A county judge in Texarkana, Ark., where the action happens to have been filed, has approved Google’s settlement of a nationwide lawsuit over advertisers’ losses allegedly attributable to “click fraud”, that is to say, non-bona fide clicks on their ads. “By settling claims made in the plaintiffs’ class-action lawsuit, Google will give advertising credits that are the equivalent of a $3.80 refund on every $1,000 spent in its advertising network during the past 4 1/2 years. No one will receive cash except the lawyers, who will split $30 million.” (“Judge approves $90 million settlement in Google click fraud case”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Jul. 28). Numerous class members had objected, calling the proposed settlement unfair and inadequate “because it includes poor calculations, excessive attorney fees and e-mailed class notices that look like spam.” Similar lawsuits “still are pending against other defendants, including Yahoo Inc.; Time Warner Inc.’s America Online; and Ask Jeeves”. (Amanda Bronstad, “Google ‘Click Fraud’ Settlement Criticized”, National Law Journal, Jul. 19).
Posts Tagged ‘Google’
Search engine index
Six of the eight most expensive Google AdSense search terms are for attorneys (the other two are for mortgage and loan refinancing), with “mesothelioma lawyers” topping the charts at $54.33. A regularly updated page can be found here. (CyberWyre blog, Mar. 23 (h/t Slim)). Earlier search-engine follies: Apr. 8, 2004; Nov. 18, 2004.
(“McDonalds coffee lawsuit” [sic] goes for $0.67, which is a shame, because the top ten links all refer back to ATLA’s propaganda on the subject. Perhaps if our blogging readers could link to our coverage…?)
Update: Clearly, there’s a lot of competition for that “mesothelioma lawyer” keyword, given the $54.33 price; this is because there is a lot of easy profit to be made on mesiothelioma cases by lawyers: there are so many defendants, and so many cases, that attorneys and defendants find it cheaper to settle for nuisance sums, which add up quickly to an automatic profit for the attorney, even if the case is tried and lost against recalcitrant defendants who dare to expose themselves to lottery litigation (cf. also POL Jun. 10, 2005). The interesting question is what market failure has occurred such that this gigantic profit is not being competed away by, say, offering clients a smaller attorneys’ fee. This is surplus that should be going to clients, not to Google. Is there collusion not to lower attorneys’ fees? If consumer advocates cared about consumers, rather than attorneys, we might see some investigation into the matter.
I’ve refused to publish a few comments. Reasons why in the jump.
Agence France-Presse sues Google
Because aggregating headlines, first sentences of stories, and (sometimes) tiny little thumbnails of pictures constitutes an outrageous trampling on the French news service’s intellectual property, it wants at least $17.5 million in damages. (“AFP sues Google for news aggregation”, PhysOrg.com, Mar. 20). We covered the issue Nov. 9.
Imperfect Lawsuits: Perfect 10 v. Google (and Visa and …)
“Perfect 10” is an unsuccessful California pornography business that has branched out into the litigation business with the same results. The company is justifiably upset that disreputable pornographers are stealing their copyrighted photos for their web sites. (We know you’re shocked to hear that some pornographers are disreputable, but we call ’em like we see ’em here at Overlawyered.) But unsatisfied with the results of suing fly-by-night operators, they tried to sue the billing services these sites used. These suits were mostly shut down; a federal court held that billing services that aren’t responsible for web site content are not, well, responsible for web site content. (A billing service that did regulate content did not fare so well. Perfect 10 Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures Inc., 213 F. Supp. 2d 1146.)
Then Perfect 10 took on credit card companies Visa and MasterCard. The credit card companies noted that they processed millions of transactions a day, and could not do so economically if they had to be responsible for enforcing property rights of third parties, and compared it to a company “send[ing] a notice to the electric company supplying power to people infringing its rights and say ‘shut them off.'” The Northern District of California threw those cases out.
With this track record, you’d think the media would be more skeptical now that the company has sued Google for providing a search engine with which someone can find web sites that infringe Perfect 10’s copyright, instead of giving company president Norman Zada an unrebutted platform, but the idea of a lawsuit over pictures of naked women is apparently too titillating to resist. Because, of course, a search engine shouldn’t just index the web, but should have intelligent spiders that test the propriety of the web sites indexed. Perfect 10 seems to be trying to get around this problem with their lawsuit by alleging that Google prioritizes search engine results for participants in its Ad Sense program and is lying to the public when it says its search engine results are objective. One wonders why Google doesn’t more prominently feature this benefit of sending them money, as well as about the Rule 11 basis for this allegation. Meanwhile, I guess we should be happy that Bo Derek never sued Perfect 10. (Wendy Davis, “Adult Publisher Sues Google For Copyright Infringement”, MediaDailyNews, Nov. 23; AP, Nov. 23; Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, Nov. 22; Chris Gaither, “Porn Firm Sues Google Over Photos”, LA Times, Nov. 20; Brenda Sandburg, “Strange Bedfellows”, The Recorder, June 7; Gretchen Gallen, “Perfect 10 Sues Visa/MasterCard”, XBiz, Jan. 29). Other Google lawsuits: Nov. 9, Aug. 9, Mar. 28.
Google News: forever a beta?
Though a smash success with readers, Google News is still in “beta” status three years after its launch and has not attempted to become economically self-sufficient through the sale of advertising. “The reason: The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that ‘fair use’ doesn’t cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles.” (Adam Penenberg, “Google News: Beta Not Make Money”, Wired News, Sept. 29). Update Mar. 21: Agence France-Presse sues Google.
Lerach to Google: cough up bettor bucks
“Lerach Coughlin Stoia & Robbins …filed a class action against Yahoo Inc., Google Inc. and 10 other Internet search engines that claims they have been promoting illegal gambling on their Web sites and requests that they fork over the ad revenue. The complaint, filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court, requests that the search engines put revenue from advertising Internet gambling into a fund that would provide restitution to California Indian Tribes or other licensed gambling businesses in California. The complaint says money in the fund would also go to the spouses of gamblers who have had community property taken away as a result of illegal gambling and to the state treasury.” (Brenda Sandburg, “Casino Come-Ons Return Bad Result for Search Sites”, The Recorder, Aug. 5; David Legard, “Gambling lawsuit filed against top Web content sites”, IDG/Computerworld, Aug. 4). For questions about the legality of accepting advertising from offshore casinos, see Apr. 21. Earlier lawsuits have gone after credit card companies for facilitating offshore gambling transactions (see Dec. 7, 1999), but a Lerach attorney said this was the first suit against search engines.
“Is talking about online gambling illegal?”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, running an ad for an offshore Internet casino may amount to “aiding and abetting” illegal gambling, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Rendering banking, computer-security or public-relations services to such a website — or maybe even mentioning its name — might constitute a violation as well, and it matters not that the site may be entirely lawful in the country from which it operates. Although it is far from clear that U.S. prosecutors could actually obtain convictions that would stand up on such charges, both Google and Yahoo have capitulated and agreed to stop running such ads, which “illustrates the chilling effect of vague laws in the hands of ambitious prosecutors,” writes Jacob Sullum. (“Abetting betting”, syndicated/Reason, Apr. 9). Update Aug. 9: and here come the class action suits.
Update: PetsWarehouse case
Latest chapter in the ongoing PetsWarehouse saga (Dec. 28, Oct. 5 and links from there): Robert Novak’s lawsuit against Google and two other search engines was allowed to stand. Novak accused the search engines of violating the law by selling advertising tied to his trademarked phrase “pets warehouse”. (Declan McCullagh, “Judge won’t toss out Google, Overture suit”, CNet News, Apr. 6; Mar. 25 opinion). Update Oct. 16 (Novak prevails in a different action).