Technology and Business Law Blog

Out of RIAA’s Clutches

Lawyers and other activists who have been fighting RIAA’s litigation tactics to threaten and fleece music lovers have been advocating a voluntary blanket licensing which will be a small payment each month (about $5.00) collected by the Internet service provider for which in turn any amount of music can be downloaded without being accused of indulging in piracy of music. RIAA seems to thawing to this suggestion, this will enable anyone who wants to enjoy all the music they want and there will be no one watching over their shoulder. This payment enforcement is a double edged sword since, even though it frees up courts and saves time and money, it is a burden on people who don’t download music and it is a form of compulsory tax.

I think the better solution will be a slightly higher payment by people who want to download music and not force everyone to pay. Here is an another solution suggested in this article, at http://www.slate.com/id/2189888/pagenum/2/

“What plan will work best for music lovers and artists? Instead of a fake music tax, the best solution might be—sorry, libertarians—for the government to step in with a real music tax. In the book Promises To Keep: Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment, Harvard Law School professor William Fisher devised an ingenious reward system that levels the playing field for artists. At first glance, it looks a lot like the music biz extortion scheme. The feds would levy a small tax on all broadband subscribers. Musicians, signed and unsigned, would register their creations with the U.S. Copyright Office, who would then set up a massive Nielsen-style sample of music listeners to track the popularity of different songs. The more your song is played, the more you get paid. The revenue from the tax would be parceled out to the copyright holders.

The beauty of this approach is that it has the potential to cut out middlemen like Steve Jobs and the fat-cat record execs. My a cappella version of “Chocolate Rain” would have as much chance of making it as “Purple Rain,” at least in theory. When the costs of discovering new music are zero and artists are paid on the basis of how often songs are played, listeners are more adventurous and bands with dedicated followers can make as much scratch as bands that record big hits. Bands get paid, music lovers can listen to their hearts’ delight, and the record companies will slowly turn to dust. What’s not to like?”

April 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Bra Has Been Stolen

Continuing on the Intellectual property front, a women in is suing Victoria’s Secret stating that an idea and design for a bar that she had patented has been stolen by the famous lingerie brand, Victoria’s Secret. This makes interesting reading and viewing from the usual dull patent infringement issues one reads about.

Katerina Plew sued in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan, seeking unspecified triple damages (in-line with the triplets she had), and an order to force the company from infringing on her patent.  after discovering a display for the company’s “Very Sexy 100-Way Strapless Convertible Bra” saying Victoria’s Secret infringed her May 2004 patent and knew about the patent since at least April 2006.

Frank Joseph Colucci, a lawyer for Victoria’s Secret, did not immediately return a telephone message for comment on the lawsuit. Read here. Charles von Simson, Ms Plew’s lawyer, says that his client stands out from the usual inventor. “Everybody sits on the couch and says, ‘I have an idea’ and sees it a year later and says ‘that’s mine’,” he said.

This women deserves her day in court, for not only did she came up with the idea, but went ahead and spent about $12,000 to patent the product and develop a prototype and it would be totally unfair if a big company just came along and marketed it just because they had the ability to do so, when she was looking to find someone to finance her invention.

April 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fair or Unfair Use, a Copyright Issue?

J.K. Rowling a single mother on welfare who completed her first Harry Potter novel in numerous cafes in London is now a billionaire and the 13th richest woman in Britain. She became a billionaire because of the runaway success of the Harry Potter series novels and the movies and merchandise that came along related to the novels.

Rowling along with Warner Bros which owns the trademarks to the Harry Potter movies and merchandise filed a copyright infringement suit against RDR books which is a small closely held independent publisher based in Muskegon, Michigan. Initially Rowling was all in praise of Steve Vander Ark, who runs the Harry Potter fan site called hp-lexicon.org, and said she she has even used it herself few times.

So it was a surprising departure for Rowling, who has encouraged so-called “fan fiction” and once said there is nothing wrong withpeople writing new stories for her characters, to share withfriends.The author and her lawyers said they were stirred to action by the proposal to move the Potter lexicon from the anything-goes Web, where it was available for free, into book form, where it would compete directly with a Potter encyclopedia that Rowling plans to write herself. In short, by deciding to sell his material, Vander Ark was stepping across a line. He was no longer just an enthusiastic fan, but a professional and potential competitor — fair game for the lawyers. Read here.

Last year when Vander Ark entered into an agreement with RDRBooks to publish the lexicon in print in exchange for a small advance, Rowling filed the suit stating that she intends to write her own “definitive guide” and will donate the royalties to charity. She feels that her plans to go ahead with her own guide will be harmed if RDR Books publishes Steve Vander Ark’s book.

The lawyer for the defendent is Anthony Falzone who runs the “Fair Use Project” at Stanford law school. Fair use is a defense not cast in stone and is decided on a case to case basis, Judge Robert Patterson, Jr., of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan has urged the parties to enter into a settlement saying that he was concerned that the case wasw “more lawyer-driven than it is client-driven.” The judge further said “The fair -use people are on one side, and a large comppany is on the other side… The parties ought to see if there’s not a way to work thsi out, because there are strong issues to this case and it would come out one way or the other. The fair-use doctrine is not clear.”

April 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Communicate by Text Messaging

You want to level with your kids, or have them think you are cool, get on the fast moving tech train. Kids live in a tech savvy world and to be able to communicate with them you need to scramble along and try to keep up with them at least at the periphery of their world of technology. As I had mentioned once earlier kids nowadays are wired at birth and so they might always be at least one step ahead of us in the tech game.

They spend most of their time with some sort of gadget and most of their interactions with friends and others are more in remote mode than in person. Nowadays with almost ever teenager or even preteen having a cell phone, mostly mom’s are getting into the text messaging band wagon and have began to communicate with their kids via text messages on the day to day activities and to keep track of schedules , kids get the message and use the same mode to get back. Read here. Now I better hurry up and get good at text messaging before my son becomes a teen and I almost forgot and the lingo to go along with it too!

When this become their way of life then every kid needs to have a cell phone and the communication channels of just good old talking is bound to get curtailed and will soon make us wonder as to what happened to having an eye ball to eye ball conversation, and not an eye ball to an LCD screen.

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Three Indian Americans among top drawing 200 CEOs in U.S.

Here is some interesting reading, which apparently is from the New York Times, but reported in the Silicon India website. It says three Indian Americans are among the 200 CEOs of large public companies who received an average of over $11 million compensation in 2007. Besides Indra Nooyi and Vikram Pandit, Rajiv L. Gupta of Rohm and Haas is one of them. Read here.

The compensations do not seem sky high, but still is a notable milestone.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can RIAA Stop File Sharing by Launching Lawsuits?

Last week on April 7th, an article of mine titled “Recording Industry Should Strategize, Not Sue, Over File Sharing” was published in the San Francisco Daily Journal in the Forum column, which more or less is an opinion section on a topic.

In essence what the article stated was that  RIAA’s methodology of suing all and sundry and launching a massive litigation campaign has not produced the desired results and file sharing if anything has only increased. In fact people like me who don’t necessarily advocate Internet piracy are taking a stand agains RIAA, because they don’t agree with the way RIAA, which is made up of a handful of large recording companies has been and continues to intimidate ordinary people who don’t understand the issues involved and what they are being sent a demand notice for. RIAA gets these people to cough up the money by settling out of court and then funneling the money collected back to sending demand notices to more people, and none of the money is given to the artists themselves or used to help out smaller recording companies.

People who are against file sharing state that it is similar to stealing a CD from a store, now this argument is based on legal and moral grounds, but what is moral to someone is immoral to someone else, it is real subjective. Looking at the legal standars the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted way before the digital era and application of the pre-Internet day law to today’s issues is outdated and the Act by itself needs to be rewritten keeping in mind the technologies of this era.

Professor Larry Lessig the founder of Creative Commons and a law professor at Stanford law school in his book titled ‘Free Culture’ states that “creativity depends upon the owners of creativity having less than perfect control.” Today’s age is  the age of copyright infringement and the traditional rules of copyright do not apply to this new culture and peer to peer sharing is an off shoot of athis age of copyright infringement.

What basically RIAA is fighting for is control– control over money and control over the artist’s work and it is humbug to say that it is fighting Internet piracy for in tthe earlier days when the cassette recorder came along RIAA was totally oppossed to it and wanted the blank tapes to be taxed.

In any event, file sharing or music swapping is not going to stop either through the Internet or by other physical means of sharing hard drives, burning CD’s etc, so if RIAA really wants to stop the piracy of music then it would participate in earnest and enter into negotiations to establish an alternative licensing system which would legalize file sharing.

April 8, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Eves Dropping into our Online Activities

I have written before about our online activities being monitored with the help of cookies that track our movements in the cyber world in one of my earlier posts. Now, according to this article in the washington post online surveillance is being taken a step further and the new monitoring, known as “deep-packet inspection,” enables a far wider view — every Web page visited, every e-mail sent and every search entered. Every bit of data is divided into packets — like electronic envelopes — that the system can access and analyze for content.

Online advertising and targeting a consumer based on their personal needs, preferences and consumption habits and behaviour patterns is lot more lucrative than blindly bombarding them with ads for new products. To target a consumer on a more one on one personalized basis a lot more information about the individual is needed and one way of doing that is to follow them around while they go about their lives in the online world and find out more about the individual’s preferences.

Every time we give out personal information we are assured that the information will be kept confidential and will not be given to third parties but sooner or later the information is passed on or how else are we flooded with junk mail, spam and relentless marketing calls? There is too much money to be made by selling our private confidential information to vendors of products, we have to be really naive to believe it when we are told that our information will not be given out.

When Internet providers have access or track every keystroke that we make then, critics liken it to a phone company listening in on conversations.

But the above article is not about we giving out information and that being passed on but it is about us being tracked without us knowing about it, that is without our consent, and if any of the vendors do get consent it is sandwiched in between long agreements that the consumer normally finds too complicated to comprehend or just has no choice but to agree to it if they want to go ahead with the transaction or utilize the services.

Such privacy measures aside, however, consumer advocates questioned whether monitored users are properly informed about the practice.

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment