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AMD NDA Scandal 187

Posted by kdawson
from the all-your-words-are-belong dept.
crazyeyes writes "Just two weeks ago, a Thai journalist walked out of the hush-hush AMD event in Singapore over a controversial NDA that required him to 'send any stories to the vendor before his newspaper can publish it.' AMD categorically denied it happened, but today, we not only have proof that it happened, we also have the sordid details of the entire affair. Here's a quote from the editorial: 'First off, the non-disclosure agreement covered everything confidential said or written over the next two years on the product, and had a duration of five years, during which anything published or used in marketing would have to receive written approval from AMD before it could be used. Worse, at the end of the five years, all copies of the information made would have to be returned to the chipmaker.'"
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AMD NDA Scandal

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  • News? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by band-aid-brand (1068196) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:11PM (#20529453)
    All I got from the article was that someone is impatient about getting some benchmarks and that a Thai Journalist MIGHT have walked out because of a NDA which may or may not exist... exciting...
    • No kidding. Ten paragraphs to state they that can report that a report was made about an NDA. No new information like a copy of the NDA. Nothing at all. Just to say that somebody said something.
  • by Reemi (142518) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:13PM (#20529477)
    unfortunately, there is not verbatim copy of the NDA, only a section that seems to paraphrase.

    It is not unusual to have a NDA covering a longer period so one does not have to sign it each and every occasion. Then, even according to the text such a NDA is only applicable for confidential information. That means, everything posted in the Bankok Post would not be confidential anymore ;-)

    How much control can AMD have over the articles to be published? Not much probably as long as no confidential information is there. But we'd need to see the original text.

    Btw, why not link to the article of the journalist involved:
    http://www.bangkokpost.com/Database/05Sep2007_data 006.php [bangkokpost.com]
  • bad policy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SolusSD (680489) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:14PM (#20529479) Homepage
    Sometimes bad policy like this is made by ignorant management and not with the intention to screen bad press. Not saying that that is the case here, but the person(s) involved in writing the NDA could very well have been working under the requirement to safeguard information about new amd products until the products are released. Sometimes the paranoid "they're controlling the press" mentality is solely the product of tin foil hats. :)
  • Wrong Scandal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjvn (11568) <sjvn@vna1 . c om> on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:17PM (#20529503) Homepage
    As a journalist, we're always being asked to sign BS NDAs. Most of us refuse to sign ones far milder than this idiotic one. After all, in the end we always find our what the big secret is anyway. If you're not good at being snoopy, what are you doing as a reporter anyway?

    The Real scandal is described here:

    All of those invited to the event were given an NDA to sign before going on that 5-star, all-expense-paid trip to Singapore. Hidden in that piece of legal boilerplate were some sneaky clauses. Yeah, don't we just love those clauses. This is what Don found in that NDA:

    Excuse me? If I went on any "5-star, all-expense paid trip to Singapore" at a vendor's expense I'm going to be--and I would deserve to be--fired in less time than it took me to write this note.

    Steven
    • Re:Wrong Scandal (Score:5, Informative)

      by Angostura (703910) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:45PM (#20529713)
      When I was a tech journalist, by standard procedure was to read the NDAs and cross out the most egregious clauses, sign it and return. If I was feeling particularly charitable, I would point out the parts that I had deleted. Their an agreement. You are within your rights to amend before signing.
    • Re:Wrong Scandal (Score:5, Informative)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:45PM (#20529725) Homepage

      Excuse me? If I went on any "5-star, all-expense paid trip to Singapore" at a vendor's expense I'm going to be--and I would deserve to be--fired in less time than it took me to write this note.

      Hear, hear. I've worked for a couple of different publications in the trade press and we were generally only allowed to accept gifts from vendors totaling in the realm of about $20. Attending an industry meet-n-greet held at a fancy restaurant was often enough to set fingers wagging.

      • by Angostura (703910)
        The accepted norms tend to be different in different countries. U.S tech journals often have a strict no-freebies policy. In the UK, and other countries where budgets are tighter, freebies often are accepted. The UK journalists I know who do accept freebies would be adamant that they only accept ones that have true editorial interest and would also argue that it doesn't influence their writing. For the average staff writer that's probably correct - they don't know, or care who is paying for the flight.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PCM2 (4486)

          In the UK, and other countries where budgets are tighter, freebies often are accepted. The UK journalists I know who do accept freebies would be adamant that they only accept ones that have true editorial interest and would also argue that it doesn't influence their writing. For the average staff writer that's probably correct - they don't know, or care who is paying for the flight.

          In the latter case then that seems fair enough, provided the editor who accepted the package isn't going to put pressure on

          • by Angostura (703910)
            I've worked in the U.K system, and I agree that a no-freebies system must always be better. However in my experience, the freebies don't influence editorial line, however they clearly may bias the likelihood of coverage. In a system where the magazine pays all the bills, they are going to pick and choose carefully between potential trips. Offering a free trip to meet interesting, influential execs is obviously going to increase the chances of some kind of coverage. It's a brave hack who writes up nothing a
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      You've been asked to sign a contract that gives your subject editorial veto rights? Can you name three other companies who have tried that?
    • If I went on any "5-star, all-expense paid trip to Singapore" at a vendor's expense I'm going to be--and I would deserve to be--fired in less time than it took me to write this note.

      Assuming you are a full-time journalist, then you would be working at the last media outlet with any scruples whatsoever. You also probably get few, if any, product reviews, first-in-line product announcements too because your media would be considered too independent to guarantee a good review.

      Why is this an issue to anyone?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Excuse me? If I went on any "5-star, all-expense paid trip to Singapore" at a vendor's expense I'm going to be--and I would deserve to be--fired in less time than it took me to write this note.

      I agree completely. Singapore's nice, but it's not THAT great. I would have held out for Paris or Rome.
  • So what (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Oddster (628633)
    Let's get this straight: AMD is a company working for profit. They are at least afforded the right to decide what kind of information about unreleased products will be made available to the market. If information (or, heaven forbid, disinformation by the media!) is released that was not part of AMD's market strategy, product strategy, or competitive strategy, it could severely damage their business.

    For example, if AMD was targeting 32 TB/s of memory bandwith at 2ms latencies for their year 2 target, th
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625)
      You, sir, are dumber than a retard's nutsack. The issue isn't the NDA, it's that AMD are claiming de facto editorial rights over the publications. They're not stifling all information; you will see articles, but the only ones you'll be allowed to see are positive ones. Do you get that? Once you agree to this NDA, if it turns out that the product sucks, then you're not allowed to print that it sucks, and you're not even allowed to print that you're not allowed to print that it sucks. If you don't want a
      • Who's the dirty nutsack?

        If no one agreed to the NDA, then AMD would get no press (except for press about the NDA like today, and any press is good press, it made you think about AMD), and would have to loosen their NDA a bit.

        The problem is that chances are someone agreed to the NDA, shooting their publication in the foot and empowering AMD.

        Really this is no different then the arguement over pirating music. If you don't like the agreement, don't use the music in any way, not even pirating it, the music then
        • It's pretty easy to get around this kind of thing. You sign then NDA and go. If the product sucks then you get someone who didn't sign the NDA to write an article explaining that you're not going to be publishing anything because the product sucked and the NDA says you're not allowed to tell them what sucked about it. Send both to AMD, and ask which they'd rather you publish.
          • by jbengt (874751)
            "You sign then NDA and go. If the product sucks then you get someone who didn't sign the NDA to write an article explaining that you're not going to be publishing anything because the product sucked . . "

            You left out the part where you get sued for disclosing that the product sucked to the someone who didn't sign the non-disclosure agreement and is going to write an article for you.
            • Not really. They ask 'was the product good?' If you say 'no comment' then they assume it sucks and write article 2. In fact, they can write article 2 before you even go to the event, and only publish it if AMD blocks you from running article 1.
              • "If you say 'no comment' then they assume it sucks and write article 2. In fact, they can write article 2 before you even go to the event, and only publish it if AMD blocks you from running article 1."

                Right, then you can release an article like this:

                This product sucks... for reasons that haven't been made clear to me. But trust me on that, it sucks.


        • The NDA agreement is only paraphrased in this blog entry. Probably the original NDA had extensive definition of what they call "confidential" and what need to be pre-approved.

          Just think about this a few moment :
          - If the original NDA was made to allow AMD to filter bad reviews, what would the result be ?
          On launch day, the market is flooded with the new product, while the NDA press is flooded with positive review. Then suddenly a couple of day laters (the time it'll take to buy the product by their own means
      • If the article had the headline: "Our official AMD Review"

        and then had four blank pages.
    • "For example, if AMD was targeting 32 TB/s of memory bandwith at 2ms latencies for their year 2 target, that would be quite a sensitive strategy. Make Intel, or any number of small semiconductor companies, aware of this, and there is a strong possibility that instead of joining AMD, they'll fight, and damage AMD's market position."

      Any sensitive, potentially damaging information isn't going to be released to a bunch of journalists, NDA or not.
      • by AJWM (19027)
        Not deliberately, no probably not.

        But suppose you've got a bunch of journalists trooping through corporate offices for some tour or other, and someone who didn't get the memo has sensitive information like that up on his whiteboard with the office door open?

        That's why you have the journalists sign the NDAs. It certainly isn't so that they won't write about what you're planning to show them anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Belial6 (794905)
      Lets get this straight: AMD is a corporation, and thus has no ethics, good or bad. Only the single minded goal of making as much money for share holders as possible. They present a reporter with an NDA. The reporter is a human who does have ethics, good or bad. The reporter judges the NDA to be evil, and makes a big deal about the company doing evil. This obviously is an attempt to make the ethicless company lose money if it continues on the same path. Since the company's sole goal is to make money,
  • From the article, which some comment posters above did not bother to read:

    "Finally, AMD agreed to let Don and the other journalists attend the event [in Singapore] without signing that particular NDA... On Day 2 though, they were presented with another NDA to sign before a factory visit. [my emphasis] This one stipulated that "any confidential information from this visit would need written approval from corporate communications before it could be used."

    It seems quite common that executives of technical companies have no understanding of their company's products, and because of that they sometimes have sink-the-company ideas. It won't matter to the executive if his company does poorly, he will just get a job somewhere else. When the company lays off employees they will suffer, however.

    People with no technical knowledge, and little or no interest in learning about their company's products, should be encouraged to get a job somewhere else, or retire. They are dinosaurs from a pre-tech world.

    If you are technically knowledgeable, why let someone stupid ruin your efforts? If you get together with other technically knowledgeable people and use some social skill, you can eliminate ignorant executives from your company.
    • It seems quite common that executives of technical companies have no understanding of their company's products, and because of that they sometimes have sink-the-company ideas.

      I'm sorry, but if I was an executive of a large vendor in the highly competitive tech sector and I allowed reporters to tour my manufacturing plant without signing an NDA... THAT would be a sink-the-company idea.

      You don't give out tours of the factory to give journos the scoop on everything you're working on for the next ten years

      • I understand that Slashdot readers often don't read the article about which they are commenting. But, in this case, you didn't read the comment on which you are commenting.

        The ENTIRE issue, emphasized in bold in my comment is that reporters arrived in Singapore after being told they would not have to sign the extreme NDA that was originally submitted to them. Then, on the second day, when they were in a foreign city and it would be much more difficult to say no, they were asked to sign the original NDA,
        • by PCM2 (4486)

          Then, on the second day, when they were in a foreign city and it would be much more difficult to say no, they were asked to sign the original NDA, again.

          Actually, according the the article that I read (and that you apparently did not) it was a different NDA. And I re-iterate: If you're a reporter for the trade press and you expect to be let onto a factory floor without signing anything, you're an idiot.

  • by Helmholtz Coil (581131) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @01:36PM (#20529665) Journal

    Having gone through the NDA process a few times, it's been my experience that it's really a negotiation and rarely a "take it or leave it" affair-they wouldn't be talking NDA if they didn't want to talk to you in the first place, so there's usually some flexibility.

    What seems to happen is one or both sides offer an initial NDA that's insane (I think just to see what they can get away with, really); then the idea is to try and negotiate towards a sane(r) middle ground. So without knowing any details, the newspaper could have countered with a suggested NDA of their own, and walked away from the table if AMD wouldn't bend. No story for the paper in this case, but AMD also doesn't get the publicity it needs. If it happens enough with other media organizations, AMD ends up having to be a little more flexible if they want any coverage at all.

  • Ok, AMD paid for a trip for a bunch of journalists to go to their manufacturing facility and listen to some lame marketing talk and have a look around. Is this the problem? Or is the problem that AMD wanted to stipulate "any confidential information from this visit would need written approval from corporate communications before it could be used"? I quote that from Tech ARP since that seems to be the request that caused them to stamp their little feet.

    AMD wants to protect their confidential manufacturing

  • by 5pp000 (873881) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:00PM (#20529845)

    I think the reason this story is interesting is the hint it gives that AMD is having real trouble getting working Barcelona parts in any volume. Looks to me like they set this thing up because they either hoped to have good news, and then didn't, or because they just want to try to distract people from the Barcelona delays. Either way, seems like baaaaaad news.

    All I can say is, I hope they pull out of this.

  • kdawson (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uofitorn (804157) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @02:15PM (#20529967)
    Seriously, who is this guy? All he ever does is post stories that link to sketchy blog postings that tend to bash MS and other big corporations. I'll be amazed when I see a story by him that contains some actual substance.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:01PM (#20530385)
    see http://www.bangkokpost.com/Database/05Sep2007_data 006.php [bangkokpost.com]

    Then note how much non-news this really is. A bunch of local yokels got a bit enamored with themselves.

    Nothing to see here. Move along and smear somone else.
  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:05PM (#20530419) Journal
    AMD is protecting their confidential information... if a journalist has AMD Confidential and Proprietary information, then anything they write about AMD's new, mostly-secret products needs review by AMD to make sure that the vendor didn't spill anything confidential about upcoming products. .... this is a 'scandal'? It's necessary and proper legal protection for their information. This is about as 'scandalous' as the US government clearing folks, letting them access cleared data, and then expecting them to pass any information they release about secret projects through a censor to get checked for the particular secret portions of those projects (TEMPEST shielding ... we use it... but you can't tell them how to make it, cut that part out and you're good to send).

    This is either sensationalist or stupid. Looks like it comes from the "information wants to be free" hacker crowd.
  • by guidryp (702488) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @03:35PM (#20530661)
    If the NDA is insane, don't sign it. This sounds like AMD want to filter all reviews. Certainly some will wait and just review it with no strings.

    Sounds like we get the AMD official reviews monday, and the real reviews after you can buy it.
  • ...for those of thinking we will finally get FOSS gfx drivers?
  • Based on this, over the next 5 years, AMD should be expecting anyone who reads "independent" reviews of their technology to suspect that the author may have signed an approval agreement. Since the reading public has no idea which journalists may be forced to have their content vetted by AMD, we are forced to assume that (potentially) ANY review has been whitewashed by AMD. The only way, it seems to me, for journalists to clearly show that they have definately NOT had AMD pre-review their content is for th
  • An NDA by a chipmaker is considered a scandal? Really? Watergate; that was a scandal! My mother smoking my stash in high-school while I was in class? THAT was a (horribly ironic) scandal! But this? This isn't a scandal. It's barely news. And, no, it does not, in any way, impinge your constitutional right. If you don't believe look it up on the...wait for it...'Net somewhere.
  • Too little, too late (Score:2, Interesting)

    by billcopc (196330)
    Intel has had quad-core processors since November 2006, 10 months ago! Why would AMD need to keep Barcelona's release details a secret, when every single AMD fan has been waiting over a year for this damned thing ? It's hardly a secret, as they've already told almost everything to the press in August, when they were desperately trying to counter the mass exodus that resulted from Intel's staggering July price drop.

    As a former AMD "fanboy", I'm not impressed. Quad-FX is embarrassing, and Barcelona is lack

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