Carmi Levy’s 7 tech trends

I was at a presentation this morning by tech guru Carmi Levy who talked about 7 tech trends.  If you watch national news broadcasts you will have seen Carmi.

1. Cloud.  It aligns spend with need, and you can spend less time managing your infrastructure.

2. Mobile.  More smart phones were sold last year than feature phones.  Facebook revenue from mobile is more than 50% now.  Just 3 years ago was zero.  25% of Facebook users are mobile only.  This trend is similar for other providers - mobile is rapidly becoming a prime way to connect.  Businesses need to address the mobile market.   Some businesses are not even bothering with web sites because their customers are just using social media and apps.

3.  Social Media.  Social media is today’s town square.  It is changing the way we consume content and works well local as well as global.  London’s #Ldnont hash tag is an example of an effective local tool.

4.  Apps.  The real action is mobile.  Apps can be a meaningful way to connect.   In some cases they are becoming as important as a web site.  Apps vs responsive web is controversial.   Apps can give richer experience, but responsive can be simpler to do and is platform agnostic.

5.  Gaming.  Casual gaming is the fastest growing game segment. Ties in to the mobile trend.

6.  Ecommerce.   We are seeing a revolution at summer festivals in the park.  Festival vendors used to use cash only.  Now vendors increasingly use mobile payment options such as Square.  The tech allows the smallest of small business to do this easily and cheaply.

7.  Hyperlocal.  London’s Hacker studios is an example of a startup hub where users pay a subscription for space including mentoring and support.

In general, Carmi says tech is an investment not a cost.  It is a marketing enabler if it is done right.  It is a constant adaptive process, and has to be part of business culture in general – not just delegated to a particular department.  Digital competency is something we become not something we build.

Cross posted to Slaw

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

CASL observations

I was at a conference on CASL (anti-spam) last week chaired by Barry Sookman.  His summary of conference highlights is worth reading.  Below are some of my observations based on both that conference and my CASL dealings with clients so far.

Large companies are spending millions of dollars to comply with CASL.  Small business is struggling to comply and to make sense of how to comply and why it is even needed. But you can bet that the true spammers will just continue to try to hide from the regulators.

Opt-in rates for attempts to get express consents so far have in some cases been abysmal – low single digit %. I suspect there are a number of reasons for that. Many on the mail list don’t care (meaning it’s a waste of time to send to them anyway). But many actually do want it and are not paying attention, who will eventually wonder why they stop getting things.  The challenge is to request consents in a way that will encourage a quick and easy yes – meaning that the use of marketing professionals may be key to getting a good response rate.

There is so much uncertainty around CASL interpretation that CASL compliance will be an iterative process.

No software solutions are available for the average business to track CASL compliance.  There is a business opportunity to develop affordable mini-CRM software that meets CASL rules and evidentiary requirements and can tie in with bulk mail programs and contact management systems such as Outlook.

The CASL software consents that kick in in January 2015 have the potential to cause real havoc.  They are being overshadowed now because of the looming July 1 date for CEM, and that the software consent issue only applies to those creating software.  These rules are unprecedented, and there is a danger that many offshore software developers will simply not offer their products to Canadians rather than taking the time and effort to comply.

(Cross posted to Slaw)

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

 

 

 

Is wearable tech dead?

Nike just announced that it is exiting its FuelBand fitness tracker business.

Another article claims that “it’s only a matter of time until [Google Glass] joins devices such as the Zune, the Kin, the PlayBook, and the Xoom in tech hell.”

Despite musings that wearable tech is dead and dying, these are just growing pains.

Wearable devices are still in an early bleeding edge phase where manufacturers and users are trying to figure out what works, what users want, what users find creepy, and what users are willing to pay for.

Take Google Glass, for instance.  I have no doubt that there is a future for head mounted display devices.  The unknown is how popular they will be beyond niche uses for things like surgeons, mechanics or others needing to see and send information while they use their hands.

Fitness trackers have been compared to January gym memberships – many tend to use them for only a short time before abandoning them.  There may be a limit to sales of one function devices, but there is more promise to multifunction devices.  One potentially interesting market is for wearable devices that stretch beyond fitness tracking to medical tracking.

Wearables are not dead – but perhaps are in the “trough of disillusionment” in the Gartner Hype Cycle.

hype cycle

Cross posted on Slaw

Spam now so you can Spam later

CASL - the new Canadian anti-spam act - comes into force July 1.  It contains extensive, complex provisions that apply to the sending of any email that has a hint of a commercial purpose (a “CEM”).  In the short term it may increase the amount of email we get.  We have all received emails from mail lists we are on asking us to confirm our consent.  But there is another reason we may get more.  The reason goes like this:

CASL requires express or implied consent from the recipient before a CEM can be sent.

The act contains a transitional provision that gives up to 3 years to get express consent. (The section is below.) To take advantage of that, there must be a current or prior business or non-business relationship with the recipient AND that relationship must include communication of CEM.

Couple that with the fact that after July 1 you can’t send an email to request consent (unless there is implied consent).

So to pull as many email addresses as possible into the transition provision, maximize express consents, and give the longest possible time to obtain them, the tactic is …?

Before July 1, pull together every email address you can get from every person that you can fit into the business or non-business relationship category, and send CEM to them.

The transition section:

66. A person’s consent to receiving commercial electronic messages from another person is implied until the person gives notification that they no longer consent to receiving such messages from that other person or until three years after the day on which section 6 comes into force, whichever is earlier, if, when that section comes into force,

(a) those persons have an existing business relationship or an existing non-business relationship, as defined in subsection 10(10) or (13), respectively, without regard to the period mentioned in that subsection; and

(b) the relationship includes the communication between them of commercial electronic messages.

Cross posted to Slaw.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

Are you vulnerable to Heartbleed?

A serious flaw has been discovered in OpenSSL - the browser encryption standard used by an estimated two-thirds of the servers on the internet.  This flaw has been there for a couple of years, and allows hackers to read data stored in memory.  That gives hackers access to anything in memory, including security keys, user names and passwords, emails and documents.  More detail is on Gigaom and Schneier on Security.

An update to OpenSSL fixes the flaw.  Anyone who has a website should ask their service provider if it affects their site, and have it updated immediately.

And for those of you still using Windows XP or Office 2003 – upgrade that immediately as well.  I was surprised to read this morning that as many as 30% of Windows based computers still use XP.  As of today, Microsoft is no longer supporting them.

[cross-posted on Slaw]

Office for iPad – there’s a catch

Microsoft released office for iPad last week. They have promised to release Office for Android soon as well.

The good news is that it is free to download. The bad news is that it can only be used as a reader. If you want to create or edit documents, you need an Office 365 account. And if you have a personal Office 365 account, the terms don’t let you use it for commercial purposes.

Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud based service that is purchased for an annual fee.

Even if your office has one of the many flavours of Microsoft corporate licenses, you probably don’t have Office 365 access. That means that to use iPad or Android Office, there is a significant extra cost.

Frankly, while a usable Office on a tablet would be marvelous to have, the price is far too high.

Microsoft has been getting some flak over this. Hopefully they will come up with an alternate way of giving access to those of us who already use Office.

In the meantime, free alternatives such as Google’s Quickoffice work well enough.

[cross-posted on Slaw]

Royalty fraudsters can’t hide behind ‘corporate veil’

For the London Free Press – March 31, 2014

Read this at lfpress.com

The British Columbia Court of Appeal recently held the owner of a company personally liable for a fraud his company perpetrated against a company it had licensed technology from.

It’s rare for courts to “pierce the corporate veil” and find personal liability for owners and employees or companies, but they will if fraud is involved.

In this case, Mr. Zhu was the controlling shareholder of a company called JingJing. JingJing signed a license agreement with a company called XY, where XY gave JIingJing the right to use XY technology related to animal genetics. The fee for using the technology was an ongoing royalty paid to XY based on how much money JingJing made from using the licensed technology.

XY relied on JingJing to report JingJing revenues and to pay the correct amounts. But JingJing, Mr. Zhu, and two other employees falsified the revenue records and significantly underpaid XY.

It was clear that JingJing breached the contract by doing the false reporting. But the court also found that Mr. Zhu and the two employees who participated in the false reporting committed the tort of deceit by falsifying the records with the intent to deceive XY and pay it less than was actually owed. Mr. Zhu, the two employees and JingJing were held jointly and severally liable for the payment of damages exceeding $8 million.

Though it may seem odd to have a contractual arrangement where the price is paid based on metrics that only the person paying knows, it is not that unusual.

Things such as software licences and reseller agreements, and the use of technology in general are often paid for based on what the buyer knows about the usage of the product. For example, fees can be based on things such as the number of sales, revenue from sales, numbers of employees, numbers of customers, or even the number of servers the technology runs on.

In these types of arrangements, the contracts typically require the buyer to report on the payment metrics along with payment. Sellers often include audit rights allowing them to inspect the buyer’s records or systems to confirm the reporting is accurate.

Depending on the nature of the technology being licensed, and the way the seller sets it up, it may in some cases be possible for the seller to be able to monitor the use metrics itself and avoid the risk of buyer fraud.

The facts and law in this case were very complex and dealt with many issues other than the reporting fraud, but lessons from this decision include:

  • Company owners and employees cannot do fraudulent acts and hide behind the corporate veil. Arguing that the fraud was in the course of their regular duties won’t save them.
  • Businesses that get paid for their products and services based on use metrics should try to deliver them in a way that allows them to monitor the use themselves.
  • Contracts that rely on reporting should contain an audit provision.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

The value of a brand

Today’s Slaw post:

We all know that brand logos and names can be valuable assets and powerful promotional tools. Research has shown that children as young as 2 years old can recognize certain logos.

Some are created by company founders on their own, and some are the result of intensive work by advertising agencies. Pepsi spent a million dollars on its latest logo redesign. Nike paid a graphic design student $35 for its swoosh design.

These, and other interesting facts on designs are on this infographic published by FinancesOnline.com.

 

Review of Famous Business Logos: From Firefox To Apple
Prepared by financesonline.com | Author: Alex Hillsberg | See our Facebook

A really dumb idea

For the London Free Press – March 14, 2014

Read this at lfpress.com

In February a “Dumb Starbucks” store appeared in Los Angeles. At first glance the coffee shop may have seemed like any other Starbucks store, but it gave away “dumb” versions of items sold by the Seattle-based coffee company, such as “Dumb Iced Espresso” and “Dumb Vanilla Blond Roast”.

People lined up to get in when it first opened, many probably thinking it was a real Starbucks. At least, that is, until they noticed the word “Dumb” in from of all the signage and product names, saw the interior, or actually tasted the products.

Dumb Starbucks turned out to be a publicity stunt. To extend the ruse, the creators anticipated the “how is this legal?” question. They published FAQs stating that because of parody exceptions to copyright and trademark law adding the word ‘dumb” meant that they were technically “making fun” of Starbucks. The shop said that by doing this, it allowed them to use the Starbucks trademark under a law known as “fair use.” The FAQ defined fair use as a legal doctrine that permits use of copyrighted or trademarked material in a parody without permission from the rights holder.

Although the shop was a fully functioning coffee shop, the FAQ stated “that for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our ‘coffee shop’ is actually an art gallery and the ‘coffee’ you’re buying is considered the art”.

This legal explanation caused a bit of a kerfuffle for a short time until it became apparent that the FAQ was as fake as the store.

That legal explanation was a nice try, but conveniently overlooked some things. Such as the fact that fair use exceptions like parody rely on a fairness test and are not absolute. And the fact that the basic purpose of adding “Dumb” to the Starbucks brands was to trade on the goodwill Starbucks has earned for their brands.

Parody and satire have existed as fair use exceptions to copyright and trademark law in the United States for some time. They were added to Canadian copyright law in 2012. The Canadian Copyright Act states that fair dealing (as it is called in Canada) for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe copyright.

To determine whether fair use or dealing is indeed fair, the courts look at criteria such as its purpose; its character; the amount; available alternatives; the nature of the work; and the effect of the use on the original work. In other words, was it a reasonable thing to do, how necessary was it, and might it hurt the copyright owner?

This turned out to be a short-lived publicity stunt, but if anyone actually thinks they can trade on the goodwill of another’s brand by simply adding “dumb” to the name to turn it into a parody or satire they are just, well, dumb.

http://harrisonpensa.com/lawyers/david-canton

Is custom satellite imagery or crowdsourcing in your future?

Todays Slaw post:

Digital Globe, a commercial satellite image company, has started a crowdsourcing campaign to help find the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.  You can go to their Tomnod site, look at satellite imagery of where the plane might be, and tag anything that may look like wreckage or life rafts.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that satellite imagery, especially high resolution near real time imagery, was exclusively for government spy agencies.

Now anyone can obtain up to date satellite imagery with remarkable resolution. (The best resolution is still reserved for government use.)  If a recent image is not available to suit your needs, you can actually request a custom image of the location you are interested in – satellite tasking options  are available to order a specific image that will be taken within hours.  Another option is to use your own drone, or hire someone with a drone, to take aerial images.

Are there situations where lawyers might want to obtain or use this kind of imagery?

Are there situations where lawyers might use crowdsourcing to help find evidence within satellite imagery or other large volumes of public data?