One of the topics I have followed closely since the beginning of Web Publishing blog is for profit copyright enforcement.

Lawyers have been using copyright law enforcement for profit for years whether it was Getty Images which has been going after web site owners for years, or Perfect 10 which purchased licenses from photographers for, in my opinion, the sole purpose of suing Google.

Wired Magazine now reports a company from Nevada, RightHaven, is now going after web publishers for republishing newspaper articles on their sites. Similar to Perfect 10’s approach, RightHaven purchases rights to old newspaper articles from newspapers and then takes matters in to their own hands.

Outside of the business context I think this has a chilling effect as most newspapers alter, move, or remove articles from the web over time. For a small website owner when faced with spending a few thousand dollars to make something go away or tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees there is only one easy way out.

Danny Sullivan made a post about this embarassingly silly law that has been passed in Utah.

Establishes a new type of mark, called an electronic registration mark, that may 10 not be used to trigger advertising for a competitor and creates a database for use in 11 administering marks.

Yeah, you read that correctly. They just invented a new form of trademark that applies only to search engine advertising.

Its not exactly breaking news, but Myspace is sueing Scott Richter, an owner of affilaite network CPAEmpire, over what amounts to spamming affiliate offers through stolen Myspace member’s profiles.

Myspace is using the anti-spam CAN-SPAM law to go after Scott and his companies in civil court. There have been other rumours flying that many other companies and individuals will be sued, but nothing appears to have been made public yet. A press release later denied Myspace’s allegations. Additionaly, the lawsuit documents were leaked to WickedFire.

I wouldn’t address this issue at all, but the fact is I have strong connections to the affiliate marketing industry and so do my readers. I even have an account with CPA Empire. Hmm, I don’t think they will ever be seeing any of my traffic.

The fact is, those who have been using stolen accounts may very well have been commiting a criminal offense. Is the FBI looking into this? Considering the scale, I’d put my chips on yes.

My prediction — the companies and affilaites who cross the line aren’t going to be in this business very long. Don’t associate your business with criminals and you won’t attract their problems.

Celebrity tabloid blog PerezHilton.com is very popular. With a WebSearch.com ranking of 698 and an Alexa rank of 1,539 its fair to say there are a lot of readers. The site also happens to make a whole lot of money — estimated at around or over $100,000 a month.

With a popular blog making a whole lot of money you’d think they’d ensure that all images they posted were properly licensed. Wrong. The NY Daily News reports that seven Hollywood photo agencies are ready to sue unless the site’s owner, Mario Lavandeira, starts paying royalties.

PerezHilton isn’t the only one doing this. I can’t recall ever seeing any copyright credits on any of the many celeb blogs that dot the web. There is a grey area between fair use and violating copyright. Posting print-sized images without permission or credit isn’t going to cut it; even if you write a little dumb comment on it in Microsoft Paint.

Plenty of web site owners get away with blatently violating copyright law. The bigger guys use the DMCA (user submitted content, e.g. eBaumsworld and CollegeHumor.com), the smaller guys just fly under the radar. If you are big — or have any plans on being big — make sure you do things the right way.

Since there was a little Google-hate yesterday, how about some Yahoo-hating today?

There is an interesting blog post by Jeff Molander over at ThoughtShapers.com about the Yahoo Checkmate PPC fraud lawsuit.

As I pointed out in August when I recieved a copy of the class action lawsuit, the definition of PPC fraud included some interesting additions: unwanted clicks, unqualified clicks, improper clicks, non-converting clicks, inadequately converting clicks.

I thought it was a case of lawyers being sneaky. It was, but not how I thought. Why would non-converting clicks be included? As any PPC ad buyer knows, the majority of your clicks don’t convert! This would be akin to saying my car spedometer says 120 mph but when I start it up, its at 0.

So why would they include all this rubbish in the lawsuit? Here is a possible answer: in my opinion, Checkmate Strategic Group included them to “bribe” Yahoo into settling this lawsuit quickly. Free money for Checkmate: $5 million. Even better, as Jeff points out, everyone was essentially opted-in in to the lawsuit. If you didn’t follow the directions to leave it, good luck.

For Yahoo, they’ve now slipped out of obligations on a broad range of non-PPC fraud issues. Altogether, they’ve paid a tiny price to wipe away a potentially expensive lawsuit.

This story isn’t really about Yahoo or Checkmate or even click fraud. Its about class action lawsuits. You get a few dollars. The lawyers get a few million. Not a bad business to be in huh?

Here is one for our United States readers. A big election is coming up tommorow. With both parties ignoring your interests staying home has become the most attractive option for many.

CNet published an article written by Declan McCullagh ranking most internet friendly members of US congress (not all are up for re-election.)

I’ve always been of the opinion that past voting records should take precedence over any other factors in an election. If you are on the fence about the election perhaps these rankings will help you make your decision.

Overall, we rewarded politicians who viewed Web sites and computer software as deserving no more regulation than, say, books and magazines–an approach that handed poorer scores to anyone clamoring for new laws. That principle led us to take a dim view of a call for a federal probe of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” and a proposal to target social-networking sites like MySpace.com.

Full article at News.com

From ITWorld – “The complaint by The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), filed Wednesday, asks the FTC to investigate Microsoft’s use of customer data collection in its Web advertising service, called adCenter. The adCenter service targets customers with contextual advertising based on their Web habits.”

For advertising networks and advertisers, behavioral targeting is the next big step. Why only target based on on-page content when you can target ads with that content and that user’s interests, based on a recorded history?

Privacy is a huge issue. However, I am not convinced its going to be a show stopper. The AOL data leak resulted in quite an uproar.. for about 5 days. Is anyone going to care if Microsoft shows them new cars ads because they looked up the new Corvette yesterday?

The Republicans were worried they were going to get too many votes so Bill Frist decided to ban online poker. What other obnoxious government intrusions are on the horizon?

How about the IRS requiring capital gains tax on non-existant imaginary good? Thankful you are not a US citizen? A proposed EU legislation could place broadcast regulations on amateur online video.

If thats bad, how about doing business online when one country says you are breaking the law if you follow the law of another country? Understandable, you can’t expect every single country in the world to agree on anything. When it really gets wierd is when the same government agency starts telling you to do things that conflict with each other. That kind of defeats the point of the whole legal system when everyone is a criminal, right?

But thats business. The market works by rewarding those who can create a solution given the existing environment. The big loser is the consumer, not the business who successfully operates in that given environment.

Update: If you plan on visiting Iran, prepare for slow internet access.

Via PaidContent:

“Universal CEO Doug Morris described these sites as “copyright infringers” during a Merrill Lynch investors’ conference speech on Tuesday . “The poster child for (user-generated media) sites are MySpace and YouTube,” said Morris, according to a transcript obtained by Reuters. “We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars….How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly.””

My prediction: In 20 years News Corp will still be around. Within 15, the big record labels will not be.

From News.com – “Xanga.com, a social-networking and blog site, has been ordered to pay $1 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”

Scroll down to the last page:

“In response to the settlement, Xanga CEO John Hiler said in a statement that many of the 1.7 million “under 13″ birth dates may have actually referred to pet birthdays, engagement dates and “born-again” dates for religious bloggers. Nevertheless, Hiler’s statement also announced that Xanga is initiating new rules and standards to make the site better attuned to child safety.”

Thanks US Government for keeping our kids safe online!