lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Interesting Case: Spamhaus

CNET reports Spam fighter hit with $11.7 million judgment

Spamhaus appears unfazed by the ruling. In a statement on its Web site, Spamhaus dismissed the judgment as invalid and charges that the court was “bamboozled by spammers.” Spamhaus didn’t mount a defense in the case; the ruling was a default judgment in absence of counterarguments.

“Default judgments obtained in U.S. county, state or federal courts have no validity in the U.K. and cannot be enforced under the British legal system,” Spamhaus said on its Web site. “As spamming is illegal in the U.K., an Illinois court ordering a British organization to stop blocking incoming Illinois spam in Britain goes contrary to U.K. law which orders all spammers to cease sending spam in the first place.”

Not so sure about Spamhaus’ perceived immunity from recovery by being located in UK. If you happen to know I’d be much obliged.

Supreme Court Rethinks Obviousness

The Patently-O Patent Law Blog has a great analysis on the concept of obviousness that will be central in a patent case SCOTUS just agreed to hear – KSR v. Teleflex (Supreme Court 2006)

The doctrine of nonobviousness ensures that patent rights are not granted on inventions that are simply throw-away modifications of prior technology. Questions of obviousness are at play in virtually every patent case, in both proceedings before the USPTO and during infringement litigation.

Over the past twenty-five years, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has developed its nonobviousness doctrine using a motivation/suggestion/teaching test. According to the test, when various pieces of prior art each contain elements of an invention, the prior art can be combined together to invalidate a patent on the invention only when there is some motivation, suggestion, or teaching to combine the prior art.

KSR has asked the Supreme Court to rethink that approach and take a fresh look at the obviousness standard for patentability. The petition questions whether obviousness should require any proof of some suggestion or motivation to combine prior art references.

The EFF has taken a somewhat vigilante approach to attacking prior art in their patent busting campaign. I’ll be interested to see the approach the court takes, since my puny 1L understanding of the patent system is that it’s currently very susceptible to manipulation and exploitation. It’s also increasingly necessary as technology becomes cheaper and more easier to appropriate. Some safeguards are an economic necessity, but a lot hinges on getting it right. We’re entering an age when the ownership of patents is not an aid to doing business, it IS the business. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but the stakes are definitely higher.

MySpace Inadequate Protections Case

Here’s a case worth watching. Social networking website MySpace is being sued by a 14-year-old girl in Texas state court in Austin for failing to provide adequate protections against sexual assault.

I have to wonder how MySpace, aside from being an almost perfect target for this kind of suit (cash reserves + negative publicity on this very subject), is any different from any other online forum these two might have met. The answer, I think, is it’s not, and therefore this case could have farreaching and interesting implications on how we interact online. For instance, if the court finds that Myspace has a duty to very actively monitor and thwart suspicious activity, I find it hard to see how they could avoid a direct and messy collision with privacy issues.

The WSJ has a copy of the complaint (.pdf)

This, however, takes the cake. The alleged sex offender wants to file a counter-claim that if MySpace is liable to his alleged victim, then it’s also liable to him.

The defense attorney for Pete Solis, the 19-year-old Texas community college student charged with sexually assaulting the girl dubbed “Julie Doe” in her lawsuit, told TIME that if the Texas courts accept the premise that MySpace is liable because the two met there, then his client also has a claim, since the alleged victim falsely portrayed herself on the website as 15 years old. [time magazine article]

Maybe I’ll find out next semester why whether or not the victim falsely portrayed herself as 15 years old is a rational defense.

MySpace’s new security guru, Hemanshu Nigam, has his work cut out for him. The media has latched on to MySpace as the poster-child for a problem which essentially is true of all social networking and in fact true of the internet in general, which indicates there are a lot more where this came from if the case shows any traction at all.

MySpace users who are 18 or over could no longer request to be on a 14- or 15-year-old’s friends’ list unless they already know either the youth’s e-mail address or full name. That means they won’t have access to personal information on their profiles.

“They’re going to lie about their ages,” said Monique Nelson, executive vice president of online safety advocate Web Wise Kids. “There’s no way to check age verification. In that respect, I don’t think that’s going to be very effective.” [forbes]

People or things that should be sued: Norton Antivirus

Oh Norton, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways…

  1. for no apparent reason and entirely without justification, you prevent good hard-working computer-using people from performing perfectly routine tasks
  2. you use a ridiculous amount of memory and computing resources
  3. your constant, hyperbolic “warnings” cause gullible users to compute in a state of fear, believing they are under constant attack from hackers
  4. in reality it is just the network traffic of the users’ other programs that you are blocking and calling “attacks”; at times you prevent these other programs from working properly
  5. yet when a real virus comes knocking you are as useful as an aneurysm
  6. at other times you give the hapless user no notice of your nefarious activities; you are a hit and run computer program
  7. some people actually PAY for the priviledge of using you, which fills me with angst
  8. when I identify you as the culprit, this creates enmity and distrust between the user and his computer, depriving said user of the comfort, security and enjoyment of computing
  9. you are like the living dead, i kill you and kill you and yet there you are lurking in the processes

A little off-topic, but consider it a public-service announcment. Also, this applies equally to McAfee. AVG and ClamWin offer high quality, FREE alternatives.

Jennifer Granick, Wired Legal Columnist, Granick Slate

If anyone has an interest in practicing law on the frontiers of technology, as I do, then Jennifer Granick’s Wired column is a can’t miss.

She also keeps her own blog choc full of interesting, useful information. I’m particularly enamored of the Granick Slate (see an example here .pdf) which outlines the issues in front of voters in every upcoming California election along with straight-forward, insightful and witty advice. It’s like getting a good talking-to from a more knowledgable person just before you enter the polling booth.

I really wish someone did this as effectively for Texas voters. If anyone knows of a similar resource, please let me (and everyone else) know in the comments.

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