November 30, 2007
Facebook Court Docs Under Seal Surface on Magazine Site
File Under Oops. Documents sealed in the who-founded-Facebook litigation are on the web site for 01238 magazine. Facebook has filed emergency motions to take them down. Part of the motion wants information on how the magazine got the documents. A report in the Wall Street Journal says magazine sent a reporter to the Clerk's Office and was handed thousands of pages. Maybe the Court should have sent the order to the Courthouse as well. Posted documents include:
- Mark Zuckerberg's Harvard Application (PDF)
- Mark Zuckerberg's email to Harvard’s Administrative Board (PDF)
- Mark Zuckerberg's testimony #1 (PDF)
- Mark Zuckerberg's testimony #2 (PDF)
- Facebook Statement of cash flows 2005 (PDF)
- Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss's testimony (PDF)
- Mark Zuckerberg's online diary (PDF)
- Statement of damage done to La Jennifer sublet (PDF)
Whether or not they will still be there remains to be seen. Details on the documents are also at the magazine site.
New Protocol To Limit News Aggregators
Newspaper publishers want to implement a new protocol that would define permissions and restrictions for content on news web sites. The Automated Content Access Protocol would tell search engines what they can and can't use, and for how long. The story is in the Washington Post.
Jurors Looking At Victim's MySpace Page Voids Abuse Conviction
In another CNET moment, the an article on the site analyzes the case of a West Virginia man convicted of sexually abusing two minors. The man was granted a new trial because two jurors looked at one of the victim's MySpace page. Jurors aren't supposed to consider evidence outside of the record. The report is here.
Net Neutrality Proposals May Not Be Effective
There's a nice analysis of net neutrality bills circulating in Congress in CNET. The look at the language of competing proposals suggests that Comcast may be able to continue their "network management" practices if any of them became law.
November 29, 2007
ADobe and Yahoo! To Bring Dynamic Ads to PDFs
Ads are everywhere. In one episode of Futurama, A Fishfull of Dollars, ads were even beamed into dreams:
"Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 20th century?
Fry: Well, sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio. And in magazines and movies and at ball games and on buses and milk cartons and T-shirts and written in the sky. But not in dreams. No, sir-ee!"
Fry could have added that they also appear in PDF files. Adobe and Yahoo have teamed up to bring you embedded dynamic ads in PDF files. They appear to one side of the document, but not in it. They will not print when the document is printed. Publishers have to opt in to the program. Adobe Senior vice president Rob Tarkoff is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying "As advertisers look to touch new audiences, readers can look forward to some exciting Adobe PDF content coming their way." Yeah, right. We can all look forward to some exciting dreams in the year 3000 as well. Anyone wonder when the first lawsuits over ads appearing in documents by competitors will be filed?
TiVo Wins Patent Ruling
They're probably doing cartwheels in TiVo Corporate Offices in Alviso, California. The United States Patent and Trademark Office upheld TiVo patents at the heart of a suit against EchoStar and its Dish Network over "multimedia time warping system" features in Dish DVRs. TiVo sued EchoStar and won, but EchoStar countersued over the validity of the patents. The Court paused that complaint until the Patent Office finished its examination. Well, gosh, EchoStar lost and is on the line for about $90 million in damages as well as an injunction to disable the patent infringing features in its own DVR. Now others who supply DVRs are prime time candidates for similar suits or licensing agreements.
The details are in Ars Technica.
November 28, 2007
Verizon Annouces Open Access Coming to Its Wireless Network
Verizon has announced that it is opening its network (somewhat) to devices other than cell phones tied to the company. That flies in the face of the traditional wireless business model where a carrier subsidizes a phone in return for a long-term contract and control over content. The devices will have to meet technical standards to work on the Verizon network, but the prospect of consumers using most any devices and software to access the wireless Internet is appealing on any number of levels. Verizon customers get to view or access content of their choice, and Verizon gets to charge them by the bitload, so to speak. That's something Verizon can't do with home-based ISP subscriptions. Verizon makes X number of dollars from subscribers whether they use the Internet a little or a lot. Wireless is a whole different story.
Google has been pushing open access on spectrum to be sold in the upcoming auction. The FCC agreed on that condition much to the dismay of AT&T and Verizon, the latter having filed and then dropping a suit against the auction rules. Google is expected to bid for a piece of spectrum, but who knows how this move will affect their plans. Open access is in Google's interest because it places its services (and ads, don't forget the ads) on multiple wireless devices without anything being filtered or blocked. Don't expect to see AT&T make a similar move until they see Verizon making boatloads of money out of the move. And as to the hostility between Google and the telecoms, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams was quoted in the New York Times as saying “It’s very common and popular in the press to view Google and Verizon at each other’s throats. We have far more in common with Google in meeting demands of consumers than in conflict.”
Some details, of course, have yet to be worked out, such as pricing and the technical standards. There's also the issue of CDMA technology as the basis of the Verizon network compared to GSM for AT&T and other carriers. Still, the move is in the right direction. Consumers likely won't care as long as their devices work for what they want them to do. It should work out for everyone provided access doesn't get too pricey. But who knows? Competition has a funny way of working that out. Remember when cell phones were the size of bricks and nationwide calling plans were in the hundreds of dollars?
November 27, 2007
Federal Judge Limits Governemnt Access to Amazon Customer Data in Investigation
A federal magistrate judge unsealed records in a federal tax evasion case where the government subpoenaed Amazon for the names and other information about Amazon customers who bought used books from the target of a grand jury investigation. The government planned to use that information to interview individuals in build a case against Robert B. D'Angelo. The government did not characterize Amazon customers as involved with any criminal activity associated with the probe. The order was issued over a year ago in August, 2006.
The Judge Stephen Crocker did not quash the government subpoena though he expressed concerns about how citizens would perceive the government investigating their reading habits even if that information was incidental to the crime. Quoting the Court:
But it is an unsettling and un-American scenario to envision federal agents nosing through the reading lists of law-abiding citizens while hunting for evidence against somebody else. In this era of public apprehension about the scope of the USAPATRIOT Act, the FBI’s (now-retired) “Carnivore” Internet search program, and more recent highly-publicized admissions about political litmus tests at the Department of Justice, rational book buyers would have a non-speculative basis to fear that federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents have a secondary political agenda that could come into play when an opportunity presented itself. Undoubtedly a measurable percentage of people who draw such conclusions would abandon online book purchases in order to avoid the possibility of ending up on some sort of perceived “enemies list.”
The passage comes with a footnote:
I am not finding that such fears are well-founded, but neither can I find them completely speculative or irrational. Quite apart from any book buyer’s personal fear of federal apparatchiks or black helicopters is the more commonly shared notion that living in the land of the free means that it’s none of the government’s business what books people are reading.
Rather the judge placed conditions on how the government got their information. Amazon would contact customers with appropriate documentation from the government and the Court asking for volunteers. The government later withdrew the subpoena.
The case is In Re Grand Jury Subpoena To Sealed Order Amazon.com Dated August 7, 2006. The opinion is here.
November 26, 2007
Lawsuit News: Microsoft and Apple
The case against Microsoft over its Vista Capable promotion is now before a judge on whether to certify the case as a class action. Plaintiffs essentially allege that computers sold with a Vista Capable sticker couldn't run anything more than Vista Basic. That version does not feature the Aero desktop as well as other functionality. Plaintiffs say that Vista Basic isn't really Vista at all. Microsoft disagrees, suggesting that Vista Capable is just a sticker in a larger advertising campaign for the OS roll-out.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the latest details as well as links to documents in the case.
Apple has settled with Burst over Burst patents used in the iPod, iTunes, and QuickTime. Apple paid $10 million to settle the case and license the technology. Microsoft recently settled for around $60 million. The story is here and here.
More Web Based Office Suites Compete Against Microsoft
Here is a short description from the Live Documents web site:
Live Documents is a full-featured suite of online Office productivity applications offering functionality equivalent to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Built using RIA technologies such as Flash and Flex, Live Documents allow users to view and edit documents within any common browser on any operating system from anywhere. Live Documents uses a Flash-based user interface that offers a richer and responsive user experience that is comparable to native Office software applications.
In addition, Live Documents is available as a optional desktop client application that wraps around Microsoft Office and embeds collaborative capabilities into these hitherto standalone software applications - Live Documents converts Microsoft Office applications from static standalone software to smart clients that are connected to the Internet and facilitate in-context document sharing (multiple people can edit a document at the same time) and management (security, access control and revision control) without requiring users to give up their familiar user interfaces. The Live Documents desktop client also ensures offline access to documents - a key failing of current online Office applications.
The service/software is still in beta. Individuals can request an invitation to preview the beta through a link at the site. Another web application is Zoho Writer. As does Live Documents, Zoho Writer allows offline access to files. It's getting some press here and here. Zoho is available through a free account.