Acacia Technologies and Distance Education

From the Information Technology Services (ITS) Listserv: Re: Acacia Media Technologies Corporation

Beverly Benfer of Lehigh Carbon Community College asks…

Have any of your institutions received a notice of patent infringement from Acacia Media Technologies Corporation?…Acacia has targeted distance education for courses that use streaming or downloadable audio and/or video. They state in their letters to higher education institutions that it will forgo claims for past infringement of its patents if the institution will sign Acacia’s “standard” license and pay a 2% royalty on its distance education revenues….In the meantime, has anyone had to deal with this threat to our online, hybrid/blended, and enhanced courses? Any suggestions or recommendations are welcome!


Beverly –

WCET ( has been collecting information related to the Acacia patent issue and sharing it through our web discussion board as a service to its members. One item we have compiled is a collection of online resources that describe Acacia’s history, patent claims, infringement suits, and results of legal hearings (see below). While we are not lawyers, it has helped our members to see all sides of this story. For the most up-to-date information, see, especially, the weblog listed in Section IV below. WCET will continue to inform its members on this issue and we will hold a roundtable discussion at our annual conference in November.

See also this from the Chronicle of Higher Education: Colleges Join Forces to Fight Company’s Patent Claims on Use of Audio and Video Online [via Current Copyright Readings] [pdf]

Friday News

It will be interesting to see if this is confirmed: 419ers make guest appearance in Doom 3

In what is a very timely email – given that Doom 3 officially stormed the UK’s shores today – reader David Pleavin explains how the Lads from Lagos get a heads-up from the chaps behind the game:

419 scam alive and well in 2145 🙂 The guys at id software have included a spam 419 e-mail from Nigeria in Doom3. Brilliant take-off, and can be found if you kill a poor scientist at the beginning of Alpha Labs Sector 4, nick his PDA and go through his inbox. Could be the best way ever of alerting the gaming public about the lads from Lagos. Regards David

Ahh, Software Patents

Via GigaLaw, an interesting dimension of the emerging convergence around the Microsoft-proposed Sender ID/SPF specification for e-mail: Microsoft Faces Lawsuit Over Caller ID for E-Mail

F. Scott Deaver, owner of Failsafe Designs, says Microsoft is guilty of the “outright theft” of his product name and intellectual property (IP), and will seek legal and financial redress from the Redmond, Wash., software giant and anyone else that uses his technology that verifies e-mail is coming from the domain it claims.

[…] Deaver has a blistering version [ed: note the URL of this link!] of his side of the story on his Web sites, taking Gates and Microsoft to task for stealing his ideas and work. On it, he described his pending patent and trademark applications, as well as personal comments on IP the company has subverted in the past. Microsoft is “absolutely desperate to appear relevant in the struggle against spam,” one passage states.

“That page was in reaction to watching years of un-rewarded effort go down the drain in a single event,” he said.

Unfortunately for Deaver, finding a lawyer to take on Microsoft without approved patents from the USPTO is next to impossible. Deaver said that many of the lawyers he has contacted are “begging” to have a chance to take a crack at the case — after the patent is issued.

Related: Taking the Microsoft Rorschach Test

Alternative Business Model: Publishing

The question: is it repeatable? Net Publishing Made Profitable

After 13 years of experimenting, veteran Net publisher Adam Engst has finally stumbled on a good business model — fast-turnaround e-books.

Since 1990, Engst has been publishing TidBits, a weekly Mac-oriented newsletter that is the second-longest-running publication on the Internet (the oldest is Irish Emigrant, Engst said).

[…] Since last fall, Engst has published a series of rapidly produced e-books using a system he calls “extreme publishing.”

[…] “Publishing is broken,” he said. “Sales are low, there’s no money, and deadlines and delays are a headache. You have three months to sell a book and then it’s obsolete. Last year, I realized all the pieces were there finally for publishing e-books.”

Engst cited several factors. Most important, he said, is offering a tangible product like a PDF file, which — though digital — is more concrete than Web subscriptions. Many other electronic publishers, especially magazines, lean toward subscriptions.

[…] None of the books has any kind of copy protection, though Adobe’s PDF format contains various digital-rights management mechanisms. “It’s not worth doing it all, because it just causes problems,” Engst said.

He believes in the honesty of his customers.

[…] Engst asks his customers to treat the books as they would physical books: Feel free to share with a couple of friends, but don’t post them on the Net. Engst has been aware of no abuse, and none of the books has shown up on file-sharing networks.

ALA Offers Alternative Lesson Plans

Copyright Crusaders Hit Schools

The ALA sees a need for this because materials offered by groups like the Business Software Alliance and the Motion Picture Association of America are designed to influence kids with one-sided information, said Rick Weingarten, director of information technology policy for the ALA. Topics like “fair use” — the right to use copyright material without the owner’s permission, a key concept in American law that intellectual-property experts say leads to innovation — are not adequately addressed.

“There is certainly concern about the fact that when the content industry talks about copyright and young people in the same sentence, they are either calling them all crooks or they are making claims for copyright that far exceed what copyright is all about,” Weingarten said. “Any education program that comes from that source is inherently going to be biased.”