America loves its lawsuits. Alright, maybe because we are such a litigious society it just seems as though we are enamored of litigation. Either way, the online world has not been spared from this national phenomenon. There are lawsuits filed over the internet, there are lawsuits filed about the internet and there are lawsuits filed over content on the internet. Listed below are a number of ways that the cyber-world has become enmeshed with the legal world.
- Feeling Lucky? – You might not feel too lucky if you are one of the people behind Full Tilt Poker or Poker Stars, two online gaming enterprises that have come under a barrage of lawsuits, ranging from alleged Ponzi schemes to misappropriation of client funds.
- Trademark Infringement – “Keyword Advertising” is popular on the internet. This is where words you type into the search box trigger an advertised site (usually the ads running down the right side of the results page). There is legal question as to whether the use of trademarked names in keyword ads is legal.
- Defamation – Defamation includes libel, which is a written defamation, and slander, which is spoken defamation. And, yes, truth is an absolute defense against a claim of defamation, but remember that the truth can be a time-consuming and costly thing to prove.
- Facebook – Employee rants are nothing new on Facebook, nor are disciplinary actions by the companies they work/worked for. The NLRB, or National Labor Relations Board, has been entrusted, since 1935, with enforcing the Wagner Act, a labor law that set down certain rules regarding collective and individual employee behavior.
- SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. A legal maneuver that has been in use for decades whereby businesses sue or threaten to sue (often for defamation) customers who have posted negative commentary about their business online.
- Software Piracy – The SIIA ( Software & Information Industry Association), a trade association for the software and digital content industries, regularly files lawsuits against online purveyors of infringing, illegal, counterfeit or unauthorized software.
- “Litigating for Liberty” – That is the motto of the southern California-based group called the Institute for Justice, and the Institute specializes in 1st Amendment cases. A look at their site at http://www.ij.org/firstamendment will show lists of cases, many pertaining to online content.
- Cobb County, Georgia – In Cobb County, Georgia, people are able to file small claims lawsuits online. The cases are still decided before a judge, but suing someone was certainly made easier. Proponents say it saves time and money, but detractors say it invites frivolous lawsuits.
- Ragged Edge – At http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/departments/lawsuits/ , a disability rights organization, you can get an inside look at cases that involve people with disabilities.
- Tips to Avoid Lawsuits – If you plan to post a negative review of a company or service online remember three things: just the facts, act to benefit other consumers and don’t hit “send” until you have calmed down.
The laws, particularly those having connections to social networking, will continue to evolve rapidly, even as the pace of technological advance increases.
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