The U.S. Supreme Court will help decide how content providers will operate on the Internet. The first case, involving more than 20 entertainment companies with names like Viacom, Disney and Time Warner, involves the sharing of content such as movies, videos and music by computer users who download the content from the Internet. This case involves the issue of whether copyrighted material can be shared by users on peer-to-peer networks and, if the court follows the reasoning in the Betamax case which was decided back in 1984, there is a chance the court will decide that because these networks have substantial non-infringing uses, the network operators cannot be held liable for contributory infringement based on the conduct of individuals who use the network. Stay tuned—film at 11:00!!
The Supreme Court is also deciding a ‘gatekeeper’ case related to broadband service delivery by cable operators. Today, cable operators control the broadband portal or gateway that customers can use, and while a user can go through the portal and log on to another website (say Yahoo! or AOL), they still must first go through the cable provider’s designated broadband operator. The case coming up challenges that gatekeeping role and seeks to require cable operators to give consumers the right to pick the broadband connection they wish to have through the cable. We will keep you posted as developments unfold.
According to Technology Partners International as reported in CIO magazine, Europe has now overtaken the United States in major outsourcing deals (i.e., deals valued in excess of about $50mm). In 2004, out of $76 billion in contract value, Europe garnered 49 percent beating the United States and Asia. One of the most important statistics behind those numbers is the fact that more and more outsourcing companies are becoming major players and the competition is heating up. The article lists the big-six outsourcing companies (you’ll have to call me to find out who they said they are) and notes that in 2003 these companies accounted for about 70 percent of the outsourcing contracts, but in 2004 their share dropped to just over 40 percent—a big drop in one year. What that means is that if 26 providers shared the 100 best deals in 2003, 36 shared them in 2004, and only time will tell if the outsourcing market is saturated or if more providers will jump to the front lines in 2005. One trend we are seeing is the segmentation of outsourcing arrangements by sophisticated end-user customers. Not just seeking competitive bidding among providers as in days past, these customers are actually segmenting their outsourcing requirements by function, business activity and operational needs, and seeking niche-based outsourcing providers who are best in the class in those areas.
It seems that the tempting idea of putting all one outsourcing eggs in one basket in order to make it “easier” to manage the relationship has not proved to be very smart after all. It appears that retaining the expertise necessary to manage outsourcing relationships in-house and being sure you have the right outsourcing provider with the right contractual relationship for each function or activity is the wiser course. Speaking of contractual relationships—Rimon has a team of international lawyers experienced in outsourcing. You might want to call us if your thoughts turn to outsourcing; we can and are happy to help. You might also go get a copy of the new book, Outsourcing Agreements Line by Line, written by me and published by Aspatore Publishing—it’s available online (an unabashed plug for both the book and our ability to assist with your legal needs).
Most of you have read about the security issues that have confronted LexisNexis and ChoicePoint, and each day we learn more news about more systems and databases that have been or may have been compromised. Here’s a secret, “Google hacking” is easier. It’s a term used to describe the simple act of using publicly available search engines (no, not only Google) to find information that criminals and wrong-doers can use.
Several months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that some security experts held a contest to demonstrate how good Google hacking can be—they limited contestants to using only Google’s search engine and in less than one hour they unearthed enough information to perpetrate financial fraud on about 25 million people—including useful combinations of names, birth dates, credit card and social security numbers. In one such experiment, a team of contestants found a directory of more than 70 million social security numbers—all belonging to individuals who are no longer alive.