August 10, 2007
Review: Any Video Coverter
Here's a handy video utility I came across around the beginning of July. It's called Any-Video-Converter. It comes in two flavors, one free and one pro. The pro, of course, costs a little cash. The free version, however, can still provide some remarkable features. The main recommended feature is its ability to convert files in the execrable Real Media file format to MPG II (or other flavors of MPG).
The free version also converts FLV files to MPG and has a feature that allows one to take URLs from YouTube and add it to a video conversion queue. Doing this, though, is a violation of the YouTube user agreement:
4. General Use of the Website -- Permissions and Restrictions
* * * *
C. You agree not to access User Submissions (defined below) or YouTube Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate.
I assume this also means one cannot legally pull copies of FLV videos from the browser cache and convert them manually. There are, nonetheless, many legal uses for the software.
Here's a feature list of the free version from the distributor web site:
- User-friendly interface that is easy to use.
- Converts all video formats to Apple iPod Video, Sony PSP and more
- Batch convert any video formats including avi, wmv, asf, mpg, mp4, etc.
- Support DivX and Xvid avi format as importing and exporting video
- Support default video/audio settings or user customized parameters for video and audio.
- Has the option to preview the video in real-time before conversion.
- World's fastest video conversion speed with stunning video and audio quality.
- Supports adjust many video/audio options for MP4 files. For example, video/audio sample rate, bit rate, video size...
There are several versions of the Pro software ranging from $29.95 to $39.95. The comparison chart between all versions is here. The free version does quite well for itself, even with occasional nag screens asking the user to upgrade. The conversion process is relatively fast, especially compared to professional conversion software. Try it for yourself with downloads generally available through this page. My experience with the program is that it lives up to its hype.
August 9, 2007
Perfect 10 Doesn't Get It
Perfect 10 lost a lawsuit against Google and Amazon over thumbnails of perfect 10 photos appearing on the Google's search results. Part of that suit was based on third party infringement as Google search results gave links to sites who pirated Perfect 10's content. A court rejected that legal theory among others for liability.
Perfect 10 is at it again, suing Microsoft over Perfect 10 content in its search engine results. The suit is similar to the one they lost. The only difference, as reported, is an allegation that Perfect 10 passwords come up in Microsoft search results. The Ninth Circuit settled this a while back. Microsoft has at least as many lawyers as does Google. Motion to dismiss anyone? And while we're at it, why not sue the people who actually pirate the content? I'll bet a Google search should identify them pretty quickly.
Google News To Accept Comments from Those Mentioned in Stories
Google has a new feature on its news site. It allows individuals who are mentioned in stories to publish comments along side that story. Google has set up a procedure where anyone mentioned in a story can send an email with contact information to verify their identity. Verification is necessary before a comment will be published. Google will not edit the comment in any way, which is interesting should someone provide a comment that defames another. The statement addressing editing (from the FAQ on this feature):
Comments are not reviewed by any editors, and Google isn't going to change the content of comments, including misspellings or grammatical errors. In addition, we will publish any comments we solicit unless the response is "no comment" or if the comment is a previously published statement that we have already have indexed in Google News.
There are the safe harbor provisions in federal law that protect an online site by not treating them as a publisher. Those provisions, however, have never stopped anyone from suing (and losing). Google's probably good on that one by not getting into the editing process.
One of the criticism in the news is the verification process. People expect real time updates and posts thanks to blogs and other instant publishing options. I think this criticism is misplaced. Anyone posting a response would likely make themselves available for easy and timely verification. A response requires accurate contact information as part of the process. It also helps Google by having real contact information for the commentator should any statements give rise to litigation.
The most likely immediate use for this is going to come from political campaigns addressing news coverage of opponents. Think how this would have helped John Kerry counter the press coverage of the Swift Boat (dis) information campaign. It also helps Google by developing contacts with politicians on both sides of the aisle. It's an interesting strategy.
August 8, 2007
As Expected, California Game Law Struck Down
Score another one for the gaming industry. California passed a ban on the sale of violent video games to minors last year and, as is the case in these matters, got the daylights sued out of it. U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte agreed with every other court that faced the issue and declared the law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. The issue of violent games is always a good one to appeal to voters but so far its a dead loser in the courts. Illinois, New York, Florida, Indianapolis, Michigan, and so on learned this the hard way. California is just the latest to spend the taxpayer's money on attempting to pass Constitutional muster. Other jurisdictions will likely try as well.
Case Law Shepards Now Part of LexisNexis Academic
LexisNexis is previewing the the new design of LexisNexis Academic: Legal Research. The redesign of the site is much cleaner and more functional than the standard version that the non-law part of academic institutions are forced to use. One feature in the new design, though, stands out. It's now possible to Shepardize case law beyond Supreme Court decisions. Non-law faculty should appreciate this new functionality. Use the link offering to view the new beta version on the standard site. Click on the tab for legal to see the new interface and features.
August 7, 2007
Apple Sued Over iPhone Keyboard Patent
Come out with a new groundbreaking product and expect the inevitable law suits. The iPhone, for good or ill, is one such product. The latest suit, filed in plaintiff friendly U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, claims the iPhone touch pad keyboard violates a patent held by one Peter V. Boesen. He applied for the patent in August, 2000 and received it in August, 2004.
His patent claim, to wit revolves around:
the graphical keyboard placed in a set position; persistently maintaining the graphical keyboard on the touch screen display such that the user cannot move, resize, remove, or close the graphical keyboard through the user interface while the input area remains and requires input.
This comes on top of the guy who claims the battery replacement policy wasn't disclosed by Apple prior to sale. HP and IBM did a lot of work on touch screens in the late 80s onward. Some of that technology must have involved virtual keyboards at some point. Sounds like the same technology in current ATMs and voting machines. If there ever was a reason for patent reform, this is it. Oh, and Doctor Boesen (yes, M.D.) was just sentenced to 51 months in prison for health care fraud. Most of the batteries in the initial iPhone release should be dead by the time he gets out of prison. He's currently out at large pending appeal.
Billion Dollar Plus Judgment Against Microsoft Overturned
Microsoft has a court victory as U.S. District Court Judge Rudi M. Brewster reversed a jury finding that the company violated patents held by Alcatel-Lucent. The damages on the original verdict were a whopping $1.53 billion dollars (cue Danny Thomas-like spit-take here). The basis of the suit is technology over compression and decompression of audio files in MP3s. Microsoft had licensed the technology from the Fraunhofer Institute for $16 million. The technology was co-developed with Bell Labs and other predecessors to Lucent. The judge ruled that Microsoft had not infringed one patent and that the other was co-owned by Fraunhofer who did not sue.
Alcatel-Lucent expressed shock and dismay at the ruling (another spit-take?). That company said it would appeal. Microsoft was thrilled at the result as it prefers not to pay about a month's worth of income in damages over an unprotected file format it licensed for its media player. Alcatel-Lucent wanted a higher damages figure as the $1.53 billion only accounted for "infringing" copies of Windows through November, 2005. Time has marched on since then, but to no avail with this latest decision. Now its on to the Ninth Circuit, and who knows, in a few years, the Supreme Court. Ah, the sweet smell of litigation fee dollars. Win or lose, the lawyers get paid.
August 6, 2007
CCIA Files Complaint with FTC Over Copyright Notices
The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) has filed a complaint with the FTC over the copyright claims made by Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and others. The complaint basically states that the warning misrepresents consumer rights in the various telecasts by these entities. You can read about it here, and read the complaint here.
Nokia to License Microsoft DRM for Phones
Microsoft DRM comes to the cell phone not called an iPhone (it has its own). Nokia has licensed Microsoft's PlayReady DRM code for inclusion in its cell phones delivered early next year. And this is supposed to enthuse consumers to buy entertainment through their handset?
Sony Planning PS3 DVR?
Is Sony planning to turn the PS3 into a digital video recorder? Read more here.
Suit Against Google/YouTube Gets Bigger
Newsman Robert Tur dropped his copyright infringement action against YouTube so that he could join the proposed class action suit. Tur sued Google originally over his news footage of the Los Angeles Riots from the early 1990s. It makes sense from a legal perspective to do that. Imagine if he lost the case as an individual. What's worse from a litigant's point of view than a court saying Google complies with the DMCA? The precedent could affect potential litigation down the line. Better to join the litigation version of a mob action.
In other news on that same front, The National Music Publishers Association joined the suit as they believe their members were not receiving compensation for music that appeared on YouTube videos. They were joined by seven more parties including the Rugby Football League, the Finnish Football League Association, and author Daniel Quinn. So there.