Eric Goldman

The threat of getting sued for libel or defamation has always hung over the heads of media professionals, now particularly so in the blogging era. The truth is always the clearest, simplest defense when faced with libel claims. But there are other, less direct avenues one can pursue as a defense, if need be.

A lawsuit recently dismissed against Gizmodo shows off one of the more commonly overlooked ways to bolster a defense against defamation. Let’s just say there’s often a reason bloggers like to include all those hyperlinks…

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Anyone who has used Craigslist knows the site has not really changed in the 17 years it’s been around. In a time when you can even geolocate cell phone photos, the site design is a bit anachronistic (read: annoying). There’s no mapping, and no ability to add more than one post at once, or take advantage of a lot of options more recent sites offer.

So, as technology folk tend to do these days, a variety of entrepreneurs have attempted find ways to improve the site’s formula.

But Craigslist keeps saying no dice. Not only will it not update, it goes after these imitators — so far, quite successfully — in court. Why?

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The [Megaupload] prosecution is a depressing display of abuse of government authority. It’s hard to comprehensively catalog all of the lawless aspects of the US government’s prosecution of Megaupload[.]

– Eric Goldman, Professor at Santa Clara Law and editor of the Technology and Marketing Law Blog, criticizing the government’s prosecution of the infamous cyber locker and its eccentric leader, Kim Dotcom, in a post earlier this week.

(Goldman had a lot to say about the Megaupload case, most of it quite critical of the government. Keep reading to see more of his blunt analysis.)

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Ah, yes. I am familiar with this internet of which you speak.

The first month of 2012 was a crazy one for internet law. The Stop Online Piracy Act gloriously crashed and burned, Apple is getting sued in China for naming rights to the iPad, and in America someone is suing to show that porn doesn’t deserve copyright protection. In the wake of all the hot debate and hot tempers, it seems some people highly invested in internet freedom and content protection have begun looking to gain support for their causes outside of the legislature.

This week, we learned from a couple news stories that advocates from both sides of the internet aisle have turned to lawyers and the court system to defend their causes. Earlier this week, some OG internet pioneers testified to a jury, and a major media company executive has begun courting law professors for support.

I’m not sure whether I think the fact that people have decided the legal system is a good place to argue high-level, fundamental internet freedom questions is impressive (give yourselves a pat on the back, attorneys, you are hip to the tech set now), or a little bit scary (do these people realize how technophobic lawyers can be?).

You will have to decide for yourself…

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Back in 2009, some teen girls in Indiana had a sleepover that lived up to any teen boy’s fantasy version of one. After racy photos from the summer slumber party made their way to the principal’s office, two of the athletes in attendance were suspended from school sports for the year. That’s, like, totally unfair, said the ACLU, which helped the students sue the school, alleging violation of their First Amendment right to post slutty photos of themselves online.

The girls took photos of themselves “playing” with “phallic-shaped rainbow colored lollipops,” in the court’s words. It sounds like the oh-so-innocent unicorn horn lollipop to me. Though unicorns are usually associated with purity and virginity, these girls took the horn in a different direction, using it in photo shoots that simulated various sexual positions. I’ll leave the descriptions to the court, which wrote one of the racier opinions [pdf] I’ve ever come across (via Professor Eric Goldman’s Technology and Marketing Law Blog)….

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A Facebook photo to rival David Lat's infamous mobile upload of post-operative cysts.

When you allow a photo to be taken, you should expect that it will be shown to others. That’s at the heart of a judge’s decision in the famous placenta photo case. Unless you’ve been stuck inside a womb, you must have heard by now about the placenta that almost aborted a nursing student’s career.

As previously noted, a Kansas judge decided that nursing student Doyle Byrnes shouldn’t have been kicked out of her program for posting a photo of herself posing with a human placenta to Facebook (at right). It was a move worthy only of de-friending by the weak-stomached.

The actual written decision in the case has come out, and there’s some interesting analysis in it, as noted by Eric Goldman at his Technology & Marketing Law Blog. It suggests that “photo-taking automatically means consent to widespread publication of that photo.” We imagine Brett Favre might object to that….

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Unless it involves defamatory Facebook postings and a retaliatory lawsuit.

The new CBS show The Defenders has Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell dramatizing and glamorizing the life and work of Las Vegas attorneys. But for the real attorneys working in the tumbleweeds of Nevada, it can be a tough gig. Ask Jonathan Goldsmith, a “60% Bankruptcy / 10% Family Law / 10% Criminal Defense / 5% Personal Injury” of counsel at Rosenfeld & Rinato. (They don’t bother with associates there — you’re either of counsel or a founding partner, even if you’re just two years out of law school; Goldsmith is a 2009 University of Las Vegas law grad.)

Goldsmith was plaintiff’s counsel in a divorce case, and the husband being divorced, Jordan Cooper, took a disliking to him. Which he naturally expressed on Facebook…

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child learns adult games.jpgFew are going to stand up in support of kiddie porn, even when it’s art. Last year, the Tate Modern proposed displaying a nude portrait of Brooke Shields at age 10. It caved on those plans after objections from the “obscene publications unit” of the London Metropolitan Police, according to Caveat Viator.

Caveat Viator offers a link to the portrait, but we’d advise against checking it out. (Go watch The Blue Lagoon instead.) Cyberlaw professor Eric Goldman calls child porn “toxic,” noting that “there is no easy way to legally cure even a single download of child porn.”

Even if it’s part of your “academic research.” A New York professor considering writing a book on how to define child porn is now serving a prison sentence because of images he downloaded in the course of his research, and images left in his cached folder from Web-browsing kiddie porn sites.

Sentences range. That professor got a one-to-three year sentence, while an Alabama man with an underage porno video discovered on his computer by the Geek Squad got 10 years, as we mentioned last week. That’s for hitting download and play, not for firing up a camera and hitting record. Is that a fair sentence, or are the penalties for kiddie porn possession too exxxtreme?

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Horribly embarrassing for everybody, but this guy (who topped the 'F*** List')

When Tom Wolfe wrote I Am Charlotte Simmons, he interviewed his Duke daughter and Stanford son about their college experiences, and tried to capture what university life would be like for a highly intelligent, young, innocent virgin at an elite school obsessed with frat parties and athletics. It was an enjoyable read. If you want something similar to that, but a non-fiction version with less innocence and more alcohol, check out An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics.

2010 Duke grad Karen Owen facetiously called it her “Senior Honors Thesis.” I summarized it over at my new bloggerly digs:

Owen kept detailed notes on her sexual adventures with 13 members of Duke’s lacrosse, baseball and tennis teams over the last four years. She then put those notes, along with the athletes’ names and photos into a 42-slide PowerPoint presentation, that concludes with a ranking of the 13 on what she calls her “F*** list.” (Congratulations, I suppose, to this guy for topping the list.)

Owen sent it by email to three friends, and then because it was too brilliant, hilarious, and painstakingly-elaborate to keep among four friends, one of them forwarded it on. Like an STD in a frat house, it went viral…

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