Topic: Legal

Legal side of Reputation Management

Call for Projects/Papers/Participation for 8th Annual Internet Law Works-in-Progress Conference, NYLS, March 24, 2018 0

Internet Law WIP Logo

Eighth Annual Internet Law Works-in-Progress, March 24, 2018, at New York Law School


It is my honor to invite you to participate in the Eighth Annual Internet Law Works-in-Progress Conference at New York Law School on March 24, 2018. This conference series, co-sponsored by the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School and the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, was created for Internet law scholars to receive feedback on their papers and projects from their peers. It is an exciting, informal gathering where we work together to advance scholarship in our field. We also have a lot of fun!

The conference takes a broad view of the topics that fit under the Internet Law umbrella. So, we encourage you to join this growing group of scholars, practitioners, technologists, and social scientists at New York Law School’s campus in TriBeCa.

There are three categories of participation:
1. Papers-in-Progress: This track is for paper drafts sufficiently advanced to share with event attendees. We allocate extra speaking time to these presentations. Papers will be due in the middle of February 2018.
2. Projects-in-Progress: This track is for research projects without a paper draft, covering anything from nearly finished papers to new ideas.
3. Discussant: Space permitting, we welcome you to join the conversation as an active audience participant.

How to Participate

If you would like to join us in New York City in March, please complete this form by November 22, 2017 at 5pm Eastern.

We expect to notify accepted participants in early December. Submissions received after the deadline will be evaluated on a space-available basis.

There is no event participation fee. All participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses. Information about travel and lodging will be provided to all participants. There is no publication obligation associated with presenting at the conference. 

Want to bring friends?

If you know someone who would be interested in joining us, but may not have received this email—namely, is not on our email list or has never attended the conference before—please reach out to Joseph Forgione, Associate Director of the Innovation Center,, to add that friend’s name to the list. Please also forward this email to all those you think would be interested.

Need More Information?

The initial conference website is up and will be updated regularly with new information. You may also contact Joseph Forgione at with any questions.

We hope to see you in March!

Source: Eric Goldman Legal

First Circuit Rejects Copyright Workaround to Section 230–Small Justice v. Ripoff Report 0

Ripoff Report Screenshot

[It’s impossible to blog about Section 230 without reminding you that it remains highly imperiled.]

Goren runs a law firm, Small Justice. DuPont, a defendant in a case Goren brought, posted two negative reviews about Goren to Ripoff Report. Goren sued DuPont, who no-showed, resulting in  default judgment. The state court awarded DuPont’s copyright in the two reviews to Goren. Goren then asserted the copyright against Ripoff Report. We have been covering this case for years (since 2013!). My blog post on Goren’s initial complaint. Venkat’s post on the initial district court ruling. My post on a subsequent district court ruling.

On appeal, the First Circuit sides completely with Ripoff Report. Barring an ill-advised appeal to the Supreme Court, this case should be over.

Section 230. Section 230 wipes out Goren’s defamation, intentional interference and (parts of) unfair competition claims based on DuPont’s negative reviews. Goren argued that Ripoff Report partially developed DuPont’s posts (using tired arguments like Ripoff Report had copyright interests in the reviews, an argument that first failed in the Blumenthal v. Drudge case 20 years ago). The court disagrees because “Xcentric did not alter the content of the information DuPont posted.” Furthermore, Ripoff Report’s efforts to get DuPont’s content indexed in the search engine did not “specifically encourage” DuPont’s content (cites to Kimzey v. Yelp, Ascentive v. Opinion Corp. and  Ayyadurai v. Techdirt). Curiously, while the First Circuit discusses its powerful UCS v. Lycos opinion from 2007, there’s no mention of its even more powerful Section 230 ruling in the Doe v. Backpage case from last year.

Copyright. Ripoff Report claims that DuPont granted it an irrevocable nonexclusive license, so Goren never had the right to terminate the license or claim Ripoff Report was infringing. Goren argued that DuPont received no consideration for the license. The court says that Ripoff Report performed its end of the bargain by publishing DuPont’s reviews, mooting any consideration concerns. Goren also argued that Ripoff Report’s contract was void for public policy because it implicitly promised never to remove posts that were defamatory. The court says that argument is irrelevant to the DuPont-Ripoff Report copyright license.

Unfair Competition. Part of the unfair competition  claim, predicated on Ripoff Report’s Corporate Advocacy Program and pay-to-play arbitration program, wasn’t preempted by Section 230. It still fails because Goren couldn’t show how Ripoff Report’s allegedly unfair programs motivated DuPont’s submission.

Attorneys’ Fees. The appeals court upholds the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant to copyright’s fee-shifting statute (17 USC 505) to the tune of over $120,000. That’s a lot of money….er, close to the cost of a law degree. In a sense, Goren will have paid for his legal education twice.


This litigation raised numerous interesting issues that the appellate ruling didn’t address, including whether the state court had the legal power to award copyright ownership to Goren in the first place (I think no), whether Ripoff Report had acquired more than just a nonexclusive license to its users’ posts, the problems that Ripoff Report created for itself by not having a proper call-to-action on its user agreement (it got bailed out by a layered notice), and much more. I’d say that perhaps those issues will be resolved in other cases, but I’m hoping no future case like this ever emerges!

Even among the many cases we’ve blogged, this case stands out as particularly noteworthy because it exposes an ugly interface between copyright and reputation management. Goren didn’t want copyright ownership to “promote the progress of science.” Like the doctors in Medical Justice’s decrepit program to pre-acquire the copyrights to unwritten reviews of their patients, the real goal of copyright ownership was to suppress the content. To me, this turns copyright law on its head, by making our society dumber, not smarter. Jessica Silbey and I are co-authoring a paper on how and why copyright has emerged as a reputation management tool of choice, and the paper prominently features this case as an example. The fact that the appeals court reached a satisfying outcome is nice. However, the fact it took four years of litigation to reach this result, when most defendants would have given up long ago, is symptomatic of copyright law’s overreach. We need to build industrial-grade doctrines in copyright law to prevent its misuse as a reputation management tool.

Case citation: Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC, 2017 WL 4534395 (1st Cir. Oct. 11, 2017)

Source: Eric Goldman Legal

Conference Announcement: “Content Moderation & Removal at Scale,” SCU, Feb. 2 0

I’m pleased to announce “Content Moderation & Removal at Scale,” a conference we’ll be holding on campus on February 2, 2018.  I anticipate a full house, so we’ve set a registration cap. When we reach the cap, we will put subsequent registrations on a waitlist. If you’d like to come, I strongly recommend early registration. If the registration fees pose a hardship in any way and you don’t fit into one of the free registration categories, please contact me.

The Backstory: I was disheartened when I initially saw the first draft of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (what I call “the Wagner bill;” its Senate companion is SESTA) to exclude sex trafficking violations from Section 230. The bills reflects unrealistic assumptions about how most online services manage incoming third party content. I thought that we might find more common ground if policymakers better understood how Internet companies actually handle content moderation and removal operations, so they could know what’s easy, what’s feasible but hard and expensive (and thus more likely to be undertaken only by incumbents, not startups), and what’s not possible at any price.

However, companies rarely publicly discuss their content moderation and removal operations. As a result, we lack many basic facts, such as how many people each company employs, what are their job titles, how do they fit in the org chart, and how are they trained. Some reporters and researchers have covered the topic over the years, but often in piecemeal fashion based on secondhand information. Some of these details have been shared in various smaller closed-door events, but the confidentiality cloak has prevented information diffusion. In my initial calls with companies pitching them on the conference, I often learned an incredible amount in the first 3-5 minutes of our conversations–despite the fact that I have studied and written about Internet law for 20+ years. In my conversations, it also became clear that these details weren’t trade secrets or even confidential, they just had not been shared publicly.

I hope this conference is the first of many public conversations about the operations of content moderation and removal. These conversations ought to help the industry accelerate the development of best operational practices. They also should help policymakers better understand the tradeoffs in any efforts they undertake to impose greater content moderation or removal obligations.

Because policymakers are a key audience, there will be a sibling conference held in DC with an agenda customized for its audience. That event is scheduled for January 23, 2018.

The Conference:

Most Internet Law conferences focus on the scope and meaning of substantive rules. In contrast, this conference focuses almost exclusively on how substantive rules are operationalized. Whatever the rules say, and wherever the rules come from–whether it’s legislators, common law, industry standards, or idiosyncratic “house rules”–how do companies translate them into operational practices? Of course, operationalization might differ due to the consequences for violations (i.e., violating legislative rules might lead to jailtime, while violating internal house rules might only be embarrassing). I hope we’ll tease out those nuances through the course of the day.

The main attraction in the morning will be a series of 10 minute presentations by 10 companies about the facts and figures of their content moderation and removal operations. The participating companies are: Automattic, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Medium, Nextdoor, Pinterest, Reddit, Wikimedia, and Yelp (Note: Nextdoor isn’t listed on the agenda yet but will be added in the next revision). As you can see, this roster of companies ranges from industry giants to much smaller organizations; and the companies have a diversity of editorial practices that should highlight how they’ve optimized operations for their “local” conditions. All of them have agreed to publicly “describe their content moderation and removal operations, such as org charts, department names and job titles, headcount, who determines the policies, escalation paths, and ‘best practice’ tips.” I’m very confident everyone in attendance will learn a lot from these presentations.

(I would have loved to diversify the participant list to include companies outside the Bay Area. I did approach some companies in other regions without success. We might hear from companies in other regions at the DC event).

The main attraction in the afternoon will be four panels on topics that should be interesting to anyone in the industry or observing it:

  • Employee/Contractor Hiring, Training and Mental Well-being
  • Humans vs. Machines
  • In-sourcing to Employees vs. Outsourcing to the Community or Vendors
  • Transparency and Appeals

(Note: I have more panelists to add to the afternoon panels in future revisions).

In addition to the morning presentations and afternoon panels, the conference will feature some brief legal primers, a lunchtime discussion about the history and future of content moderation and removals, and more.

All of the conference proceedings will be on-the-record, and we expect reporters will attend and cover the event. We plan to record the proceedings and are considering a live-stream option.

In addition to the day’s proceedings, many of the participants will be writing a short essay on thematic topics. We plan to bundle the essays into a package and publish the package through a not-yet-identified publication venue.

As you can see, this should be an enlightening and important conversation. I hope you can join us.

Source: Eric Goldman Legal

Failing To Consult With A Blockchain Lawyer Could Cost You Everything 0

blockchain lawyer ICO consultations A startup that didn’t invest in a pre-ICO legal consultation decided to shut down after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) called with some questions. The incident serves as a reminder that startups should consult a blockchain lawyer before an ICO.

Protostarr’s Busted Initial Coin Offering

A dApp (decentralized application), Protostarr’s creators envisioned a fan-funding platform for artists, online celebrities, and aspiring professional gamers. According to the startup, the plan was to “give a new generation of unsponsored artists the ability to fund their operations while providing fans the content they are looking for and the opportunity to profit based on their success.”

Protostarr Launches an ICO; SEC Takes Notice

On August 13th, Protostarr launched an initial coin offering and raised 120 ETH (about US $47,000, at the time). On August 24th, the Securities and Exchange Commission contacted Protostarr.

Joshua Gilson, Protostarr’s chief executive, explained:

“[The SEC investigators] called and asked for me to volunteer a bunch of information about the company. They gave me a quick little brief: They’re both federal investigators, anything I say has to be truthful or honest, I could be prosecuted for providing false information — a bunch of stuff like that, so immediately, I said, I would like to be open with you guys but this is sounding like an ‘I should get a lawyer’ kind of conversation.”

Protostarr Abandoned ICO and Refunded Investors After SEC Inquiry. Why?

After consulting “multiple lawyers,” Protostarr pulled the plug on its ICO and remitted full refunds, explaining to investors that it did “not have the necessary resources” to deal with an SEC investigation.

Was there a silver lining to the Protostarr ICO? Gilson wrote:

At least ETH is worth more now than it was during the campaign so everyone is getting more value back than they donated. […] We are losing all the money we put into this, but want to make sure our supporters are taken care of.”

Before You Launch an ICO, Consult With A Blockchain Lawyer

When asked about the situation, Gilson lamented:

“We’re just a couple guys who are tech nerds in our basement. It didn’t occur to us that the model everyone else in the world is using would have any specific laws here that would apply to us. We just weren’t aware. In the month leading up to it, we were going full bore, working till 2am every night on the ICO, so we didn’t even see the DAO ruling when it came out until someone brought it to our attention.”

Protostarr’s story is like so many others. In startup development stage, the focus is pathologically on the project — and sometimes, legal considerations get tossed aside and forgotten about. Protostarr’s story should serve as a cautionary one — a reminder that finding a blockchain lawyer, who can advise on compliance issues, should be a top priority — even before launch.

Connect With A Blockchain Lawyer

Are you in the pre-launch stage of a startup? Want to make sure your legal ducks are in a row before your ICO? If so, we can take that off your plate and handle it. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.



The post Failing To Consult With A Blockchain Lawyer Could Cost You Everything appeared first on Kelly / Warner Law | Defamation Law, Internet Law, Business Law.

Source: Kelly Warner Law

Are Exchanges Legally Allowed To Reverse Coin Transactions? 0

reverse coin transactionsMonths ago, a Quoine (also Quoinex) system glitch triggered an erroneous 3,085 bitcoin transfer. Ultimately, the exchange reversed the transaction. In response, the beneficiary sued.

A possible landmark cryptocurrency case, the presiding court may be forced to consider a still unanswered legal question:  Is it legal for exchanges to reverse coin transactions?

The Glitch That Triggered A Multi-Million-Dollar “Erroneous” Bitcoin Transfer

In mid-April, Quoine ran a hack-prevention script. Unfortunately, the protective program triggered a glitch that artificially lowered Bitcoin’s price on its system. Because of the snafu, Quoine user B2C2  was able to purchase ten bitcoins for one ETH. So, he grabbed 3,085 bitcoins, which calculated to US $3.78 million, at the time.

Quoine discovered the out-size exchange and reversed the trade.

B2C2’s Argument: Fraud

B2C2 sued on the grounds that Quoine “acted fraudulently.”

To make matters more (legally) interesting, Quoine’s trading agreement says orders are irreversible — a cornerstone of B2C2’s case. And since the exchange did reverse the trade, the market maker believes Quoine made a tortious misstep by violating its own agreement.

Quoine’s Argument: Obvious Mistake

Quoine, as you may have already guessed, doesn’t think B2C2 has a solid case. It’s primary counter argument? The plaintiff is “being opportunistic and seeking to profit from a technical glitch.”

Who Will Probably Win This Bitcoin Lawsuit?

Who will win? It’s way too early to tell; arguments and evidence have yet to be presented. But if we were to guess, the enforceability of Quoine’s trading agreement, in this scenario, will likely be a crux of the case.

The “Quoine reversal” decision could be a game-changer. Irreversibility is a large part of blockchain’s allure. If exchanges start executing reversals on their own, with global support from courts, the philosophical and technical standards debate will rage, elusively, on.

Connect With A Blockchain Lawyer

Kelly / Warner works with established businesses and startups on blockchain, cryptocurrency, and fintech law matters. Whether you need someone to review an ICO or challenge an opponent in court, we’ll guide you through the process.

Let’s start the conversation.

Article Sources

Helms, K. (2017, August 01). Exchange Sued for 3085 Bitcoins After Reversing Bitcoin-Ether Trades. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from

The post Are Exchanges Legally Allowed To Reverse Coin Transactions? appeared first on Kelly / Warner Law | Defamation Law, Internet Law, Business Law.

Source: Kelly Warner Law