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JUDGE LETS MYSPACE BLOCK LINKS TO ITS COMPETITION A U.S. district court judge recently dismissed what may be the first antitrust case to address whether a social networking site can prevent its users from posting certain links. The Central District’s Judge Howard Matz threw out (.pdf) the antitrust claim against MySpace.com last month, saying the social networking site wasn’t required to display competitors’ Web page links. The case arose when MySpace deactivated a link from competing site Vidilife.com, which is owned by LiveUniverse and provides video-hosting services. “Some users had been linking to it, and the site’s strategy was to parasite off MySpace traffic, and piggyback off MySpace’s success,” said Richard Stone, an L.A.-based partner at Hogan & Hartson, the firm representing MySpace. And by including those links, Stone said, MySpace would be risking exposure if sites such as Vidilife had any inappropriate content. But LiveUniverse saw the matter differently, saying MySpace is a monopoly and its News Corp. owner was trying to destroy competitors, according to a blog launched by Brad Greenspan, the owner of LiveUniverse. “In a unprecedented display of censorship, a company who prides themselves as being ‘fair and balanced’ made it impossible for any MySpace member to type/mention or use Vidilife.com services on MySpace. Vidilife.com quickly lost almost 50% of its user-base overnight,” according to a blog post earlier this year. MySpace doesn’t prevent anyone from going to their competitors’ sites, countered Hogan’s Stone. But, “We have no responsibility to build a moving walkway to a competitor’s store.” While Stone said the motion to dismiss had been expected to be granted, he added that it was interesting that the court gave some background on social networking, recognizing it as a part of competition and business. Even though Stone is involved in cases representing MySpace, he doesn’t have his own page there or on any of the competing sites. “I think I’m too old to be their key demographic,” he said with a laugh. “No one wants to see a 48-year-old lawyer’s Web site.”

Kellie Schmitt

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