Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Feeling the effects of Ebay v. MercExchange

Trying to find positive news in the sea of patent litigation, today the fact that Verizon has not asked the court to immediately stop Vonage's operations in its lawsuit for patent infringment, seems to put some rationality back in the patent arena. As it was noted previously, EBAY INC. ET AL. v. MERCEXCHANGE, L.L.C. was a very good news indeed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Open Lecture Series in Media Law

Within the context of my graduate class Media Organizations and Regulation in the School of Communications at Webster University, we have decided to invite members of the faculty, alumni and the wider community to participate in some topical lectures that will deal with current issues of general interest within an academic setting. The mentioned lectures, while part of the syllabus of the class in question, will be delivered as an autonomous unit and followed by a general discussion.
All the lectures will take place in Webster Hall 400 and will start at 17:30. The schedule and topics of these open-lectures series are as follows (including the past lecture)

June 6: Freedom of expression: origins and evolution in different cultures. The First Amendment: its conception and origin. Freedom of the press and prior restraint. Wartime and the war on terror. Restrictions to freedom of expression

June 27: The Media and Internet. The regulation of Internet. Regulation by law and regulation by code. Constitutional implications of regulation by code.

July 18: Origins of copyright: freedom of expression, creativity and the public domain. Evolution of copyright and related rights. The globalization of copyright and its relation with development. Copyright in the digital era and the Creative Commons.

The tergiversation of patents, again

The strange form that the last Apple Computers’ lawsuits against Creative Labs were filled shows again how wrong the US patent system had gone and how abusive of it some companies had become. After being sued for the "willful" patent infringement of Creative Labs patent pertaining to its Zen music player, specifically dealing with the way its menuing system categorizes songs, in May, IN A US DISTRICT COURT IN WISCONSIN, Apple filed a suit against Creative labs claiming that Creative infringed upon four Apple patents. (Creative Labs is headquartered in Singapore and Apple Computers in California). Then, a week ago, Apple filed a suit against the same plaintiff, IN US DISTRICT COURT IN TEXARKANA, TEXAS, alleging infringement of further three patents.
This situation shoes how irrelevant the substance and objective of patents have become. It shows a clear intention to use patents as a tool to drain the competition of financial resources via litigation. Suing somebody twice, and at separate venues that may be costly to manage simultaneously, could be an effective demonstration that one has the time, the resources, the money, and the means to fight a two-front war, which would mean that not the one who is right or has the properly valid patent will win but the one who can stand longer. This is from the company that has accused other to use dirty tacticts…

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Blogs protected by the First Amendment

In December of 2004, following the publishing of several articles about a new Apple product called Asteroid, Apple Computer sued the two sites where the articles were published. Apple maintained that the information was a valuable trade secret and obtained an order from a court requiring that both sites, PowerPage and AppleInsider, provide any information that might help them to identify who was responsible for the disclosures.
The sites appealed, arguing that journalists were protected by both California law and the American Constitution against being compelled to reveal the identity of their sources, but…did online reporters have the same legal protections that those working in the offline world?
Apple said that they didn’t because they were not engaged in "legitimate journalistic activities" and that online journalists "were not among the class of journalists protected by the statute". The court, however, bluntly rejected both arguments (see the full ruling here).
First, it concluded that there was "no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news"; and then added that the statute is "intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news", which is precisely what the online sites were doing.
The court also found that online journalists were entitled to constitutional protections, saying that "we can see no sustainable basis to distinguish petitioners from the reporters, editors, and publishers who provide news to the public through traditional print and broadcast media […] it is established without contradiction that they gather, select, and prepare, for purposes of publication to a mass audience, information about current events of interest and concern to that audience…"
So, one issue is that the use of different technological means is irrelevant, but probably the most important one is the fact that what makes a journalist is not the affiliation but the activity to inform…

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blawgin' from da USA

From this week until the end of July I will be in St Louis, Missouri, as visiting faculty at Webster University. I will be teaching at the School of Communications courses related to Media Law, and preparing for my next-year visit as Des Lee Visiting Lecturer for Global Awareness.