Are US Courts ‘Going Dark’?

An anonymous reader writes: Judge Stephen Wm. Smith argues that questions about the government’s “golden age of surveillance” miss an equally significant trend: that the U.S. Courts are “going dark”. In a new editorial, he writes that “Before the digital age, executed search warrants were routinely placed on the court docket available for public inspection,” but after the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, more than 30,000 secret court surveillance orders were given just in 2006. He predicts that today’s figure is more than double, “And those figures do not include surveillance orders obtained by state and local authorities, who handle more than 15 times the number of felony investigations that the feds do. Based on that ratio, the annual rate of secret surveillance orders by federal and state courts combined could easily exceed half a million.”

Judge Smith also cites an increase in cases — even civil cases — that are completely sealed, but also an increase in “private arbitration” and other ways of resolving disputes which are shielded from the public eye. “Employers, Internet service providers, and consumer lenders have led a mass exodus from the court system. By the click of a mouse or tick of a box, the American public is constantly inveigled to divert the enforcement of its legal rights to venues closed off from public scrutiny. Justice is becoming privatized, like so many other formerly public goods turned over to invisible hands — electricity, water, education, prisons, highways, the military.” The judge’s conclusion? “Over the last 40 years, secrecy in all aspects of the judicial process has risen to literally unprecedented levels. “


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Court Finds “Pinning” On the Internet To Be Fair Use

speedplane writes: Pinterest has always aggressively defended their trademarks, but in 2013, they launched a trademark lawsuit against Pintrips, a travel planning startup that allows users to “pin” and share information about flights. Yesterday, however, a federal court issued a major ruling against Pinterest finding that “pinning” is a feature, not a trademark, and therefore is fair use. This seems to bode well for the many other “pinning” sites on the internet.


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Lawsuit Filed Over Domain Name Registered 16 Years Before Plaintiff’s Use

HughPickens.com writes: Cybersquatting is registering, selling or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of someone else’s trademark. It generally refers to the practice of buying up domain names that use the names of existing businesses with the intent to sell the names for a profit to those businesses. Now Andrew Allmann writes at Domain Name Wire that New York company Office Space Solutions, Inc. has filed a cybersquatting lawsuit against Jason Kneen over the domain name WorkBetter.com that Kneen registered in 1999 although Office Space Solutions didn’t use the term “Work Better” in commerce until 2015. “Workbetter.com is virtually identical to, and/or confusingly similar to the WORK BETTER Service Mark, which was distinctive at the time that the Defendant renewed and/or updated the registration of workbetter.com,” says the lawsuit. But according to an Office Space Solutions’ filing with the USPTO, it didn’t use the term “Work Better” in commerce until 2015. Office Space Solutions is making the argument that the domain name was renewed in bad faith. According to Kneen, Office Space previously tried to purchase the domain name from him and after it failed to acquire the domain name, is now trying to take it via a lawsuit.


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