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March 5, 2004

Eolas Patent Rejected ?!? [9:21 pm]

Feds reject Eolas browser patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has invalidated a claim to Web browser technology central to a case against Microsoft, a move that could spare the software giant from paying more than half a billion dollars in damages, according to documents obtained on Friday.

The patent agency’s preliminary decision, if upheld, also means that Microsoft will not be required to make changes to its Internet Explorer Web browser that would have crippled the program’s ability to work with mini-programs that work over the Internet, such as the QuickTime and Flash media players.

I look forward to reading the decision — earlier Eolas postings

Update: Slashdot story - Feds Reject Eolas Browser Plug-In Patent

Further update: No US patent for the patently obvious, with links.

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Century City [6:21 pm]

I keep seeing the ads for Century City — lawyering in 2030.

The opportunities are obvious, but I fear what lowest common denominator TV will do to the concept - Futurama meets LA Law? Or something more subtle? I, like others, will be watching to see what comes.

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Want A Headache? Read This [5:40 pm]

eWeek’s latest SCO coverage purports to include a debate between a pro-SCO and an anti-SCO perspective. If you want a headache, read Rob Enderle’s pro-SCO perspective. Essentially, his argument is that IBM is such a conservative company that their lawyers would have made sure to cover the firm’s liabilities, even if those liabilities were only speculative. Since IBM didn’t do that, and since SCO has complained, IBM must have released the code in error and IBM is now fighting with everything it has, as well as colluding with other firms and setting pseudo-independents like Groklaw, in order to make sure it wins. (Yes, they are mentioned as being a part of this conspiracy!)

Of course, the alternative explanation would be that SCO is grasping at straws and is sufficiently unprincipled as to use barratry as a mechanism for survival.

From my years of OS/2 use, I have a certain perspective on both IBM and Rob Enderle. My experience suggests that IBM would not be fighting this if they really thought there were in the wrong, while Enderle’s argument depends upon the integrity of someone who argues that the SCO violates the Constitution.

I know what my gut tells me … it’ll be interesting to see what the courts decide. In the interim, I’m going to hunt through the Logical Fallacies page to see how many Mr. Enderle’s article qualifies for. So far, I would suggest Argument from Ignorance, Prejudicial Language, and Fallacy of Exclusion

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Strange Harmonic Convergence [4:53 pm]

This is a bit of MIT arcana that I expect only some of you will get, but it is something that I did not know that gave me pause today: Unit of measurement elected head of standards board [Via Everything Burns]

Oliver Smoot is one of the quintessential pieces of MIT folklore: in 1962 as a pledge of Lambda Chi Alpha Mr. Smoot was flipped over 365 times to measure the Harvard bridge while his fraternity brothers marked off important milestones along the way. Smoot was deemed a unit of measurement, and the Harvard bridge listed at 364.4 Smoots plus an ear.

[...] Cut to 42 years later. Oliver P. Smoot is now chairman of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). He is being forced to step down because he has just accepted the position of president of the International Standards Organization.

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Insight Into The Content Industry Hopes [4:29 pm]

Jupiter analyst David Card’s weblog entry Waiting on Janus…and Rethinking Royalties says some terribly interesting things:

(My calculations suggest one-off sales of singles carry a COGS of 82 cents to $1.17. You can get that down to 77 cents with multiple orders and payment systems like PayPal.)

The true believers (Napster, MusicNet, MusicNow) are hoping to solve the “portable rental” problem with Microsoft’s “Janus.” Janus is supposedly due soon, maybe this summer. It is secure clock DRM technology that will enable songs in a subscription service to be moved onto a device. The song expires if the user’s subscription runs out. When Jupiter Research wrote about this in June 02, we predicted that such DRM technology would gain momentum in 2005 but not reach critical mass until 2006 or later. That might have been a little conservative, but if iPod holds share, it’s probably on the money (Apple will be late, if ever, to the subscription game).

[...] Better than the wireless argument, was the case for a rethinking of rights. We need something between private and public, between mechanical and performance, to make portable rentals work. Sixty-seven to 80 cents of those COGS are royalties.

This is one of those issues they call “ongoing”: we’ve got some surveys in the field right now to re-test demand for portability & try to find out why “ownership” is so critical to music users.

I have many reactions to this

  • Janus? I find a Gateway product that has this feature, as does a Samsung device, albeit without telling me what it is. And a first pass tells me nothing over at Microsoft.com. Yet there seems to have been discussion over on usenet

  • A study to understand what customers mean when they talk about “ownership?” That should be really interesting — not to see how the result gets spun.

  • And a new legal right/licensing concept.

I really don’t like the sound of this…..

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Cato Newsletter Article on Copyright [4:07 pm]

On Drawing Lines in Copyright Law [Via Copyfight]

But if millions of average movie lovers like me are considered criminals for merely copying a few of their favorite movies or individual scenes onto a different disc, then something has gone horribly wrong with copyright law in America.

Intellectual property plays a vital role in our modern Information Age economy, but we should not adopt a “by-any-means-necessary” approach to copyright enforcement. Targeted, court-based adjudication of clear-cut copyright infringement is the better way to balance the interests of consumers and creators.

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It’s Friday [3:02 pm]

And this is too, too funny — even though I come late to it, I have to include a link to the God Hates Shrimp site. Another t-shirt I need to get……

Shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mussels, all these are an abomination before the Lord, just as gays are an abomination. Why stop at protesting gay marriage? Bring all of God’s law unto the heathens and the sodomites. We call upon all Christians to join the crusade against Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster. Yea, even Popeye’s shall be cleansed. The name of Bubba shall be anathema. We must stop the unbelievers from destroying the sanctity of our restaurants.

Update: Amazingly, I forgot about this site until almost 9:00 PM.

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CNet’s Week In Review [2:34 pm]

This week’s highlights — The law and the Net — discussing the floating of the Audible Magic proposal and the proposed incorporation of DRM into the MP3 format.

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Ringtone Business Models [1:51 pm]

Ringtone market between 3 and 10% of Global Music Sales in 2003

Also, more generally, we have RIAA Announces 2003 Year-End Shipment Numbers [details as PDF]

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Eben Moglen on the SCO Suits [9:40 am]

From eWeek’s Making Sense of the SCO Suits

“You now have a little company suing four immense companies in different places on very different claims and supposing that it can take all of this on at once. My advice to potential and/or existing Linux customers who might be worried about being sued by SCO is that the lesson here is that your greatest danger of that is to be a SCO customer,” he said.

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Another 321 Loss [8:32 am]

Jason Schultz notes that a NY federal court has also ruled against 321 Studios: New blow to DVD copying

New York federal judge Richard Owen said Wednesday that the company’s products violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, agreeing with the pair of Hollywood studios that filed the case last year.

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Larry and Donna on a Canadian Copyright Decision [8:24 am]

Larry Lessig and Donna Wentworth (Cory, too) point to the decision in The Law Society of Upper Canada v. CCH Canadian Limited to illustrate a particular perspective on the need for balance in copyright law:

Binnie J. recently explained in Théberge, supra, at paras. 30-31, that the Copyright Act has dual objectives:

The Copyright Act is usually presented as a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator . . .

The proper balance among these and other public policy objectives lies not only in recognizing the creator’s rights but in giving due weight to their limited nature.

In interpreting the Copyright Act, courts should strive to maintain an appropriate balance between these two goals.

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Findlaw’s Modern Practice on DCIMA [7:56 am]

The Database Protection Bill - How the Current Congressional Database Protection Bill Would Go Beyond Current Law, and Why It is Unconstitutional and Misguided

See also: Database Protection Bill Moves Forward in Congress

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Internet Usage Profiles [7:51 am]

An interesting set of statistics from the Pew Study over at firstmonday: An analysis of regional and demographic differences in United States Internet usage. A couple of striking tables:

Table 1: Statistically significant demographic factors in the United States.


Factor Significance level Example of category Percentage using Internet
in category
Age .000 18–29
65+
71.9
19.7
Race .000 White
Black
58.9
45.2
Educational level .000 None or 1–8
Post–graduate
6.7
83.7
Income level .000 <US10,000
>US$100,000
33.2
87.3
Sex .043 Male
Female
59.3
55.3
Employment status .000 Full–time
Unemployment
66.0
56.5
Community type .000 Urban
Rural
62.2
46.0
Student .000 Full–time student
Not a student
86.2
52.7
Parent .000 Parent
Not a parent
65.2
52.8
Marital status .000 Married
Divorced
61.0
55.2

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House Passes HR 1417 [7:40 am]

An amendment to the copyright act, eliminating the copyright arbitration review panel with a set of three judges, passes the House on March 3 and is sent over to the Senate: Thomas summary - Democratic Whip Hoyer’s statement

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Study Into Blog Internet Mechanics [7:24 am]

Warning: Blogs Can Be Infectious (Slashdot’s perjorative take: Bloggers’ Plagiarism Scientifically Proven)

Update: See also “Big Media” Meets the “Bloggers:” Coverage of Trent Lott’s Remarks at Strom Thurmond’s Birthday Party [via ScriptingNews]

Mary Hodder points to a Village Voice article that takes down the whole phenomenon: Blogging Off

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A Big SCO Day Yesterday [7:13 am]

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Simson Garfinkel on the Broadcast Flag [6:54 am]

From Technology Review: Losing Control of Your TV [pdf] — Slashdot discussion

In related news: TiVo revenue up 85 percent; loss narrows

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