On Wednesday, August 13 at noon CT, I am giving a teleseminar with Evan Brown (a fellow Chicagoan who writes the insightful Internet Cases blog) and Professor Eric Goldman (who writes the excellent Technology & Marketing Law Blog) discussing the current state of the Communication Decency Act’s Good Samaritan clause. The seminar will focus on, among other things, the Roommates decision in the Ninth Circuit — click here for Goldman’s posts on the case — and the Craigslist decision from the Seventh Circuit (upholding a Judge St. Eve opinion) — click here for the Blog’s posts about that case and here for Brown’s posts.
Click here for ALI-ABA’s web brochure about the seminar. It promises to be an interesting discussion with lively debate. And ALI-ABA has generously offered a $30 discount off of the seminar’s $149 cost for Blog readers that use this code: TSPV02DD.

Continue Reading Communications Decency Act Seminar

e360Insight, LLC v. Comcast Corp., No. 08 C 340, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Apr. 10, 2008) (Zagel, J.).
Judge Zagel granted defendant Comcast judgment on the pleadings, dismissing plaintiff e360Insight’s (“e360”) Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, First Amendment, and related state law claims. e360, an Internet marketer and accused email spammer, alleged that Comcast harmed e360 by unjustifiably blocking all or most of e360’s emails from Comcast’s customer email accounts. Comcast stopped e360’s emails with filtering software that identified and stopped emails from e360 addresses.
Comcast argued that the Good Samaritan clause of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2), provided Comcast absolute immunity from e360’s claims because Comcast voluntarily filtered e360’s emails to restrict access to what Comcast believed was objectionable content. The Court held that the Good Samaritan clause provided absolute immunity for ISPs that filtered for objectionable material. The Court also held that Judge St. Eve’s and the Seventh Circuit’s recent Chicago Lawyers’ Committee v. Craigslist opinions – click here for more on those cases – were not applicable. Those opinions limited the clause’s protection for ISPs that chose not to filter. Because Comcast filtered, it enjoyed absolute protection. The Court also held that e360’s compliance with Congress’s spam prevention laws, 15 U.S.C. §§ 7701-13 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (“CAN-SPAM”) was irrelevant. Regardless of compliance with CAN-SPAM, the Good Samaritan clause still allowed the ISP to make a good faith judgment that e360’s emails were objectionable. And e360 did not sufficiently plead Comcast’s lack of good faith in determining that the emails were objectionable.
Eric Goldman at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog has a good post on this case and several other district court cases considering § 230(c) defenses. – click here for his post.

Continue Reading Section 230 Gives Filtering ISPs Absolute Immunity

I recently posted that the Seventh Circuit upheld Judge St. Eve’s decision in CLC v. Craigslist. In those decisions, Craigslist was found not liable for allegedly discriminatory housing want ads posted on its site because of the Good Samaritan clause of § 230 of the Communications Decency Act. University of Chicago Prof. Randy Picker authored a post at the University of Chicago Law School Facility Blog arguing that the Good Samaritan clause, which exempts ISPs from any filtering requirements, significantly disadvantages Craigslist’s bricks and mortar competitor – newspapers. Newspapers, which are in dire financial straits, are required to filter discriminating adds.
Picker argues that Craigslist (or ISPs more broadly) and newspapers should be treated equally – either both or neither should have to filter. As a newspaper aficionado, this makes a lot of sense to me. The problem is that either extreme is problematic. Filtering, at least tailored filtering to avoid a large percentage of false positives, is impractical for ISPs because of the high volume of content and small work force. On the other hand, not filtering likely harms the Fair Housing Act. But there maybe a viable mid-ground. Both ISPs and newspapers could be exempted from filtering and a take down provision could be created, similar to the DMCA. Someone who finds a discriminatory ad could send a take down notice, causing the ISP or newspaper to remove the ad. The advertiser could then challenge the notice. A take down provision would allow entities like the CLC to protect the ideals of the Fair Housing Act. And it would allow newspapers and ISPs to compete on an even playing field.

Continue Reading Does the Communications Decency Act Benefit ISPs Over Newspapers?

Tomorrow I will be back to case analysis, but there is some Northern District news and some excellent IP and litigation blog posts worth reading, here they are:
Ninth Annual Pro Bono and Public Interest Awards — The Northern District and the Federal Bar Association are seeking nominations for excellence in pro bono and public interest work. Nominations should be based upon work performed in civil cases before the Northern District which are no longer pending. Send nominations by March 28 to:
Amy Rettberg, Executive Law Clerk
Email: amy_rettberg@ilnd.uscourts.gov
Chambers of the Chief Judge James F. Holderman
219 South Dearborn Street, Suite 2548
Chicago, Illinois 60604
Patent Reform is Moving Forward — The Senate is preparing to vote on the Patent Reform Act after its spring recess (yes, it is spring already in DC). Here is some additional coverage of the Act’s status:
271 Patent Blog — looking at the latest amendments to the Act.
Maryland Intellectual Property Blog — looking at the latest amendments and questioning whether proponents have the sixty votes necessary for cloture, thereby avoiding a filibuster.
Patent Docs — taking sides, but asking you to call your Senators regardless of which side you take.
Check out the newest entry to Chicago’s law blog scene, the Lean & Mean Litigation Blog. It is not IP-focused, but it is an interesting read for any commercial litigator or litigant.
William Patry at Patry on Copyright has an interesting post about the difficulties of serving corporate entities based upon a District of the District of Columbia case involving a pro se plaintiff. The best advice, of course, is to hire counsel because if you do not get the party served properly, you have no case.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed Judge St. Eve’s ground breaking opinion in the CLC v. Craigslist case. The Seventh Circuit held that an ISP is exempt from cases based upon user content when the case attempts to treat the ISP as a publisher of the content. This is considerably narrower than most of the other circuits, which have held that Section 230 exempts ISPs from essentially all suits based upon user content. For more coverage, check out the WSJ Law Blog (which erroneously elevates Judge St. Eve to the Seventh Circuit), Internet Cases, and the Technology & Marketing Law Blog (very detailed analysis of Judge Easterbrook’s opinion).

Continue Reading Northern District & IP News: Pro Bono & Patent Reform

As promised earlier this week, click here for the slides from my Northern District of Illinois Cyberlaw Trends presentation to the Chicago Bar Association’s Cyberlaw & Data Privacy Committee last Tuesday. It was a very interactive presentation, so the slides cannot convey the full content of the presentation, but I think you will still find them useful. Here is an overview of the ten trends I discussed:
Downloading music has consequences
Copyright infringement can lead to jail time
Dot com’s are favorite defendants
Non-practicing entities are a major force
Keywords and thumbnails
Virtual world – Real litigation
Website content
Old world content – New world tracking
CLC v. Craigslist — Communications Decency Act
Electronic Discovery

Continue Reading Top Ten Cyberlaw Trends

I am throwing caution to the wind* and giving a presentation titled Northern District Cyberlaw Trends to the Chicago Bar Association’s Cyberlaw & Data Privacy Committee, thanks to a request from Evan Brown on his excellent Internet Cases blog. I am going to discuss some of the major Northern District cyberlaw cases and opinions from 2007, including the Craigslist case, and discuss trends that can be seen from them.
If you are available February 19 at noon, join us at the Chicago Bar Association building 321 S. Plymouth. If you cannot make it, I will post about the content of my presentation after the 19th.
* Washington DC attorney Eric J. Menhart has filed a trademark application for the use of cyberlaw in connection with legal services. Not surprisingly, the blogs have a lot to say about it. Check out Blawg IT, Electronic Frontier Foundation and GrokLaw.

Continue Reading Northern District Cyberlaw Trends