AO - L, eBay Bites the Bad, and the MPAA Pulls A Rabbit From a Hat

There's lots on the wire this morning, from AOL splitting in twain to the MPAA pulling magic tricks, so let's get right into it. And away we go!

First up on the agenda is the future of AOL. Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, has decreed that AOL's internet and "audience" businesses must be separated. The internet side has apparently had trouble keeping up its side of the bargain, and now will be given the shove.

Speaking of getting the shove, eBay is in the news for a dramatic new plan to muzzle sellers' negative comments about buyers. The move — which eBay says is intended to address the bottleneck created by back-and-forth feedback wars — will leave buyers with the power to issue negative ratings, but rob sellers of the privilege. The ever-so-predictable torch-wielding mob of sellers has assembled at the castle door, but for it's part, eBay seems unconcerned, saying that things almost always flow "swimmingly."

On the subject of negative feedback, the California appeals courts are flexing their source-shielding muscle, ruling that Yahoo! doesn't have to reveal the name of an anonymous forum poster who left some less-than-friendly comments about a Florida company exec on Yahoo! Finance. The ruling — which found the postings to be "offensive and demeaning" but not quite libel — is a victory for Internet-based speech, which has come under increasing attack in the last year. We're moved to wonder whether the ruling will put the chill on other anti-anonymity crusaders...

Another unholy crusade hit the news yesterday, with reports on the disappearance of a House amendment protecting universities from losing federal funding over file sharing. The measure — which was introduced to much objection from the MPAA — vanished into thin air yesterday, just hours before a hearing on the subject. Sources speculate that natural disasters in the sponsoring Congressman's district may have forced him to pull the proposal, but given all the screaming they've been doing, we wouldn't rule out a bit of MPAA slight-of-hand.

And now, with the help of our lovely assistant, we too shall disappear. Alakazam!

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