RealNetworks is soon going to tread the perilous waters of DVD copying. The company has announced that it is going to release RealDVD, an application for making digital copies of DVDs. Although DVD copying applications have been available for long, RealDVD will be the first such tool to be released by a major company.
RealNetworks is fully convinced that there won't be a strong case against it, if the company is ever dragged to court over the software. RealDVD will come with certain restrictions to prevent its use for piracy. "We have put in significant barriers so people don't just take this and put it on peer-to-peer networks," RealNetwork's Robert Glaser told NYT. However, he did not spill the beans on the exact nature of the curbs. RealDVD will carry a $30 price tag.
It’s not unusual for tech companies to find themselves in legal hot water with governments, or their competitors. But this time AMD & Nvidia will face off in courts against we the consumers. AMD & Nvidia have been cited in a class action lawsuit filed in a California court alleging both companies of conspiring to commit price fixing. The plaintiffs identified as Jordan Walker and Michael Bensingor have named themselves, and anyone else who has ever been a customer of either company as the injured parties. According to the filing; "The Named Plaintiffs allege that, in violation of the federal antitrust laws, Nvidia and ATI conspired to fix, raise, maintain and stabilize prices of graphics processing chips and cards. The Named Plaintiffs also contend that Defendants unlawfully colluded to coordinate new product introductions." Further developments have been uncovered by Tom’s Hardware which was able to obtain legal documents as well as detailed email exchanges between the two GPU giants. Careful review of the emails doesn’t show any silver bullet, at least not to a layman. But in what is arguable a duopoly enviornment, it doesn’t take much to prove anti competitive behavior to the courts. The lawsuit seeks triple damages, legal fees, and any other incurred costs.
AMD & Nvidia customers who don’t wish to be represented in the lawsuit can opt out. Hit the jump to find out how.
All that experience in court looks to be paying off for Microsoft. After all, how else could you explain receiving $20.75 million from the very company whose patents you're using. Confused? Let's backtrack.
In 2002, Immersion took exception to the rumble effects in Microsoft's controllers for the Xbox and sued the Redmond giant for patent infringement. Microsoft ultimately settled with Immersion, agreeing to pay $26 million to end the litigation, but not without a clause. Before agreeing to pay the sum, Microsoft stipulated that if Sony should ever license Immersions force feedback technology for it's PS3 controllers, Immersion would have to pay a portion of the settlement.
Immersion did end up settling with Sony last year, and that's good news for Microsoft. It took some legal wrangling to get it done, but Immersion has finally agreed to pay Microsoft and make good on the clause.
"We are pleased to have reached a resolution to our legal dispute with Immersion that includes a $20.75 million payment to Microsoft," said Steve Aeschbacher, associate general counsel for Microsoft. "We are gratified that we have successfully resolved our claims under the 2003 settlement we negotiated with Immersion, which provided benefits to both companies and specific rights to Microsoft."
And Microsoft has every reason to be pleased. Legal costs aside, the payment whittles down the company's initial $26 licensing settlement to just over $5 million.
In a shocking turn of events in the Atlantic v. Howell case, the RIAA has scored a major victory and set a stern precedent against those accused of P2P copyright violations. Jeffrey Howell now finds himself on the hook for damages as a result of evidence proving that he wiped his hard drive after learning of the impending legal action against him. RIAA examiners were able to demonstrate that not only did Howell delete his shared folder, but he then formatted his drive and used a file-wiping program to destroy every last trace of the evidence .Evidence, which according to the RIAA, could have backed up his claims that he was innocent. According to the judge “Howell’s brazen destruction of evidence has wholly undermined the integrity of these judicial proceedings. The evidence that Howell destroyed could have been used to determine the origin of the music files, their locations on the hard drive, the settings and integrity of the KaZaA software, and many other relevant facts.” The guilty ruling comes in sharp contrast to the victory Howell scored this past April when a judge rejected the RIAA’s cornerstone legal theory that simply sharing a file on a P2P network was an act of copyright infringement.The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has suggested that Howell may have fared better had he been able to secure legal counsel which Howell claims was priced out of reach. The damages at this point are still unknown but one would imagine the RIAA isn’t going to get rich off a man who can’t even afford to hire a lawyer.
So is another victory for the RIAA enough to send the pirates running for iTunes? Hit the jump and let us know.
Lest there be any lingering doubt that everything in the free world can be patented, Microsoft has managed to add 'Page Up / Page Down' to its portfolio. Specifically, US Patent 7,415,666 states:
A method and system in a document viewer for scrolling a substantially exact increment in a document, such as one page, regardless of whether the zoom is such that some, all or one page is currently being viewed. In one implementation, pressing a Page Down or Page Up keyboard key/button allows a user to begin at any starting vertical location within a page, and navigate to that same location on the next or previous page. For example, if a user is viewing a page starting in a viewing area from the middle of that page and ending at the bottom, a Page Down command will cause the next page to be shown in the viewing area starting at the middle of the next page and ending at the bottom of the next page. Similar behavior occurs when there is more than one column of pages being displayed in a row.
We're computer enthusiasts and not legal beagles, but that sure sounds like Microsoft owns the Page Up and Page Down functionality on your keyboard, perhaps paving the way for some interesting royalty demands if the patent goes unchallenged. Think about the number of keyboards, both already sold and those currently being manufactured, and it's easy to see why granting such an obvious patent is troublesome.
Anyone know if the arrow keys have been patented yet?
Purchasing software and other digital content online is not only be convenient, it can also make fiscal sense when there's no sales tax involved. That's been the case for some time now, but according to DailyTech, the free ride may be rapidly coming to an end.
With a $130 billion digital market going untaxed, the temptation for some states to cash in may be too great to pass up, even if the idea of taxing downloads doesn't pass muster at the national level. Indiana, South Dakota, and Utah are the most recent states to sign digital download taxes into law, bringing the count up to 9 states altogether in 2008, and 17 in all. But are taxes the answer?
Several online entities have begun lobbying against the taxes, claiming that this differentiation is vital to their business. As Steve Delbiano from NetChoice - which is composed of Ebay, AOL, Yahoo, and others - explains it, "With global warming and a world that's running out of oil, the last thing governments should do is add taxes on something that uses no oil and produces no carbon. A digital download is the greenest way to buy music, movies, and software, since it requires no driving to the store, no delivery vans, and no plastics or packaging."
What's your stance? Do states have a moral and legal right to tax digital downloads, or should the internet tax moratorium trump individual state desires?
Homeland Security is once again drawing criticism, this time over a newly disclosed policy that has apparently existed for some time. According to the Washington Post, U.S. agents have (and have had) the authority to seize and retain laptops indefinitely, which as resulted in some travelers reporting not getting them back. And not just laptops, but all kinds of electronic devices, like cell phones, music players, portable hard drives, and more.
While the policy isn't new, it's only now being stated publicly and the contents of the DHS document has civil rights activists and lawmakers up in arms. Not only does it appear that government officials have the power to seize electronic devices, but according to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, customs agents are allowed to analyze the contents of laptops without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
"The policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming," Feingold wrote in a statement.
From smart displays capable of identifying its viewers to a recent push for more rich media ads, privacy seems to be taking a backseat to ad revenue. But while companies toy with ways to make more money through online ads, at least one person in Congress wants to make sure your rights aren't getting trampled in the process.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) has seen enough and believes online monitoring services working on behalf of the advertising community should make their intentions clear and be required to obtain approval before tracking your online activities. He's not talking about innocent cookies, but deep packet inspection (DPI) technologies.
"First, there is a distinction in the detail, type, and amount of data collected," Markey said. "As opposed to individual websites that know certain information about visitors to its websites and affiliates, deep packet inspection technologies can indicate every website a user visits and much more about a person's web use," he said.
Not everyone shares Markey's same concerns. Robert Dykes, CEO of NebuAd, claims his company doesn't run afoul of privacy rights and translates visitor's IP addresses it gathers into anonymous identifiers. Furthermore, Dykes claims an opt-in program would cause "major harm" to the current infrastructure of the internet, which thrives on advertising revenue.
Does Dkyes have a point, or is markey right on the money?
Lest there was any doubt, two telemarketing companies that sell Dish Network Corp.'s satellite TV service have found out the FTC means business and have agreed to pay fines of $95,000 for ignoring the federal Do-Not-Call list. Planet Earth Satellite Inc. and its president must pay $20,000 for allegedly calling customers who listed their phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry, while Star Satellite receives the bigger fine of $75,000 for allegedly making telemarketing calls that failed to connect customers to a live telemarketer within two seconds after consumers answered the phone.
As it applies to Star Satellite's violation, the FTC said it implemented the two-second rule in response to some consumers, particularly the elderly, thinking they were being stalked when they picked up the phone and no one answered. But instead of a creepy anonymous admirerer on the other end of the line, the caller is a potential salesman. Playing the numbers game, telemarketing companies often make several automated calls at once and then route the first consumers who answer to a live representative.
So there you have it - the list actually works. And not only does it work, but the FTC has collected over $16 million in civil penalties for 46 cases since the registry began in 2003. Has your experience been different? Post below.
It seems that either Viacom came to their senses about making Google turn over user data on YouTube, or they didn’t like the bad press that their suit was generating. They have reached a deal to protect the privacy YouTube watchers everywhere and will allow Google to anonymize YouTube user data.
Previously Viacom succeeded in getting Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to order Google to turn over as evidence a database what videos users watch, the users' computer addresses, and their usernames. Many groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that the order "threatens to expose deeply private information" and violated the Video Privacy Protection Act. Whether the Act, created when VCRs were high tech, could be applied to YouTube was debatable. Viacom and Google’s deal avoids the legal snarl all together.
If you are into deciphering legalese (and we can assume you are into self flagellation too) you can read the details here.