US Judge: Free Speech Protects Baidu's Beijing-OK'd Results
Today in international tech news: A U.S. judge rules that free speech laws enable Chinese search engine Baidu to filter anti-China searches. Also: Ferrari and a 21-year-old do battle over a Facebook fan page; Europe gives British video game producers a tax break; and China deals yet another blow to Bitcoin.
03/28/14 10:00 AM PT
A Manhattan judge ruled that a Chinese search engine's practice of restricting free speech is, wouldn't you know it, protected by free speech.
Chinese Internet company Baidu won the dismissal of a U.S. lawsuit filed by activists who objected to its, shall we say, selective search results, which adhere to the government's notoriously limited view of what is and isn't acceptable.
Eight New York-based writers and video producers were ticked that Baidu's search algorithms blocked U.S. users from viewing their content advocating for democracy in China. This, the plaintiffs claimed in a 2011 suit, prevented people from seeing their work; they sought US$16 million in damages for violation of their rights.
The judge, however, ruled that Baidu's search engine was itself protected by free speech: "The First Amendment protects Baidu's right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs' rights to advocate for democracy," the judge wrote.
Ferrari in Legal Tiff Over Facebook Fan Page
Sammy Wasem, a 21-year-old amateur racecar driver, and his father have filed a criminal complaint -- copyright infringement, to be exact -- against Italian sports car giant Ferrari after losing control of their Facebook page dedicated to the company.
This is a two-way legal battle: Ferrari also has sued the Wasems, claiming that the car-loving duo misused the company's trademark to advertise non-Ferrari merch and spruce up personal messages, such as Wasem's 18th birthday party invitations.
The younger Wasem launched the page when he was 15. Neither he nor his father make money selling merchandise on the fan page, according to Papa Wasem.
Ferrari sent an email to the Wasems in 2009, by which point the Facebook page had accumulated more than 500,000 fans. After congratulating them on their success, Ferrari said that "legal issues force us in taking over the formal control administration of the fan page."
The Wasems then began working on the page for the car company but say they never received what they felt was adequate compensation. They claim that Ferrari owes them for more than 5,500 hours of work done on the page.
Europe Gives Tax Break to Video Game Industry
The European Commission will offer tax to the British video game industry, ending a seven-year legal battle and enabling game makers to claim 25 percent of their qualifying production costs.
The tax breaks are similar to those gifted to the film and theater industry. The logic behind those breaks was to boost domestic production and put more British feature films on the big screen. The same pilosophy is in play with videogames.
Without the tax breaks, the Commission said, the number of "distinctive, culturally British games" would have taken a dive.
[Source: The Financial Times]
China Makes Life Harder Yet for Bitcoin
China's central bank has ordered all banks and payment service providers to close accounts opened by operators of websites that trade in bitcoins, the unpredictable (and increasingly unreliable) digital currency.
In December, China prohibited all third-party payment providers from offering clearing services for digital currency exchange.
While the People's Bank of China has yet to formally announce the ruling, Chinese business outlet Caixin reported that 15 trading sites will be closed, forcing any bitcoin websites currently residing in China to move their servers abroad. The crackdown takes effect April 15.
In February, Japan-based Mt. Gox, once the world's largest bitcoin exchange, shuttered after what it claimed was a massive hacking theft (but what some claimed was a case of fraud). At the time, Mt. Gox housed more than $400 million worth of bitcoins.