May 18, 2007
George Lucas loved this enough to want to put it on his Star Wars web site. The voice of the Emperor is by Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. Now he and the Robot Chicken people are collaborating on a video parody scheduled for a June broadcast.
More Features on Windows Home Server Come to Light
The coming Windows Home Server product has some (gasp!) limitations. Even with positives, does anyone need this product? The article in PC Magazine happily tells you what you can't do with the product, like connect it to a router via wireless for starters.
FCC Greenlights iPhone Specs
The FCC has approved the iPhone for sale. See the statement here.
Yahoo! Back in the Picture for Microsoft?
Microsoft's move to buy web advertiser AQuantive for $6 billion revived speculation that Microsoft will still go after Yahoo!. That's what Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto suggests. The story is at Bloomberg.com.
May 17, 2007
Google, Amazon Win Appeal in Thumbnail Image Case
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Google against Perfect 10 in a copyright case where Google put up thumbnails of Perfect 10 images as part of search results. Perfect 10 sells adult content and complained that Google violated its copyrights by showing the images. The District Court agreed and ruled the thumbnails were an infringement. Through a detailed analysis of the applicable law, the Ninth Circuit said the images were fair use. Amazon is also a party to the suit and was also included in the Court's decision.
The Appeals Court did send the case back to the lower court to determine if Google and Amazon had any liability when third parties link to search results.
May 16, 2007
Microsoft and Patents
Parsing the news about the Microsoft claims that open source software violates 235 of its patents has its moments. Microsoft is making noises that are similar to the tack of SCO and IBM: you have violated our patents but we're not going to tell you which ones. SCO followed through with that line in their court case, which didn't help them at all when it came around to discovery. They expected IBM to do the technical analysis that proved the SCO case. It doesn't work that way in the courts. Now SCO is slowly fading away like a Cheshire cat, except there is no smile left behind.
Microsoft threw some money behind SCO's efforts as a way of competing with open source. Well, it's not really competing as much as throwing legal roadblocks against your broader competitors. Microsoft having wads of cash probably thought it was an acceptable cost of doing some kind of business. But now they seem to be doing the same thing as SCO. They identify a specific number of patents, 235, and refuse to disclose them for fear that alleged infringers will work around them, or worse, challenge their validity. The company would like to use this position of scaring companies into licensing agreements.
Most analysts agree that Microsoft is going to have to be more specific about violations. And if need be, it should go into court to defend its patents. Other companies were not shy about this. Just ask Alcatel when it sued Microsoft over MP3 technology, or the University of California over browser technology. The Supreme Court recently ruled that lower federal courts should not be rigid in determining whether obviousness affects the validity of a patent. This can't help Microsoft's position, which is another reason it may be holding back on identifying its property. Perhaps Microsoft is counting on the fact that open source software is produced mostly by individuals rather than deep pocket corporations. SCO was undoubtedly motivated by IBM's deep pool of cash for potential damages in its case. It had to calculate, though, that the same cash could pay for a mountain of lawyers to defend against it. Fear of a Microsoft patent action is not going to wipe away the open source movement because of the diffuse nature of the code sources. Microsoft does not scare them. If Microsoft has valid claims, then it should put them to the test other than making vague threats.
May 15, 2007
MySpace Turns Down AGs on Sex Offender Data
MySpace has rebuffed several state Attorney Generals who had requested information on sex offenders registered with the site. Rather than turn over the information, MySpace deleted the accounts of suspected sex offenders. The site said that it would violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Short of calling that Act "quaint," Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal heavily criticized the action, saying that MySpace was "concealing information vital to law enforcement with vague references to federal or state law." He says their convictions are a matter of public record and their presence on MySpace is a threat to children.
MySpace deleted the accounts as a matter of protecting its user base. If Blumenthal is correct, he should sue MySpace for the information. He can get a court order under the law ordering the disclosure. How hard is that? That's what prosecutors do in criminal cases.
DOJ Proposes Crime of Attempted Copyright Infringement
Reports are out on a new administration proposal to criminalize attempted copyright infringement. The proposed Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 is contained in an explanatory letter from Principal Deputy Attorney General Richard A. Hertling to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid. CNET has a good take on the bill here, and suggests that a Democratic controlled congress is closer to Hollywood than the previous Republican majority. Still, past attempts to criminalize attempted infringement have not passed. AG Alberto Gonzales' low credibility with Congress may have some impact on the ability to move the legislation as proposed. Lobbyist money thrown at selected legislators will more likely see a law come to a vote. But you probably knew that already.
May 14, 2007
Military Bans 13 Web Sites from Its Networks
The military has discovered what every campus and corporate network administrator has has known for some time: social networking is mostly irrelevant to the operation and takes up a lot of bandwidth. The security issue is there as well. Indiscriminate Internet access can lead to local infection for spyware and viruses. For most people that possibility can be severely inconvenient. A breach for the military can mean divulging secret operational details. That is why certain web sites are now banned on military networks. These include YouTube, MySpace, Photobucket, MTV, live365, Stupidvideos, among others, 13 in all.
Email or access to other sites is not affected. Soldiers can use Internet cafes in Iraq to get to banned content.