Archive for the ‘norms’ Category

School Assembly Shocker: Student’s Social Media Skimmed for Slideshow

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Lynde Point Lighthouse near Old Saybrook, Conn. (Photo: Robert J. Beyus, NPS)

A high school in Connecticut illustrated a slideshow on internet privacy with photos of the school’s students, taken from Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

Kashmir Hill called the ploy a “clever lesson,” and she gave “[k]udos to the Connecticut high school employee who came up with this dramatic lesson on Internet safety.”

Some students at Old Saybrook High School, however, reacted angrily, saying it invaded their privacy.

Do the students have a point? Legally speaking, yeah, maybe.

I think this would probably not make for an ultimately successful lawsuit for copyright or right-of-publicity infringement. But there’s probably enough on both of those causes of action to file a complaint that isn’t frivolous. And hey, publicity rights have been getting crazy lately, so you never know.

So far no word on whether Righthaven is trying to sign up students for copyright lawsuits.

According to the New Haven Register, principal Oliver Barton said the pictures selected were publicly accessible and thought unlikely to embarrass anyone.

But that didn’t stop the backlash.

For me, I just can’t believe school administrators thought this was a good idea. What a great way to peeve off parents. While I question their sense of judgment, it does look like their lesson is working. Check out this passage from the New Haven Register article:

“They told us we were going to watch something about Internet safety, and they said they personalized the slide show, ” said a freshman named Kayla, who didn’t want to use her last name.

Did you catch that? Kayla didn’t want to use her last name!

Lesson learned.

AP Coverage of EFF’s Involvement in Righthaven v. Democratic Underground

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Associated Press logoIt’s nice to see that another newspaper reporter in Las Vegas is writing about Righthaven, that is, unaffiliated with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and in addition to Steve Green with the Las Vegas Sun.

Cristina Silva of the Associated Press is following the story now, and yesterday she reported (Forbes, on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s involvement in one of the Righthaven suits, an action against Democratic Underground. (Complaint [pdf]; answer and counterclaim [pdf].)

I am quoted in the story:

“The news media has just not done stuff like this before,” said Eric E. Johnson, a University of North Dakota law professor who focuses on copyright infringement and intellectual property issues. “The news media has this sense of public responsibility and a deep sense of ethics and the public trust … this seems like a straightforward effort to make money. It’s mean.”

Illinois Mayor: Bloggers are Terrorists, Creating History’s Greatest First Amendment Crisis

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Explosion on keypad of laptop computerJoseph Werner, mayor of Mokena, Illinois, has compared bloggers attacking local officials to terrorists who fly planes into buildings, killing innocent people. Further, Werner believes blogs have given rise to the greatest First Amendment crisis in this country’s history.

That’s according to Phil Kadner of Chicago Sun-Times’ suburban label SouthtownStar:

“They’re no different in my mind than the kind of person who takes an American plane with Americans on it and flies it into an American building and says I did it for a cause,” Werner said at a village board meeting, as quoted by Kadner in the SouthtownStar.

Given a chance to back off of those comments, Werner wouldn’t. He did clarify that he doesn’t have a problem with bloggers in general, just with those who hide their identities.

“They want to be anonymous. That’s cowardly,” Werner told Kadner. “Just like terrorists, they don’t care if they destroy innocent people, and maybe they’re not killing anyone, but they’re destroying reputations.”

Righthaven’s Innovation? Stooping Lower

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I’ve done several posts about the Righthaven lawsuits, but I haven’t really set forth my opinion, though you may have divined one. I go on the record here:

I think what the Las Vegas Review-Journal and its thugster stooge Righthaven are doing is completely obnoxious. It reeks. It also makes the Las Vegas Review-Journal look like a pack of feral alley dwellers instead of an earnest news organization that is deserving of the public trust.

That being said, the suits are not frivolous. There are some legal issues to contend with, but Righthaven has the upper hand in these lawsuits. The first thing that jumps out to most people is fair use. Fair use is the great pressure-relief valve on our system of copyright law. Fair use frequently comes to the rescue when someone tries to employ copyright law in an unfair and harsh way. But not this time. Reposting an entire story from a newspaper on the internet, as a general matter, is just not fair use. I can imagine, hypothetically, circumstances where reposting an entire newspaper story would be fair use, but such circumstances would be very rare. The fact of the matter is, reposting whole newspaper stories is conduct that infringes copyright, and it’s generally actionable. Copyright law makes it easy for copyright holders to sue over minor transgressions. That’s the reality.

That being said, there’s nothing virtuous about Righthaven suing everyone and anyone they can without warning and without any modicum of amiability. As you go through life, you are constantly collecting opportunities to sue people. If you wanted to, you could file a stream of lawsuits for trespass, battery, and breach of contract against a variety of people with whom you have relatively normal dealings. Our system of civil law – and our system of criminal law, for that matter – work relatively well because people and businesses at all levels of society exercise considerable restraint in deciding whether or not to go to court.

Filing federal lawsuits against frightened individual bloggers who are without significant legal or financial resources, and doing so without any attempt whatsoever to resolve the dispute informally, is deplorable behavior. That would apply to anyone. But for a newspaper to do it is abhorrent.

Righthaven’s business plan is based around taking advantage of the law to do something the law itself never contemplated. I’ll give them this: Righthaven’s entrepreneurial angle is unique. But there’s nothing clever about it. Righthaven and its associated newspapers are on the cutting edge because they have stooped lower than anyone else in the news business has been willing to go. That’s nothing to be proud of.

Chris Reed: Think Global, Act Local

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

A new scholarly article discusses cross-border jurisdictional issues that are relevant for bloggers. The paper is Think Global, Act Local: Extraterritoriality in Cyberspace. Its author is Chris Reed, Professor of Electronic Commerce Law, Queen Mary University of London School of Law, Centre for Commercial Law Studies.

Reed argues that, although countries can apply their own national laws to foreigners outside the country for what they do online, countries should refrain from doing so. From the abstract:

“Laws which are in practice unenforceable reduce the normative force of law as a whole and create the risk that otherwise respectable cyberspace actors will become deliberate lawbreakers. Instead states should attempt to reduce the reach of their laws into cyberspace except where doing so is the only way to protect an essential interest of the state.”

(Ha’p: Media Law Prof Blog)

Prof. Lipton on Blogging and Cybernorms

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Professor Jacqueline D. Lipton has published a pre-print of “What Blogging Might Teach About Cybernorms” on SSRN. She makes a case study of the norm against hijacking comment threads by hyperlinking to other blogs. Her conclusion is that “too much weight is often placed on vague and opaque norms in online interactions.”

The article is forthcoming in the Akron Intellectual Property Journal. Lipton is at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.