It seems like a matter of common sense that if someone regularly and systematically does business within the United States, that person or business should reasonably expect to be summoned or subpoenaed when necessary, either to produce relevant documents, or to produce a witness to testify about a topic only that company knows about.
Such a simple matter of due process seems like a relatively straightforward matter of American civil procedure. It has been largely non-controversial for decades. However, recently, large corporations have gotten strong enough to test the patience (and resources) of litigants, including government officials.
For example, take Amazon and Google.
Amazon has appointed a registered agent for service of process in New York (CT Corporation), so why not just serve Amazon with a subpoena duces tecum?
Apparently, it's not so simple.
An article published on AssociatesMind.com details how Amazon does not typically cooperate with, nor respond to, routine subpoenas for documents. Amazon allegedly forces all litigants to seek a third party subpoena from the Thurston County Clerk's office in Washington State, where Amazon's headquarters is located.
Such a process is likely to cost a litigant thousands of dollars in legal fees. Further, if Amazon objects to the scope of the subpoena, an out-of-state litigant would need to retain local counsel in Olympia, Washington, to litigate a motion to compel there.
Amazon's obstructive efforts are no idle threat. In one criminal case, a Grand Jury sitting in Wisconsin sought a representative sample of used book buyers, in a criminal case involving mail fraud and wire fraud there.
Amazon issued its usual blanket objections, forcing the issue to be litigated in federal court. Ultimately, the federal government backed down.
The standard response on the Internet was to applaud Amazon's resistance. But before applauding Amazon's seeming defense of privacy rights, think about the precedent set here...
A legitimately convened Grand Jury had decided that Amazon's documents were relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.
Amazon was able to hire an army of private lawyers to successfully keep its business records from the Grand Jury. Despite its claims, Amazon was not interested solely in the pursuit of noble privacy. Amazon was protecting its business, by telegraphing that it is not held to the same standards of disclosure and due process as everyone else.
Google does the same thing.
Why should wealthy multinational corporations be entitled to use the threat of protracted, expensive litigation to frustrate due process?
Monday, March 2, 2015
Monday, May 20, 2013
Internet giant Yahoo! announced on Sunday that it would buy blogging service Tumblr for $1.1B in cash. Just last year, Facebook purchased Instagram for $1B.
These expensive Internet company acquisitions have made headlines, largely because among traditional Wall Street investors, there remains a nagging, unanswered question: How on earth will any of these new Internet companies actually make any money?
Yahoo's Marissa Mayer promised investors that she would not "screw up" the deal. But is the billion dollar-plus Tumblr deal already doomed from the start?
It is clear that popular free Internet services like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are first intent on building strong brand loyalty among their respective users. Once that brand awareness and loyalty exists, the somewhat more challenging task is left to others to figure out how to monetize this intangible asset into a profitable venture. "Turning eyeballs into dollars," some consultants call it.
And it is no easy task: Ask Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook's Initial Public Offering raised $16B, but most of Facebook's revenue still comes from advertising, not membership/usage fees.
Sarah Smith, who was Facebook's Online Sales Operations Manager, reported that successful advertising campaigns on the site can have clickthrough rates as low as 0.05% to 0.04%. That means that Facebook generally has a lower clickthrough rate for its advertisements than most major websites.
In fact, according to BusinessWeek.com, banner advertisements on Facebook have generally receive one-fifth the number of clicks compared to those on the Web as a whole, although specific comparisons can reveal a much larger disparity.
Therefore, even Facebook, with massive brand awareness and loyalty, has struggled with monetizing these assets. Best of luck to Yahoo, Tumblr and Marissa Mayer.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
What do you do when you thought it was a good idea to invest thousands of dollars in over 750 domain names that have "Google" in them, such as “GoogleGayCruises.com” and “GoogleDonaldTrump.com"? You apparently spend MORE money to hire a couple of lawyers to try and convince a federal judge that "GOOGLE" is just a generic term. Oh, and you demand that the Court should cancel the world's most valuable trademarks so you can keep those domain names you worked so hard to
cybersquat on register and use in good faith.