June 7, 2007
Google Copyright Suit Gets More Company
More plaintiffs join the class action against Google and YouTube. These include Cherry Lane Music, the national French tennis organization, and the French soccer league. The action, brought initially by the Football Association League Limited, has yet to be certified as a class action by Judge Stanton in the Southern District of New York. Details here.
Congress Prods Schools on P2P
Congress debates the role of schools in curbing illegal P2P sharing by students. Schools are reluctant to get involved, but Congress isn't thrilled with that approach. Story here. Details of Tuesday's House hearing is here.
Gates/Jobs Meeting Available for Download
The Bill Gates - Steve Jobs love fest at the D5 Conference is available as a podcast or video download on iTunes. Now anyone with iTunes on their machine can relive the moment. Makes one feel all gooey inside just thinking about it. Details here.
June 6, 2007
CT Sub Teacher Gets Verdict Set Aside in Porn Case, and Other Legal Developments
Law and Tech have been busy in the press today. Four decisions have barreled through to be noteworthy. The most significant is that involving Julie Amero, a 40 year old substitute teacher in a Norwich, Connecticut middle school. Amero was convicted in a case where she allowed students to view pornographic images on a classroom computer. Amero claimed that the pictures were due to pop-ups gone amok. She also attempted to physically stop students from seeing the images, though unsuccessfully. Amero had reported the situation earlier in the day and was told not to turn off the computer under any circumstances. Other teachers had said the pop-ups were annoying and they seemed to ignore them. They were speaking of pop-ups generally and not of any pornography they might contain. The jury convicted Amero on the basis she let the images come through. They didn't consider that the images appeared were not her fault. Amero faced a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
The verdict was set aside today. The judge in the case cited erroneous evidence offered by the state's computer expert which could have affected the jury's understanding of the facts. The state police crime lab examined the computer after Amero had been convicted and supplied a report that the Judge said contradicted the "expert," a police detective. A defense forensic computer expert was barred from testifying at the trial as well. The state declined to take a stand on the verdict set-aside, which meant that Amero would likely not face retrial, though she will still face the proposition of limited career choices and a whopping legal bill.
Brian Krebs column/blog on the Washington Post has a lot of good information about the details that were developed at trial, including links to the 340 plus page trial transcript that was included in the story on the Norwich Bulletin. There were lapses such as the school district not renewing the license for security software, and other details which made this case questionable in the way it was handled.
Krebs and other reporters noted the Judge's statement that bloggers covering the trial had tried to improperly influence the case. I'm not sure what this means as none of the initial reports on the case go into detail. If it means that bloggers wrote negative things about the state's case and supported Amero, well, that's their right. If they encouraged readers to contact or harass a judge about decisions, that may cross a legal line. There is prosecution for that, potentially. The judge should do what all good judges do, and that is ignore outside comment where a trial has notoriety. The President and other top government officials sent letters to Judge Walton in the Libby trial and that didn't seem to faze him in handing down a sentence. Aside from this side comment, the judge appeared to rule on the record and not public sentiment.
The other three cases are in short notes on CNET. The first of these involves a Pennsylvania man who filed a petition to recover property lost due to a tax sale. The county tried to contact him by looking him up in Google. That wasn't enough effort said the Commonwealth Court, especially since the notice law required the county to use a phone book. The moral, Google doesn't know everything.
The second is the story of an attorney working for one of the defendants in an RIAA file sharing suit. Thomas Kimble asked for sanctions against the RIAA attorneys and got slapped with the same himself. He was rather aggressive in his defense, filing questionable documents, refusing to talk to some Association attorneys, and offered only to let them see discoverable evidence unless they agreed to pay $10,000 if it showed the defendant wasn't engaging in copyright infringement. The judge was not pleased and ordered Kimble to pay RIAA costs for defending against his frivolous actions. I wonder if this will affect his Avvo lawyer rating.
The third also comes out of Pennsylvania. It concerns a convicted sex offender who was ordered not to use a computer under any circumstances ever for the rest of his life. That included employment or education. On appeal, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban was a bit too broad and ordered resentencing. The opinion is here.
June 5, 2007
Avvo Rates Lawyers But They Won't Tell You How
Check out this story in CNET on a site that attempts to rate all registered attorneys. You'll be glad to know that Abraham Lincoln has no pending disciplinary actions. The rating algorithm is secret, so expect lawsuits from lawyers with low ratings. That's a natural. The site is Avvo. What's next? A site that rates law school faculty by the people they teach?
RIAA Drops Claim Against Disabled Mom, Faces Counterclaim
The RIAA loses another one, this time in a case fought against a disabled Oregon mother where the association stipulated a dismissal of the case with prejudice. That means they can be liable for attorney fees. The defendant in this case still has a counterclaim pending. This could be trouble for the RIAA legal strategy in file sharing cases. The story is in Ars Technica.
Microsoft EU Appeal Coming on September 17th
A ruling on Microsoft's appeal of the European Commission fine and antitrust order is expected on September 17th. The Court of First Instance is expected to rule by then as it is the final working day before Bo Vestedorf the President of the Court will retire. The story is in CNET.
Lala.com Gives Music Away to Sell It
Every web retailer that sells anything electronic wants to have a music store these days. The choices have been pretty basic. There are subscription models for a monthly fee compared to stores that offer track and album sales at various rates. Lala.com is coming up with another model, which is to offer music for free assuming that it could generate sales of CDs. It has Warner Brothers on board as one of the major labels involved. The more intriguing aspect of this site is that it lets people download tracks directly to the iPod without using iTunes as an intermediary piece of software. Once on the player, however, the track can't go anywhere else.
June 4, 2007
Apple iPhone out at the End of the Month
Specifically June 29th. Mark your calendars.
Online Music a Bigger Threat to Security than Online Porn
More unwanted code (spyware, viruses, etc.) come with downloads for online music than for online porn. This result is found in a study conducted by McAffee. One would think that that it would be the other way around. Apparently file sharing sites are more likely to include compromised code as a way of making money. The porn industry on the other hand is established enough that it doesn't need the profits from extraneous software.
The study also surveyed sponsored and unsponsored search results as sources of malware. Sponsored search results from various search engines were better than unpaid results at being malevolent, with Ask.com being the worst at 3.3% of offerings that were compromised.
Speaking of file sharing and the porn industry, the Internet is causing a decline in profits for porn producers. The estimated take in 2006 was $3.62 billion, down from $4.28 billion in 2005. The problem for the industry is that anyone with a video camera and some technical know-how can set up shop. There is a segment of the audience that doesn't care as much about quality as they do about content. And there is, of course, file sharing.