Legal Archive

Nintendo sues ROM sites for ‘mass’ copyright infringement

Nintendo has filed a lawsuit against the alleged operator of the popular console ROM sites LoveROMS.com and LoveRETRO.co. The sites are among the most notorious online hubs for pirated games, according to Nintendo, and face millions of dollars in potential damages.

Even ROM sites come in various flavours, from sites merely offering the ROM images for download without using any trademark imagery or logos, all the way up to sites like LoveROMS and LoveRETRO, which use in-browser emulators so you can play the games in question in your browser, all dressed up in trademarked logos ad imagery.

Little to say here - distributing ROMs is illegal, and while the damages Nintendo claims are clearly insane, there's no grey area here.

Google CEO responds to EU Android fine

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai has responded to the EU's antitrust fine regarding Android. The blog post is exactly what you'd expect - a lot of fluffy language about how amazing Android is and how it helps little kids pet bunnies and all that stuff, with remarkably little substance. There's really no actual reply to the three core claims in the EU ruling, which makes the response rather weak.

One part stood out to me though.

The phones made by these companies are all different, but have one thing in common - the ability to run the same applications. This is possible thanks to simple rules that ensure technical compatibility, no matter what the size or shape of the device. No phone maker is even obliged to sign up to these rules - they can use or modify Android in any way they want, just as Amazon has done with its Fire tablets and TV sticks.

This hits at the core of the ruling, because according to the EU, established through years of research and verifiable through leaked copies of the agreements Google signs with Android device makers, the very problem is that Android bans Android device makers from making or shipping Android devices that do not use Google's version of Android. Pichai seems to claim here that that's not true, but this is something that ought to be easily verifiable, and I doubt the EU would hand down this fine if the agreements between Android device makers and Google didn't clearly specify this.

We'll have to wait and see if Google can substantiate all of this, because if not, Pichai just flat-out lied in an official statement from the company.

EU fines Android for $5 billion for Android antitrust violations

Update: here's the full press release. Here's the three main violations:

In particular, Google:

  • has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google's app store (the Play Store);
  • made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and
  • has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called "Android forks").

Original article continues below.


Google has been hit with a record-breaking €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine by EU regulators for breaking antitrust laws. The European Commission says Google has abused its Android market dominance by bundling its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system. Google has also allegedly blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android, and "made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively bundle the Google Search app on handsets.

I'm okay with bundling applications, but I'm 100% opposed to large corporations like Google blocking competing companies from running forked versions of Android - allowed through Android's licensing - and wealthy corporations basically buying dominance by sending large sums of money to in this case carriers and manufacturers that smaller companies could never afford.

That being said, I do feel like the way we determine what is and is not corporate behaviour damaging to consumers and the market needs some serious overhaul. I've asked this question on OSNews before, but even though Apple doesn't have the market share to qualify as a monopoly, does anyone really want to argue that Apple - which sucks up virtually all of the profits in the handset market, despite its small marketshare - does not have power and influence over the mobile market akin to Google's? Which player has more influence over a market - the player with 10% market share sucking up 90% of the profits, or the player with 90% marketshare sucking up only 10% of the profits?

I'm no economist so I'm not going to claim I know the answer, but it sure does seem like relying solely on market share to evaluate market dominance seems shortsighted, at best.

Why the Supreme Court’s software patent ban didn’t last

The shifting rules about software patentability reflect a long-running tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit loves software patents; the Supreme Court is more skeptical.

That fight continues today. While the Federal Circuit has invalidated many software patents in the four years since the Alice ruling, it also seems to be looking for legal theories that could justify more software patents. Only continued vigilance from the Supreme Court is likely to ensure things don't get out of hand again.

The 40-year-old Flook ruling remains a key weapon in the Supreme Court's arsenal. It's the court's strongest statement against patenting software. And, while software patent supporters aren't happy about it, it's still the law of the land.

That's the third US legal article in a row, but it's a great article that looks at the history of the tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit.

California net neutrality bill gutted due to AT&T bribes

A California net neutrality bill that could have been the strictest such law in the country was dramatically scaled back yesterday after state lawmakers caved to demands from AT&T and cable lobbyists.

While the California Senate approved the bill with all of its core parts intact last month, a State Assembly committee's Democratic leadership yesterday removed key provisions.

"What happened today was outrageous," Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill author, said. "These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only."

Corruption works.

Online retailers can be forced to collect tax, high court rules

The U.S. Supreme Court freed states and local governments to start collecting billions of dollars in new sales taxes from online retailers, overturning a ruling that had made much of the internet a tax-free zone and put traditional retailers at a disadvantage.

News of the ruling caused shares of Internet retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Wayfair Inc. to fall.

The court's 1992 decision involving catalog sales had shielded retailers from tax-collection duties if they didn’t have a physical presence in a state. Writing for the 5-4 court Thursday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that ruling was obsolete in the e-commerce era.

The sticker price not being the actual price you pay at the register is one of those things that always baffles and annoys me whenever I'm visiting the US. It seems odd to me that physical retailers have to charge tax, but online retailers don't. Seems like an odd loophole that needed fixing.

What if Apple loses its Supreme Court App Store antitrust appeal?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court officially picked up the long-running antitrust case Apple v. Pepper. The court will decide whether iPhone users can sue Apple for locking down the iOS ecosystem, something the suit's plaintiffs say is creating an anti-competitive monopoly.

Apple v. Pepper could theoretically affect how tech companies can build walled gardens around their products. The Supreme Court isn't going to make a call on that specific issue, but its decision could affect people's relationship with all kinds of digital platforms. Here's what's at stake when the Supreme Court case starts, which should happen sometime in the next year.

Sideloading code on a computer you own should not void any warranties.

The EU’s bizarre war on memes is totally unwinnable

On June 20, the European Parliament will set in motion a process that could force online platforms like Facebook, Reddit and even 4chan to censor their users' content before it ever gets online.

A proposed new European copyright law wants large websites to use "content recognition technologies" to scan for copyrighted videos, music, photos, text and code in a move that that could impact everyone from the open source software community to remixers, livestreamers and teenage meme creators.

Anybody who has ever had any dealings with YouTube's Content ID system will know just how terrible of an idea this is.

Washington sues Facebook, Google over political ad spending

Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information - such as the advertiser's address - as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general.

Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided".

PUBG takes US game firm to court

Korean game developer PUBG, a subsidiary of Bluehole, has filed a copyright violation lawsuit against U.S.-based Epic Games, asking a court to determine whether the latter's "Fortnite" was copied from the former's "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds."

A PUBG official said Friday that the firm filed an injunction, alleging copyright infringement, with the Seoul Central District Court against Epic Games Korea.

This is crazy. The two games share the same premise, but are entirely different in almost every element of execution. The games industry has always been refreshingly progressive in the way it handles copying ideas - it is entirely normal for revolutionary ideas and new gameplay elements to rapidly spread throughout the industry. This is one of the main reasons why the gaming world hasn't really stagnated, and keeps coming up with new ideas and fresh takes, and also why small studios and even lone developers are relatively free to make whatever they want, copying ideas left and right.

If this case ever gets any serious traction, it will have a seriously chilling effect on the industry.

‘Crush them’: oral history of the lawsuit that upended Silicon Valley

Nineteen-ninety-eight changed the course of technology, which is to say that it changed the course of history. A nearly bankrupt relic of '80s tech nostalgia released a gumdrop-shaped PC called the iMac. An innovative search engine originally known as BackRub became a company with an even stranger name. A fast-growing online bookstore hatched a plan to start selling, well, everything.

In hindsight, these were tectonic shifts, but they hardly registered as tremors compared to the earthquake emanating from Washington, D.C. On May 18, 1998, the U.S. Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general filed an antitrust suit against the most powerful tech company in America: Microsoft.

How the world has changed - now we look towards Brussels for monopoly-busting. In the current political climate I the US, it's highly unlikely that technology companies today will be treated the same way Microsoft was 20 years ago.

US news sites block EU readers due to GDPR

This article is terrible, and clearly chooses sides with advertisers and data harvesters over users - not surprising, coming from Bloomberg.

For some of America's biggest newspapers and online services, it's easier to block half a billion people from accessing your product than comply with Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation.

The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Daily News are just some telling visitors that, "Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries."

With about 500 million people living in the European Union, that's a hard ban on one-and-a-half times the population of the U.S.

Blanket blocking EU internet connections - which will include any U.S. citizens visiting Europe - isn't limited to newspapers. Popular read-it-later service Instapaper says on its website that it's "temporarily unavailable for residents in Europe as we continue to make changes in light of the General Data Protection Regulation."

Whenever a site blocks EU users, you can safely assume they got caught with their hands in the user data cookie jar. Some of these sites have dozens and dozens of trackers from dozens of different advertisement companies, so the real issue here is even these sites themselves simply have no clue to whom they're shipping off your data - hence making it impossible to comply with the GDPR in the first place.

The GDPR is not only already forcing companies to give insight into the data they collect on you - it's also highlighting those that simply don't care about your privacy. It's amazing how well GDPR is working, and it's only been in effect for one day.

Judge rules Trump can’t block users on Twitter

A federal district court judge on Wednesday ruled that President Trump can't block people from viewing his Twitter feed over their political views.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said President Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

I'm sure an autocrat like Trump will respect the wishes of a court. I mean, it's not like he has a history of attacking courts and judges, right?

GDPR hysteria

In another week the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation will become enforceable and it appears that unlike any other law to date this particular one has the interesting side effect of causing mass hysteria in the otherwise rational tech sector.

This post is an attempt to calm the nerves of those that feel that the(ir) world is about to come to an end, the important first principle when it comes to dealing with any laws, including this one is Don’t Panic. I’m aiming this post squarely at the owners of SME’s that are active on the world wide web and that feel overwhelmed by this development. A bit of background about myself: I’ve been involved in the M&A scene for about a decade, do technical due diligence for a living (together with a team of 8). This practice and my feeling that the battle for privacy on the web is one worth winning which has led me to study online privacy in some detail puts me in an excellent position to see the impact of this legislation first hand as well as how companies tend to deal with it.

The GDRP is not nearly as draconian or complex as people are scared into believing (mostly by people who conveniently also sell GDRP compliance services). Over the past few weeks and months, I've translated countless internal and external corporate documents about the GDPR from companies both big and small, for all kinds of sectors, many of which you know, and none of them are freaking out and none of them find this particularly difficult or complicated. Even a legal simpleton like me understands it just fine, and all I need to do is translate texts about it.

Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality

The Senate has voted to save net neutrality, but don’t get your hopes up: there’s still a long, likely impossible journey ahead if the policy is to be saved in the immediate future.

In a 52-47 vote today, senators voted to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies. Republican control of Congress means that such a measure wouldn’t normally even make it up for a vote; but the CRA allows senators to force a vote by obtaining 30 signatures.

All 49 Democrats voted in favor, as well as Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska.

This is a step in the right direction for the US, but corruption runs deep, so this fight is far, far from over. Still, a victory is a victory.

About the General Data Protection Regulation

Regulation (EU) 2016/6791, the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation ('GDPR'), regulates the processing by an individual, a company or an organisation of personal data relating to individuals in the EU.

It doesn't apply to the processing of personal data of deceased persons or of legal entities.

The rules don't apply to data processed by an individual for purely personal reasons or for activities carried out in one's home, provided there is no connection to a professional or commercial activity. When an individual uses personal data outside the personal sphere, for socio-cultural or financial activities, for example, then the data protection law has to be respected.

A complete guide and overview of the new GDPR going into effect in the EU later this month. It's a very comprehensive set of privacy regulations that virtually all technology - and others - will have to comply with.

Microsoft responds to Eric Lundgren case

As a follow-up to the story about Eric Lundgren being sentenced to prison, Microsoft published a blog post with "the facts" about the case.

In the last few days there have been several stories about the sentencing of Eric Lundgren in a case that began in 2012, and we have received a number of questions about this case and our role in it. Although the case was not one that we brought, the questions raised recently have caused us to carefully review the publicly available court documents. All of the information we are sharing in this blog is drawn from those documents. We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft’s role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented.

As a counterpoint to Microsoft's blog post, Techcrunch's Devin Coldewey claims Microsoft is trying to spin "the facts".

Earlier this week Eric Lundgren was sentenced to 15 months in prison for selling what Microsoft claimed was "counterfeit software", but which was in fact only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. The company has now put up a blog post setting "the facts" straight, though it's something of a limited set of those facts.

"We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft's role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented," the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court.

At this point, we've covered all the possible angles on this story.

E-waste guru going to prison

Eric Lundgren is resigned to doing prison time. After spending his life working on e-waste recycling programs, Lundgren was arrested and charged with "counterfeiting" Microsoft restore discs, part of a controversial, years-long legal fight that ended this week when an appeals court declined to overturn a lower court's decision.

This is one of those cases where it's very easy to hide behind the letter of the law, but anybody with more than two independent braincells to rub together should realise this man should not be in prison. Laws exist to serve man; man does not exist to serve laws. Nothing is more dangerous to a society and civilization than people believing law rules over man.