IP Colloquium: Privacy in a Networked World

UCLA Law professor Doug Lichtman hosts The Intellectual Property Colloquium– a series of hour-long podcasts of conversations with leading legal thinkers about current issues in IP law.
Professor Lichtman writes, “The conversation is about the legal rules that apply when sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace gather private information from their users. Does Facebook have any liability, for instance, if a user uploads some scandilous tidbit that turns out to defame someone else? What if Facebook uses that information to help its advertisers or indeed imbeds it in some advertising tool like Beacon? My guests are GW Law Professor Dan Solove (an expert on high-tech privacy issues and author of several pop-press books on point) and Santa Clara Law Professor (and former GC of epinions.com) Eric Goldman.”
And listeners can earn free CLE credit in NY and California now, with other jurisdictions coming in January.
Subscribe in iTunes.

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

Valuing Music

In the NY Times, Billy Bragg suggests that the social networking sites that have developed their audiences by hosting music should have to consider paying royalties for that music: The Royalty Scam

In our discussions, we largely ignored the elephant in the room: the issue of whether he ought to consider paying some kind of royalties to the artists. After all, wasn’t he using their music to draw members — and advertising — to his business? Social-networking sites like Bebo argue that they have no money to distribute — their value is their membership. Well, last week Michael Birch realized the value of his membership. I’m sure he’ll be rewarding those technicians and accountants who helped him achieve this success. Perhaps he should also consider the contribution of his artists.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington suggests that recorded music has no value and that artists should be happy to be able to take advantage of free hosting. These Crazy Musicians Still Think They Should Get Paid For Recorded Music

Recorded music is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of an artist. Websites that bring that music to listeners are doing artists a favor. In fact, they’re doing them a favor that they should (and will) be paid for. Young artists and songwriters in particular benefit from these services – Until a few years ago they had almost no way to break into the mainstream without getting a label to promote them. Now those walls are being torn down, and Bragg has the audacity to complain about it.

e-consultancy.com (via pho): These crazy bloggers still think they understand the music business “While Bragg makes some interesting points, I disagree with him. Musicians and labels that upload their music to social networks ostensibly know what they’re doing and understand that there is no agreement for royalties.”
Why shouldn’t songwriters and recording artists ally in order to host music only on social networking sites that agree to pay royalties?

It’s MySpace and I’ll cry if I want to

TechCrunch reports that MySpace is preventing its users from embedding media hosted on competing services : PhotoBucket Videos Blocked on MySpace: “This is turning into a habit for MySpace, which usually claims bugs, security issues or terms of service violations were the cause of a shut down. In January MySpace mysteriously shut down all Flash widgets on the site for 2.5 hours. An Imeem blockade came next. Vidilife, Stickam and Revver have been permanently banned.”
Also, Wired’s Kevin Paulsen notes: MySpace Sued for Deleting Profile: “A Joplin, Missouri man filed a federal lawsuit last week against MySpace for violating his ‘freedom to use the social networking site in peace.'” The pro se complaint, Mora v. MySpace, is, well, a pro se complaint.
Under the clickwrap terms of service agreement between MySpace and its users, MySpace can summarily delete profiles. Of course, a site owner does face judgment in the court of public opinion for appearing to censor its users for political reasons.
The more interesting qustion is whether MySpace has any obligation to third party beneficiaries (like PhotoBucket, Revver and YouTube) who have no contractual relationship with MySpace?

Generation MySpace

Social networking behemoth MySpace is the latest trend gone bad.
Daily Show correspondent Demetri Martin reported on MySpace and interviewed NYU communications professor Siva “Dr. Smallbeard” Vaidhyanathan. Martin’s final analysis:

Upside: Great way to meet people all over the world.
Downside: They’re full of sexual preditors.
Upside: They’re full of sexual prey.

The Daily Show: Trendspotting: Social Networking
LibraryTechtonics Social networking and Treos on The Daily Show
Newsweek: ‘Predator’s Playground’?: “MySpace and similar sites like Xanga are extremely popular among teens and young adults who post profiles, photos and blogs—often chock-full of revealing personal details for all the world (including predators) to see. ”
Wired News: Scenes From the MySpace Backlash: “In recent weeks newspapers from the San Francisco Chronicle to the Rutland Herald have pressed out stories — often on the front page — with headlines like ‘Online Danger Zone’ and ‘The Trouble With MySpace.’ An NBC Dateline show in January colored MySpace ‘a cyber secret teenagers keep from tech-challenged parents.'”
NY Times: Pirro Attacks a Web Site as a Threat to Youths: “Jeanine F. Pirro, the Republican candidate for attorney general, has begun an attack on MySpace.com, the Internet social network for teenagers and young adults, saying that it represents a threat to child safety.”
Social networking researcher Danah Boyd analyzes why teens use sites like MySpace: Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace:

While youth are influenced by the media’s version of 20somethings, they rarely have an opportunity to engage with them directly. Just as teens are hanging out on MySpace, scenesters, porn divas and creature of the night are using MySpace to gather and socialize in the way that 20somethings do. They see the space as theirs and are not imagining that their acts are consumed by teens; they are certainly not targeted at youth. Of course, there _are_ adults who want to approach teens and MySpace allows them to access youth communities without being visible, much to the chagrin of parents. Likewise, there are teens who seek the attentions of adults, for both positive and problematic reasons.