Tag Archives: Legal Issues

VoIP and 911

An interesting case in Texas that highlights the weak spot in the whole VoIP thing:  Net Phone Firm Vonage Sued Over 911 Access, reports the LA Times:

As two gunmen forced their way into her Houston home Feb. 2, Sosamma John yelled to her daughter, Joyce, to call the police. Joyce ran upstairs, grabbed the phone and dialed 911. Instead of getting a police dispatcher, the frantic teen got a recording telling her that 911 wasn’t available from the family’s phone.
Joyce escaped the house to call from a neighbor’s — but not before the gunmen had shot her parents and fled.

On Tuesday, the state of Texas sued Vonage Holdings Corp., the nation’s largest Internet-based phone service provider, for allegedly failing to make clear that 911 calls weren’t included in a basic subscription.

The lawsuit highlights a challenge for the exploding business of Internet-based telephone service: Consumers attracted by the cheap rates may be giving up full access to emergency operators.

It also shows Internet phone companies and federal regulators, who are taking a hands-off approach to so-called voice over Internet protocol service, that state authorities are willing to step in with consumer-protection laws at their disposal.

It’s hard to imagine that VoIP services couldn’t provide some sort of emergency access, so perhaps this might be a blip. Or else it’s the thin end of a regulatory wedge that makes the whole cheap phone call thing a flash in the pan.

News: Popups Are Legal

 Bad news for those of you who hate pop-up ads: A U.S. federal judge has rejected a lawsuit by truck and trailer rental company U-Haul which sought to ban software by Internet advertising company WhenU that launched rival pop-up ads when customers access U-Haul’s Web site, Reuters reports.
 
The judge said the ads don’t violate the law because WhenU’s software didn’t copy or use U-Haul’s trademark or copyright material, and because computer users themselves had chosen to download the pop-up software. He acknowledged that pop-up ads are often troublesome and annoying. “Alas, we computer users must endure pop-up advertising along with her ugly brother unsolicited bulk e-mail, ‘spam’, as a burden of using the Internet,” he wrote. I don’t want to be rude to a judge, but I just don’t buy that argument.

News: InterTrust Bites Microsoft

Not sure why I missed this, but it’s an important development: a federal judge has issued a critical ruling supporting a patent lawsuit against Microsoft brought by InterTrust, a tiny digital rights management company. I wrote a little about this months ago; InterTrust, bought by an investor group led by Sony Corp. of America and Royal Philips Electronics in January for $453 million, stand either to make billions off Microsoft, or else force them to stop selling 85% of their products. Ouch.

This is all part of a battle over Digital Rights Management — who gets to decide what kind of software is going to lock up your DVD or CD or whatever, so you can’t copy it for any old Tom, Dick or Harry. Who owns the lock is basically going to make the money. Everyone else just puts the bits together.

News: “You Can Do What You Like With Your Ink Cartridge in North Carolina”

 The North Carolina Senate has deliberated and its verdict is clear: You can pretty much do what you like with your Ford, so why not your printer cartridge? The Associated Press reported that the state House agreed Tuesday to Senate changes to a bill that would give printer owners the right to refill any printer ink cartridge, voiding purchase agreements that ban the practice. In effect it means that if you want, you can get your printer cartridge refilled elsewhere — legally.
 
The bill was prompted by a lawsuit filed by printer company Lexmark International against Static Control Components of Sanford, which makes components for the laser printer cartridge industry, AP reports from Raleigh. Static Control makes computer chips that allow less expensive ink cartridges to be adapted to Lexmark printers. After Lexmark sued Static Control to try to stop it from manufacturing the chips, the Sanford company filed its own lawsuit, accusing Lexmark of monopolizing the toner cartridge market and falsely representing their products. The Static Control chips mean consumers don’t have to send their cartridges back to Lexmark for refills. Many Lexmark buyers agree to return the cartridges to Lexmark’s factory in Kentucky in exchange for a rebate. The agreement is found on the box or in paperwork inside.
 
 
(No, that’s not an ink cartridge spill, it’s Static’s logo.)
 
Here’s Static’s view of the battle, along with a picture of the executives looking grim, undergunned, but determined. Here’s Lexmark’s, sadly without any grim-looking execs although they do have a picture, seemingly obligatory these days, of a corporate woman with glasses.