April 27, 2007
SPY ACT Passes Out of Subcommittee
Ars Technica is reporting that the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY ACT Act, get it?) has cleared the House House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The Act has mixed reception from activists. The EFF says that it may make things worse, while the Center for Democracy and Technology (they of the Google-DoubleClick complaint) say that having a federal standard is not a bad thing. They also praise the bill for giving the FTC the ability to levy civil penalties against spammers.
The bill is HR 964. Hearings were held by the Subcommittee on March 15th, 2007. No transcripts are available as of now. The webcast is available for view or download here. Note the download availability is new for the 110th Congress. The tendency was to allow viewing but not having. C-SPAN is another source for hearings generally, but buying a copy of a hearing to own as usually an expensive proposition. Kudos to Congress for making some of the people's work free to the people, even if Windows Media Player is the vehicle.
April 26, 2007
TED Conference Talks Online For Free
The TED Conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is the place to be for movers and shakers in the technology, entertainment, and design industries, especially when they converge. Anyone can join TED for free, but an associate membership will cost $1,000 a year. Attending the almost always sold out meetings run several thousand dollars. Speakers have included people such as former government employee Al Gore, musician Thomas Dolby, Jeff Bezos, from some online book seller, Ray Kurzweill, who invented a really expensive synthesizer, and Burt Rutan, who has something to do with planes flying really, really high, among others.
As exclusive as TED is in terms of being there live, you would think they could make a fortune selling tapes of the show as do most conferences. The theme of TED is Ideas Worth Spreading, and they do, for free. The TED website now features videos of presentations given at the conference. Some ideas are provocative, and all are interesting. The site is well worth viewing. The talk list is here.
Google Ads May Sometimes Be Malicious
Google was apparently fooled into selling keyword ads to password thieves. An article in Forbes describes the technique of using ads for legitimate companies that would first send clickers to a Russian site which would download a program that recorded passwords. Google has removed the bad ads, but others speculate the thieves will try again. Google being the biggest ad seller is the best target, but don't discount the possibility that other sellers such as Yahoo! or Microsoft won't end up as targets as well.
Longhorn Beta 3 Available For Public Trial
Longhorn beta 3 is now available for public download. All one needs is a Windows Live ID, which is the same as a Passport ID, or a Hotmail ID. Longhorn is the code name for the eventual successor to Windows Server 2003.
The link to the download pages is here.
Acer Recalls 27,000 Sony Laptop Batteries
Another bad batch of Sony batteries prompted another recall, this time by Acer. 27,000 batteries are involved this time. This is not a new problem for Sony, just one left over from the last one. Acer said at the time that a recall was not necessary. Looks like that isn't the case.
The story is in PC World.
April 25, 2007
Time Warner Opens Up Wi-Fi Hot Spots
The New York Times is reporting that Time Warner's broadband service is teaming up with Fon to let their customers share their connections as public Wi-Fi hot spots. The connection will split with the customer holding an encrypted part of the signal and allowing the public to have the rest.
This should be interesting in light of all the possible things that could be downloaded on a public connection. Shared music comes to mind immediately. Who will have the liability when the RIAA comes knocking at the IP address door?
Google Now Most Trafficked Web Site
Google beat Microsoft as the most visited web site in March, with 527 million unique visitors. That's one million more than Microsoft registered. The numbers are reported by comScore.
The story is in the San Francisco Chronicle.
April 24, 2007
Judge Denies Motion to Reconsider in RIAA Fees Case
The RIAA sued Debbie Foster for copyright infringement in 2006 for illegal downloading of music on her Internet account. The screen name used was fflygirl 11 and Foster maintained that her daughter and estranged husband had access to the account and it might have been them. The RIAA said that it didn't matter, it was her account and they were going to hold her liable. The cause was amended after some discovery to add her adult daughter, Amanda, to the case. Debbie, however, filed a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement.
The plaintiffs won a default judgment against Amanda for non-appearance and insisted in proceeding against Debbie. She refused to give in and the RIAA decided it was prudent to dismiss the claim rather than test their secondary copyright infringement claim. They did so with prejudice, but Debbie would not go away. The Court ultimately dismissed her counterclaim, but she demanded attorney fees as the prevailing parties. That's when it got interesting.
The Court examined the claims of secondary copyright infringement and noted that there were no facts alleged to support the claim. The RIAA came up with several cases where attorney fees were not granted. The judge, however, did not think them relevant and awarded fees. Some of the rationale was based on the the tactic of presenting a weak or unreasonable claim hoping to pressure the defendant into settling.
The judge just denied a motion to reconsider the award, ultimately sending this case to appeal on that issue. Or not. That's the risk the RIAA has to take having lost at trial. An appellate court ruling in favor of Foster might cause the need to investigate cases better and to take more care in alleging infringement.
The organization has been accused of using bullying tactics to establish a favorable legal climate for its actions. Their tactics got so low that they thought themselves gracious for allowing extra time for discovery from the children of the deceased defendant-parent. They explained at the time the grieving children might not be to give suitable answers for depositions because of their emotional state. They ultimately dismissed that case after the bad publicity.
That is the litigation style, though, of the RIAA. Club the defendant as hard as can be before they notice that some of the claims are bogus. That's where attorney fees get ugly. Imagine the RIAA having to pay litigation costs for every claim they decide to pull when they think they will lose.
The original case is available on Westlaw, though it is unreported. The name is Capitol v. Foster, No. Civ. 04-1569-W (W.D. Okla, Feb. 6, 2007), 2007 WL 1028532. The motion to deny the reconsideration is not available on the web yet, though it's likely available in PACER. There is a story in Ars Technica that quotes from the order.
April 23, 2007
ID Theft Report Out
The President's Identity Theft Task Force issued its report and recommendations today. The report and other documents related to the report are here.
Google Brand Worth $66B, Number One
How much is a brand worth? For Google, it's a lot, as in $66.4 billion. This figure is measured by firm Millward Brown Optimor. Google ranks number one on the list of companies with a brand valuation increase of 77%. Microsoft, the 2006 leader dropped 11% to the number 3 spot with a $55 billion valuation. IBM rounds out tech companies in the top ten at the nine spot with a brand valuation of $33.5 billion. SAP(26) beats out Oracle(30) and Apple is there at 16. Yahoo! falls in a 42.