A court in Paris has fined Google $65,000 because its search engine’s autocomplete feature brings up an oscene word when users type the name of an insurance company. Google had been sued by insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie, which said staffers at Google should have monitored linked words better. Google had argued that it was not liable since the word, added under Google Suggest, was the result of an automatic algorithm and did not come from human thought. The french court ruled against Google, however, pointing out that the search engine ignored requests to remove the offending word. In addition to the fine, Google must also remove the term from searches associated with Lyonnaise de Garantie.
A federal judge ruled that prosecuting a man for writing harassing tweets directed at a prominent Buddhist religious leader violated the tweeter’s First Amendment rights. The target of the harassment, Alyce Zeoli, is “an enthroned tulku or reincarnate master who was enthroned in 1988 as a reincarnate llama.” The defendant, William Cassidy, became involved with Zeoli and her religious sect in 2007, but they eventually had a falling-out. Cassidy evidently became embittered, and in 2010 he began a campaign of harassment against Zeoli on Twitter and on a blog hosted by Blogspot. The tweets ranged from the merely vulgar to arguably threatening. The federal government found the messages sufficiently disturbing to indict Cassidy for violating a 2006 anti-stalking law that prohibits the use of an “interactive computer service” to cause “substantial emotional distress.” The government claimed that Zeoli “feared for her safety,” and “has not left her house for a year and a half, except to see her psychiatrist.” Cassidy argued his prosecution violated the First Amendment. And in a last ruling, Judge Roger W. Titus agreed.
Toy maker Hasbro is suing Asus, claiming that naming Asus’s latest tablet the Transformer Prime is in violation of Hasbro’s brand copyright. In a statement, Hasbro asserted that ASUS was effectively banking on association with the legendary animated show, comics, and toys to sell the Transformer Prime. Last rumors suggest that because of the recent popularity of the movie franchise, Hasbro could argue that Asus was banking on the popularity of the Transformer franchise to sell a few more tablets. Companies in different industries are allowed to use similar named products without violating copyright law if the industries are essentially mutually exclusive, meaning company A is not benefiting financially from the name trademarked by company B. While Asus may be counting on the clear difference between a tablet and Hasbro’s line as a legal safety net, the diversity of Hasbro’s range may create enough of a conflict to force a name change.
From today, January 1st, writings published during Joyce’s lifetime – Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake – are available for publication and quotation without reference or payment to the James Joyce estate. Joyce died on January 13th, 1941; originally, copyright in these works in Britain and Ireland extended for 50 years, until 1991. However, some two years after that date, EU copyright law was harmonised to bring it into line with German practice and the period was extended to 70 years. The end of copyright protection will enable creative artists and theatre companies to stage adaptations and re-enactments. Public broadcast will also be possible. Joyce’s solitary play, Exiles , can also be freely staged, and productions are likely.