Abnormal Use Joins The Facebook

Guess what? We here at Abnormal Use have set up a Facebook page for our blog content, which you can find here. Sure, we waited until well after that movie about Facebook was released, but we wouldn’t say we’re tardy in joining everyone’s favorite social network. If anything, we’re fashionably late.

As you might expect, we’ll be posting links to our blog content there, so now, you don’t even have to leave your favorite (or most familiar) social networking platform to learn what we’re up to here at our site.  That just shows you how considerate we are. We’re hopeful that this move will promote additional interaction with you, our dear readers, and allow us to reach you where you already may be.  We’re very accommodating, aren’t we?

So, now, if you like us, if you really, really like us, then you can login to our new Facebook page and hit the like button!

CPSC v. Facebook?

Strange things are afoot with respect to the Internet presence of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC“). Earlier this week, the government agency issued a formal tweet warning users not to “like” or “use” in “any way” any unofficial Facebook pages dedicated to or representing themselves as the CPSC. (See above for a screen capture of the tweet in question.). Curiously, the tweet reads like a formal directive forbidding any participation in Facebook’s unofficial CPSC fora. (Yes, we said “fora,” not forums. Get over it.). This stern pronouncement prompted some investigation on the part of our investigative reporters here at Abnormal Use, a site often covering the CPSC.

First, we logged into our Facebook account and input “CPSC” into the search field. Apparently, there is not one, but five unofficial Facebook pages with the titles referencing the agency. (The search results for “CPSC” are depicted above.). Note that collectively, the three unofficial Facebook pages in that initial search result have a total of twelve followers or admirers or likers or whatever they’re called on Facebook. Note also that the “Web Results,” depicted at the bottom of the page, return two links to the official CPSC site and a third to the agency’s Wikipedia entry (which, as far as we know, the CPSC has not yet warned us against).

We decided to investigate further.

The first Facebook Community Page (depicted above) boasts eleven followers. It appears to be some type of automated page which collects various Facebook status updates and posts which reference the search term “CPSC.” Facebook users who update their status or posts links including the acronym for the agency will find their posts collected on this community page.

The next Facebook Community Page is only slightly different (but it has no admirers, or perhaps it did, but the agency shooed them away with its austere tweet). Note that this second Community Page (depicted above) is dedicated to the “cpsc” (in all lower case). It’s collection of links and status updates is identical to that of the first page, but it’s group title features no capital letters. An interesting quirk in Facebook’s new Community Page system, or anti-government conspiracy? We here at Abnormal Use remain on the case.

The third Facebook Community Page (depicted above) is titled “CPSC” (in all caps) and is identical in all respects to the first Community Page save for two things: it has but one admirer and its default icon appears to be a suitcase rather than a student in a graduation cap and gown.

We also input the full name of the CPSC into Facebook’s search field and found the page depicted above, complete with a more official looking profile picture in the form of a seal. The content seems to be primarily derived from Wikipedia’s CPSC entry, though, and only one person “likes” this unofficial incarnation of the CPSC on Facebook.

Finally, we uncovered an unofficial page for the Consumer Products Safety Commission Injury Coder (Nationwide Children’s Hospital), which features no admirers or content of any kind.

And that, dear readers, is all that we uncovered.

It seems like the culprit is not some sinister villain but instead some type of automated page creation system at Facebook. Interestingly, while the CPSC has certainly dipped its toe into the social media pond, it has not established any official presence on Facebook. We see on the landing page of the agency’s official website that it maintains accounts on YouTube, Flickr, and of course, Twitter. (It even has a page dedicated to its official Podcasts, although the agency has not recorded one in some time.).

We are puzzled and perplexed.

Why the hate for Facebook? Why no official presence there?

What’s the beef against Facebook creating a Community Page for discussion of CPSC issues?

Why can’t we “like” or use an unofficial page collecting links to unofficial CPSC information?

Where on Facebook should we go for our CPSC fix?

All kidding aside, one of the advantages of using Facebook to promote one’s own agenda is that much of your audience is already there using the site for other reasons. One would think that the CPSC would want to use that site in order to reach as many people as possible about potential recalls and product information. By using that site, too, CPSC essentially deputizes other users, who have the option to forward along items posted by the CPSC to their friends.

All screen captures were taken on the morning of Tuesday, June 8.

Facebook and Federal Courts: Mafia Wars Jurisprudence

Mafia Wars significantly marginalizes the social utility of Facebook. I confirmed most of my Facebook friends against my better judgment, only to later hide their status updates, because I don’t care about the fake fortune they have amassed, the ” jobs” they have completed, or the multiple assassination attempts they have survived. I have gone to New York, Las Vegas, Paris, and London. I don’t need to pretend to go there to establish a simulated criminal empire that serves to camouflage a deep sense of loneliness. Moreover, because all Facebook users are subject to Mafia Wars updates, the backlash against Mafia Wars has also risen to new levels, robbing me of the usual cachet I enjoy when I express disdain directed towards society. Mafia Wars, how big a judgment would it take to end this?

Unfortunately, the first federal case to address this pernicious trend is not one in which an injunction was sought against ceaseless Mafia Wars updates. Rather, Zynga Game Network, Inc., the perpetrator of Mafia Wars, brought suit against Jason Williams, Luna Martini, and multiple John Does claiming that they engaged in the “unauthorized sale of Zynga Virtual Goods” through various Mafia Wars related websites. The court explains the backdrop of the dispute:

Mafia Wars (the “Game”) is one of Zynga’s most popular games in which users can start a Mafia family with their friends and compete to become the most powerful family. Zynga has made use of the service mark MAFIA WARS in commerce since September 2008, and of the trademark MAFIA WARS since April 2009. Zynga currently owns Trademark Application Serial No. 77772110 for the mark MAFIA WARS in International Classes 009 and 041. As of December 2009, the Game had over 7 million daily users.

When users sign up with Zynga to play the Game, they receive a certain amount of “Virtual Currency” that can be used to compete with other players. Players can increase their total number of “Virtual Currency” either by their play or by purchase from Zynga. Players use this “Virtual Currency” to purchase various virtual, in-Game digital items (“Virtual Goods”).

Users can additionally earn Virtual Goods by either doing “jobs” or playing the Game. Zynga allows users to use the “Virtual Currency” or Virtual Goods while playing the Game, but retains sole and exclusive ownership of them and of the source code that allows them to be used in the Game. Zynga has not authorized any third party to sell the “Virtual Currency” or Virtual Goods required to play the Game. Users are informed in the Terms of Service that they are prohibited from selling “Virtual Currency” or Virtual Goods for real-world money or for exchanging “Virtual Currency” or Virtual Goods for anything of value outside of the Game.

In the present action, Zynga has alleged claims against Defendants for the unauthorized sale of Zynga Virtual Goods through the Internet domain names MAFIAWARSDIRECT.COM, MWBLACKMARKET.COM, and MWFEXPRESS.COM. Through these domain names, Defendants sell Virtual Goods that users, playing the Game through the Providers’ websites and/or applications, can use to compete with other players who obtained their Virtual Goods directly from Zynga. Defendants use Zynga’s MAFIA WARS mark and similar variations of it in advertising and for selling Virtual Goods. Plaintiff has never authorized Defendants to use the MAFIA WARS mark, sell Virtual Goods for use in the Game, or transfer Virtual Goods that Defendants have “sold” to players through the Infringing Websites.

Zynga Game Network Inc. v. Williams, No. CV-10:01022, 2010 WL 2077191, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 20, 2010).

Sigh. No injunction sought; of course, Zynga can’t sue to enjoin itself. Interestingly enough, this is the second federal opinion involving Mafia Wars, the first being Zynga Game Network, Inc. v. McEachern, No. 09-1557, 2009 WL 1108668, at *1 (N.D. Cal. April 24, 2009). In that case, Zynga sought a temporary restraining order against a former employee who had developed Mafia Wars but left the company to create his own game, Mob Underworld.

We write about frivolous lawsuits nearly every day. Isn’t there one vexatious litigant out there who can save my Facebook account from this game? Come on!

In the mean time, we’ll consult Wigmore on Mafia Wars to explore our options.

Friday Links

The Slicing Eyeballs music blog has triumphantly returned! Matt Sebastian, its author, has decided to resurrect his famed music website. We here at Abnormal Use were longtime fans, and we’re happy to see the site back in the music blogosphere. Good times!

Did you see that many of Prince’s albums returned to Spotify this past weekend? (But most of the albums by The White Stripes have vanished).

Did anyone listen to the “Stranglers” podcast, which finished its twelve episode season this past week? We have some complicated thoughts on the podcast, which sought to reexamine the investigation into the Boston Strangler murders, but we’re still processing them. We’ll keep you posted on this front. Share your thoughts, too, if you have any!

Our favorite tweet of late comes from #AppellateTwitter.

Friday Links


We here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. hope everyone will have a merry and festive holiday weekend! Don’t rush back to the office on Monday! To celebrate, we’ve appended the cover of a 1978 DC Comics special featuring Santa Claus and Rudolph. Who remembers that one?

What did everyone think of Rogue One? Come on, we know you’ve seen it by now.

Don’t forget that you can follow Abnormal Use on Facebook by going here!

Our favorite tweet of late you can find below. It features Charlotte, North Carolina, where we maintain an office, during the holiday season in the 1940’s. Enjoy!

Friday Links

We hope you’re enjoying the Thanksgiving holidays! But, in case you needed a Friday Links fix, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a pretty interesting article about an overseas jury noticing a 29 second gap in closed circuit television camera footage -after- the case had been given to them. Apparently, neither the prosecution nor the defense lawyers had noticed the gap, causing a good bit of tumult when the members of the jury inquired about the issue during deliberations.

Beware: Facebook’s app may be draining your phone’s battery more than you might expect. Click here for a bit more information on that report.

Just a few weeks until Rogue One is released! Will you be skipping work a bit early that day to see it?

Friday Links

Take note, lawyers of South Carolina! Mandatory e-filing in the Court of Common Pleas will expand to include yet another county, this time Anderson County, on October 18.

One of our favorite podcasts, “Mystery Show,” now faces an uncertain future. If you’re note familiar with it, we’d highly encourage you to visit its archives (especially the compelling and emotionally affecting third episode).

Don’t forget that the Mecklenburg County Bar’s Small Firm Soiree is tomorrow night! Click here for details.

Our tweet of the week addresses music, not the law, but it is just as important (as it seeks to correct one of the day’s most pernicious malapropisms). Please, dear readers, take heed.

Friday Links

Did you see that Steven Adler, the former Guns N’ Roses drummer, played with Axl Rose and Slash for the first time since 1990? How about that?

Don’t forget that you can always follow Abnormal Use on Facebook by going here!

Best Lawyers published its Spring 2016 Business Edition this month. In this edition, Best Lawyers printed its inaugural directory of “Women in the Law.” Our Greenville attorneys Debbie Brown, Stephanie Flynn, and Jennifer Johnsen were honored in this edition with listings. For more information, please see here.

Our favorite legal tweet of late comes from our editor, who recently wished the Overlawyered blog a happy 17th birthday

Why Lawyers Should Be on Twitter – And Who You Should Be Following

Like Utah’s federal court opinion explaining Facebook, I will begin by explaining what Twitter is. Twitter is “an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called ‘tweets’. Registered users can read and post tweets, but those who are unregistered can only read them.” People use Twitter for different things. They use it to communicate and keep in touch with others. They use it to keep up with breaking news. They use it to promote their businesses. And, unfortunately, people use it to ruin their careers.

There are many reasons that lawyers should be on Twitter, but the main reason is that it is a great news filter. You can see this page if you need to know of the many reasons. If you still only get the news from the morning paper, you will likely be the last to find out about almost every important event. Twitter allows news outlets such as The New York Times (@NYTimes) and CNN (@CNN) to break news literally the second it happens and to send the news directly to people’s phones instantaneously. No paper or TV necessary. The Twitter user has the opportunity to select which news outlets he or she wants to follow, and you can even follow your favorite individual journalists. If you lean to the left, and you only want to follow left-leaning news outlets, you can. If you lean to the right, and you only want to follow right-leaning news outlets, you can. Or, if you want to follow the opposite side to get your blood pressure going, you can do that too!

For lawyers, the best thing about Twitter as a news feed is that you can keep up to date on developments all over the country, and all over the world, as they happen. Judicial opinions and jury verdicts neglected by mainstream news agencies will be covered by legal news outlets such as Law360 (@Law360). Other lawyers are also great sources of information. Lawyers from around the country share information and commentary that you would miss if you were not on Twitter.

The best part about Twitter as a news outlet is that Twitter forces the person tweeting to limit the tweet to 144 characters. So, instead of having to read a long, drawn out article on a subject, you can get the gist of a story in a matter of seconds. You can then dig deeper if you want to, but the short tweet at least makes you quickly aware of the story or issue.

We also promised a list of who you should be following. The following is a nonexclusive list of who we think you should be following, but there are other lists out there such as this one and this one. Without further ado, we recommend the following accounts.

Above the Law (@ATLBlog)

Lawyerist (@Lawyerist)

Lowering the Bar (@LoweringTheBar)

Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. (@GWBLawFirm)

Jim Dedman (@JimDedman)

Jeena Cho (@Jeena_Cho)

Stacy Linn Moon (@StacyMoon02)

Kyle White (@Kyle_J_White)

Nick Farr (@NAFarr)

Judge Dillard (@JudgeDillard)

John E. Cuttino (@SCLitigator)

Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly)

Gray Culbreath (@GrayCulbreath)

Marc Williams (@MarcWVA)

DRI (@DRICommunity)

Walter Olson (@WalterOlson)

Ron Tate (@SCCounsel)

Stuart Mauney (@StuartMauney)

This list is in no particular order and is by no means complete, but it is a good start!


What Are Smart Contracts?

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use find ourselves members of a number of legal groups, including the North Carolina Legal Geeks, which puts on several programs per year in the Charlotte area. If you find yourself in the Queen City tomorrow, Thursday, May 26, 2016, you might be interested in their latest program.

Called “What Are Smart Contracts?”, the program will feature local attorney and self professed legal hacker Tom Brooke will be speaking. Brooke is the founder of the North Carolina Legal Hackers, and as such, he knows a good bit about legal technology issues. He will be discussing how smart contracts will be used in the future as well as how they may affect the practice of law. As a refresher, our friends at Wikipedia have defined “smart contracts” as follows:

Smart contracts are computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that make a contractual clause unnecessary. Smart contracts usually also have a user interface and often emulate the logic of contractual clauses. Proponents of smart contracts claim that many kinds of contractual clauses may thus be made partially or fully self-executing, self-enforcing, or both. Smart contracts aim to provide security superior to traditional contract law and to reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting.

The event takes place Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at Kickstand Charlotte located at 1101 Central Avenue in Charlotte.

For more information, see the event’s Facebook page here.