On November 7, 2008, defendant RDR Books filed a notice of appeal to the Second Circuit from the September 9, 2008 decision of the S.D.N.Y., which permanently enjoined its publication of the Harry Potter Lexicon book and awarded plaintiffs Warner Brothers and J.K. Rowling statutory damages of $6,750.
Court Declares “Grand Theft” Crime Free
By Briahna Gray – Edited by Miriam Weiler
E.S.S. Entertainment 2000, Inc., v. Rock Star Videos, Inc., November 5 2008, No. 06-56237
On November 5, 2008 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Central California District Court summary judgment ruling to dismiss the case brought by the operators of a Los Angeles strip club (“E.S.S.”) against Rock Star Videos (“Rockstar”), the manufacturer of the Grand Theft Auto video games, for trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, California Business and Professions Code § 14320 and § 17200 and California common law.
E.E.S. had argued that Rockstar’s imitation of the strip club’s logo within the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had no artistic relevance and would mislead consumers, confusing them as to whether EES had endorsed or associated itself with the digital rendition. In resolving this claim, the court applied a balancing test to weigh Trademark interests against First Amendment rights, stating that the Lanham Act applies to artistic works “only where the public interest in avoiding consumer confusion outweighs the public interest in free expression” Rogers v. Grimaldi, 875 F.2d 994, 999 (2d Cir. 1989) (emphasis in the original).
The ruling affirming summary judgment in favor of the popular game has drawn attention from a number of commentators. The authors at Techdirt.com applaud the decision. Coverage is also offered by Gamastura.com, Techdirt.com and Filewrapper.com summarize the case. RealDealDocs.com lists other legal challenges Grand Theft Auto has faced in the past six years.
Australia Poised to Begin Internet Filtering Program Unprecedented in Scope for Modern Democracy
By Debbie Rosenbaum
If the presumption that democracy depends upon the widest possible access to uncensored ideas, data, and opinions is true, then there is cause for great alarm as one of our nation’s closest democratic allies moves to drastically curtail this foundational freedom within its boarders. The Australian government will likely enact legislation that will make sweeping, compulsory Internet censorship a startling reality for all Australian citizens. Spearheaded by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, and backed by $44.2 million from the government’s $125.8 million Plan for Cyber-Safety budget, the planned filter (part of the NetAlert program) will render Internet access in Australia similar to that in Iran or China.
Australia’s Federal Government announced its ambitious web censorship plan in December 2007. The goal of the program is seemingly well intentioned: to shield children from violent and pornographic sites. (See the Australian government’s “Children Are Sacred” report, which discusses instances of child sexual abuse in the Northern Territories). The Family First Party, a relatively minor party with only one Member of Parliament, originally championed the filter, also known as the “clean feed” policy. The Party’s proposal has earned wider support from both Senator Conroy and the Rudd-Labor Government. Senator Conroy is expected to call for bids from Australian software makers, and reportedly wants to begin live trials by the end of the year.
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FCC Approves Unlicensed White Space Use
By Dmitriy Tishyevich – Edited by Miriam Weiler
Action by the Federal Communications Commission, by Second Report and Order (FCC 08-260)
On November 4, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved the use of unlicensed wireless devices that operate in “white spaces,” the unused spectrum between licensed broadcast television channels that can be used to provide broadband connectivity and other services similar to Wi-fi. The Commission’s approval extends to all WSDs that include a geolocation capability and a spectrum-sensing technology that will allow the device to determine what spectrum may be accessed at the particular location.
The decision comes after four years of debate, pitting an alliance of technology companies against parts of the entertainment industry. Companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Motorola urged the Commission to open the channels for general usage. A coalition comprised of broadcasters, theaters, sports franchises and other cell phone operators opposed the decision, arguing that white space devices (WSDs) operating within the unlicensed spectrum will cause interference in the neighboring licensed channels.
The New York Times, the BBC and ars techinca provide a summary of the Commission’s order. Larry Page, co-founder of Google and proponent of opening up white spaces, comments on the Commission’s approval. Andrew Seybold of FierceWireless, the wireless industry’s daily monitor, warns that despite the precautions undertaken by the Commission, the new devices will likely cause interference with current services. TechCrunch suggests that Google’s push for open use of white spaces is part of its strategy to create more connection points for mobile devices, including those powered by Android, the Google mobile device platform. (more…)