Smithsonian signs away your past

(via boingboing)

Well, maybe not quite “signs away your past” really, but certainly the Smithsonian is certainly making a choice to restrict a lot of content paid for by your (and my) tax dollars. The Smithsonian has signed a first-refusal deal with Showtime networks which gives Showtime the power to decide who can and cannot use video in the Smithsonian’s archives. Oh, it might be worth mentioning that some of that content is public domain. But Showtime still gets to decide who can use it. Hmmmmm.

On March 9, Showtime and the Smithsonian announced the creation of Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture to develop television programming. Under the agreement, the joint venture has the right of first refusal to commercial documentaries that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff. Those works would first have to be offered to Smithsonian on Demand, the cable channel that is expected to be the venture’s first programming service.

. . .

One well-known filmmaker, Laurie Kahn-Leavitt, said she had been told recently by a Smithsonian staff member that her last film, “Tupperware!,” a history of the creation and marketing of the venerable food-storage containers, would have fallen under the arrangement, because much of the history of Tupperware is housed at the Smithsonian. The documentary, which won a Peabody Award in 2004, was broadcast on “American Experience,” the PBS show produced by WGBH, the Boston public television station.

“This is a public archive,” Ms. Kahn-Leavitt said. “This should not be offered on an exclusive basis to anyone, and it’s not good enough that they can decide on a case-by-case basis what they will and won’t approve.”


Netflix sues Blockbuster over idiotic patent

One of the requirements for patents is supposed to be a non-obviousness clause.  Basically, a company is not supposed to be able to get a patent for something that is an obvious business practice.  Now to me, letting people prioritize movies they’d like to rent and not charging late fees on movie rentals and allowing customers to instead keep those rentals as long as they want seems obvious.  I said this 10+ years ago (the no late fee part).  It’s not hard to figure out that people would rather rent a movie and not have a strict timeline for when they have to return it.

Apparently, though, the US Patent Office lacks people capable of thinking.  I say this because that’s the only way I can figure that patents on prioritizing movie preferences and not charing late fees on rental movies could be granted.  Unfortunately, the patent is there, and NetFlix is using it as the basis of a lawsuit which could either close down Blockbuster’s online rental service or require Blockbuster to pay for using this incredibly obvious idea.  On the other hand, we can always hope this somehow leads to the patent getting invalidated.  But given Amazon’s success with the mind-numbingly obvious one-click ordering idea, I don’t think that will happen.

SAN FRANCISCO – Online DVD rental service Netflix Inc. on Tuesday accused Blockbuster Inc. of illegally copying its ideas in a patent infringement lawsuit challenging the video store chain’s recent Internet expansion.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, focuses largely on the online wish lists that prioritize the DVD desires of about 5.4 million people who subscribe to either Netflix or Blockbuster’s Internet service.

Netflix also believes its patents cover perhaps its most popular feature — the option of renting a DVD for an unlimited time without incurring late fees.

[tags]Netflix, Blockbuster, Patents[/tags]

Another reason to not consume at Starbucks

My wife tries to avoid Starbucks, but she doesn’t outright boycott the chain like she does Wal-Mart.  Her reasons for both companies is the same – too big, squashes the locals.  In case that’s not enough reason for you (and honestly, I know for most that doesn’t matter), how about stupid lawsuits?  The latest I’ve heard about is in this article at The Consumerist (titled Starbucks Sues Doubleshot Espresso):

The latest in Starbucks exciting oeuvre of frivolous lawsuits against companies too small to defend themselves is a Tulsa, Oklahoma coffee shop called “DoubleShot Coffee.” Starbucks threatened to sue because the name of the shop was similar to their own Double Shot Espressos. Or anyone else’s Double Shot Espressos for that matter… that’s why the name was picked to begin with. As the owner of the shop says, “It’s a common thing you’d find in any coffee shop… It would be like Starbucks suing over the name ‘coffee’ in our name. It’s ridiculous.”

[tags]Starbucks, Stupid lawsuits[/tags]