March 20, 2004

GrokLaw on the SCO Letters to the National Labs [3:36 pm]

News.com has posted a story, picked up by Slashdot, that says that SCO targets federal supercomputer users. GrokLaw’s analysis of this announcement (resulting from FOIA request) that several national labs were included in SCO’s letter writing campaign of late last year, includes this ironic bit:

Finally, I’ve heard from two sources now that The University of California (and that means the Board of Regents) manages NERSC and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, as well as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the UC system, the national labs are treated as equivalents of the campuses and their employees are UC employees. Therefore, SCO appears to have blundered in sending them these letters. The BSDi/UC/USL settlement presumably allows UC to continue to use and internally distribute all of those ABI files, even if no one else on the planet could. Did no one on the legal team, after being paid those millions, bother to go through the list of names of entities to send letters to? It seems the adage is not true after all. You don’t always get what you pay for. And speaking for paying for things, by sending these letters to DoE entities, SCO is asking the taxpayers to pay for their “IP compliance” license.

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Fool Me Once,… [3:24 pm]

Is this the end of Microsoft’s claim of integration? We’ll see next week. Windows XP variant is embedded in EU probe

Microsoft argues that removal of Windows Media Player will limit, if not make impossible, the ability to play songs and film clips on a PC.

For now, the Commission isn’t buying the argument.

Microsoft competitor RealNetworks, maker of rival audiovisual software RealPlayer, used XP Embedded to respond to Microsoft’s contention that removing Windows Media Player damages Windows.

In November, RealNetworks demonstrated a PC running on Windows XP–minus the Windows Media Player–at a closed hearing of the European Commission on the Microsoft case. The computer appeared to function normally. It was configured with Windows XP Embedded.

[...] Microsoft dismissed the demonstration as “misleading.” A company spokesman said it is impossible to strip Windows Media Player entirely from the Windows operating system and have basic playback functionality remain intact on the PC.

“To remove Windows Media Player, you would actually have to rip out the underlying code. And if you do that, you hobble the system completely,” said Microsoft spokesman Tom Brookes.

How far will Microsoft go to butcher the concept of software modularity to achieve their market goals?

And how weak does their product become as they sacrifice good programming design practice in order to circumvent legal dictates?

See also More Troubles Await Microsoft in Europe

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The Tug of War Continues [3:15 pm]

Filesharing - displaced sales or product promotion? What is reality, anyway? — Record Stores: We’re Fine, Thanks

The stores are finding that file sharing can help create a buzz online that can lead to more sales, according to a panel of independent music store owners who spoke at the South by Southwest Music Conference & Festival here Friday.

[...] One might think Net-savvy students would ignore the shop in favor of free downloads.

“It’s a myth,” said Steve Wiley, co-owner of the store. “We see them wanting to buy music.”

High prices, rather than file sharing, are what usually stop a kid from buying a CD, Wiley said.

Typically, the music industry wants stores to sell CDs for $18 when they should be going for $15, he said. That $3 can make the difference in terms of whether or not a CD is going to sell.

“The file sharing, the Internet — just makes them music junkies,” Wiley said.

Paul Epstein, owner of Twist & Shout, a store in Denver, agreed that piracy has helped his bottom line. He said it’s like radio, another form of promotion that spurs sales.

“File sharing is a danger, but it really turns a lot of kids on to music,” he said.

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James Gleick on Internet Names [2:25 pm]

Get Out of My Namespace — wherein he suggests that - *gasp* - property rights might not be the right framework for solving this problem.

With commercialization, everything changed. The McDonald’s Corporation (and, for that matter, The New York Times Company) cadged their eponymous domain names from individuals who had presciently registered them. Other companies with important trademarks struggled, until Icann and WIPO established their system. Then came a surge of cases in the general category of trademark holder v. cybersquatter, routinely decided in favor of trademark holder. Time Warner won a case involving 108 variations on the theme of Harry Potter. Telia, the Swedish telecommunications giant, tried to win back 204 variations and succeeded with all but one: itelia.org. Such cases seemed fairly easy, to WIPO, at least. The new generation of name disputes is far more troublesome.

In these proceedings, trademark law is the elephant in the room, but trademark laws vary from country to country, and in theory the arbitrators are not supposed to rely on any nation’s laws. They use Icann’s Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, or U.D.R.P. This boils down to a three-part test, each part meant to be straightforward and clear-cut: [...]

[...] As these conflicts have rattled the legal edifices of intellectual property, the response has been a sort of panic — a land grab. Trademarks are a case in point. As recently as 1980, the United States registered about 30,000 a year. Last year, the number was 185,182, a jump of nearly 50 percent from just two years before. The vast majority of trademark applications used to be rejected; now the opposite is true. A few of the words and phrases trademarked in the most recent batch this month were DRIVE HARDER, RELAXED LUXURY, MYASSISTANT, A COFFEE SHOP IN YOUR OFFICE, FLEXIBLE THINKER (a Canadian motivational speaker), RINGWRAITH (the Tolkien moviemakers still going strong) and DOING HIS TIME (for ”transportation of families of prison inmates”). Are any of these so special, creative or individual that ownership rights ought to be assigned?

[...] To cope with the dynamic, entangled, variegated nature of our information-governed world, perhaps the law just needs to relax — loosen the cords, instead of tightening them. A system based on property rights in names may be the wrong approach. The principle people really care about is authenticity and truthfulness. The law needs to prevent miscreants from pretending to be people they’re not or from passing off spurious products — but that is all. BODACIOUS-TATAS.COM may be unsavory, but it was not fooling anyone; it was not trying to impersonate the House of Tata; its wares were exactly as advertised.

Namespaces will collide. Let them.

Update: Slashdot discussion — The Worldwide Domain Battle

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