May 4, 2007
Microsoft Buying Yahoo!?
That's what the news reports are indicating. Yahoo stock is way up based on the stories. Both companies are feeling heat from Google in search and other services. A combined company would give Microsoft a real leap in competing with Google. Microsoft has always had a low presence in the Internet provider and search markets compared to both Google and Yahoo!. If anything, this move would be consistent with Microsoft buying market share when it can't build it up on its own.
One question is what a combined company would look like, or what kinds of changes Microsoft could bring to Yahoo!. The latter company has great properties but is not focused on how to leverage them to make more cash. Can Microsoft manage Yahoo! to greater success when they can't do that with MSN? More on this as it develops.
May 3, 2007
Could Google Buy Wireless Broadband Spectrum?
Here are two more interesting articles that dovetail nicely. The first, in Business Week, talks about influence of Google's lobbying efforts to shape FCC policy regarding the upcoming sale of wireless spectrum due to the shift in analog to digital television broadcasts. The article suggests that Google may bid on wireless spectrum to have an avenue that goes directly to subscribers. This would be a hedge against the larger network operators salivating at charging Google and other content providers for network traffic.
The second article is in InfoWorld covering the speech of FCC chairman Kevin Martin in Mountain View, California, today. Martin said that rolling out wireless broadband is one of the Commission's highest priority. He sees it as a third major method of Internet access that increases competition with existing cable and telco options. He also noted that the Commission has strict build-out rules that prevent an entity from acquiring spectrum and not using it. The complete set of service rules governing the auctioned spectrum were issued on April 27th.
Webcasters Get More Time to Resolve Royalty Controversy
The Copyright Royalty Board issued its final ruling on Tuesday (72 FR 24083), causing an extension to the time for when new royalty rates for Internet radio broadcasters goes into effect. The original date was May 15th, based on the Board's March ruling, when higher rates retroactive to 2006 would have kicked in. That was the day when many broadcasters would have shut their service down based on unaffordability of royalties. The new date is July 15th due to the fact that the final ruling of the Board was issued in May. Webcasters are required to pay 45 days after the end of the month when the rule is finalized.
House members Jay Islee and Don Manzullo introduced the Internet Radio Equality Act (H.R. 2060) on April 26th which would expressly overturn the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board and limit their ability to make such determinations in the future. It wasn't clear whether Congress would move a bill in time to meet the May 15th deadline. The bill is currently assigned to two committees in the House. Reports indicate that Senators Ron Wyden and Sam Brownback would introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
May 2, 2007
Digg Unsupresses Hi-Def Decryption Key Stories
News aggregator Digg has defied the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACSLA) by allowing postings that contain the encryption key to high definition DVD content protection. This is a reversal from the stand taken a day earlier when they complied with a cease and desist order to take down posts referencing the number. the Digg community responded to that by posting the number or reeferences to it in excess. That's when Digg decided to go with the flow.
There's nothing like an attempt to supress information that riles up individuals to make them want to spread it more. An article in Information Week suggests that at least 22,000 results offering the code is available through popular search engines. This should grow, partially thanks to the efforts of the AACSLA to supress the information. Some note that the number by itself is useless to the average consumer. Sure, but the enterprising coder can create the application that can also spread like wildfire on the web. There are easy enough tools available for DeCSS for the first generation of DVDs. It's just a matter of time before stable tools arrive for the next generation.
The Chicago Tribune has an article on the use of trademarks in online ads, laying out the issues of whether placed ads for competitors by search engines on a results page violates trademark law. Courts have been inconsistent in rulings, the article notes. Good graphics accompany the article. The story is Trademark Battlefield.
A story in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights the military's use of YouTube to present a more positive view of U.S. involvement in Iraq. Complaining that the media focuses on the death and destruction type videos, the military is uploading clips of soldiers heroically destroying insurgents and terrorists along with positive encounters with the Iraqi population. The story is Military Taps YouTube to promote its view of Iraq.
CNET features a story by attorney Eric J. Sinrod about a defamation case filed against DontDateHimGirl.com. The Florida based site was sued in Pennsylvania by a man targeted by an anonymous individual over his personal and sexual behavior. The site was set up to field complaints by women over bad dates. The suit was dismissed over jurisdictional grounds, and the article goes on to detail the Pennsylvania court's analysis of the long arm statute as applied to web cases. The story is Even in Net Litigation, It's All About Location.
May 1, 2007
Google Responds to Viacom
Google responds to Viacom's lawsuit against YouTube in documents filed in court on Monday. The search giant says that the company complies with all laws, including the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA. YouTube takes down videos upon notice, gives copyright owners tools in helping identify their intellectual property, and revokes uploading privileges for members who have been notified twice of infringing activity. They also say that the suit threatens the legitimate activity of web users given the law as written by Congress.
Viacom has a different point of view. They claim, as they have from the beginning that YouTube's model prevents it from falling in the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA. Of course, that's the rub. Congress passed the DMCA in the late 90s confident that it brought the copyright laws into the 21st century. Maybe at that point, but as we all know, technology changes so much that no one could anticipate the level of commercialization compared to the functionality computers could offer.
It's not as if video online didn't exist at the time the act passed. Amateur clips were crummy compared to professional releases because the consumer equipment to make them was limited and the software was just as bad. Now anyone can afford a cheap Dazzle or the equivalent, and using the software built into Windows and OS X can produce some acceptable quality stuff. Whole business models have been built around the...oh wait, that's YouTube, and every other video site that accepts member uploads.
Viacom can harrumph that the law doesn't apply while Google can sanctimoniously say that it does. But no one can know what a judge is going to do with it because it can go either way. Congress will likely revisit the DMCA no matter who wins, and that will open up another can of worms when they try to strike a balance between traditional rights of consumers and content companies. It will be a good time to be a media lobbyist.
April 30, 2007
Google To Offer Deep Government Info for Four States
Google's announcement that it has partnered with four states (California, Arizona, Utah, Virginia) to googlize inaccessible data in state electronic files is drawing mixed reviews. Those who want a more transparent government welcome the news. Those who believe that unscrubbed data can compromise privacy are sounding alarms. State records have an awful lot of social security numbers attached to individuals in various files. Then there is the question as to who owns the data.
Google says that a lot of people try to use the search engine to get at state data and usually can't find good results. That's because Google's spiders can't get to the information. The answer is to work with the states to make that information accessible in a form where the search engine can catalog it. Google's press release refers to a Sitemap protocol where agencies communicate all pages on a government site, including databases.
Does the deal with Google mean Yahoo! or MSN will be offering similar search capabilities? Maybe. There's no information as to whether the Sitemap protocol is proprietary, or one that's open to other data collectors. If proprietary, it seems possible that other search engines can develop one of their own. This remains to be seen how this all plays out.
For the moment Google will be the front end for deep government data in these four states. That leaves 46 more as an untapped market for the major search engines to divide. The federal government will be the biggest nut to crack. Google has set a standard by stating that it will bear all the costs of implementation. Governments like free when it comes to stuff like this.
The deal more likely will be another driver of traffic to the Google web site. Just remember, when looking up your birth certificate or drivers license information, there will be a column to one side of the page that says "Ads by Google."
Scotus Rules for MS Over AT&T in Patent Case
The Supreme Court sided with Microsoft in a patent dispute with AT&T. Microsoft used AT&T technology that involved compressed speech in Windows. The issue concerned the calculation of damages. AT&T wanted damages to be calculated using every copy of Windows sold world wide. It's not a stretch of the imagination that U.S. law stops at the border, more or less.
AT&T invoked a provision of patent law (§271(f)) that prevents U.S. infringers from shipping components to other countries as a way of escaping liability. Foreign editions of Windows are generated from a master disc created by Microsoft and sent to manufacture overseas. AT&T argued that this is the same thing. The lower courts agreed and the Supreme Court said no.
The two questions before the Court were when and in what form does software become a component under patent law and has Microsoft supplied from the United States such components to foreign manufacturers. AT&T argued that software as an abstraction could be considered a component. Microsoft argued that only a copy of the software should be considered a component. The Court agreed with Microsoft in that software had to be attached to a medium to be considered a component. As to the latter question, the Court concluded that copies of Windows installed on foreign computers were supplied and manufactured outside the United States and does not trigger §271(f) liability.