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July 26, 2006

Somebody Stepped In Something [5:50 pm]

Shawn Hogan, Hero

Shawn Hogan received an unsettling call: A lawyer representing Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America informed the 30-year-old software developer that they were suing him for downloading Meet the Fockers over BitTorrent. Hogan was baffled. Not only does he deny the accusation, he says he already owned the film on DVD. The attorney said they would settle for $2,500. Hogan declined.

[...] Hogan, who coded his way to millions as the CEO of Digital Point Solutions, is determined to change this. Though he expects to incur more than $100,000 in legal fees, he thinks it’s a small price to pay to challenge the MPAA’s tactics. “They’re completely abusing the system,” Hogan says. “I would spend well into the millions on this.”

Of course, the MPAA isn’t backing down either. “I hear Mr. Hogan has said, ‘I’m absolutely going to go to trial,’ and that is his prerogative,” says John G. Malcolm, the MPAA’s head of antipiracy. “We look forward to addressing his issues in a court of law.” Look for a jury to weigh in by next summer.

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Being Watched [9:23 am]

Advertising: TiVo Is Watching When You Don’t Watch, and It Tattles

AS the advertising and television industries debate how to measure viewers of shows watched on digital video recorders, the pioneering maker of the recorders, TiVo, is getting into the argument. It is starting a research division to sell data about how its 4.4 million users watch commercials — or, more often, skip them.

The service is based on an analysis of the second-by-second viewing patterns of a nightly sample of 20,000 TiVo users, whose recorders report back to TiVo on what was watched and when.

[...] For now, TiVo will not be able to tell advertisers anything about the demographics of the audience it measures. The privacy policy of the service allows it to gather data about viewing habits, but not any personal information. Mr. Juenger said TiVo hoped to find a way to change that by the end of the year.

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Yes, But No [7:42 am]

You win some, you lose some: Judge dismisses phone records lawsuit - pdf

“The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government’s intelligence activities,” U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

A number of such lawsuits have been filed around the country in the wake of news media reports that AT&T and other phone companies had turned records over to the National Security Administration, which specializes in communications intercepts.

Kennelly’s ruling was in sharp contrast to last week’s decision from U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco, who said media reports of the program were so widespread there was no danger of spilling secrets.

The NYTimes article, Judge Rejects Customer Suit Over Records From AT&T, offers up this thought:

The ruling is at first blush at odds with a decision last week by a federal judge in San Francisco. That judge, Vaughn R. Walker, allowed a similar suit against AT&T to proceed notwithstanding the state secrets privilege.

But the two decisions can be reconciled, Judge Kennelly wrote. The Chicago case concerns records of phone calls, including when they were placed, how long they lasted and the phone numbers involved. The San Francisco case, by contrast, mainly concerns an N.S.A. program aimed not at a vast sweep of customers’ records but at the contents of a more limited number of communications.

Because the Bush administration has confirmed the existence of such targeted wiretapping, the San Francisco suit could proceed without running afoul of the state secrets privilege, Judge Walker ruled last week. ‘‘The government has opened the door for judicial inquiry,” he wrote, “by publicly confirming and denying material information about its monitoring of communications content.”

In his decision yesterday, Judge Kennelly said there had been no comparable confirmation by the government or AT&T of “the existence or nonexistence of AT&T’s claimed record turnover.” He refused to rely on news accounts of the program as proof of its existence and noted that “no executive branch official has officially confirmed or denied the existence of any program to obtain large quantities of customer telephone records.”

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