Tying À La Carte Cable To TV Violence Issues

Cable customers’ choices being debatedpdf

Sports fans everywhere want to know: “Why do I have to subscribe to the soap opera channel when all I really want is ESPN?”

That’s the kind of question the cable TV industry hates answering. The channel choice issue comes up every few years, but people who argue that subscribers should be able to choose channels “a la carte” have never made any real headway.

The latest effort, and the newest reasoning for requiring cable companies to offer channel choice, or a la carte cable, has to do with yet another issue: television violence.

Just The Beginning (updated)

Clearly, this is going to be quite a report: White House Edits to Privacy Boards Report Spur Resignationpdf

The Bush administration made more than 200 revisions to the first report of a civilian board that oversees government protection of personal privacy, including the deletion of a passage on anti-terrorism programs that intelligence officials deemed “potentially problematic” intrusions on civil liberties, according to a draft of the report obtained by The Washington Post.

One of the panel’s five members, Democrat Lanny J. Davis, resigned in protest Monday over deletions ordered by White House lawyers and aides. The changes came after the congressionally created Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had unanimously approved the final draft of its first report to lawmakers, renewing an internal debate over the board’s independence and investigative power.

See also White House Pushed Ashcroft on Wiretappingspdf. The NYTimes writeup (which reads like a Ludlum thriller!), Gonzales Pressed Ailing Ashcroft on Spy Plan, Aide Says, shows that there are at least some people INSIDE the Beltway who hold Gonzales in complete contempt. In particular:

Even before Mr. Comey’s testimony, Mr. Schumer and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the panel’s ranking Republican, reiterated their low opinion of Mr. Gonzales as attorney general.

“He’s presided over a Justice Department where being a, quote, loyal Bushie seems to be more important than being a seasoned professional, where what the White House wants is more important than what the law requires or what prudence dictates,” Mr. Schumer said.

“It is the decision of Mr. Gonzales as to whether he stays or goes, but it is hard to see how the Department of Justice can function and perform its important duties with Mr. Gonzales remaining where he is,” Mr Specter said. “And beyond Mr. Gonzales’ decision, it’s a matter for the president as to whether the president will retain the attorney general or not.”

Later – it just gets worse and worse – President Intervened in Dispute Over Eavesdropping

Even later: Editorial: Mr. Gonzales’s Incredible Adventure; Testimony sheds light on ex-Justice official’s departurepdf

Gonzales’ sick-bed appealpdf

A Judicial First

Author Protests ‘Cyber-Stalker’pdf

There’s no mystery about it. Patricia Cornwell knows whodunit, and she wants him to stop.

The best-selling crime author has filed a federal lawsuit against a lesser-known Virginia author, asking the court to force him to stop writing “defamatory and contemptuous” material about her on the Internet, including calling her racist and claiming she stole part of his novel.

[…] After the injunction was issued, Sachs was legally bound to stop his behavior toward her. But he didn’t, and instead his blogs grew to include new libelous claims against her, hurting her reputation and causing her emotional distress, according to the most recent suit filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond on April 23.

[…] Cornwell’s attorneys said that there is no record of Sachs registering with Belgian authorities to live there and that they searched for him in Virginia, sending the sheriff’s office to his last known residence, but no one there knew him.

A judge allowed them to serve him with the lawsuit by e-mail, a first for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, Lukey said.

Lukey added that she knows Sachs received the e-mail because he replied immediately.

Obsessive *and* stupid — not a particularly good combination, IMHO.

Followup: Microsoft Gazes Into The Depths

Microsoft Details Patent Breachespdf

Open-source programs step on 235 Microsoft patents, the company said. Free Linux software violates 42 patents. Graphical user interfaces, the way menus and windows look on the screen, breach 65. E-mail programs step on 15, and other programs touch 68 other patents, the company said. The patent figures were first reported by Fortune magazine.

Microsoft also said Open Office, an open-source program supported in part by Sun Microsystems Inc., infringes on 45 patents. Sun declined to comment on the allegation.

[…] “[Linux is] one of the few operating systems that represents a viable threat that Microsoft has a great deal of difficulty containing,” Gillen said, because the developers share their code.

“Microsoft can’t drive a company out of business and make Linux go away,” the analyst said.

Instead, Microsoft has struck a number of patent-licensing deals with companies that use open source code, most notably Novell Inc. last November. In one aspect of the deal, Microsoft agreed to sell Novell’s flavor of Linux, called Suse. It also agreed not to sue the customers who bought it, even though it claims the open-source software infringes on its patents.

[…] Open-source proponents are frustrated by Microsoft’s repeated allusions to patent violations because “they never say what patents being violated, never make any assertions, never put the evidence out there,” said Larry Augustin, a technology startup investor who launched SourceForge.net, a prominent open-source development site, in 1999.

But Augustin also acknowledged that it’s not in Microsoft’s interest to do so: Open-source programmers could rewrite their code to avoid infringing on specific patents, or the courts could find that Microsoft’s patent isn’t valid.

If Microsoft were to start suing, it could also kick off a patent war on a grand scale. An organization called the Open Innovation Network, funded by IBM Corp., Red Hat Inc. and others, has amassed a vast number of software patents. In the event of a Microsoft lawsuit against open source companies or customers, the OIN would retaliate in kind.

See earlier The Shoe Drops

The Internet and Warriors

A Casualty Of War: MySpacepdf

In a memorandum to troops dated Friday, Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, said the task force had noted “a significant increase in the use of DoD network resources tied up by individuals visiting certain recreational Internet sites,” he said. Bell added that the traffic poses “a significant operational security challenge.”

In computer rooms on bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, soldiers crowd around rows of monitors, lining up for a chance to glimpse the latest news from home or leave their distinctive boot print in cyberspace. Some postings on YouTube are grainy battle videos shot with small cameras recording the brilliant flare of roadside explosions and crackle of gunfire set to rock music. Others are more melancholy depictions of loss, showing struggling medics and fallen comrades. Entries on MySpace pages are often more personal, running from reflective to vulgar.

[…] Though soldiers are already barred from posting classified material on public Web sites, these sites also offer an uncensored venue for airing homesickness, frustration with the war in Iraq and anger at the military. But a mid-level Army infantry officer who is headed back to Iraq stressed, “It’s a practical matter, not a civil rights matter.”

He explained he might have trouble if the network is dragged down by soldiers watching YouTube videos. But the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, added that access to the Web sites could be important for morale.

A European Auction Experiment

Intellectual Property Is on the Block at a German Auctioneer

But on Tuesday, it plans to auction the rights to one of its best-selling products — a rooftop solar panel — to the highest bidder at a public auction. The event is the first auction of intellectual property in Europe, and its organizers hope it will open a new sales channel to speed the transfer of intellectual property in a cheaper, more open marketplace.

“The knowledge society is becoming more and more important,” said Manfred Petri of IP Auctions, a Hamburg company that is organizing the event. “The values being created by intellectual property are becoming too large to trade in a clandestine market.”

[…] Many sellers are hoping for a new sales channel for intellectual property, which is costly to market through the traditional method of hiring patent lawyers to negotiate with potential buyers. Webasto, for example, is hoping to get a seven-digit sum for the license to its sunroof solar panel, which generates electricity to ventilate parked cars on hot summer days.

Consolidation in Online Distance Learning Tools Market

Shaking Up the Marketpdf

In a move that could have many reverberations in higher education, the publishing giant Pearson announced a deal Monday in which it will purchase eCollege, which offers course management and other services for distance education. Many analysts predict that the move will create a major competitor to Blackboard in course management and some say the sale could presage more consolidation among producers of software and content for higher education.

[…] Since Blackboard bought out WebCT, Blackboard has dominated the course management market, facing a few relatively small corporate competitors — and growing interest in open source alternatives. Blackboard has also faced a messy fight with open source advocates over the company’s patent claims, although those tensions have lessened somewhat since the company pledged not to use its patent rights to sue open source projects in higher education.

Urdan said that in this environment, it is natural to expect a major player to challenge Blackboard. “My sense has been that somebody large would be positioning themselves against Blackboard. Postsecondary buyers are always worried about a monopoly, so they will welcome a new player,” he said. At the same time, Urdan stressed that Blackboard “is a tough competitor and isn’t going to roll over.”

See earlier posts on Blackboard’s patent issues.

Policing the Internet (updated)

Is this really the way we want to get it done? Relying on News Corp. and some databases? States Fault MySpace on Predator Issues

Some of the country’s top law enforcement officials are charging that the online social network MySpace has discovered thousands of known sex offenders using its service, but has failed to act on the information.

[…] In the letter, the officials asked MySpace to provide them with the number and names of sex offenders on MySpace, their addresses and a list of steps that the company has taken to alert law enforcement officials and other MySpace users.

“We remain concerned about the design of your site, the failure to require parental permission, and the lack of safeguards necessary to protect our children,” the attorneys general wrote.

[…] Last December, MySpace announced that it would work to remove sexual predators from the site by working with Sentinel Tech Holdings, a database company based in Miami. MySpace said that it planned to run its membership rolls against Sentinel’s Sentry database of known sex offenders.

MySpace said that it has spent the last five months testing the automated service.

In his statement, Mr. Nigam also reiterated MySpace’s support for state and federal laws that would require convicted sex offenders to register their e-mail addresses and instant messenger accounts with authorities. He said such a step would aid the company in keeping sex offenders off the service, which has 65 million monthly visitors, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Related: eBay condemned for allowing “rampant” ivory tradepdf

Later: MySpace’s responds, essentially saying “we are not the police — show us a subpoena before we violate our users’ privacy” — MySpace Gives Details of Its Plan to Reveal Known Sex Offenders

OT: Technology and (Dis)Ability

An Amputee Sprinter: Is He Disabled or Too-Abled?

Pistorius was born without the fibula in his lower legs and with other defects in his feet. He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. At 20, his coach says, he is like a five-speed engine with no second gear.

Yet Pistorius is also a searing talent who has begun erasing the lines between abled and disabled, raising philosophical questions: What should an athlete look like? Where should limits be placed on technology to balance fair play with the right to compete? Would the nature of sport be altered if athletes using artificial limbs could run faster or jump higher than the best athletes using their natural limbs?

[…] Since March, Pistorius has delivered startling record performances for disabled athletes at 100 meters (10.91 seconds), 200 meters (21.58 seconds) and 400 meters (46.34 seconds). Those times do not meet Olympic qualifying standards for men, but the Beijing Games are still 15 months away. Already, Pistorius is fast enough that his marks would have won gold medals in equivalent women’s races at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Pistorius’s time of 46.56 in the 400 earned him a second-place finish in March against able-bodied runners at the South African national championships. This seemingly makes him a candidate for the Olympic 4×400-meter relay should South Africa qualify as one of the world’s 16 fastest teams.

[…] “I pose a question” for the I.A.A.F., said Robert Gailey, an associate professor of physical therapy at the University of Miami Medical School, who has studied amputee runners. “Are they looking at not having an unfair advantage? Or are they discriminating because of the purity of the Olympics, because they don’t want to see a disabled man line up against an able-bodied man for fear that if the person who doesn’t have the perfect body wins, what does that say about the image of man?”

[…] A sobering question was posed recently on the Web site of the Connecticut-based Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. “Given the arms race nature of competition,” will technological advantages cause “athletes to do something as seemingly radical as having their healthy natural limbs replaced by artificial ones?” wrote George Dvorsky, a member of the institute’s board of directors. “Is it self-mutilation when you’re getting a better limb?”

Related: Howard Racer Suffers Legal Blowpdf