November 9, 2007
Sony Says Hi Def DVD Format Wars Are at Stalemate
Sir Howard Stringer is calling the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray a stalemate for now. He says that Sony was winning on the merits until Paramount went and dumped Blu-Ray for a significant wad of cash from the HD folks. Stats show that Blu-Ray was outselling HD 2 to 1, but that stat is meaningless as sales for both formats combined were minuscule compared to regular DVDs.
The buzz on this covers the full gamut: Regular DVDs are cheap and plentiful for the general public; upscaling players work well for HD televisions; HD players are in the $100 range compared to Blu-Ray at around $400; the adult entertainment industry is generally going with HD because Sony doesn't do licenses for porn; Blu-Ray has higher disc capacity, which some day might mean something if content could keep up; and so on and so on. Oh, and downloads might kill both formats if the general public weans away from wanting physical ownership of discs.
Stringer says that he wishes he could go back in time to create a unified format, although he doesn't say why the two sides are so intractable. Both sides should consider it even at this point. It's not as if manufacturers haven't burned early adopters before with bleeding edge products, and it's not as if there are a lot of them out there on hi-def DVDs. Most stories suggest that consumers aren't going to pick a side until one looks like a winner. Stringer's assessment bodes a long future for the current format.
In a related note, it seems that Blu-Ray+, that super secure extra layer of DRM on top of the current DRM has been broken. It's somewhat ironic because some of the early players for Blu-Ray couldn't play these discs anyway until they got a firmware update that accounted for the extra protection. Talk about burning early adopters. Most consumers aren't interested in connecting their DVD players to the Internet to keep them operating. Too much hassle. Most of us are in the habit of turning the machine on, dumping in a disc, and watching. Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, et al. should remember that consumers want convenience. Once (if) the format war ends, high definition discs may still languish.
Speaking of DRM, how did we miss this one.
November 8, 2007
Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions
Looking around for case law covering developing issues on the Internet. Then take a look at the Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions. The site is maintained by attorney Martin Sampson and does quite well at noting, summarizing (in great detail), and providing access to the full text of relevant decisions.
From the site description:
Court decisions are organized by subject matter. Within each subject, cases are organized alphabetically by case name. There, you will find a brief synopsis of the court's decision. If the case is of interest, click on the case name, and you will be taken to a more thorough analysis. In most cases, we also provide the full text of the court's decision, either via a downloadable pdf, or via a link to a location at which it can be found on the Internet.
To increase the utility of the Internet Library, and expand our coverage of Internet Law court decisions, we also provide a "Quick Hits" section. Located at the end of each Subject Matter page, the "Quick Hits" section contains a brief synopsis of additional court decisions addressing the same Subject Matter. In most cases, we also provide the full text of the court's decision as well as a downloadable pdf.
A free electronic newsletter, Internet Law Update, is available to provide you with the latest cases added to the Library. A full text search engine is also available to assist in utilizing the Library's resources.
The Internet Law Library has analyzed cases covering a broad array of topics, including trademark and copyright infringement, dilution, use of meta tags, links, thumbnails and framing, browse wrap, click wrap and shrink wrap agreements, domain name disputes, internet service provider liability, subpoenas, online defamation, gripe sites, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, jurisdiction, the legality of gambling on the Internet, search engine advertising, licensing requirements for the operation of an online pharmacy and automobile distributorship, the legality of keying and cookies, use of e-mail in the work place, spam, the legality of pop-up ads and spyware, and First Amendment issues arising out of governmental regulation of the Internet, among others.
The URL is http://www.internetlibrary.com. It's worth the visit.
Senate Bill Would Authorize DOJ to Sue on Behalf of Media Companies for Piracy
Senators Leahy and Cornyn have reintroduced a bill that would authorize the Justice Department to sue for civil damages in intellectual property cases. The bill is called the Pirate Act and it's passed the Senate before, only to die in Congress without full passage. Senator Leahy thinks the time is right for one more try.
The bill lets the Justice Department carry the freight for the RIAA and other trade associations. The news that the Association is losing money by filing P2P copying suits came out in the Sony trial against Jammie Thomas. Now the taxpayers can fill that void on the balance sheet. Who knows, this might even make it into pop culture. Imagine Jack Bauer beating up thirteen year old girls demanding to know where the mp3s are.
News with links to the text of the bill is here and here. In a side note consider how the music industry may be in more trouble as popular acts defect from the stable of artists. The story on that is here.
November 7, 2007
Texas CCA Implements Rules on Email Appeals in Death Cases
The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has implemented emergency rules that allow appeals in imminent execution cases to be filed via email. This stemmed from the case of Michael Richard who was executed on September 25th. His lawyers tried to file a last minute appeal to stay his execution but could not do so past the 5 PM closing time due to computer problems in his lawyer's office. The U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to review the case of a Kentucky man facing death on the grounds that the chemical cocktail used in that state was cruel and unusual punishment. Texas uses the same mix.
Presiding Judge Keller told the clerk to close promptly at 5 even though she had notice from Richard's lawyers that they wanted more time. Other judges on the Court indicated that they would have been available to receive the papers had they known the circumstances. The procedural glitch prevented papers from going to the U.S. Supreme Court which could have possibly stayed the execution. Texas, of course, seems to have a different mentality when it comes to due process and the death penalty.
The new rules require an attorney to give notice during business hours that an email petition is coming, and lays out other specific procedures that confirm the receipt of the documents by the Court electronically and in paper.
November 6, 2007
House Committee Grils Yahoo! Execs Over Previous Testimony
CNET has a live blog of the hearing held Tuesday morning by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The notes are generated by the webcast available from the Committee web site. So far, the Committee members are in full condemnation mode of Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callaghan over the cooperation provided by Yahoo! to the Chinese government in the prosecution of Chinese dissident Shi Tao. Yahoo! has defended the action on the basis of having to obey laws of other jurisdictions in which they do business, and that the company was unaware of the nature of the request. Yahoo! representatives have said as much to the Committee at an earlier hearing. The Committee has a document that shows that China presented clear information to the company on the nature of the criminal investigation. Hence this hearing to address the discrepancy.
Yahoo! says that the information was never really conveyed to the company as they based their earlier testimony on a bad English translation, which was all the company had at the time. The error on the company's part was not to share updated information with the Committee when they had it several months later. The early statements by Committee members suggest that they will not be mollified. One wonders, however, whether this will actually have any substantial effect on how the company does business in China, or whether this will be a temporary embarrassment to company executives. As the blog points out, Committee Chair Tom Lantos noted that neither executive has been charged with perjury. Yang and Callaghan are not expected to say much given that the incident is the subject of a lawsuit. Anything they say to the Committee under oath can be used at trial, and they are probably very aware of that. This hearing may be more high theater than anything of consequence. Legal liability for Yahoo! will be way more interesting if that occurs.
The Committee web site for the hearing is here.