April 23, 2004

First GIF, Now JPEG [5:36 pm]

Graphics patent suit targets Dell, others

Forgent Networks has launched a patent infringement lawsuit against 31 major computer and electronics vendors, seeking damages related to its claim to the technology underlying the widespread JPEG file format.

[...] Forgent has engaged in an aggressive pursuit of royalties related to JPEG since first announcing its claim to the patents in July 2002. In February 2003, the software maker won a $16 million licensing agreement from Sony based on U.S. Patent No. 4,698,672.

The company asserts that it has generated more than $90 million in licensing fees related to the patent over the last two years. Noonan said that one of the companies from which Forgent was created, Vtel, had earlier purchased the patent rights, which were granted in 1987.

The claim to the JPEG standard has long irked the Joint Photographic Experts Group committee, which has worked to create standards related to the file format since it was devised in 1986. When the company first staked its claim to JPEG, the committee denounced attempts to derive fees from the standard and expressed disappointment at Forgent’s attempts to do so. The U.K.-based group could not immediately be reached for comment on the latest suit.

See also: Forgent sues PC makers over JPEG patent claims and JPEG patent holder renews royalty offensive

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It’s Friday [2:51 pm]

So, it’s this week’s infographic from The Onion: Online Music Stores

Internet music stores like the iTunes music store are gaining in popularity. Why are more Americans buying music online?

  • [...] Excited to see what levels of excellence Wal-Mart will bring to the industry.

  • Enjoy further enraging analog music purist Steve Albini

  • [...] Computer the purest way to buy the cold, mechanistic music of Kraftwerk

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Help for Libraries — Wherever It Comes From [8:31 am]

Libraries Wired, and Reborn

“Sure, there is a huge self-interest, but when you look at what the Gates foundation has accomplished it is fairly phenomenal,” said Charles R. McClure, a professor of information studies at Florida State University. “The impact has been especially important in rural and inner-city libraries.”

[...] A look at two library cases helped by the Gates foundation - an urban library in New York, and the Terrebonne Parish system in Louisiana - affords a glimpse into the impact that bringing computers and the Internet into libraries has had on the digital divide and the libraries themselves.

I look forward to Jenny’s thoughts when she gets back from vacation.

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Free Speech Online - So Far [8:17 am]

Pentagon Ban on Pictures of Dead Troops Is Broken (link to cited site’s materials)

The Pentagon’s ban on making images of dead soldiers’ homecomings at military bases public was briefly relaxed yesterday, as hundreds of photographs of flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base were released on the Internet by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy.

The Web site, the Memory Hole (www.thememoryhole.org), had filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking any pictures of coffins arriving from Iraq at the Dover base in Delaware, the destination for most of the bodies. The Pentagon yesterday labeled the Air Force Air Mobility Command’s decision to grant the request a mistake, but news organizations quickly used a selection of the 361 images taken by Defense Department photographers.

The release of the photographs came one day after a contractor working for the Pentagon fired a woman who had taken photographs of coffins being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait. Her husband, a co-worker, was also fired after the pictures appeared in The Seattle Times on Sunday. The contractor, Maytag Aircraft, said the woman, Tami Silicio of Seattle, and her husband, David Landry, had “violated Department of Defense and company policies.”

The firing underscored the strictness with which the Pentagon and the Bush administration have pursued a policy of forbidding news organizations to showing images of the homecomings of the war dead at military bases. They have argued that the policy was put in place during the first war in Iraq, and that it is simply an effort to protect the sensitivities of military families.

Executives at news organizations, many of whom have protested the policy, said last night that they had not known that the Defense Department itself was taking photographs of the coffins arriving home, a fact that came to light only when Russ Kick, the operator of The Memory Hole, filed his request.

“We were not aware at all that these photos were being taken,” said Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times.

If the president can’t handle the heat, then he should have stayed out!

From the NYTimes Editorial: The Real War

Since 1991, the Defense Department has prohibited taking photographs of the coffins of members of the armed services while they are being transported back to the United States. The reverent portrait Ms. Silicio produced demonstrates how irrational that policy is. The theory seems to be that the pictures are intrusive, or possibly hurtful, to bereaved families. But it seems far more likely that the Pentagon is concerned about the impact that photos of large numbers of flag-draped coffins may have on the American public’s attitude toward the war.

That certainly underestimates the fortitude of average citizens, who are able to accept the cost of war whenever they are confident that the cause is right. American men and women are currently suffering danger, death and injury every day in Iraq. The least those of us back home can do is to bear witness to the sacrifice of the real soldiers as well as the fictional.

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Watching A Business Model Evolve [8:12 am]

Although, as a member of a cable-less household, I wish the broadcasters well — Broadcast Networks Join to Battle Cable

Starting Monday, the networks, in an unprecedented alliance, will strike back with a campaign that sticks up for broadcast and belittles cable’s reach.

For at least several weeks, ads backed by ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, UPN and the WB will appear with the theme, “People who need people buy broadcast.” The first ad, one of three initially planned, shows a New York City sidewalk packed with people. An arrow points to one man in the teeming crowd, and the accompanying text says, “This guy saw your spot on cable.”

Complaints from agencies and marketers are growing with the approach of annual negotiations between the networks and agencies to buy commercial time during the coming fall season. The process is known as the upfront market because networks sell as much as 80 percent of their commercial time in the spring or summer.

Last May, agencies agreed to spend more than $9 billion to buy commercial time on the six broadcast networks during the 2003-2004 prime-time season. That figure was roughly $1 billion more than they committed to spend the year before, even as viewers continued to gravitate toward cable channels as well as other media like the Internet.

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EU’s Antitrust Ruling Public [8:09 am]

The NYTimes reports that All of European Antitrust Ruling Made Public. Groklaw gives the pointers, as well as commentary on the resposes: The EU Commission’s Decision on Microsoft

The Times notes that the EU clearly has seen how effective Microsoft's lawyers have been in the US:

Meanwhile, the 302-page ruling is intended to make it as difficult as possible for the court to grant Microsoft’s request, antitrust lawyers in Brussels said. “The wording of the decision has been formulated specifically to avoid a suspension of the remedies,” said Thomas Vinje, a partner in the Brussels office of law firm Clifford Chance, who has been representing Microsoft rivals during the commission’s investigation.

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Copyright on the DoJ’s Mind [8:00 am]

Listed lots of places:

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Palisades attacks sharing of copyrighted materials [7:57 am]

Software stops illegal song trading

Network-security company Palisade Systems this week will launch software that can identify and block copyrighted songs as they are being traded online.

Created by software firm Audible Magic and backed strongly by the Recording Industry Association of America, the song-filtering software has already triggered interest in Washington, D.C., along with strong scepticism in the peer-to-peer world and among some students and universities.

Palisade’s new tool is the fruit of a cross-licensing deal struck early in the year, which also gave Audible Magic rights to use Palisade’s network-monitoring technology to offer a similar product. Palisade executives say their university customers in particular are interested in the song-blocking capabilities.

[...] Palisade’s version of the technology sits inside a network, rather than inside a file-swapping program. If installed in a university, for example, it could look inside students’ emails, instant messages and peer-to-peer transfers, seeking audio “fingerprints” that could be compared with information in Audible Magic’s database.

If a match is found, it would block the transfer of the song midstream. Jacobson said the identification process would not work on an encrypted network, such as is used in several newer file-swapping programs. However, the Palisade software could also act to block those applications from using the network altogether, instead of blocking individual song transfers, he said.

Note that the presumption of guilt means that there’s essentially no fair use when it comes to P2P — if the data pattern is in the database, then the file gets blocked…period — as noted in the Slashdot article: Software To Stop Song Trading

The company’s press release: Instantly stop illegal P2P with PacketHound 3

The content identification capabilities of PacketHound are enabled by integrating Audible Magic’s CopySense technology and services. CopySense provides access to Audible Magic’s registered database of almost 4 million copyrighted works, used to identify potential copyright infringements. This database includes the catalogs of the 5 major record labels and over 500 independents. Over 5,000 new songs are added each week.

Note the shift from “illegal” to “potential” infringements. Wonder how they do that?

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GPL gets some respect [7:49 am]

From CNet News: GPL gains clout in German legal case

A German court has required a company to comply with the terms of the General Public License, giving some legal weight to the increasingly important document that governs Linux and innumerable other open-source programs.

[...] “This would be the first reported decision I’m aware of that interprets the GPL,” said Brian Kelly, an intellectual-property attorney with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. “Case law interpreting the GPL is both inevitable and useful, because parties are going to end up fighting over ambiguities in the license.”

The decision lends weight to the license, said John Ferrell of law firm Carr & Ferrell. “This preliminary German decision reinforces the essential obligations of the GPL by requiring that if you adopt and distribute GPL code, you must include the GPL license terms and provide source code to users,” he said.

Followup: Attorney: More disclosure will end GPL case

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