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Posted on Saturday, June 6, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Sarah Sorscher

Supreme Court to Consider Business Method Patents

Patently-O reports that the Supreme Court granted certiorari on Bilski v. Doll. The Court will address whether a patentable “process” must be tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or transform a particular article into a different state or thing. The Court will also consider whether this “machine-or-transformation” test, which effectively forecloses meaningful patent protection to many business methods, runs counter to the intent of Congress in enacting 35 U.S.C. § 273 establishing special rules for “method[s] of doing or conducting business. JOLT Digest covers the earlier en banc decision by the Federal Circuit here, and Patently-O offers a detailed summary of the earlier decision here.

Review of NASA Security Regulations Denied

The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports that on Thursday the Ninth Circuit declined to review en banc a privacy case involving employees at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a part of NASA. A three-judge panel of the appellate court had previously ruled that NASA’s mandatory background checks threatened workers’ constitutional right to privacy. The petition for rehearing generated a plethora of concurring and dissenting opinions, including an opinion by the appellate court concurring in the denial that referred to the background check as a “free-floating, wide-ranging inquiry with no standards, limits, or guarantee of non-disclosure to third parties.” Three opinions dissenting from the rehearing en banc are available here, here, and here. The JPL employees have also created a website voicing their opposition to the background checks.

Court Dismisses Eavesdropping Lawsuits

Wired reported on Wednesday’s decision by a judge for the Northern District of California to dismiss more than three dozen lawsuits aimed at telecommunication companies for assisting in a Bush administration eavesdropping program. The judge ruled that the companies were entitled to immunity based on legislation passed over the summer, which purports to immunize the telecommunications firms from liability. The Electronic Frontier Foundation plans to appeal the decision.

RELATED ENTRIES: 9th Circuit Decisions, District Courts, Employment, Federal Circuit Decisions, Flash Digest, Legislation, Privacy, Supreme Court

Posted on Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Considers Internet Service Provider’s Liability for Fake Profiles

By Ezra Pinsky - Edited by Dmitriy Tishyevich
Barnes v. Yahoo!, Inc., May 7, 2009, No. 05-36189.
Slip Opinion

On May 7th, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court’s 12(b)(6) dismissal of a complaint which had sought to impose negligence liability on Yahoo for hosting a fraudulent personals profile created by the plaintiff’s ex-boyfriend, despite plaintiff’s requests that it be removed and Yahoo’s assurances that it would be.  The district court dismissed the claim, holding that Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act immunized Yahoo from liability.  Writing for the Court of Appeals, Judge O’Scannlain affirmed in part, upholding the district court’s finding that Section 230(c)(1) protects Yahoo from negligence liability for third-party tortious material hosted on its website.  However, the court reversed in part and remanded, holding that Section 230(c)(1) does not protect Yahoo from a promissory estoppel claim if they promised to remove such content but failed to follow through.

Marc Randazza of the Citizen Media Law Project and Daniel Solove of Concurring Opinions provide overviews of the decision.  Eric Goldman of the Technology and Marketing Law Blog criticizes the opinion for being “filled with gratuitous and dangerous dicta, sloppy reasoning and sloppy language.” (more…)

RELATED ENTRIES: 9th Circuit Decisions, Communications Decency Act, Defamation, Internet

Posted on at 1:38 pm

Flash Digest: News in Brief

Content by Vera Ranieri

Google Sued for Use of Trademarked Terms in Adwords Program

class action was filed against Google on May 11, 2009 in federal court in Texas challenging its use of trademarked terms in its adwords program. The New York Times covered the case and surrounding issues. Ars Technica analyzes Google’s new AdWords policy.

ACLU Challenges Constitutionality of Gene Patents

The ACLU filed suit in the Southern District of New York challenging the patenting of genes and genetic tests as unconstitutional. The New York Times reported on the suit and the ACLU’s plaintiff. Patently-O provides further analysis and links to the ACLU blog and the complaint.

RELATED ENTRIES: 2nd Circuit Decisions, 5th Circuit Decisions, 9th Circuit Decisions, Bioethics, Communications Decency Act, District Courts, First Amendment, Flash Digest, Internet, Patent, Trademark

Posted on Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

Video Software Dealers Assoc. v. Schwarzenegger

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Video Game Act Terminated by the Ninth Circuit
By Brittany Blueitt- Edited by Anna Lamut

Video Software Dealers Assoc. v. Schwarzenegger
February 20, 2009, Case No. 07-16620
Opinion

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, enjoining the enforcement of an Act that imposed a mandatory labeling requirement for all “violent” video games and prohibited the sale of such games to minors. 

The Ninth Circuit held that the Act posed a presumptively invalid content-based restriction on speech in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Ninth Circuit also held that the Act’s labeling requirement constituted unconstitutionally compelled speech because it did not require disclosure of purely factual information, but required the carrying of the State’s opinion as to the nature of the video game.  In so holding, the Court noted that “minors are entitled to a significant measure of First Amendment protection, and only in relatively narrow and well-defined circumstances may government bar public dissemination of protected materials to them.”

Briefs are available here. 

The Wall Street Journal highlights that the state, in defending the law, argued that violence and sex should be governed by analogous prohibitions: the government can prohibit the sale of explicit pornography to minors, and so it should also be able to limit the sale of ultra-violent video games.

Ars Technica notes that should this case reach the Supreme Court, it is unlikely that the Court will discover anything that the court of appeals failed to notice. 

(more…)

RELATED ENTRIES: 9th Circuit Decisions, First Amendment, Video Games

Posted on Saturday, February 14, 2009 at 1:19 am

Interscope Records v. Leadbetter

Non-Precedential ‘Win’ for Record Labels: 9th Circuit Denies Attorney’s Fees for Voluntarily Dismisse Defendant
By Sharona Hakimi - Edited by Aaron Dulles

Interscope Records v. Leadbetter, February 6, 2009,  No. 07-3582
Court of Appeals Ruling
District Court Ruling

On February 6, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of a W.D. Washington District Court denying defendant Dawnell Leadbetter’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs. In December of 2006 a group of recording companies voluntarily dismissed their claims against Leadbetter in an online file-sharing copyright infringement suit. Leadbetter subsequently sought attorney’s fees, which the court denied on the grounds that Leadbetter was not a “prevailing party.”

The Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 505, provides that a prevailing party may be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees in a copyright action. However, because the claims against Leadbetter were voluntarily dismissed without prejudice, the Court of Appeals found that she was not entitled to attorney’s fees. The district court and appellate court both looked to the standard established in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep’t of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598 (2001), that a “prevailing party” is one who has received judgment on the merits or “settlement agreements enforced through a consent decree.” The district court reasoned that because the record companies claims were dismissed without prejudice, Leadbetter could not be considered a “prevailing party.”

The EFF filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Leadbetter’s motion for attorney’s fees. In their brief, they argued that these record labels, which are all members of the RIAA, are participants to a larger campaign that has “entangled innocent internet users in its litigation dragnet.” By awarding attorney’s fees in this case, the EEF stated the court would help “balance the overall equities in the RIAA’s nationwide campaign.”  The EEF contends that if individuals like Dawnell Leadbetter have to pay out of pocket for her fees, future innocent litigants will not stand up to the recording industry.  Instead, the EEF believes the public will “suffer under the misperception that such misguided theories are, in fact, the law.”

Though triggering a flurry of postings by anti-RIAA bloggers, this case is in fact non-precedential and unpublished. It is unclear if this decision will play any role of actual significance in future online copyright infringement actions. Even so, according to Ben Schaffer of Copyright and Campaigns, this case gave a “significant procedural victory to the recording industry,” sending a “message to defendants in such p2p cases that they should be forthcoming with information about infringing activity on their ISP accounts early in litigation.”
(more…)

RELATED ENTRIES: 9th Circuit Decisions, Copyright, Peer-to-Peer
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