Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Youtube sued again, this time Italian style

No shocker here, Google once again sued for Youtube's ubiquitous copyright infringement. Google really shouldn't be surprised, when you buy a business built upon blatantly violating copyright laws, the lawsuits are going to pile up. The smartest guys in the world are Youtube's founders, who bailed with millions and no consequences.

Once Google bought Youtube, it was like a green light for copyright holders to file suit. However, it remains to be seen if many of these suits are simply negotiating tactics to be used to cut favorable distribution and advertising deals with Youtube and Google.

The latest suit was filed in Italy by a large conglomerate known as Mediaset. The suit presents a great opportunity to see how strongly the Italian courts enforce the European Union's copyright legislation. Most believe that the EU provides greater protection to copyright holders. That does not bode well for Google, nor does the home court advantage that Italian justice sometimes provides.

For more detail on the rights of copyright holders and the viability of video sharing websites, contact an experienced Internet Lawyer.

Securities Class Action Lawsuits on the Rise

Today the Wall Street Journal commented on a recent uptick in securities class action filings. This is not surprising given the level of fraud in the financial markets sector as well as the credit crunch. Unfortunately, plaintiffs must often clear extremely high hurdles in order to succeed in such cases. These hurdles have been placed by pro-corporate legislation as well as caselaw. That being said, consumers and homeowners have been financially devastated by the credit meltdown and collapse of mortgage backed securities. As such, a number of viable class action claims against companies such as Countrywide and Indymac may pop up. Banks that perpetuated this system of fraud and greed are also vulnerable to class action claims. If you are either a shareholder of such companies or a depositor or homeowner victimized by the practices of banks and lending institutions, you should contact a class action lawyer to explore your rights.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Web 2.0 websites continue to face DMCA pressures

Web 2.0 is often about collaboration or re-working pre-existing works into new forms of expression. However, this innovation and convenience needs to be counter-balanced by respect and understanding for intellectual property issues. Often, creative individuals produce innovative programs and websites without giving thought to intellectual property concerns such as copyright infringement and the DMCA. Usually, copyright owners sit back until a site starts to generate revenue. Once a site becomes profitable, then it is worth the copyright owner's effort and money to launch a team of lawyers into cyberspace and sue a website for infringement.

Recently, a number of mix tape websites are coming under fire. These sites allow users to make mp3 mix tapes, reminiscent of the mix tapes kids used to make in the 80's using cassettes. Muxtape has been experiencing these issues and residing in copyright limbo. Website owners and entrepreneurs should consult with a copyright lawyer or intellectual property law firm to discuss the risks and rewards that may accompany a new website venture such as mix tape sites.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Protect your e-commerce websites from liability

A quick practical tip today. If you are running an e-commerce business or simply posting a blog with regularity, you need to obtain insurance. Insurance coverage is available for many online businesses and many policies may cover legal claims often arising from e-commerce activity. I frequently see e-businesses facing copyright infringement, trademark infringement and defamation claims. Sadly, many do not have a business insurance policy or umbrella personal policy to provide indemnification and defense of such claims. If you are operating an e-commerce business or blog, make sure you consult with an internet law attorney for strategies on how to limit your liablity and protect your assets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Viacom Gets Aggressive With Copyright Claims

So it's an increasing problem under the DMCA that I have addressed before. Fraudulent or false DMCA takedown notices or false copyright ownership claims. This may be the new plague of web 2.0 because the DMCA and various internal website copyright review mechanisms encourage false or overly aggressive claims of copyright ownership. That is because there really is no viable penalty for such action. Damages are usually too minimal for false claims under the DMCA. Furthermore, the DMCA does not even require internet service providers and websites hosting content to perform any due diligence with regard to false copyright claims.

Recently, Viacom was the latest large company to flex its copyright muscles. Viacom claimed copyright ownership in a video appearing on Youtube even though, apparently, no Viacom owned works appeared in the video. Perhaps this was the result of a glitch in Youtube's review and matching software. Nevertheless, I have noticed this occurring all too often as innocent and proper copyright owners have their works removed from the web under the DMCA.

How do we solve the problem? Increased statutory damages for false claims under the DMCA to discourage overly aggressive claims of copyright as seen by Viacom. Also, an explicit requirement of registration of a copyrighted work in the United States Library of Congress would be helpful. This would make it simple to verify the validity of a copyright claim, or at least that such a claim was valid on its face. Then, the third prong of my plan would be to require due diligence on the part of websites to confirm the validity of a copyright in response to a DMCA notice. This could be done with a simple online check of the United States Copyright Office registration records.

If you feel that you have been victimized by a false copyright claim or improper DMCA takedown notice, contact a Copyright Attorney to understand your rights.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Barbie Wins Trial of the Year,

Well, the news came down today that Barbie beat Bratz in a knockdown, drag out intellectual property war. Some may call it the case of the year. Basically, Barbie's Mattel Corp. was able to prove that the creator of Bratz, Carter Bryant created the Bratz doll line while working at Mattel. Why does this matter? Because all intellectual property created by employees or independent contractors at the direction of a company belongs to that company. This is the work for hire doctrine and it is very important for employers, especially internet and e-commerce companies employing web developers and software engineers, to have a firm grasp of this doctrine. In this case, the jury essentially ruled that Barbie owns Bratz to some degree. The damages portion of the trial will take place later but you better believe Barbie is going to get a ton of cash in the form of royalties, profits etc.

If you are an E-commerce business or employer, make sure to contact an experienced copyright lawyer or trademark law firm to protect your rights when it comes to works for hire.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spammer gets the Slammer

It is of prime importance for E-commerce businesses to understand commercial email laws. Violators of the CAN-SPAM Act can face serious fines and jail time. The latest example of this just went down in New York, where a young serial spammer named Adam Vitale got whacked with 30 months in federal prison and $180,000 in restitution. The judge, SDNY's Denny Chin offered stern words for the young spammer calling spamming "serious criminal conduct".

See here for a copy of the indictment.

The message is clear, the judiciary views spamming as serious criminal conduct. It is vital for businesses sending out commercial email to consult with an experienced internet lawyer and/or law firm for advice on how to safely conduct email marketing campaigns.

DMCA Takedown Notices Out of Control

Lately, I have noticed an alarming number of improper DMCA take down notice requests proliferating cyberspace. What is a DMCA take down notice? An owner of a copyrighted work may request that material appearing on the internet that infringes upon the owner's copyright be removed. This is accomplished by simply sending a short, form letter called a DMCA take down request to the website's hosting company. In short, the letter needs to identify the infringing material and state under penalty of perjury that the sender of the letter owns a valid copyright in the material allegedly infringed upon. Once received, the hosting company may escape liability for contributory copyright infringement by removing the material. Then, the burden shifts to the website owner to file a counter-notification within 10 days if he/she believes the DMCA take down notice is erroneous or improper. The ball then goes back into the court of the alleged copyright owner to file suit in federal court.

The problem with this system is that many, many content owners attempt to flex their muscles and overexert their copyrights - if they even have valid copyrights in the first place. This leads to thousands of unnecessary take down notices and abuse, not to mention interruptions of valid E-commerce websites. Hosting companies conduct no due diligence and are not even required to do so under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Thus, someone with absolutely no copyrights whatsoever has carte blanche to get your site pulled off the internet on a whim.

Recently, an internet content provider had its content pulled from Youtube due to an erroneous DMCA take down notice filed by Viacom. Now, the DMCA does provide for damages in the event of wrongful take down notices but, the prospect of suing large multi-national corporations is not too appealing. Also, suing individuals for wrongful takedown notices is most likely not a very economical decision given the expense of litigation.

My proposed solution is to place at least a minimum requirement of due diligence on the part of internet service providers to make a good faith determination of whether or not the person or entity filing the DMCA take down notice has a colorable claim of copyright. If you have questions about copyright issues, contact a copyright attorney for advice.