May 11, 2007
Thailand Won't Sue YouTube After All
With all the lawsuits against Google and YouTube for copyright violation, Thailand's beef with the video sharing site won't go to court. Thailand was angry over several videos that insulted the beloved king of that country and threatened to sue. The country also blocked access to YouTube at one point. Problem solved by YouTube removing the videos. Detractors of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej will just have detract elsewhere.
The story is in the Washington Post.
DRM Required By Law? That's a Good One
In one of the most curious twists of logic, MRT Technologies is threatening a lawsuit against Microsoft, Adobe, Real and Apple because they do not use anti stream ripping technology in their media players. MRT makes anti streaming technology, by the way. The company seems to think that because stream rippers abound and these companies fail to protect content providers with adequate DRM they will be liable under the DMCA. To them. By that logic, anyone should be able to sue these companies. Even the litigation happy RIAA never took that tack, and they probably would have more standing in court to allege a DMCA violation than this self-serving entity.
May 10, 2007
iPods Interfere With Pacemakers?
Interesting take on a study that suggests iPods and pacemakers do not get along. Oldsters will just have to enjoy Gang of Four sets some other way.
Here's the take in Ars Technica.
Googling is not an Ex Parte Communication in a Termination Proceeding
David Mullins was removed from employment with the NOAA Weather Forecast Office in Indianapolis, Indiana. The charges involved misuse of a government vehicle and falsification of travel receipts. He appealed his dismissal on the basis that the official who had deciding authority on his fate Googled his name and discovered that he had been dismissed from federal service with the Air Force in 1996 and the Smithsonian in 1997. This, Mullins claims, is an ex parte communications that denied him due process rights.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said no, there was ample evidence for his dismissal which the Court detailed in its opinion. Aside from that, Googling a name is not a communication as we know it.
The case is Mullins v. Department of Commerce, 06-3284 (C.A. Fed Circuit, May 4, 2007).
Hackers Use Win Update Technology to Attack Machines
Hackers have found a way to use the technology behind Windows Update to download malicious software to an unsuspecting computer. Firewalls will not protect against the technique.
The story is in Computerworld.
Mark Cuban Decries YouTube at House Hearing
Mark Cuban told a House committee today that Google and YouTube do not have the right to hide behind the DMCA. This was at the hearing on the Digital Future of the United States: Part V, The Future of Video, before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
May 9, 2007
More Thoughts on the Google YouTube Lawsuit Mess
Maybe Mark Cuban was right about YouTube when he declined to buy the site stating that it was a copyright infringement bomb waiting to go off. Not exactly his words, but close enough to his meaning. Cuban may not have been up to the challenge of defending copyright infringement allegations any more than his NBA Mavericks were against the Warriors. Google bought YouTube and now the suits are starting to pile on.
First out of the gate was Viacom. First courting with YouTube as partners, Viacom sued for massive infringement violations when they couldn't cut a deal. Then adding insult to indignant injury Viacom cut a deal with Yahoo! for content distribution.
NBC Universal is one of Google's partners on YouTube but complains that unauthorized content appears on the site. It has sided with litigants against YouTube in friend of court briefs in various actions. When a company such as NBC Universal cuts a deal, it doesn't mean everything they broadcast is fair game, just that authorized content is available through a branded NBC channel. The same goes for other companies that have deals with YouTube.
YouTube account holders, however, seem to have little understanding of content distribution deals, and even with awareness, have little care in observing their terms. They are not party to the agreements after all. They upload infringing content, YouTube gets a take-down notice and removes the content. They upload it again. Partners are frustrated because they have to send another take-down notice. YouTube responds again and also suspends the user account. The notification process by content holders is the process that Congress created. Congress did not specify that the process changes whether there is one infringement or hundreds of thousands.
Journalist Robert Tur sued YouTube in its pre-Google days for posts of his overhead video of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Both NBC and Viacom files briefs supporting Tur, although they went to great pains to distinguish their situations from his. He is one plaintiff with one claim, while they have thousands. Past precedent in case law suggests he will lose. Courts have upheld the safe harbor provisions in defamation cases, and even in one case where MySpace was sued when a third party molested a member. Is the number of concurrent violations significant compared to single incidents?
That's the rub for Viacom and other potential plaintiffs. They claim YouTube doesn't move fast enough on the take-down notices and they want YouTube to take responsibility for identifying copyrighted material and removing it. The YouTube business model, they claim, does not fall under the safe harbor provisions because they make money from the alleged violations. Congress did not require sites to be self-policing in order to encourage free flowing discourse on the Internet. It's not as if commercialization didn't exist in 1999 when the DMCA passed, although the vision as to where it would go in 2007 was not there.
Now comes the English Premier League suing YouTube in a class action case for infringement by allowing users to post excerpts of games. Copies of the class action suit filings are here. Google responds the same cheerful way they do with all of these actions, that they comply with all provisions of the DMCA, and that they provide tools to copyright holders to identify content so that it can quickly be taken down.
These actions may or may not get to trial based on any of the preliminary rulings issued by the various courts involved. None of the actions are really at that stage at this time. One thing Viacom and others may not have counted on was YouTube and Google willing to push the issue of their business model under the DMCA. There is more at stake here than posting unauthorized content to one site. A ruling against Google and YouTube affects other sites such as MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites where people meet and share. Their business model is just as much as stake in this.
May 8, 2007
Real ID Hearing In Senate Today
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on the Real ID law. It's a little late, of course, as the Act passed with out debate or comment after being slipped into a spending bill in Republican Congress times. Some states have opposed it, and some states have embraced it. The idea of creating a de facto national ID card has more than a few people nervous. The Committee chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would be nervous if he weren't angry about the whole thing. The Real ID Act may not be repealed, but it might be modified before it takes full effect.
Yahoo! and Microsoft: Summing Up
Actually, there isn't much to sum up, other than the merger is not in the cards, at least according to most analysts. The best that may come out of this is a partnership in some respects that combine some of their Internet properties in some way where they can compete against Google. The consensus seems to be that the companies are too diverse to merge cultures to any competitive effect, and that the combined company would still be well behind Google in market share for search and advertising dollars.
As to the first point, Yahoo! seems to be lumbering forward with their Panama ad system that places targeted ads on web pages. This competes against a well entrenched Google operation and can grow Yahoo, but likely will not displace much in terms of Google market share for ad revenue. Microsoft keeps reworking Windows Live Search to the point where one wonders if they have any idea what their overall strategy for the Microsoft web presence. Their goal is obvious, they way to out-Google Google. Getting there is another issue. Even a merged company would likely take years to build up any headway against Google.
Yahoo! has seen it's stock drop and its earnings failing to meet analyst expectations over the past several quarters. There have been management shakeups as attempting to address the issue. Sadly, the merger rumors pushed Yahoo! stock way up for a bit implying that the company has ongoing value but isn't managed as well as it could be.
The copyright lawsuits filed against Google are unlikely to stop its growth. More likely they will force Google to spend some of the billions coming in through damage payouts. Microsoft and Yahoo! may have to realize that they are second and third best in this particular market. They either need more new ideas or a very bad Google stumble. Neither are likely to happen anytime soon.
May 7, 2007
New Pew Report Suggests Web 2.0 Particpants Small in Number
The Pew Internet & American Life Project issued its latest report, A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users. Several conclusions are on the title page:
- 8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications
- Another 23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work
- 10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment
- 10% use information gadgets, but find it a hassle
- 49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others bristle at electronic connectivity
Of that first group, it seems then there is the potential for vast market growth in the Web 2.0 sector. Either that, or creating video, music, other multimedia, blogging, etc., is just too much effort for the bulk of Internet users. As for the last group, Web 1.0 or less is just fine with them. The survey did not include teens, so their prolific use of technology is not part of the results.
The report breaks users down into 10 distinct groups, who are further grouped into three categories. These range from the Omnivores (8% of the adult population) who have to have every gadget and service, to the Connected but Hassled who have bought into technology but find it burdensome to be connected, to the Off the Network group (15%) who simply don't need the Internet or cell phones.
The 65 page report describes in great detail the attitudes of all ten groups. It's an interesting read, and best of all, it's a passive experience for the majority of Internet users who find technology annoying. Find it here.