Novell Comes Out

Secretive Buyer of Some E-Commerce Patents Turns Out to Be Novell

Many executives in the computer industry and at Internet software and services firms had expressed concern that the patents could be used to extract payments from their companies.

The portfolio consists of three fundamental patents covering the basic technology of business-to-business electronic commerce as well as several other patents and a range of patent applications, said Robert Glushko, one of the inventors.

Bruce Lowry, a spokesman for Novell, said the company had acquired the patents for defensive reasons and did not plan to seek licensing revenue from them. He said the company had chosen the secretive approach at the auction “for competitive reasons.”

The patent issue is a contentious one in the computer industry because companies increasingly use intellectual property – patents and copyrights – both to protect markets and to attack competitors. Moreover, a secondary market is emerging for intellectual property acquired by individuals and corporations not involved in the original inventions.

[…] Novell is clearly trying to avoid finding itself entangled in a case like the one brought against I.B.M. by the SCO Group, a Utah company, in March 2003, asserting that I.B.M. illegally contributed code to Linux from the Unix operating system. SCO had obtained the licensing rights to the Unix operating system and contends that Linux, a variant of Unix, violates its rights. It sought $1 billion in damages in the case, which is pending.

Related: A Payday for Patents ‘R’ Us

But others find the growth of patent holding companies troublesome rather than heartwarming. Critics of the patent system maintain that these companies – called “patent trolls” by their detractors – rely on excessively broad patents, particularly for software, that should never have been granted in the first place.

And the costs of litigation and licensing fees to settle patent disputes have become facts of life for technology companies.

Also see Pressure mounts for reform of patent system [pdf]

P2P Traffic Unchanged

An interesting paper cited in the UCal-Riverside Newsroom: P2P Technology Still Going Strong Despite Lawsuits, Fines

(via Digital Music News). The article cites this paper (albeit with an erroneous link – here’s a local copy): Is P2P dying or just hiding?

Abstract— Recent reports in the popular media suggest a significant decrease in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing traffic, attributed to the public’s response to legal threats. Have we reached the end of the P2P revolution? In pursuit of legitimate data to verify this hypothesis, we embark on a more accurate measurement effort of P2P traffic at the link level. In contrast to previous efforts we introduce two novel elements in our methodology. First, we measure traffic of all known popular P2P protocols. Second, we go beyond the “known port” limitation by reverse engineering the protocols and identifying characteristic strings in the payload. We find that, if measured accurately, P2P traffic has never declined; indeed we have never seen the proportion of p2p traffic decrease over time (any change is an increase) in any of our data sources.

Also see this Slyck article: Interest in File-Sharing at All Time High

Gonzales: Reeducation Plans?

Students Do Not Share Gonzales’ View on Piracy [pdf] (via Jason Schultz at Copyfight)

In his first trip to California as the nation’s attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales told a group of high school students to just say no to online piracy.

But, for many of the students, the response was to just say “why not?”

During a daylong UCLA seminar featuring Gonzales, students peppered speakers with tough questions about the real effect of piracy. Some even suggested that government should focus more on tackling poverty and improving education than on jailing kids who download movies, music and software.

“Isn’t the government using morality as a means for studios to make millions of dollars?” asked 18-year-old senior Kate Schwartz of Santa Monica’s New Roads High School.

[…] “Sitting through a one-hour, two-hour session may not be enough…. It takes awhile to educate people,” [Gonzales] told reporters later. “And, unfortunately for some people, it will take an example by this department prosecuting people.”

Still, Thursday’s event proved to be a reality check for Gonzales and Hollywood in how hard it will be to discourage bootlegging by today’s tech-savvy kids.

As Jason points out, maybe he’s planning to send people to Gitmo? Or a new sort of extreme rendition? I’m sure that the Attorney General can get someone to whip up a good memo on the subject.

Does This Mean Media Consolidation Doesn’t Work?

Or that Clear Channel was just bad/hamfisted at it? Clear Channel to Spin Off Its Entertainment Division

Analysts trace much of the company’s troubles to its decision to expand into the concert business in 2000 with a $4.4 billion deal to purchase SFX Entertainment, a live-event concern run by the media entrepreneur Robert F. X. Sillerman. Critics in and out of the entertainment business quickly complained that the purchase gave Clear Channel too much leverage.

But results at the concert unit frequently trailed the rest of the company. Just two years after purchasing SFX, Clear Channel took a write-down to reflect a 75 percent drop in the value of the business.

[…] Mr. Sillerman, who now runs a venture called CKX, said in an interview that the concept of combining radio and concerts “was something that, intellectually, seemed like it would make sense.”

He added: “But it’s a different time now. Investors viewed things differently in 2000. The most abused word in the English language was ‘synergy.’ It was crazy. Now investors are interested in focus and single purpose.”

[…] Mr. Miller added that “ultimately, what did them in is, the Clear Channel Entertainment brand name doesn’t hold a lot of good will in the live entertainment community.”

(As you ponder the answer, don’t forget the News Corporation!)

Slate Writer Suggests Lucas CC Star Wars

This Slate article on Star Trek Revelations, the fanflic, May the Force Be With You, and You, and You …, points out just how accessible the technology of creativity has become.

Our most cherished sci-fi franchises are in a creative trough. Lucas’ movies have spiraled into unwatchability; Paramount has so exhausted its ideas for Star Trek that it’s folding up its tent and going home. The fans, in contrast, still give a damn: The director of Revelations, Shane Felux, is clearly more knowledgeable about the strengths and weaknesses of the material than Lucas himself. Felux’s movie retains the funky vibe of the original Star Wars, down to the kitschy, ’70s-style wipes, the obligatory scene in an alien bar, and Darth Vader’s throat-choking technique.

The fans can also give Industrial Light and Magic a run for its money. When it comes to special effects, Revelations is nothing short of astonishing. […]

How could Felux produce scenes this good? Because desktop animation and editing programs like Bryce and Adobe Premiere Pro allow anyone to blow up a CGI spacecraft on a garage-band budget. What’s more, Felux relied on the techniques of open-source design. Hundreds of people worldwide offered small bits of work, purely for the love of the project—and a chance to brag about their contribution. […]

Fan-made art is also easier to distribute than ever before. The proliferation of broadband in the past few years means that a movie doesn’t have to open on 3,000 screens to get seen by millions of eyeballs. In only one week online, an estimated 1,000,000 people have already downloaded Star Wars Revelations. […]

George Lucas has always encouraged Star Wars movies, so long as the wannabe auteurs didn’t try to make a profit. (That’s the case with Felux—he isn’t selling his movie or any associated merchandise.) Lucas should do more, though. Once he stops polluting the world with prequels, he should slap a liberal “Creative Commons” copyright license on the Star Wars franchise. That would explicitly allow any fan to remix an existing movie, or create a new one in homage, so long as there’s no profit involved. Everyone wins: Movies like Revelations keep the fan base alive, and Lucas can continue selling figurines until the sun explodes.

Earlier posting; see also CopyFight

Related: Is There Life After ‘Star Wars’ for Lucasfilm?; also ‘Star Wars’ and the fracas over fan films