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Shopping Malls Can’t Charge Entrance Fees. So What?

July 5th, 2009 No comments

There seems to have been so much hot air as people struggle to understand Freeconomics. The idea that data will be free. Hopefully we are getting to the end of that debate.

Newspapers discovering they can’t charge for their web sites, or for that matter any service now finding itself in data form, is similar to shopping malls discovering they can’t charge an entrance fee for their splendid walled garden. So they make money in other ways. If shopping malls can’t make ends meet they aren’t going to be able to cover their financing with billboard fees so they had better suddenly develop one splendid food court or sell up to somebody with other ideas and move down to Florida.

Likewise the Music industry is discover that their consumers consider charging for copies of music a greater crime than the copying and are refocusing on convenient video delivery and concert performances.

While the incumbents are bound to try to protect their positions increasingly they need to just get on with adapting or cannibalizing themselves into new businesses because there are few people left who believe the arguments of artificial scarcity and want to listen to the sulking about how profitable their business use to be.

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RSS Content Licensing

January 9th, 2009 No comments

I have noticed a reasonable number of recent web sites which are syndicating content and republishing it on twitter or allowing it to be searched on their site. Often without publishing any kind of license or terms which would indicate that they had rights to the material.

Given the recent experiences that people have had with Getty Images you have to worry that the site operators are exposing themselves regardless of the use of a RSS feed to retrieve the data or the fact that the data was available for free in the original context. While linking to content has been held to be acceptable by some courts, hosting the content in your database and presenting it is likely to be argued to be an infringing use.

For example twitter content has the copyright retained by the original individual authors but people still pull it down from Twitter via RSS and use it. Some of the content is actually being republished from news services via RSS to Twitter services and the rights owner, a news agency, could easily come after anybody in the chain using it as part of their business. Many RSS terms only permit personal use, or use on a personal web site, not commercial use. A clearer problem with using personal use licensed RSS feeds are the  bargain hunting applications and staffing companies who are scanning the RSS syndication of craigslist and republishing it beyond the published personal use license and would appear to be putthing themselves at risk of legal action as a result.

Most rights holders aren’t going to mind but by building web sites around content you don’t own and which is being received from an RSS feed you are running a greater risk of the content not belonging to the person creating the subscription. As a result you are exposing yourself to future legal action in some countries and in other jurisdictions you need to respond to take down notices about user submissions promptly. If you ever have money worth pursuing you could even find yourself involved in the same kind of potential defenses as YouTube have experienced.

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Visual Search That Actually Works: TinEye

August 22nd, 2008 1 comment

A new visual search engine has been launched by a Canadian company TinEye.

Instead of entering text describing an object such as the phrase “tiger jumping” you upload or provide the URL of a photo.

But this is far more than a simple file search. I tried with jpg and gif photos and it found both file types on the internet regardless of which I provided. It even found photos where they had been cropped or the colour and size changed.

Passing it a collage of several photos it was able to identify other photos containing one of the component photos.

Clearly it is performing a rapid search in its database for some kind of signature of the visual look of the image and this is allowing a range of images containing that pattern to be identified.

It would seem to be mainly useful for researching the origins and usage of a photo in order to obtain, or identify abuse of, the usage rights.

I was very impressed with the tests I performed.

If you would like to give it a go it is at http://tineye.com/

I would be intereseted in hearing where people find the limits are. I ran out of good tests without hitting a problem.

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US Patent office starts to clear thicket of patents

August 20th, 2008 No comments

Scott Shaffer has nicely written up a decision by the US Patent Office to reject 95 patents in the area of visual / bar code recognition. There are a large number of dubious patents in the field that have been successfully blocking a number of ventures (By causing liability concerns for funders), including one venture of mine, in the area of visual code recognition. Many things in the field have been too obvious for too long but not quite implementable outside the lab, due to other technical availability limitations, so companies have spent their time filing patents around the subject.

The decision is one less hurdle for the project which got as far as a prototype before we realized what the patent situation was. It seems that several other related patents should fall for the same reason which is going to allow progress in the field once more. The immediate beneficiaries are OEMs using UPC and other bar code scanning solutions and users of QR Codes which are a direct rival of a proprietary NeoMedia code pattern which has sold partly on the patent liability fears NeoMedia and others were able to point out.

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