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Internet Law News: Copyright Law Versus First Amendment

By Intellectual Property
copyright law gag on free speech

Can copyright law gag Internet free speech?

Can a city’s mayor silence his critics on the Internet using copyright law? That’s the dispute apparently brewing because of voiceover criticisms made against the mayor on YouTube clips of city council meetings.

Are the opinions expressed protected by the First Amendment as fair use or do the videos constitute copyright infringement?

Hat tip to Mike Masnick at Techdirt.com. See City Of Inglewood Allotted $50,000 To Hire A Lawyer Flagrantly Abuse Copyright Law To Try To Silence A Citizen.

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Are Cartoons Cyberstalking, Internet Defamation, or Free Speech?

By Internet Lawyer
cyberstalking - internet stalking

Are police cyberstalking victims of a cartoonist?

Internet cartoons equal cyberstalking?

The Renton, WA police department sought to prosecute an internet user who posted an insulting video about the police department under the screen name Mr. Fiddlesticks. The alleged crime? Cyberstalking.

To assist them in their pursuit of the internet user, the Renton police department recently obtained a search warrant that orders Google to turn over the real name and identity of Mr. Fiddlesticks. Officers in the department expect to treat Mr. Fiddlesticks as someone who had illegally committed ‘cyberstalking’ through the posting of information on the internet with the intention of harassing or embarrassing individuals.

Public uproar and ridicule were key factors in the police department backing down on the criminal investigation.

What does the Renton, WA police department believe the cartoons are cyberstalking?

Using an internet video creation website, Mr. Fiddlesticks created videos which depicted the Renton police department in a fairly negative way. For example, Mr. Fiddlesticks implied that members of Renton’s police department committed sex acts while on duty, and that some of the officers received promotions without meeting the necessary prerequisites. In general, the nine videos Mr. Fiddlesticks created generally depicted the Renton police department as a corrupt and incompetent institution.

Officers within the department claim the videos to caused them emotional distress and that Mr. Fiddlesticks should promptly be identified and prosecuted. The officers argue that the videos all constitute ‘cyberstalking’ by their sheer offensive nature which was posted online, they argue, with the intent of doing reputational or emotional damage to the officers. Some officers suspect that the video must have been posted by someone within the department, such as a police officer or some other personnel, given the specific knowledge the videos display about the Renton police department.

Is there a legal justification for prosecuting Internet cartoons as cyberstalking?

Upon hearing about the situation, law professors and legal experts throughout the United States have voiced their opinions about whether or not the Renton police should be able to prosecute Mr. Fiddlestick for his online remarks. Though inarguably provocative enough to have caused the Renton police some embarrassment and hurt feelings, various legal minds have claimed the First Amendment’s protection of free speech prevents Mr. Fiddlestick from suffering any punishment.

In the minds of some of these legal officials, Mr. Fiddlestick did simply what all other comedians do when they speak or present information in a potentially embarrassing way about other individuals for the sake of humor or some other reason. These legal minds contend that if Mr. Fiddlestick faces prosecution, all comedians who poke fun at other individuals or organizations could have their freedom of expression stifled.

Even though criminal prosecution for cyberstalking now seems off the table, the threat of arresting someone for a cartoon has a chilling effect on free speech. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fiddlestick will be identified and sued in civil court for Internet defamation instead of treated like a criminal for cyberstalking.

Internet Informant: White House Wants You To Be A Government Snitch

By Internet Lawyer

informantIf you oppose government-run health care in an e-mail or on a website, the U.S. government wants to know it.

When your cyber-friends discover that you ratted them out, will you be able to enter the Witness Protection Program? Or will it be a moot point because those you snitched on get sent to re-education camps? Ridiculous? Not if the most powerful man in the United States is asking people internet-privacyto do their patriotic duty by reporting dissidents. This is a program that the governments in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela would be proud of…Of course, they already use the informant system to identify and hunt down dissidents.

This is not about health care. It is a First Amendment free speech issue. If you cannot disagree with the President of the United States in an e-mail or in a forum without being reported to the government for it, then the Bill of Rights means nothing. And if you agree with the President on healthcare, what happens on the next issue that you happen to disagree with him?

Anyone who wants to report this post should e-mail flag@whitehouse.gov.

Just remember…you could be next. And if you’re ‘lucky,’ you’ll get listed in the Who’s a Rat database.

Hat tip: Red State

Goldman Sachs: Welfare Weasel Tries to Silence Blogger Free Speech

By Internet Lawyer

weaselIsn’t it nice to know that Welfare Weasel Goldman Sachs appreciates the government bailout that it received (your tax dollars) so much that it has apparently hired a Wall Street law firm to crush a blogger who happens to be critical of its misconduct?

Your tax dollars are being used for this nonsense in addition to those executive perqs?

The blogger, Mike Morgan at GoldmanSachs666.com,  isn’t intimidated. Rather than wait, he went on the offense and sued Goldman Sachs in federal district court.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Goldman Sachs probably figured its deep pockets, combined with a big law firm, would scare the blogger into silence. To do this, Goldman Sachs asserts the blogger has infringed on its trademark and engaged in unfair competition. Anyone who views Morgan’s site (including the prominent disclaimer) will not mistake it in any way for a Goldman Sachs’ venture  or competitor but recognize it for what it is – a place to vent about the bad practices that Goldman Sachs has engaged in.

Goodbye free speech? If we can interpret the U.S. Constitution to authorize the President to give your tax dollars to the incompetent, the next logical step would be to start eliminating those pesky parts of the Bill of Rights that allow criticism of those second-handers who feed off the government.

Speaking of which, let’s highlight some of the Goldman Sachs incest that enabled it and its corporate cronies to take your tax money to spend as they see fit.

  • President Bush’s last U.S. Treasury Secretary? Henry Merritt “Hank” Paulson Jr., former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.
  • John Stevens Corzine – Governor of New Jersey, former U.S. Senator, and yes, former Chairman and co-CEO of Goldman Sachs.
  • Robert Rubin – Before becoming President Clinton’s U.S. Treasury Secretary, Rubin was, you guessed it, the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

These are just a few examples. Government “service” has served Goldman Sachs and it cronies well. If you look to who has benefited from crisis bailouts, ranging from Mexico in the 1990s to the current TARP fiasco, you’ll find that Goldman Sachs and the other corporate welfare weasels it deals with (AIG, Citigroup, etc.) have done extremely well getting your money from Uncle Sam without any strings attached.

In short, Goldman Sachs deserves contempt for its attempt to suppress blogger free speech.

As for taking your money (using the government as tax collector), you can decide what should be a fitting punishment.

Trademark Infringement: Do Website References and External Links Violate Intellectual Property Law?

By Internet Lawyer

not jones day lawyersMega law firm Jones Day reinforces prior statements that have been made about business attorneys who decide to wade into Internet law. Jones Day is allegedly suing website owners for trademark infringement because the site referred to the law firm without obtain permission and externally linked to the business’s website.

This is different than another recent case where a law firm sued a competitor for trademark infringement. In the Jones Day case, the defendant is not a competitor – the business apparently just doesn’t like the context in which it has been referred to on the site, i.e. the defendant posted information about condominiums purchased by two Jones Day lawyers.

While you can never Read More