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CueCat Goes After Online Barcode Database 188

Just noted that CueCat is going for this year's Useless Legal Action Beanie by going after, a site that is storing UPC codes and allows people to look them up. The database contains almost a half a million entries right now. Unfortunately they're not distributing copies of their database, so it may be necessary to create an open db just to make sure that this data isn't locked up. Update: 09/28 08:14 PM by CT : Lineo's cuecat site was taken down also.
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CueCat Goes After Online Barcode Database

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  • I don't know *who* they are, but they're now at the top of my F*ckedCompany list!
  • Online UPC Databases beware!!

    Whatever you do, do not bend over.

    I repeat, DO NOT BEND OVER..

    DigitalConvergence is RIGHT BEHIND YOU...

  • Hmm, they may sell cues, but they should purchase at least one clue. Hmm. :Clue:Cat. I like it.
  • scan a frappuccino bottle: and you get taken to the pepsi cola site. what starbucs has to do with pepsi is beyound my meager grasp...

    IIRC, Pepsico is the bottler for the Starbucks Frappuchino drink. Much the same way that Coca Cola is the bottler for Snapple...
  • When most of the grocery stores in my area started using those "shopper loyalty" cards, at first I thought of just shopping elsewhere.

    But as they proliferated, I realized that the best solution is to corrupt the databases.

    Right now, I use a Kroger card that isn't tied to a form that I filled out. I just happened to "pick one up off the counter"one day. As an alternative, just provide an alias name and non-existent address (or the store's address), and fill out as many "shopper loyalty" cards as you can, and encourage your friends to do the same.

    I note with some pleasure that the chain that initiated these stupid cards (Jitney-Jungle) has pulled out of the local market, and that everybody's getting beat these days by Wal-Mart, who doesn't require a stupid card.

  • So, why aren't they going after Amazon and nearly every other online bookseller that has basically the same kind of info online? (Or is this another "we don't like your site, but won't tell you why" letter from K&K who apparently have an entire staff of ugly lawyers and a FedEx account).
  • Let's respond with absurd capitalist attacks to match their absurd legal attacks. One possible response in this vein is for us to request cuecats from Radio Shack and other sources whenever we can. CueCat's per-consumer costs are a function of the number of cuecats that they distribute. If we request and receive multiple cuecats each, we'll drive up their capital investment costs. Then, by not using them, we will reduce the per-consumer revenues. Their funding and financial models may be dependent on some per-cuecat usage or revenue targets. It sure would be too bad if they had capital crunch and problems with their bankers because they missed their targets. If the Radioshacks of the world run out of the cuecats, then we'll also save those unwitting consumers from the dangers that they present to the general public.
  • Your anonymous shopper loyalty card does not hide you if you use other forms of electronic payment AKA credit/debit cards to execute your purchase.

    First stick your ATM card in the machine at the bank, near work, or near home(because such trace data is useless, as they already know where you live, work, and where the bank is). Then pay cash.
  • The linux cuecat driver is still listed on tucows [].

    You may want to go to tucows directly and search for cuecat (that way you'll get a local/faster tucows mirror).

    In any case, it is definitely available here: http://fundy.linu x.t []

    - jonathan.

    The Moral Majority was disbanded in 1989
  • Some of the people out there contacted them to see what they had to say about all of this. They're supposedly waiting and seeing what comes of all of this. Another submarine attack, perhaps. But, if you look at what I scrounged up, even NeoMedia doesn't have a leg to stand on- the patent DOES cover this sort of thing.
  • The guy who originally wrote the code that generated the CDDB data gave the code away. He later asserted property rights to the data and today it is not free. Are you going to leap in and defend him also?


    Those who are ignorant [that would be you] of history are doomed to repeat it. I never said that the webmaster in question was not dedicated to opensource, I simply pointed out that the comment above was indistinguishable from what one might hear from a person trying to build a proprietary database. I guess you are disagreeing with that?

    Everything I've said has been fact. Everything you've said has been opinion.

  • Go grab Foocat [] -- it looks up author, info URL, title and a cover shot for books, CDs and DVD.

  • Those would be the Cauzin strips, I believe. BTW - the :CueCat is a ridiculous piece of crap. It's a horrible scanner.
  • Found and old business card:
  • by -benjy ( 142508 ) <> on Thursday September 28, 2000 @10:28AM (#747788)
    As long as you are planning to shove an intelligent :CueCat up your ass, why stop at detecting colon cancer? Make a plug-in architecture for your software, and somebody will soon write a routine to detect whether someone is full of sh*t!

    "What?" you say, "I am well fibered and squeaky clean. How will I test it?" The answer is simple my friend. Just make certain that Digital Convergence knows about your exploits. They will send one of their lawyers after you di-rectly. Capture the lawyer and use him to perfect your scatological scanning software.

  • you mean like all of the warnings that come with a "Happy Fun Ball"?

    best one by far is: Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball
    Interested in the Colorado Lottery?
  • by Whizard ( 25579 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @08:29AM (#747790) Homepage
    I'm friends with the guy who runs [], and I just thought I'd mention a couple things that made this post slightly inaccurate.

    First off, the C&D letter is regarding the ability his site has to accept a UPC code directly from a CueCat scan, not about the database itself. He has a text input you can click in, and then scan the UPC code, and it will send it to a CGI script that decodes the CueCat scan, and looks up the UPC code in his database.

    Secondly, the reason his database isn't publicly available is because he got a lot of seed data for it from a third-party source with the agreement that the entire DB wouldn't be made publicly available. (No evil closed-source-ness conspiracies here, he's actually a strong supporter of open source, and has written several open source programs you can find on Freshmeat.)

  • I think you are just looking for an excuse to stick that long hard pussy cat up your rectum... But, who am i to judge...
    • :CueCat scanner == hardware
    • DC's business model == give away hardware to drive business to website.
    • Competition provides same service
    • Because :CueCat hardware is used, Competition must be "stealing"

    Do you think :CueCat has ever heard of a modem? Do you think that if USR and Motorola were to throw temper tantrums over their competition in the same manner that anyone would give them any serious business? Do you think that any Judicial representative (aka, Judge, Lawyer) would even consider such a lawsuit? Let's hope the judge presiding over this case throw it out for the childish temper tantrum it is.

  • You own your post, whether or not they remove it. I see no violation of that copyright.

  • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @08:38AM (#747794)
    Saw on flyingbuttmonkeys:

    Stephen Satchell's theory [] behind the DC letters. Basically, DC is only going after barcode to web translations, not simply cuecat decoders. Even though DC has refused to answer what their "intellectual property" is, their letters have gone exclusively to sites that have software that can let you use your cat with the web. Satchell further points out that NeoMedia Technologies, not DC, actually have a patent on barcode to web lookups. NeoMedia is sitting on the patent until, I guess, there is enough money being made to jump in and begin extorting licensing fees...

  • One thing seems pretty clear to me: as long as site administrators keep taking down the "offending" material as soon as they get a cease-and-desist (C&D) letter from a whiny company like Digital Convergence, regardless of the strength of the company's legal position -- sending these letters is going to continue to be an effective way for companies to get want they want.

    No one wants to face a lawsuit, and I can understand why individual hackers who just don't want the hassle give in so easily when they receive a C&D letter.

    But surely there are *some* people out there who feel they can take the risk and stand up to nasty letters making demands with such dubious legal backing? I'd think that the CueCat flap would be a perfect place to start. Everyone seems to agree that Digital Convergence hasn't a legal leg to stand on here:
    • they may not even have a relevant patent
    • even if they did, it would not be a patent infringement to decode CueCat output and use it for any purpose whatsoever; it might be an infringement to manufacture your own CueCats (especially if you used the same "encryption"), but no one's doing that!
    • the anti-circumvention part of the DMCA, even if you stipulate that such an idiotic law could or should remain on the books, isn't even at issue here as no copyrighted material is being accessed by "circumventing" the CueCat encryption
    • Digital Convergence may regard their "encryption" as a trade secret, but it is determinedly not illegal to reverse-engineer and reveal trade secrets (it would be a different matter if someone were revealing information obtained under an NDA or other privileged position, but that is not the case here)
    • Digital Convergence may be hopping mad that people have reverse-engineered the CueCat and are using it for purposes that they didn't intend for it, but --- tough cookies. They certainly have the right to ask people nicely not to do it if they want, but their threatening letters are utterly spurious.

    So why don't the people who are getting these letters write back, enumerate the above points, and simply refuse to take their software down?

    Incidentally, since lawyers are likely to go to a site's ISP if the site admin isn't willing to budge, admins may also feel that their connectivity is at risk. It would be nice if the position of ISPs in situations like this were clarified so they could stand up to legal intimidation by saying "we are not responsible for the contents of our customers' sites and refuse to intervene in disputes of this sort."

  • ..that we get some legal advice how to (as legally as possible) express our opinions to those companies that sprout such cr@p. Should we perhaps have a Slashdot streamlined complaint letter that we send to the company executive officers?. Surely /. is now well known enough to "matter". I mean most of these company's (Amazon's 1-click ,DC, etc) target markets are represented right here.

    In summary "There has got to be an effective way for us to let these idiots know ?"

  • Interesting, thanks for the info.

    Now I am curious how fast a web site could gather such information. There must be millions of UPC codes out there. I am sure the guys who started CDDB were thinking the same thing at some point. I have never found a CD that the CDDB didn't know about.

    I would imagine that the data would be created in an exponential fashion, with common items that everybody has in the cabinet (Coca-Cola comes to mind) coming in pretty fast.

  • I never said he wasn't in favor of doing it, but that what you quoted him saying previously was exactly what a person making an excuse would say.

    That would be a convenient excuse for a person who was wrong but didn't want to admit it. Therefore, it is worthless.


  • >I've mostly scanned empty beer containers

    Excellent idea!

    As far as the ISDN bit goes, having a dedicated phone number that happens to be dedicated to a modem is wonderful fun for telemarketers I'm sure. Of course the real purpose of my extra line is roaming 'net access...

    Anyway, it seems that many more of us are building aliases. I have a "real" phone number and a junk phone number, real email address and junk address, real userid/browser that has only been seen making purchases, another for surfing, my extended family and several friends proxy through my box via junkbuster just to help clutter the IP/cookie map, how long will these demographic databases be perceived to have any value?
  • OMYGOD ive been looking for a DB of barcode stuff like that. As soon as I can get in im hoping that there are comic book, yes I said comic books, in there.
  • Are there any disgruntled former DC workers out there who can give us the scoop on how they could possibly be so out of touch?

    That does it! I think it's high time there was a /. interview w/somebody at DC. Although this article [] might have been cathartic for CmdrTaco, the communication from DC seems more like a form letter (it's a little creepy to realize from the text that they think reverse-engineering is wrong/illegal).

    I realize /. can't make someone do an interview, but it's obvious from the sheer number of these articles that CmdrTaco has an ongoing interest in this story. He should press the issue with DC, and while I doubt it would stop them in their tracks, it might give them pause to hear (hopefully) intelligent questions about the viability of their business model.

  • What quote? Are you ok?
  • It's getting really insane when you can be sued because your data might have come from someone's hardware.

    Stop the madness!

  • That's not the lineo version... is a version that runs in userspace.

    The lineo version was one that ran in kernel space. Nifty in that it intelligently split out input from the keyboard and input from the CueCat.

  • Amen...I'm in north texas where a local tv station has dumped $40 million in this project and I am bombarded on TV and Radio and now here...I agree...enough!
  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @10:39AM (#747806)
    Looks like NeoMedia, whose patents DC apparently licenses, patented the concept of using a barcode with attached tracking data as a means to fetch a pointer ot network data. In 1999 and 2000. I'll bet this comes as a surprise to every maker of networked barcode-enabled applications from the past 20 years.

    Then again, some other yahoos seem to have a fresh patent on the very idea of a database mapping UPC codes to product-related URLs.

    Time to patent my Method of Organizing a Sock Drawer. Black socks on the left, white socks on the right, colored and patterened socks in the middle. Who's reviewing these patent applications? A family of parakeets? A bag of gravel with a face painted on it?Bonus points: NeoMedia's other three patents cover the "windowing" approach to solving the Y2k problem. So it sounds like NeoMedia specializes in buying up patents of the obvious that somehow slip through, and suing everyone in sight.
  • As far as i can guess, they probably verify the info later. I doubt it goes into the DB directly. But validating data is in this case an easier task than aquiring it.
  • "You've got questions, we've got blank stares."

  • ...The :CueCat reader is only on loan to you from Digital:Convergence and may be recalled at any time.

    Who do they think they're kidding? A person who has "borrowed" something is obligated to take reasonable care of it. So according to this EULA, you can't throw it away, damage it, leave it laying around where it might be stolen, etc.

    It's like a Trojan horse. Once you've let it into your house you're screwed.

    Maybe next time I need to store some stuff I'll drop it off somewhere with a note at the bottom saying I'm loaning the stuff to them and I can come back for it whenever I want.


  • Here's what they currently have registered (thanks to Larry Gilbert for this list and to sed for formatting it):

    digital -co []
    digitalc onv []
    digitalc onv []
    digitalc onv [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []CATFORFREE1.COM []
    FREE1080CAT.COM []
    FREEHOT100CAT .CO M []
    IWANTACAT1.COM&l t;/a> []
    IWANTACAT2.COM&l t;/a> []
    IWANTACAT3.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE1.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE2.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE3.COM&l t;/a> []
    WHATSONCRQ.COM&l t;/a> []
    WHATSONCRQ.NET&l t;/a> []

  • Sigh. Let's try this again, shall we, slashcode?

    digital -co []
    digitalc onv []
    digitalc onv []
    digitalc onv [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []CATFORFREE1.COM []
    FREE1080CAT.COM []
    FREEHOT100CAT .CO M []
    IWANTACAT1.COM&l t;/a> []
    IWANTACAT2.COM&l t;/a> []
    IWANTACAT3.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE1.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE2.COM&l t;/a> []
    MYCATFREE3.COM&l t;/a> []
    WHATSONCRQ.COM&l t;/a> []
    WHATSONCRQ.NET&l t;/a> []

  • common. people are seeing how many privacy concerns this thing is using and are not using it. The company will flounder and then die, and we'll all move on to the next 'big privacy concern'. The message is out there, its on the wall...use these peoples crap at your own risk. ignore them and go on to something more pressing. those bastards in congress are dismantling our rights more than any company can every day, and yet we sit around and bitch about some cat shaped scanner. move on....damn

    "sex on tv is bad, you might fall off..."
  • ws3: {526} whois

    Whois Server Version 1.3

    Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
    with many different competing registrars. Go to
    for detailed information.

    No match for "QCATSUCKS.COM".

    >>> Last update of whois database: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 10:14:38 EDT

    The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and
  • for creating the internet which makes it easy to find information that Big Business doesn't want you to know

    (not a troll, meant to be funny :)
  • by dkh ( 125857 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:23AM (#747815)
    Not sure of the details here, site is slashdot'd already but... if these folks are being pestered because of a db of upc's what about all the retailers out there? I thought the whole idea of the upc was to provide machine readable id's - they're not proprietary or secret. I would assume that somewhere out there there is a public list of the company identifiers. Method of getting the data would seem to be irrelevant if it is already public knowledge.
  • What are they going to do for an encore, sue the US Power Grid for supplying the power to the CueCat so people won't be able to hack it anymore? I personally can't wait to see this go to a trial. I hope the judge laughs out loud in their face and sends them to be without dinner for acting like a bunch of two year olds.
  • Check out <a href=" =2000/9/18/175017/284">this story</a> on Kuro5hin.
  • It appears is slashdotted at the moment. Where's the article you're refering to Taco? UPC codes have been around a lot longer than CueCat so I'm just curious what they think they could possibly sue upcdatabase for?

    -- []: fresh links served daily.
  • I am probably short sighted, but I have no real use for a barcode scanner. I got my CueCat in the mail, so I went to the Digital Convergence Contact [] site, entered my information, and politely told them that I didn't agree with their EULA, and asked them to provide me with a shipping container and postage so I could return the scanner to them...

    ...I haven't heard from them yet

    I wrote a little editorial about this subject on my website oap box []

    Stand Fast,

  • ok, I have one of these scanners now.

    what do I do with it? Has anyone in the /. community found a really good use for one? I heard mention of a CD database at one time.

    It's interesting scanning stuff for a while, but that wears off quickly. there must be something else they are good for.

    ya, I know my karma is screwed, but I really want to know. these things are fun, but there must be an actual valid use for them other than finding websites.


  • sue Al Gore for creating the internet which makes it easy to find information that Big Business doesn't want you to know
    Goddamn, if that isn't +5 Insightful than I've never seen a good post at all.
  • "CueCat is going for this year's Useless Legal Action Beanie..."

    As far as that Beanie goes, DC has already won it hands down.

  • So, who in this community has the balz (and resources) to start with an interface similar to CDDB?

    I would imagine that retailers make an awful lot of money selling their database of UPC codes to stores. Maybe they just give it to them so they can sell their products. Anybody know how grocery stores get all that information into their registers?

  • ...because they license the ISBN databases from other companies...
  • OK... How can we most effectively protest against CueCat? Some people say they'll throw their Cat away, others say they'll burn them. I thought of a couple more:

    • Cut off their tails (cords) and mail the tail-less Cats to DC.
    • Maybe mail them just a three-inch piece of the cord (cheaper to send this way).
    • Make a CueCat "crush" video. Unfortunately, my wife doesn't own any spike-heeled shoes, and I can't get her to smoosh one of these with her bare toes.
    • Send them letters written in CueCat "encrypted" text.
    • Two words: Kitty Porn.
    • Microwave their CD and mail it to them. In pieces so it'll fit in an envelope.

    The last one is probably my favorite because it doesn't involve destroying my cat and it shows them I'm going to use it without their software.

    C'mon, slashdotters! Can't you come up with something better?

  • The message previews FINE, and then gets all FUCKED UP when I sumbit it!!!! Here's the list in plain text:


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Digital Convergence just announced an IPO! [] Let's do our part on internet investment discussion boards to make sure that their potential investors are well-informed about this company!
    • DC gives away hardware and expects revenue from use of its software. However, since its software stinks and is easily replaced, the business model is hosed.
    • A recent letter [] from the president of the technology group at DC shows a total lack of understanding of IP law-- upon which the health of the company critically depends. (Or would depend, were the law favorable to their cause.)
    • Apparently realizing the enormity of their error, DC has been sending vague, threatening letters [] to people who have found uses for CueCat that undermine their business model. Unfortunately, these letters appear to be a bluff.
    • These threatening letters have incensed the open source community-- a group well-qualified to undermine DC's business model by providing alternate software to drive the CueCat, shutting of DC's revenue.
    • The product raises privacy concerns, particularly in light of the recent hack into Digital Convergence's customer database [].
    • Just as the company's fundamental business model has come into serious question, they file for an IPO. Could this be a hasty attempt by execs to grab some cash before the ship sinks beneath the waves?

    Be sure to relay only FACTS on internet discussion boards-- that will suffice. Of course, wouldn't it be a shame if frank and extensive discussion of these facts spoiled their $100 million IPO?

    No. :-)

  • ... and 3.5 years of internet-free Saturdays!!!
  • Anyone else considering dropping their WIRED subscription in protest over being "sold" to DC?
  • by Vassily Overveight ( 211619 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @04:58PM (#747832)
    Here's an article from []

    Dallas Morning News president: People just love that CueCat!
    "Our market research shows consumers love this product and can't wait to use it at home," says Robert W. Mong Jr., president and general manager of The Dallas Morning News. "I find that very reassuring." He should; his paper's parent has invested $40 million in the company making the device.
    From RENEE HOPKINS: "You may have noticed that the Dallas Morning News' :CueCat artice carries no byline, only the cryptic 'from staff reports.' That tells me that my former DMN coworkers didn't want anyone's name associated with this biased puff piece. If the DMN staffers had been allowed to actually report on the OTHER side of the story -- that the :CueCat has so far received negative reviews for being a fairly useless and hard-to-use piece of technology -- the story would have been bylined."

  • by 1010011010 ( 53039 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @10:59AM (#747834) Homepage
    It is in response to something that was, up until yesterday, on his site[...]

    This is your local FBM representative speaking :) It's The Baltimore Sun [] that has an article about this cuecat mess:

    When I asked Davis about the letters, he was a bit more specific but not much. "They're developing computer applications in our patent space," he said.

    Pressed a bit more, he said the company is relying on a 1991 patent it acquired that covers the use of a standard bar code scanner to "create a network event."

    This would be a fairly broad patent, and could keep others from using bar code readers for purposes that have nothing to do with Digital Convergence's core business.

    If you can find the patent(s) in question, please email me. Search freshmeat for the software.

  • Enough cuecat, when cuecat ceases to be an issue.

    Right now, DC is throwing very fat lawyers at people who can't afford to fight them, and that's wrong, becuase it sets a *very* bad precedent.

    I'm not in a position to interfere, since I don't live in the US, but I hope you guys over there make a lot of noise about this. Spread free drivers, write letters to media and politicians, and inform everyone who cares about this blatant abuse of your legal system.

    Collecting marketing information is not very polite, but it's nothing compared to the legal stunts DC is pulling. Their "IP" claim is a joke, so do everything you can to undermine it.. because if they get away with it, thousands of imitators will crawl out of the woodwork to restrict your freedom on the internet in ways you've never imagined.

    Because most of this shit starts in the USA, it's up to you Americans to protect the rest of the world by stomping it before it spreads. It's much harder to fight a corporation across international borders.

  • The page scans finally came up... took about 10 minutes.

    They say that they might be infringing..stop it. They don't actually say what to stop. How are they supposed to comply, even if they wanted to?
  • Greetings! I couldn't remember which big paper it was- Thanks!

    Keep plugging away at these clowns- they deserve every drop of agony that's about to come to them.
  • I just received my first threatening legal letter. It is from Trek Bicycle Corp. regarding my SkillTrek trademark. It seems the Trek Bicycle company feels they own all rights to the dictionary word Trek, even when it is used in areas that have nothing to do with bicycles. The funny thing is, a google search of the word Trek returns a zillion Star Trek sites, but nothing on Trek bicycles (at least not on the first few pages of results).

    I also searched on the USPO trademark database, and turned up several hundred trademarks with the word trek in them. Only six of them were owned by the trek bicycle corp. Did all of these other trademark holders get a letter? Some of these trademarks have been in effect for quite a few years, so I doubt it?

    It looks to me like a tipical corporate scare tactic, but I will nevertheless have to expend money to have my attorney blast back a letter basicly telling them to get bent (but in legal terms).

    Sigh. And I even own a Trek mountain bike. Oh the irony.


  • ???

  • Actually, it's not necessary to "de-claw" your can simply not use their program and you're fine. Just use these rules when retrieving data from their servers:

    http://[server][activation code].04.[cuecat scan].0

    [Server] can be a, o, s, t, or u. [activation code] is supposed to be the activation code you get from your registration, but can be simply "ACTIVATIONCODE", or any other random bit of data. [cuecat scan] is the raw output of the device, minus the "", with case inverted. The first section of the scan is your scanner id, and I've found that you can use just about anything for that.

    What you get in return is something that looks a little like this:

    desc=Stuff that matters


  • > Apparently, DC doesn't like the fact that you can use a CueCat to drive the database query. It's not the database proper, it's the CueCat decode programming.

    So they sue the database?

    This is :Clueless, even for :CueCat.

  • OTOH, since /. only posts ~12 articles/day, every CueCat article is one less article on something else, that could be more interesting.

    Personally, I find the whole CueCat thing fascinating, but I understand the dissenters' dis-interest.
    D. Fischer
  • Of course when companies release some new thing that has anything remotely associated with the internet, they play it up like it's going to change the internet forever. Digital Convergence is A) claiming the CueCat is the greatest invention since the mouse (check their website) B) they WON THE WAR against hackers C) If it has a UPC on it, it must be violating their EULA somehow and D) Even though they give their hardware away with (in version 1.0) no EULA mentioning the decompilation or reverse engineering of the hardware, that they own it outright and you can't do anything they don't want you to. I don't know if it's arrogance, ignorance, or just plain stupidity, but DC has what I consider first of all to be the dumbest idea about how to surf the web (I buy a can of Mountain Dew, I'm too dumb to try and second of all the guts to run around suing anything mentioning the word UPC. What's next, are they going to start suing Walmart for using barcodes because they COULD be purchased by a consumer who MIGHT use his own software to do something with it? This is ludicrous, plain and simple. Of all the people I've talked to (including people who would be inclined to install it as suggested by DC) not ONE SINGLE PERSON has installed the software provided with the Cue Cat. They've either disassembled them, thrown them away, or given them to someone else who will disassemble it to make a flashlight.

    "You'll die up there son, just like I did!" - Abe Simpson
  • CueCat decoder .signature by Larry Wall:
    #!/usr/bin/perl -n
    printf "Serial: %s Type: %s Code: %s\n", map { tr/a-zA-Z0-9+-/ -_/; $_ = unpack
    'u', chr(32 + length()*3/4) . $_; s/\0+$//; $_ ^= "C" x length; } /\.([^.]+)/g;
  • It's getting really insane when you can be sued because your data might have come from someone's hardware.

    I look forward to the lawsuit from book publishers and food makers whose barcode data is being taken by Cue:C.A.T.

    After all, the Cue:C.A.T. is being used to build a database of data which belongs to the manufacturers of books, food, drink...

  • by leob ( 154345 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @11:48AM (#747879)
    You cannot detect colon cancer with a thing that has colon cancer itself (:Cue:C.A.T.). And it's spreading! If it becomes :Cue:C:A:T: it will not be advisable to make it touch any part of your colon.
  • I'm about to look at cataloging my books. I was planning to use a lookup on Amazon to get the details from the UPC code, but this looks like it will be a better resource. (Note, I'll be typing the barcode manually, since I don't have any reader, and I don't belive Radio Shack canada is distributing the cuecats. I have no moral concerns about using one if I'm wrong though).

    Got any more good sites you want to tell us about?

  • And they are all over wired magazine now too.

  • But if you had printed out a barcode "Cue", they could have scanned it and known exactly what you were talking about.

    They might or might not have had it, but they could have scanned your "Cue" and that would have made the experience all worth your trip.

    Oh, gosh! New business idea coming up. After store clerk scans barcode in catalog, computer either says "Nope, we don't stock that. Go away." or a strobe light goes off over one of the racks in the back of the store and you go look there.

    This business idea hereby placed into the public domain.

  • by hatless ( 8275 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:37AM (#747890)
    A barcode-to-web-lookup patent, especially if awarded in the last 15 years, would be especially nutty. Barcode scanners have been used to trigger data lookups across networks for as long as there have been barcodes. I find it hard to believe that shop-floor, factory and warehouse barcode readers weren't being used to pull up mainframe data 20-plus years ago. Must find this NeoMedia patent. Sounds on the face of it like yet another bit of galling ineptitude at the USPTO.

    Hey! I have an idea! How about rigging, say, a modified finger daemon to hand out item URLs to scanning applications. Then the lookups wouldn't be done "on the web".
  • My impression of CueCat (and this is from limited data, admittedly) is that they have no idea how the internet, software, and computer world work in general.

    Lawsuits do not make you popular, screwing around with data does not make you popular, and posturing does not make you popular.

    You have to wonder if that company's left hand knows what the right hand is doing. That, to me, seems to be a major cause of internet/lawsuit/technical stupidity today.
  • What exactly is DC looking to accomplish here? UPCs are Universal Product Codes, I don't recall them having a patent or copyright or anything on these... so why is it hurting them for a site having an online database? Frankly, this would be about the only thing I might use my CueCat for, if someone developed an app to read this database and make a database of all my CDs or DVDs, then that stupid Cat thing on my desk might get some use other than a red keyboard light.

    Maybe this will open someone's eyes up in Washington and they will start picking at DC's business practices...

  • I wrote an email to Digital Convergence about CueCat drivers, offering to work with them even though I don't have to (I've proven that I don't in fact have to do so given any of the possible legal claims they could possibly have over me. Neither their shrinkwrap software license nor Copyright nor Trademark nor patent can stop me from doing whatever I want with their hardware..)

    Dispite their claim of being interested in working with someone to create an official Linux driver, they're not. I sent a very polite message explaining what I have done and asking them for what I would need to give them their demographics information so that my driver could be distributed without interfering with their business model. They didn't even reply.

    I'm busy at work lately, but expect me to return to patch up this driver for release in a few weeks or so if I'm lucky. Their legal department doesn't scare me. They have no intellectual property rights against me to defend, any legal threats would be empty.

  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <jessica&supjessica,com> on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:26AM (#747902)
    I loved .. i wonder if theyll go after [] claiming its used to generate "cues" for the cuecat (because DC sells cues now)

    all I know is now I want to get a lot of cuecats, so i can add another movie to my website "CueCats on Fire", i like burning evil stuff
  • by sid_vicious ( 157798 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:27AM (#747907) Homepage Journal
    For goodness sakes, does this company think they own the IP for barcodes?? Or that they invented the idea of an online database??

    Or do they think that somehow combining the two represents a brand new idea that should be protected from competition?

    Yeesh. I don't remember anyone promising these people that they had some God-given RIGHT to make money and trample everyone else in the process. If you want to make money in a capitalist marketplace, offer a *better* product for *less* money!

  • I Live in dallas, so i filled in the address for DC's headquarters as my home address ;-) Evil.
  • by FoxIVX ( 104861 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:27AM (#747911)
    This letter wasn't sent in regards to the database he has amassed, they would have no legal griveance over that. However, like the rest of us, he has a perl script that you can scan your :cue:cat directly into, and use it as your search query, this "violating" their IP. This is what they're pissed about, just like the other hackers who got letters. They probably dont like that there is a competing database of UPC codes, but certainly have no legal right to go after them for that.

  • Perhaps, but then you've paid for it with the subscription fee for the magazine, and it's yours on the same terms that the physical copy of the magazine is yours.

    An alternative view is that the subscription fee you paid is for the magazine subscription alone, and everything else is unsolicited.


  • by lwagner ( 230491 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:11AM (#747917)

    Information on UPC Symbols is in the public, isn't it? Isn't this a universal (AFAIK at least American?) standard?

    My thought is that CueCat is probably VC-based, and they're watching their business plan being eaten... but they have VC-money to sue with.

    A database of UPC Symbols would be of great use to smaller business and retailers who want to use them "scanning in" either a.) purchases of commonly purchased items, without having to actually scan the box or b.) inventory tracking.

    Inventory tracking is difficult to do when there are slight differences between the two products. A simple Maxtor HDD listing with features like UDMA, etc. can even be complex, for instance, if one has a 5400RPM rotation instead of a 7200 rotation. If you've ever worked with a distributor and not had the SKU, you know that the most complex part is trying to determine what things are by a jumble of extremely long sentences and unclearly abbreviated phrases. Sometimes the differentiation doesn't fit on the screen (e.g., the Maxtor drives would look the same, except for the price).

    It would be nice to scan in what inventory you want to reorder from a laser-printed sheet and have it automatically poll Ingram-Micro (or whomever) to see if it is available.

    As far as difficulty scanning boxes, if you've ever tried to move a set of stacked boxes around to find the UPC code (often on the bottom), you probably know what I'm talking about. It's not fun.

    With companies being so quick to sue, they seem to forget that, even with something like the CueCat, there is always a way to make some sort of money simply by (*gasp*) taking care of your customers. Not *everyone* is interested in hacking it, and most people are probably looking for a solution-based (e.g., service) approach. When you dump your customers (e.g., the lawsuit money has to come from somewhere, and customer service is often the first to suffer) to go after hackers and play lawsuit-cowboy, you have alienated both parties... parties that both had the potential to support your company in some fashion.

    In the hacking world, hackers give good publicity. Sure, they love to tear your stuff apart, but they gave rise to stuff like the iOpener and the CueCat which would have never been heard of otherwise. Hackers represent the ultimate consumer - they have a no-BS approach, they're intelligent, they're skeptical, and they love a quality product they can tool around with. Most small business owners would be able to die happy if they could have even received one-fifth the publicity that either of these companies got. Go figure.


    Spindletop Blackbird, the GNU/Linux Cube.
  • No, they sue the site for providing the capability of decoding CueCat data streams without going through the DC servers.

  • by Whizard ( 25579 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:40AM (#747922) Homepage
    It's nice of you to conveniently ignore the rest of my sentence, but that's OK. I understand that one of the key rules of posting to Slashdot is conveniently ignoring that which might disprove your point.

    However, you might be interested to note this update that he's added to the [] page:

    The reason I can't distribute the database is that over half of the data is 'borrowed', more or less -- with permission, mind you -- and I do not have permission to redistribute the lot.

    HOWEVER, I have recently made plans to remove that data from the database, so that the database can be redistributed. That would take the total number of entries down from almost a half million entries, to something like 200,000 entries. If you have any opinions on this plan, please let me know -- [mailto].

    (And yes, I know I'm not identifying him or the software he's written, because he doesn't wish to tie his real name to the UPC database, for reasons that are his and his alone.)
  • God, that's even worse than the one I saw. Some kind of 'heaven can wait' kind of theme. Some jr. angel trying to get his wings was the gist of what I caught. lame lame lame lame

    Guess they did intensive demographic research and are going got the brainless wal-mart trailer-home set, eh?
  • At least your strategy is not as extreme as the one proposed by this ZDNet article []

    "Here's what I want you to do: Run down to RadioShack
    and look really excited when you ask for one of the
    scanners. Go to lots of RadioShacks and do this. When
    you are done, disable the devices by cutting the
    cords and dump them into the trash so as to keep
    someone else from ending up with one by mistake.
    Gather the ones the magazines are sending out from
    your friends and trash them, too.
    This company is just too idiotic to make someone rich.
    And together we can keep it from happening. Let's
    make Digital:Convergence understand that not
    considering privacy can really kill a business."

    I think the best strategy is gather as many as you can, neuter them, then box them up and send them to China or India where I'm sure there are lots of aspiring entrepenuers who find lots of uses for them.

  • Someone ought to create a "" web site. Let's see .. say, populate it with photos of interesting and innovative uses for their CueCats.

    For one, I've replaced my tennis ball car-parking-adapter in my garage with it. Not only do I still have a great way to park my car perfectly when I get home from work, but I'm also gently reminded of the dangers not respecting other people's privacy on the net at the same time, too. I do wish they'd added a bit more length to the tail, though.

    How about a CueCat fish feeder? Hmmm. I wonder what happens when the striped fishies swim under the submersed active unit?

    How about some on-line instructions for building a car lighter adapter to make the purrr-fect auto map light? Parts from Radio Shack, naturally.

    The possibilities seem almost endless.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:54AM (#747929)
    DO NOT IGNORE Digital Convergence.

    This organization is probably the most evil direct marketing organization ever constructed, every CueCat device has a serial number that is sent with barcode data that is swiped. On top of that they want you hook up your computer to your TV so your TV can control your computer. You can see this in action on the Infomercial they started running, the theme of Angels from Heaven watching the activities of the residence of the Town of Convergence, USA isn't very far away from a big corporation collecting data from everyone to see if they're being naughty or nice consumers. They want you to think you're in control. It isn't about where you want to go and do, it's all about them collecting datapoints about what TV shows you watch, what products you have in your home, what magazines you read, what books you own, and what foods you eat.

    DO NOT IGNORE Digital Convergence.

    DC's Executive Bio's is a laundry list of people everyone hates, direct marketers and data miners. These are the people who create the databases of people, the ones that get sold to telemarketers that call you every day of the work week during dinner to do a "consumer survey." You think your telephone sucks now? Imagine what life will be like when someone calls you to offer you coupons for everything you ever scanned, only if you buy them from their catalog or bring the coupons to their store.

    DO NOT IGNORE Digital Convergence.

    This is the true begining of the war on our privacy. They want people to scan everything, and I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually suggest tatooing barcodes on your wrist for the ultimate digital wallet application. Christans might have some choice words about that event when it happens.

    Some people might make light of all their gaffes with privacy and security. Don't brush them off just because of their incompetence so far. They will get better at what they do and the value of their "data" will escalate. Don't bet for a minute that your profile data won't be sold to Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Banks, Experian, Transunion, or Equifax.

    You did fill out a fake name and address when you got your CueCat from Radio Shack. Didn't you?

    Digital Convergence delenda est.

  • by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @09:58AM (#747930)
    I belive, according to USPS regulations, if you get something sent to you unsolicitated, inform the sender, and they do not pay for return shipping, then it then becomes your property. Unfortunatly, there isn't much on this on the USPS website, but at Federal law prohibits the shipment of unordered merchandise. Such a practice may constitute an unfair trade practice. Merchandise mailed in violation of United States Code may be treated as a gift by the recipient without any obligation to the sender. []
  • What, you didn't see the new EULA update? By using the :Cue:Cat, you agree to refrain from the following:
    - Burning the :Cue:Cat;
    - Smashing the :Cue:Cat to bits;
    - Shoving the :Cue:Cat up your ass.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:35AM (#747932)
    Forgive the anonymous posting, but I've had enough dealings with lawyers for teh while, you understand. Though, since I received the CueCat in hte mail due to my WiReD subscription, and unsolicited, apparently I can do anything I want with it, including sticking it up my ass. Which brings me to my point.

    I'm writing the software for another use of Cue:Cat, colon cancer detection. Most tumors are colored differently than healthy flesh. Healthy flesh is red, which means it reflects red light. Tumors are usually not red, they reflect less red light. The Cue:Cat uses red light to detect barcodes, thus, it should also be able to detect differences in flesh, by detecting the differing amounts of red light reflected by healthy flesh and tumorus flesh.

    So, I need a algorithm to detect changes in reflect light intensity, and a search algorithm. I'm thinking of using my Lego Mindstorms to insert the Cue:Cat in an ass, and then rotate it and push it in and pull it out (Venture Capitalists take note, perhaps we can go after the Sybian monopoly [], nonstop female orgasms should be the right of every female who can't experience me, not just those with $2,000.

    So, if anyone wants to help me with this, please respond here. The sensations of a cat shaped barcode reader plunging in and out of your ass are amazing, and we might detect cancer.
  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) <jessica&supjessica,com> on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:36AM (#747933)
    ...see the DC infomercials? my god how lame ... its supposed to be the year 2100, and we are celebrating the 100 year anniversary of when we "converged", its a yearly holiday to celebrate "convergence" ... it has some dumb teacher lady with crappy effects done to her voice and she's teaching her students about how the cuecat started... the kids look like year 2000 kids no diff, cept they've got a "telephonic implant" (::cough:: lame ::cough::) ... and they go to clips of families being amazed that the stupid cuecat can read bar codes... the girl scans a coke can, scans like 2 lines of the bar code and the scanner goes way off on an angle up the can yet it magically pops up the coke website... and hey there's no sponsor banner on their computer!!! whoever watches this infomercial and the says "damn I've gotta go to radio shack(rs=sell outs!) and get me one of these!" needs to be shot right there on the spot.. god how I hate "techie" infomercials... so has anyone seen it?

    anyway, how about we start a group like or something, and we all send our cuecats in and then on a set date they get lit on fire in a big pile, a live webcast of the event, hell id watch that! then all the toxic smoke will make everyone sick, and we can sue DC for toxic gas poisoning.. wee

    (p.s. why isn't this article on slashdots main page anymore?)
  • by AFCArchvile ( 221494 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:48AM (#747937)
    I think that CmdrTaco yielded to the numerous complaints that there were too many CueCat stories. I'm surprised, cause I submitted a story about The Register's take on the CueCat. It was rejected, and they accepted this vaguely terse piece of FUDcrud? That's pathetic.
  • I saw this story on the main page, it disappeared, so I posted that it disappeared to the "Jaron Lanier Takes On Cybernetic Totalists" article, along with a link to 5&mode=nested , and now the link is gone, someone edited my post and removed the link..... someone does not want us reading this story
  • fine with me, they removed it from the page, but editing my post??...

    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2000 OSDN.

    they are editing my property... people like to sue and get all mad when websites are defaced, well they defaced my post, its not like i posted something bad, i posted a link to an article that lots of people already saw before it was removed... i dont like what slashdot is becoming
  • by Moray_Reef ( 75398 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @05:55AM (#747942) Homepage
    Read about how DC has commited mail fraud (and how to file your complaint with the US postal service) here. []

    And learn how to 'de-claw' (so it doesn't send out a serial number) your ::cue::crap spammer-- er uh scanner here. []

  • It would be a cool thing to do but you would have to get a line for the server, then you would need to get a machine to put it on, then put in your time. The first two can cost a little bit of money and that is probably the biggest issue to the whole thing. Would be a fun project though.

    So Linus, what are we doing tonight?

  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Thursday September 28, 2000 @10:18AM (#747958) Homepage
    The following is a copy of an e-mail I sent to FBM and the author of FooCat. It is in response to something that was, up until yesterday, on his site, quoting an interview the DC CEO had with an east-coast newspaper. In the interview, the CEO mentions that it's a patent that they acquired that was issued by the USPTO in 1991, that purportedly covers scanning a barcode and generating a network event. If the interview is accurate and doesn't have typos or incorrect info, the following information would be of import (Note: This is supposition. It means nothing until DC fesses up to what IP FooCat and others are violating their rights on- this looks close enough for them to bluff their way through this with..):

    A quick search of the Delphion IPN (Used to be IBM's patent site, but they merged their operations with Delphion...) for "(bar code) and (network)" produced only 3 hits for patents in 1991:

    #4,982,346 - Mall promotion network apparatus and method
    #5,029,183 - Packet data communication network
    #5,029,034 - Video casette with optical output of information

    Closest patent is 4,982,346.

    htt p://www.pat #LEGAL []


    A computer system automates advertising and promotional campaigns. The computer system includes a magnetic stripe card reader, bar code reader, monitor, printer, keyboard, and touchscreen input device. Software executing on the computer manages the operations of these devices. The system displays advertisements and product or store locator maps, dispenses coupons, accepts product orders, and manages customer surveys. Customers are attracted to the system by promotional sweepstakes, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the advertising and surveys. A frequent shopper campaign also attracts customers to the system.

    This does NOT cover scanning a barcode and generating a network event. The patent copy is one of the sillier things I've had the misfortune of seeing- 76(!) pages, mostly of flow charts describing the high-level details of the application. It might be said that this is an applicable patent because of what they're claiming, but what they're claiming is not novel, nor is what they're claiming a specific to the WWW or to the Internet in general.

    According to Delphion, the current owner of the patent is Inter-Act Systems, Inc. of Norwalk, Conn. which was a change of hands on June 6, 1997. Inter-Act is still in business, doing the same line of business, mall kiosks. Now,
    either they've purchased the rights to this patent, they're a subsidiary of Inter-Act (Not likely), they don't own the rights to this patent and they're bluffing because they found it just like I did and they're using it as a smokescreen, or we're barking up the wrong tree. Which is it? Your guess is as good as mine, but they're not
    listed as an assignee to the best of what I can find out.

    The next closest is #5,029,183. This describes a patent owned by Symbol that is used for remote, hand-held, bar code scanning units to collect data for a central computer (Like those nifty hand-held units that Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc. use for inventory, etc.). In this case, they'd _have_ to have just bought the patent rights on this one. Symbol's NOT going to relinquish such an important
    patent (even if it is overbroad and non-unique...).

    Either we've got the date wrong or he's mis-applying the first patent mentioned.

    If this is the patent, and by some perverse twist of fate, Delphion's site info isn't in lockstep with who is the current assignee of the patent, you're going to find that anything of the sort is in violation of the patent. Of course, I may have missed the patent (There's something buried, not in the abstracts...)- having said this, I'd like to point out that without it being in the abstracts, it's not likely to be a valid use of the patent grant, because they've got to specifically mention what they're patenting there. Furthermore, most of the usages that we see with it that DC's up in arms about isn't really covered by this patent- the usages don't link up with any marketing data except the case of the engines flipping you to Amazon, and that's tenuous too.
  • Apparently, DC doesn't like the fact that you can use a CueCat to drive the database query. It's not the database proper, it's the CueCat decode programming.


All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon