Amazon Cloud Player Outsmarts The Music Industry

It’s not even 24 hours after the official release of Amazon Cloud Player and Amazon is immediately being hit by the major music companies saying that this cloud player breaks their copyright holds on the music. It seems that, almost as immediately as these accusations have surfaced, Amazon is ready with a rebuttal.

“Cloud Player is an application that lets customers manage and play their own music. It’s like any number of existing media management applications. We do not need a license to make Cloud Player available.” Amazon spokesperson Cat Griffin said. The original download licenses should still apply and no new licenses are necessary — this is a seemingly logical conclusion that the record industry disagrees with.

This Cloud Drive and Cloud Player service, released yesterday, offers US-based Amazon customers 5 GB of free online storage to use for whatever they want. If they buy an album from Amazon MP3, they get an extra bonus of 20 GB of storage for the year. All Amazon MP3 purchases are automatically synced to the user’s Cloud Drive without going against their storage limit. Users can only stream their music by the Cloud Player Android or Web-based app. They — and only they — are only allowed to stream their music that they upload.

I wondered how Amazon managed to land a deal with record labels to license the music, given that Apple is trying to do the same thing and it is taking it time to work out the details. But, after a little digging, it seems that Amazon hasn’t made any deals with the record companies.

“The functionality of saving MP3s to Cloud Drive is the same as if a customer were to save their music to an external hard drive or even iTunes.” Cat Griffin said in a statement, which is true when only one customer has access to a drive and it is not public. It seems to be a valid argument.

The music industry seems to disagree with everything that Amazon is saying. With regards to Cloud Player, it doesn’t like how it operates. The licensing companies say that they are keeping their legal options open and hoping to strike a licensing deal with Amazon.

“I’ve never seen a company of its size make an announcement, launch a service, and simultaneously say it’s trying to get licenses,” the anonymous exec said. It seems that Amazon was allegedly starting to address licensing issues but instead of making those agreements it put it off to the side and never came back to the issue.

EMI, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music have not made any public statement at this time. So it is unclear if Amazon secured any rights before launching. But, based on Amazon’s comments, it does not seem that Amazon is currently holding any licenses with the record labels.

Amazon has seemed to call the music industry’s bluff that new licenses are necessary when users stream their own music, and this definitely won’t be the last we hear of it.

Microsoft Sues Barnes & Noble Over Android

Earlier today Microsoft announced that it has filed a formal lawsuit against Barnes & Noble because of a patent infringement related to its Android-based Nook e-reader. Related to that, Microsoft is also taking legal action against Inventec and Foxconn, who manufacture the Nook e-reader.

The cause over this issue resides over certain aspects of the Android user experience. Microsoft was reluctant on certain issues but only mentioned “natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need, surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books” were owned and patented by Microsoft.

Usually instead of going after everybody and their mother, Microsoft typically lets them sign a patent licensing agreement. This brings us back to about this time last year when Microsoft and HTC entered a licensing deal that covers its Android devices. In return, HTC agreed to pay Microsoft royalty fees yearly.

The special deal with Barnes & Noble’s e-reader has to do with the custom version of Android that it runs. The custom operating system is manufactured by Inventec and Foxconn, who build the complete device. Reports say that Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec haven’t signed a licensing deal and negotiations with the companies have come to a grinding halt. Apparently Microsoft has gotten fed up with the companies and decided legal action is the right choice.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Horacio Gutierrez said: “We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market.”

This is not the first and certainly not the last time Microsoft is suing a device manufacturer over the Android operating system. It is a very strict deal between Microsoft and Android and it doesn’t want to lose what gives it the upper hand in the mobile market.

China Makes Skype Illegal

In a long line of Chinese censorship acts we can now add VOIP clients to the list. Skype and other non-Chinese government approved VOIP applications are effectively illegal for use inside of China. Essentially, all VOIP programs, except made by China Telecom and China Unicom, are not to be used within the Chinese state.

The official face for the Communist party, People’s Daily reported in a news article that it is “expected to make services like Skype unavailable in the country.” VOIP services are just the next in line to get censored in China. Websites like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook are already blocked in China. Google has even closed down its Chinese based server last year after bombardment from the government.

The current Skype service around China seems spotty, with some Twitter users reporting that the service is blocked, but some in Shanghai who are still actively using it.

For the time being Skype can still be used through their Chinese counterpart

Microsoft Goes After Motorola Over Android

Today, Microsoft filed a law suit with the International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court against Motorola, Inc. Microsoft claims that Motorola has violated nine of its patents for its Android-based smartphones, which include the Droid series of phones.

Microsoft claims that Motorola’s process of synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power, violate patents that are held by Microsoft.

Continue reading “Microsoft Goes After Motorola Over Android”

Could Economics Solve The Prison Crisis?

There should be an image here!Prison numbers in England and Wales have risen sharply in the last decade, and are set to rise further. A study out today in the Probation Journal published by SAGE suggests that economists have a unique opportunity to help solve the prison crisis by bringing sophisticated economic modelling techniques to bear on the problem.

Chris Fox and Kevin Albertson from Manchester Metropolitan University contend that during the last decade, penal policy allowed many opportunities to harness the latest analytical research to optimise public spending slip away. In their paper Could economics solve the prison crisis? they argue that a new approach is possible, driven not only by moral or social concerns about actual and perceived crime rates and a high prison population, but also informed by economic analysis and argument. The current economic climate makes their position hard to ignore.

According to Fox and Albertson, there is scant evidence society will benefit from locking up ever more criminals. Crime rates have fallen, but the link between rising numbers in prison and lower crime rates is debatable; hikes in prison numbers are likely only responsible for a small drop in crime.

Since 1997, economic analyses of the options for England and Wales when developing criminal justice policy and penal policy grown in reach and volume, partly led by government actions or policy. “But for every step forward in developing penal policy based on socio/economic analysis, at times it seems government takes at least one and sometimes more steps back,” says Fox.

The authors argue that the last decade’s important developments cover a broad range of factors including aspects of the policy debate on sentencing; the government’s commitment to evidence-based policy; investment in the economics profession across government; and the rise of the Justice Reinvestment movement, particularly in the USA.

However, these promising developments, underpinned by clearly articulated economic principles, were superseded by more recent government policy. Prison numbers have remained extremely high. As of January 2010 the prison population was 83,378, according to HM Prison Service.

One stumbling block to the greater use of economic analysis of criminal justice challenges is that, to date, the government has made only limited investment in commissioning robust impact studies of criminal justice policies and programmes. UK studies examining the effect of prison are in short supply. “The government has not, to the knowledge of the authors, commissioned and certainly hasn’t published any robust impact studies of the relative impact of privately and publicly managed prisons,” says Fox.

The authors urge the government to invest in more impact studies of key criminal justice interventions, particularly prison. They also want to see more cost-benefit analyses to inform policy, and continued capacity building, both within government and the wider research community, to undertake robust economic analyses of criminal justice policies and programmes.

Following the lead of the USA, they also suggest that Justice Reinvestment is an approach likely to lead to more effective criminal justice policies compared to incarceration for reducing re-offending, and at a lower cost. However, more work is required to transfer successfully the Justice Reinvestment model to a UK setting. In the USA, Justice Reinvestment has been implemented at State and County levels by a single body or elected official with responsibility for all the key services required to effect sustained reductions in offending and re-offending over a criminal career: from early preventative measures that target at risk individuals, families and communities through to interventions for persistent and prolific offenders. In the UK, relevant budgets for crime reduction and criminal justice are held by a number of different organisations and at different levels of government. Fox and Albertson contend that a radical suggestion worthy of investigation is to devolve budgets for custodial sentences to groups of local authorities. “A set of financial incentives would be hard for regional policy-makers to ignore,” Fox says, adding that, “a policy pursuing ‘more of the same’ is not reasonable.”

[Photo above by ralpe / CC BY-ND 2.0]

Jayne Fairley @ SAGE Publications UK

[awsbullet:Brendan Behan]

Google Suing Illegal Prescription Companies

Google is taking a big step out there and is filing a lawsuit against all the fake drug companies that have gotten their fake prescription ads through the Google ad system.  These companies claim that they can get you cheap prescription drugs, but in reality they are scamming you out of money and possibly giving you fake or illegal drugs.

In Google’s blog the company announced that it has officially filed a civil lawsuit against these advertisers. Google believes that the advertisers deliberately broke Google’s terms and others about obtaining and selling medication.

Google seems to be taking a bite out of an increasing market of scammers setting up fake pharmacies and selling illegal drugs. Now don’t be afraid because Google has set up a very fine filter to weed out ads like this, but on very rare occasions the one ad will slip through and cause damage before it is caught.

Google is doing its part in the world of scams and instead of creating filters to block it is actually going after the source. Google has stated in the article released that it will continually add offenders to the ever growing list in the lawsuit as it finds them.

HTC Disagrees With Apple’s Actions

HTC Corporation has outlined its disagreement with Apple’s legal actions and reiterated its commitment to creating a portfolio of innovative smartphones that gives consumers a variety of choices. Founded in 1997 with a passion for innovation and a vision for how smartphones would change people’s lives, HTC has continually driven this vision by consistently introducing award-winning smartphones with U.S. mobile operators.

“HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself. HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible,” said Peter Chou, chief executive officer, HTC Corporation. “From day one, HTC has focused on creating cutting-edge innovations that deliver unique value for people looking for a smartphone. In 1999 we started designing the XDA

The O2 XDA by HTC was the first 3.5-inch color touch screen smartphone in the world in 2002. and T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition The T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition by HTC was the first 3.5-inch color touch screen smartphone in the United States in 2002., our first touch-screen smartphones, and they both shipped in 2002 with more than 50 additional HTC smartphone models shipping since then.”

The industry has recognized HTC’s contributions through a variety of awards including Fast Company’s 2010 Top 50 Most Innovative Companies and MIT Technology Review’s 2010 50 Most Innovative Companies. The GSMA also recently awarded the HTC Hero as the “Best Phone of 2009.” Some of HTC’s technology firsts include:

  • First Windows PDA (1998)
  • First Windows Phone (June 2002)
  • First 3G CDMA EVDO smartphone (October 2005)
  • First gesture-based smartphone (June 2007)
  • First Google Android smartphone (October 2008)
  • First 4G WIMAX smartphone (November 2008)

In 2009, HTC launched its branded user experience, HTC Sense. HTC Sense is focused on putting people at the center by making phones work in a more simple and natural way. This experience was fundamentally based on listening and observing how people live and communicate.

“HTC has always taken a partnership-oriented, collaborative approach to business. This has led to long-standing strategic partnerships with the top software, Internet and wireless technology companies in the industry as well as the top U.S., European and Asian mobile operators,” said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of HTC America. “It is through these relationships that we have been able to deliver the world’s most diverse series of smartphones to an even more diverse group of people around the world, recognizing that customers have very different needs.”

For more information on HTC’s history of innovation, please visit this site.

Movie Studios Sue RealNetworks – DVD Copy

Once again the movie companies are out to stop copying of their DVD movies, this time suing RealNetworks. The studios claim that RealNetworks $30 software program, which allows the copying of movies, violates their rights to protect the movies. RealNetworks claims that their software does not infringe on the studios rights and that they have complied with studio standards. In an article from the New York Times, it also states that:

RealNetworks, the company behind RealPlayer software and the Rhapsody music subscription service, said RealDVD gives users the freedom to do things like make backup copies of favorite discs or take movies along on a laptop while traveling. It has argued that RealDVD is now legal because of a favorable decision last year in a case against Kaleidescape, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-end media servers.

RealNetworks also said that RealDVD conforms to Hollywood’s rules on DVD protection by encrypting the digital copies, which prevents unlawful online file sharing.

“We are disappointed that the movie industry is following in the footsteps of the music industry and trying to shut down advances in technology, rather than embracing changes that provide consumers with more value and flexibility for their purchases,” RealNetworks said in a statement Tuesday.

My opinion is that consumers should be allowed the right to copy their DVD’s and to make a backup copy of legally purchased movies. The movie industry has stated that this is not a right of the consumer. What do you think?

Comments welcome.


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Can You Legally Use A Vista Upgrade As A Clean Install?

Speculation is once again making its way around the Internet, that it may be legal to install a Vista Upgrade version as a clean install. One noted writer has posted several times in his newsletter that there is a ‘hole’ of sorts in the Vista operating system, that permits this. The thinking also goes that since Microsoft did not plug this gap, therefore it must be legal.

I believe most people realize that if they pull into a 7-11 and see a car with the engine running sitting empty, it does not indicate that the driver’s intent is for you to steal it. This is where common sense comes in.

Also Microsoft provides this statement in the Vista EULA:

13. UPGRADES. To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade. Upon upgrade, this agreement takes the place of the agreement for the software you upgraded from. After you upgrade, you may no longer use the software you upgraded from.

So you be the judge. Is it technically legal to do a clean install with a copy of Vista intended as an upgrade?

Comments welcome.

Microsoft Vista Licensing Agreement is here.

[tags]vista, upgrade, clean, install, legal, eula, opinion, [/tags]

Qtrax – Free & Legal Music Downloads

There is a new kid on the block which is still in beta form and calls itself Qtrax. According to their web site they are offering free and legal music downloads. On their site they state:

Qtrax is the world’s first free and legal peer-to-peer (P2P) digital music site. Music lovers can discover new music and legally download full-length, high-quality versions of their favorite songs while compensating both the artists and the record labels through non-intrusive and relevant advertising. Qtrax has the unparalleled support of the major record labels and all of their respective publishing divisions. Qtrax and its components are developed by LTDnetwork Inc. a division of Brilliant Technologies Corporation.

They also boast of not having any spyware,  spoofing or adware. In addition they state they have a database of some 25 million songs.

This may be a way to get free music without the fear of the record company showing up at your house with a bug fat lawsuit in hand. :-)

Comments welcome.

Qtrax site is located here.

[tags]free, music, downloads, adware, spyware, spoofing, legal,  [/tags]

RIAA – Making Its Own Copyright Rules

The RIAA [Record Industry Association of America], seems to be adding some new rules to its interpretation of copyright laws and how the laws should be enforced. The Washington Post is reporting that an individual has received a poison pen letter from the RIAA which indicates what he is doing to be illegal. Seems that this person has stored some 2,000 music files on his computer, which he has legally purchased. The RIAA contends that even copying music files from say a CD over to your computer violates copyright law.

The RIAA seems to be stretching the copyright law in its favor. I’m no legal scholar but after reading about all of the lawsuits that the RIAA has initiated against those who have illegally either downloaded or copied and sold music, it would appear that this is its legal right. Not going after folks who are only protecting their investment.

CDs and DVDs are fragile recording media that are susceptible to scratching and other hazards. To me it makes perfect sense, both from a monetary and what I believe is a legal view, to make backup copies of any media you purchase with your own hard earned money. But it seems that the RIAA has a different opinion on what should be legal, what is legal and what you do as to whether it is legal or not.

It would seem that it is time to get a final, final from the Supremes and to clear the air and to determine what is legal and what is not. It would seem that some common sense is needed in determining the rights of the RIAA and the rights of the consumer.

What do you think?

Comments welcome

Full story is here.

[tags]riaa, court, copyrighted, law, interruption, legal, not legal, copy, cd, dvd, musci, [/tags]

SCO Finally Loses Legal Challange Directed Towards Unix & Linux

Good news. The SCO group has finally lost their ridiculous claims that they owned Unix. A federal judge has ruled that Novell is the rightful owner and that SCO should drops all claims including the ones against IBM as well. This legal battle started back in 2004 when the yo-yo CEO of SCO claimed that his company owned Unix and that everyone in the world was violating his IP rights. To add fuel to the fire, Microsoft had given SCO countless millions to what everyone thought was nothing more than bribe money, to finance their legal challenges.

SCO had also alleged that since they owned Unix, they would also be able to prove that Linux also violated their IP rights. This ruling will also kill those claims as well. Hopefully this will make those in the Linux community breathe a sigh of relief as well.  Now we will have to see if Linux will also be safe from the claims that Microsoft is making also alleging IP rights violations as well.

What is also nice to see is that the stock shares of SCO have gone from a high of $17 a share in 2003 to a new low of a $1.13 a share as of last Friday. :-) I sincerely hope that the SCO group folds up shop and withers away in the wind.

Comments welcome.

[tags]sco, novell, unix, linux, legal, battle, [/tags]

Grabbing A Fair Use Loophole And Beating The Snot Out Of It!

I have to admit, this is not something that I had planned on talking about today. Initially, it was just going to be about this. Yeah, Home Depot selling computers, what’s next? Adequate staffing? With all seriousness folks, today I present to you something that I have claimed was coming. Today, you can legally purchase music from a music store and actually purchase songs from popular, mainstream bands…. without any DRM whatsoever.

What’s the catch? Well, in order to remain legal with distributing music according to the original agreement that this company reached with a major distribution group, one must purchase the CD, but they have immediate access to all of the songs purchase in 192kbps quality. I assume the CD is then shipped to you later. Who is behind this ground breaking concept? Why, the man running Linspire – Michael Robertson.

Obviously, I already have my credit card out and am making selections to support what I see being a very important step forward away from this music DRM nonsense. After all, I want to see the artists getting paid! And the fact remains that DRM sucks for everyone, not just those not using OS X or Windows. Special rules, renting your music — it’s all very silly in my eyes.

Unfortunately, the fanfare may have hit a speed bump. Because of some serious miscommunication, AnywhereCD has been forced to protect itself by taking legal action against distributor Warner Music Group. Because this is still an active issue, I am simply going to point to the blog post rather than trying to explain how things got rocky so quickly. Does this mean that the million plus dollars spent to get this off the ground are for naught? Nope, I do not believe that at all. Personally, I am going to make purchases from AnywhereCD and let this work itself out. I would also point out that this is not likely to be the first time we will see the industry freak on a whim, even after it inked a deal giving clear permission to do what AnywhereCD is doing with music downloads. I think this could be, given time and more labels, the beginning of mainstream music lessening its dependency on the DRM silliness. After all, the math is simple. Mainstream bands + no DRM = making sales to people like me. It’s really that simple.