Poor Pitiful Rambus

Apparently, even a court decision can’t clean up certain smells: Chip Maker Rambus Wins Battles, but Faces Bigger War

A wave of recent court victories was supposed to be a turning point for Rambus. In August, a federal appeals court in Washington upheld a ruling throwing out a decision by the Federal Trade Commission that Rambus was guilty of monopolistic behavior in its dealings 10 years ago with the standard-setting group Jedec Solid State Technology Association. But the F.T.C. said last week it may appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

A jury in March in San Jose, Calif., found that the company had not deliberately misled memory chip makers when it patented memory chip technologies while the industry group was deciding whether to make the technologies an industry standard.

Any day now, a federal judge in the San Jose court is expected to decide whether to grant Rambus’s request for an injunction against Hynix, a memory chip maker. And last Monday, yet another trial began in San Jose, this one involving Samsung.

But the victories have not helped much. “Every day we’re amazed at how victories in court don’t necessarily lead to settlements,” said Sharon Holt, Rambus’s senior vice president for worldwide sales, licensing and marketing. “We really need the courts to help force these parties into settlement talks. We’re not having as much momentum in signing new business as we’ve liked.”

LATimes Editorial On Laptop Searches

Laptop searches go too far (pdf)

Should U.S. citizens returning from abroad be forced to surrender their laptop computers to the prying eyes of customs agents, even when there is no reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed? Two federal appeals courts say yes. If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule otherwise, Congress should act to curb this exponential invasion of privacy.

The links in the article go to:

How Would You Know?

I mean, pledges are nice and all, but how would you know the firm is complying? Sounds like an interesting engineering systems design problem: AT& T, Verizon to Refrain From Tracking Users Onlinepdf

AT&T and Verizon, two of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, pledged yesterday to refrain from tracking customer Web behavior unless they receive explicit permission to do so.

The announcement, made at a Senate committee hearing, represents a challenge to the rest of the Web world, where advertising is commonly delivered by companies that record a consumer’s visits across multiple Web sites. The practice, known as “behavioral targeting,” is largely invisible to customers and generally done without their consent.

“Verizon believes that before a company captures certain Internet-usage data . . . it should obtain meaningful, affirmative consent from consumers,” said Thomas J. Tauke, Verizon executive vice president.

AT&T’s chief privacy officer Dorothy Attwood made a similar pledge to legislators, and then, taking aim at Google she noted that AT&T’s promise to get consumer consent is an advance over others in the industry.

The Broadband Providers and Consumer Privacy hearing testimony:

Fighting the Second Enclosure Movement

Link By Link – Who Owns the Law? Arguments May Ensue (pdf)

[I]n the real world, judicial decisions and laws and regulations can be exceedingly hard to find without paying for them, either in book form or online. And that doesn’t even include quasi-official material like the numeric codes doctors are required to use when filing for Medicaid or Medicare payments or the fire safety codes that builders are required to follow.

“The law is pretty clear that laws and judicial opinions and regulations are not protected by copyright laws,” said Pamela Samuelson, a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. “That isn’t to say that people aren’t going to try.”

A favorite method of trying, as Ms. Samuelson and other legal scholars explain, is to copyright the accoutrements surrounding the public material. So while the laws and court decisions themselves may be in the public domain, the same is not necessarily true for the organizational system that renders them intelligible or the supporting materials that put them into context.

In other words: the beer is free, but you have to pay for a specially designed stein. Of course, you could always choose to cup your hands.

[…] “So many people have been moving into the public domain and putting up fences,” [Carl Malamud] said in an interview from his office in Sebastopol, Calif., where he runs a one-man operation, public.resource.org, on a budget of about $1 million a year. Much of that money goes to buy material, usually in print form, that he then scans into his computer and makes available on the Internet without restriction.

Slipping One In Under the Wire

While we all are following the crisis in the financial markets, along comes a fast-tracked intellectual property law enforcement bill: HR 4279: Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008. From Declan McCullagh’s writeup:

The bill was stripped of a controversial measure that would have given federal prosecutors the power to file civil lawsuits against peer-to-peer users who violate copyright laws. The Commerce Department and Justice Department voiced their opposition to the provision in a letter this week, saying it would create “unnecessary bureaucracy.”

The legislation still provides increased resources for the Justice Department to combat intellectual property theft and provide coordination for federal and state efforts against counterfeiting and piracy. It also increases penalties for intellectual property infringements.

Speculating on Open v Closed Phones

Apples iPhone is closed. Googles G1 is open. Which is better?

Watching Google and Apple carve out space in the mobile business, one can hardly avoid thinking that history is repeating itself. In the 1970s and 80s, Apple created the first great personal computers. But because Apple closed its platform, it was IBM, Dell, HP, and especially Microsoft that reaped the benefits of Apples innovations. […]

So, What Kind of a Deal, Really?

Something I know I need to think about — after I get home: Royalties Deal in Online Music (pdf)

The agreement, revealed Wednesday, is designed to settle how the industry calculates royalty rates for limited downloads and music that is streamed online, including when it is provided by subscription and advertising-supported services.

Fans using on-demand music streaming can select the songs they want to hear but do not keep a permanent copy.

Under the proposal, providers of such services will pay a royalty of 10.5 percent of revenue after other royalties are calculated.

The Digital Media Association’s press release: Major Music Industry Groups Announce Breakthrough Agreement

Some More Shoes Drop

Expanded Powers to Search Travelers at Border Detailed (pdf)

In July, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed policies that showed that federal agents may copy books, documents, and the data on laptops and other electronic devices without suspecting a traveler of wrongdoing. But what DHS did not disclose was that since 1986 and until last year, the government generally required a higher standard: Federal agents needed probable cause that a law was being broken before they could copy material a traveler was bringing into the country.

The changes are part of a broader trend across the government to harness technology in the fight against terrorism. But they are taking place largely without public input or review, critics said, raising concerns that federal border agents are acting without proper guidelines or oversight and that policies are being adopted that do not adequately protect travelers’ civil liberties when they are being questioned or their belongings searched.

[…] In July 2007, the government dropped the requirement that there be reasonable suspicion to review material but specified that the review had to take place in connection with laws enforced by CBP, according to a copy of a policy the groups obtained.

Then, this July, the government issued its broadest policy to date regarding information searches at the border, allowing documents and electronic devices to be detained for an unspecified period. Moreover, they may now be copied without any suspicion of wrongdoing, the lowest legal standard.

See these earlier posts: “Unreasonable Search and Seizure” and Electronic Devices and Searches


Just Click Send

We suspect that most Senate Republicans know how to use a computer and all of the other devices of the electronic age. Which means there is no excuse — except a desire to slow the public’s right to know — for their ongoing efforts to block electronic filing of their reports on campaign donations.

The Changing Music Business Model

Red Roof Inns Teams Up With Country Music Artists

THE latest recordings by a couple of popular country music acts will never hit the Billboard charts but, to paraphrase the title of a song from the movie “Nashville,” it don’t worry them.

That’s because the recordings — by the singer Phil Vassar and the group Little Big Town — were made on behalf of Red Roof Inn, a leading budget lodging chain. As part of a multimedia campaign, the voices of Mr. Vassar and the members of Little Big Town can be heard when guests at Red Roof motels ask for wake-up calls or potential guests are placed on hold when calling to book rooms.