March 23, 2007 11:00 AM PDT

Week in review: Sex, spies and video flaps

They didn't exactly match Law & Order for celebrity cachet, but the greatest dramas in the tech world this week unfolded in the courtroom.

A federal judge ruled that the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, was unconstitutional and violated Americans' First Amendment rights, dealing another serious setback to Congress' efforts to muzzle pornography on the Web.

The judge barred prosecutors from enforcing COPA, saying it was overly broad and would undoubtedly "chill a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech for adults."

Even though politicians enacted COPA nearly a decade ago as part of an early wave of Internet censorship efforts, the courts have kept it on ice and it has never actually been enforced. The law makes it a crime for commercial Web sites to make "harmful to minors" material publicly available. Violators could be fined as much as $50,000 and face up to six months in prison.

The almost-forgotten law made headlines last year after Department of Justice attorneys preparing to defend COPA in U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed's Philadelphia courtroom sent subpoenas to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL asking for millions of search records. Only Google fought the subpoena in court, and it managed to persuade a California judge to limit what information prosecutors would receive.

While CNET News.com readers debated the merits of the ruling, one reader offered a novel solution to the issue.

"What we really need is two separate Internets. One for porn and spam, and one for legitimate uses," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum. "Let people choose which one they want."

The same day, Oracle announced it had filed a lawsuit against archrival SAP, alleging the software giant hacked into Oracle's customer support center and downloaded copies of its proprietary software code. The lawsuit, which names SAP and its wholly owned subsidiary TomorrowNow as defendants, alleges the two companies engaged in computer fraud and abuse, computer data access and fraud, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

Oracle says that in late November it noticed an unusually heavy volume of download activity on Oracle's password-protected customer support and maintenance site for its PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers. Upon a review of the Customer Connection site, Oracle alleges, it found more than 10,000 illicit downloads in which customers with expired, or soon-to-expire, support and maintenance contracts had accessed the support and maintenance site. Oracle claims that a common thread among all of the customers with allegedly misappropriated customer IDs is that they were about to become, or had recently become, an SAP TomorrowNow customer.

And in the continuing legal adventures of Viacom versus Google, a lawsuit filed against Viacom accuses the media conglomerate of misusing U.S. copyright law by forcing YouTube to remove a parody video of The Colbert Report. However, Viacom denies the accusation and said it does not object to the video being on YouTube. The suit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, accuses Viacom of filing a baseless copyright complaint and takedown notice on YouTube.

The tongue-in-cheek clip, "Stop the Falsiness," uses snippets from The Colbert Report, a program on Viacom's Comedy Central, for parody. That approach, the EFF said, is permissible under the "fair use" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, just as The Colbert Report uses excerpts from real news shows in its segments.

Not all fun and games
After saying that it would investigate complaints about fraud on its Xbox Live online gaming service, Microsoft said it found no evidence of a security breach on its Xbox Live or Bungie.net online gaming services, and gamers who had trouble with their accounts were likely duped into giving up their details to fraudsters.

"There have been a few isolated incidents where malicious users have been attempting to draw personal information from unsuspecting users and use it to gain access to their Live account," the company said in a statement.

Gamers had reported that their Xbox Live accounts were hijacked and their credit cards used to buy "Microsoft Points," the virtual currency on Xbox Live, which has more than 6 million users.

Gamers have been reporting the incidents for some time in online forums --including on Xbox.com--and to Microsoft's Xbox help desk. Many users of the Microsoft console have been frustrated with the software giant's response to date.

"My Xbox Live account was hacked and all credit card info was stolen and used to run up points...Microsoft says: 'Oh, well, better call your credit card companies, nothing we can do,'" one user wrote on the Xbox Web site last month.

And apparently World of Warcraft isn't all virtual love and flowers either. According to several players, WoW participants recently have been banned from the game for what they believed to be little or no justification. Critics claim WoW publisher Blizzard Entertainment has been snaring innocent players in a dragnet for banned activities like account sharing and gold farming--a system in which players either directly or indirectly acquire large amounts of in-game currency or goods through repetitious actions, often achieved by operating automatic "bots" or macros that kill monsters or discover treasure.

See more CNET content tagged:
Child Online Protection Act, Viacom Inc., Oracle Corp., TomorrowNow, SAP AG

9 comments

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GOOGLE LOST
I hardly think the YouTube lawsuit Viacom received after it filed its groundbreaking one does not take anything away from the major gross neglect and negligence by the Google Inc. company.

If you look at the history of the senior staff who run Google, they have a very biased & vocal history of speaking out and pushing against normal United States government processes (many ways like Bill Gates at Microsoft did, see MS Antitrust ongoing). Believe me, the USDOJ and the United States knew exactly what they were doing in warning Microsoft to stop its practices in early 1990. We could be living in a richer more vibrant I.T. community, much happier and less disconnected, that advanced on top of the BBS phenomenon. It all would have worked out, concerning standards, however, it would have come-on slower, less harm & stress, and would have conformed with the will of the United States business framers. There is a reason for laws of the land, and when they get broken by successful people who profit from it, it gives the illusion of success is OK and it is OK. It is not OK.

This must come to a stop.

Please look at peekvid.com. As you can see, Google Inc. still has many major full length movies stored on their servers. I do think they know about the hundreds of movies. Unless google can conform to normal business thinking and government processes concerning business, then they need to pay the price anyone else would pay for this level of fraud, deception and blatantly fingering the USA. It is not up to the USA to conform to the will of a single business, it is the other way around.

So, the law says Google must pay the price for this and it will only be a matter of time before someone takes real action. Does anyone really think for a second the business world is going to operate for the next 1000 years? Remember, there were many big companies in the past, with lush office parks, and presence.... that are no longer around. The illusion of permanency once feels with Google is maybe why the founders have become lost behind it. Somehow the message that if you are a iconic company, one can get away with a little bit or a lot.
Posted by trueview (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE
What a diatribe.

"I hardly think the YouTube lawsuit Viacom received after it filed its groundbreaking one does not take anything away from the major gross neglect and negligence by the Google Inc. company. If you look at the history of the senior staff who run Google, they have a very biased & vocal history of speaking out and pushing against normal United States government processes (many ways like Bill Gates at Microsoft did, see MS Antitrust ongoing)."

Yeah, that's how things change. People push the boundaries and the law adapts by acts of congress and court rulings. It's hardly gross negligence by Google, since the DMCA only requires that they respond promptly to a valid take down notice. Gross negligence would be Viacom sending a take down notice for 100,000 videos it scraped from a simple search without verifying that they indeed own the copyright. It should also be noted that Viacom owns iFilm and Atom Films, both which allow user to post video, some of which is infringing. Much like YouTube Viacom only offers DMCA take down notices to content owners that had their stuff illegally posted. Both iFilm and Atom Films have been around longer than YouTube and do not implement any of the features Viacom criticized Youtube for lacking...A bit hypocritical I'd say.


"Believe me, the USDOJ and the United States knew exactly what they were doing in warning Microsoft to stop its practices in early 1990. We could be living in a richer more vibrant I.T. community, much happier and less disconnected, that advanced on top of the BBS phenomenon."

Whether they knew what they were doing or not, they settled with Microsoft after the judge in the first trail had lapse of professionalism. The rest is conjecture and speculation.


"It all would have worked out, concerning standards, however, it would have come-on slower, less harm & stress, and would have conformed with the will of the United States business framers."

business framers? That sounds like something you'd find in communism.


"There is a reason for laws of the land, and when they get broken by successful people who profit from it, it gives the illusion of success is OK and it is OK. It is not OK. This must come to a stop."

You've already assumed Google will be found guilty when the case hasn't even come to trial yet.


"Please look at peekvid.com. As you can see, Google Inc. still has many major full length movies stored on their servers. I do think they know about the hundreds of movies."

peekvid.com isn't owned by Google, but I assume you mean what they link to. Perhaps you could be a little more specific so we don't have click through everything on the site look for links to YouTube. The ones I did click on were all Daily Motion videos. It's a reasonable assumption that if you allow users to upload stuff some of it is going to be illegal. Whether Google knows enough to remove them is another question. Of course when Hollywood lobbying for the DMCA, the safe harbor that was included says that service providers can avoid liability if they adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed safe harbor guidelines and promptly respond to take down notices. Indeed the previously mentioned iFilm and Atom films have some material that is almost certainly infringing.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
Difference Between Google and MSFT
Google as a meta player lives and breathes by being able to play well or at least in a state of mutual cooperation with content owners and providers. They are letting their model play out to bring content owners and providers to the table and will probably be smart enough to cut deals that makes money for the company and gets everyone else at the table paid enough to keep them all out of court. Still, everyone should remember that any outfit that runs around squeaking "Don't be evil" is probably on its way to emerging as the corporate equivalent of Ike Turner and needs to be watched closely.

MSFT is simply a sociopathic (some would say psychopathic institution) that lives and breathes to just murder everything that is not MSFT and create a desert it can run with impunity. It is probably one of the few outfits in American industrial history that has a purely annihilationist development model designed to fatally disrupt the trade of competitors rather actually compete on quality and service. (Hard to think of a non-computer equivalent - imagine Ford hiring snipers to sit outside of Chevy dealerships and pick off customers to scare away car buyers. MSFT history is filled with this kind of attack. Read the 'Microsoft Files' for a look at the law suits it has generated with its competition killing tactics. The MSFT response is always hey, the competitors should have seen it coming and were stupid to not be prepared for it. Of course! GM needs to hire its own snipers and have them camped out on the roof of the dealerships.

Can anyone remember any CEO of any company larger than 10 people appearing in the press profanely screaming its intent to f****** kill a competitor (Google) while throwing furniture?

A good example. MSFT knows it doesn't have the engineering talent to build a search engine that works much less works as well as Google. (They're paying their own customers to look at it, probably not enough.) No new talent in search technologies with any self-respect is going to work for the company now that the options plan has been gutted. So MSFT has cooked up an idea to demonize Google's model as criminally negligent, by infringing copyrights, in an effort to get the publishing and media companies to sue Google into oblivion.

The MSFT attorneys think they're clever and enjoy entertaining themselves with the fantasy that Google will be assaulted by endless torts, be reduced to a flaming wreck and MSFT can just shovel its lame search into the void. Google will surprise them by cutting deals the copyright holders can live with and benefit them both, an alternative that MSFT could never imagine given its traditional impulses.
Posted by Sumatra-Bosch (526 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Real Difference Between Google and Microsoft
Microsoft is the biggest software company in the world with strong revenue from Windows (85+% market), Office (75+% market) and Xbox (50+% market).
Compared to Microsoft, Google is small company who depends on revenues from ads.
If you think Google will ever destroy Microsoft you don't know anything about this market and will be very disappointed, LOL.
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
Clearly Biased
Your attitude against the Adult industry is very clear. While we fight for everyone's free speech, you snicker and made politically correct noises.
But we know our customers, and I can assure you, if there were "two internets," there would only be one that survived on it's own. YOUR internet would need to be subsidized with government funds.

How about this....you want your kiddies to go out in the big cruel world? How about you hold their hand, just like you would, anywhere else as a responsible parent. I'm not interested in being your substitute parent.
Posted by EmporerEJ (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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