August 8, 2008
Another Patent Lawsuit Against Google
This is a headline we'll be using forever. This time it's over the method for reporting statistics to advertisers over ads placed on third party sites. The story and related implications (yes, there are some) are in Information Week.
Pennsylvania Woman Pleads Guilty to Web Distribution of Obscenity
The case involved fictional stories of child molestation and worse that appeared as text or audio files. While the subject of the stories is horrific, there are some who claim that what happened here was protected constitutional speech, and that the prosecution was wrong. Read more in Network World.
The Internet is a Vast Place of Stupidity At Times
August 6, 2008
Cablevision Wins Appeal on Remote DVR Service
Does it make a difference when someone records a television broadcast for personal use that the recorder happens to be in cable company's tech center rather than the living room? The Second Circuit said no, reversing a District Court's ruling to the contrary. Cablevision decided to offer DVR services remotely to customers. There are a lot of advantages to this model. Cablevision could upgrade the equipment without disrupting services, and customers with older set top boxes could take advantage of DVR capabilities without acquiring new equipment. There was just one problem: content owners thought that offering DVR services remotely violated their copyrights. Programs sent to the Cablevision servers passed through a buffer (albeit at about a second or less before being overwritten by the next packet) and, allegedly, that constituted an unauthorized copy. The replay allegedly was an unauthorized public performance.
From the Court's opinion:
In the district court, plaintiffs successfully argued that Cablevision’s proposed system would directly infringe their copyrights in three ways. First, by briefly storing data in the primary ingest buffer and other data buffers integral to the function of the RS-DVR, Cablevision would make copies of protected works and thereby directly infringe plaintiffs’ exclusive right of reproduction under the Copyright Act. Second, by copying programs onto the Arroyo Server hard disks (the “playback copies”), Cablevision would again directly infringe the reproduction right. And third, by transmitting the data from the Arroyo Server hard disks to its RS-DVR customers in response to a “playback” request, Cablevision would directly infringe plaintiffs’ exclusive right of public performance.
The Second Circuit addressed each of these. As to the buffer issue, the Court rejected the notion that the buffer content represented fixed media for a period of more than transitory duration as stated in §101 of the Copyright Act. The Court noted that the District Court relied on precedent that had not considered the duration element of §101. The Court also rejected the United States Copyright Office’s 2001 report on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which it said essentially wrote the duration requirement out of the statute in its interpretation. "Accordingly, the acts of buffering in the operation of the RS-DVR do not create copies, as the Copyright Act defines that term."
The Court reasoned that Cablevision could not be a direct infringer when unique copies of programs were recorded at a customer's request merely by making the system available. That fact may be relevant in an action for contributory infringement, which was not argued by either party. The District Court likened the actions by Cablevision to a copy shop that makes course packs for faculty. The Appeals Court said the analogy was more like a store proprietor who gave unfettered access to a copy machine within the store. On this issue the Court found that copies were made by the customer and that did not warrant imposing liability on Cablevision.
The Court also concluded that as the recordings were unique per customer, and could only be played back by that customer on his or her own equipment, these replays did not constitute an unauthorized performance "to the public."
The opinion is Cartoon Network LP, et al. v. CSC Holdings v. CSC Holdings, Inc. and Cablevision Systems Corporation, 07-1480-cv(L) & 07-1511-cv(CON), August 4, 2008.
August 4, 2008
Internet providers under microscope for tracking customers
Senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Committe are questioning the tracking patterns of some of the largest Internet providers in the United States. A letter was sent to each company asking for specific information on how the company tracks and then customizes their advertising content to their customers' online usage.
"The request comes amid rising scrutiny of the practice, known as deep-packet inspection, or DPI, by lawmakers and consumer advocates.
The letters were sent to more than 30 online companies, including large broadband providers such as Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, as well as search giant Google Inc and Microsoft Corp.
"We are interested in the nature and extent to which you engage in such practices, and the impact it could have on consumer privacy," said the letter from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell and ranking committee Republican Joe Barton." (quoted from MSNBC.com/Reuters here)
Mining your customer's information without permission to customize advertising and make money? Unheard of!
...except by everyone who uses the Internet, of course.
In a fit of consumer protection, Mass. Dem. Rep. Edward Markey stated that Internet providers should be required to get their customers' permission before tracking them. That would be lovely, Rep. Markey. Keep on them!
You may download and read the Dingell letter sent to the Internet providers from this LA Times webpage. [MD]
Control and Track Employee Web Habits
At last, a new service that controls and monitors employee behavior on the web. Welcome to the brave new world of Zscaler, a security company that places corporate control of computers in the cloud, acting as a proxy and filtering service so the tech department doesn't have to. Sometimes the problem is not what comes into the network, but what goes out and where. YouTube doesn't have to be the office time-waster if employees can't access it. Zscaler addresses that and more. Human Resources departments take note.
Comments on the technology from the New York Times. [MG]
Where to Find Comments on ACTA
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement chugs along, with comments by rights holders that urge imposition of liability on ISPs for failing to block pirated material, among others. Another provision sought by the RIAA would hold the principle of "making available" equaling infringement the legal standard. Not all courts agree with that one. Another suggested provision would conflict with European interpretation of privacy law, that being IP addresses are personal information not subject to collection. That would change if the content providers get their way. It's hard to identify an online pirate if they can keep their IP addresses private.
Comments from various stakeholders are available here from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. [MG]