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Thursday, March 31, 2011

YouTube Accused of Censorship (with Video)

Anthony Lawson
Does YouTube make it too easy to censor a controversial video?

Anthony Lawson, producer of videos covering controversial topics, ranging from 9/11 conspiracies to Israeli treatment of Palestinians, is accusing YouTube of "censorship" after the video-sharing site took down a short documentary questioning certain facts of the Holocaust that he uploaded to his YouTube page.  At the bottom of this post is his latest video detailing his charges against YouTube.

On Tuesday, YouTube sent Lawson the following notice:

We have disabled the following material as a result of a third-party notification from James Allan Khan claiming that this material is infringing:

Holocaust, Hate Speech & Were the Germans so Stupid?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Righthaven's Bad Month Ends With Mistakenly Filed Lawsuit

Even Righthaven admitted that a reproduction of
Drudge's reproduction of this patdown photo was a fair use
Righthaven has once again tripped over itself while attempting to use the courts to bully a website. 

This time, the target was ARS Technica, who have posted an interesting account of the lawsuit filed by Righthaven against one of its freelance writers, Eriq Gardner.  It took less than four days for Righthaven to have to withdraw the copyright infringement suit.  A copy of the Complaint can be found here.

Righthaven was forced to drop the case because the photo at issue (displayed above) wasn't the original image of an overly friendly patdown that was owned by the Denver Post, but rather was the black and white version of the image, which came from Righthaven's own court filing against Drudge, who subsequently settled.  ARS Technica explained:.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rush Limbaugh Reacts to Liberal Group Plan to Use Defamation Suits to Bring Down Fox News

Soros-funded Media Matters
has declared war on Fox News
If liberals can't beat Fox News in the ratings, maybe they can win in court. 

David Brock, founder of Media Matters, told Politico that the liberal group was declaring "war on Fox."  One of its weapons will be the filing of a series of defamation lawsuits against the conservative network.
Media Matters, Brock said, is assembling opposition research files not only on Fox’s top executives but on a series of midlevel officials.  It has hired an activist who has led a successful campaign to press advertisers to avoid Glenn Beck’s show.  The group is assembling a legal team to help people who have clashed with Fox to file lawsuits for defamation, invasion of privacy or other causes.
Add the fact that Media Matters is heavily financed by liberal gadfly George Soros and it is no surprise that the declaration has drawn immediate criticism from the right.  Most of the criticism centers around the fact that Media Matters is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, which means the money donated to it is tax deductible. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Website Pays $950,000 For Illegally Selling Beatles Songs

Selling Beatles Songs For A Quarter Each
Cost Bluebeat.com Nearly $1 Million
Bluebeat.com has reportedly agreed to pay $950,000 to EMI, the record company that controls the Beatles digital offerings, in settlement of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought in 2009. 

Nearly two years ago, Bluebeat, a website owned by Media Rights Technology, was caught selling and streaming remastered Beatles songs online for 25 cents each before the songs were officially made available on iTunes.  EMI brought the lawsuit and a federal judge issued a restraining order two days later preventing Bluebeat from selling the songs.

Supporters of DHS Domain Name Seizures Undervalue Important Constitutional Protections


Defenders of the DHS Seizures Accuse Critics
of Hiding Behind Constitutional Catchphrases
David Makarewicz

This site has been generally critical of recent United States policy toward copyright issues.  We have expressed discomfort with the Obama Administration's statements in support of Internet freedom, which seem to clash with a proposal to wiretap suspected infringers and the introduction of COICA legislation

The most troubling issue has undoubtedly been the series of Government domain name seizures, through which the DHS takes the domain names of accused infringers without first giving the accused a chance to defend their site at a hearing.

Although we question the Constitutionality of the seizures, these issues deserve a vigorous debate that presents the well-reasoned arguments of all sides, including those that are convinced that the Government seizures are right and legal.  Unfortunately, last week,Terry Hart of Copyhype, who has been a vocal defender of the domain name seizures, chose to go beyond that defense to question the motives of the critics of the domain name seizures such as SitesAndBlogs.com and Techdirt.com and attempted to dismiss the importance of the Constitutional issues we have raised.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Netflix No Longer Streaming Showtime Original Programming

David Makarewicz 
SitesAndBlogs.com

Last month, we discussed Hulu's struggles to make streaming television both a complement to network television and the competition.  Now, Netflix is feeling the effects of the same dilemma.

Showtime announced that it will no longer be streaming episodes of its hit original series like Californication and Dexter on Netflix.  The move is, in part, a reaction to Netfix's recently announced plans to become a competitor to networks like Showtime by producing its first original series, House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey.

Showtime had previously frustrated Netflix subscribers by failing to stream later seasons of ithese hit series.  This meant that subscribers would be able to stream the first couple seasons of a show like Dexter, but not be able to find out what happens to the lovable serial killer in the seasons that followed without getting the DVDs (which seemed to never be available through Netflix).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Video: Is the .xxx domain the answer for Internet porn or censorship?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Minnesota Blogger Not Silenced By Backdoor Defamation Verdict

David Makarewicz
Blogger Johnny Northside Was Sued For Claiming Jerry Moore
Fraudulently Obtained A Mortgage On 1564 Hillside Ave.
Earlier this month, we discussed the First Amendment implications of a Minnesota jury's stunning verdict requiring a blogger to pay $60,000 in damages because of statements he published in his blog about a public figure who was subsequently fired from his job. 

Although the blogger, John Hoff, was not found liable for defamation, the jury found against him for intentional interference with contract.  The verdict set off a national debate over free speech protection for bloggers because the jury awarded damages to Hoff, a public figure, even though they did not find that the blogger's statements were false.

The verdict does not appear to have slowed Hoff down one bit.  Instead, Hoff, under his "Johnny Northside" pen name, posted  a new article on his blog entitled "Damn Right We're Appealing--All The Way To The U.S. Supreme Court If Necessary! Stay Tuned..."  In it, Hoff claims that he will appeal the jury's verdict because "The First Amendment itself is under attack, and this blogger will not back down from the battle."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Video: Technorati CEO Discusses Future of Blogosphere

Pornographers and Religious Right Both Fail to Prevent ".xxx" from Coming to Market


Flynt and Falwell Together With Larry King
David Makarewicz
Finally, an issue that both Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and the late Reverend Jerry Falwell could have agreed on.

On Friday, the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) passed a resolution to approve the ".xxx" top-level domain (TLD).  The approval drew harsh criticism from interest groups ranging from hardcore pornographers to Christian anti-pornography coalitions.

Nearly a decade of efforts to prevent the approval fell short last month, when the ICM Registry successfully appealed ICANN's initial denial of the ".xxx" proposal.

Anti-pornography coalitions have strongly opposed the creation of the new domain on moral grounds.  They argue that ".xxx" will simply create a new avenue for access to hardcore Internet pornography, which they claim is "already a violation of U.S. law." 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Should It Be A Felony To Stream Infringing Materials?

David Makarewicz
SitesAndBlogs.com

This is Part III of a series of articles analyzing specific aspects of the Obama Administration's White Paper (available for download here), recommending legislative changes to combat online piracy and counterfeiting.  Click if you missed our overview of the White Paper in Part I or our analysis of the Government's proposed new wiretap authority for copyright offenses in Part II.

The Obama Administration wants to clarify
that streaming infringing material is a felony
One aspect of the White Paper that has grabbed headlines is the Obama Administration's recommendation that Congress clarify that felony copyright infringement includes infringement by streaming.  The current legal definition of felony copyright infringement only references "distribution" and "reproduction," which does not clearly include streaming.

There is some room to debate whether felony-level penalties (up to 10 years imprisonment) are too harsh for any intellectual property offense such as this or whether there are legitimate reasons to treat streaming different than other methods of distribution and reproduction.  However, asking Congress to clarify an unclear law is generally a reasonable request.

The problem comes from the fact that, rather than just make that simple, straight-forward recommendation, the Administration has chosen to cloak their request in cryptic language that makes it unclear exactly what it is that they are asking for.  The White Paper reads as follows:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Google Improves Speed Of Sites Using AdSense

David Makarewicz
SitesAndBlogs.com

AdSense users should begin seeing improved site performance immediately.
 
Today, Google announced that it was changing its AdSense code to speed up the rate at which its ads load.  Website owners do not need to make any changes to their existing ads, which will automatically benefit from the improved speed.  By improving the loading speed, the change should improve the search engine rankings of many sites that feature AdSense advertisements. 

Proposal to Wiretap Suspected Infringers Raises Privacy Concerns

David Makarewicz
SitesAndBlogs.com

This is Part II of a series of articles analyzing specific aspects of the Obama Administration's White Paper (available for download here), recommending legislative changes to combat online piracy and counterfeiting.  Click here for if you missed our overview of the White Paper in Part I.

The Proposal Would Allow The FBI To
Wiretap Copyright Infringement Suspects
One of the most troubling recommendations in the White Paper is the Obama Administration's request for Congress to grant its enforcement agencies the power "seek a wiretap for criminal copyright and trademark offenses."  This would require Congress to amend the Wiretap Act, which does not currently include copyright and trademark infringement among the offenses that justify a privacy invasion as extreme as a wiretap.

In order to preserve the private nature of communications, the Wiretap Act (as amended by the The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986), 18 U.S.C. § 2511, makes it generally illegal for anyone, including the Government, to "intercept, any wire, oral, or electronic communication."  However, the law has carved out certain exceptions to this rule under which the Government can request permission to intercept certain communications for a limited time.

Wiretapping is only permitted for certain types of offenses.  The United States Supreme Court has explained that wiretapping is only permitted "when law enforcement officials are investigating specified serious crimes." 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do Obama's Proposed New Copyright Laws Go Too Far?

Obama Administration IP Czar Victoria Espinel
David Makarewicz
SitesAndBlogs.com

On Tuesday, the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, provided Congress with a White Paper(available for download here), outlining a series of the Obama Administration's recommended legislative changes to combat online piracy and counterfeiting.  Significantly, the recommendations include making it a felony offense to stream infringing content and giving Federal agencies wiretapping authority to obtain evidence of criminal copyright and trademark offenses.

The White Paper is the product of the IP Czar's review of "existing laws to ensure that they were effective and to identify deficiencies that could hinder enforcement."  The review was conducted in conjunction with a group of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

Can The Law Treat A Blogger Differently Than A Print Journalist?

David Makarewicz
Screenshot of the Cutler Files
The last few weeks have seen websites and blogs forced to fight back against copyright bulliesfrivolous lawsuits and the United States Government.  Now, in Maine, a blogger has been forced to use the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution to fight back against the State's attempt to use its election laws to penalize him for anonymous posts he made in criticism of a political candidate. 

This case raises important issues surrounding whether the law can apply different standards to print and online journalists, as well as whether a blogger has the right to post political criticism anonymously.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Media Bloggers Association Stands Up To Righthaven


Attorney Ronald Coleman Filed An
Amicus Brief On Behalf Of Bloggers
David Makarewicz

Today, the Media Bloggers Association ("MBA") filed its Reply Brief in the Righthaven, LLC v. Hyatt case.  The MBA is opposing Righthaven's attempt to convince the Nevada District Court to award it $150,000 in damages, the domain name for blogger Bill Hyatt's website (1ce.org)  and attorneys' fees.

Hyatt was sued by Righthaven last October after he allegedly copied a Las Vegas Review-Journal column titled "FX's Manly Man Shows Hold Outsider Appeal."  When Hyatt did not respond to the lawsuit, he was defaulted by the court clerk's office.

A default is basically the equivalent of an admission of all liability by the defendant.  If the default is not set aside, the Court will skip the trial on the merits of the copyright claim and proceed directly to a determination of the damages against Hyatt.

The MBA, a national bloggers organization, filed an Amicus Brief last month against Righthaven.  An Amicus Brief is filed when an organization such as the MBA is not a party to a lawsuit but asks for permission to file a brief as a "friend of the court" that can offer arguments or information to assist the court in making its decision. 

In its briefs, the MBA has argued three main points on behalf of bloggers such as Hyatt:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jury Says Blogger Has To Pay For His Words Even Though He Did Not Lie

David Makarewicz
SitesandBlogs

Blogger Johnny Northside
On Friday, a Minnesota jury found that a blogger must pay $60,000 in damages because of statements he published in his blog about a public figure who was subsequently fired from his job.  Internet publishers and free speech advocates should pay close attention to this case if it is appealed because the blogger was found liable even though the jury did not find that the blogger's statements were false. 

This decision is the latest example of the law's apparent struggle to apply basic constitutional protections to internet publishers.  If the Minnesota ruling holds up, it will mean that bloggers will have to worry they will be forced to pay for true statements that they publish that cause a person damages.

In June 2009, Jerry Moore was fired from the University of Minnesota after blogger John Hoff a/k/a Johnny Northside wrote a blog post criticizing the college for hiring Moore.  In the post, Hoff criticized Moore's previous work as Executive Director of a community organization and linked Moore to a real estate scandal.  In the post, Hoff stated, "Repeated and specific evidence in Hennepin County District Court shows Jerry Moore was involved with a high-profile fraudulent mortgage at 1564 Hillside Ave N."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Amazon Drops Illinois Affiliates After State Imposes New Taxes

David Makarewicz
SitesandBlogs

Governor Pat Quinn
Amazon.com has dropped its Illinois online affiliate sellers after the State passed a law requiring Internet retailers like Amazon to collect Illinois’ 6.25% sales tax if they have affiliate sellers in the state. 

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the legislation, claiming “Illinois’ main street businesses are critical to ensuring our long-term economic stability, which is why they must be able to compete with every company doing business online in Illinois.”  The new law will require all online retailers who contract with an affiliate in Illinois to collect sales tax on customer purchases and remit it to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

Following the signing of the bill, Amazon quickly announced that they were ending their relationship with their Illinois affiliates.  In its Dear John letter to affiliates, Amazon was critical of the legislation, stating:
We had opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by national retailing chains, most of which are based outside Illinois, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that its enactment forces this action.
Even venerable Chicago movie critic and bloggger Roger Ebert will not be spared, though the wealthy Ebert did not seem upset about it.  Yesterday, Ebert (@EbertChicago) tweeted, "Amazon will terminate my Associates account on 4/15, in order to evade fair and just Illinois taxes.  I have 20 more days to make a fortune."

Last month, we reported on the efforts of politicians like California Congressman Dan Lungren, who are attempting to pass laws aimed at preventing States from imposing these types of new taxes on in-state online retailers and affiliates.  Lungren had introduced a “Supporting the Preservation of Internet Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses” resolution.

It will be interesting to see if this ultimately backfires on Illinois and States that pass similar legislations.  While Illinois might see a short-term bump in revenue, will website operators flee to friendlier states because of the imposition of these new taxes, bringing with them the innovation and growing businesses that States crave?

The Last Five Charlie Sheen Stories You Will Ever See On This Site

David Makarewicz

Sheen In Wall Street Long Before The Public Collapse
For nearly a month now, the world has been unable to ignore Charlie Sheen's very public downard spiral.  When the scandals started, I would have thought that a site like this, which is focused on blogs, websites and social media, would be spared from having to pay attention to Sheen's strange journey of self-destruction.  Unfortunately, the opposite has been true. 

We have already reported on Charlie Sheen's record breaking Twitter campaign and his anticipated $1 million in Twitter endorsements.  We even had to sit through Sheen's UStream premiere just to find out that the scene looked like it would if any drug user and his friends found a camera and sat around quoting memorable Charlie Sheen lines from the previous week of network television.  Now, it seems like every couple hours we are faced with a new story involving Charlie Sheen's torrid love affair with the Internet.

Enough is enough. I am impressed with Charlie's ability to use new media to monetize his otherwise violent, sad and out-of-control life, but it has become clear to me that Sheen is pathetic and odd, but not truly innovative.  His tweets, interviews and antics seem more contrived and poorly scripted every day.

I believe that the world is about to get tired of Charlie and I want in on the ground floor.  With that in mind, below are five random, interesting tidbits involving Sheen and the Internet from the last couple days.  Since I no longer find authenticity in his actions, I hope that these are the last stories about Charlie Sheen and the Internet that we ever post on SitesAndBlogs.com.


#1. Internet Reports of Charlie Sheen's Death Have Turned Out To Be Exaggerated

Headlines announcing Charlie Sheen's death are popping up all over social networks.  However, if you see a link exclaiming something like “Charlie Sheen found Dead at his House!” or “Developing Story Charlie Sheen Dies from Cardiac Arrest and taken away in Ambulance!” do not click the link.  It is probably a scam and a virus.

ZDNet is reporting that these headlines are part of a “likejacking” scam that connects the user to a fake YouTube page.  If the user tries to play the "video" they are prompted with a message stating: “Please complete a 30 second survey to verify that you are human.”  If the user clicks the background, it will automatically submit a Facebook Like and post the headline to their Facebook page. The scammer earns a handsome commission for each survey that gets completed, the scam migrates to the user's Friends' walls and the user is left with some malware.  Sounds vaguely like Denise Richards' divorce papers.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Murder Suspect Appeals Ruling Allowing Twitter In The Courtroom

David Makarewicz

Defense attorneys for suspect Joshua Komisarjevsky have appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court, seeking to overturn a Superior Court ruling permitting Twitter feeds from the courtroom during his capital murder trial.

Joshua Komisarjevsky Attempted To Ban
Twitter During His Murder Trial
Last month, New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon Blue denied Komisarjevsky's motion, which argued that the sudden typing of tweets by reporters and spectators would unfairly signal to the jury what evidence was believed to be significant.  Blue also rejected Komisarjevsky's claim that a broadcasting ban applied to Twitter, finding that tweets do not fit the definition of broadcasting.  Blue reserved the right to ban Twitter in the future if it becomes disruptive.

Komisarjevsky is the second man charged in a brutal 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut that resulted in the death of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley.  Komisarjevsky's alleged accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced to death last year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Arrest Of Website Operator Renews Debate Over Constitutionality of Government Domain Seizures

David Makarewicz
SitesandBlogs

Channelsurfing.net was seized a month before the arrest
Last week, Bryan McCarthy, the 32 year old operator of ChannelSurfing.net, was arrested on charges of criminal copyright infringement.  ChannelSurfing.net was one of the streaming sports sites that had its domain seized by federal authorities shortly before the Super Bowl as part of the "In Our Sites" program, run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Prior to the seizure, McCarthy reportedly made more than $90,000 from advertisements on his site.

This arrest has once again raised questions about the In Our Sites program, in which the Government has seized thousands of domains accused, but not convicted, of copyright infringement, illegal streaming of sporting events, selling black market goods and distributing child pornography.  Critics ranging from bloggers to individual rights advocates to Senators have questioned the constitutionality of these seizures.

The most serious constitutional issues arise because the Government does not provide any notice to the domain owners prior to seizing them.  One moment, their normal site is up at their web address, the next moment, all that is up at their web address is a DHS/ICE seal.  Without knowing what they have been accused of or having the opportunity to defend their site, the Government has repurposed the owners' private property.

In order to seize the domain names without notice to the owners, the Government uses a procedure that permits it to bring an action directly against a piece of property used in the commission of a crime--in this case the domain name--rather than the owner.  This type of action (called an "In Rem" forfeiture) is not new.  In the past, the government has used In Rem actions for purposes such as an action against an automobile used to transport bootleg whiskey. 

Morning Rundown


  • A Chinese blogger had his Facebook page suspended for using a pseudonym.  The suspension probably feels even worse in light of the fact that Mark Zuckerberg's dog Beast is allowed to have his own page.

  • A French court fined Google 430,000 Euros for four breaches of copyright.  Spanish courts are now considering referring further cases against Google to the European Court of Justice.

  • AOL India will lay off 60-70% of its workforce following the HuffPo acquisition.

  • Iowa is considering a bill to become the first state to issue online poker businesses.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Three Reasons It Is A Shame Courtney Love Settled Her Twitter Defamation Case

David Makarewicz
SitesandBlogs

Charlie Sheen is not the only celebrity mixing dubious sobriety with social media news this week.  Courtney Love has settled a defamation lawsuit brought by a clothing designer seeking millions of dollars because of comments Love made on Twitter and MySpace.  Love has agreed to pay more than $430,000 to settle the case.

In March 2009, following a dispute with Love over a few thousand dollars of clothing, the designer, Dawn Simorangkir, filed a six count Complaint, accusing Love of using social media to publish a litany of malicious and false claims about her, including that the designer was a drug addict, a coke dealer, a prostitute, a thief and a racist.  She claimed that Love's comments damaged her relationships with her existing clients and cost her future clients.  A copy of the full Complaint is available here.

There are countless reasons that it is a shame this fascinating case will not go to all the way to trial, but the following are the big three:

China To Blame For Wordpress DDOS Attacks

David Makarewicz
 
Following up on our story about the DDOS attack that crippled Wordpress for a couple hours on Thursday, new details have emerged about the source of the mischief.  When the founder of Wordpress initially stated that he believed the attack was politically motivated against "one of our non-English blogs," some speculated that a Middle East country was to blame.  Not so.  It turns out that the attacks primarily originated in China, with an assist from a small number of computers in Japan and Korea.

The name of the target site and the specific reason for the attack has still not been anounced, though the target was confirmed to be a Chinese-language site that fell victim to the poltically motivated DDOS attack.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Charlie Sheen Shows Twitter Advertising Is Profitable. But Is It Right?

David Makarewicz
Sheen and Pornstar Friend Pimping Naked Brand Beverages

There is officially no ceiling on Charlie Sheen's ability to create news and controversy.  It is easy to create a media buzz when you are partying with pornstars and toting a briefcase full of coke, but it is a special individual who can type a few tweets and instantly start a worldwide debate on the ethics and economics of celebrity microblogging.  Sheen only started tweeting 3 days ago and, already, the Hollywood Reporter is estimating that Sheen could earn $1 million this year in Twitter endorsements.

Despite his increasingly and well-documented absurd behavior, it is no surprise that advertisers would want to be in the Charlie Sheen business.  As of this afternoon, Sheen (@charliesheen) had already amassed nearly 1.6 million followers with quirky tweets such as "My sons' are fine... My path is now clear... Defeat is not an option..!"  In order to fully leverage this audience, Sheen has signed up with the Ad.ly service, joining other celebrities like Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and Kim Kardashian.  Experts believe that Sheen could dethrone Kardashian as the highest-earning microblogging celebrity this year. 

But if microbloggers force advertisements down their follower's throats, will people continue to follow them?

I am a big proponent of monetization of new media as a way to encourage innovation and interesting content.  Without financial incentives, many labors of love quickly lose steam.  However, it seems like the point of following someone on Twitter gets lost when the writer is shoehorning products into a post instead of providing real insight. 

Hackers Take Wordpress Down In Bold DDOS Attack

David Makarewicz

On Thursday, Wordpress was hit by the largest DDOS attack in its history.  When users attempted to access the popular blogging site, they were met with a message stating: “Writes to the service have been disabled, we will be bringing everything back online ASAP.” 

The number of people affected by Wordpress downtime makes this one of the boldest DDOS attacks of all time.  One in ten websites are published by Wordpress, which sees 300 million unique monthly visits.

According to its status page, Wordpress described the attack as "extremely large," estimating the size of the attack at multiple Gigabits per second and tens of millions of packets per secondThe attack lasted approximately two hours.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March Site Tips

Microsoft Launches Bing Deals Aggregating Local Daily Deals

David Makarewicz
Bing Deals Interface
 
Microsoft is throwing its hat into the local daily deal ring.  Today, the software giant announced the launch of Bing Deals, which aggregates the offerings of deal sites, including Groupon, Living Social and Restaurant.com.

Bing Deals is the product of Microsoft's partnership with The Dealmap, which already has software in place allowing users to browse various deal sites.

The Bing Deals roll out has some asking whether this is simply an inexpensive way for Microsoft to enter the deal game by eventually acquiring The Dealmap or a competitor.  With daily deal sites experiencing exponential growth, it would be no surprise.  Groupon anticipates more than $1 billion in revenue this year alone.

Microsoft denies that it is attempting to directly enter the market.  Bing director Stefan Weitz told CNET, "we can build a lot of this stuff ourselves...but if you look at how Bing generally has grown successfully it's been because we're almost recognizing where we can tap into those who have already come before us and done a really good job."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Judge Rejects Classmates.com Class Action Settlement

David Makarewicz

Ad For Classmates.com
A federal Judge has rejected a Classmates.com class action settlement once claimed to be worth more than $9 million.  The settlement would have ended a 2008 case in which Classmates is accused of deceptive email marketing techniques.  The Court found that the settlement, which turned out to only award a small number of affected users either a $2 coupon or $3 cash, was "inadequate."

According to the lawsuit, Classmates deceptive practices included sending emails to its free users, encouraging them to upgrade to a paid membership by suggesting that "friends" have shown an interest in their profile.  Only by upgrading could the user discover who was interested.  However, after upgrading, the user typically discovered that nobody had actually shown interest.