April 25, 2008
So Many Books -- How Does Google Do It?
Ever wonder how Google digitizes all of those books available in Book Search? CNN spills some details about the process as it takes place at Michigan. As Google's methods are proprietary, the technical information is not disclosed. Still, it's fascinating to get a look at how its going. Read it here.
April 23, 2008
Ninth Circuit OKs Laptop Searches at the Border
The Ninth Circuit ruled on Monday that border control officers can search laptops of passengers upon their arrival in the United States from foreign destinations. The case is United States v. Arnold. Arnold came into the United States at Los Angeles after a 20 some hour flight from the Philippines. Border agents noted his laptop and asked him to turn it on. They then examined the contents and browsed two folders, one called Kodak Pictures, and another called Kodak Memories. The latter folder contained a picture of two nude women. Further examination revealed numerous pictures of what agents believed to be child pornography. Arnold was charged with crimes prohibiting possession and transport of these images.
Arnold argued successfully in the District Court to suppress the evidence on the basis of the government not having reasonable suspicion to examine the laptop. The government appealed. Arnold argued that a computer is not like any other carrier. From the Court of Appeals:
Arnold argues that the district court was correct in concluding
that reasonable suspicion was required to search his laptop
at the border because it is distinguishable from other containers
of documents based on its ability to store greater amounts
of information and its unique role in modern life.
Arnold argues that “laptop computers are fundamentally
different from traditional closed containers,” and analogizes
them to “homes” and the “human mind.” Arnold’s analogy of
a laptop to a home is based on his conclusion that a laptop’s
capacity allows for the storage of personal documents in an
amount equivalent to that stored in one’s home. He argues
that a laptop is like the “human mind” because of its ability
to record ideas, e-mail, internet chats and web-surfing habits.
The Ninth Circuit rejected these claims, noting that a laptop is no different from any other type of luggage a traveler may be carrying. The government has quite a bit of leeway in border searches, limited only by those which offend human dignity, such as body cavity searches (unless there is reasonable suspicion). From the Court of Appeals:
 Whatever “particularly offensive manner” might mean,
this search certainly does not meet that test. Arnold has failed
to distinguish how the search of his laptop and its electronic
contents is logically any different from the suspicionless border
searches of travelers’ luggage that the Supreme Court and
we have allowed. See Ross, 456 U.S. at 823; see also Vance,
62 F.3d at 1156 (“In a border search, a person is subject to
search of luggage, contents of pockets and purse without any
suspicion at all.”).
 With respect to these searches, the Supreme Court has
refused to draw distinctions between containers of information
and contraband with respect to their quality or nature for
purposes of determining the appropriate level of Fourth
Amendment protection. Arnold’s analogy to a search of a
home based on a laptop’s storage capacity is without merit.
The Supreme Court has expressly rejected applying the
Fourth Amendment protections afforded to homes to property
which is “capable of functioning as a home” simply due to its
size, or, distinguishing between “ ‘worthy and ‘unworthy’
containers.” California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 393-94
The Court reversed the District Court's grant of the motion to suppress.
April 22, 2008
Meta-Tags of Trademarks can Violate Lanham Act When Used By Competitors
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a company who uses meta-tags of their competitor's trademarks in their web site violates the Lanham Act. The case is North American Medical Corp. v. Axiom Worldwide, Inc., ___F.3d___, 2008 WL 918411 (CA 11, April 7, 2008). The case involves multiple issues, including false claims Axiom allegedly made about North American Medical products. The use of trademarks, however, is the more interesting issue. The District Court found that Axiom's use of North American Medical trademarks as meta-tags violated 15 USC §1114(1)(a) by using them "in commerce" and causing a likelihood of confusion.
Axiom relied on the 2nd Circuit's opinion in 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. WhenU.Com, Inc., 414 F.3d 400 (CA2,2005). In that case the the defendant used the unprotected web address of the plaintiff to generate pop-up windows for itself whenever users picked plaintiff's link in search results. Meta-tags were involved, but the Court said these were never seen by consumers. The 11th Circuit distinguished 1-800 Contacts by noting how the meta-tags were used.
Axiom used North American Medical trademarks as meta-tags to generate a high rank in Google search results whenever someone search for North American Medical products. In fact, Axiom ranked second in a search. Moreover, the meta-tag information was displayed to consumers in the Google summary of the site as displayed in the search list.
The District Court had issued a preliminary injunction against the use of meta-tags in Axiom pages. The Court of Appeals sent the case back to see if that result was appropriate in light of the Supreme Court decision in eBay Inc v. MercExchange, L.L.C., 547 U.S. 388 (2006).
April 21, 2008
XP SP3 Finally
XP Service Pack 3 is out on April 29th.
AT&T Says Internet Full By 2010
AT&T is estimating that the Internet will reach full capacity by 2010. They base this conclusion on the expected demand for high definition video and more user-generated content passing around. AT&T additionally offers high definition television services in selected markets, which presumably takes up a good chunk of the
tubes pipes. The statement came in a speech by Jim Cicconi, vice president of legislative affairs for AT&T. He spoke at the Westminister eForum on Web 2.0 in London.
The underlying message is simple, let the network operators manage their networks as they set fit and without government regulation. We may otherwise see the end of the Internet as we know it. The only option presented by the company is an either-or. Either back off or suffer a slowdown. Is there no room for careful management practices that can efficiently use bandwidth without discriminating against content? Or expanding capacity? Or some combination? Interesting that Verizon, Comcast, and others haven't echoed these statements, or that the government hasn't sounded its own warning. AT&T, no doubt, wishes it could charge home access the same way it does wireless Internet, by the kilobyte. There's much more profit in that model compared to tiers of speed. The better to monetize existing customers.
AT&T likes to remind people that the Internet backbone was built by private investors, and the company should profit from this investment. But it neglects to remember the government involvement that spurred the development of the network or the very public purposes for it. The Internet isn't the private reserve of AT&T or any of the telecoms.
Inmate Sues Over Video Games
An inmate at a U.S. correctional institution has filed a hand written complaint against Rock Star and Take-Two. He says they put him in prison and show sex and violence in their games, which offends him. He wants a restraining order against release of the newest games. The inmate has a history of suing all kinds of individuals for all kinds of things. More details here.