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The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Lawsuits'

Monday, August 13

Liking Free Speech

By Brad

Via Sterling C. Beard of The Hill comes an interesting free speech case currently taking place in Virginia:

Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are arguing in a Virginia court that “liking” something on the ubiquitous social network is constitutionally protected free speech.

The wrongful termination lawsuit involves six employees fired by the Hampton, Va., Sheriff B.J. Roberts. The claimants say they were laid off for supporting Roberts’s opponent in his 2009 reelection campaign. One of them “liked” the Facebook page of Roberts’s opponent, Jim Adams.

The Facebook/ACLU action is in response to a U.S. District Judge’s ruling a few months ago that simply “liking” something is not enough to be counted as free speech. This should be fascinating to watch play out.

Tuesday, March 13

Lawsuit of the Day

By Brad

This is a big one. Yahoo! is suing Facebook for a score of patent infringements. Via Kara Swisher of All Things Digital:

In what is either the boldest gamble of its history or the most boneheaded, Yahoo has filed a massive patent infringement lawsuit against Facebook.

The attack by the Silicon Valley Internet icon against perhaps the most powerful consumer social networking site today — also based in tech’s heartland and also an important partner of Yahoo — is sure to be a controversial one, pitting Yahoo against a company that has surpassed it handily in recent years in regards to popularity among consumers.

“Facebook’s entire social network model, which allows users to create profiles for and connect with, among other things, persons and businesses, is based on Yahoo’s patented social networking technology,” Yahoo’s lawsuit reads, in part.

Over at Paid Content, Jeff Roberts examines the 10 patents cited in the suit. Meanwhile, TechDirt’s Mike Masnick thinks the suit will backfire on Yahoo!:

If this plan is actually based on some clueless exec’s idea of how to boost Yahoo’s share price, not only is that sadly mistaken, but it also kills off the only chance Yahoo might have had to boost its sale price going forward. Stupid, anti-innovation patent lawsuits against better, faster, more innovative competitors might seem like a short-term strategy that makes sense, but in Silicon Valley, it’s the death knell of any company.

Thursday, September 08

September 21

By Brad

That’s the day a federal judge has set for AT&T and the Department of Justice to appear in court “ready to discuss the prospects of a settlement,” Bloomberg’s Sara Forden reports.

there's more...

Thursday, September 01

Responding to the DoJ’s Suit

By Brad

From an editorial in the Wall Street Journal responding to this week’s announcement that the Department of Justice is suing to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile:

The real threat to wireless competition is the lack of available spectrum for companies to use to meet public demand. The crunch has become acute as consumers snap up new smartphones, which enable them to watch videos, download data and more. The last auction was held in 2008 and there aren’t any new ones on the calendar. If companies can’t get the spectrum they need, they’ll restrict usage through higher pricing—exactly what the Justice Department says it doesn’t want.
The political interpretation of Justice’s actions was borne out yesterday when acting antitrust chief Sharis Pozen said that “our door is open” to AT&T if the company wants to resolve the government’s “concerns.” In other words, do our bidding on some regulatory or political business, and you can still get your merger. Meantime, Ms. Pozen and Justice are putting a legal damper on investment and innovation in one of America’s few dynamic industries, and that will do economic damage far beyond AT&T.

The Wall Street Journal‘s complaints about the DoJ’s actions are echoed by Geoffrey Manne of Forbes, who wrote shortly after the lawsuit was announced:

[E]ven on a national level, the blithe dismissal of a whole range of competitors is untenable. MetroPCS, Cell South and many other companies have broad regional coverage (MetroPCS even has next-gen LTE service in something like 17 cities) and roaming agreements with each other and with the larger carriers that give them national coverage. Why they should be excluded from consideration is baffling. Moreover, Dish has just announced plans to build a national 4G network (take that, DOJ claim that entry is just impossible here!). And perhaps most important the real competition here is not for mobile telephone service. The merger is about broadband. Mobile is one way of getting broadband. So is cable and DSL and WiMax, etc. That market includes such insignificant competitors as Time Warner, Comcast and Cox. Calling this a 4 to 3 merger strains credulity, particularly under the new merger guidelines.

Our response to this week’s announcement is here.

Tuesday, April 05

Today in Net Neutrality

By Brad

With the GOP-controlled House working to repeal the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, the Obama administration has preemptively signaled they will veto any repeal that reaches the President’s desk. Reports Tony Romm and Eliza Krigman at Politico:

A Statement of Administration Policy issued late Monday emphasized that the White House “strongly opposes House passage” of the resolution of disapproval, which would roll back rules the FCC enacted in December that require Internet providers to treat all traffic equally.

The administration described any Republican attempt to undo the FCC’s work as one that would “undermine a fundamental part of the Nation’s Internet and innovation strategy — an enforceable and effective policy for keeping the Internet free and open.”

Meanwhile, via Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post (among others), the lawsuit brought by Verizon against the FCC regarding the new regulations has been dismissed in federal court due to a technicality:

In an order Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed the legal basis the companies used to file. Judges Karen Lecraft Henderson, David S. Tatel and Brett M. Kavanaugh said in the court’s order that a challenge to the FCC rules must come after the so-called net neutrality order is published in the Federal Register, and said the “prematurity” of Verizon’s lawsuit was “incurable.”

But as the National Journal‘s David Hatch reports, Verizon isn’t backing down:

A Verizon spokesman blamed the dismissal on the FCC, which he said was unclear about when an appeal should be filed. He confirmed that the telecom giant plans to resubmit its suit, but this time it will wait until the commission publishes its new Internet rules in the federal register next month.

Wednesday, February 09

Lawsuit of the Day

By Brad

Via Gautham Nageth from The Hill, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has fired off another courtroom missile in its war against piracy:

The Motion Picture Association of American filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of several member studios against the file-sharing service Hotfile for copyright infringement.

“In less than two years Hotfile has become one of the 100 most trafficked sites in the world. That is a direct result of the massive digital theft that Hotfile promotes,” said MPAA chief content protection officer Daniel Mandil.

Over at TechDirt, Mike Masnick is unimpressed with the suit:

Basically, the MPAA and the big studios it represents have decided they don’t like the fact that Hotfile isn’t protecting their business model and have decided that, therefore, it must be illegal. But that’s not how the law works. It’s entirely possible that a court will get blinded by the “but… but… piracy” aspect of this lawsuit. But looking through the details, I’m really shocked at the lack of any actual evidence for direct or contributory infringement.

Thursday, February 03

Stumbling Block

By Brad

When Verizon filed suit against the FCC over net neutrality regulations, they requested that the case be heard by the same judges who ruled for Comcast in their case against the FCC. Yesterday, a federal appellate court has shot that idea down. Via Larry Downes of CNet:

The request was a long shot, and the decision to deny Verizon’s motion wasn’t surprising. In federal courts, the panel of three judges that hear an appeal is usually assigned randomly. However, when an appellate court returns a case to a lower court for further proceedings, subsequent appeals in the same case are often returned to the original panel in the interests of “judicial efficiency.”

But despite the similarities between the Comcast case and Verizon’s appeal of the new rule, the cases are not part of the same docket. Comcast’s appeal was from sanctions issued under the former policy statements, while Verizon is challenging the new rules on their face.

Monday, January 31

Countering the Suit

By Brad

Last Friday, the FCC asked a D.C. Circuit Court to dismiss Verizon’s lawsuit against net neutrality rules.

Tuesday, January 25

And Then There Were Two

By Brad

Another wireless provider, MetroPCS, has decided to take on the FCC in court. Reports Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post:

The company has been the subject of criticism by consumer groups who say MetroPCS’s 4G pricing plans purposefully block certain applications, a violation of the FCC’s Internet access rules. The suit follows a similar legal challenge made last week by Verizon Communications and is expected to be part of a flood of lawsuits against the agency.

“MetroPCS’s concerns regarding the jurisdictional basis for the net neutrality rules, the recent appeal filed by Verizon, and challenges raised by some proponents of Net Neutrality to MetroPCS’ recent 4G rate plans, have caused MetroPCS to appeal the FCC’s net neutrality order to ensure that the concerns of competitive wireless carriers, like MetroPCS, are addressed.” Roger D. Linquist, MetroPCS’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Monday, January 24

Reactions From Democrats

By Brad

“Verizon has the legal right to do this, but we are disappointed that they filed suit. We support the FCC’s efforts because they will protect consumers and provide companies with the certainty they need to make investments in our growing digital economy.”

— From the official statement of Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller and House Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. Henry Waxman regarding Verizon’s decision to sue the FCC over net neutrality (via The Hill).

Friday, January 21

To the Courts

By Brad

The waiting game is over, as Verizon has decided to challenge the FCC’s net neutrality rules in court. Via Todd Shields at Businessweek:

“We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself,” Michael Glover, deputy general counsel for New York-based Verizon, said in a statement yesterday. “We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress.”

At Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton reports that Republican Reps. Fred Upton, Greg Walden, and Lee Terry were quick to praise Verizon’s move:

“At stake is not just innovation and economic growth, although those concerns are vital,” the legislators said. “Equally important is putting a check on an FCC that is acting beyond the authority granted to it by Congress. Between our legislative efforts and this court action, we will put the FCC back on firmer ground.

For more coverage, see the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

Friday, July 09

Facebook’s Inevitable Privacy Suit

By Brad

Facebook has faced heat recently over its privacy policies. And now, Computer World reports, the inevitable class action lawsuit has been filed:

Merchant Law Group LLP filed the lawsuit on July 2 in Queen’s Bench court in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The law firm, which has class-action lawsuits as a large part of its business, filed the suit on behalf of Donald J. Woligroski, a Winnipeg resident and a registered Facebook user, and other class action members for an unspecified amount of damages.

The suit contends that Facebook subjected Woligroski to a breach of privacy and the misappropriation of his personal information. It also alleges that Facebook intentionally used his information for commercial purposes, calling the company’s actions “malicious, deliberate, and oppressive.”

“A Lawyer’s Paradise”

By Bruce Mehlman

PC World talked with some telecom experts about the FCC’s move to regulate the Internet under Title II:

The move to reclassify broadband will create many years of legal uncertainty because of likely challenges to the FCC’s actions, said telecom lawyer Jonathan Nuechterlein, a partner at the Wilmer Hale law firm in Washington, D.C. “What the FCC is proposing to do here is create a lawyer’s paradise,” said Nuechterlein, a former deputy general counsel at the FCC. “They will send my kids to college and their kids to college.”

But Chris Wright, a partner in the Wiltshire and Grannis law firm and former general counsel at the FCC, disagreed. While Genachowski’s plan may not lead to immediate certainty for lawyers and investors, reclassifying broadband may give the FCC clearer legal authority than any attempts to continue to create broadband rules on a case-by-case basis, he said. The FCC, under its current limited authority, would probably “lose a lot” of legal cases when trying to implement its national broadband plan, released in March.

“It’s a lawyer’s paradise either way,” Wright said. “There is uncertainty. There will be considerable uncertainty for a long time.”

Tuesday, June 01

A Stroll Gone Wrong

By Brad

Via TechDirt comes the story of Google Maps, a woman out for a walk, and the wrong turn that lead to both a collision and a lawsuit.

Thursday, May 20

Privacy Problems

By Brad

The fallout from Google admitting it had inadvertently been capturing snippets private data through its StreetView program continues to grow. Already, investigations have been launched in Germany, Italy, and France. And on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports, Reps. Edward Markey and Joe Barton sent a letter to the FTC urging them to investigate the matter. Later that same day, a Washington D.C. Council Member also called for an investigation into the matter, calling Google’s privacy breach “big brother-like.”

All in all, Google’s error isn’t that big of a deal. But that’s not stopping two people who left their WiFi networks open from filing a lawsuit against the company. At Techdirt, Mike Masnick calls out the litigants:

While there’s nothing illegal about setting up an open WiFi network—and, in fact, it’s often a very sensible thing to do—if you’re using an open WiFi network, it is your responsibility to recognize that it is open and any unencrypted data you send over that network can be seen by anyone else on the same access point.

This is clearly nothing more than a money grab by some people, and hopefully the courts toss it out quickly, though I imagine there will be more lawsuits like this one.

Thursday, May 13

Copyright in the Digital Age

By Brad

Via MSNBC, a high court in Germany has ruled people with WiFi in their homes need to protect it with a password — or face a fine if someone they don’t know downloads something illegal:

Internet users can be fined up to euro100 ($126) if a third party takes advantage of their unprotected WLAN connection to illegally download music or other files, the Karlsruhe-based court said in its verdict.

“Private users are obligated to check whether their wireless connection is adequately secured to the danger of unauthorized third parties abusing it to commit copyright violation,” the court said.

In other copyright news — this time closer to home — a U.S. judge has ruled against file-sharing application LimeWire. From the Wall Street Journal:

The blistering, 59-page ruling from Judge Kimba Wood of U.S. District Court in Manhattan granted several requests for summary judgment made by the music labels, which are represented by the Recording Industry Association of America.

For many in the music industry the ruling is a throwback to an earlier digital era. LimeWire and similar software had their heyday several years ago, and while still present on many people’s computers they have been eclipsed by newer downloading methods such as BitTorrent.

In a statement, LimeWire Chief Executive George Searle said: “LimeWire strongly opposes the court’s recent decision.” RIAA CEO Mitch Bainwol, in a statement, called the ruling “an extraordinary victory for the entire creative community.”

Tuesday, April 06

FCC Loses in Court

By Brad

In a ruling that could have major implications for both net neutrality and the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, a federal appeals court has determined that the commission over-reached when they banned Comcast from blocking some of their subscribers from BitTorrent.

Here’s the FCC’s statement about the ruling:

“The FCC is firmly committed to promoting an open Internet and to policies that will bring the enormous benefits of broadband to all Americans. It will rest these policies — all of which will be designed to foster innovation and investment while protecting and empowering consumers — on a solid legal foundation.

Today’s court decision invalidated the prior Commission’s approach to preserving an open Internet. But the Court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.”

And here’s the statement from Comcast:

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its opinion in Comcast v. FCC, No. 08-1291, which petitioned the Court to review an FCC Order issued in August of 2008.

The unanimous opinion, written by Circuit Judge Tatel and joined by Chief Judge Sentelle and Senior Circuit Judge Randolph, found for Comcast, granting the petition for review and vacating the FCC Order.

Comcast issued the following statement attributable to Sena Fitzmaurice, Vice President of Government Communications:

“We are gratified by the Court’s decision today to vacate the previous FCC’s order. Our primary goal was always to clear our name and reputation. We have always been focused on serving our customers and delivering the quality open-Internet experience consumers want. Comcast remains committed to the FCC’s existing open Internet principles, and we will continue to work constructively with this FCC as it determines how best to increase broadband adoption and preserve an open and vibrant Internet.”

Wednesday, March 03

There’s a Lawsuit For That

By Brad

Google’s major push in the lucrative smart phone market with its Nexus One has not escaped Apple’s attention. Case in point: The lawsuit filed by Apple yesterday against HTC, the Taiwanese company that manufacture’s Google’s phone.

Friday, February 19

Dept. of Bad Ideas

By Brad

From Ars Technica comes the troubling story of a Pennsylvania high school, school-issued laptops, and school officials allegedly spying on kids at home via webcam.

Monday, January 11

Fear of Technology

By Brad

Via TMC Net comes the strange story of a man who believes he suffers from “electromagnetic sensitivity,” a neighbor who has wi-fi and a cellphone, and a bizarre lawsuit.

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