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What Does Cyber Law Mean in Today’s World?

Areas of Cyber Law on The Internet Today

In many ways, the World Wide Web is a bit like the Wild Wild West of the 21st Century. There’s a huge realm of things people are discovering how to do online, and many of them aren’t exactly on the up and up. Cyber Law or Internet Law attempts to bring order to this budding world that has so much promise, and so many dangerous possibilities. Here are some common areas that Cyber Law commonly needs to address to keep order on the Internet.

Privacy

Privacy first started to become an issue in the United States in the 19th Century. The prevalence of “Yellow Journalism” prompted Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis to pen “The Right to Privacy” in 1890. Since then, it has been recognized that new levels of technology required a new attention to the issue of privacy. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to establish the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Test. The test said that a person needs to actually expect privacy, and that society needed to recognize the expectation as reasonable.

The Privacy Act of 1974 further solidified the need to recognize privacy rights. It was inspired by the Watergate Scandal in the U.S. and was enacted just months after Richard Nixon resigned the U.S. Presidency. Here, even long before computers were commonplace, Congress recognized that the use of computers and information technology was growing and becoming increasingly important to Government operations and the collection, maintenance and sharing of a person’s personal information put their privacy at risk. In 1986, the Electronic Communication Privacy Act sought to reaffirm rules on wiretapping, stored communications, and pen registers that monitored phone communications and later Internet communications. The driver’s Privacy Protection of 1994 prevented the DMV from sharing personal information found on a Driver’s License. In 1999 the protection of financial information at banks and insurance companies was addressed.

After September 11, 2001, the threat of terrorism became all too real, and the government began reconsidering the relationship between personal privacy and national security. The Homeland Security Act was enacted in 2002 and the Department of Homeland Security was developed which included a Privacy Office. In 2004, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act mandated that intelligence be shared as conveniently as possible, and also set up a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to balance terrorism concerns with the rights of law abiding individuals.

Data Ownership

Just because information is easily accessible on the Internet doesn’t mean it is always free. Intellectual property takes valuable time and talent to produce, and the ability for those who own it to profit is a serious concern. Copyright laws have been harder to enforce which has led to various cases of piracy for written, audio, video, and software content across the web. Certain encryption methods have been developed in order to help combat the illegal use of these types of properties. For example, much of the online written content needs to be verified as original through Copyscape or similar watchdogs before it is sold. Downloading without permission and especially profiting from those downloads can have serious penalties.

There are, however, various times where information can be used in a limited manner that falls under “fair use.” Many have begun to simply offer material for free and use advertising as a means to gain revenue for the information.

Censorship and Free Speech

The Freedom of Speech has always been something we have fiercely tried to protect, and at times those attempts are at odds with the desire to protect children or other vulnerable persons. The Child Online Protection Act of 1998 was among the first steps taken to see that children under 13 were protected from Internet predators that could be present in chat rooms or on other community based websites. Sites accessible to the public that require registration, ask users to confirm they are over 13 before joining an online community.

Adult content, mainly material that may be excessively sexual or violent in nature is also supposed to be segregated and labeled as such. Parents have the option of exercising in home censorship by setting up filters to help keep this content from being visible to their children.

Harassment

Cyber harassment takes many forms. It can range from bullying in chat rooms or on social networks to hacking into other people’s computer systems, Phishing for personal information that might compromise a person’s financial information or identity, or creating computer viruses for the mere purpose of wreaking havoc on the web.

Cyber law is often difficult to enforce, but more and more technology is being developed to help combat those who are dishonest or even malicious with their Internet activities. Because of this, it is important for everyone to exercise care when online and verify that the sites they visit and conduct business on have the ability to provide the security they need. Consult an internet law lawyer for information or legal help with cyber law related issues.

The Libya Anticybersquatting Domain Name Lawsuit

I recently successfully represented Mr. Ahmad Miski in a matter originally captioned as “The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Embassy of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v. Miski.” Stated another way, my client was sued by the “Embassy” of Libya. The case was a domain name matter involving the domain names embassyoflibya.org, libyaembassy.com, libyaembassy.org, and libyanembassy.com. Read court’s full decision here.

 

Factual Background

 

My client is a “certifier” of documents via his firm known as the Arab-American Chamber of Commerce. Stated another way, he works with third party businesses to have documents “legalized” by the various embassies in the Arab world. While embassies can “legalize” documents, my client does not, and cannot, offer that service and the Plaintiff and the Defendant are not direct competitors. Plaintiff alleged that my client’s use of the domain names to promote his business was an infringement of its common law trademark in the term “Libya Embassy” and attempted to gain control of the domain names in question.

 

After a full bench trial, which is relatively rare in these types of disputes, District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled, correctly in my mind, that the Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that it had trademark rights in “Libya Embassy” for purposes of legalizing documents and my client prevailed in his efforts to retain control of the domain names.

 

Analysis

 

In my mind, this case was interesting for a variety of reasons.

 

First, I was frankly surprised at the minimal demonstration of trademark rights by the Plaintiff in this matter. When alleging common law rights, the burden is on the Plaintiff to prove that its mark is “famous” enough to be legally protectable. In this case, the Plaintiff did not produce a very strong record of use in commerce. Among other issues, the Plaintiff referred to itself using a variety of inconsistent titles, including “Libya Bureau” and “Embassy of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” Plaintiff also did not present substantial marketing or survey evidence that would indicate strength of its marks. Finally, testimony at trial indicated that the Plaintiff did not even keep consistent records of the number of documents that were legalized each month.

 

While I appreciate that reasonable minds may disagree, I’m not sure the Plaintiff was realistic about its ability to prove its common law trademarks given the evidence presented at trial. On the other hand, I suspect the Plaintiff did not expect to be forced to fully demonstrate its rights, either. I often see “bigger” plaintiffs file suit against “smaller” defendants in the hope that the matter will be settled well before trial when a defendant balks at the potential costs of defense compared to the value of the domain name. I applaud Mr. Miski for properly and comprehensively defending himself in this matter and I would encourage other domain name holders with credible defenses to do the same.

 

Second, this case was interesting for the political undertones. The United States and Libya maintained relations from the 1950s until 1986, when an Executive Order by President Reagan imposed unilateral sanctions on Libya. The 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 near Lockerbie, Scotland, was a watershed moment in the strained relations between the two nations.

 

These strained relations were relevant in the case because the Plaintiff had to demonstrate consistent commercial use of its alleged trademark to demonstrate rights to the domain names. The fact that Defendant registered the domain names during a period in which formal U.S./Libya relations were not in effect was relevant in disputing the Plaintiff’s alleged trademark rights. Defendant argued that he could not be violating a trademark if an alleged trademark holder was not even operating in the relevant commercial space. Alternatively, we argued that if a trademark did exist prior to the sanctions, the purported mark would have been abandoned for purposes of trademark rights analysis.

 

While Judge Walton did not base his decision on this fact, I’m of the view that a unilateral imposition of sanctions should be considered “abandonment” when evaluating trademark rights. Unilateral impositions of sanctions are not generally meted out by a political actor without some identifiable reason. If sanctions are imposed it is not a logical leap to assume that a purported mark holder did something to deserve those sanctions. Judge Walton’s opinion does not reach this issue, given the Plaintiff’s failure to prove rights in its mark, but I think it would have been interesting precedent if it had.

 

At the end of the day, this was a good decision that came to the right result. I’m pleased that Mr. Miski prevailed in his lawful defense, but this case is also an excellent reminder that domain name matters rely on trademark rights. Plaintiffs need to be realistic about their rights before instituting similar matters and Defendants should not be afraid to defend their rights when lawfully employing descriptive domain names.

 

Visit the Lexero domain lawyer page for more information on domain law, disputes, cyber-squatting, and more.

Internet Safety For Kids

These days, kids get online at a younger age than ever before. There are some very useful things kids can do online, such as learning, research, educational games, and more. The internet is also something that need to be approached carefully for young users. There are plenty of cyber threats such as scams, identity theft, inappropriate content, and other dangerous things online that kids need to stay away from. With two thirds of internet users falling victim to some sort of cyber crime, it’s important to know what you’re up against and how you can keep your kids safe. The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program is an organization that has received more funding over the years in an effort to reduce internet crimes against children.

With things like social media becoming integrated into our lives more every day, kids are spending much higher amounts of time online just in the last few years. Take a look at the information below for facts on internet crime against children, and tips for parents to help prevent these types of crimes.

Internet Safety For Kids

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