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TBTF for 1995-09-24: List hijacking; software patents at Bleak House

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Sun, 24 Sep 1995 12:47:44 -0400

Earlier TBTFs have discussed the anitsocial practice of spamming on Usenet
and private mailing lists (see <9-14-95> and <4-7-95>). Here we introduce
list hijacking, a practice that hasn't been seen yet, but will be.

Fearless prediction: before 1995 ends the Net will see a brief controversy
over the technique I call "list hijacking." Everyone who runs a mailing
list will secure it and the fast-vanishing culture of Net openness will
erode another notch.

Here's an example. I'm on the informational mailing list for a product
called The Internet Adaptor, or TIA. This is a very neat piece of tech-
nology that turns a shell account into a SLIP (or now a PPP) account.
(See <http://marketplace.com/>; back issues of the email newsletter are
at <ftp://marketplace.com/tia/docs/tianews/>.) It's been sold for the
last year via the Net by Cyberspace Development, Inc. (CyberDev). From
my first contact with them, the developers struck me as knowledgable
old hands on the Net: they knew and respected Net culture and were mak-
ing a commercial offering within the bounds of that culture.

Their mailing list is serviced by a Unix list processor called Major-
domo. I use Majordomo to manage TBTF so know a bit about how it works.
I sent the message "who tia-broadcast" to majordomo@marketplace.com
and more or less immediately received a return message of 646K con-
taining 29,794 names and email addresses.

This was possible because the developers of CyberDev have left the list
open: anyone can see who's on it, and anyone can hijack it.

Now suppose I had developed a product to compete with TIA (such are be-
ginning to appear). What wouldn't I pay for the mailing list of the en-
trenched competition? It's mine for free. I could even post my solicita-
tion to their list, offering a competitive upgrade for example. The TIA
folks would pay for even the processing time and the email connectivity
needed to get *my* message out to *their* customer base.

Thus, list hijacking. I thought of it yesterday, and to my knowledge
no one has perpetrated it yet. How long before the same thought occurs
to a Net marketer with no scruples?

Threads Software patents
See also TBTF for
2000-03-31, 1999-08-30, 06-14, 02-15, 01-26, 01-13, 1998-12-15, 08-31, 05-18, 05-11, 04-27, more...

Software patents at Bleak House

Below are the first three paragraphs of each of two press releases,
issued by Cylink Corporation and by RSA Data Security, following a
binding arbitration ruling in the patent dispute they have been lit-
igating since 1990. I have read the original ruling (see
<http://www.cylink.com/arbtrn_1.html>) and the follow-on ruling
denying RSA's request to modify it (see
<http://www.cylink.com/arbtrn_2.html>). Personally I think RSA's in
a bit of trouble, though IANAL.


> SUNNYVALE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 18, 1995--An Arbitration
> Panel has determined that RSA Data Security Inc. licensed software
> products, practicing public-key technology to third parties without
> the legal rights necessary to the patents covering the technology.
> The decision, issued on Sept. 6, 1995, came in a binding arbitration
> between RSA and CYLINK Corp., which formed the partnership known as
> Public Key Partners (PKP) on April 6, 1990. The purpose of forming
> PKP was to establish a security standard and jointly license
> security patents to leading vendors in the high-tech industry.
> CYLINK has indicated that it will enforce the binding decision in
> Federal Court.

> RSA:

> REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 19, 1995--An Arbitration
> Panel recently ruled that Cylink does not have a license to RSA
> patented technology, that RSA's software licensing practices do not
> breach any agreement with Cylink or its wholly owned subsidiary
> Caro-Kann and that RSA now has the exclusive right to license the
> RSA patent.
> In a Sept. 6, 1995 ruling, an Arbitration Panel, formed by agreement
> of the parties, and after nearly a month of testimony, ruled in
> favor of RSA on every significant issue. The Panel held that
> neither Cylink nor Caro-Kann had a license to practice RSA patented
> technology. Cylink admittedly incorporates this technology in its
> Secure X.25 product line, without any license to do so.
> The Panel also found that RSA's software licensing practices did not
> materially breach any of Cylink's rights. The Panel did not rule
> that anyone, (specifically including RSA and its software customers)
> infringed any existing patent rights of anyone - including Cylink.

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Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.


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