Authors Guild threatens copyright battle over Kindle 2 voice feature

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The Authors Guild has warned that Amazon’s newest Kindle 2 e-book reader is equipped with a voice function which more than likely violates writer’s copyrights. Intellectual property experts, however, have claimed that this assertion has no base.

“Until this issue is worked out, Amazon may be undermining your audio market as it exploits your e-books,” the guild told its members in a memo.

The copyright issue is over a function on the Kindle 2 which allows a user to enable a built-in robot like voice, reportedly selectable from a range of male or female options, which then reads the book aloud to a user.

The Author’s guild claims that they don’t have the right to read a book aloud. They claims that authors should be awarded audio-licensing fees for the e-books. The guild feels that out loud reading is acceptable if it’s reading only an authorized audio copy of the book.

Let every parent out there who reads to their child, be aware that you’re violating the sacred copyright of a group of dipshit authors who left their brains somewhere behind in the 19th Century. I think I belonged to this “guild” for a couple of weeks in the late 1950’s before I realized how useless they were and are.

Just as the RIAA and similar trade associations haven’t a clue about marketing or talent exposure, these dweebs would rather be protective of rarely-productive “rights” than experimenting – and benefiting – from modern technology.

Congressional dillweeds responsible for digital TV delay

Infighting between U.S. government agencies and partisan bickering in Congress led to a botched attempt to provide digital TV converters.

The deadline for a mandated switchover from analog to digital broadcast signals for U.S. television stations was supposed to be Feb. 17, but has been delayed for three months in part because the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration under the Bush administration couldn’t decide who was in charge of running a $1.5 billion coupon program.

The money was appropriated to cover consumer costs for buying digital converter boxes for those who still received their TV from over-the-air antennas rather than through cable or satellite providers.

The coupon program was also underfunded by Republicans in Congress despite the warnings of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., now chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet.

He correctly predicted that efforts to shave the costs of the coupon program from $4 billion to $1.5 billion would result in the government running out of money to pay for the coupons.

Fracking Republicans couldn’t care about simple math when it comes to an opportunity to play populist politics against simple reality.

5% of the population was too ignorant to be ready for February 17th. It will be the same in June.

Microsoft being sued for charging downgrade fees


Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, has been sued over claims it relies on predatory and anti-competitive behavior to charge consumers to downgrade operating systems on their personal computers.

Emma Alvarado of Los Angeles County, California sued in Seattle federal court asking for class-action status on behalf of consumers who want to buy computers with pre-installed Microsoft Windows XP instead of the company’s newer operating system, Vista.

“Microsoft has used its market power to take advantage of consumer demand for the Windows XP operating system by requiring consumers to purchase computers pre-installed with the Vista operating system and to pay additional sums to ‘downgrade’ to the Windows XP operating system,” according to the complaint.

Microsoft is trying to salvage Vista, which businesses and consumers panned after it went on sale in 2007. With the economy shrinking, companies are putting off new projects and technology purchases. Windows sales declined 8 percent last quarter, compared with Microsoft’s forecast for growth of as much as 10 percent.

Microsoft charged consumers $104 for the downgrade, and extended the offer to July, “likely due to the tremendous profits that Microsoft has reaped from its downgrade option,” according to the complaint.

How to run a business and retain customers, guys. How much are you charging your corporate customers to do the same?

More French couples choosing civil unions

Arnaud, 27, loves Aurélie. Aurélie, 25, loves Arnaud. After several years of sharing an apartment, they have decided they want to spend the rest of their lives together. So the happy young couple…spent 15 minutes in front of a court clerk Friday morning and got PACSed.

The brief procedure of the Civil Solidarity Pact, or PACS in its French-language abbreviation, put Arnaud and Aurélie among the growing number of French men and women who are choosing a novel legal and social status, halfway between living together and marriage, that is helping change the way France organizes its families.

“It’s a first step toward marriage,” Arnaud explained after the businesslike ceremony in a corner of Marseille’s graceful courthouse complex, the Palais de Justice. Then he rushed back to his office, and the beaming Aurélie returned to her art history classes. The white dress, champagne and honeymoon would be for later, perhaps much later — perhaps never.

The PACS was introduced a decade ago by France’s then-Socialist Party government. Parliament approved the measure only after a fierce debate because, although its wording was deliberately ambiguous, the arrangement was understood mainly as a way for gay couples to legalize their unions even though under French law they are not allowed to marry.

In passing the law without making it specific to gays, however, France distinguished itself from other European countries that have approved civil unions or even marriage for same-sex couples. As a result of that ambiguity, the PACS broadened into an increasingly popular third option for heterosexual couples, who readily cite its appeal: It has the air of social independence associated with the time-honored arrangement that the French call the “free union” but with major financial and other advantages. It is also far easier to get out of than marriage.

Predictably, conservatives who comprise the core of homophobic politics are equally upset at this rejection of ritualized marriage. As nations in Europe attain higher levels of knowledge and education, religion-based ceremony becomes more or less a frail appendage to modern life.

Freedom – like education – is just another topic often trotted out for sound bites by the Libertarian Right. In practice, the opposite is more important to their tawdry politics.

Valentine attackers held in India

Why show religious nutballs who slander India? Here’s a celebration of love in China…
Daylife/Getty Images

Radical Hindus have been arrested in India for targeting young couples on Valentine’s Day, police say. The activists belong to Shiv Sena, a group accused of carrying out assaults that included clipping the hair and blackening the faces of young lovers.

Valentine’s Day has become popular among young Indians in recent years. But public shows of affection are still generally frowned upon.

Hardline groups say Valentine’s Day is a symbol of “cultural corruption”. Groups such as Shiv Sena say they are protecting Indian culture from Westernisation.

Six arrests took place in the northern Indian city of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal – the monument built by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved wife.

Protestors also burnt flowers and Valentine Day cards to mark their protest.

Religious fundamentalists in so many nations, of many sectarian stripes, have a common thread of hatred and violence running through their rejection of knowledge and progress.

They deserve laughter at best, contempt and jail when they try to inflict their ideology by force.

Stimulus dedicates several billions for broadband, batteries

The compromise stimulus package includes $7.2 billion for broadband programs, $2 billion for health information technology, and $650 million for the digital TV transition.

The $7.2 billion for broadband grants is…split between the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service – which gets $2.5 billion – and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Commerce Department, which gets $4.7 billion…

Got research? Despite efforts to strip the stimulus of funds for science research [you gotta bless the Republicans] the bill includes $1 billion for NASA, $3 billion for the National Science Foundation, $2 billion for science research within the Department of Energy, and $220 million for research and grants at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within Commerce.

The bill also provides $2 billion for grants that would support the manufacturing of advanced vehicle batteries and components…

A $6 billion Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program would provide grants for the development of renewable technologies. Another $4.5 billion would revamp the nation’s electrical grid…

The bill sets aside $2 billion for health IT, including $300 million for a regional health IT exchange and $20 million for the director of NIST to research HIT technologies…

And in case you think the government forgot about the children, the stimulus package also sets aside $650 million for the Enhancing Education through Technology program, and $50 million for state-level Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) initiatives.

Dangerous left wing items like building more schools, repairing existing schools, were blocked by Republican demagogues. We all know that Republicans hate education. An educated citizenry just might never vote some of these hypocrites back into office. But, some of this crap is blatant enough to be truly disgusting.

Anyway – some of the actual geek items got through. Tech which many of us think will broaden horizons will have a better chance.

Little birdy backpacks don’t slow the critters down at all!

Little songbirds cover more than 300 miles a day on their annual migrations, flabbergasting researchers who expected a much slower flight. For the first time, scientists were able to outfit tiny birds with geolocators and track their travel between North America and the tropics, something only done previously with large birds such as geese.

New tracking equipment, weighing only a little more than a paper clip, is now allowing the tracking of purple martins and wood thrushes, researchers report…

“We were flabbergasted by the birds’ spring return times. To have a bird leave Brazil on April 12 and be home by the end of the month was just astounding. We always assumed they left sometime in March,” said Bridget Stutchbury, a professor of biology.

I don’t think anybody had an idea that these little songbirds could travel that fast,” she said.

The purple martins migrated to the Amazon basin in Brazil for the winter, while the wood thrushes wintered in a narrow band of Nicaragua and Honduras. Some of the birds took pauses along the way, spending a few days in the southeastern United States or in Mexico’s Yucatan area.

Stutchbury said she initially worried that the tracking devices would slow down the little birds, “but those worries kind of ceased when I looked at their spring migration speeds.”

Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! Nope – it’s a very fast wee bird.

Peanut processor files for bankruptcy – so much for liability!


The peanut processing company at the heart of a national salmonella outbreak, Peanut Corp. of America, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in court in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The bankruptcy papers were signed by Stewart Parnell, the president of Peanut Corp., who invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions this week in a congressional hearing.

Bacteria found in the company’s Blakely, Georgia, peanut processing plant have been blamed for more than 600 cases of salmonella, including nine deaths.

The Texas Health Department on Thursday ordered products from the company’s plant in Plainview, Texas, to be recalled after discovering dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in the plant…

“It is unacceptable for corporations to put consumers’ health at risk and then simply declare bankruptcy and go out of business when they get caught,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

“PCA’s declaration of bankruptcy will, among other things, shield it from liability suits filed by consumers who became sick or whose loved ones died as a result of eating PCA’s peanut products,” she said.

There goes liability, responsibility. Nothing more than a slap on the wrist coming from the Feds.

The FDA is still the FEMA of food. And the Texas versions of the FDA ain’t even up to laughable.