No more audio or video on the internet?

A friend of mine makes his living by running adult websites. Yes, “porn”. The way it works is he signs up with sponsors who have large websites that provide photos, streaming video and audio, etc. When someone signs up for the sponsor’s service, my friend gets a commission. He sent me a link about Acacia Technology Group, a company that owns the patents “that cover the transmission and receipt of digital audio and digital video content, more commonly known as audio-on-demand, video-on-demand, and audio/video streaming.” They are going after people who run adult websites to force them to pay for a license to use theur technology, or to take them to court.

Okay, you mightn’t care about adult websites; but it seems to me that Acacia’s patents can cover all streaming audio or video on the internet. Let’s say I shoot some footage of me flying a helicopter, and I put it up on my website. It appears that I might be subject to a lawsuit for using streaming audio/video technology without a license.

In my example, I would be providing content (my helicopter movie) from a free site (no charge to visit my pages). I can’t see them going after every person with a homepage to try to squeeze money out of them, but if I read this right then they would be within their rights to do it.

Will this be the end of videos and music on the internet?

[sub]I’d post the link that my friend sent to me – there is no “porn” on it – but it does contain an ad that shows a naked breast. If a mod sees this and gives the okay, I’ll post it. Otherwise, the site is Xbiz and I assume you can do a search on it to find the article.[/sub]

I’m no expert on these matters, but the issue here is not what you are distributing or whether or not you are charging for it, but the technology (streaming) you are using. Proprietary is proprietary, and to use that you must pay, just as you pay the same rate to rent a car whether you drive it 100 miles in a day or ten. No, they won’t go after everyone with a homepage, for the same reason the RIAA is not suing EVERYONE who downloads music. It’s really only worth it to go after the big fish, and big-time porn distributors are actually making money off this. Ergo, they have assets to be seized. You, with your measly homepage, don’t.

Years ago, some software company tried to patent the idea of the multimedia CD-ROM. By some very clever wording they managed to get the patent approved, this was years after folks had been selling multimedia CD-ROMS. The company, upon being awarded the patent, immediately sent letters like the one you posted, to everyone selling multimedia CD-ROMS. Instead of simply shelling out royalties, the big companies took the software company to court. Apparently, the judge spent five minutes looking at everything and tossed the company’s patent out the window. IIRC, there was a Wired article about it, but I haven’t the time to search for it.

Lizard: I understand what you’re saying. Sure, “big-time porn distributors” are making a lot of money. But (and maybe I should have said this before), Acacia claims that anyone who has a link to a “big distributor” who did not buy a license is violating the patent and they are threatening to go after them. The small-time webmaster would not have any of the videos on his or her site, but merely point to a distributor who may or may not have bought a license. It seems odd to me that a person can be taken to court without actually violating the patent (i.e., without having the videos or even the means to show them on his or her site).

Also, many webmasters don’t make a lot of money. I don’t know how much my friend makes, but I’d estimate between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. According to him, the license fee for people who make from $0 to $50,000 per year on their sites is $1,500 per year. Other webmasters might make barely enough to cover the cost of their host.

Obviously, this will hit the internet porn industry very hard. But I’m using it only as an example. If they can sue for patent infringement, then that means that no one who has a video on their site – even the innocuous hypothetical helicopter video – is safe.

With operating systems, people can choose Microsoft, Apple, Linnux, or whatever. This sounds as if the only choice is to pay a lot of money to Acacia, or to not have any video or audio on your website. That doesn’t seem right.

Heh. Why did they wait until now to try to enforce their patent?

This reminds me of that company that tried to claim a patent on gif encoding. They just kinda…disappeared…after a while.

It seems that some foolish company tries to do something like this every year…last year, I believe it was some British telecom company that claimed a patent on hyperlinking.

I wouldn’t worry too much. There’s an awful lot of money in web based porno. If Acacia rattles too many cages, somebody’s going to teach them a lesson. In fact, I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the first case goes to trial…

Ever hear of the Selden Patent?

Mr Selden actually patented the automobile.

He went up against Henry Ford and lost, but not after collecting quite a bit of money from other automobile manufacturers.

Sounds like a modern day version of this.