by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 8th 2013 3:09pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 16th 2012 7:29pm
Patent Troll Sues Facebook, Amazon, Oracle, Linkedin, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley & More For Using Certain File Systems
from the the-system-is-broken dept
While most patent infringement lawsuit filings tend to be pretty matter of fact, this one goes immediately for the hyperbole stick, suggesting that the four inventors on these patents made some amazing breakthrough, and everyone else copied it:
In this technological age, we take for granted the ability to access tremendous amounts of data through our computers and the Internet, a process that seems effortless and unremarkable. But this apparent effortlessness is an illusion, made possible only by technological wizardry. The amount of information that is used by many companies has outstripped the storage capacity of individual memory devices. The information must be stored across hundreds or thousands of individual memory devices and machines. The ability to keep track of information as it is distributed across numerous devices and machines, while still allowing users to retrieve it seamlessly upon request, is a feat that was impossible until recently. It was made possible by the innovations of technological pioneers like Melvin James Bullen, Steven Louis Dodd, William Thomas Lynch, and David James Herbison.Considering the claims that these four individuals were brilliant "technological pioneers," you would think that searches on their names would turn up story upon story about their accolades, presentations at tech events, celebrations in their honor, etc. But, of course, that's not the case. All you seem to find are stories about these lawsuits, or information about their patenting activities. Maybe my search skills aren't up to par, or maybe these four guys were not "technological pioneers," but merely got some broad patents on the same basic solution that lots of folks skilled in the art were figuring out at the same time. The idea that such things wouldn't exist but for Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison is pretty ridiculous.
Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison were, among others, members of a company dedicated to solving the difficult problems that limited the capacity of computer technology and the Internet, particularly problems concerning data storage. These engineers found innovative solutions for these problems and patented several technologies for data storage, including the ones at issue in this case. Many of the data-access feats we take for granted today are possible because of the data-storage inventions of Bullen, Dodd, Lynch and Herbison.
In case you're wondering, the patents in question are 7,197,662, 7,543,177 and 7,958,388, all of which are for "methods and systems for a storage system." The core of these patents goes back to a 2002 original filing date on the '662 patent. Hadoop and pNFS both show up on the scene around 2003, so it's about the same time. It certainly sounds like a bunch of folks who work with large amounts of data were all coming up with some obvious (to them) solutions. Two of them actually brought stuff to market. The others... well, they're suing.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 7th 2012 7:07am
from the grandstanding... dept
Linkedin took its time, but did admit that there was a breach, and reset those passwords. However, Congress is never one to miss an opportunity to grandstand. Rep. Mary Bono Mack was quick to jump up and announce that something must be done!
"How many times is this going to happen before Congress finally wakes up and takes action?" said Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, who heads a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that has looked at online-privacy issues, in a statement. "This latest incident once again brings into sharp focus the need to pass data protection legislation."Similarly, Senator Pat Leahy jumped in with a similar statement:
"Reports of another major data breach should give pause to American consumers who, now more than ever, share sensitive personal information in their online transactions and networking," Leahy said in a statement provided to The Hill. "Congress should make comprehensive data privacy and cybercrime legislation a top priority.”First of all, it does appear that LinkedIn wasn't using particularly smart security techniques (no salting? really?). But would a law really change things? And Leahy's claim that we need "cybercrime" legislation, again doesn't seem likely to help "fix" anything. If anything, the "cybersecurity" legislation that's out there might make such data even more vulnerable, by making companies more encouraged to share information.
Yes, these kinds of data breaches are bad. And we should be concerned when we find out that a company as big as LinkedIn still uses such weak security practices. But does that really mean we need a law?
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Apr 6th 2012 7:30am
from the jobs-move-around dept
They have been trapped in a terrible mindset that they are in the business of selling newspapers. The leap from paper to digital may be vast, but to newspaper publishers, it seemed like vaulting to a different business entirely, one they were loathe to get into. No matter what kind of lip service newspapers paid to the digital transformation, the most prominent paywall model out there, that of the New York Times, still protects print subscriptions with a tiered digital pricing strategy – one so annoying that it motivated its former digital design director to complain publicly about the entire signup process.This is a really good point on multiple levels. Beyond the innovator's dilemma (and the key point of figuring out what the real product is), Smalera is also debunking one of the popular myths of the internet era: when you're selling a user's attention, companies will naturally abuse their users. What he notes is that companies that do this don't end up lasting through the long haul, because users get annoyed and go elsewhere. Even though it's become a common pejorative statement among neo-luddites to mock the idea that the "users is the product," one thing that is true when that happens is that the companies need to treat their users right, or they have a crappy product that they can't sell.
The lesson online media companies have taken from newspapers’ slow, public death is to move beyond the idea of selling the product. Online sites are selling their audience. It’s a simple twist of the equation, but one that changes everything about how a media company is run. A CEO who has realized that her audience – her customers – is the most important thing the company has will stop at nothing to give those customers what they want. Anything to make them feel as if they’re getting value from the company. And although she’ll monetize their aggregate value with advertisers and marketers, she’ll also protect them from underhanded sales pitches or confusing pricing strategies that infuriate the web-savvy.
Similarly, Mathew Ingram uses this to discuss why it's so difficult for legacy businesses to adapt, noting that it's difficult to change business models on the fly. Not only do you have to make big bets on new things, but you also have to keep the legacy business running while at the same time trying to undercut it with the new thing. It's why so many companies fail the innovator's dilemma test. Unless you have incredibly visionary leadership who can push a company through with a strong and clear vision of why the company must move in that direction, the magnetic appeal of trying to prop up increasingly obsolete businesses is just too strong.
But, the failure comes not because of some new "threat" or because of some kind of disgraceful activity (no matter how much legacy players try to describe it that way), but because corporate leadership chose to let others innovate, rather than supporting a plan of out-innovating themselves. Very, very few companies are willing to cannibalize their own business models -- but the failure to do that just means that someone else cannibalizes it for you.
And it goes way beyond news. The chart above shows some other key areas of disruption as well. That clump of retail, automotive, construction, banking, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and real estate represents prime feeding ground for the next decade of disruption -- much of which has already started. You don't necessarily see the corresponding growth points on the opposite side of the chart, but as with newspapers and online publishing, give it a few years, and those new jobs and industries will make their way up the chart, as the legacy players continue to shrivel up (and whine all the way down).
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 20th 2012 3:46pm
from the class-actions-in-action dept
But, of course, in our litigious society, that's not going to stop the class action lawsuits from being filed. In a 152 page document, a class action lawsuit has been filed against pretty much every big name company in the space:
Path, Inc., Twitter, Inc., Apple, Inc., Facebook, Inc., Beluga, Inc. ., Yelp! Inc., Burbn, Inc., Instagram, Inc., Foursquare Labs, Inc., Gowalla Incorporated, Foodspotting, Inc., Hipster, Inc., LinkedIn Corporation, Rovio Mobile Oy, ZeptoLab UK Limited aka ZeptoLab, Chillingo Ltd., Electronic Arts Inc., and Kik Interactive, Inc.,The lawsuit kicks off by quoting Robert Fulghum's "All I really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten," saying, "Don't take things that aren't yours." Of course, as with many such class actions, this one is all about getting the lawyers paid. This isn't to say that I think the actions in uploading the address books were ok, but worth a lawsuit? Seems a bit extreme. It seems that the public pressure about all of this has caused pretty much all of these companies to change how they work, and it's unlikely any real significant "harm" came from this.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 30th 2011 4:50am
from the how-does-that-make-sense dept
While I can kind of understand some of the legal fights over who gets to control Twitter accounts, the entire point of a LinkedIn account is to represent an individual and their job history. How would it possibly make sense for a company to control an ex-employee's LinkedIn account?
The company seems to think that the LinkedIn account was more like a rolodex. Because (for reasons that are beyond me), Eagle had let others in the company access and manage her account, as soon as she was fired, people at the company accessed her account and then changed her "name" and profile picture to someone else at the company. That would be pretty shocking for her connections, who might not know who the guy was at all. They also tried to do this with the account of one of the other fired founders, but they didn't have his password. Apparently the company asked LinkedIn to hand over the password, and LinkedIn, properly, told the company to get lost.
Either way, the court digs into the "misappropriation" question with the LinkedIn account and refuses to dismiss it out of hand (at this stage of the case), which seems too bad. However, there's an unclear issue of who "developed" the contacts in the account:
The Counterclaim Complaint expressly alleges that, with respect to the LinkedIn account connections and content, "Edcomm personnel, not Dr. Eagle, developed and maintained all connections and much of the content on the LinkedIn Account, actions that were taken solely at Edcomm’s expense and exclusively for its own benefit." ... While Plaintiff argues that Edcomm fails to allege facts that would show that it made a substantial investment of time, effort, and money into creating the cell phone number or LinkedIn account, Edcomm counters that its employees developed the accounts and maintained the connections, which are the route through which Edcomm contacts instructors and specific personnel within its clients. As these conflicting allegations create an issue of fact requiring further discovery, the Court must deny the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to the misappropriation counterclaim.Of course, I wonder if they're arguing about the wrong thing here. If the company developed the contacts, perhaps it has a right to ask for a copy of the contacts, but the account itself seems like it should belong to Eagle. Part of the problem here is the idea that contacts are some scarce resource. Both parties can have them, and the simplest thing would be, if there is a legitimate claim that the company developed those relationships, to require that their contact info be provided to the company -- but leave the account in the hands of Eagle.
Either way, the case should be a warning for any company that wants to control the LinkedIn accounts of its employees.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Nov 15th 2011 10:44am
from the good-for-them dept
We are very concerned that the bills as written would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide a safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites. Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCA's safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industry's growth and success. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign "rogue" sites, we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss, and share information lawfully online.Can't wait to see the usual commenters stop by to insist that basically every big company on the internet is only saying this because they're dedicated to infringement. But the real question is: at what point does Congress realize that there's real opposition to this bill from one of the few industries out there that's actually doing well these days?
We are proud to be a part of an industry that has been crucial to U.S. economic growth and job creation. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report found that the Internet accounts for 3.4% of GDP in the 13 countries that McKinsey studied, and, in the U.S., the Internet's contribution to GDP is even larger. If Internet consumption and expenditure were a sector, its contribution to GDP would be greater than energy, agriculture, communication, mining, or utilities. In addition, the Internet industry has increased productivity for small and medium-sized businesses by 10%. We urge you not to risk either this success or the tremendous benefits the Internet has brought to hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 19th 2011 7:07pm
from the it's-a-game dept
I've always found the obsession with the "first day pop" kind of a weird infatuation in Silicon Valley, often done by people who don't recognize what it really means (i.e., that it was priced low). However, there's been a lot of hand-wringing about how LinkedIn's valuation from the super high share price seems ridiculous based on its revenue. And, I agree. It's nearly impossible to match the valuation to the company's actual financial situation. However, this is the nature of the game. Certainly one part of the problem is that some of the buyers and sellers in the market don't really understand what it is they're buying and selling and how to value it. That's just the way things are with the stock market. However, the bigger issue is that people buying and selling the stock are really judging price on two separate factors. The underlying value of the stock is certainly important, but for many people, rather than betting on that, they're betting on everyone else. That is, they're not buying and selling based on a long-term concern for the actual value of LinkedIn, but they're trading short-term by betting on what they think everyone else will value the stock at. In the long-term, that's not sustainable, but it's the simple nature of "the game."
On the last Planet Money podcast, they explored whether or not there's a "gold bubble,", but they actually do a nice job explaining how bubbles form, even though "rational economists" suggest it shouldn't be possible. In the podcast, there's a great story about some experiments, in which students (including business students who should understand this) are given opportunities to buy and sell a single stock with a very clearly defined value... and yet bubbles still form, where people (who can't even explain why) overbid on the price of the stock, even though the real underlying value is known.
To some extent, it's that people don't intrinsically understand statistics and value. Part of it is that people get tied up in "the game." And part of it is just psychology. But the fact is that bubbles form all the time, and trying to rationally value something in a bubble isn't a particularly fruitful game in the short term, because the length and extent of a bubble are nearly impossible to determine (long term is a very different story). So, for everyone fretting about the price to value question on LinkedIn, unless you're looking for a long term investment, at this point, it's a meaningless question. What's happening now is gambling and entertainment masquerading as a serious "investment" issue.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 10th 2011 8:25am
If You're Going To Court To Prove Harrah's Is Not Your Employer, Probably Don't List Harrah's On Your LinkedIn Profile
from the just-a-tip dept
the evidence supporting Defendants’ explanation for Plaintiff’s termination consists primarily of Hirsch’s testimony, and Hirsch was not a credible witness. Notably, Hirsch testified that he did not work for Defendants even though he listed [Harrah's] as his employer on his LinkedIn page. When confronted with this inconsistency, Hirsch could not offer an explanation except to state that it was not his LinkedIn page. This assertion was incredible given that Hirsch had already verified all of the information contained on the LinkedIn page as being accurate. This and other inconsistencies and illogical conclusions discredit Hirsch’s testimony that Plaintiff’s Action Plan was intended to improve Plaintiff’s performance.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 12th 2008 11:15am
from the do-you-own-your-rolodex? dept
Expect to see plenty more lawsuits like this going forward. For many users of social networks from LinkedIn to MySpace to Facebook, the connections you make blur the lines between professional and personal -- and the questions of who actually "owns" those contacts will become a legal issue that the courts will decide over and over again. Of course, the truth is that this is a silly debate. No one "owns" a contact in the first place. If the company has a rule requiring employees to hand over contacts to the company, then it should employ a CRM system which the company controls. Otherwise, reaching into a personal social networking account seems to go beyond what's reasonable.