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France Comes Down on Bloggers

France passed a law today banning nonprofessional journalists from recording or reporting on violent acts. The law is sure to come down hard on bloggers and other citizen journalists—and the webmasters that publish their stories.

InfoWorld
reports:

During parliamentary debate of the law, government representatives said the offense of filming or distributing films of acts of violence targets the practice of “happy slapping,” in which a violent attack is filmed by an accomplice, typically with a camera phone, for the amusement of the attacker’s friends.

The penalty for recording or publishing acts of violence is up to five years in prison and 75,000 euros. Depending on the violent act, the penalty for recording or publishing could be heavier than for the act itself.

AdWords Trademark Appeal Deepens

The first round in the legal battles over using trademarked terms in AdWords ads went to Google. The decision in Rescuecom v. Google was, bottom line, that Google could accept bids on trademarked terms.

Naturally, Rescuecom, the plaintiff, is appealing the decision. The case is waiting its turn in the US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. Now the Electronic Freedom Foundation has filed an amicus brief. In the brief, they claim that the use of trademarks in ads is in the public interest, citing the First Amendment.

EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz is quoted in the press release:

On the Internet, trademarks aren’t just identifiers. They are essential navigation tools and vehicles of expression. Quashing this speech goes against both the law and the public interest.

Judge Confirms Search Engines Can Reject Ads

You’d think this would be obvious, but it took a recent law suit and a judge’s ruling to confirm Google, Yahoo and Microsoft don’t have an obligation to run every submitted ad.

Someone bought some gripe ads on Google, Yahoo and MSN, only to have them rejected. He then sued all three companies arguing that the search engines should be required to post his ads. The judge in the case appears to have made quick work of it, dismissing almost all of the claims and pointing out in no uncertain terms that many were specious and frivolous.

If I had a “dumb moves” category, this news would be filed there.

Challenging Google’s NC Tax Breaks

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law (NCICL), led by former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert (Bob) Orr, is challenging Google’s tax breaks. Orr and the NCICL are questioning whether the North Carolina Constitution allows the legislature to extend tax breaks like the ones it awarded to Google. (Google is not specifically named in the legislation.)

Orr says:

“The idea is that you don’t give individuals or individual companies to receive special treatment. There are provisions in the constitution that say your tax legislation be uniform. The fact is that these are tax breaks for one company. I don’t think anybody would disagree that these are not for Google.”

Not All Google Domain Names Lead to New Services

It appears Garett Rogers has gotten a little too excited about some recent domain name activity at Google. Rogers has learned of a number of domain names that were transferred to the search engine’s ownership, including:

GOOGLE-EXPRESS.COM
GET-ME-ON-GOOGLE.COM
GETMEON-GOOGLE.COM
GETONGOOGLE.NET
GETON-GOOGLE.COM
GET-ON-GOOGLE.COM
GETUSONGOOGLE.COM
GETUONGOOGLE.COM
UONGOOGLE.COM
YOUONGOOGLE.COM

Here’s what he has to say about the activity…

Now here comes the speculation.  Given this group of new domains, Google may be getting ready to provide a pay service for webmasters that will help in the quest to “get on Google”.  If this is indeed what is happening, the service would probably guarantee faster crawl/indexing speeds.

I love speculation as much as anyone, but I doubt Google would launch any new service with a hyphenated domain or a “.net”. My guess they acquired the domain names as part of an effort to police their trademark. Although, if they do launch the “Google Express”, I’ll take two roundtrip tickets to Miami please. ;-)

Google Hands Over YouTube User Info to Court

If you think you’re safe behind your YouTube username, think again.

ASPnews.com is reporting Google’s YouTube has complied with subpoenas issued by the U.S. District Court in Northern California, and turned over the identities of two users who illegally uploaded entire episodes of “24″ prior to its broadcast and DVD release.

“We intend to use the information provided to pursue all available legal remedies against those who infringed our copyrights,” 20th Century Fox Television Vice President of Media Relations Chris Alexander.

Google’s compliance has ramifications beyond just the uploading of videos. If a court asks for any information on a user, you can bet Google’s going to fold and hand it over.

Via Threadwatch.

Belgian Court Confirms Earlier Google Ruling; It’s All About the Money

A Belgian court has upheld an earlier court ruling, preventing Google from displaying items from Belgian newspapers.

The case was brought by Copiepresse, which manages copyrights for Belgium’s French- and German-language newspapers…Copiepresse argues that versions of news articles stored on Google can be seen on its service even after the articles are no longer freely accessible on a newspaper’s Web site.

One silver-lining for Google. The court reduced the fine for violation from around $1m a day to just $25,000. That probably didn’t make Copiepresse too happy, as they were hoping the fine to be substantial enough to bring Google back to the negotiation table.

…Copiepresse would still consider allowing Google to display extracts from the Belgian newspapers for a fee, although said it was up to Google to initiate contact.