Thursday, March 20, 2008

RFA 1: Copyright, Defamation, and Liability for Business Models

In the wake of the Supreme Court's Grokster opinion, legal scholars are analyzing when a business can be held secondarily liable for copyright infringement based on the likelihood or actuality that a business model requires a certain amount of infringing activity to be financially sustainable.

I would be interested to read an article considering the policy options related to business models that foreseeably attract, and apparently rely on, defamatory content. Shielded by Section 230 of the Communications Act, sites like Auto Admit, Juicy Campus, and Rotteneighbor invite users to post comments about other members of their respective communities. Relying on the pseudonymity offered by these sites, users have apparently been fairly brazen in posting defamatory comments harming the reputations of others.

Assuming Section 230 generally gets it right with respect to service provider liability, should a different standard apply when one starts a site that foreseeably attracts defamatory statements? Are these businesses using the reputations of others as part of their start-up capital? Is this just the price of free speech? This inquiring mind would like to know.

Reader-Generated Content?

I'm about to experiment with a new practice - the RFA (request for article). This is analogous to an RFC (request for comment) or RFP (request for proposal).

There are so many new developments related to the law and the Internet that I cannot pursue every idea that comes to mind about an interesting law review article. But I'd like to see the article get written. I'm not an Internet standard setting body, so an RFC, is in appropriate. And, I'm not in a position to commission an article, so an RFP doesn't work.

Hence, the RFA, which is backed only by a promise to read. If enough other readers make similar requests, perhaps we will generate the article we'd like to read.