Week in review: Sex, spies and video flaps

Porn law overturned, corporate spying and video-hosting sites--what's next on the court docket?

They didn't exactly match Law & Order for celebrity cachet, but the greatest dramas in the tech world this week unfolded in the courtroom.

A federal judge ruled that the Child Online Protection Act, or COPA, was unconstitutional and violated Americans' First Amendment rights, dealing another serious setback to Congress' efforts to muzzle pornography on the Web.

The judge barred prosecutors from enforcing COPA, saying it was overly broad and would undoubtedly "chill a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech for adults."

Even though politicians enacted COPA nearly a decade ago as part of an early wave of Internet censorship efforts, the courts have kept it on ice and it has never actually been enforced. The law makes it a crime for commercial Web sites to make "harmful to minors" material publicly available. Violators could be fined as much as $50,000 and face up to six months in prison.

The almost-forgotten law made headlines last year after Department of Justice attorneys preparing to defend COPA in U.S. District Judge Lowell Reed's Philadelphia courtroom sent subpoenas to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL asking for millions of search records. Only Google fought the subpoena in court, and it managed to persuade a California judge to limit what information prosecutors would receive.

While CNET News.com readers debated the merits of the ruling, one reader offered a novel solution to the issue.

"What we really need is two separate Internets. One for porn and spam, and one for legitimate uses," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum. "Let people choose which one they want."

The same day, Oracle announced it had filed a lawsuit against archrival SAP, alleging the software giant hacked into Oracle's customer support center and downloaded copies of its proprietary software code. The lawsuit, which names SAP and its wholly owned subsidiary TomorrowNow as defendants, alleges the two companies engaged in computer fraud and abuse, computer data access and fraud, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

Oracle says that in late November it noticed an unusually heavy volume of download activity on Oracle's password-protected customer support and maintenance site for its PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers. Upon a review of the Customer Connection site, Oracle alleges, it found more than 10,000 illicit downloads in which customers with expired, or soon-to-expire, support and maintenance contracts had accessed the support and maintenance site. Oracle claims that a common thread among all of the customers with allegedly misappropriated customer IDs is that they were about to become, or had recently become, an SAP TomorrowNow customer.

And in the continuing legal adventures of Viacom versus Google, a lawsuit filed against Viacom accuses the media conglomerate of misusing U.S. copyright law by forcing YouTube to remove a parody video of The Colbert Report. However, Viacom denies the accusation and said it does not object to the video being on YouTube. The suit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, accuses Viacom of filing a baseless copyright complaint and takedown notice on YouTube.

The tongue-in-cheek clip, "Stop the Falsiness," uses snippets from The Colbert Report, a program on Viacom's Comedy Central, for parody. That approach, the EFF said, is permissible under the "fair use" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, just as The Colbert Report uses excerpts from real news shows in its segments.

Not all fun and games
After saying that it would investigate complaints about fraud on its Xbox Live online gaming service, Microsoft said it found no evidence of a security breach on its Xbox Live or Bungie.net online gaming services, and gamers who had trouble with their accounts were likely duped into giving up their details to fraudsters.

"There have been a few isolated incidents where malicious users have been attempting to draw personal information from unsuspecting users and use it to gain access to their Live account," the company said in a statement.

Gamers had reported that their Xbox Live accounts were hijacked and their credit cards used to buy "Microsoft Points," the virtual currency on Xbox Live, which has more than 6 million users.

Gamers have been reporting the incidents for some time in online forums --including on Xbox.com--and to Microsoft's Xbox help desk. Many users of the Microsoft console have been frustrated with the software giant's response to date.

"My Xbox Live account was hacked and all credit card info was stolen and used to run up points...Microsoft says: 'Oh, well, better call your credit card companies, nothing we can do,'" one user wrote on the Xbox Web site last month.

And apparently World of Warcraft isn't all virtual love and flowers either. According to several players, WoW participants recently have been banned from the game for what they believed to be little or no justification. Critics claim WoW publisher Blizzard Entertainment has been snaring innocent players in a dragnet for banned activities like account sharing and gold farming--a system in which players either directly or indirectly acquire large amounts of in-game currency or goods through repetitious actions, often achieved by operating automatic "bots" or macros that kill monsters or discover treasure.

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