Technology and Business Law Blog

Online Anonymity and Defamation

A Maryland Circuit Court has ordered a newspaper company that owns a website in which a defamatory statement was posted about a business, to reveal the identity of the person who made the statement. Read here.

The U.S Supreme Court has upheld the right to anonymous  political speech under the First Amendment. The judge of the Maryland Circuit Court has sent the message that free speech is fine but will not tolerate defamation. There is a delicate balance between defamation and free speech. In defamation law suits courts balance reputation against free speech. If a defamatory statement about an individuals business is made, as it was in this case the business which was a donut shop was described as one “of the most dirty and unsanitary-looking food-service places I have seen,”then the statement will fall under the category of trade libel and it will be actionable. In a trade libel, the economic interests of the business owner has to be affected and the person making the defamatory statement must have made the statements with reckless disregard of whether the statement was true or false.

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December 13, 2008 Posted by | Defamation, Free Speech, On-line world | 1 Comment

Googling Government Web sites

I will let you decide whether Google is being altruistic or is it just another means to an end of creating more revenue through advertisement dollars.

Google is pushing for government web sites to be accessible to search engines crawlers, so that when someone types in a query in the Google search bar, the information available in government sites will show up readily instead of having to go to the actual government site to access the required information.  Read here.

Google claims that it doesn’t want to disappoint its users and wants to provide service and be the best search engine out there, but other feel that the bottom line motivation is profit generation.

December 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 12 Comments

Privacy Rights of Celebrities and Others

When it comes to publicity and privacy rights it can be a fine dividing line. Madonna the famous singer has won a case against the U.K tabloid the Mail for publishing her wedding pictures.  Madonna is a celebrity and as such does not normally have privacy rights to her pictures that were taken by someone even without her permission.  This statement would have been true if the pictures were taken when she was in a public place, but the fact that the wedding was an private affair where no pictures were taken and the ones taken were by a photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino and they were presented to Madonna as a gift. These pictures were never published and were kept in her house away from the eyes of the public.

Even celebrities have a right to privacy and in terms of the copyrights on the photographs, if Madonna had hired the photographer then she would own the copyrights to them even if the photographer chose not charge for them and gifted them to Madonna, but if the photographer on his own accord took the photos and then gave them to Madonna as a gift then he will still own the copyrights to the photographs.

Another privacy issue is the searching of digital devices like cell phones and laptops at the U.S borders when one enters the country. Objecting to this practice, civil rights groups have filed cases, claiming racial profiling, invasion of privacy and unreasonable search and seizer without probable cause.  Now a handful of bills have been introduced that could pass next year.

One measure, sponsored by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., chairman of the Constitution subcommittee, would require reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to search the contents of electronic devices carried by U.S. citizens and legal residents. It would also require probable cause and a warrant or court order to detain a device for more than 24 hours. And it would prohibit profiling of travelers based on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., is sponsoring a bill in the House that would also require suspicion to inspect electronic devices. Engel said he is not trying to impede legitimate searches to protect national security. But, he said, it is just as important to protect civil liberties. Read here.

This in my opinion is good since, under the Bush Adminstration, under the Patriot Act, laws were streatched and many of our constitutional rights were under seige. Hopefully, under the new  adminstration there will be more of a balance and ordinary people will not be harrassed just because there have different sounding last names or because they look different.

December 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment