Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Simpson's Prevail in Domain Name Case

One of the biggest summer movie hits this year just scored a domain name arbitration victory. Recently, an arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered that the domain "" belongs to Fox based upon its ownership of the Simpsons franchise. The infringer who had been operating the site was posted sexually explicit images of Simpsons characters. Not exactly the way to stay under the radar - although one could argue such use is non-infringing based upon fair use or non-commercial use.

Friday, June 22, 2007 Shut Down Temporarily

This week, popular celeb blogger Perez Hilton had his website shut down by his host based upon a flurry of copyright infringement complaints. The complaints related to numerous copyrighted photographs Hilton posted without permission. The site was down tuesday and by wednesday it was back up, hosted by a different company. The lesson is that copyright owners are now, more than ever, taking aggressive action to enforce their rights. Bloggers must be more careful than ever although it remains to be seen the extent of protection bloggers enjoy under the fair use doctrine. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Buyers of Websites Be Wary

Every year, thousands of domain names and websites are sold. Lately, with the advent of google adsense, we see many entrepeneuers developing content and generating revenue from that content with little overhead expense. Of late, we have noticed numerous domain and website sales gone bad for the buyer.

Many sites artificially generate revenue because they are link farms. That is, such sites post no original content and are not a website but generally just a web page. Link farms violate google's terms of use. As such, as soon as link farms are found by google's web crawlers, they are delisted or booted off of google's search results. This is known throughout the internet world as the "google slap", a practice that began in the fall of 2006.

How does this effect domain and website sales? Unwitting buyers pay inflated prices to purchase these link farms on the promise that they will generate google adsense revenue. The seller will usually provide bogus or actual proof of revenue generated. Then the seller, with knowledge that the link farm is subject to a "google slap", includes language in the sale agreement absolving the seller of any liability if, in fact, the link farm is booted from google. Inevitably, the link farm is "slapped" and the buyer of the link farm is left holding the bag and can not generate any google adsense revenue from a domain they purchased for thousands of dollars. BUYER BEWARE!!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Meta Tags May Infringe Upon Trademarks

Meta tags are invisible terms embedded into the code of websites. Many search engines mark pages based upon meta tags. Although search engines have devalued the importance of meta tags due to the prevalence of google bombing, the use of infringing meta tags may improperly elevate a website's search results rank. In Brookfield Communications v. West Coast Entertainment, 174 F.3d 1036 (9th Cir. 1999), the Ninth Circuit held that initial interest confusion caused by meta tags may establish trademark infringement. The lesson to pull from this is that when it comes to meta tags, even if there is no actual consumer confusion once an offending site is viewed, courts may find infringement based upon a consumer's initial confusion in clicking on the site's link on a search result page.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New YouTube Copyright Watchdog

YouTube, a huge repository of copyright infringing content, is testing new technology to help police its own pages. This could provide better defenses for YouTube under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to a hail of copyright infringement suits. How you may ask? The DMCA requires service providers to institute proactive procedures to remove infringing content. If adequate procedures are in place, service providers may escape liability for infringing content posted by its users. Better procedures may equal a stronger defense to infringement claims.

Embedded Content Tracked in New Manner

Breaking news in the ever expanding social network website world. Embedded content such as videos and pictures, known as widgets, will now be tracked differently. Previously, Myspace and Facebook received credit for content stored elsewhere when such content was accessed through their sites. Now, when a user views widgets on social networking sites, the site that actually stores the content will receive credit for a page view. Why is this important? Sites making widgets available will be able to charge higher rates for advertising. Read more here.

The jury is out on whether this new measurement tool will have any legal significance. Conceivably, widget providers such as photobucket may face increased damages claims for copyright infringement should ad revenues from infringing content increase significantly.