[Videolib] Fwd: Suing for Streaming Media

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Fri, 03 Oct 2003 08:58:03 -0700

> From today's Chronicle of Higher Education
>Company's Letters to Colleges Say Its Patents Cover Streaming Media for
>A California company is telling colleges and universities that it owns
>patents related to audio and video streaming used for online courses, and
>that it is entitled to a portion of revenues from such courses.
>Administrators at some of the colleges the company has contacted say they
>are studying its demands, but they have not yet agreed to licensing deals.
>The company, Acacia Research Corporation, holds five U.S. patents and 17
>international patents in digital-media-transmission technology. The
>patents cover not technological details but concepts like streaming audio
>and digital signals on demand from servers to users' machines.
>Acacia has sent patent-infringement letters to an unknown number of
>colleges across the country, offering to overlook past infringement in
>exchange for the institution's signing on to "a special royalty rate of
>two percent of gross revenue from each online course that includes digital
>audio and/or video content."
>The letters close with a stern warning: "If you continue using our
>patented technology, but choose not to obtain a license from Acacia, we
>reserve the right to seek the maximum amount of damages allowable by law
>and an injunction prohibiting you from continued use of our patented
>technology without a license."
>Seton Hall University is one of the latest to receive a notice from
>Acacia. "They're definitely after us," said Stephen G. Landry, the
>university's chief information officer. "We get $100-million in revenue
>from our courses, any of which can use digital media on the Web site --
>downloadable images, video, sound. In fact, we have had a project to
>encourage faculty to record their lectures and put them on a server."
>The university has already licensed the streaming programs through
>companies like RealNetworks, Mr. Landry said. "I don't think that the
>university is going to be inclined to sign over $2-million a year to
>Acacia for this license agreement," he added.
>Robert A. Berman, senior vice president of business development at Acacia,
>said that the company had sent out about 100 letters to various businesses
>and organizations that use streaming technology, including colleges.
>Through letters, negotiations, and court judgments, he said, the company
>has already gotten some 40 adult-entertainment sites to share a portion of
>their revenues from video streaming. Record companies, as well as
>companies that offer movies in hotel rooms, have also signed up, he said.
>Mr. Berman said that until 2002, the patents were owned by another
>company, Greenwich Information Technologies, which was purchased by
>Acacia. The patents will expire in 2011.
>"The e-learning community is just starting to incorporate online-learning
>technology into their curriculum," he said. "We think that on an ongoing
>basis, these schools and private companies are going to be using this
>technology more and more. We are offering them an opportunity now to
>license our technology at reasonable introductory rates. That offer won't
>last forever."
>He said that the 2-percent rate was negotiable if a college was not making
>money on its courses. "If people have questions about our company or our
>patents, we welcome them to call us," Mr. Berman said. "This is not a
>shakedown. This is not an adversarial process."
>Mr. Berman said letters had gone out to colleges of all types and sizes,
>although he named only DeVry University and Capella University among those
>that were sent letters.
>Among the colleges that have received letters from Acacia is Eastern
>Michigan University. Ward Mullens, associate director of communications
>for the university, said the university's lawyers were reviewing the
>letter and mulling their next move.
>Bill Simpson, president of John Wood Community College, in Illinois, also
>got a letter. "It's before my legal counsel," he said. "I'm waiting to see
>what other colleges do and see how they are responding. I'm not sure that
>we are liable." Mr. Simpson said he had met with officials at Southeastern
>Community College, in Iowa, which also got a letter, to discuss how to respond.
>Virgil Varvel, a computer-assisted-instruction specialist for the
>University of Illinois system, said that his university had not received a
>letter as far as he knew, but that he would dread getting one. The
>university doesn't charge for some of the online content it offers.
>Online courses are "already a borderline return of investment," he said.
>"We would have to stop doing what we're doing."

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley

"In societies where modern conditions of production prevail,
all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of
--Guy Debord

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