September 17th, 2009


A Bird In A Turbine -- When The Chick Hits The Fan

If you play any online RPG's, you know about Turbine.  Turbine has developed MMORPG's based on Lord Of The Rings and Dungeons And Dragons.  And today, they find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit for software patent infringement.

The lawsuit was filed by a company called Paltalk Holdings, based out of Jericho, NY.  Remember what I said about venue shopping?  This was filed in Mashall, Texas, one of the hot spots for patent lawsuits, due to generally leaning towards the plaintiff in these things.  In 2002, Paltalk bought two patents from a company called HearMe that share data among many computers so that they all have the same digital environment.  Paltalk is claiming that online RPG devs are infringing the patent.  In 2006, they went after M$ (I believe it was about the time Halo 3 was launching and all the bad press about the builds of the XBox360 were coming out).  It went to trial in Marshall, Texas.  Hey, deja vu.  It started in March, but never finished, as M$ settled and hushed the whole thing up with an NDA.  This emboldened Paltalk, and they are suing Turbine, Sony Corp (Everquest), Activision Blizzard (World Of Warcraft and, presumably, the upcoming Diablo 3), NCSoft of South Korea (Guild Wars, Lineage, and City Of Heroes), and Jagex Ltd from Britain (the freebie game Runescape).

I don't know if the patent is overbroad, but the vintage suggests it may be.  A lot of companies lately are opting to get software patents overturned instead of being hustled (there are lots of online co-op games long before this patent, so I think a Prior Art challenge will end this nonsense quickly).  I hope this is one lottery ticket that doesn't get cashed.

A Penny For Your Thoughts -- $15 To DVR It

The Content Mafia has been continuing to try to hijack people's home theater systems.  It's called Selectable Output Control, and basically means they would control things like your Tivo (the kill switch that enables automatic deleting of your recorded programs past the content provider's date) or anything connected by the digital HDMI (the "broadcast flag" that many deny exists.  Seriously, I've provided the code from the EFF to video traders who say I'm just making it up).  SOC is illegal under the FCC.  Recently, the MPAA has tried to grease the wheels a little by saying they wanted to offer movies before they hit DVD, but to keep them from being simply recorded, they want the FCC to grant them a waiver so they can use SOC.  Today, they got a new ally.  Time Warner Cable, which has already helped kill Usenet and tried to put limits on people's Internet usage, has joined the fray.  Their proposal is they would allow these movies to be received only on boxes connected by HDMI.  If you connect with analogs (the cable coax or RCA jacks), you would be blocked from the content.  This goes for the Tivo, too, and I just know the expiration flag is in there somewhere.  You don't play by their rules, you don't get the content.  Time Warners arguement is actually that so many subscribers have at least one TV set up with all digital connections, no one will really be inconvenienced.  Never mind the slippery slope this creates.

This happened today.  A couple of days ago, the fine folks at Public Knowledge addressed the FCC, saying the MPAA had yet to establish any need for a waiver of SOC.  Time Warner hasn't, either.

Which way will this go?  I don't know.  Obama stocked the AG posts with lots of RIAA connected lawyers and has blown off FOIA requests.  I worry this will result in another blow to our digital rights.

Of course, I'm not sure most people would fight for them anyway.  Not a lot of people are aware of the opportunity this will create.  Everyone has forgotten DiVX already....

Don't Spend It All In One Place

The news has been trying to convince people the Recession is over and we're on our way back to running up collosal amounts of debt and paying $5 a gallon for gas just so everyone can say how great we are doing.  As I pointed out in Stress Puppy, people knew about the Recession while the facts were intentionally obscured for about a year to coincide with the Presidential elections.

Today, the news is blaring the latest spin on the "It's The Morning After!" campaign -- net income for Americans actually rose last month!  The first increase seen since the whole mess began.

Notice it is "net".  Not gross.  No one is getting paid more, they are just being allowed to keep more.

Why?  There have been no new tax cuts or anything, at least at a federal level.  The cuts and stimulus have been out there for a while, and people are only seeing a net gain NOW?  Anyone else think there's something wrong here?

Bernake is insisting the Recession is over.  Let's see -- unemployment near 10%, wages are stagnant, the stimulus tax cuts are going to end soon, and the bill for the bailout is coming due, with everyone reading to tack on another nearly $1 tril for the health care plan.

Yup, nothing but blue skies ahead.