The SCO Group’s lawsuit against Linux distributors IBM, Red Hat, and Novell hit a major snag yesterday as Magistrate Brooke C. Wells of the US District Court in Salt Lake City dismissed 182 of SCO’s 294 claims. The dismissal is part of a 39-page ruling that comes down hard on SCO for continually refusing to provide specific details about which lines of code in SCO’s products were stolen by Linux programmers.
“SCO’s arguments are akin to SCO telling IBM, ‘Sorry we are not going to tell you what you did wrong because you already know,'” Wells wrote in the ruling. “Given the amount of code that SCO has received in discovery, the court finds it inexcusable that SCO is, in essence, still not placing all the details on the table.”
SCO’s reaction to the news was predictably unrevealing. “Our legal team is reviewing the judge’s ruling and will determine our next steps in the near future,” said SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell.
The painfully long and drawn-out saga of the SCO lawsuit started in March 2003, when SCO sued IBM for allegedly “devaluing” their version of the Unix operating system. The lawsuit was extended to include Novell later that year. SCO claimed that both companies had taken code from Unix and put it into Linux. The company was ordered in 2004 to hand over examples of the infringing code in no less than 45 days, but SCO has managed to dither and delay without producing any hard evidence. Clearly, the judges are losing patience.
So will SCO decide to reveal their trump card after all? It seems highly unlikely. In a memo that was leaked last year, SCO’s internal code audit from 2002 found no infringing code in Linux. SCO’s response at the time was to reveal an 1999 e-mail from an outside consultant that allegedly found “troubling similarities” between Linux and Unix code. However, similarities do not equal stolen code. SCO has even backtracked from their initial assessment, stating that the problem may lie in “methods and concepts” rather than stolen lines of code.
SCO may have known for a while that their case was hopeless, and are simply deciding to see the case through in hopes that they may at least recover a small amount of money through technicalities. The company stated in 2004 that they wanted to concentrate more on new products than on lawsuits. This latest news may force them to do just that.
SCO’s stock fell from US$4 to below US$3 on the news, and currently sits at US$3.25.
Antitrust regulators from the European Union’s 25 member nations have voted unanimously against Microsoft, finding the software giant guilty of non-compliance with the EU’s 2004 ruling. The decision opens the door for the EU to levy daily fines of up to €2 million (US$2.5 million) on Microsoft. The exact amount of the fine will be decided at another meeting to be held next week.
The debate centers on the EU’s interpretation of Microsoft’s compliance with an earlier judgement handed down in 2004. In that hearing, Microsoft was charged with unfair bundling and anticompetitive behavior, and was told to do three things: pay a fine, release a version of Windows without Media Player bundled, and disclose information about their server products to enable competitors to more easily write software that can interact with them. Microsoft paid the fine, delivered Windows XP N—with the N apparently standing for the version of Windows Nobody wanted to buy—and delivered large stacks of technical documents covering Windows Server protocols.
It was this last deliverable that the EU had problems with. A monitoring trustee, British professor Neil Barrett, was appointed to judge the information released by Microsoft, and his initial response was that the documentation was inadequate. Microsoft replied by offering to license parts of the source code itself, but that effort was dismissed by the EU regulators.
For its part, Microsoft claims to be working hard to deliver the information the EU desires. “Microsoft is dedicating massive resources to meet the aggressive schedule and high-quality standards set by the trustee and the commission in this process,” a Microsoft employee said in a statement. “Our engineers are working around the clock to meet the seventh and final delivery date for this project scheduled for July 18.”
Clearly the prospect of more fines and continued antitrust action is a concern for Microsoft, as much for their public image as for their bank balance. Given this, one wonders what the exact reasons are for the EU’s dissatisfaction with Microsoft’s documentation. A cynical answer might be that the EU simply wants to keep the Microsoft money train flowing. Looking at things from a different angle, perhaps Microsoft wants to make sure that while it may become possible for third parties to build replacements for Microsoft’s server software, the documentation should not make it easy. The issue is made more difficult by the EU’s failure to make it clear exactly what type of information they are looking for.
The EU is not the only governing body to issue fines and judgements against Microsoft. South Korea fined the software giant US$35 million for similar antitrust issues, although without the request to provide additional documentation. Microsoft has agreed to pay this fine. Back in the US, Microsoft recently agreed to extend federal oversight over their 2002 antitrust ruling until at least 2009, and the company has decided to “rewrite significant portions of the documentation in an effort to substantially improve the overall quality of the documentation.”
Whenever you interview Tomonubo Itagaki, the glasses wearing head of Team Ninja, you're sure to get him to say something outrageous. From bashing Tekken to calling the girls in Dead or Alive his daughters, he's always entertaining. It seems now he has two projects he's working on,the next Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and Ninja Gaiden 2. When trying to design jet ski levels and new bikinis for his volleyball title, where do the ideas come from? Drinking!
Kikizo: So, how many drinks does it take for ideas to stop being feasible, good ideas, and start being just complete nonsense?
Itagaki: Haha! It's hard to say, because I am drinking pretty much full-time. Of course, there are ups and downs, waves, of how I drink in terms of the amount, but it's a long period of time. In the last ten years – not that you asked this question – I think I had better ideas when I was drinking whisky. When I am drinking shochu, that's a conservative drink, so the ideas are not that great. Beer is just like water to me, so it just helps me and everyone else loosen up a little bit, it doesn't really contribute to coming up with ideas.
So there you have it. If you want good ideas, drink whisky. Not that we at Opposable Thumbs would ever advocate drinking, but Itagaki seems to think it's a big part of his creative process. You have to admit, the idea of him stumbling around Team Ninja's headquarters, yelling at everyone to make the bikinis smaller, is pretty funny. When the interviewer says he's not at Itagaki's level yet, the famed developer had a few choice words of wisdom:
It just means that you haven't been drinking enough. Haha! Not often enough. This afternoon, keep drinking more.
Who are we to argue with genius?
A new study from marketing research company Ipsos Insight indicates that while file sharing may be down, it still constitutes a significant percentage of the music found on today’s portable digital music players. Yet music downloads from legal services have eclipsed those stemming from P2P and other unauthorized sources. In fact, the study indicated that more than 70 percent of such music stems from legal sources, and that music download services are on the rise. The numbers show how far the industry has come from the days when CEOs would argue that "the most common format of music on an iPod is ‘stolen’." If that view was dubious before, it’s now outright ridiculous.
According to the study of more than 1,100 people, existing CD collections still provide the lion’s share of music on portable players, accounting for 44 percent of such content. Download-to-own sales accounted for 25 percent of music on portable devices, while unauthorized file sharing accounted for 19 percent. While the music industry may be pleased, the study also indicated that 6 percent of music stemmed from users "ripping" CDs owned by others—something the industry considers akin to raw piracy. With an average of 700 songs per player according to the study, approximately 175 songs per player have not been properly licensed or purchased in the eyes of the recording industry. (Of course, that number would be significantly higher if the RIAA’s views on ripping legally acquired CDs were ever enforced.)
Portable music players are quite popular, too. The study indicates that one in five people over the age of 12 have a portable music player, and one in twenty actually have more than one. The study suggests that the percentage of portable player ownership is increasing at a rate of roughly five percent a year, as 2003 and 2004 saw 11 and 15 percent penetration, respectively.
The strong sales are good news for the music industry, which has seen aggressive growth in digital sales in recent years. Sales tripled in 2005 according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), climbing up to represent 6 percent of global music receipts that year. And while younger people generally dominate the uptake of new electronics, persons aged 35 to 54 are getting in on the action as well, with one in ten sporting a portable music player last year.
Radio star need not fear video?
There are signs that the music video revolution won’t be portable, however. Approximately one in three people aged 12 to 24 said that they are interested in portable video, including music videos, TV shows, and movies. By way of comparison, almost 1 in 2 were interested in FM radio capabilities being integrated into players, while nearly 2 in 5 expressed interested in satellite music support. For persons ages 24 to 54, interest in video content was only 1 in 6.
Nevertheless, Matt Kleinschmit, a Vice President with Ipsos Insight and author of the study, interpreted the findings as being bullish for video sales.
"These recent findings showing the desire for broader multimedia content on a portable device could suggest we are reaching a turning point in which consumers are truly recognizing the value of anytime, anywhere multimedia content on-the-go," Kleinschmit said in a statement. "While this phenomenon may have initially centered on music, younger MP3 player owners are clearly interested in a wide variety of broader content options for their devices."
The study (PR) was based off of responses from 1,112 Americans aged 12 and over. It carries a 95 percent certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 2.94 percent.
The debacle surrounding Windows Genuine Advantage just won’t go away. Late last month Microsoft found itself the target of a complaint seeking class action status over WGA’s behavior, and now we have learned that a second related suit has been filed.
Brought by Engineered Process Controls, LLC, Univex, Inc., Edward Mifsud, David DiDomizio, and Martin Sifuentes, the suit charges that WGA is essentially spyware, inasmuch as users are deceived to install it by being led to believe that it is a security update. The suit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington.
"WGA is ‘spyware’ that transmits data to Microsoft’s central computer ("phones home") every time a PC is booted up and every 24 hour thereafter," the suit alleges. The accusations are in response to the revelation that beta versions of Windows Genuine Advantage did "phone home" once every day, but the company recently confirmed that more recent versions communicate with the company approximately once every 90 days. Microsoft maintains that the daily checks were there because the software was in beta, not because the company intended to test daily checkups.
Daily or not, privacy advocates are outraged. The suit complains that "Microsoft does not advise users of these phone home capabilities. WGA gathers data that can easily identify individual PCs and WGA can be modified remotely to collect additional information at Microsoft initiation." The complaint continues, "software hackers can exploit WGA to not only collect data but also to modify users’ computers." The suit contends that Microsoft and WGA violate Federal and Washington State law and "public policy on privacy, security, consumer deception, notice and consent."
The suit seeks compensatory damages, injunctive relief and a requirement for Microsoft to fully disclose WGA’s "potential security and other risks" to the public. The suit also asks that Microsoft be made to produce a tool that can easily remove WGA from any Windows system. Should the plaintiffs prevail, Microsoft would have to scrap WGA and would be subject to treble damages. Among the damage claims is a request seeking "either actual damages or one hundred thousand dollars per violation, whichever is greater."
For both cases, the debate is expected to center around the definition of spyware. The suit itself uses the recently-formed Anti-Spyware Coalition’s definition of spyware, which focuses on lack of consent and the "collection, use, and distribution of a user’s person or other sensitive information" in constructing a definition of spyware. Microsoft has insisted that WGA is not spyware, and that it does not track user behavior or anything other than the licensed state of a Windows installation.