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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Or should that be "weasel"? Anyway, John Bringardner has a fascinating piece up this week on law.com 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.
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...