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April 30, 2004

It’s Friday #2: You Own A Patent On What? [4:44 pm]

Beyond belief: Reality-TV human baby giveaway, pissed-off Uri Geller claims trademark breach

(Sorry, you just have to read the whole thing)

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It’s Friday: Analysis of the Google SEC Filing [3:35 pm]

Wired News: More Reasons to Love Google

My favorite:

Geek humor: If you take a close look at the form Google filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the exact value of its planned offering is $2,718,281,828 dollars, which some would immediately recognize as the mathematical constant e.

E [sic], for those not blessed with a Ph.D. and a job at Google, is Euler’s number, which is used as the base for natural logarithms.

See also, from the NYTimes - An Egalitarian Auction? Bankers Are Not Amused

For months, investment banks vied to win the job of underwriting Google’s much-anticipated initial public offering. But as details emerged yesterday about the unusual auction process that Google’s founders have chosen, questions have arisen about whether the scramble for a piece of the action was worth the trouble.

[...] Indeed, for Wall Street investment banks, the Google structure comes as a cannon shot across their collective bow.

As online stock trading has sharply reduced commissions over the last 10 years, the 7 percent underwriting fee is in many ways that last purely high-margin business on Wall Street - and it is a fee that bankers have guarded zealously.

[...] Google, in rejecting the traditional Wall Street way of going public, has also eliminated the ability of banks to allocate hot shares to their best clients, a practice that yielded windfall profits to favored investors during the technology boom.

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Copyright bills reported out of committee [3:05 pm]

Briefly: Senate to mull copyright, piracy measures

The Senate Judiciary committee on Thursday approved four intellectual property bills, clearing the way for votes on the Senate floor. The measures would criminalize using camcorders in movie theaters; increase fees for patent applications; clarify existing law dealing with joint applications for patents; and permit the Justice Department to bring civil lawsuits against copyright pirates.

Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said at the hearing he would delay a vote on a fifth bill that changes penalties for copyright infringement and increases reporting of computer hacking and copyright prosecutions. “I will hold the Hatch-Feinstein Enforce Act for an additional week as I understand that we will be able to achieve more consensus among stakeholders,” he said.

For you Thomas-fanatics:

Update: Slashdot discussion - Making The Justice Dept. A Copyright Busybody

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RIAJ Gets Busy [9:38 am]

The Recording Industry Association of Japan is ramping up: RIAJ started instant messaging toward P2P users to prevent illegal uploading of music files.

We are also carrying out the “Respect Our Music” campaign and other various educational activities on copyright. We have requested thorough management to the academic institutions and companies where illegal uploading acts were found. We also had sent letters to about 1,200 universities and junior colleges nationwide to call on the enhancement of their LAN management. Due to the effect of this, the number of illegal uploads on their networks has been decreasing.

However, there is no end of P2P users who upload music files illegally, so we started sending notices to individual users. Against certain malicious users, we are preparing to take legal actions. The number of IM sent will surpass 1 million by the end of May.

It is interesting to note that Japanese copyright law has some interesting differences when it comes to sound recording. From the RIAJ FAQ:

Q10 : What is the condition and impact of record rentals in Japan?

There are about 3,700 record rental shops in Japan and more than 85% of these rent records along with videos and game software. There are almost no shops that illegally rent records. The shops pay a use fee in accordance with their contracts and the system is working smoothly.

Q11 : How about music piracy?

There are basically no pirated copies of records produced in Japan. As for overseas, a recently widespread method for piracy has been utilized to obtain music via the internet, and made pirate CDs using CD-R burners. However, this type of pirated CD is not seen in Japan. The piracy problem for Japan is really a problem of unlicensed copying in Taiwan of Japanese music. The current problem involves is that these products being imported into and sold in Japan.

Q12 : Is there a system for protecting the right of records?

In Japan, the right of records are protected by the system of the neighboring right of copyright system. This includes exclusive rights of reproduction, transfer, making transmittable and lending; and the rights to claim secondary use fee (broadcasting fee of records) and the remmuneration for rental record (right following 1 year rental right), and the right to receive compensation for private audio and video recording. These rights are equally granted to record producers of the countries that are members of international conventions covering record rights.

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Another "Hey Ya!" Creation [9:21 am]

For you video game fans; 152896_hey_ya___VG_style_.swf

And my apologies for taking the links to "Hey Ya! Charlie Brown" down - you wouldn’t believe the bandwidth it took!

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An EU Copyright Ruling on Licensing & Competition [9:08 am]

From the NYTimes: Court Ruling in Europe Could Affect Microsoft

Although the final word in this case rests with a court in Frankfurt, Thursday’s judgment by Europe’s highest court clarified European law in this field, where intellectual property law and competition law meet.

The court said in a statement that a refusal by a dominant company to license its copyright to rivals breached competition law only if this prevented products or services from coming to market, or if such a refusal was “capable of eliminating all competition on the relevant market.”

[...] On Thursday, Microsoft said the court’s judgment “is a fatal blow to the commission’s compulsory licensing case” against it. Microsoft is planning an appeal of the ruling to the European Court of Justice within a couple of months. The commission, on the other hand, said that the judgment supported its ruling last month.

“We believe that these exceptional circumstances as set out by the court have been met in the Microsoft case,” the European Commission spokeswoman, Amelia Torres, said.

[...] One competition lawyer, who asked not to be named, said that if the court intended to require a dominant company to license its copyright only once the company had eliminated all its rivals, “This would render European competition law completely useless.”

See also InfoWorld’s Court clarifies antitrust law in Europe

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NYTime Editorial on iTunes [9:04 am]

What’s on Your Playlist?

Apple is likely to face increasingly stiff competition from other online music stores and from other makers of MP3 players. Its lead is not impregnable. But the iPod and iTunes have already begun to redefine the basic unit of music consumption. It used to be the CD. Now it is the song. Soon it will be the playlist, a personalized mix of musical tracks.

The iTunes Music Store already sells celebrity playlists — like a clutch of songs chosen, say, by Tom Petty or Sheryl Crow. And the new version of the iTunes software introduced this week offers users the chance to publish their own playlists seamlessly. We are entering a world of collective eclecticism, in which music lovers can guide one another into the hidden recesses of the library of recorded music.

Also, see Jason Schultz’ read on the recent iTunes "upgrade" - Meet The New iTunes, Less than the Old iTunes (FurdLog entries: iTunes Updates; CNet’s Rundown on iTunes)

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Thumbdrive Distribution [9:02 am]

Wired News: ‘Dude! This Thing Is Awesome!’

The technology is quite simple: The music fan goes up to the touch-screen kiosk after the show and buys the keychain drive with a credit card from a dispenser alongside the screen. Once that’s done, the miniature drive is inserted into a slot in the kiosk, and the recording — stored as MP3 files — is loaded onto the device’s 128-megabyte hard drive. That is enough space for 110 minutes of music.

A receipt for the transaction is sent to the concertgoer’s e-mail address.

“I can remember when I started the debate was whether the 45 or 33 would be more successful,” said Richard Gottehrer, author of hits like “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and “I Want Candy,” and chairman of The Orchard. “Now the Napsters of the world are yesterday’s news and this is the newer, legal, next step.”

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More on the MPAA/Junior Achievement Program [8:57 am]

And, according to Wired Magazine, things aren’t going as swimmingly as the MPAA would like: Wired 12.05: File-Sharing Is, Like, Totally Uncool

The point of the program, says MPAA spokesperson Rich Taylor, is for “students to reach their own conclusions about being a good digital citizen.” The real point, of course, is to protect Hollywood from the fate of the record industry. While the music business has already suffered from file-sharing, the film industry has so far been largely unaffected. In fact, according to an Adams Media Research report, Hollywood has seen revenue rise 27 percent in the same four-year period that the recording industry went into free fall. So consider this a preemptive attack, a giant guilt trip on the file-sharing public. Compared to the recording industry’s strategy to sue everyone in sight, “What’s the Diff?” seems downright enlightened.

Critics aren’t mollified. The program presents a “tremendously one-sided view of copyright,” says Wendy Seltzer, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “There’s no balance; it’s entirely corporate driven. If anything, it’s an exercise in how efficiently you can brainwash students.”

Seltzer might be considerably less concerned had she sat in on a recent lesson at Commerce Middle School in a working-class neighborhood of Yonkers, New York. As in Santa Clarita, the kids here read their stock responses, but unlike their Californian counterparts, they do it in a sullen monotone, as if reciting some musty poem. Only the computer user, an animated wiseass in baggy jeans, delivers a passionate response. “It’s not hurting anybody. I’m not selling it. I’m using it in my home.” The other kids nod energetically at this, and hands shoot up throughout the room. One boy says, “If the computer user is just downloading music, how are the carpenters who work on movie sets being hurt?” The other students regard this as irrefutable logic, and a chorus of “mm-hmm” and “that’s right” fills the room.

A confident, articulate girl in cornrows and too-tight jeans speaks up. “Look, you preview what’s on the CD, and if you like it, you go out and buy the CD because you get a booklet and, like, extra stuff with it.” This, whether she knows it or not, is exactly the argument that the major music labels are hearing from many of their own consultants.

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And Technology Marches On [8:50 am]

File-swapping gets supercharged on student network

A new file-trading network has sprung up on Internet2, the university network that offers researchers and students a way to communicate at blazing speeds while avoiding the ordinary Internet’s data traffic jams.

Dubbed i2hub, the network has drawn thousands of students from universities around the country to trade files and chat at speeds that far exceed what even ordinarily swift campus networks can provide. It has drawn rave reviews on student Web sites and from users but has already sparked concern among other Internet2 denizens.

The students involved say they’re simply looking to use unused Internet2 bandwidth, which can be less expensive for their colleges than ordinary commercial Net connections. But some also see it as a way around limitations that many universities have begun to impose on widely used file-swapping applications such as Kazaa.

[...] Universities, most of which have strict policies against using their networks for copyright infringement, have begun installing software that blocks or limits the amount of bandwidth used by file-swapping applications. Some have begun investigating tools that actually look inside individual file trades, identify copyrighted music and block the transfers.

[...] Officials at the central Internet2 project said they had no theoretical objection to the students’ action, at least from the strictly technological side. The network was developed to spur innovation wherever it arises, much as users of the original academic networks developed e-mail and chat features, a representative for the project said.

[...] “Internet2 is for research. It’s not for downloading music,” said Marc Ray, a senior computer support specialist at Florida State University. He’s still evaluating the program, he said. “The fact is, (the network) cost a lot of money, and downloading games and music should be the last priority on any campus network. I think it’s borderline taking advantage of the system.”

Update Slashdot - Internet2 Plus P2P Equals…

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What If … ? [8:47 am]

What if media consolidation were greater? Would ABC’s Nightline even have tried this?

Some Stations to Block ‘Nightline’ War Tribute

Sinclair, which owns 62 television stations in 39 markets, also made news in September 2001, when it ordered news personnel at its Baltimore station to read patriotic statements supporting President Bush.

[...] Janet Weaver, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute, an educational foundation for journalists, said she was surprised that anyone could find the mere reading of such a list a political act. “It is a piece of this reality,” she said. “It would seem to me you can read it as you read it, depending on your point of view. It’s really a Rorschach test.”

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