“Google And The World Brain” is a new documentary about Google’s plan to scan all of the world’s books, which triggered an ongoing lawsuit being heard today. The hair-raising film sees Google import millions of copyrighted works, get sued, lose, but almost get a literature monopoly in the process. It’s scary, informative, and worth watching if you recognize its biased portrayal of Google as evil.
The film is getting wider release as Google continues to fight the Author’s Guild in court today. The organization is demanding $3 billion in damages from Google for scanning and reproducing copyrighted books. Google is asking the court to not prevent the group from filing a class-action suit.
“Google And The World Brain” premiered at Sundance this year, which is where I saw it, but more people finally got to see the documentary yesterday at the Vancouver DOXA festival. From the second it starts, director Ben Lewis’ opinion is clear: Google Books is as an insidious plot for data domination. See, Google didn’t just want to make a universally accessible library. It wanted to use all the knowledge to improve its search and artificial intelligence projects.
The film opens with ominous bass and a high-pitched drones that lead into historic footage of futurist and sci-fi writer H.G. Wells describing the “world brain” as a “complete planetary memory for all mankind.” But for all its benefits, Wells also warns that the world brain could become powerful enough to displace governments and monitor everyone.
Seemingly innocent, Google approaches university libraries, including Harvard, asking to digitize their books for free. They pitch it as a way to avert disasters like the burning of Alexandria or the flooding of Tulane University’s library during Hurricane Katrina. Gorgeous shots of some of the world’s most prestigious libraries position them as infinitely valuable. Head librarians appear in interviews, giddy with intellectual excitement, and they hastily agree to Google’s offer. Soon 10 million of their books were being fed into secret Google scanning machines.
Google began showing parts of these scans online, and that’s when the backlash started. Six million of the books were under copyright and Google hadn’t attained permission to scan or reproduce them. In 2005, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed lawsuits claiming Google was essentially stealing the books. Libraries began to turn on the search giant.
Internet scholar Jaron Lanier explains “A book is not just an extra long tweet,” and others begin to speculate that Google wants to hoard the books primarily for its own purposes, not to democratize their information. The reveal of the film’s thesis would have been more shocking and perhaps better received if it hadn’t been so blatantly foreshadowed.
After three years, the plaintiffs settle with Google for $125 million, but within the 350-page court document are shady stipulations that Google now has the exclusive right to sell scans of any out-of-print book it’s digitized — even copyrighted ones. The film labels this as a “monopoly on access to knowledge.” It asks “do we want the universal library in the hands of one company that can charge whatever they want?”
The documentary’s climax centers around New York District Court Judge Denny Chin’s choice of whether to approve the settlement or not. The director does a remarkable job of making it seem exciting by positioning the outcome as one man’s decision about the fate of all knowledge.
[Spoiler alert if you didn't read the newspapers in 2011]: Scored by a barrage of victorious brass music, Judge Chin announces that he rejects the settlement, preventing Google’s supposed “monopoly,” and all the interviewed pundits rejoice.
Google And The World Brain ends on a harrowing note, though. Even if Google can’t reproduce or sell the copyrighted works it scanned, Google Search and its artificial intelligence initiatives have already sucked up all the knowledge. As a Google engineer told author Nicholas Carr, “We’re not scanning all those books to be read by people. We’re scanning them to be read by our AI.”
The film is a bit sensationalist, and takes several detours to explore things like whether scanning books in English is an assault to classical European languages in which classic works were originally written. Still, it condenses a fascinating question about who owns information and the long battle for the answer into quite a stimulating film. You might leave feeling a little more afraid of Google than before, especially if you don’t take the more heavy-handed fear-mongering with a grain of salt. But at the very least, you’ll stand up reaffirmed that Google is destined to change humanity in ways much larger than it does today.
Read the rest here: Google Framed As Book Stealer Bent On Data Domination In New Documentary
CopyTele, a “patent enforcement entity” based in New York, has filed a patent infringement suit against Microsoft in connection with its Skype IP calling and messaging service, now used by 280 million people every month. The two patents in question come from Secure Web Conference Corporation, a subsidiary of publicly-traded CopyTele. They are 6,856,686 B2 (’686 Patent), and 6,856,687 B2 (’687 Patent), respectively covering “method and apparatus for securing e-mail attachments” and “portable telecommunication security device.” “The Patents-in-Suit, generally speaking, relate to secure web-based peer-to-peer communications,” CopyTele writes in its complaint.
If things go CopyTele’s way, this is just the beginning: Robert Berman, the CEO of CopyTele, tells TechCrunch that there are between 90 and 100 web conferencing companies that CopyTele believes are also violating the same patents. “This is a $4 billion industry,” he said. “This is the initiation of what will be a broader patent enforcement campaign.”
CopyTele will have to get in line for its Skype suit: as of last month, the Microsoft subsidiary is also being sued by VirnetX over patent infringement claims (for the second time; they’d already settled past claims). A case brought by a company called Via Vadis, both in Europe and the U.S. back in 2011, around the time that the deal between Microsoft and Skype was first announced, was thrown out in a German court in January.
Nor are these the first patent infringement suits that CopyTele has brought against the tech community. In January, it filed suits against E Ink and AU Optronics Corp, related to technology used in products like Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble, among others.
CopyTele is also amassing other patent portfolios and plans suits against other entities. These include companies that offer loyalty programs. It’s also bought a Windows patent portfolio (for actual windows — not Microsoft Windows).
Companies like Google, BlackBerry and Earthlink have lobbied against patent trolls and what it calls “patent privateering,” when patent enforcement entities make deals with larger companies to take over their portfolios and bring cases against competitors. But Berman paints himself as something of a patent enforcement crusader and takes issue with the categorically negative picture painted around patent trolls.
“I think every patent case needs to be judged on their own merits,” he said. “Just as there are good and bad personal injury lawyers, there are good and bad patent assertion companies. I don’t think it’s fair to assess every company that doesn’t make products as a villain. We are not in the nuisance lawsuit business, particularly when large companies make money out of licensing. What gives large companies the right to do this and not small companies?”
As of today, Senator Charles Schumer is also wading into these waters with proposed legislation that will change how these kinds of cases are brought to court. He’s suggesting that each suit should be reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before it can proceed through the court system, so that it can vet the cases and decide whether they have any merit on patent grounds. In Schumer’s estimation this should ferret out illegitimate claims while letting genuine patent violations proceed along the costly route to court appearance, or settlement. In theory, if this legislation passes, if CopyTele (or any other company) believes that it has a legit case, it should have nothing to worry about.
We are reaching out to Microsoft for comment on this and will update as we learn more. Update: Microsoft has responded with a “no comment.”
Full complaint below.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is “partially” opposing a request by the estate of Aaron Swartz for the release of documents related to the investigation that led to Swartz’s arrest and prosecution in federal court.
In court papers filed today, MIT counsel states that its opposition stems from two factors: its concerns about people in the MIT community named in the documents and the security of its computer networks.
MIT has previously stated that it would release the documents with redactions of names and other information. MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in email to the MIT community earlier this month:
On Friday, the lawyers for Aaron Swartz’s estate filed a legal request with the Boston federal court where the Swartz case would have gone to trial. They demanded that the court release to the public information related to the case, including many MIT documents. Some of these documents contain information about vulnerabilities in MIT’s network. Some contain the names of individual MIT employees involved. In fact, the lawyers’ request argues that those names cannot be excluded (”redacted”) from the documents and urges that they be released in the public domain and delivered to Congress.
The paper filed today reiterates this position, basing it on threats already made to MIT staff and three separate hacking incidents at the university.
The information includes “email, the names, job titles, departments, telephone numbers, email addresses, business addresses, and other identifying information of many members of the MIT community.”
Swartz has become a symbol in the Internet community since his suicide. His supporters have led the debate about the role MIT played in Swartz’s prosecution and the vigilance of the U.S. Attorney General in the case.
MIT claims it is fully cooperating in the investigation that has come since Swartz’s suicide.
Microsoft and Google are currently involved in a patent lawsuit in Germany that could, according to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller and a number of German reports, lead to an outright ban of Google Maps in the country.
Microsoft’s EP0845124 patent in Europe is for a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor” and was issued in 1996. The issue was discussed in a regional court in Munich today and as Mueller notes, it doesn’t look like Google was able to convince the judge “that the patent is highly probable to be invalidated at the end of a parallel nullity proceeding.”
If Microsoft wins the injunction it is asking for, Google could have to shut down its mapping service in Germany, both on the web and on mobile phones (or at least on all of its own Motorola phones). In the worst of all cases, it could even be ordered to stop distributing Chrome in Germany unless it blocks access to Google Maps from the browser.
The more likely option, however, as the German press agency DPA reports, is that Microsoft could offer Google a license for its patent. A Microsoft spokesperson told DPA that this could be “a way to end this war.”
Google’s lawyers also argued that Google Maps is too important and shouldn’t just be shut down. Currently, about 4 million Germans use the service, and shutting down access to it for anybody with a German IP address would not just inconvenience them but also hurt Google’s image. For now, Google is keeping its cool (at least in public). A Google spokesperson gave us this statement: ““We are confident in our position and look forward to defending it in court.”
FOSS Patents’ Mueller also reports that Google’s counsel argued that the company would “suffer irreparable harm if it had to shut down a key part of its Google Maps service in Germany and that customers who then use competing services (such as Microsoft’s Bing Maps, which Judge Dr. Zigann mentioned) may never return to Google Maps.”
All those Germans who decided to hide their houses on Google Maps’ Street View will probably cheer for Microsoft to win this injunction. The court will render a decision about this injunction in about two months.
The Wikimedia Foundation has just announced that it has reached a settlement with new media company Internet Brands to put a stop to all litigation between the two parties concerning the creation and recent launch of free wiki travel site Wikivoyage.
Wikivoyage is a free (and ad-free) online travel guide that anyone can edit, but a large part of the content currently available was migrated over from Internet Brands-owned website Wikitravel earlier.
In 2012, a number of Wikitravel community members began discussing whether to fork off their work and editing activities from and start over at another website host, supposedly after dissatisfaction with Internet Brands’s technical capabilities and ‘interference’.
Ultimately, it was decided by Wikitravel community members to recommence all editing efforts over at Wikivoyage and to create a new travel wiki, this time hosted and supported by the Wikimedia Foundation.
Internet Brands subsequently sued two former Wikitravel volunteers, claiming trademark infringement and violation of its IP rights among other things. Wikimedia, even though technically not a party to the lawsuit, stepped up to defend the two individuals.
The claims by Internet Brands were dismissed by a U.S. federal court in November 2012, after which the Wikimedia Foundation filed its own lawsuit against the online media company, seeking a declaration from the court that it had no proper basis to block the wiki travel project.
Now that Internet Brands and the Wikimedia Foundation have settled their litigation, the former has released both the Wikimedia Foundation and German non-profit Wikivoyage e.V. from any and all claims related in any manner to the creation and operation of the wiki travel project.
In return, the Wikimedia Foundation will dismiss its lawsuit.
The settlement agreement, signed on Valentine’s Day no less, is billed by the Wikimedia Foundation’s General Counsel, Geoff Brigham, as a “victory for the Wikimedia movement, and a vindication of our values and beliefs.”
— Wikimedia (@Wikimedia) February 16, 2013
Internet Brands has not released any public statements to date, and hasn’t yet responded to our requests for comment.
We’ll update if and when they do.
Meanwhile, Wikivoyage is off to a good ‘start’ under the wings of the Foundation, which says about 9,000 new entries were added in the first month after its public debut, and new language versions in Polish, Romanian, Finnish, Hungarian, Chinese and Japanese are being opened.
Currently, Wikivoyage boasts over 27,000 articles in English, compared to roughly 84,200 English-language entries in Internet Brands’ Wikitravel.
Image credit: Thinkstock
See the original post here: Wikimedia and Internet Brands settle all litigation, clearing path for free wiki travel site Wikivoyage