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NSA: Spying Is Fine, But Trademark Infringement Crosses the Line

September 11, 2013 Privacy , Trademark

The NSA is misusing an obscure trademark-like law to suppress online content critical of the NSA.


This is a story about the National Security Agency, trademark law, online content takedowns, and more irony upon irony than I could have come up with in fiction.

As we all know, the NSA has been under fire for the last few months, over its broad national spying campaign. The NSA is of the position that its surveillance programs do not constitute a breach of Americans’ interests in privacy—they are perfectly happy to listen to us talk. But when it comes to people criticizing the NSA, suddenly the NSA doesn’t want to listen to anyone talking about them.

Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins, wrote a post on his personal blog about the NSA’s activities in undermining Internet cryptography. He then received a call from his academic dean, directing him to remove the blog post from university servers.

The university told Ars Technica that it had ordered the removal of the blog post because the university had been informed that the post “contained a link or links to classified material and also used the NSA logo.”

What’s wrong with using the NSA logo?

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The Many Murky Areas Of Senator Klobuchar’s “Anti-Streaming” Bill

July 6, 2011 Enforcement , Music , Trademark

Introduced in May and sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar, bill S. 978 has been the talk of the tech blogs lately. The bill seeks to change the rules regarding criminal copyright enforcement, adjusting which types of infringement constitute a felony with significant jail time. Reactions to the bill have displayed a good deal of alarm. We’re here to sort fact from fiction as best as we can: no, you probably won’t go to jail for watching True Blood on a bootleg website. But yes, this bill does have some prickly bits, and there’s definitely stuff here that warrants some concern.

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Judge Vacates Order Holding PIR In Contempt, Leaves Door Open For “Aiding and Abetting” Charge

June 28, 2011 Enforcement , International , Piracy , Trademark

In yet another turn in our ongoing coverage of the North Face counterfeiting case, The Public Interest Registry is no longer being held in contempt for resolving domains associated with the counterfeiters’ websites. The Judge agreed with the PIR’s analysis regarding the court’s authority to hold in contempt a nonparty for which there was no in personam jurisdiction:

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UPDATE: Public Interest Registry Takes Counterfeit Domains Off The Web

June 24, 2011 Enforcement , International , Network Neutrality , Piracy , Trademark

I recently wrote a post about a string of counterfeit clothing websites, and how a New York District judge held the Public Interest Registry in contempt for failing to remove the counterfeit domains from its database. Just a heads-up: as of June 24th, 2011 at 9:44 AM EST, the counterfeit domain names (such as cheapnorthface.org) no longer resolve. I assume this means that PIR took action to remove the domain names from its registry, as per the judge’s stay order.

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Court holds Public Interest Registry In Contempt For Resolving Counterfeit Domains – Wait, It Can

June 17, 2011 Enforcement , International , Piracy , Trademark

Try entering “CHEAPNORTHFACECLOTHING.COM” into your browser and see what pops up. Should be nothing. The domain was one of many to be permanently shut down, due to an injunction granted by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in the Southern District of New York. The domain, if you didn’t guess by the name, led to a site that sold cheap clothes claiming to be North Face, and was part of a network of counterfeit clothing websites mimicking everything from Polo Ralph Lauren to Nike. In all, the list of literally thousands of seized domains represented the largest counterfeiting ring ever discovered in internet history. OK, now try typing in “CHEAPNORTHFACE.ORG.” As of time of writing, that address leads to an active site.

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