Donna Wentworth
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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

What Does "Copyfight" Mean?

Copyfight, the Solo Years: April 2002-March 2004

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Monthly Archives

December 28, 2007

The Smile of Success

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Neil Gaiman's blog today contained this exchange:

Question: I wonder how you feel about both Beowulf & Stardust being among the top 10 most P2P traded movies of the year?

Gaiman: I'm simply glad that they're popular. [...] Because mostly the solution to piracy seems to be providing the pirated thing yourself.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

December 27, 2007

Google One Up, One Down in Patent Decision

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

According to Peter Sayer's piece in PC World, Google is in the clear on its AdSense service, but the claims made by Hyperphrase Technologies against the Google Toolbar's autolink function need reexamination.

Let's see if I can unpack that a bit. Back in April of '06, Hyperphrase sued Google for infringement of four patents. That suit was dismissed in a summary judgement. Hyperphrase appealed and got a partial win at the CAFC on Wednesday of this week.

The items at issue relate to two of the patents, and the ability that the AutoLink technology has to parse certain fragments out of Web pages and turn them into links. One classic demo for this is to parse an ISBN or other book identifier out of a paragraph of text and then wrap an href around that identifier so that the identifier becomes a link to an online seller of that book.

Since this is Copyfight and not one of my interaction design lists, I'll elide the snide commentary about how thoroughly obnoxious this feature is, both from a presentation point of view and from the point of view of asserting control over the browsing experience. OK, maybe I won't totally elide them. This is relevant because astute readers may remember an old Microsoft feature called "SmartTags" that did something substantially similar and was roundly thrashed by users and reviewers who hated it. Well, it turns out Hyperphrase sued MSFT back in '03 over SmartTags and had their claims summarily thrown out back then.

Some people are slow learners, I guess, or just really persistent.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

December 21, 2007

Cartel Makes PC World "Bad Behavior" List (again)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Yardena Arar has a piece in PC World this month titled "The 7 Most Annoying Developments in Software". The premise is that software has developed into a serious annoyance, which isn't far wrong in my experience.

The story begins with "The Antipiracy Inquisition" and moves from there to DRM. Unfortunately Arar doesn't go much beyond the surface annoyances to talk about why these developments have happened and how they became so widespread. The result is an amusing and light piece, quickly read and probably just as quickly forgotten.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Tech

December 18, 2007

Jackson, New Line Settle - Hobbit to Go Forward

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Just over a year ago I posed the question What Does IP Have To Do With Who Directs "The Hobbit"?

Today, Ain't It Cool News is reporting that "Team Jackson, New Line, and MGM have made nice" and the Hobbit movie (and a sequel) are going to go forward. The press release doesn't mention Tolkien Enterprises, though. I wonder what role they played in this.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

December 17, 2007

It's Not A Copyright Thing (?)

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Emma Bull, herself a writer, blogs that the writer's strike "isn't a copyright issue." I think she's thinking about something else, because this sure looks like a copyfight issue if ever I saw one. The issue here is that the writers have no rights. They signed away all those rights and now they're in the (extremely weak) position of demanding things on the basis of fairness and the (somewhat stronger) threat of withholding future works.

She also links to a couple of interesting items. One a video from an actor noting that their contract comes up in June and strongly hinting that they'll be taking the Cartel to the mat over these issues.

Over on United Hollywood, there's an announcement that the WGA will demand individual negotations with movie production companies. Possibly they think they can crack the Cartel this way, or maybe they believe the AMPTP is adding an extra layer of intransigence. Not unlike, say, the RIAA or MPAA. Not that I'm of the opinion that these organizations suck large hairy rocks, or anything.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Use

RIAA Continues to Backtrack on 2005 Statements

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Back in 2005, the Cartel argued in front of the Supreme Court admitting in part that it was legal to rip one's own CDs. They've regretted that ever since and have hemmed and hawed about it.

Now they're in open (court) denial, claiming precisely the opposite. Props to PATNEWS's Greg Aharonian who pointed to an online PDF of an RIAA brief in Atlantic Recording Corporation et al v Pamela and Jeffrey Howell. If you scroll forward to page 15 of the brief you find language asserting that the Howells converted their own recordings (presumably CDs) to MP3 format and in this process "they are no longer the authorized copies."

It appears that Howell is self-representing. I wonder if he's aware of Grokster or if someone would like to make him aware...

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse

December 14, 2007

December 5, 2007

As the Troll Turns

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Or should that be "weasel"? Anyway, John Bringardner has a fascinating piece up this week on on Ray Niro. If that name is at all familiar to you it may be because the term "patent troll" was initially coined to describe the activities of Niro and his firm. So where is our hero today? Bringardner uses the polite phrase "controversial situations" - I call it a soap opera.

In episode 1, Niro won a big judgement for Philip Jackson against Glenayre Electronics Inc. on a patent infringement case. However, the judgement was reduced by more than 75% on appeal, leading Jackson to sue Niro for malpractice.

In episode 2, Niro counter-sued Jackson, in part on the grounds that the patent, which he had successfully enforced, was invalid. The two parties settled.

In episode 3, a blogger calling himself "Troll Tracker" started publicly and repeatedly using the word 'troll' to refer to Niro, who didn't much like it. In response, Niro threatened the blogger with a charge of violating a patent, number 5,253,341.

The 341 patent has a long and bloody history. Niro tried to use this patent once before to, as Bringardner puts it, "silence a vocal critic." Niro's lawsuit led to the patent being re-examined and most of its claims invalidated. But there is still one surviving claim, though it's not clear to me how that claim (about image compression) relates to public criticism of this particular patent troll.

In this week's episode, Niro is offering USD 5000 to anyone who can lead him to the identity of the so-far-anonymous "Troll Tracker" blogger.

Finally, Bringardner notes that Troll Tracker has been remarkably effective at publicizing some of the inner machinations of Niro's patent suits, particularly his relationship with one Scott Harris, a now-former partner at the law firm of Fish & Richardson. He's "former partner" in part because Troll Tracker revealed that he was behind a Niro lawsuit against Google, which happens to be an F&R client.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Interesting People

December 1, 2007

Mind the Spoof

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Emma Clarke is known to Londoners and visitors to that city as the voice behind the pleasant-yet-ubiquitous "mind the gap" reminders. On her Web site, she has a set of MP3 spoof files, apparently free for the remix-ready. My personal favorite is the Sudoku one...

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Humor