by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 12th 2012 3:21am
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 30th 2012 3:59pm
from the of-course dept
However, the damages phase of the case was set to go to trial in the spring, and it would have (1) revealed an awful lot about the blackbox of Universal Music's accounting practices and (2) given a roadmap for the many other similar lawsuits against Universal Music (and the other major labels). Given that, it should come as no surprise that Universal Music scrambled to come up with a way to get FBT to settle... with the terms of the settlement being secret. This almost certainly means that UMG paid through the nose, with the hope that it makes it more difficult for other artists to get similar rewards, and while allowing Universal to keep its secrets secret... for now.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 9th 2012 11:33am
Copyright Maximalists Can't Help But Inject Bogus 'Copyright Wins!' Argument Into Google/Publisher Settlement
from the seriously? dept
"Today's news not only further establishes the value of copyright, but also points to the importance of working with rightsholders when undertaking mass digitization. Collaboration is key when it comes to copyright."First of all, nothing in the seven-year fight or the settlement helped to "establish the value of copyright." Quite the contrary. It seemed to show what a disaster copyright is today in that it could be used to delay the creation of an amazing resource for the world through highly questionable copyright claims. As for the argument that it's important to "work with" rightsholders when doing things like this, that too is misleading. All it showed is how those rightsholders can hold up the useful creation of such a resource -- and highlight why "permission society" is holding back innovation and better tools for learning and education.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 6th 2012 12:12pm
Judge Quickly Approves Ebook Pricing Settlement; Says It's In The Public Interest To Stop Price Fixing
from the will-prices-drop? dept
- They must terminate their Agency Agreements with Apple within seven days after entry of the proposed Final Judgment.
- They must terminate those contracts with e-book retailers that contain either a) a restriction on the e-book retailer’s ability to set the retail price of any e-book, or b) a “Price MFN,” as defined in the proposed Final Judgment, as soon as each contract permits starting thirty days after entry of the proposed Final Judgment.
- For at least two years, they may not agree to any new contract with an e-book retailer that restricts the retailer’s discretion over e-book pricing.
- For at least five years, they may not enter into an agreement with an e-book retailer that includes a Price MFN.
The Complaint and CIS provide a sufficient factual foundation as to the existence of a conspiracy to raise, fix, and stabilize the retail price for newly-released and bestselling trade e-books, to end retail price competition among trade e-books retailers, and to limit retail price competition among the Publisher Defendants. Although the Government did not submit any economic studies to support its allegations, such studies are unnecessary. The Complaint alleges a straightforward, horizontal price-fixing conspiracy, which is per se unlawful under the Sherman Act.... The Complaint also details the defendants’ public statements, conversations, and meetings as evidence of the existence of the conspiracy. The decree is directed narrowly towards undoing the price-fixing conspiracy, ensuring that price-fixing does not immediately reemerge, and ensuring compliance. Based on the factual allegations in the Complaint and CIS, it is reasonable to conclude that these remedies will result in a return to the pre-conspiracy status quo. In this straightforward price-fixing case, no further showing is required.Because of this, Cote rejects the idea of any evidentiary hearing and just approves the deal. She notes that due to tons and tons of public comments that were allowed in the case, she is quite well informed of the issues and sees no additional benefit from such a hearing:
It is not necessary to hold an evidentiary hearing before approving the decree. Given the voluminous submissions from the public and the non-settling parties, which describe and debate the nature of the alleged collusion and the wisdom and likely impact of settlement terms in great detail, as well as the detailed factual allegations in the Complaint, the Court is well-equipped to rule on these matters. A hearing would serve only to delay the proceedings unnecessarily.She does try to summarize the comments against the settlement into four broad categories: (1) that the settlement would harm third party players like indie book stores, indie ebook retailers, indie publishers and authors, (2) that the settlement is "unworkable," (3) that there weren't enough facts to support the price fixing claim, (4) that the impact of such price fixing was actually pro-competition, in that it broke up Amazon's market dominance. She then breaks down each of these arguments to show why none of them apply and the settlement should move forward.
I won't go through all four issues, but I would like to focus on the two that get the most attention, the first and the last. On the first issue, she points out that antitrust law is not designed to protect businesses from the working of the market, but to protect the public from the failure of the market. If the settlement causes some businesses to suffer, but it's in the public interest, there is no problem there.
If unfettered e-books retail competition will add substantially to the competitive pressures on physical bookstores, or if smaller e-book retailers are unable to compete with Amazon on price, these are not reasons to decline to enter the proposed Final Judgment.As for the last issue (breaking up Amazon's dominance), she notes that it was "perhaps the most forceful species of criticism" but still does not find it persuasive here. The court more or less notes that Amazon's market position isn't on trial, and its use of wholesale pricing does not equal price fixing, as some have alleged. Nor does it show "predatory" pricing, which was a key complaint. The problem there: the evidence showed that Amazon was "consistently profitable." And, to show predatory pricing, "one must prove more than simply pricing below an appropriate measure of cost" but also that the company will jack up prices down the road. And all of the comments failed to do that:
None of the comments demonstrate that either condition for predatory pricing by Amazon existed or will likely exist. Indeed, while the comments complain that Amazon’s $9.99 price for newly-released and bestselling e-books was “predatory,” none of them attempts to show that Amazon’s e-book prices as a whole were below its marginal costs.Oh, and finally, the court points out that swinging back the blame to Amazon is meaningless for the purpose of this case, anyway, because even if the court accepted that Amazon was price fixing too, that doesn't make it okay for the publishers to price fix themselves. Think of it as the "two wrongs don't make a right" rule.
Third, even if Amazon was engaged in predatory pricing, this is no excuse for unlawful price-fixing. Congress “has not permitted the age-old cry of ruinous competition and competitive evils to be a defense to price-fixing conspiracies.” ... The familiar mantra regarding “two wrongs” would seem to offer guidance in these circumstances.This probably does not bode well for the other publishers and Apple who are fighting the whole thing...
Thu, Aug 30th 2012 8:02pm
from the when-crime-does-eventual-pay dept
In a press release on this settlement, Connecticut AG George Jepson states that while it is fine for companies to seek profit, they shouldn't harm the public in the process.
While publishers are entitled to their profits, consumers are equally entitled to a fair and open marketplace. This settlement will provide restitution to those customers who were harmed by this price-fixing scheme, but it also will restore competition in the eBook market for consumers’ long-term benefit.By restoring competition in the market, these publishers agree to allow retailers pricing control of ebooks in the future. This could bring us back to $10 and below new releases that we have sorely missed.
While this settlement is getting underway, the settlement between these companies and the DOJ is still being reviewed. That may take a while as District Court Judge Denise Cote has 868 public comment letters to sift through. Hopefully, she can ignore the ignorant pleas of those opposed to the current settlement proposal and agree to a positive result. All that would be left is that actual lawsuit against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin which are all holding their ground that they did nothing wrong.
by Michael Ho
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Will Wright, the creator of SimCity, has imagined what the first Mars settlement might look like in 2047. A Martian town with a population of 8,000 inhabitants sounds somewhat unlikely in less than 50 years, but it might happen someday. [url]
- An open source Mars Simulator built in Java has been around since 1998. SimMars was never commercially released, so this open source project was the only game in town -- until the mod for SimCity 4. [url]
- FMARS is a simulated Mars habitat project, located near an impact crater on Devon Island. The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station was created by the non-profit Mars Society in 2000 -- and it would be cool if they rented it out on AirBnB... [url]
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 10th 2012 10:16am
Perfect 10 Case Against Google Dismissed (With Prejudice) After Court Asks Perfect 10 To Open Its Books
from the a-perfect-0 dept
As the TorrentFreak article linked above notes, Perfect 10 was so desperate to find some sort of evidence to use against Google, it offered $25,000 to anyone who could provide evidence that Google "aided or condoned copyright infringement." Considering how often we see people (especially in our own comments) insist that Google does this all the time, it sure seems like when it was time to present evidence no one could come up with a damn thing. And that's not surprising, because if you know anything about anything, you'd know that Google is actually pretty aggressive against infringement (sometimes over-aggressive) -- and contrary to the claims of people who seem to know nothing about online advertising, there's little money made in any advertising around infringement anyway.
What's more interesting is that, as TorrentFreak notes again, this sudden agreement to dismiss the case with prejudice comes after the court had ordered that Perfect 10 open up its books and "provide full insight into all internal communications regarding the court case." Given the accusations concerning Perfect 10's business practices (i.e., supposedly relying on such lawsuits as its business model), perhaps they felt it was better to keep that stuff from being revealed publicly.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Apr 9th 2012 11:10am
heartland payment systems
from the class-action-system-is-broken dept
Law professor Eric Goldman, who's spoken out about the broken class action system in the past, has another ridiculous example, this time involving Heartland Payment Systems. You may recall Heartland as being the company that had the largest security breach ever (at the time), losing data on over 100 million credit cards. A class action lawsuit (of course) followed, and Heartland agreed to pay up to anyone who could show that they were a victim of fraud from the loss. The company didn't have cardholder addresses, so it spent $1.5 million to advertise the settlement, and estimated that over 80% of the potential class saw an ad at least 2.5 times. Either way, not too many claims came in. A total of 290 claims were made, but only 11 were found to be valid.
Heartland had to pay a maximum of $175 to those individuals. Assuming it did pay the maximum, that means the "victims" of the breach got a grand total of $1925 (perhaps less). According to the settlement agreement, Heartland was supposed to pay out at least $1 million to victims (and up to $2.4 million). If less than $1 million worth of victims were found, the rest would go to non-profit organizations focused on protecting consumer privacy rights. That leaves $998,075 for those non-profits.
So, let's summarize:
- Actual victims got: $1925
- Heartland spent $1.5 million to find the people to give out that $1925.
- Somewhere around $998,075 goes to non-profits
- The lawyers who brought the lawsuit? They got $606,192.50. For helping 11 people get less than $200 each. Nice work if you can get it.
As Goldman notes, the whole thing seems bizarre:
Thus, it appears they spent over $130,000 to generate each legitimate claim. Surprisingly, the court blithely treats the $1.5M expenditure as a cost of doing business, but I can't wrap my head around it. What an obscene waste of money! Add in the $270k spent on claims administration, and it appears that the parties spent $160k per legitimate claimant. The court isn't bothered by the $270k expenses either, even though that cost about $1k per tendered claim (remember, there were 290 total claims).Something is broken with the system.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 23rd 2011 1:49pm
digital rights corp
from the price-is-dropping,-but-it's-automated dept
However, now it appears the company is getting some press coverage, and indeed claims that lots of ISPs have been passing on its "pay up" letters. The company says it has no plans to sue at all. It's sort of a new tactic in copyright trolling: just send a bill and get the ISP to pass it along. The $10 per infringement is certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than what copyright trolls have asked for in the past. And, of course, the reason this system works is it's mostly automated. They put together a list of IP addresses that they assume are infringing, send it to the ISP, and get the ISP to pass along the demands for cash. Two ISPs who have refused have been taken to court (but no individuals have been taken to court).
I do wonder how many people actually pay up when receiving such a letter -- probably a pretty good number, even if there's no legal basis for them to do so. Either way, it seems like the latest evolution in copyright trolling. Don't file lawsuits, but automate, and keep the amounts low to try to make it up in volume.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 19th 2011 12:18pm