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Open Source Music Fingerprinter Gets Patent Nastygram

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the their-patent-gives-away-the-secret dept.

Patents 487

Nushio writes "The code wasn't even released, and yet Roy van Rijn, a Music & Free Software enthusiast received a C&D from Landmark Digital Services, owners of Shazam, a music service that allows you to find a song, by listening to a part of it. And if that wasn't enough, they want him to take down his blog post (Google Cache) explaining how he did it because it 'may be viewed internationally. As a result, [it] may contribute to someone infringing our patents in any part of the world.'" Update: 07/09 00:31 GMT by T :Story updated to reflect that Shazam is multiplatform, not Android-only, as implied by the original phrasing.

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android hate (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32845918)

it was an iphone app long before it was an android app

Re:android hate (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846022)

And it was the basis for Verizon's VCast Song ID long before the iPhone existed...

Re:android hate (5, Informative)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846026)

And there's a Windows Mobile, Nokia / Symbian, Blackberry app too. It's my fault for not Googling them up before hand..

Re:android hate (0)

JThundley (631154) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846250)

Are you the one that splurged on the commas?

Re:android hate (4, Insightful)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846288)

Yes, I am. As a non-native english writer, who has difficulties dealing with grammar nazism, I find commas useful to explain stuff. =P

Re:android hate (3, Funny)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846348)

Commas, will be misplaced.

Re:android hate (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846440)

Somewhat hilariously, you really should have one after 'enthusiast'. You didn't need them after 'and', 'song', 'enough' and 'result'.

Stylistically, the first sentence there is a bit long. The explanation of why LDS is interested would probably make sense as a separate sentence. But that is just style, not grammar.

Re:android hate (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846470)

"nazism" is a proper noun, and should be capitalized.

Re:android hate (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846442)

And before that, it was one of many services that you simply called with any phone, and received a message with the name of the song (or a 'song not found' error).

Re:android hate (1)

Jgeezy (1851808) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846450)

Yes, referring to this as an Android app was likely incidental, but given the animosity I (an iPhone user) have felt from many Android users, it feels like a jab. LOL

Well, really... (2, Insightful)

Icarus1919 (802533) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845926)

Don't get me wrong, this really sucks for the guy and is completely unfair. But this sort of thing happens all the time. If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms. It's sort of not newsworthy anymore. I'm probably going to get flamed for saying this, and maybe I even deserve it, but it's true.

Re:Well, really... (3, Interesting)

bhlowe (1803290) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846016)

Why Mr. van Rijn use their proprietary name in his blog post? (Creating Shazam In Java) Of course they are going to respond exactly as they did. And much sooner had he not used it. Seems like this is a no brainer cause for a C&D letter to help protect their investment.

Re:Well, really... (2, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846192)

> Why Mr. van Rijn use their proprietary name in his blog post?

Because it damn well pleases him to do so, and in the USA, at least, he is free to do so with impunity as long as he does not use it in a way that might mislead the public into believing that they are getting said product when they are not. A trademark is not a copyright.

Re:Well, really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846294)

Why? Because he was giving credit where it was due. Being truthful and forthright and all those other honorable things that we used to think of as virtues, before unscrupulous scum litigated our society from one built on morality into one built on greed.

Re:Well, really... (5, Insightful)

swabeui (1291044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846028)

Injustice is always newsworthy.

Re:Well, really... (2, Insightful)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846168)

And there are no slow news days.

Re:Well, really... (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846044)

Why is this unfair? I mean yeah, asking him to take down his blog is unfair, but if they have a valid patent and he is infringing upon their techniques then he is in the wrong. I understand this sucks for him (and should represent a challenge rather than a defeat if he has any conviction), but patents are the law of the land as well as copyright and a whole slew of other laws that seem to favor the business that can afford the better lawyers. I don't agree that ideas can be patented, but the USPTO seems to think that they can be. Hell, it doesn't even have to be a real device to be patentable. Just a concept is enough. We need patent reform pretty bad, but its clear to me that its going to get to the point where you cannot create any software without infringing on *some* patent. Its going to take a whole lot of pain and suffering before we get to the point where people start to realize the idiocy of patenting any obvious idea, and with corporate america as our new lords and masters, and the international banks pulling the strings from the shadows don't expect it to happen any time soon.

Re:Well, really... (5, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846108)

In the US at least a patent application is public record, and is intended to explain to the world how the object functions. This is not just to enforce the patent, but also to reward spreading the knowlege about how a patent works.

Asking someone to take down a blog post that describes the workings of a patented process is foolish. If the patent is written like it is supposed to be, anyone should be able to understand the patented process. You are no longer protected under trade secrets if you patent (which is why some choose not to). It is by definition at that point public knowledge.

Whether or not they have a patent case against him, they have no case against his blog.

Re:Well, really... (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846146)

Yeah. I actually went back and RTFA. I guess all he did was post an article about how to accomplish the same thing the article he read describes. Sucks to be him, but he should keep up his blog as I don't think there are any trade secrets there. At first I thought he wrote a competing application.

Re:Well, really... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846306)

What is far more scary is that using a sliding window to calculate DFTs and then hashing these values, and storing there offsets is somehow patented. To say that this is "obvious" to someone with any understanding of waves and Fourier transforms is an understatement.

Re:Well, really... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846434)

"What is far more scary..."

Yes. As others said, unjustice must always be news, no matter how (sadly) common it becomes.

1) It's an obvious application of a Fourier transform so it shouldn't have been accepted for patent on first place.
2) Even if it wasn't obvious, this guy did not have access to the original code so chances are by big margin that this a different method to achive the same result so even after the patent is granted is very dificult to believe he could violate it.
3) Even if it wasn't obvious and it was the very same patented method, patents are, well, patent, so it's ludicrous to say "you shouldn't make public this" when the very patent system is built around the fact that the patented method is meant to be made public.

All in all this is a news about a disfunctional and criminally stupid patent system abused by a disfunctional and criminally stupid company.

Yes: this needs to be aired.

Re:Well, really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846400)

I think we can be quite sure that there are no trade secrets on his blog. A requirement for something to be a trade secret is that you actually manages to keep it secret.

Re:Well, really... (4, Interesting)

FlyMysticalDJ (1660959) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846414)

He's not employed by them is he? Because if he's not, I don't think their trade secrets mean squat to him. If I mess around and discover coke's trade secret recipe, they're not going to come knocking on my door. And they wouldn't have any legal precedent to do so in the first place. If you discover someone else's trade secret, it's fair game. You can even sell a product using that trade secret as long as you didn't work for them and take it, or buy it from someone who did.

Re:Well, really... (2, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846324)

...they have no case against his blog.

That doesn't matter if he have no way of defending himself, and the call for reform, or better, abolishment, is virtually absent.

Re:Well, really... (4, Insightful)

IgnitusBoyone (840214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846132)

Well patents are pretty damn public knowledge, so I don't see how an open-source project that does the same thing can be infringing on a patent. Now, the people who use the source code might infringe on it, but drawing a schematic of a door latch doesn't infringe on the door latch, but building one does. It might not work this way at all, but the above is why I think its fairly unfair to ask someone to remove a post about how to do it.

Re:Well, really... (2, Insightful)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846174)

Yeah, that is unfair. I didn't realize all he did was post some code. That should certainly fall under free speech. I don't think their lawyers have anything to stand on here. If I were him I'd let them try to take him to court and then turn around and sue for harassment. I was wondering how he was getting matches for his song. He doesn't mention what database he is querying for a match.

Re:Well, really... (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846462)

either he is in the wrong or patents are in the wrong or the use of patents to stifle discussion on related but not identical techniques is wrong

Re:Well, really... (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846058)

If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms

It only happens so often because the first time [wikipedia.org] no one cared.

Re:Well, really... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846156)

Nah, we cared, we're just powerless. We've turned over most of congress a couple of times now and we're still stuck with the same stupid laws.

Re:Well, really... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846360)

We've turned over most of congress a couple of times now...

You call 95% reelection rates "turning over congress"?? Goddamn people would reelect Reagan's cadaver if it was on the ballot.

Re:Well, really... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846082)

As soon as we take the attitude that abuses of IP law aren't newsworthy because they happen all the time, we might as well just give up and resign ourselves to living in MicrosoftSonyDisneyWorld (c)(tm)(pat.pend.) The only chance we have of working our way out of the current insane mess is to keep people aware that this does happen, all the time, and that it affects pretty much everyone who wants to do anything creative that doesn't come prepackaged with the big-corporate stamp of approval.

Houses burn down all the time, too. If your neighbor's house is on fire and it looks like the flames are getting close to your own home, do you just shrug and say, "Meh, it happens"?

Re:Well, really... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846134)

If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms. It's sort of not newsworthy anymore. I'm probably going to get flamed for saying this, and maybe I even deserve it, but it's true.

What is the purpose of you getting on /.? Newsworthiness or things that are quite far from common-sense?
Are you that driven by the news-hunger to accept unfairness?

Re:Well, really... (5, Interesting)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846322)

BoingBoing has a good write up (http://www.boingboing.net/2010/07/08/patent-holders-legal.html). Most interesting was the fact that Landmark Digital Services took exception to the technical details of a patent being discussed. I think most people (myself included!) believe that reading a patent should tell you precisely how to replicate something, but there's a subtext to this story implying that is not the case here. I think a situation where a patent holder treats someone discussing a means to replicate patented technology as though they where handing out trade secrets is pretty interesting, certainly ./ worthy.

Re:Well, really... (4, Insightful)

Blackbrain (94923) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846484)

Don't get me wrong, this really sucks for the guy and is completely unfair. But this sort of thing happens all the time. If this were a rare occurrence, then yeah, I'd be up in arms. It's sort of not newsworthy anymore.

The only reason that these things happen is that every time these things happen everybody looks around and says "Well, these things happen..." and THAT'S why they happen!

If you see something, say something...peace out.

Patent and disclosure... (5, Interesting)

nebaz (453974) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845932)

IA (definitely) NAL, but I thought the whole purpose of patents (other than protection) was to disclose the invention in full (not behind trade secrets) in exchange for knowledge of how the invention is done/made. Have the patent owners given any implementation details about their application?

Re:Patent and disclosure... (5, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846012)

Yep - I bet he's hit on a Trade Secret of theirs in his blog post and/or development work, and they're just trying to scare him away from posting the details. Trade Secrets are only secrets as long as nobody else knows about them - there's no protection on them other than that.

The patent holds NO ability to stop him from disclosing ANYTHING - anything covered by the patent is by definition publicly disclosed in the patent itself. If it's not there, it's not covered. Period. The "international viewing" holds no water either - there's nothing preventing someone from viewing the patent from another country.

He can go tell them to fuck off. He can probably sue for SLAPP or something like that too. I would!

In addition, my understanding is that this goes even further - there's nothing preventing him from developing his own implementation of their patent. The only issue arises when he distributes it beyond himself. IANAL, so this part I'm only 99.9% sure on. :)

MadCow.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (4, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846076)

At least in the US you have absolutely no recourse against someone who independently (not an employee, etc) develops one of your trade secrets. They can even patent it themselves and force you to pay a license fee!

That's the trade off between patents and trade secrets.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846096)

You're right - but I believe they can't patent it if you can prove yours was developed first and they had knowledge of it.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846176)

You can even fight their patent if you can prove you developed it first, whether or not they knew you had done so. It's called prior art.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (2, Interesting)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846412)

Not so if you never published it, preferring instead to keep it as a trade secret. In this case it's specifically not prior art and the patent can be upheld against you.

Trade secrets let you choose to not reveal your invention to the whole of humanity forever, but at the risk of losing control of your invention if someone else independently invents it later.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (5, Insightful)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846182)

His implementation was different than their's, and if that's the case, they've got bigger issues, as one of their developers wrote a PDF on how Shazam Works. [columbia.edu] .

And this guy certainly wasn't the first to write an article about How Shazam Works [wordpress.com] either.

They're afraid of the code.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

cacba (1831766) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846204)

I would!

Create a blog replica of his, and you may find yourself in the situation where YOU CAN!

Re:Patent and disclosure... (3, Informative)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846212)

Exactly. If it were copyrighted, it'd be different, but if his work falls under a patent, there's nothing they can do as long as he doesn't offer his software for sale or in any products, or make it available as a binary. It's just like LAME, and various open-source decoders for patented codecs. The source code can be distributed freely, it's only when someone uses it that the patent holders have to be paid. The patent holders can only sue people who use the final product, and of course that's pretty difficult to figure out since anyone can download the source code and compile it.

The situation is more murky for anyone who distributes compiled binaries, though, which is why most US-based Linux distros don't include LAME or any MP3 decoders, but usually provide convenient ways for you to download these things and install them with one or two clicks.

Fuck 'em.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (0, Offtopic)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846410)

Posting to correct an accidental mis-moderation. Parent is NOT overrated! Meant to give an "Insightful".

Re:Patent and disclosure... (3, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846254)

In addition, my understanding is that this goes even further - there's nothing preventing him from developing his own implementation of their patent. The only issue arises when he distributes it beyond himself. IANAL, so this part I'm only 99.9% sure on. :)

I'm afraid you're wrong here. In the US, a patent gives the patentee the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing the claimed invention. 35 USC 271 [cornell.edu] . Now, of course, the patentee must actually sue for patent infringement, and that's unlikely in the case of garage tinkerers (those that don't post everything online, that is), but there is no exception to patent infringement for 'developing your own implementation.' There is a research exemption related to preparing data that will be presented to the FDA [wikipedia.org] , but that's not relevant here.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846282)

All their trade secret is, is taking FFT signatures from music in small chunks and matching them against a database. We did things like that, but with wavelets, back in the mid 90s.

Shazam's real value is their signature database, which can't be replicated easily. So they really have nothing to worry about, really.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (4, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846024)

Bizarrely, the USPTO doesn't require code for software patents; I assume other patent offices worldwide, in those countries which allow software patents, follow the same practice. You can't patent a mechanical device without schematics (I think) but for software, a vague description of the algorithm -- too vague to be of any use in implementation -- is enough. This is yet another example of why the idea of patenting things that aren't physical objects is fundamentally broken, but don't expect the situation to change any time soon.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846404)

This is because it's generally assumed that as long as the general algorithm is disclosed, the ordinary artisan is capable of writing the code to implement it without undue experimentation.

Really, this is more akin to no longer requiring working models of inventions (gone for many many years now) than it is to a lack of symmetry between mechanical/electrical inventions and computer-based ones.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846074)

They can be vague. Remember in a software patent all you need to say is "a method for identifying music playing by listening to a small sample and comparing to a list of sonic fingerprints" and you are pretty much all set. If amazon can patent buying items with one single click anything is nearly possible.

Re:Patent and disclosure... (2, Interesting)

anonicow (1850904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846264)

Remember in a software patent all you need to say is "a method for identifying music playing by listening to a small sample and comparing to a list of sonic fingerprints" and you are pretty much all set.

You're referring to the description, which has little legal effect. The stuff that they can really take to court is any of the claims they have listed. Their main claim is

A method of characterizing a relationship between a first and a second audio sample, the method comprising: generating a first set of fingerprint objects for the first audio sample, each fingerprint object occurring at a respective location within the first audio sample, the respective location being determined in dependence upon the content of the first audio sample, and each fingerprint object characterising one or more features of the first audio sample at or near each respective location; generating a second set of fingerprint objects for the second audio sample, each fingerprint object occurring at a respective location within the second audio sample, the respective location being determined in dependence upon the content of the second audio sample, and each fingerprint object characterising one or more features of the second audio sample at or near each respective location; pairing fingerprint objects by matching a first fingerprint object from the first audio sample with a second fingerprint object from the second audio sample that is substantially similar to the first fingerprint object; generating, based on the pairing, a list of pairs of matched fingerprint objects; determining a relative value for each pair of matched fingerprint objects; generating a histogram of the relative values; and searching for a statistically significant peak in the histogram, the peak characterizing the relationship between the first and second audio samples.

which is not nearly as vague. But it's still very basic and obvious stuff. It doesn't seem easy to implement an efficient fingerprinter that avoids this patent since you basically have to throw away all the inter-feature timing information if you don't want to run into something equivalent to their peak histogram stuff.

I'm shocked at how such broad claims can be accepted by patent offices...

Re:Patent and disclosure... (1)

ZosX (517789) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846354)

"I'm shocked at how such broad claims can be accepted by patent offices..."

I'm not. There are patents on anything, like say multitouch. Seems like a pretty basic concept to me. You can have a touch screen, the next logical step is obviously having one that accepts input in multiple spots at once. In fact that's not even an innovation as most screens have multitouch, its actually the software the needs to be written around the concept, but even that would be obvious, like pinch and zoom for example.

What the? (3, Insightful)

Barrinmw (1791848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845934)

Patents are open for viewing aren't they (with the exception of the NSA)? So if they have a patent for something, then how can they order someone to take down information that a supposed patent covers?

Re:What the? (2, Informative)

anonicow (1850904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846112)

His blog post contains a lot of code, making it dangerously close to a full implementation. Although even their lawyers don't seem entirely confident in this interpretation, since they only mentioned the blog post in their last e-mail.

Re:What the? (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846258)

Even then, code is speech until you run it. Are we now to limit free speech by government order to protect their patents?

If the hardware store sells me a CNC mill and I make patented widgets with it will they sue the hardware store?

Re:What the? (1)

anonicow (1850904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846298)

Even then, code is speech until you run it. Are we now to limit free speech by government order to protect their patents?

By that logic you could freely distribute an infringing program as long as you don't run it. So yes, free speech is limited in some way.

If the hardware store sells me a CNC mill and I make patented widgets with it will they sue the hardware store?

No, but if they also gave you pre-milled parts of a patented widget and instructions to assemble them together they would sure as hell be liable.

Re:What the? (4, Insightful)

NNKK (218503) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846460)

By that logic you could freely distribute an infringing program as long as you don't run it.

Yes, exactly. In the same way that a description or schematic of a patented invention does not infringe a patent, simple source code does not infringe a patent. How is this difficult to understand?

Shazam... (2, Informative)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845944)

...was a call in service, long before it was an Android app - and an iPhone app before Android even existed (in the mainstream, anyway). Why is it singled out as an android app?

Re:Shazam... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32845980)

Because iPhones suck.

Re:Shazam... (5, Informative)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845988)

Because I didn't Google it up properly. And Slashdot doesn't let me edit the story submission after I hit send. Its my fault.

Re:Shazam... (4, Insightful)

e4g4 (533831) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846060)

A story submitter, on Slashdot, humbly and openly admitting a mistake. My hat is off to you, sir. Here's hoping some of the people responsible for the more absurdly sensationalist summaries (your submission is certainly _not_ one of those, just to be clear) that creep onto the front page take your precedent as an example. I won't be holding my breath, though.

That said... (0, Offtopic)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846120)

A story submitter, on Slashdot, humbly and openly admitting a mistake. My hat is off to you, sir.

Burn him! Burn him now! Then throw him in the pond and see if he floats! Because he might be made of... wood... or be a duck...

One of his Googling failures turned me into a Newt!

I... got better...

Re:Shazam... (2, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846202)

I'd suggest that you email timothy directly. He is the only actual editor at Slashdot, and I know from personal experience that he does correct stories. Also: thanks for the submission, it's well above the usual iPhoneM$TerrorWatchList crap.

Re:Shazam... (1)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846270)

Emailed him as you suggested. If Tim updates the story, great. Otherwise, I tried :-)

Sack Kdawson and... (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846242)

Make this man an editor!

With nothing but sincerity, most qualified guy I've seen for the job in a long time. Just imagine what slashdot would be like if editors read comments and admitted to/fixed mistakes.

What's that song? (5, Funny)

UndyingShadow (867720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32845952)

Is that a Barbra Streisand [wikipedia.org] song I hear?

Re:What's that song? (5, Funny)

bit9 (1702770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846034)

Indeed. I've found that one of the best ways to discover cool new open source projects is to go to Slashdot and search for "C&D".

Re:What's that song? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846072)

Yeah.

Google Patents [google.com]

A method of characterizing the overlap of two media segments is provided. In an instance where there is some amount of overlap of a file and a data sample, the file could be an excerpt of an original file and begin and end within the data sample. By matching identified features of the file with...
Inventor: Avery Li-Chun Wang
Assignees: Avery Li-Chun Wang, Landmark Digital Services, LLC

Read the patents, download the pdfs, and feel free to get them to sue Google and Slashdot.

Patents are country by country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32845990)

There is no way for a patent to be infringed in every country, unless that patent has been granted in every country. If I received something like this from a company outside of my own, especially if it said something like "may contribute to someone infringing our patents in any part of the world", I would respond with a nastygram of my own. To wit, "sue me here, and I'll see you in court, and you'll have to pay my costs, now fuck off".

To those who think that WIPO or a similar international organisation grant "international patents", well they don't. They can help you file in multiple countries, but each country has to grant the patent, and they do so independently.

Unlike copyright which is internationalised. Every country that has signed the Berne Convention will recognise copyright from the other countries.

I call bullshit. (5, Insightful)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846008)

One: you cannot patent code. Period. There's plenty of cases where people have written (and released) code that some patent covered (ffmpeg anyone). The code itself is free speech.

Two: you cannot use a patent as a method to censor free speech.

Three: any US patent can be viewed internationally. A patent is by definition NOT a trade secret. Even if this guy's software DID use a patent-encumbered algorithm, his post cannot "contribute to someone infringing ... patents in any part of the world."

Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

Re:I call bullshit. (3, Informative)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846092)

One: you cannot patent code. Period. There's plenty of cases where people have written (and released) code that some patent covered (ffmpeg anyone). The code itself is free speech.

They didn't patent code. They patented the method and system. And you can certainly patent those. In fact, the fact that it's not the code, but the method, that's patented is why he was infringing even though he did it in Java and they did it in C#. Patents are not copyright.

Two: you cannot use a patent as a method to censor free speech.

Nope, but you can use a patent to prevent someone from using your invention without your consent.

Three: any US patent can be viewed internationally. A patent is by definition NOT a trade secret. Even if this guy's software DID use a patent-encumbered algorithm, his post cannot "contribute to someone infringing ... patents in any part of the world."

Yes, because if someone takes his code and runs it, then they're infringing. Therefore, he's contributing to the infringement.

Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

Nope, but his post is viewable by the entire world. And someone could infringe in the US, where the patent is, by using his code.

Re:I call bullshit. (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846232)

The code is speech, compiling and running it is the infringement. Is patent protection now more valued than free speech?

Re:I call bullshit. (1)

redbeard55 (1002526) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846312)

They didn't patent code. They patented the method and system. And you can certainly patent those. In fact, the fact that it's not the code, but the method, that's patented is why he was infringing even though he did it in Java and they did it in C#. Patents are not copyright.

The problem is the "method and system" of getting from input (A) to output (C) is the ideal, so if I come up with some novel code to get from (A) to (C) I can't publish is because it would infringe on the patent. Software patents are patents on ideals. It like patenting the cotton gin, but instead of patenting a machine with specific parts 1 to 434, you patent something along the lines of:

"A method and a system for removing cotton seed from the cotton fiber."

Now anyone that creates a new and novel machine to do this no matter how different from the patented one is infringing on a patent. This is why software patents are ridiculous.

Re:I call bullshit. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846362)

Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

Nope, but his post is viewable by the entire world. And someone could infringe in the US, where the patent is, by using his code.

And somebody can kill using the knife I'm buttering my toast.
Since when patents are allowed to shift the pain of proving infringement (in this case running the code) in tramping the author's of the code right to free speech?
I seem to remember that the code related with encryption methods where "exported" world wide in late '90 printed as a book (free speech) as well as distributed as extra info to DNS queries.

Re:I call bullshit. (1)

OSPolicy (1154923) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846152)

Although one does not patent code, one can patent an invention and use that patent to preclude someone from writing software that practices the invention. There are people who have released code that practices patented inventions, but that does not mean that it is not possible for a patent to cover something implemented in software. It just means that a patent grants the holder a license to sue an infringer. There are various reasons for which a patent holder may not sue an infringer, but the infringer is still infringing that patent and it makes no difference that the infringer does so with software or hardware.

Having said that, it is possible to copyright code. In fact, copyright attaches automatically. So there is a means of protecting a specific piece of code. However, one can work around copyright by writing code that does the same thing differently.

Patents aren't really concerned with censorship or speech. One way to use a patent to censor speech in a particular medium is to exercise a patent that you hold to prevents use of that medium. You won't beat that with a free speech argument.

Contributing to infringing a US patent elsewhere in the world is a peculiar idea because a US patent is exactly that - US. Once you are outside of US territory (with the interesting but inapplicable exception of space), the US patent effectively does not exist.

Re:I call bullshit. (1)

bit9 (1702770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846328)

Four: a patent is not valid for the entire world.

Amen. The "may be viewed internationally" argument is monumentally stupid. First of all, if they already have a US patent and can show that van Rijn is infringing on it, then the "international" argument is completely moot. If they don't already have a US patent, then it comes down to the fact that international patents are not binding on US citizens hosting code on US servers, and once again the argument is moot. IANAL, but this strikes me as possibly being an attempt to expand the scope of foreign patents to include code/data hosted on US servers.

van Rijn? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846018)

His grand-grand-grand-grandson [wikipedia.org] will be very rich.

Free Speech (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846036)

Last I looked Patents do not remove the right to "free speech" in any country. Also the take down notice doesnt specifically show "what code infringes their patent" so a lawyer would then ask them to be more specific. In most countries "methods" wont stand up in court even to some certain degree in the USA Then there is the other issue were software patents mean squat in many countries outside the USA.

Re:Free Speech (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846224)

Also the take down notice doesnt specifically show "what code infringes their patent" so a lawyer would then ask them to be more specific.

From TFA [google.com] the patents are: 6,990,453 and 7,627,477.
Also, TFA details the guy's attempt to see how this is applicable in Holland.

Just to be sure I asked around for advice, including help from the FSF (Free Software Foundation) and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation). They forwarded my questions to Bits of Freedom a Dutch organisation for digital rights.

After a good conversation with Ot van Daalen (from Bits Of Freedom) he suggested I contact Arnoud Engelfriet, a Dutch ICT lawyer and patent attorney with a lot of knowledge about software patents.

Re:Free Speech (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846334)

I would so be considering telling them to fuck off and sue me here if I was a wood shoe wearing loon, I mean dutchman.

Re:Free Speech (2, Interesting)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846372)

Last I looked Patents do not remove the right to "free speech" in any country.

Then you didn't look very hard. In the US, for example, the right to free speech is not absolute by any means. The government may prohibit defamatory speech such as libel and slander. It may regulate speech in a content-neutral manner (so-called time, place, and manner restrictions), such as ordinances regarding billboards. It may regulate obscene speech. The same Constitution that describes the right to free speech also gives Congress the power to grant patents and copyrights. There is some inherent tension between the First Amendment and the Patent & Copyright Clause, but there is no contradiction.

In this case, the argument (and it's a perfectly typical one) is that the code on the web page represents an active inducement to infringe the patent, for which the blogger would be liable for patent infringement. The ready-to-use code is a step too far towards actually using the claimed invention (which the patentee has the exclusive right to do). It would be one thing to discuss the song-recognition method in general, mathematical, or even pseudocode terms, but when you give people ready-to-use code that's too close to infringement. A court may or may not agree, but it's a close enough call that a cease & desist letter is legally appropriate, albeit kind of a jerk move on the part of the patentee.

I think someone fails to comprehend... (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846062)

,,,the fundamental nature of patents. Patents are published, by the PTO. This means that anyone, "international" or otherwise, can already view them. Furthermore, it is settled law that discussion of a patented invention, including detailed explanation of how to implement it, is not infringement.

Re:I think someone fails to comprehend... (1)

atmurray (983797) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846196)

but profiting from the idea is patent infringement. This is the really ugly grey area and something I know nothing about. What constitutes "profiting"? If he has Google ad-words on his site and gets revenue from that, is that profiting? Even if he doesn't directly derive any cash from the traffic, is the attention/notoriety/status that he gains a "profit"? If it is, how would you hypothetically calculate a value to give to the patent owner if they sued? What if the author, instead of posting this as a blog, published a journal or conference paper detailing the idea (as often occurs)? This sort of thing, if upheld, could really stifle academia. e.g. how do you teach computer science/mathematics undergrads about these concepts without infringement - would you have to go back to chalk and talk instead of handing out pdf slides? how do you do publish further research of this idea if you were not permitted to outline the current state-of-the-art in the background of a paper/thesis?

Re:I think someone fails to comprehend... (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846424)

Furthermore, it is settled law that discussion of a patented invention, including detailed explanation of how to implement it, is not infringement.

But in this case the code is a functioning implementation, which is quite a bit more than even a 'detailed explanation of how to implement it.' Furthermore, the availability of a functioning implementation means that it's trivial (even encouraged by the blog post) for others to use the implementation. So the blog author made the claimed invention (direct infringement) and induced others to use it (indirect infringement by active inducement), or so the patentee would probably argue anyway. This is not the frivolous claim that many here are painting it as, though it is a jerk move likely to hurt Shazam more than help it.

If he's in the Netherlands... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846086)

...can't he just throw the C&D in the garbage and forget about it?

Re:If he's in the Netherlands... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846384)

...can't he just throw the C&D in the garbage and forget about it?

If you read TFA [google.com] , that's exactly what he is asking himself.

Use pHash (4, Interesting)

b1ng0 (7449) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846110)

Use pHash [phash.org] instead, my open source perceptual hashing library that can detect similar audio, video, images and text files. It does not use Shazam's patented algorithm, which isn't all that great anyhow.

Please expand first use of acronyms (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846150)

Not every reader instantly recognizes C&D as Cease and Desist. New readers constantly arrive, there are many readers whose first language is not English, and expanding the acronym will also improve how your submission is found in search engines. If you article is worth submitting and worth publishing it is worth making a little more accessible.

Re:Please expand first use of acronyms (1)

Nushio (951488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846326)

Sorry. This was my first story submission. I'll keep this in mind, as well as other feedback I've gotten from other /.'rs. Thanks!

*Gives Shazam the Finger* (1)

Anyd (625939) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846200)

Ok C&D against his blog becuase it *could* be used to infringe? Shazam = Uninstalled

Re:*Gives Shazam the Finger* (1)

virtualXTC (609488) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846452)

My thought exactly - Shazam is off my phone and off my list of recommendations to anyone. Now if DC comics would just sue them over infringement, I'd say justice was served. [wikipedia.org]

Shazam sucks (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846208)

It only works if the music is played by the original band on good speakers with low background noise. You know the type of situation humans find it easy enough to identify music in.

They're actually being fairly reasonable (3, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846268)

I mean, on the spectrum of software patent insanity, they're being relatively restrained and civil. They seem genuinely to be trying to head off competition for an invention that they are implementing and selling - which is the point of patents - rather than acting like patent trolls and trying to gouge money for something that they never implemented.

Of course, it sucks, software patents doubleplus bad, Fight The Man, counter sue them for a hundred beelyon Euros, Attica! Attica! Attica! and so on, but comparing a couple of polite "please don't make us do anything you'd regret" emails to Adobe's assraping of Dmitry Sklyarov [wikipedia.org] is rather hyperbolic. And yes, I have a "Free Dmitry Sklyarov" t-shirt, thanks for asking.

Re:They're actually being fairly reasonable (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846374)

I would at least think they should tell him where they think his code infringes so he can work around. This may be a kinder gentler form of assholery but it is still assholery of the highest order.

Re:They're actually being fairly reasonable (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846476)

How can they reasonably tell him where his code infringes theirs? He had not posted the code so how could they possibly know? They are not being reasonable. Someone should initiate a review to have their patents invalidated.

Uninstall Shazam (1)

agent_vee (1801664) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846344)

This is the sort of behavior which causes me to never give a single penny to a company. I am uninstalling Shazam and won't be using it again.

Dear Landmark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846352)

I think I speak for all of us when I say: Go Fuck Yourself.

Intuitively Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846428)

The method described at the link is one of several that is intuitively obvious for this (and several other unrelated) problem domains. It's not even remotely novel.

Are there s/w patents in "any part of the world"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32846432)

No, for the moment just in the USA (dumb) and soon in Germany (and dumber).

Someone grab the source (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846436)

Then publish it out on networks like freenet and then every pirate site you can think of. Show those bastards who runs this show.

prior art (2, Informative)

danguyf (631016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32846486)

Shazam wasn't the first to identify songs based on a hash of the audio. I worked for a start-up, eTantrum, that developed similar tech, Songprint [sourceforge.net] , which it open sourced (under the moniker "Freetantrum"). I always assumed that Shazam was extended from that work.
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