Re: Reflections on the VideoPhone

Michael Sattler (
Thu, 11 May 1995 20:44:54 -0700

(Sorry for the ten-day delay in responding to this, but I've been
processing all the great input you've sent me about interesting CU-SeeMe
usage. Now I'm going thru some back mail.)

At 10:56 5/1/95, Vannevar New Media, Inc. wrote:
>To Whom It May Concern:
>I am a friend and colleague of Joseph Kahan, and before his misguided effort
>at grass-roots Internet distribution, I was trying to help him with the
>VideoPhone. Now that the sturm und drang of the whole fiasco has blown over,
>it's worthwhile to revisit the episode and point out a few facts that may
>have been lost in the frenzy of criticism.

Sounds good.

>...Some facts that were overlooked:
> - There *is* a novel idea behind the VideoPhone. The "VideoPhone
>technology" employs CU-SeeMe and other existing software in combination to
>permit point-to-point videoconferencing over ordinary phone lines. As far as I
>know, Joe was the first one to do it. Other folks are only now taking
>the inital steps necessary to achieve it.

Completely incorrect. Point-to-point videoconferencing is where CU-SeeMe
started; using it over phone lines was described in depth on this mailing
list quite a long time ago.

> - Based on the license issued by Cornell, it is *not* illegal to
>develop and distribute---even for profit---a modified version
>of CU-SeeMe provided it is
>based on the 0.7 version and not on a later version. The license issued by
>Cornell with 0.7 permits modification. The license issued with 0.8 does not
>permit modification, though it does permit redistribution for profit. To the
>extent that Joe violated any copyrights, it was only because he was using 0.8
>and relying on the 0.7 license.

Joe violated the copyright by claiming (and I'm quoting from the readme Joe

VideoPhone is copyrighted © 1995 by Joseph Kahan, all
rights reserved. It is illegal to copy, duplicate, or
distribute the program (VideoPhone 1.0.3 Demo) without
prior express written consent of the author. This program
is not freeware....

Joseph Kahan, the designer and developer of the VideoPhone,
has over a decade of experience working as an engineer
responsible for developing and integrating Audio, Video,
and Data Systems.

I'm guessing what Joe *meant* to say was:

VideoPhone is copyrighted © 1992-1995 by Cornell
University. All rights reserved. Joseph Kahan spent a
few minutes hacking it with ResEdit, and now is pretending
to have some connection with the design, devopment, coding,
and debugging. He's so pleased with himself, that he wants
you to pay him $30 for a single user and $125 for a 5-user
Network System Administrator package.

Joseph Kahan, the person stealing others work and calling
it his own, has claimed over a decade of experience working
as an engineer responsible for developing and integrating
Audio, Video, and Data Systems, but given this theft of
Cornell's intellectual property, his self-proclaimed
reputation is certainly in doubt.

> - Joe didn't upload the VideoPhone demo to info-mac; he
>doesn't know who did. Joe *did* create a homepage and distribute
>the demo from it, without proper credit to the CU-SeeMe team and
>as noted above, deeply regrets it.

Does it really make a difference what methods Joe used in distributing his
faked hack?

>In summary:
>Joe had a legal and ethical right to market the VideoPhone concept
>commercially provided he gave proper credit to the CU-SeeMe developers. In
>the live demos that I attended, and in all documentation we provided to
>third parties, proper credit was always given to Cornell.

This is bullshit. I have a copy of "Joe's" software and it doesn't mention
Cornell University at all. What a bare-faced lie.

>...portraying him as a fast-buck
>artist who simply ResEdited CU-SeeMe and tried to resell it is wrong. He
>spent a lot of time getting the VideoPhone system to work and had every
>right to try to market it.

Not without very specifically mentioning that he was charging for something
that was materially the same as what was being given away for free.
Writing documentation that presented himself as "designer and developer"
doesn't constitute reselling.

>What now?
>Well, Cornell and White Pine have gone to some trouble to put together a
>licensing system that will encourage development and provide revenue to the
>University to continue its work.

We call this a contractual agreement based upon intellectual property
rights. Look it up, both of you.

>While it is permissible to develop 0.7
>without them, it makes sense for people like Joe to use the resources
>available through the licensing system and he will do just that. We look
>forward to working with Joe and other developers to bring this terrific
>technology to the marketplace.

What will Joe be inventing next? I can sell him the name "Unix" should he
want to develop a multitasking operating system, and I hear that "DOS" is
up for sale. You know, I was just thinking about "designing and
developing" an FTP client for the Macintosh (which I also designed) called
"Sattlarchie" - please all of you send me money.

>So ends the Great VideoPhone Fiasco.

But not the pathetic apologist attempts at revisionism. You two should be
really ashamed of your actions, first the IP theft and then this rewriting
of the publically-verifiable truth.

You've certainly made a great reputation for Joseph Kahan and Vannevar New
Media, Inc., certainly a model of integrity that I'll be recommending to
all my clients.

Michael Sattler <> |
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