The court’s decision may prove key to deciding under what circumstances companies can be sued for using certain software in their products.
The court said in a one-line order that it would hear a case brought by Alice Corporation Pty Ltd, which holds a patent for a computer system that facilitates financial transactions. The patent is challenged by CLS Bank International.
The court took no action on another case raising the same issue involving a patent dispute between WildTangent Inc and Ultramercial Inc.
The deep interest that the software industry and patent experts have in what is a threshold issue in patent litigation was underscored by the number of companies and industry groups that asked the court to decide the issue.
Companies including Google Inc, Hewlett-Packard Co, Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc had already signaled their interest in the issue by asking the court to hear the WildTangent case. Many also filed briefs in lower courts.
With the rise of computer-based products in recent years, courts have struggled to apply patent law. Some legal experts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, say that courts are too keen to uphold patents on ideas that are too vague to deserve protection.
Such vague patents can be used against big tech companies, which say they are forced to spend money defending lawsuits instead of investing in research and development. Technology companies are particularly concerned about litigation brought by so-called “patent trolls,” defined as companies that hold patents only for the purpose of suing other companies seeking to develop new products.
Spotify has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for an email that contained an uncensored “f” word.
The promotional email had the subject line, “Have you heard this song by Lily Allen? Give it a try. F-ck You”.
Contextually, the phrase refers to the song “Fuck You” on Lily Allen’s album “It’s Not Me, It’s You”, and the suggestion was genuine, generated automatically based on the listener’s previous selections.
Unfortunately, this particular Spotify customer chose to take it the wrong way and made a complaint to the ASA, which announced it would uphold the complaint on Wednesday.
Defending against the claim, Spotify said it “believed there was a clear difference between deliberate language use such as that and the context in which it was used in the ad” and that “…around 36 million recommendations were sent to users by e-mail every month and therefore over the years a significant proportion of its users would have had the same song recommended to them”.
However, the ASA had not received any other complaints, Spotify said. Upholding the complaint, the ASA ruled that it “considered the use of ‘Fuck’ was likely to cause serious offence to some recipients of such e-mails and therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code”.
Although no action is taken in isolated instances like this, the ASA chose to uphold the complaint “to ensure [Spotify's] future advertising contained nothing that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.
But what songs had this customer been listening to that would trigger this recommendation? Perhaps he or she is a fan of Cee Lo Green or the Dead Kennedys?
Spotify has responded to criticism of the royalty amounts it pays to music artists.
Music industry figures including Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke have long called for fellow artists to boycott the Swedish music streaming service, which Yorke described as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
In launching the new Spotify For Artists website, Spotify has been proud to boast that it has paid out more than $1bn, over half of which it has paid in the past year. However, digging deeper the truth emerges that this equates to between $0.006 and $0.008 per play.
That’s fine if you’re Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but for musicians at the grassroots level this represents a massive hole in their finances. Or to put it in perspective, it would require a five piece band to be played 5,477 times just to be able to buy themselves a round of drinks. For a new, untested and undiscovered artist, that simply isn’t enough to get by.
A play on Great Britain’s BBC alternative radio station 6 Music nets an artist approximately five cents. Not a king’s ransom, but a huge amount compared to Spotify’s rates. In contrast, Bandcamp, the service designed to allow artists to self release their music, lets artists set their own prices for music, or even leaves it up to consumers to pay what they believe the work is worth.
This is the way that the internet is supposed to empower artists. The internet has made it possible for anyone to be a star, or at least make a living from their music, if they are good enough.
But accepting the payment of these tiny amounts of money is actually far worse for the industry than so-called ‘piracy’, because copyright infringement will always be considered wrong, while streaming for fractions of pennies normalises the practice of underpaying for creative talent and creates the kinds of gatekeepers that have made the giant music industry companies such a cartel. A cartel that is starting to implode.
Netflix Inc is having preliminary discussions with several U.S. cable television companies including Comcast Corp and Suddenlink Communications to make its streaming video service available through their set-top boxes, according to a Wall Street Journal report, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the Journal, the negotiations are in the early stages, with no deal expected soon. The report said that one sticking point in the negotiations is that Netflix wants cable companies to adopt special technology designed to improve the quality of its streaming video.
Last month, two European cable companies — Sweden’s Com Hem and Virgin Media in Britain — struck deals to allow their customers to access Netflix through Tivo set-top boxes.
Netflix Chief Financial Officer David Wells, speaking at a Goldman Sachs investor conference last month, said that the company was willing to strike similar deals with U.S. cable companies.
“We would love to reduce the friction to the end consumer, and to be available via the existing device in the home which is the set-top box,” Wells said. “But it’s up to the (pay TV provider) to decide how much a competitor they view us as, or a complement.”
Netflix, Comcast and Suddenlink could not be immediately reached for comment.
Flutter makes an application for Mac and Windows machines that lets people control programs like iTunes and Quicktime by capturing gestures using the computer’s webcam.
“We will be continuing our research at Google,” Flutter CEO Navneet Dalal announced Wednesday on the company’s website.
A Google spokeswoman said the company would be supporting Flutter’s research. The deal has already closed and terms were not disclosed.
Flutter’s team will be joining Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to continue their research efforts.
The Flutter app, however, will remain operational. Through an extension to the Chrome browser, it also works with Google’s YouTube service, Netflix, Grooveshark and Pandora.
Flutter describes its mission as being “to arm you with the superpower of Flutter so that you too can join the fight against unnatural user interfaces.”
The images captured by the webcam don’t leave the person’s computer and are not saved permanently, Flutter says.
Its technology could potentially be incorporated into any number of Google products, such as its Chromebooks or head-mounted Google Glass system.
Flutter launched in 2010, on a day when the keyboard and mouse were discovered to be “the greatest threat to human-computer interaction since carpal tunnel syndrome,” the company said on its site.
The UK’s Ministry of Sound is suing streaming music service Spotify over its playlists.
The firm is concerned that Spotify is letting users create playlists that ape its paid-for compilation albums and not taking them down when requested.
Ministry of Sound CEO Lohan Presencer told the Guardian that the disco business has had enough. “It’s been incredibly frustrating: we think it’s been very clear what we’re arguing, but there has been a brick wall from Spotify,” he said.
“What we do is a lot more than putting playlists together: a lot of research goes into creating our compilation albums, and the intellectual property involved in that. It’s not appropriate for someone to just cut and paste them.”
Presencer was given more room to complain about compilations in a Guardian blog post. He said that now, after months of correspondence, it is time that the streamer is “held to account”.
“The money Spotify pays labels is not necessarily flowing through to artists. Also Spotify isn’t paying all labels,” he added. “You won’t find our compilation albums on Spotify. Why not? Because its business model does not recognise that our products (compilations) have any material value.”
The music retailing chief said that his firm noticed playlists that copied its compilations and their titles last year and began contacting Spotify about them.
“We assumed it was an oversight on Spotify’s part and contacted the company to request it remove the offending playlists. It declined, claiming there was no infringement and it wasn’t its responsibility to police its users,” he said.
“Several rounds of legal letters later, this dispute will now be settled in court. We believe we have a clear cut case. After 20 years and more than 50 million album sales, the value and creativity in our compilations are self evident. Until now, we’ve watched Spotify’s progress from a distance. But we can no longer remain silent. This so-called saviour of the industry and enemy of the pirates is allowing our compilations to be used without permission and refusing to take action when told about the problem.”
Presencer described this as a “David vs Goliath battle”.
Ophelia looks much like a USB stick and it can turn any screen or display with an HDMI port into a PC, gaming machine or streaming media player. The thumb PC runs on the Android OS and once it is plugged into an HDMI port, users can run applications, play games, watch streaming movies or access files stored in the cloud.
The final product will ship during the next fiscal quarter, which runs from August through October, a Dell spokesman said in an e-mail. The device has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity options.
Priced at about $100, Dell hopes Ophelia will be an inexpensive alternative to PCs, whose shipments are falling with the growing adoption of tablets and smartphones. With more data now being stored in the cloud, Dell hopes the idea of a keychain PC will catch on, especially for those who do most of their computing on the Web.
The device will also compete with Google’s recently announced Chromecast media streaming device, which is priced at $35 and also the size of a thumb drive. With Ophelia, users will be able to run Android games or stream movies from Hulu or Netflix, and even download apps, movies and TV shows from the Google Play store.
One of the value propositions of Ophelia is that it is a lightweight PC alternative, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
Chromecast is a 2-in. device that uses a simplified version of Chrome OS and plugs into the rear of a television set’s HDMI port, Google officials said at the event in San Francisco, which was was webcast.
The device goes on sale online today on Google Play, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. It will be available in Best Buy stores on July 28.
A Google blog post on Chromecast notes that it works with Netflix, YouTube, Google Play movies and TV, and Google Play Music. It will soon support Pandora. the blog post said.
Chromecast also allows remote control of TV sets from Android tablets and smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Chrome for Mac and Windows and Chrome for Chromebook Pixel.
After the event, Google posted a Chromecast spec sheet indicating it works with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi over 2.4 GHz. The spec sheet recommends the home broadband be at least 3 Mbps for HD capabilities.
A Google spokesman said that both the TV connected to Chromecast and the remote control device, such as a smartphone, must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network. That means Chromecast won’t work if the phone only has a cellular data connection, he said.
Chromecast works by streaming content directly from the cloud.
The Android-based device will plug into a display’s HDMI port so that it can run applications or access files stored remotely. It will have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and is aimed at users who do most of their computing on the Web.
Ophelia can turn any screen or display into a PC, gaming machine or a TV set-top box, said Jeff McNaught, executive director of cloud client computing at Dell. Users will be able to download apps, movies and TV shows from the Google Play store, McNaught said. Users will also be able to run Android games or stream movies from Hulu or Netflix.
It is meant to be an inexpensive alternative to tablets and PCs, McNaught said. However, users need to be close to a TV screen, display or projector with an HDMI port to use it.
The company is working on a keyboard-like technology for users to type when Ophelia is docked to a screen, he said.
Dell will demonstrate Ophelia on 19-inch and 55-inch screens at next week’s Citrix Synergy conference in Los Angeles. It was introduced in January at the International CES show.
The firm is in its ascendancy, and is blowing the ink dry on a deal with Disney and getting ready to show the much anticipated Arrested Development Series Four.
While Lovefilm told us that it does not provide subtitles on the films and TV shows it provides, Netflix, its main rival, has improved the subtitles feature on the PS3, making it easier for the hard of hearing to make their selection.
“The first thing you will notice an updated design that is more consistent with the Netflix player on the Web as well as our mobile and tablet applications,” said Chris Jaffe, director of product innovation at Netflix.
“The key feature in this update is the ability to easily manage your audio and subtitles selections. You can now do that directly in the player on the PS3, without having to return to the browse experience.”
The PS3 app now has the same audio and subtitles feature as the Xbox version. It’s going to prove handy for the hard of hearing, and Jaffe said that users will be able to select the Audio and Subtitles settings while they’re watching a movie. PS3 Blu-ray remote control users can just press the Subtitles button.
This is 2013 and nothing happens without someone adding something “social” to it. This update to the Netflix PS3 app also makes sharing whatever title you are watching easier.
There are some playback improvements including “trickplay” mode – a fast-forward or rewind option, and a 10 second skip back button.
“The updated Netflix player experience is available now on PS3 and will be coming soon to select Smart TVs and Blu-ray players,” said Jaffe.
Amazon.com has updated its mobile app store to include support for its Chinese customers, a potential signal that the U.S. company may be preparing to sell its Kindle e-readers and tablets in the country.
The update effectively launches a new version of Amazon’s app store built in the Chinese language. The store comes in the form of an Android app, and the company has been promoting it since this past weekend.
The arrival of the new store comes just months after Amazon launched its Kindle e-book service in China last December. Both are key platforms for bringing content to the company’s Kindle devices in the U.S. market. But in China, Amazon has yet to start selling its tablet and e-reader hardware, and its local offices have been mum on a future release date. The company on Monday did not immediately respond for comment.
Despite the absence of official sales, the Chinese market is showing some “pent-up demand” for Amazon’s e-readers, said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting. Research data from last year showed that Chinese consumers were increasingly buying the e-readers from overseas markets, he added.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets could also sell well in the country, Natkin said. Apple currently dominates the nation’s tablet sector, but the company largely focuses on the higher-end market. Amazon’s Kindle Fire products, which start at $159, could appeal to many consumers wanting a lower-priced device from a well-known brand, he added.
Lenovo became the country’s second-largest tablet vendor after Apple, with a 14% market share, by its focus on budget tablets, according to analysts.
Though a big name in the U.S., Amazon is, however, a small player in China’s e-commerce market. It faces fierce competition from the local rivals, including Alibaba Group’s Taobao sites and 360buy, another major online shopping mall. Both Taobao and 360buy also sell e-books.
China’s market is also already saturated with local app stores, some of which are operated by handset makers and telecom operators. Amazon’s new Chinese app store has been designed to include more local products. Software from Chinese social networking site Sina Weibo and video-sharing hub Youku Tudou are listed, but U.S. apps including Netflix and Twitter are not.
Citing three unnamed sources, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Amazon is planning to launch the set-top box this fall. However, the report doesn’t say how much the box will cost or how it will stand out from other devices like Apple TV and Roku.
It’s obvious why Amazon would want to launch its own TV box. Existing set-top boxes and game consoles don’t put Amazon’s services front and center, or they don’t offer Amazon video at all.
With its own product, Amazon can steer people toward its Prime Instant Video service and its a la carte video offerings.
Bloomberg claims that Amazon will likely allow competing video services such as Netflix and Hulu on the device, just as it does on the Kindle Fire. Still, Amazon’s own services will get more prominent billing.
But does the world need another cheap set-top box? That depends on what Amazon can bring to the table.
Just to speculate a bit, the company could offer tablet-to-TV streaming similar to Apple’s AirPlay–a feature not found on most competing devices–and it could extend its FreeTime service A to the television to highlight kid-friendly content.
Perhaps Amazon could also dabble in gaming by offering a controller that works with games from its own Appstore for Android.
Most of all, Amazon could undercut the competition on price, just as it did with the Kindle Fire. If the company can offer a sub-$50 set-top box with solid features and a simple interface, it could be a big hit.
Skype, which was acquired by Microsoft Corp in 2011, allows its users to communicate via voice, video or chat over the Internet, by-passing traditional telephone networks. The service has hundreds of millions of users across the globe.
The announcement comes a day after BlackBerry said its new Q10 smartphone will be available in Canada on May 1, and in the United States before the end of May. The Q10, which comes with the physical keyboard that many of BlackBerry’s core fan base cherish, is the second device to be powered by the company’s new BB10 operating system.
Skype will be available on the Q10 on launch day. Users of the existing Z10 touchscreen device will have to wait a few weeks more to get Skype, after a software upgrade on the operating system, BlackBerry said.
A smaller app base than Apple’s iOS and Google Inc’s Android platforms has been one of the biggest criticisms of the new BlackBerry system. It has yet to offer some big-name apps like Netflix and Instagram.
Amazon announced the arrival of 14 homegrown TV shows today as it looks to take on Netflix with original programming.
Amazon has done things slightly differently than its new rival Netflix. The firm has unleashed 14 pilot episodes on its website that can be streamed in the US for free and in the UK via Lovefilm. Users can give their feedback on the shows, and the most popular shows will be made into a full series.
From what we can see, Amazon seems to have a pilot show to suit all tastes. There’s a selection of kids shows including the brilliant sounding Teeny Tiny Dogs and Annebots, which apparently follows a pint-sized scientist around the world.
Technology fans might enthuse over the pilot of Betas, which follows the story of four friends who think they’ve cracked the code for Silicon Valley success, like the idea of Onion News Empire, a show about Onion News Network journalists who will do anything to stay on top.
Other pilot shows available to watch include Zombieland, Dark Minions and Alpha House, for those looking for something similar to Netflix’s popular House of Cards series.
Amazon’s scheme is great for budding TV critics, as once you have watched a pilot you can leave feedback on the Amazon website. We just hope the scheme doesn’t get overrun by trolls.
Amazon hasn’t said when we can expect some of these pilots to be turned into full series, or whether customers will have to pay to view them.
The move will be a blow to Silverlight, the technology Microsoft once aimed as a replacement for Adobe Flash, but that has languished since Silverlight 5 shipped in December 2011. Because Microsoft has never publicly committed to a Silverlight 6, many believe the platform has met its maker.
Netflix tacitly acknowledged as much in a blog post Monday by Anthony Park, director of engineering, and Mark Watson, director of streaming standards. “Since Microsoft announced the end of life of Silverlight 5 in 2021, we need to find a replacement some time within the next eight years,” Park and Watson wrote.
As the two noted, Microsoft has said it will support the Silverlight 5 browser plug-in until Oct. 12, 2021.
Netflix is one of the largest licensees of Silverlight, and among the few major services that still rely on it. Although the technology was used by NBC to stream the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics, the network switched to Google-owned YouTube to provide the streaming infrastructure for last year’s London Games.
Park and Watson defended the switch to HTML5 with well-worn arguments, including distrust of plug-ins on security grounds, but they also pointed out that browsers, even on the desktop, are shifting to a no-plug-in model.
Microsoft, for example, has banned plug-ins from Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) on Windows RT, the scaled-down edition aimed at tablets, and on the “Modern” user interface (UI), formerly known as “Metro,” on Windows 8. Mozilla’s Firefox, while not going that far, now automatically blocks all plug-insexcept for Adobe’s Flash Player, making the user “click-to-play” a plug-in.
Some users, especially those running Macs, have also criticized Silverlight for hogging their machines’ processors, slowing other tasks to a crawl or making their systems overheat.
“Moving to HTML5 is important to someone like Netflix, which wants to be as platform agnostic as possible,” said Mike McGuire, an analyst with Gartner. “HTML5 has matured to the point where most in the industry are moving to it.”
Netflix’s shift from Silverlight to HTML5, said McGuire, is proof of that maturation.