The W3C Supports MS in the Eolas Suit

Hmmm — missed this news yesterday – Web Group Backs Microsoft in Patent Suit [pdf]

A leading Internet standards-setting organization took the unusual step yesterday of urging the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate a software patent that the group says threatens the development of the World Wide Web.

[…] The Web group contends that the patent based on work done by Michael Doyle, founder of Eolas Technologies in Chicago, while he was an adjunct professor at the University of California at San Francisco, was improperly granted. In a filing with the patent office, the Web consortium asserts that the ideas in the Eolas patent had previously been published as prior art, a legal term. That prior art was not considered when the patent was granted, or in the Microsoft trial, and thus the patent claims should be invalidated, the consortium contends.

In a long letter yesterday, Tim Berners-Lee, the consortium director, who created the basic software standards for the Web, said the patent office should begin a review of the patent “to prevent substantial economic and technical damage to the operation of the World Wide Web.”

In his letter to James E. Rogan, director of the patent office, Mr. Berners-Lee repeatedly emphasized the wider public interest in a review of the patent. If the claims in the patent are upheld and enforced, Mr. Berners-Lee warned, “the cycle of innovation on the Web would be substantially retarded.” Later, he wrote that the patent, if unchallenged, represented “a substantial setback for global interoperability and the success of the open Web.”

A Look at the Online Music Biz

Neil Strauss describes just how messy it’s become: Online Music Business, Neither Quick Nor Sure [pdf]

In the last decade a new record business has been forming online. It has been coalescing by trial and error, largely error. And its evolution is in no way complete as it moves toward a finish line at the rate of one step forward for every nine-tenths of a step back.

[…] Clearly, Sonicnet’s music store was more of a me-first venture than a moneymaker, but the message was clear: the Internet was a place for artists to control and directly profit from their music. But in most online services today that dream has been lost, with the services functioning as online arms of the record companies while the artists receive pennies (or fractions of pennies) for each download.

The second dream from the golden age of music downloading was summarized in a catchphrase: All you can eat. The future of the business was in allowing fans access to all the music they wanted for a monthly fee. So far, only the free unauthorized services have accomplished this, chiefly ones that are now defunct, like Napster and Audiogalaxy. The reason the authorized downloading services haven’t accomplished this goal is not because the technology or will is lacking, but because full cooperation from record labels and publishers has not been forthcoming. They fear they would become obsolete.

Thus the authorized services online today are all compromises.

Tennessee’s Super DMCA

Slashdot discusses yesterday’s hearing on the Tennessee Super-DMCA bill: Tennessee’s Super-DMCA Rises From The Grave. Notes from the hearing: 10/28/2003 Joint Committee Hearing Notes

The next speaker was Todd Flournoy, Counsel and Director of State Legislative Affairs for the MPAA. “On behalf of Jack Valenti, I thank you for this opportunity,” he intoned. He explained that the MPAA’s members were becoming increasingly involved with digital distribution of their content, and that “If we can’t get a handle on Internet piracy, there won’t be a content industry.”

Senator Trail asked Flournoy what specific services were not covered in the current statutes. Flournoy replied that there wasn’t specific coverage of Internet and digital services. Senator Trail answered that it didn’t seem necessary to mention every possible service by name since the current law covers essentially all imaginable forms of electronic communication. At that point, Representative Briley (the bill’s sponsor) said that for that matter, we could just abolish the whole criminal code and replace it with a law that said simply “Do no harm.” Senator Trail responded that he advocated no such thing, only that the solution to a supposedly inadequate law was not necessarily more bad law.

See more at the Tennessee Digital Freedom Forum. The EFF link above has the text of the bill.

Napster Goes Live Today

Napster is ready to roll. Now to see what comes of brand name recognition.

RealNetworks’ Success Story Raises Some Questions

CNet News posts a positive article on RealNetwork’s earnings report, which beat the street estimates in RealNetworks’ loss narrows, sales up

However, the Rhapsody statistics (published for the first time) are, to my jaundiced eye, pathetic (but maybe I’m missing something):

Trumpeting its success in digital music services, RealNetworks made public for the first time its subscriber numbers for that division, which includes premium radio and newly acquired Rhapsody. It said that the number of total music subscribers grew by more than 46 percent from the second to third quarter. RealNetworks’ music subscribers, including Rhapsody members, now total 250,000.

Overall, the number of people who pay RealNetworks to stream news, audio and video content to their PCs went up by 15 percent to more than 1.15 million. Most of those gains came through its Rhapsody and RealOne radio subscription services.

Playlouder MSP

There’s the stodgy press release at MI2N (Playlouder & Bulldog Join Forces To Launch The World’s First Royalty Paying ISP), but I like the announcement on the PlayLouder site

As you know only too well, we here are PlayLouder get excited about new things – and so it is with a happy heart that we announce a world first! That’s right, PlayLouder is bringing yours truly the first ever Music Service Provider! Raaaaaaahhhhh!

Which basically means you will now be able to share and download music with your mates and virtual chums all over the UK without worrying about Mr Big beating you with a truncheon, nicking all your cash and throwing your miserable ass in chokey. Because PlayLouder is the first Internet Service Provider to pay Royalties to Record companies.

For a monthly subscription we will bring you a broadband internet connection with high quality music services, whilst paying royalties to rights owners, songwriters, publishers…allowing subscribers to freely exchange licensed music!

What makes PlayLouder MSP so great, is that for the first time – you dear music lovers – can enjoy unlimited access to thousands of legal music files from artists like the White Stripes, the Pixies, Interpol, Underworld, Stereophonics, Soulwax, Mr. Scruff, Elbow, Coldcut, Badly Drawn Boy, Laurent Garnier, Basement Jaxx, Dizzee Rascal, blah blah blah…with royalties being paid to the record companies for activity that previously was unlicensed and unlawful. Neat eh?