Posts Tagged Lawsuit
Facebook Suit Over Subscriber Tracking Seeks $15 Billion
By Kit Chellel and Jeremy Hodges - May 18, 2012
Facebook Inc. (FB), the social network operator whose shares began trading today, was sued for $15 billion in an amended complaint by subscribers who claim the company invaded their privacy by tracking their Internet use.
In the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Jose, California, the plaintiffs sayFacebook improperly tracked users even after they logged out. Twenty-one cases making similar claims have been consolidated before the court. The latest filing seeks to proceed on behalf of U.S. residents who subscribed to Facebook from May 2010 to September 2011.
The ‘Facebook’ logo on sunglasses as she browses on a tablet. Photographer: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images
Facebook, which sold stock in an initial public offering valuing the company at about $104 billion, has been scrutinized by regulators in the U.S. and Europe over how it protects users’ private information. Last year, a German data-protection agency said it may fine the Menlo Park, California-based company over facial-recognition software used for tagging photos.
“This is not just a damages action, but a groundbreaking digital-privacy rights case that could have wide and significant legal and business implications,” David Straite, a partner at Stewarts Law, which represents some of the users, said in an e- mailed statement.
Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that the claims are without merit and the company will contest them.
Straite said his firm is evaluating ways to add non-U.S. residents to the group of plaintiffs.
The U.S. Wiretap Act “provides statutory damages of the greater of $100 per violation per day, up to $10,000, per Facebook user,” according to the complaint. Facebook’s more than 800 million members are entitled to about $15 billion in total, according to the plaintiffs.
Facebook sold 421.2 million shares at $38 each to raise $16 billion, it said in a statement yesterday. That values the company at $104.2 billion, or 107 times trailing 12-month earnings, more than every S&P 500 member except Amazon.com Inc. and Equity Residential. (EQR)
The shares rose 23 cents above the IPO price of $38 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.
The case is In re: Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation, 5:12-md-02314-EJD, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
- $16B Should Cover It: Here’s The $15B Facebook Privacy Class Action Suit, And Facebook’s Response (techcrunch.com)
- Class-action suit seeks $15 billion from Facebook over user tracking (thetechblock.com)
- Facebook sued by users for $15 billion in suit over Internet tracking (thestar.com)
- Facebook sued for $15b in suit over user tracking (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Facebook Hit With $15 Billion User Tracking Lawsuit (mashable.com)
- Report: Facebook Sued For $15 Billion Over Improper User Tracking (marketingland.com)
- Facebook hit with $15B class-action suit over user privacy (venturebeat.com)
- Facebook hit with $15 billion privacy suit on IPO day (bgr.com)
- Facebook slapped with $15 billion lawsuit for allegedly violating wiretap laws (digitaltrends.com)
- Facebook Hit with Lawsuit Alleging Privacy Wrongs: Seeks $10K for each Member (pcworld.com)
Yet Another Judge Slams Copyright Trolls; Warns That Courts Should Not Be Used To ‘Bludgeon’ People Into Settling | Techdirt
Yet Another Judge Slams Copyright Trolls; Warns That Courts Should Not Be Used To ‘Bludgeon’ People Into Settling
from the down-they-go dept
Reminiscent of the Righthaven cases, where once judges realized what was really happening they quickly started dumping them, it seems that we’re reaching the tipping point with porn companies playing the copyright trolling game as well. More and more of the attempts to seek expedited discovery are getting rejected in sternly worded rulings from judges who recognize that the sole purpose of the lawsuit isn’t to go to trial, but to get expedited discovery in order to shake people down for cash. The latest such ruling in an increasingly long line comes out of the Eastern District of NY, where judge Gary Brown issued a nice smackdown on copyright trolls. The judge first notes the ridiculousness of relying on IP addresses to identify the individuals, citing a bunch of cases, before noting that an IP address simply does not indicate the “true identity” of the defendant.
In sum, although the complaints state that IP addresses are assigned to “devices” and thus by discovering the individual associated with that IP address will reveal “defendants’ true identity,” this is unlikely to be the case. Most, if not all, of the IP addresses will actually reflect a wireless router or other networking device, meaning that while the ISPs will provide the name of its subscriber, the alleged infringer could be the subscriber, a member of his or her family, an employee, invitee, neighbor or interloper
There are a number of issues specific to the claims of the plaintiff, K-Beech in this case, including its failure to register the copyrights in question, and a weak attempt at lumping in a trademark claim after this came to light. However, what becomes clear pretty quickly is that the judge isn’t buying any of this, and sees that it’s really just an attempt to use the courts to shake people down. It starts off with the discovery request going far beyond what’s necessary to take a case to trial:
However, not all the information sought is required to advance the claim. For example, in addition to names and addresses, plaintiffs seek both the home telephone numbers and email addresses of the putative John Does… information which is clearly not required to proceed with this action. In particular, obtaining the home telephone numbers seems calculated to further plaintiffs’ settlement strategies, discussed above, rather than advancing their claims by allowing them to effect service.
But the larger point is that the court recognizes these kinds of copyright trolling lawsuits as “abusive litigation tactics.” While the court notes that it can and should encourage settlements, it also notes that the rules say those settlements should be “just” and it’s not clear that’s what’s happening here:
Our federal court system provides litigants with some of the finest tools available to assist in resolving disputes; the courts should not, however, permit those tools to be used as a bludgeon.
The court then goes on to agree with many other courts in noting that lumping a bunch of defendants together in the same lawsuit is improper joinder, and agrees to only allow discovery on the very first IP address named in each of the lawsuits being considered.
On the whole, there isn’t that much different about this ruling from a bunch of other recent rulings, but it’s another one to add to the pile, and it gets clearer and clearer every day that the courts are now aware of how trolls are abusing the system, and less and less likely to allow such abuse.
- Judges hate copyright trolls too (boingboing.net)
- Furious judge decries “blizzard” of copyright troll lawsuits (arstechnica.com)
- Court slaps down the use of IP addresses in file-sharing cases (zdnet.com)
- ISPs Ask Judge To Quash Subpoena In Troll Case — Or Let Them Appeal (eff.org)
- 3 Count: Lonely Righthaven (plagiarismtoday.com)
- Copyright Trolling For Dummies – John Wiley & Sons Threaten to Actually Sue People in Court (dietrolldie.com)
- “The court is not an ex-girlfriend’s Facebook wall,” judge teaches a troll Douglas McIntyre (fightcopyrighttrolls.com)
- Band and label president had no idea copyright trolls were suing on their behalf (boingboing.net)
- Copyright-trolls: mind your own extra-judicial business, court says (arstechnica.com)
- Hollywood’s Trolls (eff.org)
Facebook asserts trademark on word “book” in new user agreement
| Published a day ago
Facebook has trademarks on its name and many variations of it—including the letter “F”. The company is expanding its claim over the word “book”.
Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word “book” by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.
You may recall that Facebook has launched multiple lawsuits against websites incorporating the word “book” into their names. Facebook, as far as we can tell, doesn’t have a registered trademark on “book.” But trademark rights can be asserted based on use of a term, even if the trademark isn’t registered, and adding the claim to Facebook’s user agreement could boost the company’s standing in future lawsuits filed against sites that use the word.
“Unregistered marks are quite common in the US,” University of Minnesota Law Professor William McGeveran told Ars. “Rights arise from use, not registration (though registration does give you some other advantages). That’s how Facebook can try to claim ‘book.’” If you see a ™ next to a name, that indicates an unregistered, claimed trademark, whereas an R in a circle signifies a registered one, McGeveran notes.
So, what exactly is Facebook changing? If you view the current Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, you’ll find this sentence:
“You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.”
If you’re wondering, 32665 is the number allowing Facebook users to update their pages through text message. The newly revised user agreement reads as follows (emphasis ours):
“You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Book and Wall), or any confusingly similar marks, except as expressly permitted by our Brand Usage Guidelines or with our prior written permission.”
Not accepting the terms isn’t really an option for anyone with a Facebook account. “By using or accessing Facebook, you agree to this Statement,” the document says.
Facebook gobbles up trademarks on variations of its name
A search of the trademark database maintained by the US Patent and Trademark Office shows Facebook with 73 active trademarks, many of them covering different uses of the words “Facebook” and “like.” Other registered trademarks cover the letter “F,” “Face,” “FB,” the number “0″ with a period, “F8,” “Facebook Developer Garage,” “Wall,” “Facepile,” “Nextstop.com,” “Facebook for good,” “Friendfeed,” Facebook Insights,” “Facebook Pages,” and “Facebook Ads.”
“Book” doesn’t appear on the US list. In November 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that Facebook was successful in trademarking “Face,” but might have a tougher time gaining rights to the word “book.” A company called myEworkBook filed an application to get the “Book” trademark in the US, but abandoned the application in February 2012 after an unfavorable decision by the trademark review board.
Facebook has a pending trademark application on “book” listed in the European Union’s trademark database, but the current status is “application opposed” with “likelihood of confusion” listed as the reason for opposition. There are already numerous European trademark claims over “book,” but in different contexts than the social media one claimed by Facebook.
Status of lawsuits Facebook filed against other “books”
We contacted Facebook yesterday afternoon, and haven’t heard back from the company. Facebook has had mixed results when asserting trademark rights over “book” in court. Facebook’s lawsuit against “Teachbook” isstill pending. Facebook settled a suit it filed against Lamebook, allowing the parody site to continue operating. Facebook gained control of a porn site domain called “FacebookOfSex.com.” A travel site called Placebook changed its name in 2010, choosing not to fight—no surprise given the large expense of litigation.
“Maybe I was being naïve, but I thought I could convince the lawyers at Facebook that our site was totally impossible to confuse with theirs,” the Placebook site owner wrote in a blog.
How the new user agreement helps Facebook assert the trademark
Clearly, Facebook wasn’t shy about asserting trademark rights on “book” before today. But updating its user agreement gives the company added ammunition in litigation. The updated Statement of Rights and Obligations hasn’t taken effect yet, but a comment period expired yesterday.
“They hope that by putting it in TOS (terms of service) they can improve the enforceability of their asserted trademark rights,” McGeveran said.
The “book” addition to the user agreement isn’t as strong as a registered trademark or copyright, but provides extra protection, says intellectual property attorney Denis Ticak of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. The difference is that instead of extending to anyone who infringes upon the trademark, the user agreement covers only people who actually use Facebook—which, of course, is a substantial percentage of the population of Earth.
“Adding that term merely changes the agreement we all become a party to when we accept the terms of service/use the site/etc.,” Ticak told Ars. “So, it offers some layer of protection against use of ‘book’ in, say, a company or website name. But, it only extends to those who accept the statement of rights and responsibilities.’ Let’s say you go out and create ‘Brodkinbook.’ Whether or not they have a registered trademark on ‘book,’ since you in all likelihood use Facebook and so have accepted that contract, they can arguably prevent you from using that name on the site.”
- Facebook Asserts Trademark On “Book” In New User Agreement (tech.slashdot.org)
- Broken Hartz Does Not Like This (brokenhartz.wordpress.com)
- You’ve started a business, but is your brand protected? (thenextweb.com)
- What Should Job Seeking Millennials on Facebook Do? (connectwithyourteens.net)
- Trademarks | Franchise Disclosure Documents | Item 13 (minnesotaattorney.com)
- Facebook Faces Jurisdictional Hurdle in its Trademark Lawsuit Against Faceporn–Facebook v. Pedersen (ericgoldman.org)
- Trademark Lawsuit Over Website Text Comparing Products Baffles the Judge–AR Pillow v. Cottrell (ericgoldman.org)
- FACEBOOK Was Born a Lousy Trademark (forbes.com)
- New Trademarkia Feature Exposes Biggest Trademark Bullies; Apple, Zynga Among Top Five (techcrunch.com)
- Rocksmith trademark dispute unresolved (vg247.com)