A tribute to Section 230: “No other sentence in the U.S. Code, I would assert, has been responsible for the creation of more value than that one; if you have other candidates for that honor you think more worthy, please do share them.” — David Post on the fateful, intermediary-immunizing “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This bar to liability, Post writes, helped make possible “virtually every successful online venture that emerged after 1996 — including all the usual suspects, viz. Google, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Reddit, Craigslist, YouTube, Instagram, eBay, Amazon.”
“The proposal takes eBay’s dispute resolution system as a kind of inspiration.” Would the idea work here? [NPR]
- Police have traced the crime wave to a single micro-neighborhood in the California capital [Sacramento Bee]
- “Adam Carolla Settles with the Patent Trolls” [Daniel Nazer/EFF, Reason, related eight days earlier and previously] eBay takes on Landmark in the E.D. of Texas [Popehat]
- Frank Furedi on law and the decline in childrens’ freedom to roam [U.K. Independent]
- On “ban the box” laws re: asking about job applicants’ criminal records, it’s sued if you do, sued if you don’t [Coyote]
- Fake law firm websites in U.K. sometimes parasitize the real ones [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- What C. Steven Bradford of the blog Business Law Prof reads to keep up (and thanks for including us on list);
- As applications to renounce U.S. citizenship mount, many related to FATCA, our government hikes fee for doing so by 422% [Robert Wood, Forbes]
After a shipment purchased on eBay arrived postage due without warning, a buyer posted mildly negative feedback about the seller, an Ohio outfit calling itself Med Express (there are a number of suppliers with similar names). The seller offered to cover the charge, but also demanded that buyer Amy Nicholls take down the feedback, which she declined to do. Now it’s suing her, reports Paul Levy of Public Citizen, even though its lawyer appears to concede the feedback was accurate. [Mike Masnick, TechDirt] Ken at Popehat:
This is the ugly truth of the legal system: litigants and lawyers can manipulate it to impose huge expense on defendants no matter what the merits of their complaint. Censors can abuse the system to make true speech so expensive and risky that citizens will be silenced. Regrettably, Ohio does not have an anti-SLAPP statute, so Med Express and James Amodio can behave in this matter with relative impunity. If Ms. Nicholls has to incur ruinous legal expenses to vindicate her rights, the bad guys win, whatever the ultimate outcome of the case.
If they were really transferable, we’d all be in trouble. [Stephanie Landsman, CNBC “NetNet”]
Related: Sunday’s New York Times has a long article asking whether law schools are adequately disclosing the high likelihood that their costly offerings will turn out to be a poor investment for many heavily indebted students. Should U.S. News law-school rankings, like cigarette packs, carry warnings? [Above the Law]
“Nikki Foote of Henderson [Nevada] was sued over comments she allegedly posted charging that the Gucci handbag she purchased for $495 was a fake.” [Las Vegas Sun]
- Yielding to pressure from state AGs, Craigslist will close “erotic services” section and replace with more highly moderated “adult services”; New York’s Cuomo is furious the site took unilateral action “in the middle of the night” rather than negotiating with him [NY Times, Hartford Courant, office of Connecticut AG (and longtime Overlawyered bete noire) Richard Blumenthal, Citizen Media Law, Above the Law] More: Ambrogi.
- Or they could absorb it and move on: “Bounty sues Brawny in paper towel tilt” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
- Was granting patents relating to diagnostic analysis of human genes a mistake? Should courts undo it? Via constitutional law? Three different questions there [Ars Technica, Doc Gurley/San Francisco Chronicle]
- Canadian Human Rights Commission wants new ban on discrimination based on “social condition” (with concomitant penalties for hurtful speech premised on such condition) [Ken at Popehat]
- Luxury-goods makers’ suits against eBay over sale of counterfeits may be petering out [Frankel, American Lawyer]
- Today must be exotic-dancer-litigation day at Overlawyered: Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denies trademark protection for “Cuffs and Collar Mark” of Chippendales male exotic dancers [TTA Blog via Lowering the Bar, Ron Coleman, opinion in PDF]
- Allegations fail to stick: “Judge drops class-action suit on Teflon cookware” [AP/Des Moines Register, WSJ, American Lawyer; earlier here and here]
- Asbestos litigation ramps up against Detroit automakers after bankruptcy of many earlier defendants [five years ago on Overlawyered; up-to-the-minute report from Kirk Hartley]
- Somehow not shocked to hear this: “ABA Pushes for 1,000-Lawyer Legal Corps” [ABA Journal]
- Appeals court will consider whether Roommates.com violated fair housing law by asking subscribers about sexual orientation [Heller, OnPoint News]
- World gone mad: Bank of America has given ACORN nearly $3 million since 2005 [Capital Research Center] Group hasn’t given up its old lawbreaking ways [Michelle Malkin]
- Gloria Allred representing injured passenger who rode with Morgan Freeman [AP, PopSquire, Janet Charlton]
- If even they can’t comply you know it’s bad: Federal Labor Relations Authority found to have committed unfair labor practice [Workplace Prof]
- Poor England, perhaps it’s time to retire its reputation as a place of civil liberties [Ken @ Popehat] Related: we’ve cleared you of child abuse, but it’s too late to get your children back, beastly sorry about that [Neatorama]
- When the judge writes well, even a slip and fall verdict can make for agreeable reading [Turkewitz]
- “Ebay Founder Tweets About An Unusual Lawsuit” [NY Times “Bits”, Pierre Omidyar]
In our previous posts about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the federal law passed by Congress last year in the wake of the panic over Chinese toys with lead paint, we noted that it threatened to drive out of business a lot of small makers of wooden toys and other childrens’ products who cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars per lot to confirm the absence of lead paint (or phthalates, another banned substance) in their wares. A group called Handmade Toy Alliance has formed to call attention to the law’s burden on small manufacturers, and offers further detail at its website.
As reports in the last week make clear, however, a second economic disaster is also looming: thrift and secondhand stores around the country sell a large volume of clothing, toys and other items meant for use by those under 12, and are now exposed to stringent liability under the law. “The reality is that all this stuff will be dumped in the landfill,” predicted Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops. Among the biggest losers if stores stop selling secondhand kids’ items: poorer parents who would have trouble dressing a growing family if they had to buy, say, winter coats new for $30 rather than used for $5 or $10. The regs are scheduled to take effect Feb. 10.
On January 8, as press coverage mounted, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) rushed out a supposed clarification of the regulations: thrift shops, eBay sellers and other second-hand retailers would not be compelled to institute testing programs on all items sold, the way manufacturers would. But the commission made clear that if the stores do wind up selling any secondhand products containing the substances — phthalates, for example, are often found in bendy plastics — they face both criminal liability and civil fines (which run up to $100,000). It isn’t required that the store know or should have known that a pre-2009 item was in violation, and of course it isn’t required that anyone be harmed by the good (the entire episode has gone on with a near-total absence of any showing that actual kids had been harmed by the products swept from American shelves).
None of which seems to faze some advocates of the new measure. At Law and More, Jane Genova quotes Sue Gunderson, executive director of an anti-lead-paint group called ClearCorps:
What thrift stores seem to be requesting [in Gunderson’s view] is for the right to expose children to health and safety hazards. “Let’s get our priorities straight,” she insists. She goes on to pose this rhetorical question: “Mmmmmm, do we want cheap, second-hand toys that could damage children?” She frames this issue as a “business” one which the thrift-store industry will have to solve just as will every other business impacted by the new act.
If you think this is all too crazy to actually be happening, wait until you read the Boston Phoenix’s piece on the law’s threat to libraries:
“We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries,” said [Emily] Sheketoff [associate executive director of the American Library Association]. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she says, “or they ban children from the library.”