Monday, December 31, 2012

Index of Articles in 2012

Below is the list of articles published to this blog in 2012 – in chronological order.  Most of the year was focused on a study of counterfeiting remedies (some of which were not posted here, but elsewhere), which may continue in the next year.  I also expect 2013 to include some interesting legislation on the trademark side, which I plan to address as they become relevant.

I look forward to your comments in the coming year!

·        Jan. 24, 2012:  SOPA – Dying on the Vine?
No posts in December.

I am working on a webinar through Thomson West on trademark tips, and I’ll post details here as soon as they are available.  This webinar is expected to broadcast in January/February 2013.

I am also planning a panel discussion in April 2013 at the ABA IPL Section meeting in DC on the topic of anti-counterfeiting and anti-piracy legislation.  Links to the session and registration information will be provided once they are finalized.

And, more posts will continue in 2013 – I wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Court-Ordered Restitution Vacated in Criminal Copyright Infringement Case, Based on Lack of Relevant Evidence

On November 9, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Cir.) vacated a district court's decision to impose a restitution penalty against Defendant Gregory Fair ("Defendant Fair") in favor of Adobe Systems in the amount of $734,098. U.S.A. v. Gregory William Fair, No. 09-3120, slip op. at 2 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 9, 2012) (appealing from Crim. A. No. 1:09-cr-00089-1 (D.D.C.) - Pacer login required). The D.C. Circuit concluded that the district court had abused its discretion by awarding restitution, when the government failed to meet its burden to prove the amount of Adobe's losses.

The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (18 U.S.C. § 3663A) ("MVRA") – upon which this restitution award was based – provides that victims of certain crimes may be awarded restitution to compensate them for their actual losses that resulted from the defendant's crime. In this case, however, the government only introduced evidence of what Defendant Fair's actual sales were – and based its request for restitution on that amount. It did not introduce any evidence that Adobe Systems had lost sales as a result of this criminal activity, or that its sales were diverted to Defendant Fair.

Underlying Facts

Defendant Fair pled guilty to charges of criminal copyright infringement (18 U.S.C. § 2319, 17 U.S.C. § 506(a)(1)(a)) and mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341), after spending more than six years (Feb. 2001-Sept. 2007) selling counterfeit copies of outdated Adobe software and upgrade codes on eBay, which allowed his customers to obtain full copies of the current versions of these programs at a fraction of the regular price. Opinion at 3. "For example, a customer could first buy a pirated copy of outdated PageMaker software and an upgrade code from [Defendant] Fair for around $125 and then pay around $200 to Adobe Systems to upgrade to the most current version. The total price paid, around $325, would be less than half of the retail price of the authentic up-to-date Adobe program (approximately $700)." Id. at 2.

According to evidence presented at trial of the completed eBay transactions that filtered through PayPal, "[Defendant] Fair received, and he admitted receiving, approximately $1.4 million from his sales of pirated software on eBay." Id. at 3. When Defendant Fair objected to the restitution claim, he initially sought a reduction to $455,000, the amount which he had actually withdrawn in currency from the PayPal account. Id.
Following the plea agreement, the district court sentenced Defendant Fair to 41 months' imprisonment and three years' supervised release – and ordered the $743,098.99 restitution payment to Adobe Systems (the balance of the amount identified on the government's spreadsheet, less the $24,367 that the Postal Service had already released to Adobe Systems). Id. at 5.

Defendant Fair's counsel argued that Adobe Systems was capable of distinguishing between its regular customers, and those who sought upgrades as a result of Defendant Fair's scheme, and instead "chose as a 'corporate strategy' to permit [Defendant] Fair's customers to purchase upgrades but to give no tech support to Fair's software." Id. at 5. This suggests two things: 1) that evidence of lost sales could have been available if the government requested it; and 2) that Defendant Fair may have had an argument that Adobe had acquiesced by its conduct (in part) to the so-called "criminal scheme."

However, the government did not introduce any evidence that Adobe lost any sales due to Defendant Fair's criminal activities. Instead, the government presented a spreadsheet tallying Defendant Fair's eBay sales and "unsubstantiated, generalized assertions of government counsel regarding Adobe Systems' lost sales." Id. at 11. When presented with the opportunity to present such evidence, the government attorney attempted to shift the burden set forth in the MVRA to the defendant, arguing that because he "created an potential uncertainty in calculating pecuniary harm by selling outdated counterfeit software." Id. at 12. The government also argued that the lost-profits rationale "makes no sense in the present context because Adobe Systems no longer sells the versions of the software that Fair sold." Id. The appellate court was unpersuaded.  

On Appeal

The appellate court reviewed the record – and particularly the absence of any evidence of Adobe Systems' actual losses, and agreed with the analysis of a Tenth Circuit opinion that commented, "we are very skeptical of the implicit suggestion that customers' purchase of a certain number of copies of low-priced counterfeit software proves that those customers would have agreed to purchase the same number of copies from the legitimate seller for many times more." Id. at 11 (quoting United States v. Hudson, 483 F.3d 707, 710 (10th Cir. 2009)) (internal quotations omitted). The Fair court also concluded that the government's evidence in support of its claim for retribution was "merely speculative." Id. at 12.

The appellate court also recognized that there were other avenues of recovery of restitution: specifically, under the "actual damages" provision for copyright infringement, the copyright owner can recover both actual damages and "any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages." 17 U.S.C. § 504(b). These damages were not claimed in this (criminal) case.

Finally, the appellate court also considered whether a remand of any degree was warranted in this case – and concluded that it was not. The appellate court declined to give the government "'a second bite at the apple' absent special circumstances," especially in light of the fact that the government had the explicit opportunity to introduce this type of evidence, and had declined to do. Id. at 15-16.

In summary, it appears that the prison sentence (and 3 years of supervised release) remains, but that the award of restitution alone has been vacated.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rosetta Stone and Google Announce Settlement of Trademark Infringement Suit

On Oct. 31, 2012, Rosetta Stone and Google announced their decision to settle their trademark infringement case relating to the sale and use of AdWords in Google's search engine results. Rosetta Stone's 10/31/12 Press Release.  The companies have agreed to work together to "combat online ads for counterfeit goods and prevent the misuse and abuse of trademarks on the Internet." Id. The companies hope that by working together, they can "improve detection methods, and better protect from abuse brands like Rosetta Stone, advertising platforms like Google AdWords, and ultimately consumers on the Internet." Id.

As a consequence of the settlement, the lawsuit Rosetta Stone Ltd. v. Google, Inc., Civ. A. No. 1:09-cv-00736-GBL-TCB (filed July 10, 2009) has been dismissed. Doc # 238 (Oct. 31, 2012) (Order and Stipulation to Dismiss), available on Justia. The complaint originally alleged claims of direct trademark infringement (15 U.S.C. § 1114(1)(a)); contributory trademark infringement; vicarious trademark infringement; trademark dilution (15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)(1)); and unjust enrichment.

Related Information

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recent E.D. Pa. Case: No “Likelihood of Confusion” from Competitor’s Marks in AdWords

In CollegeSource, Inc. v. AcademyOne, Inc., Civ. A. No. 2:10-cv-03542 (MAM), slip op. (E.D. Pa. Oct. 25, 2012), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania analyzed a claim of trademark infringement based on the purchase and use of a competitor's trademarks in AdWords to increase search engine results. (The case dealt with other issues such as contract formation under Pennsylvania law, trademark cancellation due to fraud on the PTO, false advertising, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and others. This blog post will focus solely on the AdWords issue.)

The court ultimately concluded that in an environment of increasingly sophisticated Internet advertising, a claim of trademark infringement based on the use of a competitor's marks in sponsored links fails, when those marks do not appear in the actual advertisement and when the advertisements are set off in a separate section of the search results (under the heading "Sponsored Links," set off with a different color than the rest of the search engine results). In these cases, modern Internet users are unlikely to be confused by this type of use.

In order to prove trademark infringement and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, plaintiffs must demonstrate that they own the mark in question, that the mark is valid and legally protectable, and that the defendant's use of its own mark is likely to create confusion. Id. at 39 (citing Checkpoint Systems, Inc. v. Check Point Software Tech., Inc., 269 F.3d 270, 279 (3d Cir. 2001)). In the CollegeSource case, the defendant did not dispute the ownership of the mark or its validity, but instead challenged whether its mark was likely to create confusion.

The Lapp Factors

In the Third Circuit, the likelihood of confusion analysis is governed by Interpace Corp. v. Lapp, Inc., 721 F.2d 460, 463 (3d Cir. 1983) – the so-called "Lapp Factors." These factors are: 

(1) the degree of similarity between the owner's mark and the alleged infringing mark;
(2) the strength of the owner's mark;
(3) the price of the goods and other factors indicative of the care and attention expected of consumers when making a purchase;
(4) the length of time the defendant has used the mark without evidence of actual confusion arising;
(5) the intent of the defendant in adopting the mark;
(6) the evidence of actual confusion;
(7) whether the goods, though not competing, are marketed through the same channels of trade and advertised through the same media;
(8) the extent to which the targets of the parties' sales efforts are the same;
(9) the relationship of the goods in the minds of consumers because of the similarity of function; and
(10) other facts suggesting that the consuming public might expect the prior owner to manufacture a product in the defendant's market, or that he is likely to expand into that market.
Id. at 463. Originally adapted from Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Electronics Corp., 287 F.2d 492, 495 (2d Cir. 1961), these factors were applied in the Lapp case for the very limited purpose of considering likelihood of confusion where the products did not directly compete. Id. at 462-63; see also A&H Sportswear, Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc., 237 F.3d 198, 206 (3d Cir. 2000) ("In Interpace Corp. v. Lapp, Inc., 721 F.2d 460, 463 (3d Cir. 1983), this Court established a ten-factor test (the 'Lapp' test) to determine the likelihood of confusion for direct confusion claims between goods that do not directly compete in the same market, but we have never decided what factors should be considered in the case of directly competing goods."). 

In a later opinion, the Third Circuit applied these factors more broadly, including in cases where the goods competed in the same channels of trade. A&H Sportswear, 237 F.3d at 207 ("Though a court need not look beyond the marks when goods are directly competing and the marks virtually identical, we conclude that the factors we have developed in the noncompeting goods context are helpful tools and should be used to aid in the determination of the likelihood of confusion in other cases."). The Third Circuit made clear, however, that the "ten-factor Lapp test [was developed] only as a guide" and the Lanham Act does not require that each of the ten factors must be evaluated in every case. Id.

Application of the Lapp Factors to Use of Competitor's Trademarks as AdWords
In the CollegeSource case, the court relied on a Ninth Circuit opinion that identified the "key" factors to consider in cases where the goods directly compete and where a competitor's trademarks were purchased as AdWords to generate search engine hits. Id. at 40 (discussing Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Sys. Concepts, Inc., 638 F.3d 1137, 1154 (9th Cir. 2011). Specifically, the Network Automation case held that in the context of AdWords cases, four of these factors were most relevant: "[1] strength of the mark, [2] evidence of actual confusion, [3] types of goods and degrees of care likely to be exercised by the typical purchaser, and [4] the labeling and appearance of the advertisements." Network Automation, 638 F.3d at 1154.

The CollegeSource court agreed with this conclusion, and focused primarily on these four factors in determining whether the defendant's use of the mark was likely to confuse. CollegeSource, No. 2:10-cv-03542, slip op. at 41. With respect to the first two factors, the CollegeSource court concluded: 1) the plaintiff's mark (COLLEGESOURCE) was suggestive and commercially strong; and 2) plaintiff failed to provide significant evidence of actual confusion. Id. at 40-43. The court addressed the last two factors in reverse order, but these two provided the crux of the court's analysis.

With respect to factor 4 (labeling and appearance of the advertisements), the court focused on the placement of ads in search engine results, noting that these ads are generally partitioned under a section of "sponsored links" and appeared separately from regular search results, sometimes in shaded boxes. Id. at 43-44. The plaintiff's mark did not appear in the language of the advertisement. In this context, the court concluded that the offset of sponsored ads decreased the likelihood of confusion. Id.
With respect to factor 3 (types of goods and degrees of care exercised by typical purchasers), the court considered "whether an ordinary consumer seeking college transfer information via the Internet is expected to exercise diligence in his research." Id. at 44-45. The court concluded that Internet users are exercising increasing care as the "novelty of the Internet evaporates and online commerce becomes commonplace." Id. at 45. "Modern Internet users 'are accustomed to such exploration by trial and error.'" Id. This increasing level of experience with search sites (i.e., the increasing sophistication of the targeted consumer) decreases the likelihood of confusion with respect to Internet advertisements like these. Id.

The Court continued to evaluate the remaining Lapp factors, finding that there was no evidence of an intent to confuse, that the Internet is not an obscure marketing channel, and that AdWords are an increasingly prolific form of advertising. Id. at 46-49. The Court ultimately concluded that plaintiff failed to introduce sufficient evidence to demonstrate a likelihood of confusion; the Court then granted defendant's motion for summary judgment on the trademark infringement claim.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Google and Publishers Reach Settlement Over Google Books Lawsuit

On October 4, 2012, Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced that the publisher plaintiffs and Google have reached a settlement of their dispute over Google's mass copying and uploading of books (whether in the public domain or still protected by copyright) to which it had obtained access through agreements with several large libraries. These digitized books were then made available for searching and sometimes downloading (in whole or in part) through Google's Library project. (The docket for the publisher's lawsuit was The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. v. Google Inc., 05 Civ. 8881 (JES) (SDNY).)

(Details about the 2005 lawsuit and a proposed settlement that was rejected by the Court can be found in earlier posts.)

According to AAP, Google and the publishers agreed that "U.S. publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use." Andi Sporkin, Association of American Publishers, Press Release (Oct. 4, 2012). Notwithstanding this agreement, U.S. publishers can continue to "make individual agreements with Google for use of their other digitally-scanned works." Id.

The AFP reports that "publishers will have the option to allow Google to display portions or the entire book content, or to sell the work through Google Play." Rob Lever, "Google, publishers end long-running copyright case," AFP (Oct. 4, 2012). Users of the service, then, have the ability to browse up to 20% of books, and then purchase a digital copy through Google Play. Id.; Sorkin, Press Release

The remaining terms of the settlement remain confidential, but it appears that the ongoing litigation between Google and the Authors's Guild (Authors Guild et al. v. Google Inc., No. 05-08136 (SDNY) (trial court); No. 12-2402 (2d Cir.) (on appeal)) is unaffected by this settlement. "'The publishers' private settlement, whatever its terms, does not resolve the authors' copyright infringement claims against Google,' the Authors Guild said in a statement Thursday. 'Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors' rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. authors continues.'" Michael Liedtke (AP Technology Writer), "Google, publishers shelve book-scanning suit," AP (Oct. 4, 2012). That lawsuit remains suspended, pending appeal by Google of the Court's grant of class certification for the authors whose claims were raised in the complaint. Grant McCool, "Authors Guild v. Google Lawsuit In U.S. Suspended Pending Appeal," Reuters (Sept. 17, 2012).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

U.S. PTO Seeks Comments on Draft Examination Guide on Webpage Specimens

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has released a draft version of its examination guide on webpage specimens, and seeks user comments before releasing it in final form. The U.S. PTO reports that comments will be accepted through October 31, 2012, using its online collaboration tool, IdeaScale®.

You can also leave comments on the following other sections: The Format of the TMEP; Chapter 500 Change of Ownership; Chapter 900 Use in Commerce; Chapter 1900 Madrid Protocol and the subject of this particular notice: Webpage Specimens as Displays Associated With the Goods (including subsections: Webpage Specimens as Displays Associated With the Goods; Webpage as a Display Associated with the Goods; Picture or Description of the Goods; Show the Mark in Association With the Goods; Ordering Information; Grounds for Refusal; and Appendix: Examples of Webpage Display Specimens).

The U.S. PTO maintains a list of its recent requests for user comments, which can be found here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Copyright Office Seeks Additional Comments on Pursuing Small Copyright Claims

In a Federal Register notice issued on August 23, 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office requested additional comments about pursuing small copyright claims. Specifically, the Copyright Office is conducting a study to "assess whether and, if so, how the current legal system hinders or prevents copyright owners from pursuing claims that have a relatively small economic value and will discuss, with appropriate recommendations, potential changes in administrative, regulatory, and statutory authority." Remedies for Small Copyright Claims: Additional Comments, 77 Fed. Reg. 51068 (Aug. 23, 2012) (the "Notice"). The Copyright Office also plans to hold two public meetings, one in New York on November 15 and the next in Los Angeles on November 16, after the comment period ends. Id.

The Copyright Office conducted a prior study (in 2011 – see comments received) and jointly participated with the USPTO in a roundtable discussion at George Washington University (in May 2012 – blog description). This time, however, the Copyright Office "seeks further input concerning how a copyright small claims system might be structured and function." Id. at 51069. The study seeks information about the following topics:
  1. Nature of tribunal/process
  2. Voluntary versus mandatory participation
  3. Arbitration
  4. Mediation
  5. Settlement
  6. Location of tribunal(s)
  7. Qualifications and selection of adjudicators
  8. Eligible works
  9. Permissible claims
  10. Permissible claim amount
  11. Permissible defenses and counterclaims
  12. Registration (necessity of, prior to filing suit)
  13. Filing fee
  14. Initiation of proceeding
  15. Representation
  16. Conduct of proceedings
  17. Discovery, motion practice and evidence
  18. Damages
  19. Equitable relief
  20. Attorneys' fees and costs
  21. Record of proceedings
  22. Effect of adjudication
  23. Enforceability of judgment
  24. Review/appeals
  25. Group claims
  26. Frivolous claims
  27. Constitutional issues (e.g., separation of powers, 7th Amendment right to trial by jury, personal jurisdiction, and due process)
  28. State court alternative
  29. Empirical data
  30. Funding considerations
  31. Evaluation of small claims systems
  32. Other issues
For more information and details about the categories into which the Copyright Office is investigating, please visit the official notice. The Copyright Office's web site for the official comment form is here:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Congressional Joint Economic Committee Published Report on Impacts of IP Theft

On August 6, 2012, the Joint Economic Committee issued its report on "The Impact of Intellectual Property Theft on the Economy." (Press release; report). In summary, the report explains:

"IP infringement harms companies through lost revenue, the costs of IP protection, damage to brand, and decreased incentives to innovate because of potential theft.[FN3] Consumers are harmed when they purchase counterfeit goods of lower quality, some of which, such as counterfeit medicines, may pose health or safety risks. Governments lose tax revenue and bear enforcement costs. Decreased incentives to innovate resulting from IP infringement reduce economic growth, weaken the nation's competitiveness, and decrease job creation." (Report at 1)
Each of these items of harm are detailed in the report, which cites statistics about seizures by various government agencies, both U.S. and abroad. In addition, it singles out China as a major source of "pirated goods seized at the U.S. border." (Id.

The report also posits that small businesses are less likely to be able to combat such infringement, or actively enforce their IP rights, because they lack the resources to pursue enforcement actions.  The report explains that this conclusion derives directly from statistics about filing habits in judicial fora:  "Data on investigations initiated and completed by the U.S. ITC [International Trade Commission] show that while small businesses represent 79.0 percent of all businesses in the U.S., they comprise only 10.5% of firms filing complaints regarding intellectual property infringement." (Id. at 3) (footnote omitted). Indeed, 78.9% of the firms that seek to enforce their rights through this mechanism are apparently large or public firms. (Id.)  

Finally, the report concludes that the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) is preparing a new Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, which presents an opportunity to improve protections for U.S. IP rights holders. (The IPEC's June 2012 Report on the Joint Strategic Plan (2 Year Anniversary Report) is the most current version available online.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Google’s Request to Appeal Class Certification was Granted

On August 14, 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted Google's request for permission to appeal the Southern District of New York's certification of two classes of plaintiffs in the Authors Guild v. Google case. (For prior blog posts about this case, click here.)

Pursuant to Rule 23(f), an appeal of class certification does not result in an automatic stay of the underlying case. Instead, either the order granting the appeal must specifically impose a stay (which this one does not) or the district court must affirmatively order a stay. As of this writing, the district court has not entered such an order.

The Second Circuit's order granting the appeal was entered as Docket No. 1057 on the district court's docket. (But, it does not yet appear in the Justia report – check Justia later, as it will probably be posted in due course.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Study in Counterfeiting: ISP Blocking Orders in the U.K.

This is part two in a series. For other posts in this series, click here
In the past few months, there have been several public debates over whether ISPs could be – or should be – ordered to block access by any user in the United States to a website that is accused of copyright infringement (in this context, it's generally referred to as "piracy," although that term is not defined in the Copyright Act) or trademark counterfeiting (as that term is defined by 15 U.S.C. § 1116). This topic was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee during its February 16, 2011 hearing on "Targeting Websites Dedicated to Stealing American IP," including in testimony delivered by Thomas M. Dailey of Verizon. Mr. Dailey recommended that the ability to obtain a court order directing ISPs to prevent an IP address from resolving should be limited to actions undertaken by the Attorney General's office, so that private litigants would not "drain" ISP resources. Testimony at 2.

Recall that the proposed Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 ("PROTECT IP Act" or "PIPA") (S. 968) and Stop Online Piracy Act ("SOPA") (H.R. 3261) foundered upon a fairly widespread opposition launched in mid-January 2012 to certain terms believed to be in the bills, including provisions for DNS blocking. Interestingly, only the Attorney General had the right – in both of these bills – to seek a court order mandating an ISP to block certain websites (as well as against three other types of intermediaries: financial payment processors, search engines and Internet advertisers). Under both bills, private rights holders were restricted to seeking court orders requiring actions to be undertaken by payment processors and Internet advertisers alone.

As a result of dramatic public pressure, proponents of the bill removed the so-called "DNS blocking provisions" before final markup sessions had occurred. See e.g., Press Release, "Smith to Remove DNS Blocking from SOPA, Retains Strong Provisions to Protect American Technology and Consumers," Jan. 13, 2012 ("After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision. We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers."); see also Center for Democracy and Technology ("CDT"), "Copyright Bill Advances, But Draws Plenty of Criticism," May 26, 2011; CDT, "The Open Internet Fights Back," Jan. 16, 2012.

As a result, proposals to require ISPs to block content in U.S. civil actions – even with a court order in hand – have essentially become dormant.

Nonetheless, it's an interesting exercise to explore what other jurisdictions have done in this regard.

Orders Requiring ISPs to Block Access to Sites Providing Infringing Content (UK)

For instance, at least three opinions issued in U.K. cases relatively recently required ISPs to block access to websites that facilitated file sharing or other infringement of copyrighted materials. They are:
* The Studios originally sought an order that said, "The Defendant shall prevent its services being used by users and operators of the website known as NEWZBIN and NEWZBIN2 to infringe copyright." [¶ 11].
*The day before the hearing, the requested order was amended as follows:
"1. The Respondent shall adopt the following technology directed to the website known as Newzbin or Newzbin2 currently accessible at and its domains and sub domains. The technology to be adopted is:
(i) IP address blocking in respect of each and every IP address from which the said website operates or is available and which is notified in writing to the Respondent by the Applicants or their agents.
(ii) DPI based blocking utilising at least summary analysis in respect of each and every URL available at the said website and its domains and sub domains and which is notified in writing to the Respondent by the Applicants or their agents.
2. For the avoidance of doubt paragraph 1(i) and (ii) is complied with if the Respondent uses the system known as Cleanfeed and does not require the Respondent to adopt DPI based blocking utilising detailed analysis.
3. Liberty to the parties to apply on notice in the event of any material change of circumstances (including, for the avoidance of doubt, in respect of the costs, consequences for the parties, and effectiveness of the implementation of the above measures as time progresses)." [¶ 12]
* Ultimately, the Court agreed that a blocking order was warranted, but found, "As I think counsel for the Studios accepted, the drafting of paragraph 1 still leaves a certain amount to be desired; but, as counsel for BT accepted, it is now reasonably clear what it is that the Studios are asking the court to order BT to do." [¶ 13]
* In its case before the England and Wales High Court, L'Oreal sought: "a ruling, first, that eBay and the individual defendants are liable for sales of 17 items made by those individuals through the website, L'Oréal claiming that those sales infringed the rights conferred on it by, inter alia, the figurative Community trade mark including the words 'Amor Amor' and the national word mark 'Lancôme'." [Case No. C-324/09 ¶34.]

* "Second, L'Oréal submits that eBay is liable for the use of L'Oréal trade marks where those marks are displayed on eBay's website and where sponsored links triggered by the use of keywords corresponding to the trade marks are displayed on the websites of search engine operators, such as Google." [Id. ¶ 38]
* With respect to ISPs, the Court reached the following conclusions:
139. First, it follows from Article 15(1) of Directive 2000/31, in conjunction with Article 2(3) of Directive 2004/48, that the measures required of the online service provider concerned cannot consist in an active monitoring of all the data of each of its customers in order to prevent any future infringement of intellectual property rights via that provider's website. Furthermore, a general monitoring obligation would be incompatible with Article 3 of Directive 2004/48, which states that the measures referred to by the directive must be fair and proportionate and must not be excessively costly. 

140. Second, as is also clear from Article 3 of Directive 2004/48, the court issuing the injunction must ensure that the measures laid down do not create barriers to legitimate trade. That implies that, in a case such as that before the referring court, which concerns possible infringements of trade marks in the context of a service provided by the operator of an online marketplace, the injunction obtained against that operator cannot have as its object or effect a general and permanent prohibition on the selling, on that marketplace, of goods bearing those trade marks.
141. Despite the limitations described in the preceding paragraphs, injunctions which are both effective and proportionate may be issued against providers such as operators of online marketplaces. As the Advocate General stated at point 182 of his Opinion, if the operator of the online marketplace does not decide, on its own initiative, to suspend the perpetrator of the infringement of intellectual property rights in order to prevent further infringements of that kind by the same seller in respect of the same trade marks, it may be ordered, by means of an injunction, to do so. 

142. Furthermore, in order to ensure that there is a right to an effective remedy against persons who have used an online service to infringe intellectual property rights, the operator of an online marketplace may be ordered to take measures to make it easier to identify its customer-sellers. In that regard, as L'Oréal has rightly submitted in its written observations and as follows from Article 6 of Directive 2000/31, although it is certainly necessary to respect the protection of personal data, the fact remains that when the infringer is operating in the course of trade and not in a private matter, that person must be clearly identifiable.
* Finally, "The third sentence of Article 11 of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights must be interpreted as requiring the Member States to ensure that the national courts with jurisdiction in relation to the protection of intellectual property rights are able to order the operator of an online marketplace to take measures which contribute, not only to bringing to an end infringements of those rights by users of that marketplace, but also to preventing further infringements of that kind. Those injunctions must be effective, proportionate, and dissuasive and must not create barriers to legitimate trade." [¶ 145(7) emphasis added]. 
  • Dramatico Enter. Ltd v. British Sky Broad., [2012] EWHC 268 (Ch) (Eng. & Wales High Court (CH) Feb. 20, 2012) – concluding that both the users and operators of the Pirate Bay infringed the copyright owner's rights [¶ 84]; also provides a summary of an expert opinion describing how BitTorrent works [¶¶ 19-20]; summarizes several orders requiring the URL blocking or "blackholing" of the infringing site [¶¶ 3-4]. 
Other Resources
U.S. Customs & Border Protection and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Report on 2011 Counterfeit Seizures, Jan. 12, 2012 (Press Release, Jan. 12, 2012):

"The growth of websites selling counterfeit goods directly to consumers is one reason why CBP and ICE have seen a significant increase in the number of seizures at mail and express courier facilities," said Acting CBP Commissioner David V. Aguilar. "Although these websites may have low prices, what they do not tell consumers is that the true costs to our nation and consumers include lost jobs, stolen business profits, threats to our national security, and a serious risk of injury to consumers."

European Commission, Report on EU Customs Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, Results at the EU Border, 2011 (released July 24, 2012) (press release) (facts and figures): This report provides summaries of relevant data about seizures by EU customs, broken down by member country or by types of goods, but also reaches conclusions about the impact and nature of the infringement. For instance, it explains, "Counterfeiters do not concern themselves with product development costs, garantees [sic] or advertising. Profit is maximised by the theft and copying of an original idea, often with cheaper materials. Nevertheless, IPR infringing goods are increasingly sold at a price similar to that of the original goods and effectively substitute them on the market." [at pages 13-14.]

* The report also concludes that of the goods seized at the border, 97% of them (by quantity) infringed trademarks and 93.36% of them (by value) infringed trademarks. [at 18]

European Commission, The EU Single Market, Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights – focusing on online piracy and counterfeiting.

EU Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC)

The European Observatory on Online Piracy and Counterfeiting, established in 2008.

Specific Disclaimer
Note that the author is not licensed to practice in the European Union or its member countries, and therefore does not purport to render a legal opinion about the application of these cases to specific facts. This analysis is provided merely as an example of restrictions on ISPs that courts have ordered with a stated purpose of combating online piracy or counterfeiting based on existing law.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Open Forum at ABA Annual Meeting on Online Piracy and Counterfeiting

In August 2012, the Intellectual Property Law (IPL) Section of the American Bar Association (ABA) will be hosting an open forum during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago on online piracy and counterfeiting. I will be moderating one panel (on the scope and severity of the problem) and one of my co-chairs of the Joint Task Force on Online Piracy and Counterfeiting, Chris Katopis, will be moderating the other (essentially, on the U.S. government's response and remedies). During these panels, and through the work of the Task Force, we are focusing on conduct by entities offshore – essentially foreign sites that currently are beyond U.S. jurisdiction, but who may be engaged in significant copyright piracy of U.S. works and/or trademark counterfeiting of U.S. trademarks.

More details about the panels can be found on the ABA's Annual Meeting Site, and in particular, the Intellectual Property Law Section's description of the IPL programs that will occur during the meeting.

This panel follows a similar panel that I moderated in March, during the IPL Section's Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. (page 9). We had excellent attendance and feedback after the program. I am hoping for a similar result from the Chicago panel discussion, and look forward to getting feedback and input from the attendees about these issues.

In the meantime, here are some governmental resources that identify some of the concerns, and the impacts on the U.S. economy of piracy & counterfeiting that originates outside our borders, but is directed to a U.S. audience:
I look forward to seeing you in August.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Court Certifies Certain Authors as a Class in Google Books Dispute

On May 31, 2012, Circuit Judge Denny Chin (now sitting on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals) entered an order certifying a class of authors to proceed in the case as a class. The Authors Guild et al. v. Google, Inc., No. 05 Civ. 8136, slip op. (May 31, 2012). In that case, two motions were decided: the first was Google's motion to dismiss the association plaintiffs (i.e., The Authors Guild) alleging that they lacked standing to sue. The second was a motion for class certification filed by three representatives (individual members of the association) so that the case could proceed as a class, and that individual class plaintiffs did not need to prove their cases individually. 

In both cases, Google's argument was the same: that individualized analysis of its "fair use" defense was required, thus rendering the Authors Guild unable to participate, and the individual class members unable to proceed as a group, sharing common interests. In both respects, the court was unpersuaded by Google's arguments, and ruled against Google.

Motion to Dismiss Authors Guild Claims, Arguing Lack of Standing

In the context of its motion to dismiss, the Court found that "the associations' claims of copyright infringement and requests for injunctive relief will not require the participation of each individual association member." Id. at 11. Indeed, the Guild asserted copyright claims on behalf of its members, alleging very broadly that "Google engaged, and continues to engage, in the wholesale copying of books (including an images contained therein) without the consent of the copyright holders, many of whom are association members." Id. at 12. The Authors Guild only sought injunctive relief (in other words, stop the copying and republishing) and declaratory relief (in other words, for a "declaration" that Google's activities were unlawful). It is not seeking monetary damages. Notably, "Google does not deny that it copied millions of books – original works – without the permission of the copyright holders. Furthermore, it has displayed snippets of text from these books as well as images contained in the books, without the copyright holders' permission."
Id. at 13 (emphasis added).

When it argued that individual participation by association members would be required to respond to Google's fair use analysis, Google focused on the requirement to prove "the nature of the copyrighted work" and "the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work." Id. at 15. Specifically, Google argued that the difference for fair use purposes between a non-fictional and a fictional work was critical, thus requiring individual proof of market impact. Id. The court was unpersuaded, concluding that it was possible to address these issues by grouping similar works together, thus creating subgroups. Id.

Importantly, the court noted that Google only objected to the Authors Guild's participation in this case (which it originated seven years ago), was when it became apparent in 2011 that no settlement would be reached. Id. at 17.

The court's most telling conclusion in this opinion is the following:

. . . [G]iven the sweeping and undiscriminating nature of Google's unauthorized copying, it would be unjust to require that each affected association member litigate his claim individually. When Google copied works, it did not conduct an inquiry into the copyright ownership of each work; nor did it conduct an individualized evaluation as to whether posting "snippets" of a particular work would constitute "fair use." It copied and made search results available en masse. Google cannot now turn the tables and ask the Court to require each copyright holder to come forward individually and assert rights in a separate action. Because Google treated the copyright holders as a group, the copyright holders should be able to litigate on a group basis.
Id. at 18 (emphasis added).

Motion for Class Certification

In similar fashion, the court discounted Google's opposition to the motion for class certification filed by Authors Guild members seeking to participate in this case as representatives of a class. Id. at 18-25 (discussion of applicable precedent), 25-31 (application of precedent to the case at hand). Again Google argued that its fair use argument had to be considered as to each plaintiff, on an individual basis. It argued that "most [ ] class members perceive [Google's copying of their work] as benefit." Id. at 27. It also submitted the results of a survey it conducted in support of its argument that factual disputes among putative class members would make the class action process "not adequate" to handle this dispute, and therefore argued that class certification should be denied. Id.

This survey revealed that 58% of the authors surveyed (i.e., 500 authors) "approved" of Google's scanning of their works for search purposes, and about 19% of those surveyed (about 170 authors) "feel that they benefit financially, or would benefit financially, from Google scanning their books and making snippets available in search." Id.

The court did not discuss the basis for the survey, how the participants were selected, its statistical significance or what percentage of the total putative class was surveyed. Elsewhere in the opinion, however, the court reported the undisputed fact that Google has already scanned more than 12 million books. Id. at 2 (emphasis added). Leaving aside that many of these may be in the public domain, the court also noted that "millions of the books scanned by Google were still under copyright."  Id. at 3 (emphasis added). Even if you assume that half of these books were written by authors who had written more than one book, 500 authors seems to be a very low sample on which to rely for a survey. (More details about the survey are likely continued in the declaration that Google submitted with the survey evidence, but I have not accessed it.)

Regardless, the court remained unpersuaded by Google's survey evidence, calling it "without merit." Pointedly, the court noted that Google had not identified any conflicts between the class members and the rest of the class and concluded that the fact that "some class members may prefer to leave the alleged violation of their rights unremedied is not as basis for finding the lead plaintiffs inadequate." Id. 28. Indeed, any class member who feels that he or she does not want to participate in the class action may voluntarily exclude themselves by opting out.

Google's final argument – that some of the publishing contracts which some of these authors may have signed create varying degrees and types of ownership – was similarly rejected. The court found that while these differences might exist, they did not predominate over the common issues shared by the putative class members. Id. at 31. In response to Google's argument that the display of snippets of the copyrighted works were promotional use (a beneficial interest held by the publisher, not the author) would facilitate sales, the court noted the absence of any proof that such display actually facilitated sales and admonished, "while these authors may have authorized a publisher to promote their works, they have not authorized Google to do so." Id.

Recommended Reading 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Study in Counterfeiting Remedies – Denmark’s Approach

This is the first in a series of articles on remedies considered for online counterfeiting and piracy, in light of the dismantling of the proposals set forth in the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from earlier this year. For more on PIPA and SOPA, please see the prior posts on these topics.

The purpose of these articles is to explore potential ways to combat online counterfeiting and piracy, and in particular the type of counterfeiting and piracy that occurs overseas, but is directed at a U.S.-based audience. The most notable example in recent months is Megaupload, which has been taken down in a cooperative effort of seven countries. (For more on the Megaupload take-down, visit The Guardian (UK)'s Megaupload Page and the US Department of Justice's news release announcing the indictment. For more about the U.S. Immigrations and Customs enforcement take-downs, see ICE's news releases about its intellectual property enforcement efforts.)   

However, cooperative effort across borders is only possible with countries that share the U.S.'s protection of intellectual property rights. Not all countries do. So, what are trademark and copyright owners to do to protect their IP rights in the online world, where geographic borders mean very little?

This series will examine enforcement efforts in other countries as an illustration of possible enforcement mechanisms that might be available, depending on how new legislation on this topic might be written.

Danish Maritime & Commercial Court Decision

A few days ago, Norsker & Co. (a Danish law firm) posted an article about a recent case, Hublot SA Geneve v. Bronsztejin in the Maritime and Commercial Court (May 3, 2012). According to the article, Danish purchasers ordered counterfeit Hublot watches from a Chinese online service. They paid Dkr$2,250 (USD $2,664.41) for these five watches. When the watches arrived at Danish customs, they were seized, pending proof that they had been purchased for private use. The purchasers did not provide such proof and the counterfeits were destroyed. 

The court then punished the purchasers of these counterfeit watches, by assessing monetary fines and destroying the counterfeit watches. There does not appear to be any action taken against the sellers or any other entities in the distribution chain. The purchasers were required to pay the Danish Customs Office's cost to destroy the counterfeit goods (Dkr2,500 = USD $438.34), damages for the trademark violation (presumably paid to the trademark holder) in the amount of Dkr5,000 (USD $ 859.49) and "costs" (presumably the court costs) in the amount of Dkr15,500 (USD $ 2,664.41). (Currency converter used here was accessed on May 22, 2012).

As a result, it appears that in Denmark, the courts have chosen to punish the purchasers of the counterfeit goods, and not the intermediaries in the distribution chain. The summary did not mention any other defendants – such as the payment processor who processed the credit card payment, or the shipping service that carried the goods across borders.

Future Articles

The articles to follow in this series will consider enforcement mechanisms imposed in other countries – and perhaps competing types of enforcement within the same jurisdiction – to see what other enforcement possibilities have been considered. Please note that I take no position on the effectiveness or fairness of any of these measures, but instead am collecting a laundry list of possible sanctions and targets of those sanctions for research purposes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Second Circuit Partially Overturned Viacom vs. YouTube Case

In an April 5, 2012 opinion, the Second Circuit concluded that the district court erred in part by granting summary judgment in YouTube's favor in its August 10, 2010 judgment and remanded the case in part for further proceedings. Viacom Int'l et al. v. YouTube, Inc. et al., No. 10-3270, slip op. (2d Cir. Apr. 5, 2012).

The Second Circuit affirmed certain parts of the underlying opinion – particularly the district court's conclusion that the DMCA's § 512(c) safe harbor requires "knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity" and its conclusion that three of YouTube's four software functions at issue in this case qualified for the safe harbor – but vacated the opinion in at least one important way. Specifically, the Second Circuit reversed the district court's interpretation of the "right and ability to control infringing activity" to require "item-specific" knowledge. It also remanded the case to the district court for further fact-finding on whether the fourth software function qualified for a safe harbor. Id. at 2.

In the underlying case, Viacom was joined by several other film studios, television networks, music publishers, and sports leagues in alleging direct and secondary copyright infringement "based on the public performance, display, and reproduction of approximately 79,000 audiovisual 'clips'" that appeared on Youtube between 2005 and 2009. Id. at 8. Plaintiffs sought damages in the form of statutory damages under § 504(c) or, alternatively, actual damages – as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at 9.

After considering the arguments on appeal, the Second Circuit vacated the order granting summary judgment in YouTube's favor because 1) an issue of fact existed whether YouTube had actual knowledge or awareness of specific infringing activity on its website (thus making summary judgment inappropriate), 2) the "right and ability to control" provision does not require "item specific knowledge" and 3) further fact-finding was required before a conclusion could reasonably be reached about whether YouTube's fourth software process qualified for the safe harbor. Id. at 9.

The Court spent a fair amount of time discussing the evidence presented showing that YouTube officials may have had more than a general understanding that someone might post infringing material to their site. Id. at 19-22. Among other facts, the Court pointed to the following as persuasive that a jury could conclude that YouTube was on notice that infringing content probably existed on their site:

  • YouTube Founder, Jawed Karim, prepared a March 2006 report in which he explained that several "well-known shows" could still be found on YouTube. He stated, "although YouTube is not legally required to monitor content . . . and complies with DMCA takedown requests we would benefit from preemptively removing content that is blatantly illegal and likely to attract criticism." Id. at 20-21. He added that a "more thorough analysis" was required before any content could be removed. Id. at 21.
  • Another YouTube founder, Chad Hurley, concluded in 2005 that certain videos containing the titles "budlight commercials" should be rejected as potentially infringing, but another co-founder, Steve Chen, asked "can we please leave these in a bit longer? Another week or two can't hurt," after which time, Karim replied that he "added back in all 28 bud videos." Id.
  • Finally, the court described another 2005 email exchange in the following way: [Id.]
    • First, "Hurley urged his colleagues 'to start being diligent about rejected copyrighted/inappropriate content,' noting that 'there is a cnn clip of the shuttle clip on the site today, if the boys from Turner would come to the site, they might be pissed?'"
    • Then, his colleagues responded: "but we should just keep that stuff on the site. I really don't see what will happen. what? someone from cnn sees it? he happens to be someone with power? he happens to want to take it down right away. he gets in touch with cnn legal. 2 weeks later, we get a cease & desist letter. we take the video down."
    • Finally, Karim agreed, stating "the CNN space shuttle clip, I like. we can remove it once we're bigger and better known, but for now that clip is fine."
Based on these and other similar facts, the Court found that plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence for "a reasonable juror . . .[to] conclude that YouTube had actual knowledge of specific infringing activity, or was at least aware of facts or circumstances from which specific infringing activity was apparent." Id. at 22. As a result, the grant of summary judgment in YouTube's favor was simply "premature." Id.

Willful Blindness
The Court also analyzed the issue of whether "willful blindness" was equivalent to actual knowledge for purposes of imposing liability for direct or vicarious liability – an issue that the Court labeled as "an issue of first impression." Id. at 22-24. Relying on Tiffany (NJ) Inc. v. eBay, Inc., 600 F.3d 93, 109 (2d Cir. 2010), the Court explained that when a service provider "has reason to suspect that users of its service are infringing a protected mark, it may not shield itself from learning of the particular infringing transactions by looking the other way." Viacom, No. 10-3270 at 23 (citing cases).

The Court further clarified that "willful blindness" could not be defined as "an affirmative duty to monitor." Id. at 24.

The Court ultimately held that "the willful blindness doctrine may be applied, in appropriate circumstances, to demonstrate knowledge or awareness of specific instances of infringement under the DMCA." Id. The Court did not reach the conclusion of whether YouTube actually had been willfully blind to this type of infringing behavior of its users, but instead only that willful blindness could serve as a basis for liability under the right conditions, and thus remanded the case to the district court for consideration of whether the defendants "made a deliberate attempt to avoid guilty knowledge." Id. 

Right of Control

As the Court stated, the § 512(c) safe harbor provides that eligible service providers must "not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity." Id. at 24. The district court considered this argument only briefly, and concluded that this "right and ability to control" required item-specific knowledge. Id. (quoting 718 F. Supp. 2d at 527).

In the appeal, the Court rejected both of the competing interpretations suggested by the parties, concluding that the language neither: 1) requires the ISP to know of the particular infringing content before being able to control it (as proffered by defendants) – because such construction would render this provision (§ 512(c)(1)(B)) duplicative of § 512(c)(1)(A), a result which would be disfavored as a matter of statutory interpretation; nor 2) that this provision merely codifies the common law doctrine of vicarious copyright liability (as proffered by plaintiffs). In its analysis of the common law doctrine, the Court quipped, "Happily, the future of digital copyright law does not turn on the confused legislative history of the control provision." Id. at 26.

The Court instead concluded that "the right and ability to control infringing activity under § 512(c)(1)(B) 'requires something more than the ability to remove or block access to materials posted on a service provider's website.'" Id. at 27 (quoting Capitol Records, Inc. v. MP3tunes, LLC, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2011 WL 5104616, at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2011), among other cases).

The Court acknowledged that the "something more" still needed to be defined, although two cases had found specific activity that courts have concluded rose to a level sufficient to find "right and ability to control." Id. at 28 (citing Perfect10, Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures, Inc., 213 F. Supp. 2d 1146 (C.D. Cal. 2002) and MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005)). Rather than setting a specific definition in this opinion, the Court remanded this case to the district court to consider whether plaintiffs "adduced sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude" that YouTube met the "right and ability to control" test, and whether it received a financial benefit directly attributable to this activity. Id. at 28-29.


The Court held the following:

1) Knowledge or awareness of facts/circumstances that indicate specific and identifiable instances of infringement is required by § 512(c)(1)(A);

2) A reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness with respect to a handful of specific clips; the case was remanded to determine whether YouTube had the requisite knowledge or awareness with respect to the clips actually at issue in this case;

3) The willful blindness doctrine can be applied, in appropriate circumstances, to demonstrate knowledge or awareness of specific instances of infringement; the case was remanded to determine whether the willful blindness doctrine was applicable here;

4) The district court erred by finding that the "right and ability to control" required item-specific knowledge of the infringing material; the case was remanded for further fact-finding on this issue;


5) The district court was correct that three of the four software functions qualify for the safe harbor; the case was remanded for consideration of whether the fourth function so qualified.

Id. at 34-35. In connection with the remand, the Court left it to the district court's discretion whether additional discovery would be required. The Court did not award reimbursement of costs to either party.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Google’s Privacy Policy Under Fire Before it Became Effective

On February 22, thirty-six attorneys general signed and sent a letter (through the National Association of Attorneys General) to Google objecting to its new privacy policy, scheduled to take effect on March 1. (See prior post about the provisions of the new policy.) The National Association of Attorneys General reports that the letter objects to Google's one-size-fits-all approach for all consumers of all of its various services. Specifically, the letter states, "Google's new privacy policy is troubling for a number of reasons. On a fundamental level, the policy appears to invade consumer privacy by automatically sharing personal information consumers input into one Google product with all Google products. Consumers have diverse interests and concerns, and may want the information in their Web History to be kept separate from the information they exchange via Gmail." Feb. 22, 2012 Letter. Indeed, the policy requires that consumers to "allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out." Id.

The letter also points out that users of Android phones will be significantly impacted: "Even more troubling, this invasion of privacy is virtually impossible to escape for the nation's Android-powered smartphone users, who comprise nearly 50% of the national smartphone market. . . . For these consumers, avoiding Google's privacy policy change may mean buying an entirely new phone at great personal expense. No doubt many of these consumers bought an Android-powered phone in reliance on Google's existing privacy policy, which touted to these consumers that 'We will not reduce your rights under this Privacy Policy without your explicit consent.'" Id. (Footnotes omitted). So much for that promise.

The letter requests a response by February 29. It's unclear whether a response was provided.

EPIC v. FTC Lawsuit

In a related story, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed suit on February 17 against the FTC to require it to enforce the Google Consent Order, thus barring the amended privacy policy from becoming effective. The court dismissed the complaint on February 24 for lack of jurisdiction over the FTC, but noted its own concerns about the terms of the privacy policy. EPIC filed an emergency appeal with the Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on February 24, seeking argument before the March 1 effective date. Details about EPIC's efforts, copies of its pleadings and information about the FTC Chairman's interview on C-SPAN, the EU's objection to the privacy policy changes, and the attorneys' general's objections can be found on its Consent Order Page.

Note also that EPIC obtained (through a FOIA request) a copy of Google's Privacy Compliance Report that it filed with the FTC on January 26, 2012. EPIC has posted a copy on its Consent Order Page (see the heading entitled, "'FOIA Matters' - EPIC Obtains Google Privacy Compliance Report"). The Privacy Compliance Report describes the March 1 privacy policy changes, although the description is rather watered down and focuses on Google's efforts to notify its users that the change was coming.

Five Privacy Organizations Request Congressional Hearing

On February 24, five privacy organizations wrote to Representative Mary Bono Mack and Representative G.K. Butterfield of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade objecting to the privacy policy and requesting that the currently scheduled private hearing with Google to discuss the changes to the privacy policy be opened to the public. Feb. 24, 2012 Letter. These organizations were the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Consumer Watchdog, Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. As of this writing, a hearing has not yet been scheduled, but continue to check the Committee's hearing schedule for updates.

Foreign Organizations Respond in Opposition to New Privacy Policy 

On February 27, 2012, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) – an independent commission in the French government charged with "ensuring that information technology remains at the service of citizens, and does not jeopardize human identity or breach human rights, privacy or individual or public liberties" – sent a letter to Google, reporting that it has preliminarily concluded that "Google's new policy does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection (95/46/CE), especially regarding the information provided to data subjects." (The phrase "data subject" refers to "an identified or identifiable natural person ('data subject'); an identifiable person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to his physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity." Art. 2, Definitions, (a))  

The Commission had been asked by the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party of the EU to take the lead on this investigation. (Google's response to the initial letter from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party was sent on February 3, 2012, and basically argued that its policies had not changed, but were merely consolidated.)

Earlier, but for similar reasons, on February 23, 2012, the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim wrote to Google on behalf of the Technology Working Group of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities expressing concern about the implementation of the new changes. Google responded on February 29.

News Coverage

Here are some samples of articles published in the past few days on this topic:

Google's Response Thus Far

Google has not posted any response on its press releases page, but that's not to say that Google hasn't responded directly to any of these organizations. At some point, I'm sure that Google will make some public statement – in some forum – that will continue to defend its decision to consolidate its privacy policies and the accumulated consumer data into one single data source, probably on the grounds that this is a benefit to consumers because it would allow Google to customize its services to their use.


It appears that the only recourse a consumer has if he or she does not want to participate in the new consolidation of their data currently spread over various Google services is to cancel all Google accounts. It could be very time-consuming to find replacement services (for instance, set up and transition to a new email account, remove YouTube video content and re-post somewhere else that does not require such a broad license to the host, port a blog from Blogger to WordPress (for instance) and publicize the new address). For anyone who uses these services for business or advertising/marketing purposes, the impact in both time and money – and perhaps goodwill developed from a loyal following – could be significant to transition to new providers. As a result, perhaps it's not really a valid "choice."