October 4, 2005

Revisiting 1-Click [5:20 pm]

And CNet playing a tricky game, trying to predict an appellate decision based on the questions placed during the argument: Obstacles ahead for Amazon’s 1-Click checkout?

A federal appeals court has indicated that Amazon.com’s famous 1-Click checkout system might be covered by another company’s patent on electronic transactions.

[...] The courtroom discussion involved sharp questioning of both sides and centered on whether the 1-Click process is an electronic fund transfer system–such as the one described in IPXL’s patent–or if it’s just one component of a product ordering system that would not necessarily be covered by the patent. Amazon maintains that because Visa or another third party actually carries out the fund transfer, the patent should not apply.

IPXL’s argument seemed to garner some sympathy from the bench. “If you went to Amazon’s annual stockholders meeting and told them 1-Click had nothing to do with payments…you’d be laughed out of the meeting,” said Judge Raymond Clevenger III. “Of course (Amazon’s) system involves payment. Otherwise (the) system would be bankrupt.”

And if the system doesn’t “obligate” one’s funds, could someone order a book, decide he disliked it, and then get away with not paying for it? Judge Randall Rader asked Amazon’s attorney.

Arguing for Amazon, attorney David Callahan countered that the system, unlike IPXL’s, does not actually move any money out of the customer’s account. Instead, he said, third-party credit card processors take care of that job after the order placed via 1-Click is shipped.

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Intel Stands Up For Consumer Copying [3:41 pm]

Blu-ray support hinges on disc copy, says Intel

Intel (Profile, Products, Articles), which last week expressed support for the HD-DVD format for high-definition video discs, is open to also supporting the rival Blu-ray Disc format should its backers commit to allowing the copying of content from discs onto home multimedia servers, an Intel executive said Tuesday.

[...] The decision was born out of a belief that the interests of consumers are being ignored as the world’s largest consumer electronics, computer and content companies prepared to bring two competing and incompatible high-definition optical disc formats to market, said Donald McDonald, vice president and general manager of Intel’s digital home group. He was speaking at a news conference at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan, on Tuesday.

Slashdot’s Intel Stands Up For Consumers in Next-gen DVD War

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You Knew It Was Coming [9:28 am]

Lycos, Yahoo Pushing to Put Media Online [pdf]

Major Internet sites are vying to become more like traditional media companies, setting up online clearinghouses for books, television, music and more in a bid to lure viewers.

Today Lycos Inc., an early Internet search engine, plans to launch a technology to allow its U.S. users to self-publish video content on its site. Yesterday, Yahoo Inc. said it would spearhead the Open Content Alliance, a group of companies and organizations hoping to negotiate rights to put billions of works online.

These efforts join a broader push by Internet companies to channel the offline media world into an online one by sweeping up everything from obscure scientific research papers to famous rock videos. Driven by the growth of high-speed Internet subscribers, companies have turned from offering basic services such as e-mail and search to trying to create an ever more powerful database of knowledge and commerce, culling media from everywhere.

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Another Grokster Fallout Article [9:04 am]

June Supreme Court Ruling Taking Toll on Music Sharing [pdf] — also a followup discussion online: File Sharing’s Future [pdf]

The Supreme Court has forced all P2P services — most of which sprang up after Napster was shut down by the government in 2001 — to face a choice: Go legitimate, as the music industry says, shut down, or move outside U.S. jurisdiction. The impact could be enormous: BigChampagne LLC, which measures online media, estimates there are 10 million P2P users online globally at any one time.

[...] The turnaround is the result of a June Supreme Court ruling that sites such as eDonkey, Kazaa and Grokster are endorsing theft of digital content, such as songs and movies. Emboldened, the Recording Industry Association of America sent out cease-and-desist orders to many P2P sites earlier this month.

Now, sites such as eDonkey — which tend to be small businesses — are facing fleets of lawyers with the law on their side.

The online discussion with the author is notable to the extent that it demonstrates how little progress on the concepts underlying this debate has been made.

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The Downsides of Ubiquity [8:47 am]

Is ubiquitous network access a good or bad thing? Silence Aloft Is Under Threat

“Being on a plane has become a mini-retreat for me,” said Mr. [Jason] Green, 32, executive vice president of Touchstone Pictures. “Long international flights are like vacation. No phone, no e-mail and no guilt for being unreachable.”

[...] Some business travelers, the bread-and-butter customers of airlines, say they privately relish the digital downtime at 35,000 feet. Managers who are at the constant beck and call of electronic devices while tethered to the ground, say they have come to think of the airplane cabin as a place to nap, think or even work - but in a focused way that precludes easy interruption or multitasking.

Forget the cone of silence. Many have come to cherish the airplane as the long metal tube of silence.

Once cellphones and BlackBerries are allowed to breach that silence, the solution may not be so simple as keeping the devices turned off, since business associates and bosses will expect to be able to get in touch. Travelers say the no-phone policy has saved them from their own compulsions.

“My hope,” Mr. Green said, “is that in-flight cell service is either so patchy or so expensive as to give me an excuse not to deal.”

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A Real Pirate Gets His Due [8:38 am]

Pirated DVD Seller Faces U.S. Charges

A man convicted in China of selling pirated DVD’s now faces multiple charges of copyright infringement in the United States, federal authorities said on Monday.

Chinese officials expelled the man, Randolph Hobson Guthrie, turning him over to United States authorities in Los Angeles late last week. He is to appear Tuesday in federal court for a bond hearing, according to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

After the bond hearing, Mr. Guthrie is expected to be transferred to Mississippi to face copyright infringement, trafficking and money-laundering charges.

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What An Opening Paragraph! [8:37 am]

Perry Mason, Meet Your Expert Technology Witness

Lawsuits over who can profit from ideas and innovation are increasingly a foundation of the technology industry. As a result, competition that once played out in the marketplace is now routinely carried on in the courtroom.

That has touched off a quiet race among companies to assemble teams of expert witnesses - the technical specialists and technology-savvy economists who will help sway judge and jury on the intensely complex merits of a patent case.

A thriving industry in expert witnesses, who are paid as much as $1,000 an hour, has become part of the fabric of the global patent system and the increasingly contentious legal combat that surrounds it.

[...] Pending patent legislation now under discussion by Congress could move much patent litigation into an arbitration system, where the process is more compressed and the role of expert witnesses is thereby reduced, some lawyers said.

Mr. Klein said such a change could unravel a system that has done a good job of protecting the innovation at the heart of Silicon Valley.

“The system has flaws,” he acknowledged. “But it’s the best system in the world.”

Guess that depends on your definition of “best.”

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BusinessWeek on the Open Source Ecosystem [8:15 am]

O, and VC funding for open source business applications: Open Source: Now It’s an Ecosystem [pdf]

Giving away software isn’t your typical path for a venture-capital-backed startup. But Roberts & Co., are smack in the middle of the next frontier of the open-source movement: business applications. “No one had funded an open-source application company at that point — it was all infrastructure,” says CEO Roberts. “We broke a glass ceiling.”

Consider it shattered. The open-source movement is making another big thrust forward. Entrepreneurs, investors, and many analysts say they’re confident that all of a company’s business software — representing hundreds of millions in sales — will soon be available as open source. “I don’t think there are any limits,” says Ray Lane, a Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner and software industry veteran.

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Wired News on the RIAA Suits [7:46 am]

Looks like some interesting litigation coming: RIAA Takes Shotgun to Traders

Hundreds of people are being wrongly sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally trading music online, legal experts say.

Attorneys representing some of the 14,000 people targeted for illegal music trading say their clients are being bullied into settling as the cheapest way to get out of trouble. Collection agencies posing as “settlement centers” are harassing their clients to pay thousands of dollars for claims about which they know nothing, they say.

(BTW: Anyone understand why wired-vig.wired.com (a) is a necessary part of getting to Wired News these days and (b) is so frequently unavailable, thus blocking access to Wired News at all?!?)

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Whose Greed Led To This? [7:39 am]

According to this article, the record companies tried to get a better deal than the one they currently have with Apple. Not a good sign for the future of online sales…. Microsoft ends license talks with music labels [pdf]

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) has broken off licensing talks with the four global music companies, raising questions about the software giant’s plans to start a subscription-based music service, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.

The paper reported negotiations broke down Friday over what Microsoft considered high royalty rates sought by EMI Group Plc (EMI.L), Warner Music Group Corp. (NYSE:WMG - news), Vivendi Universal’s (EAUG.PA) Universal Music Group and Sony BMG, a joint venture of Sony Corp. (6758.T) and Bertelsmann AG. (BTGGg.F)

Slashdot’s Music Labels Charge Too Much For Microsoft

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Property and Archives [7:10 am]

An article in today’s Boston Globe about the newly available archives of The New Yorker: It’s a case of who owns the words [pdf]

Just a few days ago, The New Yorker magazine released ”The Complete New Yorker,” a $100, eight-DVD set that allows you to read, and print a copy of, every article that has ever appeared in the magazine. [...]

So I was wondering: What gives them the right to do this? It’s not possible that famous New Yorker contributors like Rachel Carson, Robert Benchley, Charles Addams, or even the young John Updike signed over electronic rights to the Tilley gang. The answer, as our friend John Roberts might say, is not a matter of settled law.

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