by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 12th 2012 3:21am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 7th 2012 12:34pm
from the joke's-on-you dept
That said, the details of this "Chinese patent" are a bit sketchy. Was it just applied for? Or granted? No one seems to be saying. It could just be a joke. That said, we've been noting for quite some time that while the US has been pushing China to respect patents a lot more (due to lobbying pressure from US companies), China has been mocking them all by suddenly "enforcing" patents much more stringently... but almost always against foreign companies and to benefit Chinese competitors. So, it's not completely crazy to suggest that a Chinese company might be able to secure such a patent and use it to stop Apple, though it would take a fair amount of chutzpah (or whatever the Chinese equivalent is) to make such a claim.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 5th 2012 4:05pm
from the open-source? dept
Just after we had uploaded the complete project on Kickstarter and about to press the “Submit to the world button” …we started to second guess ourselves and wanted to know are we really allowed to do this?So, it's sorta a little like the Android bot, but not quite, because no one could tell them definitively one way or the other if doing what they wanted to do was allowed. Isn't permission culture just great?
After further investigations, as well as talking to a few lawyer friends, we discovered that the Google Bug Droid in 2D form and in printed materials is in fact Open Source, so anyone can stick it on posters and make cut outs. But there seemed to be a gray area regarding the issue of whether a 3D version is in fact allowed for resale. So instead of killing the project or possibly getting into legal issues, we thought it would be a good idea to meet with some higher-ups at the Google Android headquarters and hear what they had to say.
To make a long story short, at this meeting (during which we felt like we were on a reality TV show) the concept was well received, but there was not definitive answer as to “Yay” or “Nay”.
Not wanting to kill the project after having already put so much work into it, and to make sure we could launch without any issues; we redesigned the outside shell to have a different appearance, while maintaining the same internal integrity and design we developed in the BERO secret lair.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 27th 2012 1:01pm
from the backfiring dept
Guy: "Wait, so what they're saying is, Samsung is the same as Apple?"Those aren't the only examples in the post either. He notes that these people don't understand the details, but they seem to have gotten the message that Samsung makes at least an equivalent product for a lot less money... and that's making them a lot more interested in Samsung. Once again, it makes you wonder why Apple didn't just focus on competing in the marketplace, where they had a tremendous brand advantage.
Friend: "I know, right? Makes me think twice about how much I paid for my Mac Book"
Not 10 minutes later, a husband and wife, same newspaper:
Husband: "... Samsung's iPad is the same as Apple's iPad, and I paid how much for the Apple one? Honey, I told you they were a ripoff", after looking up the Samsung tablet on his iPhone.
Wife: "Oh wow," looking at the screen, "... that's a lot cheaper. Think we can return it?"
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 24th 2012 4:45pm
from the ouch dept
Minor update: After the rush, the judge came back to point out two problems with the verdict -- including the jury awarding damages in cases where it had not found infringement. While this will be corrected and won't change the results much, it certainly suggests that the jury rushed through this and may not have taken this particularly seriously. When you start talking about the numbers being thrown around in damages here, at some point, it must start to feel like play money. But it's a pretty big indictment of the jury itself that it would make a mistake like this. It raises significant questions about how careful they were in getting to a verdict vs. how quickly they wanted to be done in time for the weekend.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 22nd 2012 8:14am
from the motherfucking-eagles dept
But, of course, this is the federal government we're talking about, and they sure loved the ability to shut down speech without any sort of adversarial hearing or, you know, due process. So you just knew it wouldn't last. The latest is that the feds have seized three more domains (applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com), claiming that they were "engaged in the illegal distribution of copies of copyrighted Android cell phone apps." Indeed, a quick look at the internet archive certainly suggests that these sites advertised that you could get "paid" apps for free if you joined. But does that warrant a criminal investigation and seizure? Perhaps there are more details, but given the sketchy details of earlier seizures, I'd wonder.
But, more to the point, if these sites were really engaged in such things, why wouldn't a civil copyright infringement lawsuit suffice? Why should the government get involved, when it involves completely pulling down a website with no warning, no adversarial hearing and no due process for those accused?
The Justice Department seems to indicate that this sort of thing is now a "top priority," because (apparently) they have way too much free time on their hands:
“Cracking down on piracy of copyrighted works – including popular apps – is a top priority of the Criminal Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Software apps have become an increasingly essential part of our nation’s economy and creative culture, and the Criminal Division is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the creators of these apps and other forms of intellectual property from those who seek to steal it.”One other tidbit of interest. Unlike the previous seizure disasters, this one appears not to have been led by ICE, but directly by the Justice Department (via the FBI). The announcement doesn't name this as a part of "Operation in our Sites" which seems to be a term specific to ICE's controversial program. Either way, they're still certainly using the eagle-heavy "seized" graphic they love to throw around, so, of course, we'd be remiss if we did not remind folks that they can purchase their very own "seized tee," to show what you think of the government's efforts.
“Criminal copyright laws apply to apps for cell phones and tablets, just as they do to other software, music and writings. These laws protect and encourage the hard work and ingenuity of software developers entering this growing and important part of our economy. We will continue to seize and shut down websites that market pirated apps, and to pursue those responsible for criminal charges if appropriate,” said U.S. Attorney Yates.
“The theft of intellectual property, particularly within the cyber arena, is a growing problem and one that cannot be ignored by the U.S government’s law enforcement community. These thefts cost companies millions of dollars and can even inhibit the development and implementation of new ideas and applications. The FBI, in working with its various corporate and government partners, is not only committed to combating such thefts but is well poised to coordinate with the many jurisdictions that are impacted by such activities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Lamkin.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 20th 2012 10:33am
from the double-standards dept
What's disappointing here is that, even though this is coming from the Motorola side of things, as far as I can tell, it's the first time that Google itself could be described as a patent aggressor. For a company that had been coming out vocally about just how broken the patent system was, and which seemed to be fighting the good fight on stopping such abuses of patents to block competition, this is disappointing.
Yes, it's typical for companies, as they get bigger, older and less innovative, to start becoming patent aggressors, but Google had kept away from doing so for a long time, and certainly appeared, publicly, to have no interest in going down this road. Combined with the company's recent decision to cave on copyright issues as well, it seems that Google is taking some dangerous steps around copyright and patent law -- both of which may go against its own long-term best interests.
Mon, Aug 6th 2012 8:05pm
from the threatening-innocent-bystanders dept
Wired tells the story of the Cory and Andrew Trese, two brothers who are the very epitome of indie developers, and how they have found themselves under attack by Google as a result of this crackdown. Let's be clear in saying that these guys are not pirates, they're not some mega-corporation, and they don't have time to fend off unnecessary attacks resulting from an overreaction to a non-problem:
"The Trese brothers are so indie, they don't even know it. Their games are marketed through a simple Blogspot blog and unpretentious older brother Cory Trese routes all of his regular email correspondence through the address of his wedding photography business. Trese Brothers titles like Star Traders and Templar Assault might not feature cutting-edge graphics or revolutionary gameplay, but the ambitious scope of their games and steadfast dedication to constantly improving them has won them a small but loyal following. With a growing reputation for floating above the needs and desires of everyday people, Google's relationship with salt-of-the-earth devs like the the Trese Brothers are exactly the sort they ought to be cultivating. Instead, Google is about to chase the Treses off of their platform."
These are the good guys. The small-business types working overtime everyone likes to talk about. But when Google recently brought their app store under more strict control, allowing them to be more heavy-handed in what they allow on the platform, the Trese brothers began getting messages saying that they were somehow in violation and their apps would be dropped from the store.
"Cory Trese started receiving seemingly-automated emails from Google last week, informing him that he and his brother's games were violating the spam provisions of the new developer terms and conditions. Trese was dumbstruck.
"I was terrified, frankly," Trese told me. "I started trying to figure out how we got flagged. Maybe we update too often.""
It should be pointed out that the notion that frequent updates triggered the spam notice from Google is pure speculation...because as Google is now tasked with aggressively policing their app store, they're finding less time to respond to app developers questions via email or the support message board. The Trese brothers have been trying to get a response to no avail as of the time of this writing.
And this is the problem with a shotgun approach in responding to perceived issues with piracy on platforms: you end up taking out innocent bystanders in the process. We saw it with Megaupload, where artists and users used the service legitimately but were caught in the DOJ's ocean-spanning shotgun attack. We see it every time bit torrent technology is attacked, despite artists and users that also use it legitimately. Actions taken against perceived piracy problems need a scalpel approach, so that innocents like the Trese brothers don't have their creative output stifled.
Update: Commentors and Cory Trese himself stepped into the comments section to add some further clarification. It appears that the issue had to do with keywords in the description of Trese's games that still coincide with Google's tightening the ropes on their app store (thanks for the comments, guys!). Bottom line, it would appear that there is still some heavy-handedness and a lack of communication with app developers in this case, though Cory did say that Google reached out to them once news of this had got out.
Fri, Aug 3rd 2012 12:20pm
from the and-several-other-wrong-statements,-too dept
Matt Gemmell is an accomplished developer. His "About Me" page on his site says he's "an iOS (iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) and Mac OS X (Cocoa) developer and user experience/interface designer, based in Edinburgh, Scotland." And, holy balls, does he hate the Android OS. After beginning a blog post entitled "Closed For Business" with an anecdote about some unnamed friend of his, the chief argument he makes is that the Android OS was designed specifically for piracy. He begins by comparing exactly the wrong things for the conclusion he wants to reach:
"Buying an app on the Android Market is substantially similar to how you buys [sic] apps on iOS: you search, find the app, click Buy, confirm, and it downloads. It’s not an unduly onerous process, and certainly not a barrier to the business model. This isn’t piracy due to frustration."See, he's comparing the process for getting the app through the Android marketplace to getting it through the iOS marketplace and then concluding that frustration isn't the reason for piracy. To do this, you have to ignore that "piracy" may be more convenient than either app store and that Android users and iOS users may not be equal—and also pretend that the only way to make money from an app is via direct charge for the download, and that all of these things mean that the platform is to blame because Android is "open". Whatever, let's move on to where he states that developers selling their apps for 99 cents are trivializing the marketplace.
"Shame on you for pricing at $0.99 to chase the kind of customers who, well, think a dollar is anything but a trivial, throwaway amount of money that won’t even remotely get you a reasonable cup of coffee. Get some self-respect. Quit encouraging bad behaviour, and ruining the party for everyone else."If I'm reading that right, and I can't see how else to read it, now Gemmell is saying that not only is piracy bad, but buying 99-cent apps is bad too! As a consumer, I'm confused as to what good behavior might be at this point, other than resolutely smashing my smartphone to bits and getting one of those big rotary style deals installed on my kitchen wall.
So, just to keep score, the argument here so far is that the reason for endemic piracy on Android phones is not frustration due to inconvenience of the marketplace and price. Then he says this:
"Instead, this was the endemic casual piracy of convenience."Which is where normally my head would explode like that dude from Scanners, except I've been doing neck exercises just to prepare for this inevitable moment. Apparently convenience plays no part in piracy except when it does. Awesome. We then get the first iteration of the hard line approach to Google's OS:
"The system is designed for piracy from the ground up. The existence of piracy isn’t a surprise, but rather an inevitability."Yes, you read that correctly. Unbeknownst to us, Google designed their mobile operating system—from the ground up, mind you—specifically for piracy. That's the kind of sentence that you shouldn't think about for more than five seconds or blood will shoot out your nose and you'll wake up in an emergency room being prepped for "get the stupid out of your head" surgery.
Gemmell then goes on to explain that the reason piracy is easy is due to a "broken business model." This may make you think that this story is going to have a good ending. But he's not talking about the developers' business models, rather that of the Android OS, which is apparently so broken that it's the best-selling mobile OS on the market:
"You can say what you like about handset share, or first-party/carrier development: that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Another piece is community contributions to the OS codebase. On the first point, iOS devices are doing just fine. On the second, a closed OS has only strengthened the brand, cohesion of direction, integration, usability and design standard of the product. The third factor is the software ecosystem...To have apps, you need developers. To have developers, you need enthusiasm and an investment of time and talent. Enthusiasm and effort can be driven by many motivations, but the most reliable and consistent of those is money. Yes, there it is: the m-word. It’s not a dirty word. You wouldn’t have your shiny handset without it, not because you wouldn’t have been able to afford it, but because it wouldn’t exist."This is nothing but a strawman. iOS is in second place in adoption, which may be "doing just fine," but isn't an argument against Android. And while some folks like the cohesion of Apple's closed system, arguing for Apple in terms of community contributions to the OS codebase is an odd stance against an open OS like Android. Finally, who is suggesting that "money" is a dirty word, or that developers shouldn't like bills and coins? If you answered "nobody," pat yourself on the back, because that's correct.
Then, after Gammell informs us that viewing advertisements is a form of "paying" for apps (because apparently that was a well-kept secret) he touts the benefits of having a "freedom from choice," which can alternatively be stated as a "freedom from freedom," which can then be stated as "bad Inception logic that makes no sense."
"No-one stops to consider that “choice” is maybe a bad word. Consider that for a moment. What would you like Windows to do with this USB key? Just show me the damned files. Do you want to be warned when you view a web page with mixed secure and insecure content? No, go away. Do you want to pick the font for this text-editing field? No, just use a sensible default. Do you want a lot of after-market crap popping up on the desktop of your new PC? No, I want an experience I’m familiar with."Um, so just to run through his examples: 1. When my OS recognizes my USB stick, it asks me how I want to view those files (a window, a slideshow, media player, etc.) and apparently that choice is bad for me; 2. Hell yes I want to know if there's content on a web page that's unsecure, but apparently letting me choose to proceed or not is akin to puppy-murder; 3. Sure my word processor has a default font, but I also can choose to change that font at any time, which apparently sucks; and 4. I always have the choice of uninstalling the after-market stuff on my new PC and that's somehow a bad thing. Honestly...I just don't get his point.
We then get to his solution, which is to lock up the Android OS -- which Google built specifically to promote both piracy and quite possibly National Socialism -- just like iOS because the app business is hard and stuff.
"You can’t reliably have that revenue stream if the platform itself and the damaged philosophy behind it actively sabotages commerce. If you want a platform to be commercially viable for third-party software developers, you have to lock it down."Except that Android isn't actively seeking to sabotage commerce. The very notion is absurd. There are plenty of ways Android app developers can and do make money. If Android was everything Gammell says it is, there wouldn't be more apps in its marketplace than there is for iOS. And the idea that Google has to lock their OS down so that app developers don't have to think is...you know what? I can't come up with a phrase or analogy to properly convey how mind-bendingly screwed up such thinking is.
Never do the other ways to make money as a developer (connect with your fans so they'll want to buy from you, offer in-app purchases, advertising models that work, etc.) seem to enter the equation. No, we're just told that Android is built for piracy, that only iOS can offer you a comparatively sound way to make money via app development (despite at least some anecdotal evidence to the contrary), and none of this has to do with developers recognizing the difference between the two platforms, their users, and how their business models should differ between platforms. And apparently Google should do this to Android despite it being the leading mobile OS on the market.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 19th 2012 10:33am
from the fair-use? dept
I need a little bit help with my book stuff and thought to ask it from all of you awesome people here at G+. I'm in a bit difficult situation in the finishing it. I have been in belief that using screenshots of apps as examples of the platform functionality is covered under fair use but apparently I was wrong.He then lists out 22 apps (down to 21 once he got permission from one):
So now I need to acquire permission to use screenshot of different apps I've used so I can keep them in. So if you or someone you know are the copyright holder of any of the following brands / apps or know who to contact please let me know.
* Google android appsHe notes that all of the screenshots are used as examples of good UI design and are clearly credited. In other words, in each case, the app is portrayed positively.
* SPB Shell 3D (by SPB Software)
* SlideIT Keyboard (by DASUR LTD.)
* Siine Keyboard (by Siine Ltd)
* GO Launcher (by GO LAUNCHER DEV TEAM)
* Evernote android apps
* Twitter android app
* Gameloft android apps
* Tiny Flashlight + LED (by Nikolay Ananiev)
* Able Remote (by ENTERTAILION LLC)
* TED (by TED Conferences)
* Gigbeat - Concerts (by GIGBEAT, INC.)
* TouristEye - Travel Guide (by Tourist Eye)
* Winamp android app
* Pulse News (by ALPHONSO LABS)
* Songkick Concerts (by SONGKICK.COM, INC.)
* Prixing - Scanner & comparer (by PRIXING)
* Catch Notes Notepad (by Catch.com)
* Sony, Android skin
* Samsung, Android skin
* HTC, Android skin
[edit: removed the ones I'm already in contact with. Thank you!]
Here's the thing: he should be pissed off at Wiley for totally failing him as a publisher and being obnoxiously unwilling to stand up for their author. Using screenshots in this manner is fair use. No question. I can't see how any intellectually honest person could go through the four factor test and not find that using screenshots in a book like this are fair use. Wiley should back up their author, but they don't, because they're too scared of a lawsuit and apparently don't have the guts to stand up for fair use rights. It's shameful, and should be a warning to any author not to sign on with Wiley. Why bother signing on with a publisher who makes you go through a silly wasteful exercise like this?
In fact, I'd imagine that many of the app developers are similarly inconvenienced by this process of now having to give Juhani permission. Of course they want their apps featured, but now they have to fill out some sort of release or license just to make Wiley's lawyers happy. This process inconveniences absolutely everyone. Wiley should be ashamed.