Last week, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott learned the hard way that conference expansion is a little trickier than subbing a “12” in for the“10” in your logo.

As many news outlets reported over the weekend, the soon-to-be-Pac-12 conference has discovered that the domain has already been claimed by a fan of the late (unless he isn’t) Tupac Shakur, who has been using the site to offer an Amazon widget selling 2Pac albums. The Pac-10 has responded by filing a claim with the World Intellectual Property Organization, seeking control of the site.

Most people seem to assume this is nothing but a momentary hiccup in the conference’s plans. After all, the Pac-10 is a well-established — and well-funded — preeminent national sporting organization, and a one-page CD ad with the heading “Tupac Lives!” doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of conference partisans everywhere. But, if it can’t (or won’t) cough up a check with enough zeroes on it in order to buy the domain peacefully, the conference may have a real problem wresting away control of the domain by legal force.

Why is that, you ask? The answer requires us to first play a quick game of alphabet soup.
Continue Reading Register Before It’s Too Late!

Over the past several months, my husband and I have been listening, along with our eight-year-old daughter, to the Harry Potter books on audiotape. (By the way, even if you’ve read the books, you owe it to yourselves to buy/download/rent the audiobooks — Jim Dale totally rocks). We are currently in the final stretch and are more than half way through Book 7; we also have a family pact that none of us will cheat and continue ahead unless the whole family is in the car together, collectively slogging through L.A. traffic and ready to listen.

Of course, I’m bouncing off the walls, dying to know how the story ends — who wins, who loses, who lives, who dies. (Okay, stop jeering…yes, I am the only person on the planet who doesn’t know what happened at the end of the series. And thestatute of limitations on spoilers has long since passed. I get it. But pretty please, find it in your hearts not to ruin the ending for me by posting it in our comments section.) [Ed. Note: Instead, please enjoy this collection of unrelated outdated spoilers: Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. Vader is Luke’s father. Dil is actually a dude. It was earth all along. Soylent Green is people. Norman’s mother is dead.] Of course, if I was a cold-hearted mother and wife, I could keep listening or even just fast forward to the end, just to find out what happens. Don’t worry, I won’t — because I promised (and because my commute is less than 5 minutes).

Serendipitously, the recent internet chatter surrounding Pink Floyd’s dispute with EMI coincided with the timing of my Potter predicament, and it got me wondering: are my familial contract and my motherly moral compass the only obstacles precluding me from jumping ahead and listening to the last track of the CD? Could J.K. Rowling herself somehow dictate the order in which I read/listen to the details of her story? Pink Floyd apparently thinks so.
Continue Reading All in All It’s Just Another Band Selling Out

What do you do if you discovered that your favorite website, YouPorn, is secretly gathering information about your Internet use? If you were California residents David Pitner and Jared Reagan, it seems you would sue the website in federal court and accuse it of violating your privacy, thereby announcing to the world that you are an avid porn watcher. (Privacy FAIL! Pitner and Reagan are not alone in their interests — according to the lawsuit, YouPorn ranks #61 in website popularity [other sources place it in the mid-70s…so now we’re no longer impressed] — but they are alone in having announced it to the world…until more individuals join the potential class action, that is.)

Let’s rewind. What exactly did YouPorn do and how did the plaintiffs figure it out? According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, YouPorn is one of 46 major websites that is engaged in “history sniffing” — a technical term that sounds just about as salacious as “YouPorn” itself, which is probably why some people prefer “history hijacking.” As you may have noticed when surfing the Web, links corresponding to URLs that you’ve visited before render differently than URLs you’ve never visited. According to UCSD’s study, history hijacking attacks occur when a site inserts invisible links into its web page and has Java Script inspect the links’ properties to determine whether the user has visited that URL — they will appear purple if the site has been visited and blue if they haven’t. Out of the Alexa global top 50,000 websites, the study discovered at least 46 (and possibly as many as 63) occurrences of history sniffing, on websites covering a wide range of topics from sports to finance to news to…whatever YouPorn is about.
Continue Reading (History) Sniffing and (You)Porn: The Continued Crusade for Internet Privacy

[Ed. Note: Last Monday, we brought you Part 1 of 2 of this month’s Facebook series, in which Dan Nabel walked us through some of the ethical pitfalls for lawyers litigating in a socially-networked world. Today, Rachel Wilkes wraps up our mini-series by giving you non-lawyers your due, explaining just how “private” your “private information” is once you move from the Facebook Wall to the courthouse steps. Preview: looks like everyone has yet another reason (besides the obvious) to move to California.]

A day in the life of an avid Facebooker might look something like the following. (This is what I hear, anyway. Not speaking from personal experience. At all. Ahem.): Get up. Eat breakfast. Post to Facebook about your breakfast. Drive to work. Post to Facebook about the horrible traffic in L.A. Do some work. Do some work on your farm on FarmVille.* Go to happy hour with co-workers. Post happy hour photos on Facebook… You get the idea.

All of a sudden, your 500 closest friends (or people you haven’t seen since elementary school) know every gory detail about your life. But that’s OK, because you adjusted your privacy settings so only your “friends” can see your profile details, and you don’t mind sharing those details with all of them. So it’s all still considered “private” vis-à-vis the rest of the world….right?

The answer to that may depend on which court is deciding.
Continue Reading Get Outta my Face(book): Does “Private” Really Mean Private?

Law Law Land’s loyal readers know much better than to commit unabashed copyright violations like the magazine Cooks Source. But because this story has become the Internet meme du jour, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to weigh in and use this as a “teaching moment.”

First, a recap. Cooks Source is a magazine targeted at “food lovers in Western New England” which was, until November 4, wholly unknown to this blogger (and, I’m betting, 99.99% of the Internet world). Cooks Source was thrust ignominiously into the spotlight when blogger Monica Gaudio posted a story about her discovery that Cooks Sourcehad taken her piece on apple pie (revealing that “As American as Apple Pie — Isn’t!”) and copied it into the magazine — with Gaudio’s byline, but without paying her a dime. When Gaudio e-mailed the magazine asking for a public Facebook apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism, she received the following response from editor Judith Griggs:

“…Honestly Monica, the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn’t ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I’m sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than it was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me…ALWAYS for free!”

Wow. Go figure — all this time, I never knew that if a client receives a demand letter for allegedly infringing on someone’s intellectual property rights, the correct response is, “I did you a favor, so really you should pay me!” Genius.

But seriously, this email is perfect fodder for a little game I like to call, “How many gross misstatements of the law can you find in one paragraph?” (This may wind up being very problematic for Cooks Source, since turns out that this isn’t the first time Cooks Source has taken liberties with other peoples’ material…and far from it. Apparently, Griggs has been skating by on her incorrect legal opinions for some time without notice, with victims including Martha Stewart, NPR and Sunset magazine.)
Continue Reading Copyright Infringement 101: Don’t Try This at Home

[Ed. Note: After our popular post about the legal issues surroundingThe Social Network ran last month, we were flooded — flooded, I say! — with requests from our readers for follow-up. “Your analysis of the legal questions raised by the Facebook movie was brilliant, incisive, and hilarious!” raved one highly-representative e-mailer. “But can’t you share the same kind of sage wisdom about legal issues surrounding Facebook itself?” Okay, that never happened. But Aaron Moss’s post did get us thinking about all the funny little legal quirks that have emerged in the post-Facebook world, so we figured maybe, just maybe, somebody wanted to write that email above but was just too shy to pull the trigger. Don’t worry, Nonexistent Mystery Reader, we’ve got you covered! Today, Dan Nabel examines ethical issues lawyers must face when dealing with the role of Facebook and other social media in their own cases. Next Monday, Rachel Wilkes will educate the non-lawyers about what they should keep in mind for themselves when logging onto Facebook for the seventeenth time of the day.]

Once upon a time, a legal ethics professor told a great story on the first day of class. As a young lawyer, he represented a woman in a personal injury case who had suffered a serious injury as a result of a car accident. At trial, she hobbled to the witness stand on crutches. She testified, tearfully, about the great pain she endured each day from walking even the shortest of distances. She testified how the accident had truly changed her life. After less than thirty minutes on the stand, the jury was practically in tears. The professor left the court house that day confident that when his client finished her testimony on the following day, victory would be assured.

But before appearing in court the next morning, the professor went to exercise at the Santa Monica stairs off Adelaide drive. And of course, he arrived to find his client there. Running. Smiling. Without crutches. Happy as a clam. Maybe even thinking about the perjurious testimony she would give later that morning with the professor’s help.

(This professor waited until the end of the semester to tell his class what he did. Don’t worry, I will tell you at the end of this article).
Continue Reading Exhibit A, My Social Network: Issues With Making Facebook Evidence “Private”

There’s been a new development in the Troubling Tale of the Two-Steppin’ Toddler — or, as it is more commonly known in legal circles, the Lenz v .Universal case. Our regular readers are familiar with the facts: back in 2007, loving mom Stephanie Lenz posted a 29-second YouTube clip of her adorable tot dancing, with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blaring in the background (I actually think he’s just running around the kitchen pushing a Fisher Price walker, but I’m no Carrie Ann Inaba). A few months later, Universal Music had the video removed, claiming copyright infringement. Lenz fought back (Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned), claiming fair use of the copyright, and filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for misrepresentation of a DMCA claim. Since then, Mega-Mom has scored several victories, surviving a motion to dismiss in 2008 and knocking out certain of Universal’s affirmative defenses earlier this year.
Continue Reading The Doctrine Formerly Known as Fair Use

I thought I was breaking the law. Okay, it was breaking the law in the dorkiest way possible, but still, breaking the law is always kind of cool (wait, I’m a lawyer — am I allowed to say that?). After hours of research, I put my brand new first generation iPhone into the hands of some rogue programming genius with a vitamin D deficiency. The plan was to jailbreak and unlock my iPhone. In simple terms, jailbreaking allows you to modify the iPhone operating system in ways that Apple doesn’t allow. At the time, the App Store was just a gleam in Steve Jobs’ eye; jailbreaking would enable me to download games and other apps iPhone owners now take for granted. But I was more interested in unlocking the iPhone, which would allow me to run the phone on T-Mobile instead of AT&T (and avoid AT&T’s ungodly rates). Somehow I wasn’t deterred by the dozens of horror stories online about failed jailbreaking attempts, stories about “bricked” iPhones that never worked again. I certainly wasn’t going to drop another $400 on a new iPhone, so I knew I only had one shot at breaking out of jail. I downloaded the program and, like magic, I was playing Super Mario Bros. 3 in a matter of minutes — never a doubt.
Continue Reading My Brush with Lawlessness: Jailbreaking iPhones and the DMCA

I love old family movies. You know, those frenetic-yet-nostalgic, motion-sickness-inducing Super 8 films from your childhood? (Believe you me, the cinéma vérité, shaky-cam directors who are currently in vogue have nothing on my dad…) Now that my family’s home movie library has been converted to DVD, there are endless opportunities to force my husband to watch me and my mom ride a camel at “Jungle Habitat” (can I get a shout-out from those of you who grew up in the NY/New Jersey area in the mid-1970’s?) or the fourth of July picnic where the sparkler burned my hand, or — one of my personal favorites — my five year-old self singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and dancing the Charleston in the first grade holiday play (trust me, its cuter than it sounds).

And so it was with great anticipation that I prepared our video camera for my seven year-old’s musical theater debut in her summer camp’s production of Grease: The G-Rated Version (no swearing, no teen pregnancy, no smoking, no men rubbing cellophane on their crotches…)

But then we got the letter.
Continue Reading “Grease” Isn’t The Word — “Copyright” Is

Oh, the halcyon days of the summer of ’07! Your kids (or you) were enthralled with their first chance to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Your 401(K) balance probably had an extra zero or two on the end of it. The “steroid era of baseball” was a mere virtual certainty, rather than a documented fact. None of us had ever heard of a collateralized debt obligation or credit default swap. And I, but a baby lawyer, was enthralled with this crazy new lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google, alleging that Google was itself responsible for $1 billion worth of copyright infringement on its recently-acquired YouTube service. And oh, how the world has changed in these last three years! Teenage vampires have supplanted teenage wizards, you can safely assume that the slugger in your kid’s little league was juicing, we’re all experts on the vagaries of inventing nonexistent wealth with inscrutable financial instruments and then destroying it with other inscrutable financial instruments, and the Viacom lawsuit…well, that’s still going.
Continue Reading The View from Three Years Out: Viacom’s YouTube Litigation, Then and Now