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Apple, Sony among those named in music DRM lawsuit

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
First on AppleInsider -- Five of the top companies in the online music industry are being sued by an individual who claims that the digital rights management software used by the Internet's most popular music download services violates a seven-year-old technology patent.

Earlier this month Ho Keung Tse of Hong Kong filed a lawsuit in United States Federal Court alleging that the digital rights management (DRM) technology used by the online music stores of Apple Computer, Sony Connect, Real Networks, Napster and MusicMatch infringes on his U.S. Patent No. 6,665,797.

The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea.

Most music tracks downloaded from today's online music stores are encrypted with DRM technology that prevents them from being transfered and played on other user's computers and digital music players. The technology is essential for any music store which distributes licensed content because it helps reduce piracy through the Internet and other mediums.

The concept behind Tse's DRM patent has recently been adopted throughtout the online music industry. It relies heavily on a "psychological barrier" to discourage users from sharing music by embedding personal information into each music file the user purchases. In turn, privacy and tracking concerns would help dissuade users from allowing friends/family and others to copy the music tracks.

In the 17-page filing in Maryland District Court, Tse seeks a judgment enjoining the companies from further violation of his technology patent and asks that all software shown to infringe on his property rights be turned over. Tse also seeks legal fees, and both actual and statutory damages resulting from the infringement. He's demanding a trial by jury.

"The intent of the suit is not to control DRM" or "try and obtain untold riches," said Joseph Zito, a patent attorney for ZITO tlp, the Damascus, Md.-based law firm handling Tse's case. Instead, he says, "Mr. Tse and his company would like a reasonable royalty for what he's come up with and innovated."

Apple was the first company to be notified of Tse's patent when the inventor contacted the company approximately 11 months ago, according to Zito. Attorneys for both parties later met in an attempt to reach an out-of-court resolution but were unable to agree on amicable financial terms.

Although Zito declined to put a specific price tag on the case, in his conversation with AppleInsider he seemed content in letting each company use the concepts behind the DRM technology without any restrictions if they agreed to a "reasonable licensing fee." However, previous Internet reports suggest that Tse is asking for a whopping 12% share of the profits Apple has earned from its iTunes and iPod sales.

Nevertheless, industry sources believe the material impact of such a suit on the music companies will wind up being negligible.

"On a 99 cent download where 55 to 60 cents and in some cases 70 cents goes to the record labels, I would say maybe 5 to 10 cents could be related to DRM technology," said a Wall Street analyst who wished not to be named. "Having seen so many of these lawsuits all these years, I have a feeling this case could be dismissed or settled out of court and written off by the companies as a one-time item."

Of the five companies named in the lawsuit, Apple's iTunes Music Store leads the legal online music download market with an approximate 80% share, having sold over half a billion songs to date.

A hearing date for the case has yet to be scheduled and based on timetables for Maryland courts, the case is not expected to go before a jury until the summer of 2006.
post #2 of 22
If Apple's attorneys met with this guy's attorney, then it must mean that they think his case is not totally baseless, otherwise, they'd tell him to shove it.

Now, if I am not mistaken, I believe Apple's DRM, FairPlay, isn't even their own creation -- they exclusively license it from another company. This could turn out just like the damned Eminem case! Remember, it was Apple's ad agency that ripped off "Lose Yourself", but Apple had to settle.

Between these problems and the Microsoft "iPod" patent, I'll bet the Intellectual Property department at Apple is probably getting reamed by Steve regularly. They are really f***ing up!
post #3 of 22
I wonder how much this guy thinks is a "reasonable" amount though. The record companies are already pushing for higher prices and a bigger cut of the profits from what little there is. If they met and couldn't come to an agreement maybe his asking price was astronomical or something.

Maybe Apple just offered him a free iPod or something.

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     197619842013  

     Where were you when the hammer flew?  

 

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post #4 of 22
LOL!
post #5 of 22
"The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea. "

Ahem. an unobvious idea? um wouldn't product activation and just about ANY program with an option for password protection to run be liable? Then shouldn't MS be liable Bigtime with there new security check b4 allowing access to software updates? Is it not preventing you from accessing the 'updater software' ? (assuming you are running a pirated version of windows.)
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by KeyMACer
"The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea. "

Ahem. an unobvious idea? um wouldn't product activation and just about ANY program with an option for password protection to run be liable? Then shouldn't MS be liable Bigtime with there new security check b4 allowing access to software updates? Is it not preventing you from accessing the 'updater software' ? (assuming you are running a pirated version of windows.)

So then you are telling us that you also thought of this idea back in 1996 or so when he must have filed, or 1995 when he must have come up with it? Oh, right, the web had just gotten started about then, and most everyone was using 33.6Kbs modems. Real obvious.

Many ideas seem to be obvious once someone else comes up with it. Then people smack themselves on the forehead and say "Why didn't I come up with this, it's so obvious".

Most "obvious" concepts are not.

You also don't seem to have understood what was being said. It was the idea of putting the personal data within each song that made it original.

What I don't like is people or companies waiting until a business is very successful before pouncing.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
So then you are telling us that you also thought of this idea back in 1996 or so when he must have filed, or 1995 when he must have come up with it? Oh, right, the web had just gotten started about then, and most everyone was using 33.6Kbs modems. Real obvious.

Many ideas seem to be obvious once someone else comes up with it. Then people smack themselves on the forehead and say "Why didn't I come up with this, it's so obvious".

Most "obvious" concepts are not.

You also don't seem to have understood what was being said. It was the idea of putting the personal data within each song that made it original.

What I don't like is people or companies waiting until a business is very successful before pouncing.

Also, The technque used to protect it could be the unobvious idea. Not just the idea its self.
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post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea.

Um one problem I see that may lead to an Apple/Sony etc win in a case like this. Notice it says Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use. Music files are not software, nor is it used. A file is read and is useless without software.
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
What I don't like is people or companies waiting until a business is very successful before pouncing.

That IS stupid. They should make it a freaking law that you must file or make your intentions known that you wish to file againt a company for violating a patent within 1 year of public disclosure. After that it should be exempt from lawsuits, on the grounds that the patent holder failed to do their part in protecting their patent within reasonable time. Even if you take the quoted 11 months into consideration it's still 4 months after the iTMS went public, and it's not like the launch was lacking media attention or in a small unknown country where the patent holder would have no knowledge of its existence.
post #10 of 22
LOL

DMR hehehahahahaha DMR ......... hehehehehehe

When will the learn - digital files can not be protected
There wil always be someone that can CRACk it

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post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
So then you are telling us that you also thought of this idea back in 1996 or so when he must have filed, or 1995 when he must have come up with it? Oh, right, the web had just gotten started about then, and most everyone was using 33.6Kbs modems. Real obvious.

Many ideas seem to be obvious once someone else comes up with it. Then people smack themselves on the forehead and say "Why didn't I come up with this, it's so obvious".

Most "obvious" concepts are not.

You also don't seem to have understood what was being said. It was the idea of putting the personal data within each song that made it original.

What I don't like is people or companies waiting until a business is very successful before pouncing.

What does the speed of the modem and the internet have to do with anything we're talking about?!?!

"The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea. "

"Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use"

This is NOT a new idea - games have been 'Protected Against Unauthorized Use' since the days of the Vic-20 and probably even before that.

The first forms of "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that I can remember came in the form of...

Floppy discs with hidden data (which heralded in block-copy software)
Floppy discs with damaged sectors (which introduced hex hacking the binaries)

And today we have authentication methods that ping back the publisher and in the high end software markets 'serial and/or usb dongles' that must be present for the software to run...

Any who...

Whoever thought that this idea deserved patent protection 'because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea.' should have done some more research.

Unless the method itself was so amazingly new and different than the thousands of other "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" ideas that have already come (been cracked) and now gone -and- Apple, Sony and others are all using his new formula for protection. (I could be wrong but somehow I don't think so)

And not too mention that Apples DRM has been cracked once or twice already (IIRC) so if anything this just goes to show that the patent that guy wrote wasn't worth the ink used to write it in the first place.

Dave
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post #12 of 22
The methods for copy protection you mention all shove data from the producer to the consumer... they rely on information *from* the company to work. Just like DVDs, once that information is cracked or known, copying is quick and easy, and anonymous.

What this patent says is that instead, take information from the consumer and tag the software so that it is tied to that person. Copying is allowed, but is no longer anonymous. The person who holds the software will have a significant psychological barrier (dude, they'll know it was me) and not *want* to let anyone copy it. The consumer becomes your copy enforcer because suddenly they have a stake in it.

Apparently it's not *that* obvious if you didn't get it even after reading the patent description...
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post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by Kickaha
The methods for copy protection you mention all shove data from the producer to the consumer... they rely on information *from* the company to work. Just like DVDs, once that information is cracked or known, copying is quick and easy, and anonymous.

What this patent says is that instead, take information from the consumer and tag the software so that it is tied to that person. Copying is allowed, but is no longer anonymous. The person who holds the software will have a significant psychological barrier (dude, they'll know it was me) and not *want* to let anyone copy it. The consumer becomes your copy enforcer because suddenly they have a stake in it.

Apparently it's not *that* obvious if you didn't get it even after reading the patent description...

Still, this is NOT something new and or ground breaking...

PC-Board (IIRC) a BBS from the 80's something quite similar - you would order the software and said software was compiled with specific protections that were tied directly to the person purchasing it and once modified would render the software useless.

Punter-BBS for the Pet CBM and later the C-64 had a similar implementation in place IIRC...

In both cases the protection did work (for the most part) since you didn't dare give away a copy you paid for.... Cause the would have surly caught you dead to rights.

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post #14 of 22
Cool beans. But, if the methods those folks used compiled the information at the vendor, such that every unit shipped was different, then that would be different than a system that is blank to start with, but gathers the information during installation and incorporates it.

I agree it seems silly, particularly in retrospect, but if it was novel at the time, then it was patent-worthy.
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post #15 of 22
It doesn't seem to be the same thing to me as what iTunes and others use. Follow this paragraph:

Quote:
The concept behind Tse's DRM patent has recently been adopted throughtout the online music industry. It relies heavily on a "psychological barrier" to discourage users from sharing music by embedding personal information into each music file the user purchases. In turn, privacy and tracking concerns would help dissuade users from allowing friends/family and others to copy the music tracks.

Now the first part you can argue is currently being done. However, its not used as a 'psychological' barrier. The DRM is used to PREVENT the music from being copied/shared. His concept is[list=a][*] Mark file with name of user[*] Giving said file to friends, and all them access it, then everyone knows who they got it from ("They're tracking me! I need to put aluminum foil in my pants to protect me!"). [*] RIAA finds file online, they can look at said info, and poof, sue your ass off![/list=a]

iTunes and the rest has the concept of:[list=a][*]Mark file with identifying information[*]Have products that verify the information in the file against information gathered from the user[*]Allow music to be played on if said info matches.[*]Prevent music if the info doesn't match.[/list=a]

Maybe qualifications like this don't mean anything. But considering that patents are both very vague AND very specific at the same, can he claim violation when all but the first point is not being invalidated?
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by DaveGee
Still, this is NOT something new and or ground breaking...

PC-Board (IIRC) a BBS from the 80's something quite similar - you would order the software and said software was compiled with specific protections that were tied directly to the person purchasing it and once modified would render the software useless.

Punter-BBS for the Pet CBM and later the C-64 had a similar implementation in place IIRC...

In both cases the protection did work (for the most part) since you didn't dare give away a copy you paid for.... Cause the would have surly caught you dead to rights.

Dave

That's true. I remember long, long ago where we worked, we had some postscript generation software that was tied specifically to the CPU ID on the motherboard (a Sun Sparcstation 4). I remember this fun because we had to get a new copy of the software (on tape!) when our motherboard failed. Big pain in the ass.

Ah, but maybe these don't count because they don't rely on a 'psychological' barrier as opposed to a real one, i.e. it won't work.
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by DaveGee
What does the speed of the modem and the internet have to do with anything we're talking about?!?!

"The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea. "

"Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use"

This is NOT a new idea - games have been 'Protected Against Unauthorized Use' since the days of the Vic-20 and probably even before that.

The first forms of "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that I can remember came in the form of...

Floppy discs with hidden data (which heralded in block-copy software)
Floppy discs with damaged sectors (which introduced hex hacking the binaries)

And today we have authentication methods that ping back the publisher and in the high end software markets 'serial and/or usb dongles' that must be present for the software to run...

Any who...

Whoever thought that this idea deserved patent protection 'because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea.' should have done some more research.

Unless the method itself was so amazingly new and different than the thousands of other "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" ideas that have already come (been cracked) and now gone -and- Apple, Sony and others are all using his new formula for protection. (I could be wrong but somehow I don't think so)

And not too mention that Apples DRM has been cracked once or twice already (IIRC) so if anything this just goes to show that the patent that guy wrote wasn't worth the ink used to write it in the first place.

Dave

You're not paying attention. This is not for the use of just any software. He's suing the download music companies. It's the DRM for downloadable MUSIC files that we're talking about here. This was NOT obvious back then. This couldn't be used with a slow dial-up modem.

We won't know if this passes a validity test until after the court appeals go through. I'm not saying that it is validly covering the current DRM schemes used today. We will find that out as time goes on.

I am saying that what he has done back ten or so years ago was not obvious with the technology available at the time. This has happened many times in the past. People have come up with inventions that were not doable because the technology was not up to it. Sometimes it became doable only after the patent ran out.
post #18 of 22
Maybe Apple could agree to change the name of iPods to "iTses!"
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post #19 of 22
IP is such a joke. No one wins in the long run. What's happening to Apple is become more common in the tech industry. IP stifles growth, temporarily inflates profits (until you get sued) and kills innovation.
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by DaveGee
What does the speed of the modem and the internet have to do with anything we're talking about?!?!

"The patent describes a method for "Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use" that Tse says was granted to him in 1998 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office because it was deemed to be a new, useful and unobvious idea. "

"Protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use"

This is NOT a new idea - games have been 'Protected Against Unauthorized Use' since the days of the Vic-20 and probably even before that.

Dave

Hmm, another person not understanding language but still wanting to fully engage in argumentation. Of course protection of Software Against Unauthorized Use is not new. Are you normally this obvious or are you just pretending real hard?. What is new with the patent is encoding personal info in the song to discourage sharing. The article says
"the patent describes a METHOD for Protection of Software against Unauthorized Use". Nowhere do i see anyone claiming that protecting software against unauthorized use is a new idea. No, whatever method this person came up with is new (or so thought the USPTO).
post #21 of 22
Encoding personal information into it?

Kind of like when you have to enter your name and whatever serial number on an install of an application that starts showing up in the splash screen?

Sounds like he will start suing any company that has activations for their applications as well. Well, M$ has deep pockets (but not Quark).

Or is it a more unique method?
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally posted by JimDreamworx
Encoding personal information into it?

Kind of like when you have to enter your name and whatever serial number on an install of an application that starts showing up in the splash screen? Sounds like he will start suing any company that has activations for their applications as well. Well, M$ has deep pockets (but not Quark).

Or is it a more unique method?

I have no idea, to be honest. These patent apps need a lawyer to fully understand them. However, with what i know, it is different from what you describe above. Above, you unlock the software by entering personal data. You could potentially copy the software to another machine and have to re-enter the personal information. In his method, the information was embedded within the software and did not require the user to enter anything to unlock. Kinda like itunes. When you buy a song from itunes, it does not ask you to enter serial number. It is not displayed at startup and when you copy the song, the embedded information is copied too. Copying software does not copy the serial number information and in fact, every software i have known allows you to leave the license file (or whatever that info is stored) and move the software to another machine without effecting the ability of the software to function (all user has to do is re-enter info). With a DRM song, removing the personal information is a crime itself so even though it is technically possible, legally, it is not.

So in summary the difference

itunes. Ask you for personal information at sign up, stores in each song.

Regular app. Ask you for personal information at initial execution. Info is not embedded in software. Info is either stored in a seperate file, in the registry, etc but not embedded in software. Major difference and the only reason why this patent is unique really. As everyone knows, protecting sofware from unauthorized use is not unique in itself but the various methods to accomplish this may be unique (or not)
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