Worth Reading: Securing privacy, Showrunner DIY TV promos, Legal strategies in Charlie Sheen case, High noon in i4i-Microsoft fight

* Guardian, Cory Doctorow: ‘The most powerful mechanism we have for securing the privacy of individuals is for them to care about that privacy’ – video – “Blogger, writer and activist Cory Doctorow on social networking, revolution and how to avoid haemorrhaging personal information online”

* The Hollywood Reporter, Q&A: ‘Cougar Town’ Boss Bill Lawrence Airs His Frustrations With Disney

THR: So what does work?

Lawrence: There are some shows like Modern Family or American Idol where lightening strikes. Otherwise, you have two options. First, you build word-of-mouth.

THR: And the second?

Lawrence: Keep your loyal fans interested by giving them as much access, content and interaction as possible. That’s what I like as a TV viewer. For me, every show that I’ve felt like, “Wow, they actually care what the fans think” or “they’re actually writing for somebody,” I’m more loyal to. On Scrubs, we gave our fans extra content and access to the cast and writers. And in return, we could count on them to find the show on a network that moved the show about 20 times. On this show, Kevin and I realized that in our older age we weren’t making as much of an effort in our first year to interact with these guys and so we decided to do it wholesale now. […]

THR: How has ABC reacted to all these different efforts?

Lawrence: This will get me in trouble, so it’ll be fun. My feeling is that it’s going to be hard for these big companies like Disney to embrace this. I went to take over the Scrubs’ Facebook site and I couldn’t just film things and post them, even though I have the ability to do it with a flip cams and the technology. Why? Because they still have to go through a 48-hour vetting process with the Disney attorneys. That’s why these companies are not able to crack these things. They don’t let creative people see something and react immediately by posting something funny because they’re worried. In the first video that I posted I was joking around about all of these things that I’m going to try to do on the Scrubs site and they wouldn’t put it up.

* Hollywood Reporter, “Charlie Sheen Showdown: What Tuesday’s L.A. Court Battle Means

OK, so why are they fighting over whether the case will be public or private?

Sheen wants his $100 million lawsuit heard in open court, not in a private conference room in front of former appeals court justice Richard Neal (the JAMS-appointed arbitrator). Besides wanting his fans to be able to follow the case, Sheen’s legal team smartly recognizes that the threat of airing sensitive financial documents in open court in front of what would certainly be a horde of press could be embarrassing for Warners—and might be a great reason to pay Sheen to settle the case. Plus, juries tend to favor celebrities, even the crazy ones.

For these reasons, Singer went to court last month and asked that the state court judge exercise jurisdiction over the case, potentially taking it away from the arbitrator.

But Charlie’s contract has an airtight arbitration clause. How can he get around that?

In court on Tuesday, Sheen is expected to argue, among other things, that the arbitration clause in his contract with Warner Bros. is “unconscionable” and shouldn’t be enforced against him. Singer’s position in legal papers is that the clause is essentially a non-negotiable element of Warner Bros. talent contracts, rendering it unreasonable on its face and against public policy.

To support this argument, Singer earlier this month took the deposition of Warner Bros. legal affairs executive Jody Zucker, who was asked, according to our sources, to cite examples of Warners contracts that do NOT have a strict arbitration clause. Zucker is said to have testified that WB has made some deals with different or no arbitration language. Still, it’s no secret that the standard contract, even for big talent with leverage, includes an agreement to arbitrate disputes (and remember, back when Sheen first signed his Men deal containing the clause, he wasn’t TV’s No. 1 star, he was a fading film actor).”

* National Post, “High noon in i4i-Microsoft fight

“The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments Monday for and against changing U.S. patent law to make patents easier to invalidate. […]

Each side will be given 30 minutes to present its opening statement to the eight sitting justices, since Chief Justice John Roberts has recused himself. Malcolm L. Stewart, United States Deputy Solicitor General, will speak on behalf of the U.S. government for 10 of i4i’s minutes.

Originally filed in March 2007, the lawsuit claims Microsoft’s Word 2003 software uses i4i’s technology to open documents using the XML programming language, for which i4i has held a patent since 1998. A U.S. federal district court judge in Texas ruled in favour of i4i in August 2009, awarding the Toronto company US$290-million in damages and barring Microsoft from selling Word 2003 and Word 2007 until it had removed i4i’s code from its software.

Microsoft removed the contested sections of code in January 2010, though the Windows maker is famous for never fully backing down from a legal fight.

So when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected its second request to have the validity of i4i’s patent re-examined, Microsoft appealed to the country’s highest legal authority. With the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case last November, i4i chairman Loudon Owen now believes Microsoft will argue that the current standard for invalidating a patent is too high, asking the court to lower the standard from “clear and convincing evidence” to what is called a “mere preponderance,” he said.

His concern is that if patents can be more easily invalidated, people will be less inclined to incur the time and expense necessary to acquire them. It was a five-year process for i4i’s patent to gain approval.

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