Blockbuster Sued over Facebook Beacon Program

Remember Facebook’s Beacon program? That’s the program that uses Facebook user’s purchase information on partner websites to advertise those websites to the user’s social network. Here are a couple of posts on the controversy from David at Inside the Marketer’s Studio blog that explain the controversy: Facebook Social Ads Need an Opt-Out
Facebook’s About Face on Social Ads (Finally)
A Texas plaintiff filed a class action suit against Blockbuster for violating the Video Privacy Protection Act, U.S.C. § 2710 by releasing customers’ video rental records with Facebook.
Complaint in Harris v. Blockbuster
MediaPost reports: Blockbuster Sued For Participating In Facebook’s Beacon Program: “A Texas resident has filed a federal lawsuit against Blockbuster for participating in Facebook’s Beacon program, which tells members about their friends’ e-commerce activity. In the lawsuit, quietly filed last week, Dallas County resident Cathryn Elaine Harris claims that Blockbuster violated the federal Videotape Privacy Protection Act by sharing information about her movie rentals and sales with Facebook without first obtaining her written consent.”
And here’s a thoughtful analysis from December on applying the VPPA to Beacon from James Grimmelmann, Facebook and the VPPA: Uh-Oh

Muggles and Fair Use

J.K. Rowling testified this week in her lawsuit against the publisher of a book version of The Harry Potter Lexicon, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. v. RDR Books.
Mark Hamblett, New York law Journal: Harry Potter Author Fights Creator of Lexicon, Calling It ‘Wholesale Theft’: “In pointed and at times emotional testimony, Rowling employed a sharp tongue to charge that a Michigan publisher borrowed much from her wildly successful works and added nothing when it created a ‘lexicon’ alphabetically listing characters, places, spells, creatures and objects in the Potter series.”
New York Times, Rowling Testifies Against Lexicon Author: “Ms. Rowling argued on Monday in Federal District Court in Manhattan that the proposed encyclopedia — she has read the manuscript — is a copyright infringement and is little more than an alphabetical form of plagiarism. She claims the author has lifted large chunks of her own language without quotation marks. ‘I believe that this book constitutes the wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work,’ she testified.”
Scrivener’s Error Beware the Ides of April: “the reporting of the Harry Potter Lexicon case is only making clearer that Warner Brothers’ trademark interests, far more than Rowling’s copyright interests, are driving the lawsuit. Although Rowling’s testimony yesterday was from a copyright holder/creator’s perspective, the questions from plaintiffs’ counsel — representing her interests — were from a trademark and dilution/disparagement/passing-off perspective, even when put in the formal language of copyright claims.
Derek Bambauer, Info/Law Harry Potter and the Lexicon of Fair Use: “I think the book infringes Rowling’s copyrights, that the use isn’t fair, that the trademark claim is weak, that the plaintiffs will win on the copyright claim, and that this outcome is a good thing.”
Tim Wu, J.K. Rowling should lose her copyright lawsuit against the Harry Potter Lexicon: “But Rowling is overstepping her bounds. She has confused the adaptations of a work, which she does own, with discussion of her work, which she doesn’t. Rowling owns both the original works themselves and any effort to adapt her book or characters to other media—films, computer games, and so on. Textually, the law gives her sway over any form in which her work may be ‘recast, transformed, or adapted.’ But she does not own discussion of her work—book reviews, literary criticism, or the fan guides that she’s suing. The law has never allowed authors to exercise that much control over public discussion of their creations.”
Mike Madison, A Fair Use Lexicon: “Over the last decade, copyright owners in many industries dreaded and resisted the prospect that the copying machine that we call ‘the Internet’ might destroy their business models.  Rowling v. RDR Books (the formal title of the Harry Potter case) presents the relatively uncommon situation in which the Internet (i.e., ‘free’) version of the alleged infringement was unobjectionable; hackles were raised and claims were filed only when what was merely digital became (or threatened to become) analog. ”

Deferring Indecency Rulings

The Los Angeles Times reports that the FCC is waiting to rule on its indecency complaints against broadcast licensees until after the Supreme Court rules on FCC v. Fox, Indecency cases stuck in legal limbo at FCC: “Thousands of viewer and listener complaints about programs are backed up at the Federal Communications Commission, where officials acknowledge the legal limbo has tied their hands. The FCC is reluctant to rule on these cases until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down a decision on indecency standards — its first in three decades.”