Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
August 14, 2001, 9:00 AM ET, Alert No. 248.
TLJ Home Page | News from the Web | Calendar | Search | Back Issues
U.S. Business Groups File Amicus Brief in Yahoo v. LICRA
8/6. Several American business groups filed an amicus curiae brief [PDF] with the U.S. District Court (NDCal) in the case Yahoo v. LICRA. The case, which concerns French efforts to limit speech on Yahoo servers located in the U.S., involves constitutional and jurisdictional issues raised by Internet speech.
French Action. Last year two French groups, LICRA and UEJF, obtained a judgment from a French court ordering Yahoo to "render impossible" access by persons in France to certain content on servers located in the United States.
U.S. Action. Yahoo, which is a Delaware corporation based in San Jose, California, then filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the judgment the French court is unenforceable in the U.S. as contrary to the U.S. Constitution.
French Motion to Dismiss. The French, who asserted French jurisdiction over Yahoo in their suit in France, asserted that the U.S. Court did not have jurisdiction over them in Yahoo's suit against them. They filed a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss the complaint in the U.S. District Court for lack of personal jurisdiction. The District Court issued its Order Denying Motion to Dismiss [PDF] on June 7. It held that it had personal jurisdiction over the defendants under California's long arm jurisdiction statute, which permits a court to exercise jurisdiction to the full extent authorized by the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. The Court stated that the purposeful availment requirement was met because defendants had written a demand letter to Yahoo in California, used U.S. Marshals in California to serve papers on Yahoo, and sought an order of the French court directing Yahoo's operations in California.
Amici. The groups filing the amicus brief on the merits in support of Yahoo are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Commercial Internet eXchange Assoc., Information Technology Association of America, US Internet Industry Association, Online Publishers Assoc., and U.S. Council for International Business.
Threat to the Internet. Amici argued in their brief that "At issue in this case is whether a foreign country can control the content that U.S. individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses, community organizations, libraries and churches can place on the "exponentially growing, worldwide medium that is the Internet." ", quoting from ACLU v. Reno. The amici stressed that the French ruling could have a "devastating impact" on the Internet and internet commerce. It elaborated that "The decision of the French court in this case represents one of the greatest threats to the promise of the Internet seen to date. The French court concluded that, because French citizens sought out and managed to located material on a U.S. company's website that is offensive to French law, courts in France can assert jurisdiction over the U.S. company, and mandate that the company restrict French citizens' access to that material." Hence, "if the French court's decision is recognized in this country, every piece of information posted on the Internet will have to conform to the laws of every country in which that material might be accessed ..."
Legal Arguments. The amici advanced two legal arguments. First, they argued that "United States courts may not enforce judgments of foreign courts that lack personal jurisdiction over U.S. defendants, because enforcement of such judgment would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment." Second, they argued that "even if a foreign court properly exercises personal jurisdiction over a given defendant, a foreign judgment should not be enforced if the foreign legal system lacked prescriptive jurisdiction over the subject matter of the conduct at issue."
New Documents
USCA: opinion in Seven Words v. Network Solutions, 8/13 (PDF, USCA).
USChamber: amicus curiae brief of U.S. business groups in Yahoo v. LICRA, 8/6 (PDF, CDT).
Ninth Circuit Rules Seven Dirty Words Case Is Moot
8/13. The U.S. Court of Appeals (9thCir) issued its opinion in Seven Words v. Network Solutions a case regarding the principle of mootness. This appeal arose out of the incessant efforts by Seven Words LLC to compel Network Solutions, on freedom of speech grounds, to register to it as domain names various "dirty words" once used by comedian George Carlin.
NSI's Refusal to Register. Seven Words LLC initially sought to register ten second level domain names through Network Solutions (NSI). The names included seven words that were the subject of a comic monologue titled "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" from the recording "Class Clown" by George Carlin (Little David Records, 1972). Seven Words sought to register each word with each of the top level domains (TLDs) of .com, .org, and .net. NSI, which at the time had the exclusive authority to register domain names with these TLDs, refused to register domains containing all but one of the dirty words, on the grounds that it violated its policy against registering domains it deemed inappropriate.
Seven Words I. Seven Words filed an original complaint in the U.S. District Court (CDCal) against NSI for injunctive and declaratory relief, but not damages. It sought an order compelling NSI to register the names. It also sought a declaration that NSI violated its rights under the federal and California law. It later sought registration of six more similar words; NSI again refused; and, it sought to amend its complaint. This complaint included a claim for damages. Meanwhile, a similarly minded plaintiff on the east coast sought registration of some of the same words. NSI refused her requests as well. She filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (DNH) alleging violation of her First Amendment rights. The California action (Seven Words I) was transferred to New Hampshire, and consolidated with that action. The District Court in California declined to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim. Seven Words failed to comply with various orders issued by the New Hampshire court, and as a result, its portion of that consolidated action was dismissed.
Seven Words II. Seven also filed a second action in California state court, based on the same refusal to register dirty words, but this time only alleged violation of California law. It did not seek damages until the case was on appeal. NSI removed the case to U.S. District Court, based upon diversity of citizenship. This case, Seven Words II, was assigned to the same judge, Stephen Wilson, that heard Seven Words I. NSI then moved to dismiss Seven Words II for failure to state a claim, pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6). The Court granted this motion. This appeal followed.
Registration of Dirty Words to Third Parties. Meanwhile, the dirty words for which Seven Words sought registration (except for some which were subject to an order in the New Hampshire action) were not the subject of any court injunction. They were registered to other parties. After the registration of six words, Seven Words sought an injunction from the Court in Seven Words II. The request was denied, and Seven Words did not appeal that decision. When the New Hampshire Court proceeded to release the words under its control, Seven Words took no action prevent that release. Those words were then registered. By the time the present appeal was heard, all of the words at issue had been registered to third parties.
Mootness. The U.S. Court of Appeals did not address the merits of the appeal. Rather, it ruled that the case had been rendered moot by the registration of the words in dispute to third parties. The Court wrote that "Seven Words never sought damages in this litigation (until a few days before argument in this court) and, indeed, effectively disavowed damages for tactical reasons. As for the declaratory relief, which is closely intertwined with the injunctive relief, there is no longer a live controversy. At this juncture, Seven Words effectively seeks an advisory opinion. We conclude that neither of these claims is sufficient to resurrect Seven Words's suit." The Court continued that "Here, the dispute with NSI has "evaporated" and there is no remaining potentially adverse effect on the interests of the parties. NSI no longer has a policy prohibiting registration of domain names containing certain words; NSI is no longer the only company that can register the domain names; and the domain names have already been registered to third parties." The Court also commented that "a timely claim for damages could have saved this case from dismissal for mootness ..."
Finally, the Court granted NSI's motion with respect to mootness, vacated the District Court's judgment in favor of NSI, and instructed the District Court to dismiss the case as moot.
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California, which apparently has way too much free time on its hands, filed an amicus curiae brief.
Covad Settles Securities Class Action Suit
8/13. Covad Communications, which provides Internet access services via DSL, announced that it and the other defendants have settled the case D.C. Capital Partners v. Covad Communications Group. This is a securities class action case pending in the U.S. District Court (NDCal). Covad stated that "Under the terms of this agreement, Covad will contribute to the settlement fund shares equal to 3 1/2 percent of its fully diluted common stock as of August 10, 2001. Covad's insurance carriers will fund the cash portion of the settlement. Covad and the other defendants continue to deny plaintiffs' allegations." See, Covad release.
Tuesday, August 21
Deadline to submit comments to the FCC in response to its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the concept of a unified intercarrier compensation regime, including reciprocal compensation, and alternative approaches such as "bill and keep." See, notice in Federal Register, May 23, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 100, at Pages 28410 - 28418.
Wednesday, August 22
Deadline to submit comments to the Copyright Office (CO) in response to its notice of proposed rule making regarding rates and terms for the digital performance of sound recordings. The CO requests comment on proposed regulations that will govern the RIAA collective when it functions as the designated agent receiving royalty payments and statements of accounts from nonexempt, subscription digital transmission services which make digital transmissions of sound recordings under the provisions of Section 114 of the Copyright Act. See, Federal Register, July 23, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 141, at Pages 38226 - 38229.
Trial Court Quashes Subpoena for Names of Anonymous Posters
8/10. The Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County, Judge Neil Cabrinha presiding, issued a bench ruling in Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc. v. Gregg Sturtz, quashing a subpoena directed to Yahoo for the identities of anonymous posters who criticized PPLS on a Yahoo message board. Two of the anonymous posters targeted by the subpoena are represented by EFF. See, EFF release.
FCC NPRM Re Local Competition
8/13. The FCC published a notice of regarding its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register regarding implementation of the local competition provisions of the Telecom Act of 1996. This notice invites parties to update and refresh the record on issues pertaining to the rules the FCC adopted in the First Report and Order in CC Docket No. 96-98. Comments are due by September 12, 2001. Reply comments are due September 27, 2001. See, Federal Register, August 13, 2001, Vol. 66, No. 156, at Page 42499.
FEC Fines Announced
8/13. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) released summary information about 44 cases in which it assessed administrative fines cases totaling $67,525. Several cases involve tech companies or Members of Congress who are involved in tech issues. The FEC fined a committee supporting Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL) $9,000 for not filing a 30 day post general election 2000 report. Rep. Weller, who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, often takes the lead in protecting the interests of high tech workers, the Internet economy, and technology companies on tax issues. The FEC fined a committee supporting Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) $3,500 for the same omission. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, where he is active in intellectual property issues, privacy issues, and in opposing the Tauzin Dingell bill. The FEC fined the Internet Leadership PAC $825 for late filing of the same post election report. Finally, the FEC fined the Qwest PAC $900 for late filing of the report. See, FEC release.
About Tech Law Journal
Tech Law Journal is a free access web site and e-mail alert that provides news, records, and analysis of legislation, litigation, and regulation affecting the computer and Internet industry. This e-mail service is offered free of charge to anyone who requests it. Just provide TLJ an e-mail address.

Number of subscribers: 1,955.
Contact: 202-364-8882; E-mail.
P.O. Box 15186, Washington DC, 20003.
Privacy Policy
Notices & Disclaimers
Copyright 1998 - 2001 David Carney, dba Tech Law Journal. All rights reserved.