Friday, 27 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Used eBook Website Faces Lawsuit in Europe

Posted: 27 Jun 2014 12:24 PM PDT

tom kabinet used ebook marketplaceThe used ebook marketplace Tom Kabinet is only a week old but it is already facing legal challenges to its business model. reported this morning that the Groep Algemene Uitgevers (GAU), the Dutch Trade Publishers Association, has already sent a warning letter to Tom Kabinet, demanding that the site cease operations.

The GAU believes that Tom Kabinet is engaging in piracy, and if it continues they will take the site to court. “We expect that if they don't shut their activities down, the next step will probably be a court case in the very short term,” Martijn David, secretary general of the GAU, told GigaOm.

Tom Kabinet co-founder Laurens van Hoorn disagrees. He points to the 2012 UsedSoft v Oracle ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Europe's top court issued a ruling which said that it was legal to resell licenses for downloaded software, even if the ToS forbid the resale.

Naturally the GAU disagrees with van Hoorn’s interpretation, pointing out that the UsedSoft ruling was specific to software and not other types of digital content. This point was arguably settled last year when a German court expanded on the UsedSoft ruling with a clarification that it did not also apply beyond software. For example, ebooks and audiobooks can’t be resold based on the UsedSoft ruling (in Germany, at least).

That’s going to complicate things for Tom Kabinet; while it is not impossible for the site to win in the long run, the odds are stacked against it. van Hoorn’s facing multiple court battles as this legal point is hashed out first in Dutch courts and then in EU courts.

What’s more, the design of Tom Kabinet’s marketplace will probably work against it. As I pointed out last week, the site operates on an honor basis. While buyers receive an ebook which is marked with digital watermark DRM, sellers are trusted to only sell the copy they acquired legally and not to keep a copy after it is sold. Sellers are also restricted to only selling DRM-free ebooks or ebooks with digital watermarks, and that raises the good question as to whether a system which places this much trust in its users can pass legal muster.

All in all, this is a hot topic both in the US and in Europe. While here in the US Redigi is still reselling used music and last year they announced plans to open a similar marketplace for ebooks, it’s still not clear that the Capitol Records v Redigi ruling extends to other types of digital content. And in Europe it looks like Tom Kabinet is going to lose the court battle.


The post Used eBook Website Faces Lawsuit in Europe appeared first on The Digital Reader.

France Passes “Anti-Amazon” Law, Bans Combining Discounts on Books with Free Shipping

Posted: 27 Jun 2014 08:52 AM PDT

7047703331_b0802d0314_h[1]Never one to pass up an opportunity to have a sale, Amazon is known the world over for pushing their prices as low as legally possible but unfortunately for the retailer that limit just got a little tighter in France.

Yesterday the French Senate passed a new law which banned online book retailers from combining free shipping with the 5% discount allowed under French law.

Known locally as the “anti-Amazon Law”, it expands on France’s Lang Law which required booksellers to sell books at the price set by publishers. The 1981 law, which was named for the French culture minister who proposed the law, allows booksellers to discount books as much as 5%. It was intended to protect smaller booksellers from being undersold by bookstore chains and supermarkets, and it worked well until the rise of online booksellers like Fnac, Amazon, and their competition.

Online sellers quickly noticed that the Lang Law allowed them to also offer free shipping, and they have been using that loophole to their competitive advantage. Amazon in particular has been using their HQ in Luxembourg to their advantage, charging a lower VAT as well (this too will be going away in the near future).

With 3,500 bookshops in France, including 800 of which are single, independent booksellers, the anti-Amazon Law is seen as protecting precious national industry.

"As we have just seen again, laws pertaining to the book economy always generate consensus, if not unanimity," said French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti.  "This is a sign of our deep attachment to books in this nation, and it demonstrates the belief that France builds itself through its past and its future."

Under the new law, online booksellers will be able to offer either the 5% discount or free shipping. If they choose the 5% they can take the discount off of the combined cost+shipping.

image by jeroen_bennink



The post France Passes “Anti-Amazon” Law, Bans Combining Discounts on Books with Free Shipping appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Yota Devices Files Lawsuit Against Pocketbook Over Screen Tech in Russia

Posted: 27 Jun 2014 07:21 AM PDT

yotaphone7News reports are coming out of Russia today that Yota Devices, makers of the dual-screen Yotaphone, have filed some type of lawsuit against the Russian subsidiary of the Ukrainian ereader maker Pocketbook.

According to Itarr-Tass, the Russian state news agency, Yota Devices is alleging that the design of Pocketbook’s CoverReader smartphone case violates one or more of Yota Devices’s patents. As a result, Yota Devices is demanding a ban on the sale of the CoverReader.

Itar-Tass reports that Yota Devices has filed a trademark lawsuit in the Moscow Arbitration Court. That doesn’t make any sense to me either, so I have queried Yota Devices pr rep and its CEO, Vlad Martyanov, for an explanation. Should I receive a reply, I will update this post.

Update: Yota Devices has confirmed that they filed a patent infringement lawsuit, and not anything  having to do with trademarks.

What we do know at this time are the basic technical details and that the head of Pocketbook Russia has denied the allegations. Based on what we know about the two devices and companies, it’s not clear that one infringes on patents belonging to the other.

Yota Devices is best know for the Yotaphone. Initially announced in late 2012, the Yotaphone is a $700 dual-screen smartphone with a 4.3″ LCD screen on the front and a 4.3″ E-ink screen on the back. It runs Android 4.2.2 on a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU. It cost $700 when it launched last fall, and Yota Devices has already announced a second model which has a 4.7″ E-ink screen and a 5″ AMOLED screen.

yotaphone-The CoverReader, on the other hand, is not a smartphone. It’s a special case for the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone which adds a 3.5″ E-ink screen. The CoverReader was announced in September 2013, and it retails in Russia for 3490 rubles, or about $103.

As you can see in the image below, the two devices have very few details in common:

coverreader pocketbook

At this time I am still awaiting a response from Yota Devices with more details, but I do know that Eugene Milica, CEO of Pocketbook Russia, has denied the claims. In a statement given to (and translated by Google), Milica says that:

In our opinion, there was no violation. Such devices, and covers including advertised by various companies since 2008. Can recall and Alcatel, and other examples. Already, our lawyers studying information may say that we do not infringe any patent. They prepare a package of arguments against the claim. In my opinion, this is an absurd idea – to make a patent for an entire group of devices to cover all such E-Ink screen, for example.

I await more information from Yota Devices, but at this point I seriously doubt that this is anything more than patent trolling. The two devices only remotely serve the same market, and they are so different that any patent which covers one would likely be have to be fairly broadly worded.

Update: And here is Yota Devices’s statement:

Yota Devices in the course of developing and investing in the world's first dual-screen always-on smartphone has successfully filed and been granted patents in jurisdictions around the world.  We also have developed licensing agreements for other companies that wishes to use our patented technology.   While we intend to protect our intellectual property, we also want to work with other companies to offer the unique user experience of always-on displays to consumers.

As it relates to Pocketbook, we have notified the company that they are in violation of Yota Devices' intellectual property and are working with them to resolve the issue through a licensing agreement.

If anyone has first hand info on this story, the comment section is open.

The post Yota Devices Files Lawsuit Against Pocketbook Over Screen Tech in Russia appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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