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Amazon Patents Changing Authors' Words 323

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-was-a-good-time-it-was-a-bad-time dept.
theodp writes "To exist or not to exist: that is the query. That's what the famous Hamlet soliloquy might look like if subjected to Amazon's newly-patented System and Method for Marking Content, which calls for 'programmatically substituting synonyms into distributed text content,' including 'books, short stories, product reviews, book or movie reviews, news articles, editorial articles, technical papers, scholastic papers, and so on' in an effort to uniquely identify customers who redistribute material. In its description of the 'invention,' Amazon also touts the use of 'alternative misspellings for selected words' as a way to provide 'evidence of copyright infringement in a legal action.' After all, anti-piracy measures should trump kids' ability to spell correctly, shouldn't they?"
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Amazon Patents Changing Authors' Words

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  • Theft or Fraud? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:05PM (#29905547)

    If Amazon (of the licensee of the patent) is not providing the content purchased, then they're either committing theft-by-substitution (not the same as bait-and-switch, in which the customer is actually sold an alternate product) or outright fraud by not delivering what was sold. A text product is not simply a collection of words, it's a specific selection of words in a particular order ... and spelling counts, even in the case of Lord of the Rings where Tolkien creates whole languages.

    Can fraud actually be patented?

  • Re:Canary trap (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:40PM (#29905855)

    Music scorer's have been doing it far before then. They will intentionally sharp or flat a note, and if people have that wrong as well, they sue.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @10:34PM (#29906243)

    Unless they have specific permission from the owner of the copyright work for any such modification. Any operation such as this would be an unauthorized derivative work and be in violation of the original copyright. The variations would be derivative works, not works in their own rights. Their creation would have to be authorized by the owner of the original copyright material. []

    Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following: (1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies...; (2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work; (3) to distribute copies...of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending....

  • Re:Patentable? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tgeller (10260) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @10:52PM (#29906371) Homepage
    I used to live in a false street. The official map for the San Francisco Muni had a tiny spur named Tulip Street, just off of Russ in SOMA. That was my bedroom.
  • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kaenneth (82978) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @11:37PM (#29906665) Homepage Journal

    With specs its a bit more difficult, but with books its not really that hard to get 2 copies from 2 seperate sources. Diff the two and you can create a unique sig than matches neither.

    Incorrect, with current methods you can identify both.

    Depending on the number, and distribution of intentional errors, you can tweak such a system to indentify any number of mixed sources. For example if you insert 30 errors into each copy at unique points, and 3 copies are blended randomly, if will contain an average of 10 errors from each source, possibly enough to identify all 3 sources. With overlaping points, even if a best 2 out of 3 method is used to generate the copy, you can still find out which sources. Consider each point at which an error is inserted or not as a bit, and think of RAID, ECC, Parity, etc.

    I believe that a particular large software company already uses this type of method on their source code distributions, to indentify leaks. I recall a presentation from someone working at that company on the local university learning channel where they described fingerprinting source code in this manner.

  • hair splitting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jipn4 (1367823) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @02:44AM (#29907551)

    But no, they did not patent *doing* this, they patented the *way* that they do this.

    You're incorrectly assuming that a common shorthand for talking about those kinds of patents implies ignorance of the patent system.

    To spell it out for you: the "way" they patented this is an obvious engineering solution to the actual problem they are trying to solve. If you gave the problem of "alter the text so that each customer gets a unique copy" to a CS undergraduate, this is the kind of engineering solution they'd come up with.

    (Actually, the first engineering solution they'd come up with is to alter the whitespace.)

  • Simple solution! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingSkippus (799657) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @04:22AM (#29907895) Homepage Journal

    It seems to me that there's a pretty easy way to defeat this. Use the technology against itself.

    If you ever want to distribute something, make your own minor spelling variations and substitute your own synonyms into the original, thus further altering the altered work. If someone sues you, just point out the fact that their copy "proving" you're guilty doesn't even match the copy of the work that was distributed.

    You could use this idea for just about anything that is digitally watermarked. Don't want that MP3 traced? Introduce your own small, imperceptible variations into the waveform. Don't want your printer tracing you through microdots on your hardcopies? Write a driver that adds its own microdots, and lots of 'em. And so on...

  • Re:Prior art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @07:00AM (#29908567) Journal
    Technically, the US spelling is correct, as that was the one selected by the person who discovered the element. The Royal Academy decided to change the spelling to fit in with their naming convention.

Entropy requires no maintenance. -- Markoff Chaney