CBS's Censorship Of CNET May Undermine A Different CBS Lawsuit

from the didn't-think-about-that,-now-did-you? dept

Last week, after the news came out that CBS had censored its subsidiary CNET, barring reporters there from reviewing Dish products (or any product of any company in litigation with CBS) or from awarding them the “best of CES” award that CNET reporters had already voted on, we wrote a post pointing out how this was dumb for a variety of reasons, mainly focused on the harm it did to CNET’s credibility. Indeed, as noted, one of CNET’s star reporters, Greg Sandoval, has already resigned. However, it turns out that it may have been even more stupid than originally suspected. In fact, it may undermine another important lawsuit filed by CBS.

We’ve written in the past a few times about Alki David’s crusade against CBS, in which he sued the company, pushing a conspiracy theory about how CBS only went after his company FilmOn (the name of which was later changed, for pure publicity reasons, to AereoKiller) because it wanted to be the only one to profit from infringement. The argument was that because CNET was owned by CBS, and because CNET site Download.com had offered up software like Limewire, combined with CNET reviewers reviewing Limewire, it meant that CBS itself was guilty of infringement.

This was a silly legal theory, built more out of spite to annoy CBS. Unfortunately, since it was first brought up, we’ve seen many people passing it along (especially one particular YouTube video that calls out this “conspiracy theory” as fact, without any basis). However, knowing how independent CNET was from CBS, it always seemed like a particularly silly accusation, and the first version of the lawsuit didn’t go very far, though a refiled version has done slightly better.

However, now that CBS has decided to rush headlong through that wall of editorial independence it may have totally undermined its own case. That’s because, in responding to the case, CBS, in part, made the argument that a finding against it might chill free speech by encroaching on the editorial independence of CNET.

Except… in making this latest move, CBS is now making the argument that it has no problem butting in on CNET’s editorial independence (or any CBS Interactive property), which may take away a key argument it has against secondary liability for any articles about infringement. Knowing the way Alki David has acted in the past, I’d be surprised if he didn’t rush to use this in the ongoing case.

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Companies: cbs, cnet, dish

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Comments on “CBS's Censorship Of CNET May Undermine A Different CBS Lawsuit”

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23 Comments
Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Don’t forget the difference between civil and criminal.

Also, there is the difference with the enforcers of the law vs just some guy.

There’s also the difference in roles. The DOJ is supposed to enforce laws for the betterment of society in a just manner. This guy does not play any of those roles.

I get it. He’s trying to twist laws. That’s bad. It shouldn’t happen. He’s an idiot for doing so (and probably other reasons, too). But to say there’s little difference between the two is asinine. He’s got very limited funds to keep this lawsuit going, certainly less than CBS has to squash it. The DOJ, OTOH, has practically limitless funds to go after people whose funds they can take away at will (cf. Mega).

minerat (profile) says:

Arstechnica made a really good point about CBS’s decision and CNET’s disclosure. The disclosure really doesn’t make it better because it doesn’t just affect reviews of the products from companies with which CBS is involved in litigation, it affects reviews of all products in the same category because they won’t be compared to all possible alternatives (and this probably won’t be disclosed in every gadget review where a competing product has been blacklisted). It undermines their credibility far more than it superficially appears.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘The argument was that because CNET was owned by CBS, and because CNET site Download.com had offered up software like Limewire, combined with CNET reviewers reviewing Limewire, it meant that CBS itself was guilty of infringement.’

considering how many courts now rule against sites that simply have links to other sites that MAY contain infringing files, how can this not be classed as infringing when the site itself was available as was the software? seems like a dangerous area is being trodden here

Ed C. says:

CNET having integrity? I stopped trusting them even before CBS bought them. Something about their editors claiming items as top picks while stating that they were clearly inferior to others items, even ones they also reviewed, didn’t sit right with me. Is it the best item in the category or is it inferior? You can’t have it both ways, but yet, they did.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

it meant that CBS itself was guilty of infringement

I saw a vid once that made a very strong case about this, and since have found another site that makes a good case of they knew and didnt care.
http://onecandleinthedark.blogspot.com/

At face value word for word it seems absurd. But…

The argument was that because CNET was owned by CBS, and because CNET site Download.com had offered up software like Limewire, combined with CNET reviewers reviewing Limewire, it meant that CBS itself was guilty of infringement. – Sooo a CBS owned site is not responsible for the content it provided? Or encouraging users to download such tools? How so? Its not like this was user generated stuff.

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