February 2, 2006
Don't Turn Down that iPod, Hand Me a Lawsuit
Apple was hit with a lawsuit claiming that its over-popular iPod causes hearing loss. Experts had warned earlier over this prospect. The claim is that the earbuds which pipes music directly into the ear canal do not diffuse sound causing hearing loss. The suit calls the device defective in design and has inadequate warnings about hearing loss. Apple does ship each iPod with a statement that "permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume."
While the iPod does have a volume control, it can reach levels of about 115 decibels. By comparison, power saws produce sounds at about 110 decibels, and jet engines produce sound at about 140 decibels. An interesting volume comparison chart from Galen Carol Audio is here. Another from the NIH is here. Check out Chapter 8 of the Rock And Roll High School DVD where Principal Togar (Mary Woronov) demonstrates the comparative volume of the Ramones on a hapless mouse. No one knows how loud the sound is for those spastic silhouettes in Apple's commercials urging us to turn it up, or something like that.
Apple had to limit the volume of the iPod to 100 decibels to sell it in France, but has not modified the design here. It would be a shame to include a warning on the side of MP3 players about hearing loss similar to those of cigarette packages warning about the dangers of smoking. That would certainly take down the cool factor a notch or two.
Information Week has the story.
Another Government Wiretap Scandal
This time, it appears the mobile phones belonging to top Greek military and government officials, including the Prime Minister, and those belonging to the U.S. Embassy were tapped for nearly a year before the 2004 Olympic Games. The perpetrators are unknown. Vodaphone Greece discovered the taps when some customers complained about phone problems. The Globe and Mail has more.
Microsoft wants EU Data
The Washington Post is reporting that Microsoft has asked to see its file in the antitrust case pending in Europe. The European Commission has threatened fines up to 2 million Euros back to December 15th over Microsoft's failure to share data with its competitors relating to server protocols. Microsoft has until February 15th to comply. Microsoft contends that the information is necessary to the defense of its case. The EU has said that 71 documents out of 100 contain company trade secrets and cannot be released. EU spokesman Jonathan Todd was quoted as saying "They do not have the right to the business secrets of other companies. Microsoft is very attached, as you know, to business secrets, its own business secrets." No word on whether Microsoft could get redacted copies of the confidential documents.
In the meantime, the direct challenge to the Commission's original ruling will be held on April 24-28 in the European Court of First Instance. That ruling required to offer a version of Windows without Media player in addition to sharing server code. Microsoft complied with the Media player part of the ruling but subsequent news reports indicated that no one bought the package. The Globe and Mail has more on it.
Developments in the RIM Blackberry Patent Infringement Case
The latest is that RIM will argue against the possibility (read more like probability) of an injunction that will shut down the service. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued preliminary rulings against the patents held by NTP which are at the heart of the dispute. Since the USPTO rulings are not final, however, the District Court judge will not consider this parallel action to delay a ruling in the case. In prior statements, the judge has indicated that he wants to bring this case to a conclusion. RIM has lost all of the appeals so far.
The wild card in the case is that RIM has a workaround that would not use the disputed patents. The only problem is no one knows what that is, although there is some discussion about loading new software onto servers and each device, or some variations on that process. Even this scenario doesn't sound anything close to an easy solution for either service providers or customers.
Consider that the United States government relies heavily on Blackberry services. NTP has indicated that it would allow RIM to keep providing services to government officials. RIM has said that segregating one customer group would be difficult to implement and the United States DOJ filed a brief with the District Court saying just that, arguing against the imposition of an injunction. NTP has asked for a 30 grace period to avoid inconveniencing customers. The DOJ has said at least 90 days would be necessary to protect government users.
In another patent development unlikely to have an effect on the case, the English High Court ruled in favor of RIM on a dispute with InPro over patents in Europe. A German court had ruled against the InPro patents days earlier.
February 1, 2006
Pirates are in the News Lately
Software that is, pixel gold, silicon tea. The Justice Department charged 10 individuals in the Northern District of California with copyright violations by pirating movies, games, and other software. This action is the latest result in Operation Copycat which was designed to lure pirates to government servers as a place to upload copyrighted materials. At the beginning of the sting the government server had 700 megabytes of storage. Two years later the servers held 27 terabytes of content.
In the meantime, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, he of Valerie Plame(gate) fame, announced in Chicago indictments against 19 members of the RISCISO piracy group. Their warez filled about 23,000 compact discs worth about $6.5 million. This group apparently liked the thrill of breaking encryption codes on protected content and were responsible for screeners getting up on file sharing networks.
January 31, 2006
IE 7 Beta 2 Preview Available for Download
Newspaper Organization Ponders Move Against Search Giants
The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers (WAN) is considering various actions against news aggregators such as Yahoo, Google, MSN, and others. These search giants collect news and photos and make them available in their own sites without compensating the individual news sources. Newspapers on the whole have been suffering slides in circulation which have resulted in staff layoffs and and other cost cutting means. As more people get news from the Internet they are less likely to subscribe. News aggregators profit at the expense of these newspapers, says WAN.
True in one sense, but not in another. It is true that Google, Yahoo, and others collect stories from news sources around the world as a set of conveniently organized search links. Google's best chance of profiting from their collection of stories is to place their own ads around or in the story, but they don't do it. In fact, they link to the original source and direct traffic to where the local ads appear and theoretically the local paper get credit for the page view and any click-throughs. A majority of these papers give their content away to anyone who clicks on their web address. And of those papers who get a little squishy about giving away content, they make consumers jump through a non-monetary hoop by making them subscribe. Even small ones like the Dodge Globe of Dodge City, Kansas require a subscription to get past the tantalizing stories of high school sports ("Bluejays Beat Satanta Twice").
Many of these newspapers have a little box on their pages that say something like "Ads by Google." Perhaps the way to make money is to work with the search engines rather than trying to beat them up. Or maybe, if someone can figure out the micro-payments on the web, the papers should simply charge for their original content as opposed to the stories they get from places such as AP and Reuters. Stopping Google or Yahoo or MSN from collecting their stories is not going to shore up newspaper profits. Time for a new business model.
January 30, 2006
Google Web Site Caching Does Not Violate Copyright
Google's practice of caching web sites has been ruled fair use by a Nevada District Court judge. According to the EFF, the judge rested his opinion on four grounds:
* Serving a webpage from the Google Cache does not constitute direct infringement, because it results from automated, non-volitional activity by Google servers (Field did not allege infringement on the basis of the making of the initial copy by the Googlebot);
* Field’s conduct (failure to set a “no archive” metatag; posting “allow all” robot.txt header) indicated that he impliedly licensed search engines to archive his web page;
* The Google Cache is a fair use; and
* The Google Cache qualifies for the DMCA’s 512(b) caching “safe harbor” for online service providers.
British High Court Rules First Time Against Music File Sharing
The BBC and others are reporting that the U.K.'s High Court has issued a first ever ruling against illegal file sharing by ordering two men to pay between £1,500 and £5,000 for making thousands of songs available online. The British Phonographic Institute (BPI), which is the U.K. trade association similar to the RIAA brought the case. 51 cases are still pending, while others have been settled out of court.
The High Court's judgments page is here, but the ruling had not been put up online as of this writing.
Los Angeles Sues Over Grand Theft Auto Sex Scenes
The City of Los Angeles is suing Take Two Entertainment and Rockstar over the pornographic sequences in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As these sequences were not disclosed to regulators, the game received an M rating before it was reclassified as AO, or adults only. The sit claims violation of the California Business and Professions Codes which bans misleading statements about a product. The maximum penalty per count is $2,500. The developers have made about $10 million from the game, so the fines are probably lunch money to them.