October 31, 2007 § Leave a comment
I got fed up with the 2 week delay on the SDNY Pacer system and called Judge Sullivan’s office today to find out what’s going on with the Tiffany v. eBay case. Trial is slated to begin on November 13th. The latest round of settlement conferences were a result of the case being switched from Judge Karas to Judge Sullivan last spring.
Considering the timeline thus far, I’m not holding my breath.
October 27, 2007 § 1 Comment
Back in May, I compared the pending Viacom suit against Google/YouTube to the trajectory seen in the infamous Napster litigation.
Recent developments: Google has introduced “YouTube Video Identification” to help rights holders monitor infringing content. Predictably, Viacom has stated that this is an inadequate step and they are still being harmed by YouTube.
Thus far, the Napster trajectory has been followed. To continue on the same path, Viacom will ask for an injunction against YouTube alleging irreparable harm and will ask the court to order Napster-esq 100% compliance…which is what caused Napster to shut down before the case made it into a courtroom. Only time will tell whether the injunction will be granted, what level of compliance is deemed adequate, and what level of compliance YouTube can maintain.
Interestingly, the YouTube Video Identification technology is extremely similar to the Proactive Fraud Protection service created by eBay in response to the Tiffany & Co suit they are battling (or have settled on the sly). Both systems are “tools” that IP rights holders can use. Neither system puts any responsibilities on eBay or YouTube to proactively filter content or identify improper material. Tiffany & Co. and Viacom argue that the service providers are profiting from the infringing material and should carry the burden of monitoring it. YouTube and eBay argue that there is no way for them to tell what is a real Tiffany’s ring or Friends video clip.
October 22, 2007 § 1 Comment
Hilarious post by Fake Steve on business school:
I think this must be the scariest blog in the world. Or the saddest. Much love to Rob for sending in the link. See here. Some kid from London Business School wants to “shadow” me as part of some B school assignment. He really believes that if he just keeps writing this blog and leaning on any connections he can find that eventually I’ll be shamed into letting him follow me around so he can learn how I operate. Groan. First of all, kid, I have no shame. Second, you’ve already made the biggest mistake you ever could have made. No, not attempting to correspond with the Great and Powerful Jobs without official permission, though that indeed is a very grave offense. No, your biggest mistake is simply this: You’re in fucking business school.
Good God, man. Could there be anything less creative, less imaginative, less valuable than going to business school? Is there any surer way to become an absolute conformist frigtard than to spend two years being coddled and pampered and fed worthless pablum by failed businesspeople? The mind reels. And don’t think you’re all super cool and extra special just because you’re in a “programme” instead of a program. My theory is that education in general only serves to clog your creativity and shut down your brain. I imagine the brain is like this giant honeycomb, with all these open cells, but every class you take just fills some of those holes and seals them shut. Getting an MBA is like going back and double-sealing those doors with cement.
Business school dude, listen up. Forget shadowing me. You’ll never be like me, because I’m one of a kind. I came out and they broke the mold. But if you want to learn how I operate, do the following. Quit business school. Go work at some shitty electronics company and learn how to source components. Travel to India and seek enlightenment. Grow your hair down to your ass. Take LSD. Smoke pot. Live on a commune. Sell your van and start a company. Put yourself in danger. Create a situation where if you fail you’ll be unable to pay your rent and you’ll be out on the street. Struggle to make payroll. Get screwed by suppliers. Learn to screw them back. Bounce checks. Run out of money. Go hungry. Be scared.
Ready? Good. Start today.
October 20, 2007 § Leave a comment
There’s a great article on Pandora on Inc.com that chronicles the company’s 8 year history, spanning multiple business models, CEOs, lawsuits, VC rejections, and rate battles. It’s a must-read for music fans and entrepreneurs. I used to use Last.fm but have found Pandora to stream a bit better. Thanks for the heads-up Justin!
October 19, 2007 § 6 Comments
Braintree Payment Solutions, winner of this year’s New Venture Challenge at the Chicago GSB, has bravely entered what is, as far as I can surmise, one of the murkiest, confusing, and frustrating industries out there: credit card processing.
I spoke with Bryan Johnson, CEO of Braintree, early on in my search for a web based credit card processor but decided to grind it out and investigate all of my options. I was pretty thorough in my research. I spoke to five or six of the most legitimate providers I could find, including the major national bank I use for personal and business banking. Before I even started looking into the product and service differences of the various providers, what I found over and over again was convoluted rate structures, hidden charges, and mysterious fees. Bryan tipped me in our early discussions that all processors face the same interchange fees from the backbone of the credit card processing system, so when a processor offers you a deal that is too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Specifically, processors quote you attractive “flat” rates and hope you base your decisions on them alone. But since all processors face the same charges from the underlying interchange, these processors have to either be hiding costs or losing money on your contract…and you can bet the chances of that are slim to none.
One of the most common tricks I saw is processors quoting you a flat rate without giving you any additional details. Well, if you investigate and ask them if that the ONLY rate I will pay, you’ll find that the rate is generally only for “qualified cards”. Then most folks that are selling legitimate products who get this far then think “Great! My average consumers have jobs and pay their bills on time. They must be ‘qualified’, so I’ll get this rate.” Wrong. Many, many commonly used cards, like corporate cards and rewards/mileage cards are actually “non-qualified” and face much higher rates, which are never mentioned unless you specifically ask about non-qualified rates. Even then, sales reps will try to brush off non-qualified cards, hoping that you have no idea that the majority of the cards you’ll be processing, and even the cards you use yourself, are actually non-qualified. In the end, I figured I’d be better off with a company that didn’t try to mislead me from the get go.
Some other things Braintree had going for them is that they have products and services for everything we were doing. I needed a merchant account for credit card processing, electronic check processing (ACH & EFT), a payment gateway, virtual terminal, and an easy and flexible API to integrate everything. With some of the other providers I had to piecemeal a solution together myself. I like the fact that I have one company doing all of this for me. The other thing that I thought was significant was that Bryan made me aware of the industry security standard: PCI Compliance. Businesses that process credit cards must meet the 12 security requirements to securely protect credit card information. If businesses get breached, they can face some pretty significant fines. Bryan has some nice write-ups on this for large and small businesses on the Braintree Blog. To help us with that security threat, Braintree has tokenization technology that allows us to remotely store all credit card information so we have nothing onsite that we need to worry about. We simply submit the cardholder information once and receive a token in return that we can then use to remotely initiate transactions. In short, we are able to let our customers create accounts, provide their credit card information once, and never have to do it again. It makes things easier for them, which makes our business a better one.
Braintree was not only clear and above board with their pricing and fees, but have also been incredibly responsive to our technological needs, providing nearly instant support and solutions for all of our problems every step of the way. If you’re like me you’ll spend a couple weeks pulling your hair out trying to figure out all the terminology and tricks of the industry. I recommend talking to Bryan at Braintree before you begin. He’ll fill you in on what to look out for, and then when you find mysterious things along the way or deals that seem great, ask him what’s really going on. Then, after you’ve lost a couple of years off your life, you’ll end up back at Braintree and I’m guessing you’ll be very happy with their honesty, flexibility, technology and price.
October 18, 2007 § 14 Comments
Facebook’s recently launched Flyer Pro advertising platform offers a phenomenal, albeit manual, mechanism for targeting advertisements on Facebook. It also shows some interesting statistics about Facebook’s reach. I ran some quick numbers to see which countries were most saturated with Facebook’s +48M users. The winners:
United States: 6.57%
October 17, 2007 § Leave a comment
Reading about eBay’s record quarter coupled with their $900 million Skype write-down inspired me to check in on the status of everyones’ favorite piece of prolonged DMCA trademark litigation, Tiffany v. eBay. Now I’ve fallen for SDNY settlement hearing documents in the past (twice), so I’m not going to get all worked up about this one either. Instead I’ll just upload a screenshot of what I see through the Southern District of New York document management tool below and you can be the judge. No documents have been linked to this round of hearings yet.