This is getting serious: “Patent troll targets Minecraft” [Rob Beschizza, BoingBoing] Are mainstream tech companies joining the patent-troll brigade? [WSJ Law Blog] Bessen-Meurer have another study of patent trolls out, this one suggests their direct costs to economy $29 billion a year [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]
London Olympics games: you may link to our site only if not in a “derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner” [Popehat]
“Fan Fiction vs. Copyright – Q&A with Rebecca Tushnet” [Reason.tv]
Are the logos similar? Apparel maker Under Armour sues maker of “Body Armor” sports drink [Baltimore Sun]
“U.S. Patent System is Broken, Declares Judge in Android v. Apple Cases” [Posner; DailyTech] Posner “on Why he thinks There Are Too Many Patents in America” [Atlantic]
Startups: “Why do investors want founders to spend money and time on bogus patents?” [Cory Doctorow]
Veoh, like YouTube, pioneered the idea of enabling users to self-post video to the Internet. Then Universal, the entertainment company and owner of many copyrights, began a particularly aggressive campaign of litigation against it. Though Veoh Networks won a judicial decision in its favor, Universal appealed, having also taken the unusual step of suing three Veoh investors personally. In December the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed Veoh’s victory, but in the mean time Veoh had declared bankruptcy. Company founder Dmitry Shapiro recalls:
As you can imagine the lawsuit dramatically impacted our ability to operate the company. The financial drain of millions of dollars going to litigation took away our power to compete, countless hours of executive’s time was spent in dealing with various responsibilities of litigation, and employee morale was deeply impacted with a constant threat of shutdown. Trying to convince new employees to join the company in spite of this was extremely challenging.
By the end, “The company that we had built, that was once valued at over $130 million was gone,” writes Shapiro. Ron Coleman writes:
Under the American Rule, the cost of maintaining a meritorious defense to relentless litigation is prohibitive and what fee-shifting is available favors is applied with sickening asymmetry, virtually always favoring the party to which legal fees mean the least.
According to Eric Goldman, “This case’s real result is that Veoh is legal, but Veoh is dead – killed by rightsowner lawfare that bled it dry.” Mike Masnick points out that Universal is still pursuing its action.
Sad, inevitable, or both? “I can’t fight Hollywood,” says the mistress of the pub and music venue in the south of England, which has operated for 20 years and has now drawn a legal threat from a California firm that owns many Tolkien rights. [BBC]
After defense lawyers raised the threat of sanctions, the Astrolabe firm has apologized and promised not to file more suits asserting copyright over information on such questions as when the sun rises and sets in various time zones. The suit had briefly led to the shutdown of a database used in Internet applications worldwide. [EFF, earlier]
The trademark case between artist Daniel Moore and the University of Alabama, over his paintings of Crimson Tide athletics without permission from the university’s licensing operation, has reached the Eleventh Circuit. [Ben Flanagan, Al.com; earlier]
Suing apps makers? “Entertainment Lawyers Go Wild for ‘Secondary’ Copyright Lawsuits” [WSJ Law Blog] SWAT raid on Kiwi copyright scofflaw? [Balko] Despite its editor’s views, NYT finds it hard to avoid breaching copyright laws itself [Carly Carioli, Boston Phoenix] “Contempt Sanctions Imposed on Copyright Troll Evan Stone” [Paul Alan Levy] More: “obscene materials can’t be copyrighted” offered as defense in illegal download case [Kerr]
Tenure terror: “Teacher in Los Angeles molest case reportedly paid $40G to drop appeal of firing” [AP]
NEA (and now Obama) answer to public education woes: lock the exits by hiking school-leaving age [Steve Chapman, earlier]
On nomination filibusters, New York Times editorial policy has pulled a 360, not just a 180 [Whelan, 2003, 2005, earlier]
English copyright ruling “creates ownership in the idea of a photo’s composition” [Doctorow, BB]
New Maryland push for same-sex marriage will include stronger religious exemptions, a course I urged last year [Sun, my view] Detailed inquiry into the law of interstate marriage recognition and DOMA [Will Baude, Volokh]
DEA agent who mistakenly shot self loses appeal [BLT, earlier]
“And people say libertarians lack empathy”: AP adopts pre-emptively disapproving tone toward advances in pain control [Coyote; related, Alkon on Primatene Mist]
Cordray, NLRB recess picks allow President to reward key Democratic interest groups [Copland, Examiner] Litigation Lobby gunning for ban on consumer finance arbitration as Cordray priority [CL&P] Mike Rappaport on the recess appointment clause [LLL, earlier here, etc.]
Some of the best protests [Ad Age, earlier on Flickr's clever entry and others]
Going-dark site “strike” was a bit like Atlas Shrugged without the monologues [Greve] “So, nothing like #AS” [@nickgillespie] “…and fewer pirates” [@JohnPMcGuinness] “That’s a shame. I want to see Francisco’s money speech in binary code.” [@BenK84]
Welcome news, if true: key members of Congress are said to be backing away from the rogue-sites legislation as currently written and in particular are willing to drop the hotly contested provisions on domain name blocking. [Timothy Lee, Sandoval/McCullagh, CNET, Mike Masnick/TechDirt] And suddenly the Obama administration is sounding skeptical notes too [Lee] As recently as last week the copyright enforcement bills were reported to be on a toboggan to quick passage [Industry Standard, earlier] More: Masnick.
But note: The jubilation is over the entry of the author’s work into the public domain in the European Union; in the United States most of the author’s writings remain tied up for a long time to come. Details here (thanks commenter JWB).
Brad Plumer in the Washington Post summarizes the provisions of the bill as well as the state of play on it in Congress as of mid-month. Although much commentary has assumed that persons determined to visit blocked sites could readily find ways around the SOPA restrictions, David Post notes that the draft bill authorizes the Attorney General to seek injunctions against persons who assist in circumventing the law, which might include websites that publish “here’s how to evade SOPA blocking” information. Timothy Lee at ArsTechnica notes growing opposition to the bill among conservatives, while Joshua Kopstein at Motherboard reviews a comic markup session. Meanwhile, “Gibson Guitar & Others On SOPA Supporters List Say They Never Supported The Bill” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] Earlier here and here.
The proposed law is being promoted as a way of blocking piratical “rogue” sites, but once it’s up and working, and internet providers have begun automatically blocking sites from a list continually updated by the government, it won’t stop with copyright and trademark infringers. Extending the interdiction to other sorts of sites will be a relatively simple and straightforward matter:
With the legal framework in place, expanding it to cover other conduct — obscenity, defamation, “unfair competition,” patent infringement, publication of classified information, advocacy in support of terror groups — would be a matter of adding a few words to those paragraphs.
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