth of items and links from a standpoint critical of the SCO claims.