May 5, 2006
Google Sued Over Alleged Ad Promotion of Child Porn
A legislator from Nassau County, New York has sued Google claiming that the company knowingly profits from paid listings that include links to child pornography. Jeffrey Toback said that since Google is beyond the purview of the county legislature, that the judicial route was the only alternative he had. Most of the articles on this action note that Yahoo! or MSN were not mentioned in the suit.
Google denies the claims in the suit citing company policy of removing such links when discovered and cooperating fully with law enforcement agencies in child pornography investigations. It makes no sense whatsoever for a company such as Google, or for that matter, any of the other major search engines to knowingly promote child pornography. If Mr. Toback had discovered child pornography on the web through Google, he should have reported it to the FBI or other appropriate agency who could take action. No word in any of the stories as to whether he contacted them or Google in advance of his suit. I can't imagine Google or any of the major search engines ignoring a child pornography report if that were the situation.
Without more information, it appears as if this guy is grandstanding. Part of the complaint, for example, slams Google for bowing to censorship pressures in China while doing nothing to protect "our nation's innocent children." There is no question child pornography is bad and illegal. There are more direct routes through law enforcement for handling this scourge than a civil suit. It is, however, an election year.
See reports in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, CIO, and the Houston Chronicle. The most detail is in the latter story as it reprints the press release from the Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz, P.C. law firm who are the attorneys in the case. Excerpts from the complaint are in the Chronicle's "story." Search Engine Journal has an example of the ads served up via Google that are the subject of the complaint.
May 4, 2006
Crash of the Blogs Not Exactly Clash of the Titans
The company that hosts the LawProfs Blog Network was the subject of a Denial of Service attack Tuesday that limited access to thousands of blogs hosted on Typepad and Six Apart. The DoS attack was spurred by a battle between the security company Blue Security and a Russian spammer. Blue Security has a program called Blue Frog that traces spam mail sent to email addresses in a companion registry called Do Not Intrude. For every piece of mail sent by a spammer to one of those addresses another one is sent back to the spammer demanding an opt-out from the mail list.
Apparently the spammer in this situation was less than thrilled to be inundated with his own garbage and initiated a DoS attack on Blue Security. They moved their home page to a blog hosted on Typepad which brought the DoS attack to that site. Hence the outage.
This is similar to those situations in comic books where super powered heroes and villains fight it out in a city crashing buildings down around them oblivious to the cowered population watching helplessly. There are no buildings here, just web sites and an awful lot of inconvenience.
May 3, 2006
New on SSRN
*Legal Liabilities in a Brave New Cyberworld: Making Electronic Risk Management Work*
Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) - Division of Actuarial Science, Statistics and Mathematics; University of Nottingham - Nottingham University Business School (NUBS)
BRADLY J. CONDON
Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) - Administracion; Bond University - School of Law
Doing business on the Internet has many opportunities along with many risks. This paper focus on a series of risks of legal liability arising from email and Internet activities that are a common part of many e-businesses. Some of the laws governing these electronic activities are new and especially designed for the electronic age, while others are more traditional laws whose application to electronic activities is the novelty. E-business not only exposes companies to new types of liability risk, but also increases the potential number of claims and the complexity of dealing with those claims. The international nature of the Internet, together with a lack of uniformity of laws governing the same activities in different countries, means that companies need to proceed with caution.
Keywords: Cyberlaw, electronic risk management, electronic liability
insurance, email, Internet
JEL Classifications: K33, K4, K42, K11, K2, G22
Working Paper Series
Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=800890
Senate Draft Bill on Telecommunication Law Reform Now Available
Most of the news with the likely rewrite of the nation's telecommunication laws have focused on the net neutrality issue. The House committee considering telecommunication issues soundly defeated an amendment to proposed laws that would have mandated that network operators not favor themselves or disfavor competitors by manipulating broadband speeds. Telecoms would like to charge web sites such as Google, Amazon, and potential media on demand sites for better bandwidth performance. The House committee vote is but one salvo on the issue which will take some time to resolve. Telecommunication reform is not a fast process historically. The fact that this is an election year gives all the major players a chance to buy their positions in congress, um, make their voices heard in a fair hearing one the issues by congress.
Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has now released a draft telecommunications bill that addresses a variety of reforms beyond net neutrality. As to that topic, there are no provisions in the bill addressing net neutrality beyond having the FCC compile an annual report on telecom practices. Other provisions of the draft bill will do the following:
- ban digital receivers capable of recording over-the-air or satellite transmissions without recognizing an audio broadcast flag.
- will allow homes to share broadcast TV over home networks, and distribute short excerpts over the Internet consistent with a video broadcast flag.
- allow the use of copyrighted materials in classroom and other educational settings under some circumstances.
- allow municipalities to set up city-wide broadband service with some restrictions involving partnerships with private companies.
- extend the Universal Service Fund charges to online phone companies and broadband services.
There are more provisions lurking in the 135 page draft bill. One of the more curious non-legal elements of the draft is a path to a local server listed at the top of the document. It implies that the text was composed on XY Write. Does that even still exist? If that's the software the Senate Commerce Committee is using, it is writing sweeping new telecom laws with an ancient word processor. The irony!
May 1, 2006
Google Complains About Search Defaults in IE 7
In a delicious bit of irony, Google is making noises about Microsoft making MSN search the default search engine for Internet Explorer 7 and the Vista operating system. Google has relayed concerns to the U.S. Department of Justice and to the European Union Commission. Microsoft counters that users can change the default while Google complains that Microsoft doesn't make it easy to change, or as easy as it is in Firefox.
It's hard to fault Microsoft's goal of making more of a dent in the search market. Their share is in the low double digits compared to Yahoo! and especially Google who dwarfs both of them. Everyone has stockholders and increasing or maintaining market share is one way to generate revenue. While Microsoft's most recent earnings statement met the company's projections, though Wall Street was disappointed that they weren't better than that.
Google isn't helping its argument when it places a large graphic enticing users to download Firefox on its normally pristine home page, albeit even temporarily. That's just being competitive. Microsoft is a formidable foe when it comes fighting it out for ad eyeballs. Google should not pretend it has no weapons, such as a large and loyal user base, a positive brand name, toolbars that bring the faithful to them, and a huge pile of cash to fight the good fight. This is one area of the the Internet business where Microsoft is truly the underdog.
April 30, 2006
Microsoft at the European Court of First Instance Days Four And Five
Much of the press coverage of the end of the hearing comes from the AP report by Matt Moore and Aoife White. Those reporters note the final arguments between Microsoft and the European Commission. Microsoft essentially states it would be permanently hobbled if the Commission prevails and that it shouldn't give up valuable intellectual property to competitors for free, or ideally, at all. The Commission lawyers state that this an abuse of dominant position case and that Microsoft should not be in the commanding position to dictate the market. Lurking in the background is the effectiveness of the EU Competition Committee in that if they can't win this one, they may not have much power to regulate. Of course, once the parties got past the Media Player tying issue, the broader regulatory issues were entirely the focus without much variation from either side.
Looking, again, at the coverage, one would think there was less of a need for a trial when both sides could have supported their cases with press releases. Europe, and even its courts, are a bureaucratic paradise. But, there is more news out there than a single AP news article. The Register has a fine account of the last day's arguments. Judge John D Cooke, the Irish Judge who is charged with writing the final opinion, as Commission Lawyers about the single fine when there were two findings of abuse, and how would the Court handle that if it splits its decision? The Commission Lawyer wasn't quite prepared for that one suggesting a look a precedent and that perhaps the fine could be split up. There were other little pokes such as whether the Commission was using the fines to pay for the Trustee in the case.
Another detailed account of the proceedings comes from TG Daily, which notes questions from Judge Cooke to the Commission when they produced Andrew Tridgell from Samba. Microsoft refused to give Samba a license because Samba works with open source code and Microsoft didn't want its code being disseminated to the public under such a license. Tridgell held up a small storage server and said that without Microsoft's protocols Samba would be 10 years behind in turning it into a workgroup server. The article makes the point should Microsoft speed up the research and development of a competitor who would piggy-back on Microsoft's large investment in their own product? The same argument may have occurred to the Judge as well.
With both sides being grilled, and each side being less than convincing as to their positions, no one, not Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith, or the Commission wanted to predict the outcome.
More original news and analysis comes from the BBC, the Seattle Post Intelligencer (a different AP article by White and Moore), The Register (Day Four), EUpolitix.com, the Irish Examiner, and for the fun of it, the Herald News Daily, the voice of the Dakotas.