From the Maryland Daily Record comes word of an oppressive new lawsuit by cable giant Comcast against an innovative small businessman named Frank Clark, and his innovative firm, OceanNet. According to Comcast's complaint, Clark innovatively subscribed to Comcast's cable modem service at 35 condo complexes, and then innovatively re-sold the signal via WiFi to residential customers in those buildings. Innovation wins! Everybody wins!
So what does Comcast do to address Clark's disruptive new innovation, premised on nothing more than innovatively space-shifting legally-purchased service? They sue their customer, of course! Relying on industry-written statutes like the Cable Communications Act and even the federal criminal code, as well as antedeluvian, pre-Twitter doctrines like "breach of contract," "unjust enrichment," "constructive trust," and "negligence," Comcast -- backed by two law firms -- is seeking damages, an injunction, a declaration, and even attorneys' fees and "investigative expenses." Especially offensive is Comcast's breach of contract claim, which seems to be based on the noxious notion that a company can impose limits on their law-abiding customers' space-shifting rights. What's next, a different contract where customers pay even more for the ability to exercise their God-given right to space-shift their service? This "tak[ing] away your fair use rights and sell[ing] them back to you" cannot stand. That defenders of the technology status quo like Ira Rothken would take to the pages of the Maryland Daily Record to defend Comcast's suit only demonstrates the sorry state of the legal profession.
It's time Comcast celebrate innovation rather than mount a litigation crusade to crush every new piece of technology and business model that comes along. Suing customers like Mr. Clark will get them nowhere.
Comcast v. Clark and OceanNet complaint