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Recent Entries

Buffalo Allowed to Sell Wireless in U.S.
Different Interpretation of Buffalo, CSIRO Patent Appeal
T-Mobile, AT&T, Starbucks Make Nice about Wi-Fi
EarthLink Will Shutter Philadelphia Network, Company Says
If You See Someone Using Wi-Fi to View Illegal Images, Call the Police
House Bill Requires Even Personal Hotspots to Report Certain Activities or Face Massive Fine
Wi-Fi Thieves? Not Really News
The Changing Face of Verizon Wireless's Terms of Service
Buffalo Stops US Sale of Products under Patent Case Ban
Verizon Settles for Calling Limited Service, Unlimited

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December 3, 2008

Buffalo Allowed to Sell Wireless in U.S.

By Glenn Fleishman

Buffalo Technology has had an injunction lifted in its ongoing patent litigation with Australia's CSIRO technology agency: Buffalo was unable to sell Wi-Fi equipment in the U.S. since a permanent injunction was put in place in June 2007 following their 2006 loss in a lawsuit. CSIRO has a patent that they argue covers aspects of OFDM in 802.11a/g. CSIRO sued Buffalo after the Japanese equipment maker declined to pay royalties.

The injunction prevented Buffalo from selling gear that it offers in Japan and elsewhere in the world during the huge expansion of Draft N sales. This likely caused tens of millions of dollars of lost revenue, if not more. Buffalo was formerly mentioned in a single breath with D-Link, Linksys, and NetGear. (Linksys, as a division of Cisco, already pays CSIRO license fees: Cisco agreed to honor CSIRO's patent assertion because of a purchase of an Australian firm a few years ago.)

WZR-AG300NH_front-lg.jpgBuffalo can now sell Wi-Fi gear in the U.S. due to winning a narrow appeal in October that sent the case back to a lower court to resolve an issue. The company could still be liable for damages and other fees if the lower court finds for CSIRO and higher courts agree.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing allows a single Wi-Fi channel to be subdivided into a smaller number of channels, improving performance in reflective environments and adding robustness against interference. It's also used in WiMax, LTE, and other standards. This could mean CSIRO would pursue makers of other technology eventually as well.

CSIRO has never given any sign of asking for predatory royalty rates, but several firms have countersued, including Intel, Dell, and Microsoft. Those cases are still in litigation, as far as I can tell.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:32 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 802.11n, Legal | No Comments

October 8, 2008

Different Interpretation of Buffalo, CSIRO Patent Appeal

By Glenn Fleishman

A few days ago, I wrote that CSIRO had come out on top in an appeal by Buffalo of a district court decision: CSIRO, the Australian technology agent, has a broad patent that appears to cover aspects of OFDM, a technique for improving throughput in multi-path (reflective) signal environments. OFDM is used in 802.11a, g, and n, as well as in WiMax, and other wireless technologies. CSIRO has Cisco signed as a licensee, as Cisco bought an Australian firm a few years ago (this covers Linksys as well), but other makers are fighting. Buffalo lost a district court decision and has an injunction preventing the import of Wi-Fi gear, which has likely cost them tens of millions of dollars. They're a leading seller in their founding country of Japan.

A few weeks ago, I picked up an item from ZDnet's Australian branch stating that CSIRO had won an appeal.

It appears that's inaccurate. While extremely technical in only a way that a court decision about patents can be, Buffalo won the appeal on a very narrow argument about the obviousness of the combination of two IEEE papers related to the CSIRO patent. Another issue, about how the original patent application covered 10 GHz and higher but was amended to covers the entire range of radio frequencies, appears to be set aside. Buffalo issued a press release.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 7:21 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

June 11, 2008

T-Mobile, AT&T, Starbucks Make Nice about Wi-Fi

By Glenn Fleishman

Starbucks informed me that it, AT&T, and T-Mobile have signed a memorandum of understanding about the free Wi-Fi kerfuffle: T-Mobile filed a lawsuit a few days ago against Starbucks stating it wasn't involved in discussions about its network carrying free loyalty-awarded Wi-Fi via AT&T's authentication system. Now the three companies are apparently making nice.

The statement from Starbucks reads: "T-Mobile, AT&T and Starbucks have entered into a memorandum of understanding to resolve their disputes and are committed to providing a high quality WiFi experience for customers, including Starbucks Rewards Customers, at Starbucks locations nationwide."

My interpretation is Starbucks said, oops, our bad, and they're figuring out the dollars and cents. Sometimes companies move too rapidly. T-Mobile is a quasi-jilted suitor, although they get something out of AT&T transition, too, so they're not likely to cut any slack.

Reuters confirms that AT&T confirms the statement. I separately confirmed with T-Mobile that the statement is accurate as well.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:07 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Financial, Free, Hot Spot, Legal | No Comments

May 13, 2008

EarthLink Will Shutter Philadelphia Network, Company Says

By Glenn Fleishman

It's the end of the cycle, folks: The first shall be last and the last shall, apparently, be first to sue. The Philadelphia Wi-Fi network will be shuttered under plans by EarthLink that they announced via press release today.

The company plans to pull all its gear from the poles starting 12-June-2008. The company's press release said it offered to give the network at no cost to an unnamed non-profit, as well as to the city, but claimed that "unresolved issues" led to the effort falling apart. EarthLink offered cash and more equipment, as well, in undisclosed quantities. Wireless Philadelphia, the non-profit in charge of managing the network provider and administering digital divide programs, was apparently not the non-profit mentioned.

EarthLink filed a lawsuit to allow it to remove its Wi-Fi nodes and cap its liability at $1m. That's a pretty hostile move, given that the city would have been the more likely party to feel aggrieved and file suit against EarthLink for failing to live up to the terms of their agreement.

EarthLink's claims of offering the network to "a non-profit" or the city for free skirts the issue that EarthLink may have certain liabilities for electrical power and other fees that haven't yet been paid; Wireless Philadelphia had agreed to pick up or defer certain charges as part of the deal that brought the network provider in. But without a completed network, and the contract therefore perhaps susceptible to being declared in default in court, it's unlikely that this will play out nicely.

And I'll say bluntly: If someone offered you $17m of outdated equipment on a network that never worked to specification that wasn't completed, and that already had known high annual costs, and which a private firm gave up as a bad job that they couldn't turn a dime on--would you take that deal? No. EarthLink will ultimately have to pay much more than $1m, I predict, and I suspect some of the settlement will leave gear in selected neighborhoods behind for more modest networking purposes. It's not going to be as easy as releasing a press release, although I haven't read the contract's provisions for this set of circumstances, and I'm not a lawyer.

The failure in Philadelphia, and EarthLink's exiting the entire muni-Fi business, represents the end of a bad model in which a company agreed to assume all risk and costs associated with building a public access network. When the assumptions were that networks would be cheaper and easier to build in 2005, and that citizens in many larger cities had few affordable broadband options, it made some sense to build a network on spec.

Three years into this, however, it's clear that that capital investment is 2 to 3 times higher than what was anticipated to reach a level of service quality that people will expect; that, when presented with potential competition, DSL and cable operators will slash prices and offer cheap 1-year or "lifetime" rates with long-term contracts; and that wireless broadband delivered via Wi-Fi isn't the best of ideas for indoor service.

Minneapolis may wind up being the only large city, if the network quality and subscriber rates play out, that has a public access network that works and produces a return.

Update: Wireless Philadelphia released a statement from its chief, Greg Goldman, that WP is still hoping to work out a resolution. They "remain optimistic."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:48 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal, Municipal | No Comments

April 19, 2008

If You See Someone Using Wi-Fi to View Illegal Images, Call the Police

By Glenn Fleishman

This child-porn-over-Wi-Fi story baffles me from two fronts: From Minnesota, a person (I use the term lightly) in a town north of Saint Paul and east of Minneapolis decided to use free Wi-Fi at a Dunn Brothers coffeeshop to view child pornography. He apparently sat or crouched in an alley or hallway between the cafe and another business.

Here's what mystifies me. First, someone from the business he's crouching near spots him viewing the porn, and instead of calling 911, reports him to the cafe's manager. Then, the cafe manager shoos the guy away instead of calling the police. Only when the man returns three weeks later does the manager call police.

If you ever see someone viewing images of clearly underage individuals engaged in sexual acts or having those acts performed on them, you call the police. There are times when it's unclear whether the images are against the rules of an orderly society in which we protect its weakest members, but I believe with most of this category of pornography, there is a bright line. There's not much subtle child porn, from the reports issued by the police.

The broader issue of whether one should ever look at images of consenting, legal age participants in naked gymnastics in public places is also pretty clear (no).

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:36 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cluelessness, Legal | 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

December 5, 2007

House Bill Requires Even Personal Hotspots to Report Certain Activities or Face Massive Fine

By Glenn Fleishman

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill that puts a huge onus on individuals and ISPs to report a broad range of images or face $150,000 or $300,000 fines: The bill, if passed, would require anyone offering network access (under a broad definition) to report any images they come across that covers a broad range of potential depictions of abuse of minors or their exploitation. Declan McCullagh notes in his post at Cnet that it's so broad as to include photographs, drawings, and cartoons that require interpretation as to whether they would meet the test. Sounds like viewing an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog could qualify.

From McCullagh's report, it's clear that if you operate, for instance, an open Wi-Fi network from your home, you're not obliged to monitor other people's uses of it. However, if you were in any fashion to become aware of behavior circumscribed in this law, you could be fined $150,000 on a first offense and $300,000 on a subsequent one--unless you preemptively report, in which case you're immune to lawsuits and prosecution. Which means people are going to report a lot more or shut down otherwise free hotspots.

Reporting requires that you provide the images that you saw, which obviously opens people up to charges themselves unless everything is handled extremely carefully as possession of child pornography is a de facto crime that allows for no explanation in much of the U.S.

The most typical scenario as I can see it is a single-location coffeeshop that provides free Wi-Fi. A barista is walking through the shop and catches a glimpse of an image they think is problematic before the user shuts their laptop or navigates to another page. They aren't sure, so they tell the manager. The manager then, if he or she doesn't immediately report and attempt to ascertain as much information as possible, could face the fine (or perhaps the store's owner), if I suppose the FBI or a local crime unit tracks back a person's usage to the store. But how to track that usage back and prove someone saw something and didn't report it?

This is all sort of a pisser, to be frank, because there's practically nothing more appalling than child abuse and child pornography. And, thus, I hate to be in a position to explain why a law to protect children erodes individuals' sense of security in not facing massive fines or arrest when they may not be in a position to act precisely how a law demands. Surely, people who see bad stuff should report it, and many do.

The bill, as written, was rushed into session using an expedited procedure that avoided the usual review. Declan McCullagh writes at Cnet that the legislation also changed substantially before being brought to a vote. So reasonable opposition didn't form before its passage. The Senate could approve a similar view, but it's hard to know how enforceable it will be.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:34 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

November 16, 2007

Wi-Fi Thieves? Not Really News

By Glenn Fleishman

Sophos certainly did a great PR job: Dozens of articles have appeared in the last few days trumpeting Sophos's survey conducted for The Times of London. They found that 54 percent of those asked admitted that they've used someone else's Wi-Fi connection without their permission. What's strange about this is two things: The Times characterizes the question asked incorrectly and doesn't note the sample size. On Sophos's site, they provide both the precise question asked and the sample size, which was a meager 560 people.

The Times wrote, "It discovered that 54 per cent of computer users have secretly used someone else’s wireless broadband connection without paying for it." But the question asked according to Sophos was, "Have you ever used someone else's Wi-Fi connection without their permission?"

There's a vast difference, as I have written about for years. The question doesn't encompass whether someone hacked a network to use it--unlikely that very many people would do that at all--so we're talking about people accessing networks that aren't protected with some form of encryption. Some of these networks are open on purpose; many not. It's a very imprecise question, and worse in the Times's inaccurate restatement. We don't know that anyone stole access who answered this question; the Times assumes they did.

With this small a survey size, and no information provided on demographics, this reveals essentially nothing about people's behaviors. In the UK, accessing a network without permission is illegal; the Times notes just 11 people have been arrested for such actions. I'd like to see a sample size of 20,000 regular users of the Internet outside their homes. I expect the number is much higher than 54 percent. But it still doesn't really tell us much except that it's easy to use Wi-Fi when a network is intentionally or unintentionally left unprotected against access.

A Sophos manager has this rather specious soundbite, too: "Stealing Wi-Fi internet access may feel like a victimless crime, but it deprives ISPs of revenue."

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:33 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cluelessness, Legal, Security | No Comments | No TrackBacks

November 15, 2007

The Changing Face of Verizon Wireless's Terms of Service

By Glenn Fleishman

After Verizon's recent settlement with New York State over its BroadbandAccess service's limits, I've been watching its terms of service (TOS) change: I've written about Verizon Wireless's TOS for cell data for a few years, because it's the most restrictive and most ridiculous in the industry. No longer. Partly as a result of the settlement with Andrew Cuomo's office in New York, and I think partly due to the competitive nature of services that don't impose the same limits, the TOS has morphed into something that offers relatively decent disclosure and full limits.

I used the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive to examine previous TOS's to compare. Back in January, the TOS had the terms I have poked fun at for years: unlimited service can only be used for Internet browser, email, and intranet access. Explicitly prohibited uses include running servers; continuous uploading or streaming of audio, video, or game content; and using the service in place of a dedicated line, like a DSL connection. Peer-to-peer uses were banned, too.

This TOS has the incorrect example that someone would use "more than 5 GBs in a month" if they used the service continuously for 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Actually, that would be more like 50 GB. Using the service at full capacity for an hour a day would hit 5 GB, so it's a very low limit. This TOS had the egregiously offensive line, "Anyone using more than 5 GB per line in a given month is presumed to be using the service in a manner prohibited above," which is part of what got them in trouble in New York.

(I had thought that Verizon barred VoIP, but a check with the company confirmed that that restriction was dropped by 2006.)

These TOS terms didn't change through August, when the Wayback Machine loses track, but they did change after the New York settlement. When I wrote about the New York settlement on 23-Oct-2007, the bad calculation was still in place. Two weeks late, on 05-Nov-2007, language about throttling appeared. When I checked a few days ago, it had changed even further: the bad calculation was gone as was a threat of cancellation. Gone, too, is the restriction about streaming, uploading, or downloading. They still treat the line as not a fixed broadband replacement, and they added descriptions of disruptive network activities that aren't allowed, even though one would expect that those would already be a problem.

In terms of excessive use, they simply state now that using more 5 GB per billing period (which lasts a month) could result in them throttling your maximum download speed to 200 Kbps. They also provide reporting of your current usage, so you can see where you're at.

Now, as a consumer, you can read this and decided whether paying $60 to $80 per month for unlimited service is what you need. Sprint Nextel and AT&T both have less restrictive language, and apparently a lower level of enforcement. T-Mobile, with its 2.5G EDGE network, has generated no complaints I'm aware of from customers accused of misuse of the 100 to 200 Kbps unlimited service.

Part of my interest with mobile WiMax is whether restrictions are lifted on even more categories of use. Clearwire intends their service to be used as a wired broadband replacement--that's been their model all along. If WiMax costs the same, has faster speeds (as I found in my testing this last week with the Clearwire PC Card), and fewer restrictions than cell data, there's an audience that might make an informed decision about which network to choose.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:14 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Cluelessness, Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

October 30, 2007

Buffalo Stops US Sale of Products under Patent Case Ban

By Glenn Fleishman

Buffalo Technology was enjoined starting Oct. 1 from selling 802.11a and g gear in the U.S.: The Australian technology research agency CSIRO has a broad patent in the U.S. that's being widely fought. A Texas court, in a jurisdiction which patentholders attempt to get their cases remanded to, found Buffalo infringed CSIRO's rights. Buffalo has appealed. Buffalo's posting on their wireless products page notes, "Recently, Microsoft, 3COM Corporation, SMC Networks, Accton Technology Corporation, Intel, Atheros Communications, Belkin International, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel Networks, Nvidia Corporation, Oracle Corporation, SAP AG, Yahoo, Nokia, and the Consumer Electronics Association filed briefs in support of Buffalo's position that injunctive relief is inappropriate in this case." Buffalo can sell existing inventories and has permission to replace products under warranty.

Although Buffalo mentions 802.11a and g, Draft N products are apparently under the import ban, too, perhaps because they incorporate 802.11a and g.

The Register notes that the Microsoft-led group that includes 3Com, SMC Networks, and Accton are pushing the eBay v MercExchange argument, which prevents injunctions in most cases in which a patentholder isn't actively involved in making a product that uses the patent.

CSIRO's actions don't threaten 802.11n so much as impose a fee on it. If CSIRO can prevail, then every piece of 802.11a, g, and n (but not b) gear would have a small licensing fee attached to it. This would increase the cost of products by a tiny amount. Companies would also potentially either be liable (if they lost a lawsuit) or able (if they negotiated) to pay back fees in that case, too.

If CSIRO can't prevail in U.S. courts, then it's business as usual. [link via The Register]

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:45 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

October 23, 2007

Verizon Settles for Calling Limited Service, Unlimited

By Glenn Fleishman

Haw haw: Verizon Wireless agrees that advertising what I have called its "unmetered" cell data plans as "unlimited" is not the right term, and will change it due to action by the New York State Attorney General's office. The company will refund $1m to customers and pay $150,000 in penalties and costs to the state. They didn't admit any wrongdoing. The investigation found that 13,000 people nationally had their accounts canceled between 2004 and April 2007 for excessive use. In April, Verizon agreed to stop canceling accounts, and allow "common Internet uses."

I've been writing about this issue for years and years. Read this BoingBoing post in which I chimed in back Nov. 2005, for one instance. A service advertised as unlimited, but which is actually limited, is not unlimited. NY AG Andrew Cuomo said in the press release, "When consumers are promised an ‘unlimited’ service, they do not expect the promise to be broken by hidden limitations."

Their revised terms of service spell more out about what a reasonable limit is, including actual numbers, as well as providing examples of what they allow and don't allow. The word unlimited has disappeared.

But they do the math wrong, as I've noted before. They note, "A person engaged in prohibited uses continuously for one hour could typically use 100 to 200 MB, or, if engaged in prohibited uses for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, could use more than 5 GB in a month." No. That's one hour a day, seven days a week--not 10 hours a day--to reach 5 GB. 10 hours a day would hit 50 GB. Technically, "more than 5 GB" is accurate, but it's about as accurate "unlimited" was in the past.

Update, 05-Nov-07: Verizon updated its TOS again to note that if you exceed 5 GB per month, they could throttle you to 200 Kbps. They could still cancel your account but at least they're spelling out penalties, and providing the potential of continuous service even if they have a bone to pick with you.

Getting closer to actually serving the customer. They better watch out: they might actually do something in our best interests.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 10:54 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Cellular, Cluelessness, Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

October 2, 2007

CSIRO Continues Patent Fight, Refuses to Assure IEEE

By Glenn Fleishman

ZDNet reports that the Australian government research body CSIRO will continue to press its Wi-Fi patent claims: CSIRO has a patent on certain aspect of networking that relate to OFDM, and have won a few court victories against Buffalo. They are being sued and suing a variety of firms over patent licensing fees. The IEEE wanted an assurance about CSIRO's intent as part of the process in moving forward with 802.11n. The IEEE doesn't like to move forward on patents in which there's intellectual property in dispute, depending on what the risk is in approving a standard that wouldn't be able to be built.

In this case, CSIRO has offered terms--you take your pick at whether tens of cents to dollars per device is reasonable or not; I don't have the context. But the lawsuits overshadow their terms. I've read their patents and other documents, and it's now in the realm of specialists, as their description might cover aspects of OFDM--part of 802.11a, g, and n, as well as mobile WiMax or 802.16e-2005--but within the niceties of patent law, only litigation will tell.

This articles provides a timeline of events. However, the first entry that "CSIRO lodges US patent for the invention of a wireless LAN" is vastly overstated. Their patent covers multipath issues in wireless networks, an important subset, but still a subset, of wireless LAN protocols.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:01 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

June 20, 2007

Buffalo Enjoined from Selling Wi-Fi Gear in Patent Suit Injunction

By Glenn Fleishman

A judge in Texas may have overstepped his limits: The East Texas court that found Buffalo Technologies in violation of a patent held by Australian technology agency CSIRO is well known by venue shoppers as a place to get a favorable hearing on any technology patent. CSIRO asked for Buffalo to be prevented from selling any equipment with Wi-Fi in it. The judge agreed and issued an injunction June 15. Buffalo was found in violation of the patent last November.

Now, this is sort of odd because CSIRO's lawyers state in several reports today that they didn't expect the judge to go along in light of the Supreme Court decision--one of several recent ones that limit patent protection and patentability--that states pretty bluntly that injunctions in patent cases shouldn't be issued even when a patentholder has had their claims upheld. The exception is if the patentholder is competing in the marketplace with the company that was found to violate their patents. That's not the case here, despite CSIRO arguments.

The Supreme Court's decision should prevent patentholders from using the threat of an injunction as a tool for settlement. The Research in Motion (Blackberry) settlement would likely not have been so large or happened in such a way after the highest court's ruling.

There's a four-part test in the S.C. ruling, and clearly none apply to CSIRO. I expect the injunction to be quickly vacated by a higher court.

(Update: Two commenters point out that I'm interpreted the Court's decision incorrectly. One notes that the decision specifically exempts research organizations from having to have commercially exploited their product. That stands in contrast to patent trolls that purchase patents for the sole purpose of extracting fees.)

Interesting fact in the Canberra Times article on the topic, which frankly crows about CSIRO's victory: Cisco already pays a royalty to CSIRO, and is thus unaffected, because of an agreement as part of their acquisition of Radiata, a venture based Down Under.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:43 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | 2 Comments | No TrackBacks

June 7, 2007

Qualcomm Cell Phones Barred from Import

By Glenn Fleishman

The U.S. International Trade Commission bars imports of newer handsets containing Qualcomm 3G cell data chips: This ban stems from a patent dispute with Broadcom, in which the commission found that Qualcomm infringed on Broadcom patents. Handset models previously imported may continue to be brought into the country from overseas manufacture. However, no chips or modules containing these chips, nor any device released after June 7 that contains Qualcomm chips may be imported. Qualcomm also must halt some domestic activities, too.

This should not affect Apple's iPhone, which uses so-called 2.5G EDGE technology that doesn't appear to be affected by this decision. Apple may have, in retrospect, had a stroke of luck by not including UMTS or HSDPA, GSM flavors of third-generation (3G) cellular data networks that might have wound up using Qualcomm chips. (W-CDMA, while a GSM standard, contains technology patented by Qualcomm; Qualcomm also makes UMTS and HSDPA chips.)

While Qualcomm has little impact currently on the Wi-Fi market, they have patents and technology that cover all major third-generation (3G) cell phones data networks and handsets. Disputes have arisen in the US and Europe over Qualcomm's extent of claims of what technology they control through patents, and their licensing fees. Broadcom and a number of handset makers have a variety of lawsuits against Qualcomm and Qualcomm against them.

Qualcomm purchased Wi-Fi chipmaker Airgo, the earliest mass developer of multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) antenna technology to supplement 802.11 specifications; and has staked out contrary positions around mobile WiMax, initially completely opposed to it and waging a propaganda war against it, and later purchasing a firm that had WiMax equipment in its portfolio.

President Bush can overturn this order.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:55 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: 2.5G and 3G, Chips, Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

February 26, 2007

Anchorage Man Uses Free Wi-Fi, Has Computer Seized

By Glenn Fleishman

A very strange story out of Alaska: A police officer seized the laptop of a 21-year-old who was using free Wi-Fi from a library after it was closed parked in his car. The police had warned him off parking in private neighborhoods and using unsecured networks, and had told him to leave the area outside the library the day before they seized his computer.

The article is short on details. He wasn't arrested, but his computer was seized. The basis of that seizure aren't disclosed--what crime was actually committed? Trespassing, perhaps, as he was parked in a place he had already been told to leave? The computer isn't being examined by police; rather, the library's director will be looking into the matter. The fellow in question seems only mildly irritated, and neither he nor the police are sure whether he'll be taken to court over the matter.

The hilarious librarian Jessamyn West notes on her blog that there are a number of other unanswered questions, such as why the library needed a professional to install a "timer," when they could just hit the off switch if they didn't want it used after hours.

This reminds me quite a bit of the quite (not Very) Rev. AKMA (A.K.M. Adam) being asked back in Aug. 2004 to not use the Nantucket (Mass.) Athaneum's Wi-FI while he was sitting outside the facility by a police officer with a sketchy idea of what actual law might be involved.

I read through the Alaska State Troopers' recent watch reports, and found no mention of this. Anchorage police don't publish a blotter, more's the pity.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 11:25 AM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal, Libraries | No Comments | No TrackBacks

January 3, 2007

Bluetooth Has Patent Woes

By Glenn Fleishman

First Wi-Fi, now Bluetooth: On the heels of Australian technology agency CSIRO winning a key patent suit against Buffalo Technology over the use of very specific elements of newer Wi-Fi standards, the University of Washington's patent-licensing arm has sued four electronics makers that incorporate Bluetooth chips made by CSR into their products: Nokia, Samsung, and both Matsushita and its subsidiary Panasonic of North America. The Washington Research Foundation has patents created by an undergraduate and assigned to the school that the WRF claims are infringed by CSR chips. WRF has a licensing agreement in place with CSR's competitor, Broadcom.

CSR stated today that the claims are without merit. One article says that WRF sued customers because CSR sells chips worldwide, but the customers deliver products specific to the US market that incorporate CSR chips.

The patents were apparently developed in the mid-1990s, according to The Seattle Times, but one of the patents in dispute was not filed until 2003; it was granted in Oct. 2006. The Bluetooth SIG's members agreed to cross-license technology, but WRF is outside that process.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 9:02 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Bluetooth, Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

December 20, 2006

Singapore Youth Admits Wi-Fi Mooching

By Glenn Fleishman

In a country without chewing gum, can one be free? With Singapore poised to offer Wi-Fi nationwide, and with a free, low-speed versions being offered for a long initial period, it's somewhat interesting that a youth was charged with (and admitted to) "wireless mooching." He picked a bad time and place to get bored. The Straits Times reports that 17-year-old Garyl Tan Jia Luo said he was locked out of Internet access by his mother--who thought he was spending too much time online--and accessed an unsecured network while outside at 3 am. The mooched-from neighbor confronted Tan, and, after an argument, called the police.

The judge appears to have shown lenience given possible penalties--three years in jail and a $10,000 fine. The judge turned down an offer to impose a small fine, an offer made by Tan's attorney. The judge suggested that the youth might avoid a criminal record by enlisting in national service earlier than is normally the case. Tan may receive probation if he agrees.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 1:42 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

November 15, 2006

New Patent Tax on Every Wi-Fi Device?

By Glenn Fleishman

Patent5487069Fig1The Age in Australia reports that the country's tech research agency has won a lawsuit over Wi-Fi patents against Buffalo Technology in a US court: The Age says that CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) prevailed in a suit over patent 5,487,069 filed Nov. 23, 1993, and awarded Jan. 23, 1996, that covers fundamental aspects of WLAN communications. The patent describes multipath transmission of data at frequencies higher than 10 GHz, but the agency says a court in the eastern district of Texas found for CSIRO. They were asking for royalties from Buffalo; the case was filed in Feb. 2005. I've uploaded the court opinion and memorandum released Monday.

CSIRO intends to pursue royalties from all companies making Wi-Fi and other products, which could easily include WiMax and Bluetooth devices.

Intel, Dell, Microsoft, HP, and NetGear are engaged in two lawsuits to get the patent invalidated. CSIRO says that as a foreign government body, it cannot be sued. But, apparently, it can sue and collect patent royalties. Fascinating.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 4:57 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

September 28, 2006

No Ethics Violation for Phila.'s Neff

By Glenn Fleishman

The CIO of Philadelphia left the city to join a consulting firm that had previously provided services to the city and the Wireless Philadelphia project: Those consulting jobs were long over when Neff took the job, but ethics concerned were raised about past and future business. Neff had pledged, as is required, to not solicit business from Phila. for some period following her departure; she'll be heading up Civitium's international work, in any case.

KYW in Philadelphia reports that the ethics board found no violations because the consulting firm had no active contracts at the time Neff took the job. However, they suggested she should have consulted the board in advance to receive an all-clear before taking the job. KYW reports Neff's written response as stating that given there was no requirement to consult the board first, there's no reason to complain that she didn't.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:35 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal, Municipal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

August 29, 2006

Unnecessary Wi-Fi Consumer Protection Law for California

By Glenn Fleishman

A bill that's composed as a consumer protection measure for Wi-Fi gateway buyers will likely become law in California: The bill has a vague set of requirements for manufacturers selling their Wi-Fi equipment in the Golden State to provide some documentation on securing their network. This law will likely only affect off-brand products; I haven't tested a wireless adapter or gateway in a few years that hasn't provided some form of warning and advice on this topic. Further, the Wi-Fi Alliance's Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) will launch this fall for substantially simpler, no-password-invention-required WPA configuration. The law takes effect Oct. 2007.

This law is much better than Westchester County's highly misguided attempt to control the public airwaves by requiring weird disclosure on Wi-Fi networks, while misunderstanding the difference between link-layer encryption and firewall protection--but encoding that mistaken idea in law, anyway.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 8:40 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

July 12, 2006

Wi-Fi Hacker Will Still Serve Nine-Year Term

By Glenn Fleishman

Wired News reports that Brian Salcedo will stay in jail until at least May 2011: The convicted network intruder received a nine-year sentence for his part in using a Wi-Fi connection to break in to home improvement chain Lowe's computer system and alter software in an attempt to capture credit card numbers. A partner received 26 months, and has two months left in his sentence; he's already in a halfway house.

Salcedo was sentence not based on success--he never even saw any of the six credit card numbers captured during the brief window in which their software was running before Lowe's disabled it. Rather, he was given a sentence based on outcome, if their scheme had worked. Wired News reports that an appeals court uphold the judge, noting the lower court didn't err in using intentions and potential to increase the sentence's length.

Posted by Glenn Fleishman at 3:15 PM | Permanent Link | Categories: Legal | No Comments | No TrackBacks

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