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The Mishpat-Update #13

Welcome to the thirteenth issue of the weekly Mishpat-Update, Law 
on the net from

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In this issue:

1. Introduction
2. Feature Article -
3. Cyberlaw News


1. Introduction

I would like to welcome the 7 new subscribers who joined the list this

It is now three months since the first issue of the Mishpat Update was
first published. As much as I enjoy writing and editing it, it is
mainly supposed to answer your needs. In order to improve this
newsletter I really need your feedback. Any (constructive) criticism,
suggestions and comments will be appreciated. Please send your comments

The Mishpat Update archives (issues 1-10) is available at

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2. Feature Article -

A new Web site aims to help lawyers overcome real world barriers to
public service. Idealistic law school graduates often start their
careers at large firms with a burning desire to do some "pro bono" work
-- volunteering their time for projects of public interest. But many
never get around to it. Once inside a firm's front door, some
overworked lawyers find they have little time to devote to the public

The non-profit site , hopes to
create a public interest law firm in cyberspace. The project brings
together many parts of the New York legal establishment: elite law
firms, well known public interest law organizations, law school clinics
and public interest lawyers. It is supported by a ,000 grant from
the Open Society Institute, a project of the financier George Soros.'s statement of mission is: "First, use information
technology to increase the amount and quality of legal services
provided to low income individuals and communities, and in support of
the public good, by the public interest/pro bono lawyers. Second,
create a virtual community of public interest lawyers in New York City
that bridges the private, legal services, public interest and academic
sectors of the profession and serves as a model for similar networks in
other legal communities." (more details at is organized around "practice areas," focused on specific
legal topics (currently asylum law and family justice). Each practice
area is "hosted" by one or more public interest law firms and supported
by a private law firm. 

Once approved, a lawyer gets a password and can go to a private area on
the site to view postings of new cases that need volunteers. He or she
can visit an online library that contains training materials, briefs,
standard legal forms and the like. The lawyer can participate in
discussions on a special message board in the practice area. By posting
questions and chatting with colleagues, the lawyer can get answers or
advice from more experienced lawyers or volunteers. 

Lawyers say the site will be an efficient matchmaker between lawyers
and cases, and make coordination and collaboration much easier and
faster by delivering news and information via the web and email. 

At the moment this service is only available for New York lawyers, so
if you practice in New York don't forget to visit
and if you are from some other area on the globe (as a vast majority of
you are) how about trying to set up a similar project for your local

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3. Cyberlaw Updates

Each week Mishpat-Update brings you the latest news about
online and computer law, with links to the full reports available
on the web.

* ICANN approves WIPO cybersquatting recommendations *
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
endorsed a controversial set of recommendations by the World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for cracking down on
so called cybersquatters (people registering trademarks and other
popular words as Internet addresses). The WIPO proposal has been
criticized as favoring trademark holders and wealthy corporate
interests over small businesses, nonprofit groups and individual
Internet users (The recommendations were reviewed in Mishpat Update
(Free registration to the NY Times online required)

* Brazilian ISP wins against AOL *
A small ISP (Internet Service Provider) in southern Brazil won in a
lawsuit filed by America Online (AOL) which contested the Brazilian
provider's use of domain name alleging trademark
infringement. The court ruled that since Brazil's America On Line
registered the name first, it doesn't have to surrender the domain name
to its US rival. The decision may touch off concerns about
international cybersquatting as many Internet giants begin to launch
overseas operations, only to find that country level version of the
domain name is already registered. AOL said it may appeal the Sao Paolo

* Conviction for online Sexual Invitation Reversed *
An online conversation between William C. Burgess, a Midwestern
businessman and a Florida person named "Maggie284" , claiming to be a
mere 13 years old, began in a chat room designated for "men interested
in 'barely legal females.'". When Burgess showed up at a hotel parking-
lot in Orlando to meet Maggie in person, he was greeted by police and
was convicted for violating two relatively new codes against using
interstate commerce to attempt to have sex with a minor. But a panel of
the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set aside that conviction,
citing a faulty jury charge. The trial judge failed to instruct jurors
not to hold the fact that Burgess did not testify, against him.

* US government web sites hacked *
Some of the most important US federal government sites were hacked this
week, including the FBI's site and the Senate's web site. The hacks
seem to be related to the FBI's crackdown on computer hackers.,4586,2267421,00.html,4,37138,00.html

* Raytheon Drops Internet Chat Suit *
When the Raytheon Co. suspected some employees were chatting behind its
back on the Internet, the defense contractor took them to court. In
February, Raytheon filed suit against the 21 `John Does', accusing
them of discussing such matters as rumored mergers and acquisitions,
and possible defense contracts on a public Internet site run by Yahoo!
Inc. Raytheon obtained subpoenas against Yahoo! and other Internet
services, and eventually learned all 21 names. Now, after four of the
workers quit, and the rest entered corporate counseling, Raytheon
dropped the suit and claimed victory. But critics say the company used
the court to chill free speech.

* Copyright bill might limit access to facts *
The US House Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property passed a
heavily amended Collections of Information Anti piracy Act. From Web
crawlers to medical journal articles, nationwide court rulings, phone
directories, and stock quotes, electronic database operators currently
can't own copyrights on the facts they catalog. But consumer advocates
argue that the database legislation on the table would give a select
group of companies an unprecedented grip on everything from usage
rights to price setting - on the facts they compile, which could stifle
product development, new discoveries, and value added businesses.,25,36911,00.html

* Amazon will restore a book banned in the UK *
Responding to customer criticism, will restore a book
critical of Scientology to its list of available titles. Amazon removed
Jon Atack's "A Piece of Blue Sky" from its virtual bookshelves in
February after being advised that sales of the book were subject to a
cease-and-desist order in the UK. The order stemmed from a ruling
barring distribution of the book because of defamatory language. Amazon
has since reevaluated that policy and will relist the book within
the next several days, Curry said. However, he said the company will
block sales of A Piece of Blue Sky to customers in the United Kingdom.,4586,2263095,00.html

* AOL sues over use of the term "Buddy List" *
America Online (AOL) is suing to stop Tribal Voice, a provider of
instant messaging software, from using the term "Buddy List" on its
service called PowWow. AOL claims that Tribal Voice is confusing
customers into thinking its service involves AOL. In December, AOL
filed a similar suit to stop AT&T's Internet unit from using "You Have
Mail" and other popular terms, including "Buddy List", to describe
email services. Virginia federal Chief Judge Claude Hilton ruled
against AOL, and said that the disputed terms were probably generic.
Tribal Voice claims the term is commonly used and not
computer specific.,1087,3_125301,00.html

* Election electronic contributions *
The US Federal Election Commission took a major step toward allowing
credit card contributions to qualify for matching federal funding. A
spokeswoman at the FEC said that although commissioners asked that the
proposal be amended to include more detail about proposed regulation
changes, they seemed set to give it the green light.,4586,2263139,00.html

* More stories from the Microsoft antitrust frontier *
As usual, the Microsoft trial continues to supply some
interesting computer law news. The trial is now scheduled to resume
June  1st, after being in recess since mid february.
As if its antitrust trial against the Justice Department and 19 states
wasn't enough to keep defense attorneys busy, two new fronts have
opened. The escalation kicks off in Salt Lake City, as the first
hearing starts in an antitrust lawsuit brought by Caldera. Another
front will open when trial begins in an antitrust lawsuit brought by
Connecticut based Bristol Technologies.,4,36978,00.html

Did Microsoft threaten IBM? 
IBM Corp.'s Gary Norris, who will be a key rebuttal witness for
the government when Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial resumes
next week, testified that Microsoft repeatedly raised the prices it
charged the IBM for its operating systems and enforced other onerous
licensing terms in retaliation for I.B.M.'s refusal to stop competing
with Microsoft. Norris also testified that when he tried to sell IBM's
OS/2 to personal computer makers, they feared purchasing it because of
threats from Microsoft, even though they had customers who wanted it.
Norris said he was told by Microsoft, "As long as you're shipping
competitive products ... you will suffer,'' in pricing terms,
conditions and support programs. For example, IBM paid  million in
royalties in 1995, but when it came time to renegotiate, the company
wound up paying Microsoft  million in 1996, he said.
(Free registration to the NY Times online required)

AOL executive grilled by Microsoft Lawyers
Microsoft Corp. attorneys grilled America Online Inc. chief executive
Steve Case about how closely the company had worked with the Justice
Department last fall to keep merger negotiations between Netscape
Communications Corp. and AOL secret at the height of the software
giant's antitrust trial.

What is a browser?
The testimony of professor Edward Felten that the browser is a
"product" that consists of a set of functions instead of software code
came during a deposition in preparation for the resumption of the
antitrust trial after a three month recess. Felten has designed a
program that he testified removes the browser, while Microsoft contends
the program just hides and disables certain ways to access the browser
but leaves intact the overwhelming majority of code. Felten said that
since the first part of the trial concluded at the end of February he
has designed a new version of the browser removal program that
addresses some of the flaws that Microsoft witnesses pointed out.

* Ruling in Microsoft Java case *
A federal judge has issued a set of tentative rulings that would allow
Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to each claim partial victory
in their bitter litigation over the Java software platform. According
to the ruling, Microsoft's implementation of Java code in products
including Internet Explorer 4.0 and Windows 98 infringed Sun's
copyrights by failing to comply with a licensing agreement between the
two companies. But the Judge also ruled tentatively that Microsoft can
independently develop related technology that does not rely on Sun's
intellectual property.,4586,2265684,00.html

If you know of any cyberlaw updates, please send them to

That's all for this time,
see you next week

Yedidya M. Melchior 

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