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December 7, 2004

DRM and the “Digital Lifestyle” [8:45 am]

Europe backs digital TV lifestyle

In Nice last week, the European Commission announced its Networked & Electronic Media (NEM) initiative.

Its broad scope stretches from the way media is created, through each of the stages of its distribution, to its playback.

The Commission wants people to be able to locate the content they desire and have it delivered seamlessly, when on the move, at home or at work, no matter who supplies the devices, network, content, or content protection scheme.

[...] What is significant is that such a large and powerful organisation has stated its desire for digital formats to be open to all and work on any gadget.

This is bound to please, if not surprise, many individuals and user organisations who feel that the wishes of the holder of rights to content are normally considered over and above those of the consumer.

Many feel that the most difficult and challenging area for the Commission will be to identify a solution for different Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes.

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Content Delivery, Via Cellphone [8:26 am]

A Library and Cinema in Your Pocket

The increasing power of cellphones is fast shaping innovative forms of compact culture: micro-lit, phone soap operas and made-for-mobile dramas that can be absorbed in less time than it takes to flick through a book introduction.

Today very few people are using so-called third-generation mobile services, or smart phones, which allow users to browse the Internet and watch videos. But most cellphones sold these days have color screens and the ability to receive picture messages. So media companies are reinventing quaint old formulas with the aim of reaching youthful customers.

[...] One pioneer is Media Republic, an Amsterdam company that is successfully reaching young women with the mobile equivalent of the French “roman photo,” a sentimental genre of romantic still photos and text that dates to the postwar period.

Dutch users register their mobile phones to follow the adventures of the hormone-driven characters of “Jong Zuid,” or “Young South,” which is now in production for its fourth season. Customers receive two episodes daily, each with six photographs of well-known Dutch actors and text describing the travails of glamorous young people seeking their fortune in the big city.

A weekly subscription costs about $1.50, but most of the revenue comes from an assortment of corporate sponsors who pay for product placements, Web advertising and the exclusive rights to sponsor “Jong Zuid” contests and promotions.

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OT: Sign of the Times [7:54 am]

And probably a basis for refined money supply measures: Plastic Finally Surpasses Paper Checks [pdf]

For the first time, Americans’ use of credit cards, debit cards and other electronic bill paying has eclipsed paper checks.

The number of electronic payment transactions last year totaled 44.5 billion — exceeding the number of checks paid, 36.7 billion — according to Federal Reserve studies released Monday.

[...] The shift seen in 2003 toward more electronic payments reflects the expanding role of technology in the retail, financial and banking businesses, private economists said. It also reflects industry’s efforts to make electronic payments more convenient for customers, economists said.

“It’s all about convenience. No longer do consumers want to write checks with two forms of identification. It’s just too cumbersome,” said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research. “It’s so much easier to swipe and sign.”

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OT: Related Tragedies [7:28 am]

Apparently, writing a sentence that parses is becoming a dying art! And people keep trying to tell me that engineers are the ones who can’t write.

  • What Corporate America Can’t Build: A Sentence [pdf, Slashdot's The Illiteracy of Corporate American E-Mail]

    “i need help,” said the message, which was devoid of punctuation. “i am writing a essay on writing i work for this company and my boss want me to help improve the workers writing skills can yall help me with some information thank you”.

    Hundreds of inquiries from managers and executives seeking to improve their own or their workers’ writing pop into Dr. Hogan’s computer in-basket each month, he says, describing a number that has surged as e-mail has replaced the phone for much workplace communication. Millions of employees must write more frequently on the job than previously. And many are making a hash of it.

    “E-mail is a party to which English teachers have not been invited,” Dr. Hogan said. “It has companies tearing their hair out.”

  • On Second Thought, Court Finds, a Law ‘Makes No Sense’ (the decision 03-1457, USA v. Pabon-Cruz)

    Mr. Pabon’s defense team filed an appeal, calling the sentence cruel and unusual. Now a federal appeals court has handed the lawyers a stunning victory, but not for the reasons they cited. Instead, the court ruled that the sentence was invalid because the document signed into law by President Bill Clinton contained a phrase that was illogical.

    The law said that defendants like Mr. Pabon, who was convicted two years ago of advertising to receive or distribute child pornography over the Internet, should be fined or receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years “and both.”

    The appeals court said this language “makes no sense.”

    Here’s some text from the opinion that will warm Charles Petit’s heart:

    We begin with the observation that the “and both” language in the Statutes at Large makes no sense. As a grammatical matter, one cannot choose between “A, or B, and both.” Rather, it seems obvious that Congress intended the provision to mean either “A, or B, or both,” or “A and B.” Both parties are in agreement on this point. The Government acknowledges that the “and both” language is “simply illogical” and “essentially [a] scrivener’s error[].” We thus join the Fourth Circuit, the only other Court of Appeals to have considered the question, in finding the statutory language ambiguous, and recognizing the need to consult the legislative history as an aid to its interpretation. [...]

    Accordingly, we conclude that the “and both” language contained in the enrolled version of the statute makes no sense as a matter of grammar, usage, or law; that the “or both” language in the Conference Report does make some sense; that the stronger evidence of Congress’ intent points to an understanding that the “or both” text is what Congress contemplated; that there is no textual support for the government’s interpretation; and that no judicial precedent compels our holding otherwise. We therefore hold that the District Court had the discretion to sentence defendant to either a fine or a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years or both. Because this was not clear to the parties or to the District Court at the time of sentencing, we are required to vacate the sentence and remand the cause to the District Court for resentencing consistent with our opinion here and with such Sentencing Guidelines as may be applicable in the circumstances presented.

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Eolas Appeal Scheduled for Thursday [7:14 am]

From Infoworld: Court to hear Microsoft appeal to $521M Eolas ruling

In the case, Eolas Technologies and the University of California accused Microsoft of improperly including technology in the IE Web browser that allows interactive content to be embedded in a Web site, a common practice on the Internet. Eolas sued Microsoft in 1999; the university later joined the suit.

A jury in August last year ruled against Microsoft and ordered the company to pay $520.6 million in damages. Judge James Zagel at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago upheld the jury verdict in January.

The ruling triggered an outcry from experts, who argued that the patent should be invalid because of prior art, or examples of the technology’s use before the patent was issued. Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), urged the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property to invalidate the patent.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) late last year agreed to reexamine the patent and in March rejected it. The University of California, holder of the patent, is appealing that decision.

With the process at the USPTO still underway, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington D.C. is scheduled to hear the Eolas case on Thursday. Microsoft plans to question the validity of the patent, spokesman Jim Desler said.

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