December 17, 2005
National Game Ban on Sales to Minors Introduced in the Senate
Senators Hillary Rodhan Clinton (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and Evan Bayh (D-IN) introduced a bill on Friday that restricts the sale or rental of games rated M to minors. Various states have introduced similar legislation but all court challenges have been successful in striking down these laws on First Amendment grounds. The most recent law declared unconstitutional was in Illinois. The sponsors say the law is constitutional as it only regulates the access to games rated M, much as access to alcohol, tobacco, and pornography.
The bill includes these provisions:
- Prohibits any business from selling or renting a Mature, Adults-Only, or Ratings Pending game to a person who is younger than seventeen.
- On-site store managers would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense; $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense.
- Requires an annual, independent analysis of game ratings.
- Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to conduct an investigation to determine whether hidden content like in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a pervasive problem and take appropriate action.
- Ensures that consumers have a mechanism to file complaints with the FTC and that the FTC will report these complaints to Congress.
- Authorizes the FTC to conduct an annual, random audit of retailers to monitor enforcement and report the findings to Congress.
The bill, the Family Entertainment Protection Act, assumes the video game industry will continue rating the appropriateness of games for minors. More on this from Senator Clinton's web site.
Cable and Advocacy Groups Offer FFC Deal on Kids TV
The Washington Post is reporting that cable providers and children advocacy groups have proposed a deal with the FCC over challenges to kids TV rules slated to go into effect on January 1. The rules affect how much educational television must be carried on digital channels per week, among other directives.
If the FCC accepts the deal and changes its rules, neither side would challenge the rules in Court. As reported, content providers would limit the use of characters in marketing over the web when those sites are promoted on the shows. Another provision would lift limits on how many times children's shows could be pre-empted. Broadcasters want this to offer more sporting events on the west coast.
The complete story is here.
December 15, 2005
Mona Lisa Smile Analzyed by Software
By golly, she's happy. The software breakdown is 83 per cent happy, 9 per cent disgusted, 6 per cent fearful, and 2 per cent angry. Read more in Sci-Tech Today.
Microsoft Hit With Patent Suit Over Mobile Email
Patent litigation in the tech area seems to be getting more and more popular these days. A lot of Blackberry customers are getting nervous about their service as Research In Motion seems to be running out of options to stave off a shut down of its popular service. While the company has indicated that it has a work-around that would prevent a service shutdown, the lack of details from the company as to what that entails has generated a lot of nervous tension in users.
Now comes Visto Corp. suing Microsoft for patent infringement over technology tying email access on mobile devices. Visto just concluded a licensing agreement with NTP, RIM's nemesis, although the company states that the suit against Microsoft and the deal with NTP are unrelated. The suit in the Eastern District of Texas lists three patents Microsoft allegedly violated with Windows Mobile 5.0. Visto has apparently done deals with other mobile carriers such as Vodaphone and Cingular. Read more in the Reuters story here and another analysis from TelecomWeb here.
December 13, 2005
DirecTV Pays Fines in Two Separate Cases
The Washington Post is reporting that the FTC has settled its case against DirecTV for telemarketer abuse with a $5.3 million dollar fine. Apparently, telemarketing firms hired by the satellite service made cold calls to consumers who were on the Do Not Call Registry. That is a no-no for the FTC which enforces rules for contacting consumers. The complaint was filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
From the FTC press release:
The complaint alleges that telemarketers calling on behalf of DIRECTV contacted consumers on the National DNC Registry. In addition, the complaint alleges that one of the telemarketers – Global Satellite, directly or through another entity – abandoned calls to consumers by failing to put a live sales representative on the line within two seconds after the called consumer completes his or her greeting, as required under the law.
Finally, the complaint alleges that DIRECTV provided substantial assistance and support to Global Satellite, even though it knew or consciously avoided knowing, that Global Satellite was violating the TSR.
The press release page has links to related documents in the case.
DirecTV settled another case for $5 million. That case involved deceptive marketing practices which included cancellation policies and fees. Much of the terms of trials and other relationships with customers was hidden away in small print or written in deceptive terms. Twenty-two states investigated the company's practices, including New York. The settlement was announced on New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's web site.
Here's the report in the Boston Globe.
December 12, 2005
Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in Sandisk Patent Case
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by three manufacturers, Ritek, Memorex, and Pretec Electronics, who sought relief against an appeals court ruling that reinstated a patent infringement suit brought against them by Sandisk. The issue involved the use of flash memory in products such as MP3 player, digital cameras, and other devices.
More from the Reuters report is here.
December 11, 2005
Wikipedia "Vandal" Unmasked
The Wikipedia biography of John Seigenthaler which included false statements about him has turned out to be a practical joke gone badly wrong by a Nashville, Tennessee man. Brian Chase has admitted to posting the false information which included statements that Seigenthaler was linked to the the two Kennedy assassinations and that he lived in Russia for a time.
The motivation came when Chase discovered Wikipedia and the fact that it would let anyone could contribute. He mentioned this to a co-worker, worked up the post, and then showed it to the co-worker. "It wasn't too long after that I told him that it was a joke, that I found this crazy Web site that anyone can put anything on, and that's all it was." The more interesting statement he made is "I had no idea that anybody ever relied on that for truthful information, considering the way that anybody in the world with a computer can put anything on it at any time."
In fact, that's the rub this incident brought to light: the issue of quality control. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia said that the site would make more information available about users. In this case, Chase was tracked down by a sympathetic Texas citizen, Daniel Brandt of San Antonio.
Chase apologized to Seigenthaler who accepted the apology. Chase also resigned from Rush Delivery Service where he apparently used a computer to make the offending post. Seigenthaler said he would not take legal action.
The details are in the Dickson Herald on the Tennessean.com web site.