Archive for the ‘Law and Legal Matters’ Category

Snowpiercer Delayed Distribution Driving Up Piracy & Malware

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I’ve been waiting quite some time for the SF flick, Snowpiercer, to appear in U.S. theatres or for the DVD to be available. Apparently, I’m not alone. I noticed this week that if you search for “snowpiercer download”, you can find about 11 DMCA takedown notices removing 21 results from the listings in Google:

Snowpiercer DMCA and piracy in Google search results - Snowpiercer Download

Snowpiercer, is based on a graphic novel from France named Le Transperceneige,” authored by Jacques Lob and Benjamin Legrand, and illustrated by Jean-Marc Rochette. The novel set in a dystopian future where there was apparently some failed attempt to halt global warming that instead resulted in a new Ice Age that kills off all life on Earth except for a group that lives on a train called “Snow Piercer”, which runs around the planet, powered by some sort of perpetual-motion engine. Over time, a class-segregated society develops on the ever-zooming railroad, and the story focuses upon how a struggles emerges between the rich/advantaged who live at the front of the train versus the poor at the back.

The concept sounds fairly unbelievable, but the visuals in the trailer along with a compelling cast that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris have made me want to see it. The kookiness of the concept also attracts me to it!

Since I frequently work along with various attorneys on reputation management cases, I’m accustomed to seeing takedown notices at the bottom of search results — Google and Bing have very kindly taken down materials that can be proven to be defamatory or otherwise illegal, such as in the case of copyright infringements covered by DMCA. But, I don’t recall running across a search results page with quite so many notices at once.

It’s also interesting that there appears to be no official website for the film as of yet — and provision of one would further displace secondary pirate sites, most likely, rendering them marginally less visible to consumers.

What’s further interesting about this is that I think the slowness to distribute in the U.S. has perhaps driven a lot more piracy and copyright infringement than it needed to. Many SciFi film buffs and comic book enthusiasts are interested in viewing the film, and are frustrated to be unable to get access (I count myself in this set). (more…)

The 12th Man

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
12th Man Logo

The logo of the 12th Man Foundation, designed by Chris Silver Smith

The recent Super Bowl hoopla brought the Seahawks 12th Man to national attention, but I wonder how many realize that this fan support concept was founded by Texas A&M University? Most of my friends and acquaintances are unfamiliar with my past ties to the A&M organization and its iconography as well. Shortly after college, I worked for TAMU as a scientific illustrator, mapmaker and graphic designer. While in that capacity, I designed the 12th Man’s iconic logo.

If you’ve driven around the state of Texas for any length of time, chances are good that you’ve seen this logo on decals on the back windows of a great many vehicles. I think it’s probably the most widely visible thing I’ve ever designed.

So, how did the 12th Man itself come to be associated with the Seahawks, way up in Seattle, Washington? (more…)

RHD Suit Settled for $25 Million – Yellow Pages Obsolescence Claimed

Monday, February 27th, 2012

A class-action lawsuit brought by stockholders against the former R.H. Donnelley Yellow Pages company and some of its executives was settled earlier this month for $25 Million.

The stockholders in the suit (“Local 731 I.B. of T. Excavators and Pavers Pension Trust Fund et al. v. Swanson et al“) had said that executives had made false claims during the period, stating that print Yellow Pages were not becoming obsolete, among other things, and that they had made false assurances about the financial condition of the business.

RHD had filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009, and later emerged from bankruptcy under the new name, Dex One Corporation, in 2010.

Aside from the claims around the company’s finances, the issue of whether print Yellow Pages are becoming obsolete or not has been a controversial one in the past. (more…)

AT&T Selling Off Yellow Pages Unit?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

AT&T (NYSE: T) appears to’ve obliquely referred to their YP unit as a “low-performing” “non-strategic asset”, and signaled that they might sell it off.

If this sequence of events sounds familiar, it is — because Verizon did this when they spun off their Yellow Pages to form Idearc.

It’s a little disappointing to see AT&T likely planning to divest itself of Yellowpages.com and their print directories, because only in January of last year it had seemed possible that they might have toyed with the idea (more…)

Locksmith Spam Listing Issue

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I recently wrote a piece about how to bite back at local scam businesses over at Natural Search Blog, but one of the more difficult variety of scams are the faux local business listings that Google Places fights. And, ever since people first began scamming listing rankings in print yellow pages, the worst sector affected is that of Locksmiths.

Quite a number of locksmith listings are for business locations which do not exist or do not have locksmiths’ offices there. Some listings are blatent — they are locations where there are no businesses at all — while others are more subtle, being shopping centers or office buildings which have no locksmith shops in them.

Why do the scammers do this? Well, they figured out that in order to have placement in local search results, (more…)

White House Situation Room Photo Accidentally Reveals Government Secret

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The photo released by the White House depicting President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden along with members of the national security team during a briefing on the mission to capture or kill terrorist Osama Bin Laden is rapidly rocketing up to becoming the most-viewed photo on Flickr of all time:

White House Situation Room During Osama Bin Laden Capture Mission

The photo is fascinating for capturing what must’ve been breathless moments when the President, the military and our covert operations organizations wondered if the long search for Osama would at last prove successful.

But, what immediately caught my eye were the documents cast casually before Clinton in the photo — what were they of, and could they be revealing more than the government intended in a picture released to the public? At a glance, I expected they were satellite and/or aerial photos of the compound that Osama had built for himself to hide in. The caption paragraph of the photo page on Flickr apparently even refers directly to it, saying, “Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured.” That really draws attention to it! It must be something interesting/cool, if it must be hidden!

I clicked on the magnifying-glass button in Flickr, to view that section of the photo with larger resolution. When viewing the original size, you can see that, indeed, the top document has been pixelated out:

Obscured Document, Situation Room - Mission To Capture Osama bin Laden

As a side note, isn’t it interesting that there are special White House coffee cups, apparently, with the presidential seal on them? Apparently they don’t do Starbucks at the White House.

I still wonder, though, did they obscure it enough? It’s not unusual for the government to redact sensitive words or other information out of documents, but in this high-tech world it’s moderately risky to allow out photos, even when you try to blur out sensitive information. As I’ve proved before, blurring and pixelation can sometimes be reversed. The type of blurring or bitmapping done to the White House Situation Room photo is pretty lossy — the person who did it would no doubt believe it could not be reversed, since so much information from that area of the photo has been discarded in the process.

Yet, in that part of the picture alone, one could apply image algorithms which would attempt to reverse out the blurring by trying to enhance the elements of the picture that are left. This requires a form of interpolation to rebuild/replace the many pixels in between the blocks of color which resulted from an averaging of the original pixels. For each large block of continuous color, there were originally many pixels in their place which got combined/averaged into a median color. From the lighting in the photo, the color of each pixel, and the context of colors around each, an algorithm could attempt to interpolate and rebuild the picture. Interpolation is a form of mathematical guesswork, so there’s a high degree of inaccuracy involved — even so, the results can be surprising at times.

There are even more advanced algorithms which can reduce noise out of images (such as for medical imaging) or which can build out missing parts of photographic images based upon photographic commonalities. (more…)

Lock & Door Contractor Blames SuperMedia Yellow Pages For Their Own Bad Service

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Yellow Pages & LocksThe Morning Call in Pennsylvania reports about how “Always In Service”, a lock and door company, have run afoul of customers and the state’s attorney general office. In fact the attorney general’s office is suing them alleging the company misled customers into believing it was near their homes; charged more than estimated prices; failed to provide itemized bills; did poor work; and didn’t do work that was paid for.

Now Always In Service is suing SuperMedia, claiming the yellow pages company’s sales reps were trained to be deceptive to Always In Service and that they had advised them to buy local phone numbers with and advertise those numbers so customers would think the company was local.

As I’ve touched upon before and as others have covered, the locksmiths industry (among other types of businesses) have had a lot of trouble with the creation of bogus online business listings or listings which are engineered to deceive consumers into thinking a company is local to them. While it sounds like Always In Service isn’t exactly a locksmith service, they would appear to be operating in a closely-related field. (more…)

Australian YP Telstra Fighting As Legal Underdog Down Under

Monday, January 17th, 2011

TelstraThe Aussie yellow pages company, Telstra, is continuing to fight hard to protect their claim that yellow pages business directories can be copyrighted.

Judges found last year that directories were no longer covered by copyright because their creation and maintenance was computerized.

Copyright of phonebook directory information has always been on shaky ground, since facts themselves generally cannot be copyrighted. In the U.S. in the past the argument has been that the index arrangement of the directory information or the process to generate the directory could be copyrighted. Alternatively, it was also possible to patent metadata elements used in conjunction with the directory, such as a unique taxonomy. But, as Greg Sterling has outlined, directory listings lost copyright status in 1991.

Even so, major internet yellow pages companies considered their directories to be a prime intellectual property asset, and have worked hard to protect them for quite some time, using various methods. For instance, obtaining exclusive new data update agreements from the telcos so that their data would always be fresher, and thus superior to anyone else’s. (more…)

Yellow Pages Argues Seattle Law Limiting Distribution “Unconstitutional”

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Yellow Pages Legal Conflict in SeattleAs you may be aware, Seattle passed an ordinance in October which required yellow pages print directory companies to pay for an annual license and to allow consumers to opt-out of receiving print yellow pages phonebooks from being delivered to their properties. The Yellow Pages Association filed a motion in federal court last week, seeking to have the ordinance canceled on the basis of unconstitutionality.

The YP industry claims that the print directories should be considered protected speech, and that their content is also primarily informational content, with a lower percentage of advertising content than magazines and newspapers.

I think that the YPA may technically be right, but are putting themselves in direct opposition of an influential demographic which are irritated by directory books getting dropped on their doorsteps, apartment buildings and in their places of business. The argument is somewhat facile — rather like me saying that I can write nearly whatever I wish and it’s protected as free speech — however, that doesn’t give me the right to spraypaint it upon the side of someone’s home. It’s the method of transmission of this free speech that’s being contested.

For many in Seattle, the ordinance doesn’t sound like an unduly heavy limitation for the YP companies. After all, only a minority of recipients are likely to opt-out of delivery, and the licensing fee is very small. (more…)

Local Search Technology “Patent Troll” Expands Lawsuits To Target Hundreds Of Retailers

Friday, January 7th, 2011

A recent post by a member on WebmasterWorld alerted me that GeoTag is widening their local search technology lawsuits to include many more companies. WebmasterWorld sharply limits forum members from mentioning particular links, but I think the member was referring to this GeoTag Inc. v. Royal Purple Inc. et al patent suit.

GeoTag

The WebmasterWorld forum member refers to GeoTag as a “patent troll“, which I think may be deserved. He mentions that this company went after Superpages, YellowBot, Yelp, Local.com, Yellowpages.com, and many other IYPs in the past. I was aware of some of this where it concerned Superpages, but I will not comment upon that.

There has been some supposition that GeoTag might be going after relatively small targets before eventually working up to go against a major target such as Google. It’s my opinion that a number of these companies have likely settled in order to remove a nuisance or to avoid risk of an outright loss in court.

It’s also my opinion that a larger target such as a Google Maps or Bing Maps might eventually stand up to them if they were to go after them, and force a legal decision which could void out their ability to enforce this sort of claim any further. I think it may be that their claim might not have merit when considering the full scope of related prior art — although I’m certainly not an attorney. (more…)