Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 15/9/2005ZDNet Editorial gets a strange note from Neil, our man in the engine room who keeps the boilers hissing and the Web site pumping. He's forwarding a note from our ISPs, who are in turn forwarding one from an outfit in California called BayTSP.

Thursday 15/9/2005

ZDNet Editorial gets a strange note from Neil, our man in the engine room who keeps the boilers hissing and the Web site pumping. He's forwarding a note from our ISPs, who are in turn forwarding one from an outfit in California called BayTSP. And what interesting reading it makes.

After some strongly worded legalese, it gets down to business. ""It has come to the attention of Scansoft that you are distributing unlicensed and unauthorized Scansoft Products. The property you are infringing is protected by the 1976 Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101, et seq." In particular, it continues, we're handing out copies of Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. And to prove it, the note includes a link to our sinful activity. It concludes with an even more strongly worded piece of advice to cease and desist our evil, otherwise we'll be guilty of wilful copyright infringement with absolutely oodles of dollars in fines.

Alas for BayTSP, whatever recognition software it's using is somewhat less impressive than Scansoft's product. It has incorrectly identified a review for the product itself — and clearly, BayTSP doesn't see fit to have a human check the results of its robot sheriff before sending out the frighteners.

We email Scansoft's PR, and get a frightfully apologetic reply — they had no idea what was happening and are mortified. That's OK, we say, it's not your fault. It's these BayTSP clowns and whatever strange package they're using that can't tell an 800 word text file from many megabytes of executable code. They are the idiots who've meant we have to go back to our ISP and say that no, there's nothing going on here.

Our temper is not improved when we go to make contact with our accusers. The email directs us to an officious Web page which offers us three options: 'Yes, I've complied and removed all copyrighted material for which I'm not the copyright holder'; 'No, I've not complied and I'm still distributing copyrighted material'; and 'Mistake, You sent the notice to the wrong person'. The two options we'd like to see — 'You can't tell the difference between a program and a review, you dolt' and 'Your false accusation to our ISP may be libellous, so think about that before you accuse an organisation which knows all about libel. Also, you're a dolt' — are mysteriously absent. But there is a free text box where we can make our opinions clear, together with a tick box to certify that we've provided truthful information, so we provide some truthful information, tick the box and send it off.

On no account should any of you lot provide more truthful information, tick the box and send it off. That would be bad, and beneath your dignity.

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