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Flash Digest: News in Brief

By Olga Slobodyanyuk

ICANN responds to terrorism victims by claiming domain names are not property

D.C. District Court rules that FOIA requests apply to officials’ personal email accounts

Class-action lawsuit brought against ExamSoft  in Illinois

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Federal Circuit Applies Alice to Deny Subject Matter Eligibility of Digital Imaging Patent

By Amanda Liverzani – Edited by Mengyi Wang

In Digitech Image Technologies, the Federal Circuit embraced the opportunity to apply the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice to resolve a question of subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. §101. The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment on appeal, invalidating Digitech’s patent claims because they were directed to intangible information and abstract ideas.

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Unlocking Cell Phones Made Legal through Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Insue Kim

Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows consumers to unlock their cell phones when changing service providers, but the underlying issue of “circumvention” may have broader implications for other consumer devices and industries that increasingly rely on software.

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SDNY Magistrate Grants Government Search Warrant for Full Access to Suspect’s Gmail Account in Criminal Investigation

By Kellen Wittkop – Edited by Travis West

In an opinion that conflicts with decisions from the DC District Court and the District of Kansas, a SDNY magistrate granted the government’s search warrant for full access to a criminal investigation suspect’s Gmail account.

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Creating full-text searchable database of copyrighted works is “fair use”
By Yixuan Long- Edited by Sarah O’Loughlin

In a unanimous opinion delivered by Judge Parker, the Second Circuit held that under the fair use doctrine universities and research libraries are allowed to create full‐text searchable databases of copyrighted works and provide such works in formats accessible to those with disabilities. The court also decided that the evidence was insufficient to decide whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring a claim regarding storage of digital copies for preservation purposes.

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Supreme Court Leaves in Place Eighth Circuit Test Favoring First Amendment Protection for Fantasy Sports
By Dmitriy Tishyevich — Edited by Evie Breithaupt

Major League Baseball Advanced Media v. C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing
8th Circuit, Oct 16, 2007, cert. denied June 2, 2008
Eighth Circuit Opinion, Supreme Court Order

On June 2, the Supreme Court denied petition for a writ of certiorari from Major League Baseball Advanced Media (“MLB”). MLB had sought to appeal the Eighth Circuit’s decision, which held that the First Amendment interests in public information about baseball and baseball players outweighed the players’ state law right of publicity.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court, which had granted summary judgment to CBC, a producer of fantasy major league baseball games. CBC sought a declaratory judgment that it may use, without license, the names of and information about major league baseball players in connection with its for-profit fantasy baseball products.

The Eighth Circuit found that MLB had provided sufficient evidence to establish a cause of action for violation of players’ rights of publicity under Missouri law. It held, however, that under Supreme Court precedent, a state law right of publicity must be balanced against First Amendment considerations. The court found that the CBC’s First Amendment rights superseded the players’ rights of publicity. The majority noted that information meant only to provide entertainment still enjoys First Amendment protection, and it reasoned that the significant public value of information about “the national pastime” entitles it to substantial protection. It noted also that as the information used by CBC was already available in the public domain, it would be “strange law” if CBC did not have a First Amendment right to use information available to everyone else. The court was not persuaded that CBC had violated the economic interests of the players which the right of publicity seeks to protect, noting that the players were already adequately compensated for their participation in games. It also rejected the argument that the non-economic interests protected by the right of publicity, such as rewarding celebrity labors and avoiding emotional harm, were violated, finding that none of these interests were implicated in the context of fantasy baseball.

Judge Colloton dissented. He agreed with the majority’s analysis of the right to publicity and the application of the First Amendment to fantasy baseball, but disagreed as to its resolution of the contractual dispute between the parties.

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Posted On Jun - 8 - 2008 2 Comments READ FULL POST

Second Circuit Holds First Amendment Claim Against School Regulation of Off-Campus Speech Unlikely to Succeed on the Merits
By Jay Gill — Edited by Nicola Carah

Doninger v. Niehoff
Second Circuit, May 29, 2008, No. 07-3885
Slip Opinion

The Second Circuit unanimously affirmed the Connecticut District Court’s decision to deny a motion for preliminary injunction in a case involving a high school’s alleged violation a student’s First Amendment rights. Ms. Doninger filed suit after the high school prohibited her daughter from running for senior-class secretary, a move prompted by the school’s discovery of a blog in which the daughter had posted a “vulgar and misleading message” about administrators and an upcoming school event. The court found that the lower court had not abused its discretion in denying the preliminary injunction on the grounds that the case was unlikely to succeed on the merits.

Scott H. Greenfield of Simple Justice is troubled by the broad application of a “potential for disruption” standard. Greenfield claims that the Second Circuit ruling flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s holding in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gates.” Instead of protecting the rights of students in the schoolyard, Greenfield says, the Second Circuit is restricting those rights even once the students have left school.

Professor Jonathan Turley views the decision as part of a “steady eradication of student rights” and thinks the decision teaches a “foul lesson to these future citizens.” While he thinks that punishment is warranted when students use vulgar language or behave inappropriately, he thinks this punishment should come from parents and not school authorities.

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Posted On Jun - 2 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

Fifth Circuit Holds No Safety Exception to Communications Decency Act ISP Immunity
By Anna Volftsun — Edited by Nicola Carah

Doe v. MySpace, Inc.
Fifth Circuit, May 16, 2008, No. 07-50345
Slip Opinion

On May 16, 2008, the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld the Western District of Texas, finding Section 230(c)(1) of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA 230”) barred a parent’s claims for negligence and gross negligence against the social networking site, MySpace.com. The suit was brought on behalf of Doe’s 13-year-old daughter, who misrepresented her age to create a profile on MySpace, and was subsequently contacted and allegedly sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old MySpace user.

Julie Doe, a 13-year-old minor, represented her age as 18 when creating a MySpace profile. MySpace defaults all 14-year-old and 15-year-old profiles to “private,” which restricts profile access to confirmed “friends” only. But as a result of Doe’s misrepresentation, her profile was made “public” and viewable by the all other MySpace users, including 19-year-old Pete Solis. Solis contacted Doe, the two exchanged phone numbers, and after communicating several times off-line, arranged a meeting at which Solis allegedly sexually assaulted Doe.

Eric Goldman of the Technology and Marketing Law Blog sees this as a victory for proponents of strong CDA 230 immunity. He notes that several cases leading up to the decision, including Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley v. Roommates.com, Mazur v. eBay, and Doe v. FriendFinder, Inc., had evinced a trend towards loosening the immunity provided to internet providers under the statute. While Goldman hopes the MySpace decision will discourage plaintiffs from continuing to bring claims against websites for failing to protect or police its users, he remains “flummoxed by the number of cases [he is] seeing involving teens making poor (and, in some cases, life-altering) decisions using MySpace.”

Sam Bayard of the Citizen Media Law Project is more ambivalent about the outcome. While he believes that the CDA 230 is an important protection for internet service providers, he thinks the decision may have gone too far. He paraphrases John Palfrey of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, who noted in an internal email:

“MySpace is a powerful corporate intermediary that has broad ability to control the networked public space it makes available to minors and adults alike, and it doesn’t necessarily serve any of the congressional objectives behind CDA.”

Full Text of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 at the US Government Printing Office.

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Posted On May - 31 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST

Seventh Circuit Clarifies Online Service Liability for Illegal Advertisements

By Michelle Yang — Edited by Wen Bu

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. v. Craigslist, Inc.
Seventh Circuit, March 14, 2008, No. 07-1101
Slip Opinion

On March 14, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment by the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for Craigslist, holding that the online bulletin board did not violate the Fair Housing Act by providing “an electronic meeting place” that hosted, among many other things, illegally discriminatory housing advertisements. The opinion by Chief Judge Easterbrook clarified the potential liability of an online service: as Craigslist was not a “speaker” of the illegal information, it was not liable as a publisher.

Eric Goldman
of Technology and Marketing Law Blog analyzes Judge Easterbrook’s reasoning as part of 47 USC 230 Week.
Howard Bashman of How Appealing provides additional links, as well as coverage on the en banc rehearing of a similar case, Fair Housing Council v. Roommates.com, before the Ninth Circuit.
Randy Picker of the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog sees the ruling as yet another reason newspapers are dying in the competition against less-strictly-regulated online competitors.
In 2001, Joel Michael Schwarz contributed a JOLT article about liability for third party postings in the context of practicing law over the Internet.

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Posted On Mar - 19 - 2008 Comments Off READ FULL POST

House Passes Version of Controversial Wiretapping Legislation Without Telecom Immunity

By Andrew Ungberg — Edited by Wen Bu

H.R. 3773 – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008
Full Text of House Bill
Full Text of Corresponding Senate Bill
CRS Summary of House Bill
GovTrack Summary (including House vote details)

On Friday, March 14, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 3773, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008. The House bill, which passed 213-193, would set new rules for governmental “eavesdropping” on phone calls and emails within the United States. Originally introduced in October 2007 by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and several other House Democrats, the bill aims to resolve issues associated with the wiretapping program the Administration created in the wake of September 11, 2001. The House version of the bill would establish restraints for future government action, as well as the procedures for challenging those actions in court.

Unlike the Senate version of the bill, S. 2248, which the Senate passed in February, the House version does not grant immunity from civil liability to telecommunications companies accused of illegally cooperating with government surveillance.

Some other highlights of the bill:

  • Government must seek approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before conducting surveillance.
  • Intelligence agencies are forbidden from reverse-targeting American citizens through surveillance of foreigners.
  • A “Commission on Warrantless Electronic Surveillance Activities” will be established to investigate government surveillance since September 11, 2001.

The Associated Press and OMB Watch report on the passage of the House bill.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) explained more of the process behind the House bill’s passage.
Hugh D’Andrade of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in response to the debate on the FISA amendments, excerpted several opinion pieces on “how surveillance hurts free speech.”

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Posted On Mar - 19 - 2008 1 Comment READ FULL POST
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