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Nasty Google-Viacom billion-dollar battle goes public

Palm shares plunge on weak quarterly forecast
New York (AFP) March 18, 2010 - Struggling US mobile device maker Palm posted more disappointing results Thursday, showing it is not getting the boost it was hoping for from its latest handsets, the Pre and the Pixi. The Sunnyvale, California-based Palm reported a third-quarter net loss of 22 million dollars, nearly doubling its loss of the previous quarter. Quarterly revenue was better than expected at 350 million dollars but Palm's fourth-quarter revenue forecast was well below the expectations of Wall Street analysts. Palm's chief financial officer Doug Jeffries said revenue for the current quarter was expected to be "less than 150 million dollars." Analysts had been expecting 305 million dollars. Palm shares plunged 14.87 percent lower at 4.81 dollar in after-hours trades after a five percent rise during Wall Street trading. Palm said it shipped 960,000 smartphones during the third quarter but only 408,000 were actually bought by consumers, a drop of 29 percent from the second quarter and down 15 percent year-over-year. Palm chairman and chief executive Jon Rubinstein remained optimistic. "Our recent underperformance has been very disappointing, but the potential for Palm remains strong," Rubinstein said in a statement.

"The work we're doing to improve sales is having an impact, we're making great progress on future products, and we're looking forward to upcoming launches with new carrier partners," he said. Jeffries told financial analysts in a conference call that with the heavy build-up of inventory "carriers have deferred orders or reduced the size of their existing orders." "Our focus (in the fourth quarter) is to accelerate the sell-through, sell-through rather than revenue will be the real measure of our success." Asked by an analyst about a possible sale of Palm, Rubinstein declined to comment on "speculation." "If there's a reasonable proposal the board has to consider it," he said. "But for the three years I've been here our focus has been to build a great company with a great mobile platform and great products." Palm came out with some of the first personal digital assistants in the 1990s, but in recent years it has been lagging behind rivals Nokia, Apple and Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry. The critically acclaimed touchscreen Pre was seen by analysts as its best opportunity in years to win back a significant share of the highly competitive cellphone market. But the Pre only hit the stores in June, two years after the iPhone, and was handicapped according to some analysts by its tie-up with Sprint Nextel, one of the smaller US wireless carriers. The Pre began to be offered by a larger carrier, Verizon Wireless, at the end of last year.
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) March 18, 2010
Court documents made public Thursday in a billion-dollar copyright battle between Viacom and Google accuse YouTube executives of posting stolen videos to rocket the startup to stardom.

Viacom was also a target in filings with Google countering that the US entertainment giant foisted some of its own content onto YouTube's online stage and even wanted to buy the firm.

"Viacom's efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site," YouTube chief counsel Zahavah Levine said in a statement.

"Given Viacom's own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site."

Viacom responding by saying the documents made public by a federal district court in the state of New York show evidence backing its charge that YouTube "intentionally operated as a haven for massive copyright infringement."

Evidence cited in the legal documents included internal YouTube emails indicating the video-sharing website's founders and executives knew much of the content on the nascent service was copyrighted material.

"Jawed, please stop putting stolen videos on the site," Steve Chen is quoted as telling fellow YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim in an email in July 2005.

Viacom attorneys contended in legal filings that after YouTube was launched that year, the startup's strategy was to achieve meteoric growth by whatever means necessary so it would become a prize acquisition target.

YouTube was a year-old Internet sensation when Google bought it in a 1.65-billion-dollar stock deal in 2006.

"Viacom's brief misconstrues isolated lines from a handful of emails produced in this case to try to show that YouTube was founded with bad intentions," Levine said.

Viacom tried repeatedly to buy YouTube before Google acquired the startup, according to Levine. The firm filed a billion-dollar copyright lawsuit against YouTube and Google two years ago.

Viacom's court filing charges that Google acts as a willing accomplice to Internet users who put clips of Viacom's copyrighted television programs on the site.

The lawsuit has been merged with similar civil litigation being pursued by the English Premier League, which says soccer game clips are routinely posted on YouTube without authorization.

Google shields itself with the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, US legislation that says Internet firms are not responsible for what users put on websites.

The lawsuit highlights that copyright rules need to be updated for the Internet Age, according to Computer and Communications Industry Association president Ed Black.

"It is a huge threat to the openness of the Internet," Black said of the lawsuit. "A bad verdict in this one for conduct that is not horrendous would have an unbelievably chilling effect on all players in the Internet world."

The case essentially calls for YouTube and other websites to become "copyright police" for content owners.

Meanwhile, the law could be interpreted to provide copyright protection to every Twitter text, blog post, Flickr photo and email, according to Black.

Eact day there are typically 50 million Twitter "tweets," 900,000 new blog posts and three million pictures uploaded to Yahoo-owned photo-sharing website Flickr.

"You'd need a huge army of censors to sort through this stuff and that is really not feasible or reasonable," Black told AFP.

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Teens glued to TV, games screens less close to family: study
Washington (AFP) March 1, 2010
The more time teens spend watching television or playing on a computer or games console, the less likely they are to be close to their family and friends, a study published Monday shows. And with technology providing us with screens to do everything from entertaining ourselves to educating ourselves, the findings give cause for concern, the authors of the study wrote in the Archives of Pedia ... read more

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