by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 20th 2013 4:16am
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Jun 20th 2013 1:30am
from the many-ways-to-make-a-buck dept
As part of our sponsorship program with the Application Developers Alliance, we're highlighting some of the content on DevsBuild.It, their new resource website, that we think will be most interesting to Techdirt readers.
In the sidebar widget featuring DevsBuild.It content, many of the most-read links have been those dealing with business models for apps, such as the developer who explained how their first game made $28,623 (the most popular post over the past month). For those of you following these kinds of stories, we're highlighting a few new additions to DevsBuild.It that aim to help developers with the task of monetizing an app.
First, there's a comparison tool that helps sort through all the different ad networks and other monetization platforms, filtering them by various criteria to help developers put together a smart business model:
To accompany the tool, there's also a free white paper on app monetization [pdf link] which compares different app stores (including the less-mainstream ones) and breaks the core monetization models down into categories.
Finally, an early announcement: the Application Developers Alliance is hosting a series of events on app monetization, in San Francisco on August 2nd, New York on September 26th and LA on October 18th. More details are on the way.
(In related news: our readers may be interested in checking out the ADA's amicus brief in the Google/Oracle appeal, which urges the court to uphold the ruling that APIs are not copyrightable.)
This post is sponsored by the Application Developers Alliance. Find more info on patents and other issues that affect developers at DevsBuild.It
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 20th 2013 2:14am
from the this-ought-to-get-interesting dept
The FTC is launching a "sweeping investigation" of patent trolls that will hopefully expose some of the more nefarious practices of those shakedown houses:
The chairwoman, Edith Ramirez, is planning to ask the full commission to approve an inquiry that will include the issuance of subpoenas to companies that are known as patent-assertion entities, or, unflatteringly, as patent trolls. The move comes after the issuance of several executive orders by President Obama directing executive agencies to take steps to “protect innovators from frivolous litigation.”Also, the NY Times article notes that the FTC isn't just focusing on the tiny shell companies, but the big patent trolls as well:
If approved, which is likely, the F.T.C. investigation will require patent-assertion companies to answer questions about how they conduct their operations, including whether they coordinate their lawsuits with other patent holders and if they funnel proceeds from lawsuits and patent licenses back to the original patent owner.
People briefed on the plans said that the inquiry will focus on companies at both ends of the patent-troll spectrum. At one end are the small companies, essentially legal shells, which gather patents and cite them when sending demand letters to thousands of businesses claiming infringement on a patent for some activity. In 2011, a company targeted coffee shops for setting up Wi-Fi networks for customers.Stay tuned, because this is going to get interesting.
At the other end are large companies like Mosaid, which has its American headquarters in Plano, Tex., and Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash., firm that was co-founded by Nathan Myhrvold, a former chief technology officer at Microsoft. Those entities buy portfolios of intellectual property rights from technology innovators like Microsoft and Nokia and use them to generate millions of dollars in licensing payments.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 11:08pm
from the it's-not-actually-a-competition dept
Last year, [Germany's foreign intelligence agency] BND head Gerhard Schindler told the Confidential Committee of the German parliament, the Bundestag, about a secret program that, in his opinion, would make his agency a major international player. Schindler said the BND wanted to invest €100 million ($133 million) over the coming five years. The money is to finance up to 100 new jobs in the technical surveillance department, along with enhanced computing capacities.Small beer compared to the NSA, but it's a start. Der Spiegel's article provides some details on how they do it in Germany:
The largest traffic control takes place in Frankfurt, in a data processing center owned by the Association of the German Internet Industry. Via this hub, the largest in Europe, e-mails, phone calls, Skype conversations and text messages flow from regions that interest the BND like Russia and Eastern Europe, along with crisis areas like Somalia, countries in the Middle East, and states like Pakistan and Afghanistan.But the BND still has a long way to go before it attains NSA-like levels of snooping:
In contrast to the NSA, though, the German intelligence agency has been overwhelmed by this daunting wealth of information. Last year, it monitored just under 5 percent, roughly every 20th phone call, every 20th e-mail and every 20th Facebook exchange. In the year 2011, the BND used over 16,000 search words to fish in this data stream.As in the US, the idea is that this targets foreigners:
German law allows the BND to monitor any form of communication that has a foreign element, be it a mobile phone conversation, a Facebook chat or an exchange via AOL Messenger. For the purposes of "strategic communications surveillance," the foreign intelligence agency is allowed to copy and review 20 percent of this data traffic. There is even a regulation requiring German providers "to maintain a complete copy of the telecommunications."Here's how the BND tries to achieve that:
If e-mail addresses surface that end in ".de" (for Germany), they have to be erased. The international dialing code for Germany, 0049, and IP addresses that were apparently given to customers in Germany also pass through the net.Of course, as in the US, it doesn't quite work out like that:
At first glance, it's not evident where users live whose information is saved by Yahoo, Google or Apple. And how are the agencies supposed to spot a Taliban commander who has acquired an email address with German provider GMX? Meanwhile, the status of Facebook chats and conversations on Skype remains completely unclear.Given this evident desire to create its own snooping apparatus, coupled with the fact that Germany has doubtless benefited from NSA spying, perhaps it's no surprise the German government's protests about its citizens being subject to extensive NSA surveillance have been muted. Maybe a little too muted: Der Spiegel quotes the question posed by Cornelia Rogall-Grothe, a state secretary in the German Interior Ministry, to the US Embassy in Berlin, in the wake of the revelations about NSA spying:
"Are US agencies running a program or computer system with the name Prism?," the Interior Ministry official asked.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 8:03pm
from the another-day,-another-excuse dept
On May 17, 2013, the Court set the original OSC hearing in this matter on May 31, 2013. (Doc. 51.) On May 21, Plaintiff filed a motion to continue, based on the personal request of Mr. Goodhue. (Doc. 52.) The next day, the Court granted the motion and set the OSC for June 7, 2013. (Doc. 55.) On June 5, after Plaintiff's counsel had been aware of the pending hearing for some time, the Court received a telephone call from the office of a local lawyer indicating that he had been requested to enter an appearance at the hearing, but had a conflict that prevented him from doing so. He informally inquired on whether the Court would continue the hearing in order to allow another attorney to enter an appearance on Monday. In light of the fact that the Court had previously granted AF Holdings one continuance, AF Holdings had been aware of the new pending OSC date, and AF Holdings already had Arizona counsel in the action, the Court did not reschedule the hearing. The next day, the Court's judicial assistant received notice from Mr. Goodhue in the afternoon that he missed his scheduled flight from Denver to attend the OSC hearing the next day due to a medical emergency. He informed the Court that he would not be attending the hearing the next day. Mr. Goodhue thereafter filed a motion to continue, supplemented by a medical record reflecting a visit to Swedish Medical Center apparently signed by a physician's assistant who consulted with Plaintiff's counsel. (Doc. 64.) It is in this context that the Court requested the medical records from Mr. Goodhue that supported his version of events in failing to appear before the Court.Goodhue apparently filed some of the medical records, as requested under seal, but the judge notes that they don't actually answer all of his questions and some appear to contradict Goodhue's statements:
Further, in conjunction with the Doc. 74, which the Court authorizes to be filed under seal, the Court notes that the contents of the document are at best partially responsive to the Court's request. Mr. Goodhue has provided one medical record with Doc. 74 that appears to be inconsistent with the version of events he sets forth in Doc. 74. Further, Mr. Goodhue's version of events would have generated additional documents that he has yet to provide. Mr. Goodhue is required to continue to supplement the record with all the medical records and documentation indicated in Doc. 71.Judge Snow hints pretty strongly that he simply doesn't believe Goodhue, and suggests that he's stalling, which would be par for the course in a variety of Prenda-related cases.
by Michael Ho
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Japanese researchers have created a formidable air hockey robot that can adjust its strategy after observing its human opponents. By creating a bot that adapts to its opponents, it makes the game more entertaining for humans. [url]
- In 2008, Nuvation built an air hockey robot in less than 10 weeks. The bot is only good at defense (really really good), so it doesn't try to win as much as it just never loses (and humans give up). [url]
- The Air Hockeybot 1000 at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh is a permanent robotics exhibition featuring the Nuvation robot. Anyone can play against this bot, but it's hard to beat a 32-bit computer (the 8-bit version is an easier opponent). [url]
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 4:16pm
from the this-is-a-bad-idea dept
the unintended consequence of Section 230 in that "you've essentially given these guys immunity" when state criminal laws are broken.Except, that's wrong. Section 230 does not grant them immunity if they broke state criminal laws. It gives them immunity if their users broke state criminal laws. And that's perfectly reasonable, because the AGs should be going after the actual criminals, not the company who made the tools they used. In fact, since many companies will cooperate with legitimate law enforcement requests, having a good relationship with these companies should help these AGs catch criminals. That is, rather than blame Craigslist for criminals using it, they should be working with them to use information on the site to catch criminals. But I guess actually catching a pimp is less exciting than falsely calling Craigslist a pimp-enabler and attacking them in the press.
Meanwhile, some other AGs are looking to completely reinterpret section 230 to their liking. We already noted just recently that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is trying to blame Google because he could search and find counterfeit goods for sale (by others). In comments, at the NAAG meeting, Hood is now trying to argue that because of Google's "autocomplete," it shouldn't be subject to 230 safe harbors.
One avenue prosecutors may seek to explore is the statute’s vague definition of an intermediary versus a content provider, Reidenberg suggested. During discussion after the panel presentations, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood pressed that angle, asking the panelists what acts by a site operator might be sufficient to categorize it as a content provider, not simply an intermediary.Except that if Hood actually understood how autocomplete worked, he'd know that's ridiculous. Google is not creating that content. It's just showing you what terms others are searching for. That is, it's providing factual information. That information could actually be useful to Hood, if he wanted to actually do his job and go after those who are selling the counterfeit drugs, rather than stupidly attacking the platform that would be a big help in tracking down the criminals. But, apparently, stopping truly rogue pharmacies is less headline grabbing than going after Google, even if Google has nothing to do with the actual sale of the counterfeit drugs.
Hood zeroed in on autocomplete in particular, saying, “We know they manipulate the autocomplete feature.” He is concerned about search engines, particularly Google, where for example a user entering “prescription drugs online” is given “prescription drugs online without a prescription” as an autocomplete option.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 3:26pm
from the a-good-step dept
Thankfully, earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that the FTC can sue drug makers over pay-for-delay deals, allowing the FTC to argue that it violates antitrust law. The Court noted that just because you have patents, it doesn't mean it's a "get out of antitrust jail free" card:
For another thing, this Court’s precedents make clear that patent-related settlement agreements can sometimes violate the antitrust laws. In United States v. Singer Mfg. Co., 374 U. S. 174 (1963), for example, two sewing machine companies possessed competing patent claims; a third company sought a patent under circumstances where doing so might lead to the disclosure of information that would invalidate the other two firms’ patents. All three firms settled their patent-related disagreements while assigning the broadest claims to the firm best able to enforce the patent against yet other potential competitors. Id., at 190–192. The Court did not examine whether, on the assumption that all three patents were valid, patent law would have allowed the patents’ holders to do the same. Rather, emphasizing that the Sherman Act “imposes strict limitations on the concerted activities in which patent owners may lawfully engage,” id., at 197, it held that the agreements, although settling patent disputes, violated the antitrust laws. Id., at 195, 197. And that, in important part, was because “the public interest in granting patent monopolies” exists only to the extent that “the public is given a novel and useful invention” in “consideration for its grant.” Id., at 199 (White, J., concurring). See also United States v. New Wrinkle, Inc., 342 U. S. 371, 378 (1952) (applying antitrust scrutiny to patent settlement); Standard Oil Co. (Indiana) v. United States, 283 U. S. 163 (1931) (same).While this ruling basically just says the FTC can sue over antitrust, and doesn't rule directly on whether or not these kinds of agreements definitely do violate antitrust law, it's a good start -- and also opens up the very real possibility that the FTC (who has been expressing concern about patent trolls for some time) can now go after many different kinds of abuse of patents on antitrust grounds. While some had viewed this as a narrow case really just concerning these wacky pay-for-delay deals, it'll be much more interesting to see if the FTC now starts getting much more aggressive in using its antitrust powers against all kinds of patent shenanigans.
Similarly, both within the settlement context and without, the Court has struck down overly restrictive patent licensing agreements—irrespective of whether those agreements produced supra-patent-permitted revenues. We concede that in United States v. General Elec. Co., 272 U. S. 476, 489 (1926), the Court permitted a single patentee to grant to a single licensee a license containing a minimum resale price requirement. But in Line Material, supra, at 308, 310–311, the Court held that the antitrust laws forbid a group of patentees, each owning one or more patents, to cross-license each other, and, in doing so, to insist that each licensee maintain retail prices set collectively by the patent holders. The Court was willing to presume that the single-patentee practice approved in General Electric was a “reasonable restraint” that “accords with the patent monopoly granted by the patent law,” 333 U. S., at 312, but declined to extend that conclusion to multiple-patentee agreements: “As the Sherman Act prohibits agreements to fix prices, any arrangement between patentees runs afoul of that prohibition and is outside the patent monopoly.” Ibid. In New Wrinkle, 342 U. S., at 378, the Court held roughly the same, this time in respect to a similar arrangement in settlement of a litigation between two patentees, each of which contended that its own patent gave it the exclusive right to control producÃ‚Â tion. That one or the other company (we may presume) was right about its patent did not lead the Court to confer antitrust immunity. Far from it, the agreement was found to violate the Sherman Act.
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 2:32pm
from the customers-win dept
Well, Microsoft apparently now knows it too, as they have done a serious about-face on nearly every single one of these plans. Xbox chief Don Mattrick stated on the Xbox blog:
"An internet connection will not be required to play offline Xbox One games – After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One, you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.So, all's well that ends well, right? Fans pushed back and Microsoft listened. Well, perhaps not. When you consider that the chief reason for the backlash was the obvious nature of restrictiveness and money-grabbing in Microsoft's plans, I expect gamers to not be assuaged by those plans being walked back in the aftermath. The company has made it quite clear what they think of their customers and where their priorities lie. Many jilted people won't be fooled by this new conciliatory tone.
Trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today – There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360."
There is a lesson to be learned here about how a company should treat its customers. Customers meaning the gamers, not the game publishers Microsoft seemed so focused on. I don't believe they have wiped the chalkboard clean without stain with this announcement.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 19th 2013 1:31pm
The Next Time Someone Says Twitter Is Killing Deep Thinking With Short Quick Messages, Show Them This
from the history-repeating-itself dept