November 25, 2005
Harvard Newspaper Gets Subpoena in Web Site Case
The Harvard Crimson is reporting that it has been served with a subpoena seeking drafts of articles and copies of emails in a civil dispute between ConnectU LLC and Facebook.com. Plaintiff ConnectU are suing the creator of Facebook.com for stealing the concept of the social networking site through an earlier venture, Harvard Connection. Defendants are also accused on exploiting access to ConnectU's source code.
The newspaper said that it would not comply with the subpoena on the grounds that it seeks information not central to the litigation, compliance would compromise the newspaper's independence, and that the parties could easily get the same information elsewhere.
The Crimson's report is here.
Another account on ZDNet News is here.
November 23, 2005
New Virus Mail Masquerades as Law Enforcement Source
Virus writers are expanding beyond the usual bank and web site scam mail that populates in boxes with mail that purports to come from the CIA, FBI, or the Bundeskriminalamt, which is the closest German equivalent of the FBI. The Sober.w worm, also known as the Sober.x and Sober.z worms by various security companies, comes as an attachment to messages that claim law enforcement agencies have logged an IP address which has visited illegal sites and demand that the user open the attached zip file and answer the questions it contains. The FBI has issued a statement that it does not contact individuals through unsolicited emails. The CIA warns users with a similar statement at its main page. More details on this are at Infoworld here.
NBC Cool to Tivo Plan Linking Content to IPods
It was almost predictable that when TiVo announced plans to let customers transfer shows to Apple's IPod that some copyright holders would complain about it. That came true when NBC issued statements through spokespersons. "TiVo appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content," was one comment made to Daily Variety. Other comments included not so subtle hints at possible legal action.
Eweek.com has this story along with comments from two IP attorneys who seem to think that the concept of consumers recording, time-shifting, and now space-shifting is legal. One went as far as suggesting that NBC should be grateful that people even want to watch their programming. Read more about it here.
November 22, 2005
Amazon Wins Patent Dispute Appeal
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a lower court's decision to grant summary judgment to Amazon concerning a dispute over its 1 click checkout patent. IPXL Holdings claimed it had patented the process earlier. The court decision is here.
Mass Governor Vetoes Internet Wine Bill
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney vetoed a bill yesterday that would have allowed state residents to purchase wine over the Internet. The bill was passed by the legislature last week and it imposed certain limitations on the purchases. Among them was a restriction that would have prohibited shipments from wineries that produce more than 30,000 gallons a year and was represented by a Massachusetts wholesaler for the past 6 months. The Governor vetoed the bill because it was too restrictive for consumers. The Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Internet wine shipments in the last term.
The Boston Globe has the story here.
The Governor's Press Release is here.
November 21, 2005
Spammers Settle FTC CAN-SPAM Suit
Four people and an affiliated marketer have paid $621,000 to settle charges made by the Federal Trade Commission under the CAN-SPAM Act. The four operated adult web sites and sold access through unsolicited email to consumers. More information from PC World is here.
The FTC Press Release with links to the legal documents in the case are here.
The Latest on Sony DRM Woes
Another security flaw was discovered, this time in the uninstaller program for Sony's other copy protection scheme which is manufactured by SunnComm. Apparently, the uninstaller not only responded to commands from the creator's web site, but from any web site, including those with malicious intent. SunnComm had made the uninstaller available from their web site, but had removed it following the discovery.
In other news, Texas has now sued Sony over the original First 4 Internet software, because it violates the state's spyware legislation. Texas is seeking civil penalties of $100,000 per violation. This would be the first suit under the Texas spyware law. The Texas attorney general was quoted as saying "The message we hope to send with this lawsuit is don't mess with Texas' computers." A PDF copy of the complaint is here.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also filed a class action suit, the details of which are still being disseminated as this is written. More on that should appear at the EFF here, including a note that their complaint will be posted.
For a complete list of CDs released with XCP content protection, go to this Sony page.
Cell Phone Tracking Monitors Car Traffic
The Baltimore Sun is reporting on a new traffic monitoring program that is raising the hackles of privacy advocates. In essence, Maryland has hired Delcan NET, a Canadian company, to check the flow of traffic by monitoring cell phones as they move from on cell tower to another. This only works, of course, if the phone is on, but there appear to be more than enough working phones traveling on the state's expressways to make the project feasible.
Cell phones constantly communicate with cell towers and can be tracked when one tower hands a phone off to another tower. Delcan NET monitors the aggregate data as these hand offs occur, noting the times between hand offs and then calculating the speed of cars. Choke points can be identified and relayed to drivers via roadside signs or radio traffic reports. The company notes that it does not monitor individual phones or conversations.
Privacy experts fear that this is the beginning of another slippery slope to erode individual privacy rights. The government has lost various attempts to retrieve cell phone tracking information when presented to a federal judge. Getting a private company to turn over information may not pose the same impediment.
The cooperating carrier has not been officially identified, but reports indicate that it is Cingular.
Read more in the Sun here.
November 20, 2005
Developments in Review: World Internet Governance
The World Summit on the Information Society took place in Tunisa recently. The gathering was marked by reports of the host country clamping down on press rights and censoring Internet traffic within that nation. Called to debate the management of top level domains, a lot of political laundry regarding the nature an use of the Internet was aired.
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe said "Those who have supported nihilistic and disorderly freedom of expression are beginning to see the fruits" (of their efforts). Mugabe's administration has been cited in the western press as authoritarian and corrupt, especially in regard to the last presidential election. Human rights is another area where unfettered Internet speech seems to have cast a negative image on Zimbabwe and Mugabe. Iranian and Cuban representatives to the meeting also criticized the structure of the Internet which is used for the "propagation of falsehoods," at least according to the Iranian representative.
The main issue that was discussed at the conference was the potential to replace the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with a group that was based within the United Nations. The United States has been cool to the idea of transferring governance to an international body, concerned that free speech rights would be curtailed by participating governments who, in turn, frown on internal dissent. The U.S. announced long before the conference that the U.S. will not give up control of the Internet's root.
So what came out of all this? The U.S. agreed to the creation of the Internet Governance Forum which will discuss Internet governance issues. The full document creating the forum is here. Until something else happens, not much has changed, if anything at all.
Microsoft To Release Anniversary Edition of Windows
Microsoft is planning on releasing a 20th anniversary edition of Windows XP Professional to commemorate the first Windows release. The copies should become an instant collector's item as it is limited to 9,999 copies and will only be released in Japan. The copies will sell for 28,140 yen (about $235 US) and will include such celebratory items as replica installation CDs of Windows 98, 98, ME, and 2000, Windows box origami. memorial stamps and stickers, and a video featuring Bill Gates. 50 lucky people will get the Vista Technical Beta 2.0. There are a number of other potential prizes that come with snagging a box. Should anyone be lucky enough to get a copy, it's an upgrade, so a qualifying operating system is necessary to install it.
Details are at Engadget, which also features a nifty spread of the package.