The Internet Law Blog


Broadband in the Bathroom. MSN is putting PCs in porta-johns! No joke. MSN UK is creating what Microsoft calls the world's first Internet outhouse, or iLoo, complete with flat-screen plasma display, wireless keyboard and broadband access. The portable lavatory is being tested and will debut at festivals around Great Britain this summer. Microsoft plans to build a single prototype MSN iLoo that will travel the festival circuit, and may build more if the response to the pioneering potty warrants it. Of course, they are negotiating with toilet paper manufacturers for special rolls with URLs printed on them. UPDATE: It IS a joke after all.

My wish list keeps growing. PoGo! Products is on to something with Radio YourWay. It's an MP3 player with a built-in AM/FM radio recorder that can be set to record at specific times, and can save up to four hours of programming as MP3 files which can then be transferred to a PC when you run out of space. There are a few radio programs that I don't like to miss and this would be a slick way to catch them.


Apple Music is a GREAT service at the wrong price. Apple rolled out its new iTunes Music Store last week to rave reviews (they sold 275,000 tracks in 18 hours). There are no monthly fees. You can buy as many or as few songs as you like. There's no special Web browser or any new software. You can play a free 30-second preview of any song, and if you like what you hear, you just click a single button to buy it. No shopping-cart screens appear. The songs you buy begin downloading to your computer immediately. Every purchased song includes a picture of the album cover, which shows up in iTunes when you play the track. Once you buy a song, it's yours to keep. It never expires. You can copy it to as many as three computers, which don't have to be owned by the same person, or even be in the same location. You can copy each song to an unlimited number of iPods, and burn each song to an unlimited number of home-made CDs. All for 99 cents per song.

Even at 99 cents, the cost still seems too high to attract users of peer-to-peer file-trading services. Some people say that even at $.18 a song, the price would be too high.

My former Copyright Law professor at the University of Texas, Neil Netanel, advocates a compulsory licensing scheme. This is one of those fairly rare cases when I agree with a prof. Under a compulsory licensing scheme, people would pay a tax of around 4 percent on ISP subscriptions or purchases of devices that download or play content from file-trading services. The proceeds of the tax would compensate copyright owners for revenues lost because of file trading. Everyone wins. The copyright owner gets paid and the otherwise honest consumer pays an imperceptible upcharge for technology and gets the peace of mind that comes with paying for the songs he listens to.

GoogleAnswer. I just learned about GoogleAnswer from Ernie the Attorney. For a minimum of $2 you can post a question on just about any topic and get a quick response. Ernie's excursions to Paris caused him to wonder if the French word for heart ("couer") had any relation to the origins of the word "court" as used in the legal sense. The answers he received are more than impressive. It's a pretty cool tool!


Just Finished This Book: The Barbary Plague: The Black Death In Victorian San Francisco. This is an incredible book and the similarities between the bubonic plague and today's SARS epidemic will blow you away. For example, ships were quarantined as they entered port in 1900 just as airlines were quarantined for SARS in 2003; the inception of both the plague and SARS was in the Guandong province of China; and bodies were hidden from health officials in both cases to lessen the tourist impact caused by fear of the illnesses.There is no doubt in my mind that this book will soon become the standard reference on bubonic plague in California. It is the first book length study covering the two plague outbreaks which visited San Francisco between 1900 and 1909. It's wonderfully easy to read and illuminates a history forgotten to all but a few medical historians. The book is by Marilyn Chase, whose writing and research are excellent. She tells of the outbreaks from the perspective of the two United States public health officers most intimately associated with the story, Joseph J. Kinyoun, founder of the NIH, and Rubert Blue, who's success in dealing with the 1907 plague outbreak in San Francisco lead to his elevation to the position of Surgeon General. Definitely worth reading.

Before seeing this, my biggest concern with online auctions was some occasional fraud. I just happened on this on Boing Boing. It appears that there's been some hidden nude self-portraiture on eBay. In addition to this tea kettle, a guitar was offered in which the seller of this guitar is reflected naked in the chrome. If this guy keeps it up, eBay should ban the sale of all reflective objects.


Thanks to Tom Mighell for mentioning The Internet Law Blog in Inter Alia: An Internet Legal Research Weblog, Among Other Things.

Also, thanks to Denise Howell for adding my blog to her Bag and Baggage blog. Denise has been at this a while and I always enjoy catching her comments.


Speaking of Spam. . . You've got to check this out. Three Alaskans taking Spam (the lunch meat, not the email) on their travels. This shot is from Istanbul, Turkey on the "Asia side" in Kadikoy.

Nailing Down Jello: Jail-Time for Spammers in Virginia. Spammers now risk landing in prison and big fines under a tough Virginia law signed today. The penalties can apply even if the sender and recipients live elsewhere because much of the global Internet traffic passes through northern Virginia, home to major online companies such as America Online and MCI and a conduit to major federal communications hubs in neighboring Washington and its suburbs. Although by my count about 27 states have anti-spam laws, no other allows authorities to seize the assets earned from spamming while imposing up to five years in felony prison time.

Meanwhile, two recent Senate proposals that would subject chronic spammers to criminal charges seem to have stalled. The latest plan, introduced this week by Sen. Schumer, authorizes fines and prison time for "severe repeat offenders," Schumer wants to create a national no-spam registry, modeled after do-not-call list legislation enacted this year that enables people to avoid getting calls from telemarketers. Schumer's legislation differs slightly from the Can-Spam Act of 2003, introduced earlier this month by Senators Burns and Ron Wyden. The Burns-Wyden bill does not call for a do-not-spam list, but does propose fines, along with prison terms of up to one year, for spammers who knowingly send unwanted mail with false or misleading headers.

Although the principle behind proposed federal legislation is drawing praise from anti-spam activists, many doubt its practicality. It's easy to outlaw spam, but terribly difficult to catch the outlaws who send it. Or as Robert Bulmash, president of the privacy rights group Private Citizen, said "Pinning down a spammer is like trying to nail down Jell-O."


The Supreme Court Should Leave Jurisdiction Issue to Congress. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal today that would have helped unravel the sticky web of Internet jurisdiction. Northwest Healthcare Alliance apparently didn't feel that it received a sufficient grade from, a company that offers ratings of health care providers on the Internet, so it filed a defamation suit in Washington state., which operates out of Colorado, claimed it wasn't subject to the jurisdiction in Washington. After removal to federal court, the case was dismissed on for lack of personal jurisdiction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, however, finding that "purposefully interjected itself" into the Washington state market by offering rankings that it knew would be of interest mainly to Washington residents. appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court which refused to take the case. Now and lots of commentators are whining about the Supreme Court's failure to act.

While I sympathize with the point that we need to clarify Internet jurisdiction, it really isn't a job that should be left for the Supreme Court. The U.S. Congress has the authority to enact legislation that could provide clear jurisdictional guidance. Congress has the ability to factor in a number of viewpoints and reach a consensus among the states, ISPs and users, an ability that the Supreme Court simply does not have. And hopefully, once the U.S. has clear laws establishing jurisdiction, other countries will follow.


Add This to My Wish List. I've heard a lot of buzz about the Mini-PC and the Web site is finally up. It's a small laptop that weighs less than a pound and is just one inch thick. Made by Vulcan (one of Paul Allen's companies), it will run a full version of Windows XP, and have integrated WiFi, a 5.8-inch LCD screen, a 20GB hard drive, 256MB of RAM and a built-in mini-keyboard. Not bad for $1,999. They say it will be out later this year.

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