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Does Transfer of MPEG Video Infringe on Acacia Patents? 83

Spooky Suicide asks: "I own a slightly naughty website that among other things makes 20 some odd videos available for download in MPEG2 and MPEG4 format. I recently received a written letter from Acacia Research telling me my delivery of video is infringing upon some of their patents and I must choose between either licensing their technology or settling this issue in court. I called the EFF who told me they don't specialize in patent issues and don't know what to do next. Obviously, if all video on the web infringes on their patent, you'd think they'd go after the big guys, but they seem to be going after little content providers who can't afford to fight them in court. I can't help but feel like I'm being shaken down by the hi-tech version of Tony Soprano, what should I do? Anyone else dealt with these guys or no of any group of people grouping together to fight this?"
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Does Transfer of MPEG Video Infringe on Acacia Patents?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    this is where you'll find the best people to fight for more porn on the internet.

    slightly naughty

    teehee
    • This is, without a doubt, the best way to get advertising as well.

    • There is no such problem that cannot be resolved via the proper application of force.

      Ask yourself - in all honesty either they are well within their rights to ask you to pay for this technology, or they are well out of line and have no rights to tell you to pay to use this technology.

      If they have a legitimate right then back down and pay up.

      It they have no legitimate right and they are trying extortion then you are being terrorized and must fight back with overkill. It is the only way to handle terrorists.

      Send them a letter that says you feel that this is an act of terrorism and if they to not immediately cease and desist you will take their continued action as positive affirmation that they are terrorists that are terrorizing you, and that you will treat any further terrorist acts with the same vehemont reaction that terrorists deserve.

      If they keep it up, burn down their office buildings, find out where they live and burn down their homes, burn down their lawyer's offices and find out where their lawyer lives and burn down his home too. Burn their cars, too.

      Fighting terrorism means having the will to do what the other guy won't.

      Put up, or shut up.
      • *vehement

        And this isn't my idea. These are the words of Sun Tzu. I am just sharing them with you.

        Sun Tzu - The Art of War.

        Read it.
        Know it.
        Live it.
  • The Answer (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ashran ( 107876 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:12PM (#4775990) Homepage
    I shall tell you, after I get an account for your slightly naughty website [suicidegirls.com]! ;)
  • Why not convert all your video to an widespread, reasonably open format like DivX (or better the upcoming ogg video format, though i wouldn't think penetration (forgive pun) of client software for that format would be high enough for you) And tell them to go away? It'd be cheaper than fighting a case that you [i]should[/i] win, but might cost you lots. Unless you want to take the risk of a no-win, no-fee lawyer.
    • Re:Change (Score:4, Informative)

      by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:26PM (#4776068) Homepage
      Uh, read the patent? It's not a patent on MPEG. It's a patent on internet video:

      The present invention relates generally to an audio and video transmission and receiving system, and more specifically to such a system in which the user controls the access and the playback operations of selected material.


      It specifically states that it relates to any compressed video, whether it is compressed during transmission, partially decompressed before transmission, or fully decompressed before transmission. Not just MPEG. It applies to Real, Ogg Theora, anything. Those are just forms of compression.

      These guys have "patented" the method of sending you the video so you can pause it and fast forward it. Ooooh.
      • Re:Change (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Hmm, from what I gather, this patent (the 1992 one that is) covers a delivery system that allows a customer to download video and stop and seek at random. It even refers to other patents that do the same but then without the stopping and seeking bit. Thing is, Mr. Spooky isn't offering such a system at all. He's offering some files on a web server, and the whole download and playback machinery isn't offered by him, it's already installed on the client's computer. The fact that the user can stop and play back at will isn't a feature of his product, so I don't see how this infringes anything. He's offering content, not a transmission system.

        Ofcourse, IANAL, but it does seem quite silly to me. Also, you might want to ask them why they are not suing mp3.com, after all they deliver audio and video in exactly the same way, and there's probably a lot more money to be made there. I bet the shareholders won't like them going after small fish when they could have big ones, due diligence and all that...

    • Re:Change (Score:5, Informative)

      by labtec6 ( 443718 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:28PM (#4776072)
      If you've read the letter, it basically says that if you allow available video clips for viewing or download from your web site, you are infringing on their copywrights. Nothing about format. It's only that you have videos on your web site.

      This patent could be slapped down HARD if they took on a large company. That's why they are going after this guys site. He's small time, probably can't afford to fight. EXACTLY the same thing as the PanIP fight that's going on. Too broad of a patent to even be inforcable, and they know it.

      It's like patenting "method of moving your legs for locomotion" or some crap. It's just a given, and has been done before. But if you can't fight it, they'll get money, and sue others until somebody steps up and fights.

      This all sucks.
    • Trying to get a first post with something that looks like usefull informations?

      United States Patent N 5,132,992 Audio and video transmission and receiving system:
      A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression. The compressed and encoded audio and/or video information is sent over standard telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels to a receiver specified by a subscriber of the service, preferably in less than real time, for later playback and optional recording on standard audio and/or video tape.

      The patents are very broad and mostly cover the transmission of the content, not the format of the content.
      • Well, since (at least one of) the patents specifies "standard telephone, cable, or satellite broadcast channels" you could require users to agree to a EULA stating that they are not using such means to access your website.

        Possibly high-speed leased lines, ISDN, dry copper local links, serial cable connections, land-based wireless, and even GPRS don't fall into this description. It's not your responsibility to monitor compliance, after all.

        Also, your EULA could require (to avoid this patent) your users to play the video back as it is delivered, rather than store it for "later playback and optional recording... ."
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:17PM (#4776016)
    You might try contacting the people at http://www.youmaybenext.com/ since they're dealing with the same issue, just a different patent.

    Slashdot articles on that topic are at
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/11/0 5/21 21249&tid=155
    and
    http://yro.slashdot.org/articl e.pl?sid=02/10/22/01 5241&tid=155

    The fact that none of their patents actually contain the word "Internet" is rather telling, though.
    • The key point is codec technology. The first patent goes back to 91, but I'm sure people were compressing video digitally for longer than that, but I guess it was only the professionals then.
      • quicktime was first released in 1991 [retiariusenterprises.com], and for that matter, transmission of video over satellite and phone lines has been going on since at least the 1960s in the TV industry, probably earlier.

        Heck, transmission of audio over standard phone lines (which one of the patents seems to cover) has been around since there have been phone lines. That's sort of the point, after all. And they have always allowed for "optional recording" for "later playback."
  • If you can wait a little bit Xiph [xiph.org] recon that Ogg Theora [theora.org] will be ready by June 2003.
    Beta stuff is already out, but I dont think you want to go into the business of beta testing.
  • Start one. I have also made three videos (of the non pr0n variety, sorry) and provided them for download. I guess that makes what I'm doing illegal too. This patent stuff is going far beyond ridiculous. The sad part is that this was filed in 1992. I can't even think of any prior art. That doesn't make it valid, but it does make it hard to fight. Jeez.
  • by edward.virtually@pob ( 6854 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:29PM (#4776077)
    by the hi-tech version of Tony Soprano. Unfortunately, there is little you can do beyond complaining to the various groups keeping track of the abuse of the patent system by IP law scumbags. Pulling all the MPEGs, and quietly finding someone to mirror them in a country not fatally fubar'd by assinine patent law is probably the best you can do.

    • Never fear, even under their patent, you are not at fault. Or at least, that's the way I see it.

      The 5 patents presented specify a method by which one would transmit or recieve digital audio or video. Your site is not a method, but a repository... The server itself is the method. It (probably apache or IIS), or rather the makers of the server, are actually liable for this one because they are the ones who produced a method for transmission and playback.

      Think of it this way... I patent a method for cleaning a floor by means of sucking dust into a bag. Then, hoover starts making vacuum cleaners and I want to sue. Hoover, the company that made the transgressing product is liable, but the many users out there trying to clean their floors cannot be held liable.

      It's like if I had patented a toy which consisted of building objects with joining bricks, and then LEGO started making their toys. I could sue Lego for the transgression, but I would not be able to sue every kid that plays with Lego products.

      I must warn that I am not a patent lawyer, just a Comp Sci. student. But I know a fucking scam when I see one.... don't give in. Fight the good fight.
  • uhh.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by seann ( 307009 )
    A system of distributing video and/or audio information employs digital signal processing to achieve high rates of data compression. The compressed and encoded audio and/or video information is sent over standard telephone, cable or satellite broadcast channels to a receiver specified by a subscriber of the service, preferably in less than real time, for later playback and optional recording on standard audio and/or video tape.


    How does this involve the internet?
    Specially if the medium was fiber optic line, or even a tin can down the way.
    And its not being recorded on any "video tape".
    • <quote>* by a subscriber * </quote>

      So as long as the person isn't a subscriber of a service, the patent doesn't apply, since it describes implementing a subscriptio service. Fuck 'em

      • Indeed! Fuck 'em!

        Oh, and record it and stream it to your subscribers. Hell, I'd pony up a subscription for that alone ..
    • "a receiver specified by a subscriber of the service"

      So, are you letting the subscriber specify a particular receiver, or just sending it ot the ip address that requested it?

      If you let your subscribers specify some other receiver it sounds like you would be infringing, but if they aren't specifying a receiver , then maybe you are not infringing. It seems odd that the claim would be so specific (no pun intended ) when it is in the claimant interest to make it broader.
  • Heh (Score:2, Funny)

    by inerte ( 452992 )
    Acacia killed the internet video porn-star.
  • Fuck em. (Score:3, Informative)

    by GMontag451 ( 230904 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @02:59PM (#4776238) Homepage
    Just ignore the letter. More than likely it is an empty threat. If it isn't, it should be very easily defeated in court simply through prior art. HTTP (I assume that is what you are using to "deliver" the video content) was invented in 1990, two full years before Acacia's first patent.
    • It probably is an empty threat... if I remember correctly, you can't enforce a patent on an idea, but rather on an implimentation of that idea... e.g. you cant's patent an idea like the wheel (unless you're an Australlian.. ) but you can patent types of tires. Sometimes even the implimentation is up for grabs too. (Read as... IBM vs Borland over the Lotus meuning system being the same as the Quatrro Pro menuing system)

      Either way, you're going to spend losts of money on lawyers, or lots of money on licenses.

      That's just my $0.02
  • show me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @03:07PM (#4776272) Journal
    Ask them to show you the specific patents that you are infringing and which part of the patent that you are infringing on.


  • X Windows is designed for a clinet* to pull the information to display applications over the network from a server. Some of those applications are video, or video like, and some of those networks use compression.

    X is *really* old and has roots to 1984.

    *X uses odd client/server terminology. It makse sense in an odd way, but I used the 'traditional' meening here.

    • Actually X-Windows is prior art to the system that the poster describes and the patent refers to another type of system entirely. As somebody pointed out earlier it is overly broad to be enforcable, and quite obvious even in the early 90's when multimedia wasn't mainstream.

      The patent describes pushing compressed video over a broadcast system, any porn site delivering videos is using a client pull over a packet system. The two are completely different.

      It sounds quite a lot like the patent BT tried to use to claim ownership of hyperlinks. Completely different, doens't mention any of the technology used (because it predates it) and is a blatent attempt to patent an idea rather than an implementation of an idea (in order to stop somebody actaully doing it). Any lawyer should be able to write you a letter to that effect pretty quickly, and even if they do charge by the hour it'll probably take them less than that to do it for you.
    • You have the Client and Server in X reversed. In X the display is the server and the program that wishes to display something is the client. The client program makes requests the the X server display. So, for example, if machine A might run the X display server (xfree86) and machine B might run a Mozilla client that makes requests to display it's interface on the X server on machine A.

      • You have the Client and Server in X reversed


        That was intentional, most people understand the relationship between client/server in the same manor as VNC, PcAnywhere and Citrix. I propbably shound not have done that - dumbing things down to make them more accessable is can buy a dumb idead in itself.
        If you note, I expalined the descremency that at the end of my post:

        *X uses odd client/server terminology. It makse sense in an odd way, but I used the 'traditional' meening here.

  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @03:26PM (#4776356) Homepage Journal
    --contact the big guys yourself. If these guys get an court settlement test cases in their favor, it's going to cost a lot of the big guys serious folding money to fight the case themselves. whereas-if you can convince them to help you fight your relatively small case NOW, they can potentially save BIG BUCKS later. That's the best idea I can think of right now. These guys are fishing, but they will start taking people to court, and bet a nickle that they have a tame judge's area picked out where to file in. That's just a logic train, in war, the dude who picks the battle and terrain and goes first has the upper hand right off the bat. I haven't looked at any of the patents yet though, so no idea if their claims have any merit, but potentially this is bigger than the e-commerce patent fights if what they say is true. Just think of real player and quicktime and windows media player stuff, it would appear that all of those efforts are in violation potentially. I mean, transmitting digital content on wires? Say whut? That's a very, very broad avenue for "the internet". You might have difficulty though seeing as how you have a porn site, could be none of the big guys would want to be seen publically as "in favor of" your ....uhhh... artistic efforts on the net. In that case, seek contributions from like minded webmasters and hosts from this "industry" that will be similarly affected. There's thousands of them, a few bucks apiece donated might be prudent.

    I imagine all these parties have employees who read slashdot, so they will see this thread. good luck.
    • These guys are fishing for small guys to roast in order to set court precedents. Talk to a lawyer and transfer all media via FTP (goes back a lot further than their patent.


      Also, I would recommend talking to MS, Real, et al. since, sooner or later, since they are providing the products that infringe on the patents, they are very likely going to be pulled in to court sooner or later. Last I checked, if Ford infringes on GM's patents, Ford is the party that is supposed to get sued, not the consumer driving an Escort...


      just my 2/100($1.00)
      • "Talk to a lawyer and transfer all media via FTP (goes back a lot further than their patent."

        So does the web.
        This is transfer of video to the consumer.
        doesn't matter which protocol you use, its still over the internet, which is over phone lines, or cable, but not over certain other lines.
        blah
      • A US patent grants

        the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States
        so in theory if neither you nor Ford licensed the patent, they're liable for direct infringement when they produced the car and you're liable for direct infringement (and Ford is liable for contributory infringement) every time you drive it. In practice, GM could never afford to go after every Ford owner, and they'd be allowed to demand damages and a license fee from Ford but probably not a recall of all infringing cars.
  • by cornflux ( 168139 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:01PM (#4776551)
    Ok, so we didn't learn the first time [slashdot.org]? Well, let's just give this guy some more free advertising [slashdot.org].
    • When I looked at the url, of that linked site I knew we had already given this site free advertisement on slashdot. I didn't bother clicking it again as that's obviously another lame attempt to get the slashdot crowds on their site.
  • Ignore it.
    Plain and simple.
    This is just a letter and nothing more.
    If do try to proceed against you, you will win supprot because this affects everything including MS.
    But for now, ingore the fuckers. They are wasting your time
  • Sit on your hands. (Score:5, Informative)

    by WasterDave ( 20047 ) <davep.zedkep@com> on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:25PM (#4776623)
    If these seem like the actions of a desperate fc [fuckedcompany.com], that's because they are [businesswire.com]. Shall we all look for our favourite quote? I like "Revenues for the third quarter of 2002 were $179,000 versus $10,831,000 in the comparable 2001 period.", although it does struggle for attention when compared to "The third quarter 2002 net loss from operations was $20,622,000 or $1.05 per share". I note as well that their licence fee income is a glorious $43k for the last quarter. Shit, I know contractors who have made that much.Their assets minus liabilities is somewhere in the region of $56M, although we can safely assume a lot of those assets aren't going to be cash in the bank.

    Anyway, so it's not me getting the legal hassles, but I say stall the bastards. If you can stall for six months or so they'll just disappear off the radar. Either that or Apple, Real or Microsoft will walk round with the big stick and knock them off the radar.

    Best of luck,
    Dave

    BTW, how much are they looking for?
    • and calling out the slashdot effect on their servers [acaciaresearch.com] when they're already an aspiring .bomb can't be a bad idea either.

      remember everyone, one more hit [acaciaresearch.com] on their server [acaciaresearch.com] will bring them to their end just a little sooner.

    • The company will crash, and the patent portfolio will be snatched up in a fire sale by some lawyer(s) who will go around playing the same extortion game.

      This scenario can be the worst because the lawyer(s) don't have to pay retail for law services and they also have no incentive to horse trade via cross-licensing.
  • by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:27PM (#4776633) Homepage Journal
    And the first thing you do is contact the EFF, and THEN you contact Slashdot. When is your lawyer getting a call, after your thrown in jail?
  • Void (Score:4, Insightful)

    by isorox ( 205688 ) on Thursday November 28, 2002 @04:28PM (#4776641) Homepage Journal
    Isnt [musicmatch.com] a [mp3.com] patent [apple.com] void [microsoft.com] when [peoplesound.com] you [bbc.co.uk] dont [vgmusic.com] try [artistdirect.com] to [billbrownmusic.com] enforce [real.com] it [gomovietrailers.com]
    • Re:Void (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aridhol ( 112307 )
      Sorry. You're thinking trademark. There are alot of these "sleeper" patents hiding out there, making any development dangerous legal ground. Think MP3, think GIF, etc.
      • Sorry. You're thinking trademark.

        A weaker form of the defend-or-lose rule for trademarks applies to patents as well, in the form of "laches". If a patent holder is shown to harm an alleged infringer by delaying legal action, or a patent holder delays legal action by at least six years, then laches kickes in, diluting the patent holder's ability to enforce the patent on alleged infringements that occurred before the filing of a lawsuit. Once laches has kicked in, a patent holder can get an injunction, and that's about it.

        • Arguably they've lost it, but not permanently. You're off the hook for previous infringement, but as soon as they notify you, you're liable from then on.
    • No, that's trade marks.

      Dave
    • No. That would be a trademark.
  • US Video (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    http://www.usvo.com/tech/store_forward.html

    Similar patent owned by US Video, filed before Acacia filed theirs.
  • Just ignore the letter. The majority of the time, organizations who send cease & desist letters *know* that they have no way to enforce their claims, and believe they can do so by scaring off the victim.

    Perhaps I'm being quick to judge, but it doesn't sound like they've been on the playing field for long. Their domain name [acadiaresearch.com] was registered two years ago. Certainly, if this is the case, they were not the first to use digital video on the Internet...
  • So.. Any lawyers? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 )
    IANAL. However, this patent seems to be overly broad. This could be their downfall. My first piece of advice is to find a patent lawyer. I'd also suggest finding larger companies that offer video for download (e.g. Time Warner). They may be willing to support you.

    My iunqualified reading follows:

    "Compressed" is a vague term, but would appear to include any compression algorithm, including LZW, and RLE. These types of file have been around before the first patent was issued - Obviously really. This patent was applied for at a time when video compression was good enough to make this feasable.

    It would appear that this would cover any BBS that ever contained an Amiga .Anim file.

    The other issue is that this would appear to apply only to broadcast and ordinary telephone services. The internet is not a broadcast technology. It is also not a telephone technology. Even if it was, this patent would appear to be for broadcasting recordable video data.
  • Mr. SpookySuicide, It has come to our attention that you are making posts on the internet regarding our intellectual property. Please remove all references you have created to Tony Soprano or our legal team will be forced to take action.
  • would be thrown out of the court. Its like me suing the dog next-door for breathing because I patented respiration. There should be laws against this type of harrassment, that's basically what it is. You should find out if that company is suing other people , band together and sue the company for all their worth, then try and get the judge to make the company all your legal fees because of the absurdness of the law suit, and countersue them for lost wages, punitive damages(I've got stress), and wasting your time.
  • "I can't help but feel like I'm being shaken down by the hi-tech version of Tony Soprano, what should I do?"

    Use DIVIX! If you only have 20 something odd movies then converting them to DIVIX should not be that hard. Then they won't have a reason to shake you down.

    Why DIVIX?

    1. Codec is distrubuted on many platforms. Linux,Windows,MAC,BE,etc.This should include most of your customers.
    2. Easy and quick to install the codec.
    3. It's source is open.

    PS: I dig the site!
  • I'm surprised you even thought for a minute that this was a real legal threat. That letter isn't even personalized. It's just plain junk mail meant to scare stupid webmasters like you into buying a scam license. Ignore it. Ignore anything that isn't addressed to you or your company by name, and that doesn't directly threaten legal action.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 29, 2002 @12:56PM (#4780139)
    Orange County Business Journal:

    Little Acacia's Lawyers Take On Big TV Makers

    By ANDREW SIMONS

    Engineers rule at most technology companies. At Newport Beach-based Acacia Research Corp., it's lawyers. The legal department at the small patent-holding company pulled in all but a smidgen of Acacia's $24 million in revenue last year.

    The team, led by Acacia vice president and general counsel Robert Berman, has made a business out of winning or settling lawsuits against big-name TV makers it accuses of infringing on patents.

    Thanks to Acacia's arm-twisting, 13 TV makers have inked licensing pacts with the company in the past year.... (Reg. req.)

    http://www.cbjonline.com/index_oc.html

    Silicon Investor:

    Acacia's growth strategy: Hire more lawyers.

    Antitrust watchdogs are busy checking out two partnerships forged by most of the big media companies that plan to sell new video-on-demand services. But the two partnerships, Movies.com and Movielink, might face an even bigger obstacle in Acacia Research, a Newport Beach, Calif. outfit that owns patents on certain technologies that enable digital streaming of music and movies over the Internet and cable television.

    "We're doing an analysis to see what companies are infringing [on Acacia's patents], and then putting together a strategy to license our patents to those companies," says Robert Berman, president of Acacia's Media Technologies Group. If deals can't be made, Acacia is prepared to sue, which is how it generated much of its $25.6 million in revenues last year. Acacia has settled lawsuits and cut deals with a dozen TV manufacturers for its patents on television v-chips.

    Sound familiar? In the early 20th century Motion Picture Patents Co. held immense sway in the film business until it was busted up by antitrust lawyers. More recently Henry Yuen became a billionaire in part by suing anyone he thought infringed on the patents owned by his interactive TV-guide service, Gemstar. Not only did Acacia purloin a page from Henry Yuen's patent playbook, it also stole three of the Gemstar attorneys, including Roy J. Mankovitz, a former Gemstar board member and lead in-house counsel for patent-licensing strategy.

    Perhaps Yuen can sue Berman for infringing on his legal ideas.

    http://www.siliconinvestor.com/stocktalk/msg.gsp ?m sgid=17134096
  • Very ironic, everyone thinks of you, spooky, as a guy. damn n3rds. want to love to me? :)
  • All I got was

    -Mpeg (not a good format! cause of patents!)

    -Ogg good (free and better, video hopefully better!)

    -evil stream law bad


    Although eventually someone (Hopefully!) will breakup the monopolistic back scratching.
    sounds to me that the fellow who got this letter is not aware of the big boys (tv deals!)



    We are a small company looking to stream video of local events in our local municipalities. We where looking for a good open source solution for streaming video and radio. we are shocked to hear this.



    What is a good Ogg Linux open source solution?

    What is the licensing fees?

    We like the idea that Ogg is free and look forward to June 2003 date!
  • by hal9k ( 7650 )
    Are you the only one who takes junk mail seriously? Does the "BIGGER PENIS IN 12 DAYS GUARANTEED!!!11" actually work?

    Or maybe you're really clever and think that this is a good way to get a bunch of lonely geeks to sign up for your website.

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