August 18, 2006
Vista To Get Security Patches
In spite of all the hype about security in Vista, Microsoft is issuing security patches for the beta copies of that operating system. In defense of the company, the product is still beta. These flaws should not be in the product when it is finally released, whenever that ultimately may be. It has to be unsettling, though, that this is necessary for an operating system built from the ground up with an emphasis on security.
TiVo Wins Against EchoStar in Patent Case
TiVo won a ruling yesterday against EchoStar in a patent infringement case involving the use of DVR recorders. A Texarcana jury found that EchoStar willfully infringed on Time-warp technology which allowed viewers to record one channel while watching another. The judge increased the damages awarded by the jury from $74 million to $89.6, which was more than the $87 million for which TiVo lawyers had asked. The judge also ordered EchoStar to turn off infringing machines and not to sell new ones within 30 days. The D.C. Court of Appeals has stayed that order pending further action.
Apple Report Shows No Sweatshop at iPod Plant
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Apple has concluded an investigation of working conditions of the Chinese plant that makes iPods for Apple. The company found that there was no forced labor, though workers exceeded the amount of overtime they worked. There were no reports of child labor used at the plant as well. Apple will now enforce overtime limits as a result.
The study found that the employees of the plant were paid the minimum wage, with more than half earning more than the minimum wage. Minimum wage in that part of China is about $100 per month. On that basis it seems that the premium price for an iPod is certainly not based on labor costs.
August 17, 2006
DOJ Appeals State Secrets Ruling in AT&T Case
Speaking of the EFF, the U.S. Government is appealing the ruling in the Northern District of California that allows the case to go forward in spite of the government's claim that it would reveal state secrets. That case involves AT&T giving the government wholesale access to customer records and wiretap access to Internet traffic through a secret room in San Francisco.
Read the very snarky post about the case and the appeal in the Register.
EFF Asks FTC to Slap AOL
Federal Judge Declares NSA Wiretapping Program Unconstitutional
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of the Eastern District of Michigan has declared the National Security Agency domestic wiretapping program unconstitutional. The suit brought by the ACLU challenged the President's authority to create the program. The Justice Department tried to get the suit thrown out on the grounds that the suit would reveal state secrets. The judge ruled against this noting that there was enough information available not involving state secrets that allowed her to rule on the matter. This will surely send the matter to the 6th Circuit and to the Supreme Court, although with the government on the defensive.
Update: The Chicago Tribune has a Washington scene political blog called The Swamp that has reactions from the White House vowing to fight the ruling. Read it here.
August 16, 2006
Commerce Renews Contract with ICANN for Net Supervision
The Department of Commerce has renewed its agreement with ICANN to oversee the web address system for five years. ICANN has been criticized in the past for being susceptible to U.S. pressure in its decisions. The failed creation of a porn-only .xxx is one example where U.S. influence has affected ICANN's process.
The agreement calls for yearly renewals, so it is possible that the contract could end before 2011.
Pod in Your Product Name? You'll be Hearing from Apple Soon
Apple has started to hassle other vendors that use the word "pod" as part of a product name. The Daily Tech highlights one of these alter products, the Profit Pod, created by Mach 5. Apple claims that the Profit Pod infringes on Apple's trademarks and sent the company a cease and desist letter. Apple also claims that Mach 5 cannot trademark the term here or anywhere.
The Profit Pod does not have anything to do with music and, if the picture on the Daily Tech site is any indication, doesn't remotely resemble an iPod by any stretch of the imagination, unless you happen to be one of Apple's lawyers. (It is arguable that imagination in a lawyer is a legal construct in any event.) The product is used in arcade machines to indicate the amount of money that has been deposited in the machine without having to open it up.
There was a company, I think it was called Microsoft, that sued another company called Lindows. Microsoft tried to squash Lindows like a bug but a federal judge ruled that the jury had to consider whether the term "Windows" was generic before Microsoft made it famous. Trademark threatened, Microsoft cut a settlement (terms undisclosed) and Lindows became Linspire.
Let's see what we can think of before the iPod existed:
- Peapod (the vegetable and the online grocery delivery store)
- "Open the pod doors, Hal" (referring to an object)
- "Lord Vader, the battle station plans are not aboard this ship! And no transmissions were made. An escape pod was jettisoned during the fighting, but no life forms were aboard." (referring to an object, although R2D2 and 3CPO could have been listening to Air Supply on the way down)
- The pod people of The Night of the Living Dead (Zombies from an object)
- Portable On-Demand (POD®) storage containers (see the web site)
- Payable-On-Demand (legal term)
- A group of whales (from 1832 according to the OED with other references to other usages as a noun back to 1573, and as a verb to 1530)
Oh, just do a Google search on the word "pod" and see how ridiculous this is. Apple may wind up having to buy off any potential infringer or potentially lose their trademark status. Microsoft didn't want to risk that, and they have way more money and more at stake than Apple.
August 15, 2006
FTC Sues Movieland.com on Alleged Deceptive Practices
The Federal Trade Commission and the Washington State Attorney General have filed parallel complaints against 11 companies and others associated with movie download services. Consumers sign up for trials and get bombarded with pop-up windows demanding money. The software is difficult to remove even with expertise on the part of the user.
From the FTC Press Release:
According to papers filed with the court, the defendants downloaded software that repeatedly pelted consumers’ computers with pop-ups, accompanied by music that lasted nearly a minute, and could not be closed or minimized. These pop-ups demanded that consumers pay the defendants $29.95 to end the recurring pop-up cycle, claiming that consumers had signed up for a three-day “free trial” of the defendants’ Movieland Internet download services and did not cancel their “membership” before the trial period was over. Hundreds of consumers complained to the FTC. Most claimed they had never signed up for the “free trial,” never used Movieland’s services, and never even heard of Movieland until they got their first demand for payment.
The FTC’s complaint also alleges the defendants made it difficult or impossible for consumers to uninstall the software. Consumers attempting to remove it through the Windows Control Panel Add/Remove function were redirected to a Web page telling them that they had to pay the $29.95 fee to stop the pop-ups. The only way many consumers could regain control of their computers was to pay the defendants to stop the pop-ups, or pay a computer technician to help them.
Dell Recalls Laptop Batteries
Dell plans to recall 4 million laptop batteries sold with a variety of laptop series between April, 2004 and July 18, 2006. The number of incidents have been low in regard to exploding batteries due to a potential metal flaw in the manufacturing process. The batteries were manufactured by Sony for Dell, and Sony will bear some of the cost for the recall. This is another situation where Sony is linked to news that is unflattering to the company.
Dell says the affected laptops can run on AC power without the need for a battery while they are being replaced. This doesn't address the massive inconvenience laptop owners face due to the lack of portability in places where there are no outlets, though AC is better than nothing.
On a personal note, I just bought a Dell laptop in the affected range of models. I'll be checking the site later on this evening. I'll give a description of the process should I have to return the battery and/or the extra battery I purchased with the laptop.
August 14, 2006
RIAA Sues Dead Man and His Children
The ever gracious RIAA has agreed to stay a case (for 60 days) against an alleged music downloader because he died. The case will proceed against the defendant's children but the 60 days grace will give them time to grieve before the Association crushes them underfoot through legal process. Association lawyers figure it's hard to depose someone right after a parent dies. The case is Warner et al. v. Scantlebury, and the case developments have drawn nearly universal criticism to the RIAA. No argument on that count here.
The RIAA has indicated that once the 60 days are up they will destroy the planet Alderon and other planets in the galaxy until the rebel downloaders have been captured and punished. Join me Luke, and together as father and son we can rule.... Sorry, just got caught up in the moment. Is someone going to sue me for using this?
The text of the motion is at Pike And Fischer's Internet Law and Regulation web site here. Thanks to Broadband Reports.com for the link. More commentary is at Ars Technica, the Inquirer UK, P2PNet, and Recording Industry vs The People.
Update: The RIAA has dropped the suit. Alderon is sighing a breath of relief. On to the next heavy-handed action on the part of the Association.
Examining the Google Book Digitization Project
The Washington Post has a fascinating in-depth article that focuses on the the Google Book digitization project. The article recounts the history of how the project was conceived, where it is currently, and where it will ultimately lead if copyright issues don't get in the way. The arguments for and against scanning from that perspective are laid out fairly well in the text.
An ironic note, Microsoft's Paul Allen may have been an inspiration that pushed the project along.