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The Mishpat-Update #7

Welcome to the seventh issue of the weekly Mishpat-Update, Law on

the net from

This newsletter is sent only to subscribers. If you no longer wish

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at the bottom of this message.


In this issue:

1. What's New

2. Award winner review

3. Cyberlaw News



1. What's New


I would like to welcome the 9 new subscribers who joined the list this

week. This week's issue has only three sections but it includes a

longer than usual cyberlaw news section.

The Mishpat Update archive (updates 1-5) can be found at

As promised last week, our sister site Israeli Lawyers Online reopened

this week with a new design, a new database software, in both English

and Hebrew. You can visit the site at:

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2. Award winner review


This section is devoted to sites that won the Mishpat Award for legal

sites. To apply for the award or view the winning sites, visit

Site Name:

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn



A site describing one of Michigan's largest law firms with links to

numerous current summaries created by members of the law firm,

summarizing case law and current events.

Site review:

This site is an excellent example of what a law firm's site should

currently look like. It includes the firm's profile, recruiting

information, ordering publications, attorneys' profiles (from West

Legal Directory) and more.

The most interesting and helpful part of the site is the Publications

section. The firms' publications cover tax, environment, antitrust,

real estate, litigation and more. 

Currently this is the information law firms have to offer online.

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn's site is easy to navigate in and has

a simple, elegant and fast loading graphic design.  

Hopefully, in the near future law firms will make greater parts of

their work available to the public through the Internet. Advanced web

sites will include online legal advice, standard legal solutions

distributed through the web and Artificial Intelligence systems that

will be able to answer clients' questions. This might sound a little

imaginary, but if you read Richard Susskind's amazing "The Future of

Law : Facing the Challenges of Information Technology" you will learn

about the the changes information technology is bringing to the legal


Susskind's book is available at, and will be reviewed in one

of the next issues of the Mishpat-Update. To get it from

follow this link:

To apply for the Mishpat Award or view the winning sites, visit

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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.

* AOL sued by former volunteers *

Defectors in America Online's (AOL) army of volunteers have complained

to the federal government they are owed back wages. Seven employees,

some of whom answered users' questions or monitored chat rooms, argue

they are owed money under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

AOL has about 12,000 employees and about 10,000 volunteers. Volunteers

must put in a minimum of four hours of work per week with no cap on the

maximum. In exchange for their work, they receive free AOL accounts for

unlimited use - a .95 per month value. 

The volunteers appealed to the U.S. Labor Department to evaluate

whether the work violates the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which

states that a person must be paid for time spent in job related

activities which benefit the employer. (the former volunteers site)

(Free subscription to NY Times required)

* Ruling Prohibit Stealth domain Sites *

A judge in Virginia ordered Network Solutions Inc. to freeze a site

with the address The court ruled that owner of

the site, who was using the address to feed traffic to a pornography

site, was diluting a famous investment firm's trademark. The practice

of registering "stealth sites," or Domain Names that are variations on

popular corporate names (such as is a cheap way to drive

traffic (people misspelling the company's name) but the court ruled

that it is a trademark infringement.,1087,3_100051,00.html

In another domain name case Mark Gaither the creator of a free service

for validating Web page design says his site name has been hijacked by

domain speculators. Gaither says that a mistake by Network Solutions,

the company that manages Web addresses, the domain was transferred to a

Danish company that produces X-rated sites.,1087,10_94421,00.html

* Melissa Stories *

The virus "Melissa" that attacked computers around the globe in the

past few weeks (see Mishpat-Update #6) continues to supply more


A congressional hearing  called to explore potential solutions to

computer viruses like the fast spreading Melissa has turned into a

debate about online privacy and the investigative methods used to track

David L. Smith, the computer programmer accused of writing it (using

America Online records and Microsoft Software ID).

(Free subscription to NY Times required)

Catching the hacker who created the "Melissa virus" was the easy part.

Now, what do cyberlaw enforcers do with him? David Smith's defense

attorney sees the charges as the  hi-tech equivalent of a traffic

offense, because offenses were more in the nature of annoyance and

delay than permanent damage.

* Major companies foul up regarding privacy issues *

Car manufacturer Nissan sent the addresses of 24,000 potential

customers who had filled out a form on the company's Web site to every

address on the list. Every customer who signed up for information about

a forthcoming sport utility vehicle received the list.

AT&T admitted a similar mistake, acknowledging it recently revealed the

emails of 1,800 customers of an international calling program.

* Important Personal Jurisdiction ruling * 

A federal judge has ruled in Barrett v. The Catacombs Press, that an

Oregon woman's posting of allegedly defamatory messages on Internet

discussion groups and a passive Website accessible anywhere in the

world does not expose her to being sued for libel in Pennsylvania

(where the defamed individual lives), since she didn't have sufficient

contacts to give a Pennsylvania court personal jurisdiction.

The full verdict is available at:

* Can the FTC enforce the Intel settlement? *

Orson Swindle, the only FTC commissioner who opposed the American

government's original complaint against Intel (claiming Intel misused

its monopoly power) said that the government will have a hard time

enforcing the settlement the two sides reached last month (as reported

in Mishpat-Update #3 and #4). Swindle claims that Intel will probably

not create the records that will enable the government to enforce the


* When will NSI's monopoly end? *

A new report claims that Network Solution Inc. (NSI) the domain name

registrar, will not face competition before the year 2000, although the

monopoly was supposed to end during April (as reported in depth in

Mishpat Update #4).,1087,3_96121,00.html

* US fears computer espionage *

The US Energy Department suspended all scientific work on the computers

containing America's most sensitive secrets over fears that security

lapses make the computers vulnerable to espionage.

(Free subscription to NY Times required)

I wish to thank Mishpat-Update reader Boaz Guttman for pointing out

this article.

* Web copycat caught *

London based Blue Sky Communications' entire website had been copied by

U.S. company Controlweb, right down to the same navigation buttons and

identical text.

* Yahoo! asked to reveal anonymous posters *

Restaurant chain Shoney's wants Yahoo to reveal the names of people who

posted confidential information about it on the message boards. The

Nashville based restaurant chain asked Davidson County Chancery Court

to subpoena  Yahoo! to find  the authors of the postings to Yahoo!

message boards.

* Y2k lawsuits reach courts *

Several lawsuits related to the year 2000 computer problem have reached

courts in the last few months, but it is still a small number compared

to the predicted flood of Y2K litigation.

(Free subscription to NY Times required)

* A new site cuts settling costs *, it is a Web based service that compares numbers placed

confidentially on the virtual table by the claimant and the insurer. If

the two figures are within ,000 or 30 percent of each other, a

message on the  screen announces a settlement, splitting the difference

between the two sides.

* Tiananmen activists start an internet campaign *

Activist groups moved their global campaign into cyberspace urging

China to reassess the 1989 brutal crush of the pro democracy


* Argentinean journalist guilty of violating e-mail privacy *

A journalist in Argentina published an article that included personal

e-mail correspondence between two employees of a editorial house,

without the consent of either of them.  Lawyers for the sender of the

message initiated a criminal complaint against the journalist for

violating the privacy of his e-mail communication. The Appeal Courts,

however, found that "electronic communications are a true post in a

modern day version, and that as such, correspondence and everything

that can be transmitted or received through it, enjoy the same

protection as letters".

The judges noted that e-mail communications require of a service

provider, a user name and password that stops third parties from

accessing data that can be sent or archived through it, and thus its

characteristics of privacy protection are greater than those of postal

mail. (In spanish)

* Parents sue computer and media companies *

Michael Carneal shocked the world in December 1997 when he killed eight

of his high school classmates. Might the hours Carneal spent playing

Doom have blurred the line between fantasy and reality? How about a

Leonardo DiCaprio movie with a similar scene? Or and

other erotic Web sites that police say 14 year old Carneal frequently


In an interesting move, parents of three students who died have

answered: All of the above. The families filed a lawsuit in a Kentucky

federal court against computer companies and media firms, claiming that

the executives traded conscience for cash.

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

That's all for this time,

see you next week

Yedidya M. Melchior 


The Cyberlaw Informer

Your E-mail Address

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