Category Archives: Internet Issues

ICANN Reveals Applicants for New Generic Top Level Domains – Is This a Good Idea?

The world got its first look at the folks who were able to fork over $185,000 each to apply for control over new generic top level domains. The top level domain name is what is currently the “.com” part of the internet address. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that manages this part of the Internet’s infrastructure, has been preparing for this broad domain name expansion for almost ten years. Based on the applications received, it looks like addresses will be available for a whole new proliferation of domain names with extensions like  .pizza, .carinsurance, .baby, and .books. Nearly 2,000 applicants were able to come up with this kind of money and the list of folks who want to control the “new internet” had a lot of familiar names–Google, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Chrysler, and Apple, just to name a few.

Several potential top level domains have more than one applicant vying for ownership. The hottest properties were .app, .baby, .baseball, .blog, .money, .pizza, .web and .vip. If the applicants can’t agree on who should control what, the name will go up for auction and many of these coveted domains are expected to go for many millions of dollars.

While ICANN is very excited about this process (after all, they took in more than $350 million dollars from the application process alone),  others are not so thrilled. Many consumer groups are understandably worried about a system that would allow our wealthiest and most powerful companies to own access to a generic domain, a situation which could result in the lucky owner shutting out its competitors. While this is a great deal for the owning company, the companies that are excluded and, ultimately, consumers, do not fare so well under such a system.

In addition, brand owners are understandably worried about this process and “new frontier.” Whereas a brand owner had to worry about competitors, scammers, cybersquatters, and counterfeiters acquiring confusingly similar domain names on .com, .net, and .org (which was bad enough), they may now have to fight on several new fronts. These policing efforts are expensive and fraught with drama and–given that many brand owners don’t think we need these new domains in the first place–are of questionable cost effectiveness.

Will consumers even care? Are people so used to searching for what they want using .com that these new top level domains will have the same relevance as the .info and .biz extensions? No one knows yet. But many companies with the cash to gamble are hoping that consumers will care and that these new domains are marketing game changers. Brand owners have no choice but to stay tuned, pay attention, and increase their policing and enforcement budgets.

New York Court Denies Chase Bank’s Request to Serve Alleged Credit Card Scammer on Facebook

A New York district judge denied Chase Bank USA’s Motion to serve a defendant via Facebook this week. Chase had attempted to serve the woman numerous times through physical addresses that it had tracked down for her but was unsuccessful.  So naturally, Chase wanted to take it to the next level and serve her through Facebook. The Judge would not allow the service (which was theoretically possible under New York’s laws regarding service of process) because Chase had not made a sufficient showing that she was likely to receive and read the material if service was made in that manner. So, as a practice pointer, if one needs to serve a defendant via Facebook, the lawyer should monitor the proposed Facebook account to see how often the defendant appears to post to his or her page, what sort of information is being posted, i.e., real wall posts or replies by the defendant as opposed to  unanswered posts by the defendant’s “friends” or random applications, and whether the page’s owner is indeed the right person. Based on the reasoning of the New York district judge, this is the sort of evidence that would be necessary to obtain permission to serve process in such an unorthadox manner. So, do you think you could serve a wily defendant through Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? It will be interesting to see where the law goes in this area and will likely be harder for the tech-saavy defendant with an on-line presence to avoid service  in the future.

EU Ruling Allows ISP’s to Provide User Data to Copyright Holders

The European Union’s highest court ruled Thursday that national data retention laws do not prevent Internet service providers from sharing customer information that copyright holders can use to identify individuals that they believe have engaged in illegal file-sharing.

Trayvon Martin Case and Intellectual Property Issues

This case has been heart-breaking on so many levels, no matter your position on the social issues that are implicated. Whether you believe Zimmerman  acted in self-defense or created a situation where someone’s beloved son was killed while minding his own business, carrying a Snapple and some Skittles, there is no question that many lives have been destroyed, careers ruined, and, most tragic by far,  a child with a promising future is dead.  It is not for me to decide what happened in this case because I wasn’t there and I don’t know. I have friends with different views on Zimmerman’s actions and motives, but all I can think about is Trayvon’s parents, and the parents of other young African-American boys or men, who live in  fear that the same thing could happen to their child. I have no answers and nothing but my heart-felt sympathies to offer to these families.

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Top Five Ways to Protect Your Website

Below are the top five things to consider to ensure that your website and its content are adequately protected:

1.      Own Your Own Content

As a threshold matter, you need to create all the content yourself or, if it is created by others, it must be done pursuant to a “work for hire” agreement. If not, the person writing the content or providing the graphic or photographs owns the content, not you or      Continue reading

The Blog Got a Makeover

I’ve been working on improving the blog which meant moving to a different host. Please bear with me while I’m working out the bugs. I have heard from a number of folks that the RSS link doesn’t work and I’m trying to sort that out. I really appreciate the number of nice emails that I’ve received about the blog and  the folks that are reading it. I hope you like the improvements. Paige

Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker Signal Willingness to Back Off SOPA/PIPA as Currently Written

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In case you’ve been living in a cave, parts of the Internet went radio silent yesterday in protest of SOPA ( the “Stop On-Line Piracy Act”). Google “censored” its own logo and Wikipedia went down completely as expressions of these Internet giants’ opposition to the bill.  Due to all the brouhaha, U.S.  Senators from Tennessee, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander issued statements on Wednesday that basically cried “uncle” and indicated that they are open to revising the controversial anti-piracy legislation that touched off the blackout and Internet firestorm. The two Tennessee Republicans are cosponsors of the Protect IP Act (“PIPA”)(the House version of the bill is SOPA), which would prevent US Internet users from accessing foreign-based rogue websites that illegally copy or show films, recordings, and other intellectual property.

The SOPA and PIPA bills would try to snuff out these overseas piracy sites by exerting leverage on companies doing business in the United States that would be subject to US jurisdiction. For example, the acts would force American ISPs to block the domain names (for example, “piracy.com”) of overseas piracy sites. They’d allow the government to sue American sites like Google and Facebook, and even blogs, to remove links to the piracy sites. And they’d give the government the right to cut off the piracy sites’ funding, such as forcing American payment companies (like PayPal) and advertisers to cut off the foreign accounts. Most of the opposition stems from fears that the ISP’s would be subject to liability for accidentally hosting pirated content or legitimate sites could be taken down by mistake without sufficient due process and their only recourse would be expensive litigation after their business has been destroyed by an improper take-down.

The protest has had its desired effect. The bill’s sponsors are backing off the legislation in its current form. Although Corker is a sponsor of the Senate bill, “he has always understood that there remained issues to be resolved before Protect IP was ready to become law,” said his chief of staff, Todd Womack.

“Though the bill being considered will likely not come to a vote in its current form, he hopes ongoing negotiations result in legislation that also stops foreign websites dedicated to stealing and profiting off the intellectual property of Americans, protects free speech, and fosters commerce and innovation on the Internet,” Womack said.

Alexander issued a similar statement.

“I am a cosponsor of the Protect IP Act because it will protect the rights of musicians, artists, and others from illegal foreign websites dedicated to copyright infringement,” the senator said. “I look forward to improving the bill to address legitimate concerns raised about it.”

Because Tennessee is home to the “Third Coast,” and “Music City,” Tennessee legislators are understandably supportive of measures to protect the IP of its many musicians, artists and film makers. Hopefully Senators Alexander and Corker will be able to fashion legislation that will take into account the concerns of the bills’ opponents, while still discouraging and punishing the infringers, counterfeiters, and pirates. It will be interesting to see what happens next. Many people are proposing alternative approaches. But for now, SOPA, at least in its current form, is as dead as Wikipedia was yesterday afternoon when I needed a quick and dirty survey of Anti-Slapp legislation.

Tennessee Supreme Court Launches New Website to Give the Average Person Access to Justice

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The Tennessee Supreme Court has launched an excellent new website, http://www.justiceforalltn.com, that aims to make justice more accessible to the average Tennessean. While the introduction to the website states that it is always best to talk to a lawyer about your particular legal problem, the website offers resources for those that have no choice but to represent themselves in the Tennessee court system. It contains the applicable statutes, rules, and forms for many common problems that Tennesseans face: child support and divorce, worker’s compensation issues, entitlement to unemployment benefits, the loss of one’s driver’s license, and immigration issues, just to name a few. The page also contains general information about Tennessee’s court system and how to find a lawyer. Lawyers will find it useful as well. It is a central repository for many court forms and contains links to all of Tennessee’s major bar associations. The court also encourages folks to provide suggestions as to additional material that should be included so let them know if you see something missing. I have added it to this blog’s links and encourage you to check it out.

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Buying Your Competitor’s Trademarks as Google Ad Words – Is it Trademark Infringement?

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I get a lot of questions on the ad word issue: is it trademark infringement if your competitor buys your marks as Google ad words? The Ninth Circuit is leaning more towards answering that question with a “no.” See Network … Continue reading

Local Schools Buy .xxx Domain Names to Protect Their Reputation

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 Local institution Columbia State Community College recently spent approximately $1,000 to purchase eight .xxx domain names. No, CSCC is not going into the business of providing adult entertainment,  it is joining the many thousands of other trademark owners who are purchasing the .xxx domain names to keep others from using their brands to post and sell pornographic material. The .xxx domain names are.xxx (known as “dot triple-X“)  and are intended as a voluntary option for pornagraphic sites on the Internet. 
 ICM Registry, the company overseeing .xxx domain name registration, allowed trademark owners to secure .xxx domains for $200 before sales opened to the adult entertainment community on Dec. 6, 2011. 
 Spending $200 is very cheap insurance to keep CSCC and other business from costly disputes over the use of their brands on pornographic sites. If your business hasn’t purchased its own .xxx domain name, it probably should strongly consider it.