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Florian · There’s this blog called FOSS PATENTS written by a Florian Mueller, and when a software-patent-related issue heats up, reporters often seek out his comments for their stories. I’m not sure this is a good idea, and I’d like to offer some evidence; articles he wrote on a currently-hot story back in October 2010 and November 2010. This is a small but representative sample of his (many) offerings on the subject ...
Giving Up On Patents · Not so many years ago, even as I was filled with fear and loathing of the hideous misconduct of the US Patent & Trademark Office, I retained some respect for the notion of patents. I even wrote what I think is an unusually easy-to-read introduction to Patent Theory. But no more. The whole thing is too broken to be fixed. Maybe it worked once, but it doesn’t any more. The patent system needs to be torn down and thrown out ...
Let Your Data Go · It’s like this: If you send data to someone over the Net, you can’t control what they do with it. At least cost-effectively. Or, if you want a good outcome ...
Copyright in Canada · This is my submission to Canada’s public consultation on copyright policy ...
Mike vs. Dave · This is gripping stuff. Today, Sun’s chief counsel Mike Dillon blogged a blow-by-blow report on our in-progress litigation with NetApp. The story of the case is pretty interesting, but the fact that a major corporation’s Chief Counsel is blogging it in real-time is ground-breaking, I think. Just as interesting is the only-slightly-redacted declaration by NetApp’s Dave Hitz (PDF), filed in the case, that Mike linked to. It’s a remarkably unvarnished take on the issues facing closed-source vendors with a portfolio of software patents in the era of Open Source. Wow.
Tab Sweep — The World · Today we have music, China, head counts, terrorism, and telemarketers ...
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Postmodern Litigation · Well, it’s all over the news; we and NetApp are in court. Blecch. There is one interesting side-note in this dreary story, a first I suspect: NetApp’s CEO provided color commentary on his blog (no linkage from me to bloggers who are suing us). And then later on today, on our official PR blog, appears Sun response to NetApp lawsuit which says, more or less, “In yo face”. Now, I guess, it’s over to the lawyers. [Update: As of now, I’m rejecting all comments on this one. There were a pile in the in-basket this morning, and a couple were entirely inappropriate in a matter involving litigation, and I suddenly became uncomfortable trying to make judgment calls. So, sorry, but let’s just leave this.]
[Update: I think Bryan Cantrill’s DTrace on ONTAP? deserves a link, since Bryan was one of the guys who built the technology that’s now in play in court.]

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OpenID Patent Covenant · Sun just announced a Patent Non-assert Covenant on OpenID; chapter and verse and FAQ here. Simon Phipps has a useful write-up. But what really impresses me is the text of the covenant itself; four short paragraphs of simple, almost jargon-free, English. Why can’t we do this more often? I’m told that our own Eduardo Gutentag gets the credit. [Ed. note: I’ve been asked a couple of times now why don’t do one of these for Atom, too. Good idea, I should have been working on it and I’ve been procrastinating.]
Patent Preaching · OK, I have to acknowledge that just possibly there are more than four words to be said on the eve of the war that Microsoft is (apparently) about to launch against the whole technology industry ...
Tab Sweep · As usual, there isn’t a unifying theme. In this issue: lumpiness, stuff, microformats, eye candy, metaprogramming, beards, and psychology ...
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Music and DRM · While I was tied up, Mr. Jobs stirred the intellectual-property business pot. Even after three days of discussion, there are things worth saying ...
Smart Music · The Times writes about the music labels toying with the idea of selling products without poison oops I meant DRM. Chris Anderson takes it further, arguing that the economics of music favor performance over recording. (I’m not sure about that, I still think selling recordings is a good business). Andrew Orlowski over at the Reg has a lengthy and instructive interview with music management maven Keith Harris covering related territory. But the future is already here ...
Music Libre · Nick Carr’s excellent Curtains for music DRM? is an explanation, simple enough to be understood even by a music-biz exec (at least the brighter ones like those at EMI) as to why this whole notion of selling DRM’ed bits, then trying to reach into your customers’ computers to micromanage their use, is just too stupid to live. Cory Doctorow and I and other people have been banging this drum for years, but Carr has captured the essence, in business-friendly language, in eight short paragraphs.
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Backlash · Simon Phipps pointed me at Protest the Microsoft-Novell Patent Agreement, saying “The emotion is remarkable”, and he’s right, it is. The more I thought about that deal the less I worried about it. Sure, software patents being what they are, GNU/Linux, like every nontrivial chunk of code, doubtless infringes lots. So who’s Microsoft gonna sue? Any large-scale Linux user is also a large-scale Microsoft customer; that would be bad for business. They could go after Red Hat or Canonical, but that’d end up hurting their customers, helping Sun, and anyhow you could no more squish Linux that way than you can squeeze water in your fist. “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence” they say, and it’s true too; so maybe some Redmond strategist thought the vague FUD cloud would actually move the needle. Well, it has; but perhaps not quite as planned.
Tab Sweep · Unifying theme: none. Item: Excellent Rails-vs.-Django study. No axe to grind, apparently. No obvious winner, which is news given the Rails hype. Item: Dana Blankenhorn’s Means and ends in open source; very thought-provoking. My guess is that the immense licensing fees driving the bloated sales infrastructures at Oracle, SAP, and friends are small in relation to the whole software acquire/deploy/maintain monetary pie, so the size of the whole industry isn’t likely to change that much. Item: Irving Wladawsky-Berger, grand IBM technology poo-bah, speculates about the future of the 3-D Web in An Unusual Meeting. Speaking as one who’s made two concerted efforts to build a 3-D representation of the Web, I sure hope he’s right. Item: I can read Takashi’s cat’s mind. He’s 100% focused on how he can get in between Takashi and the computer. (Takashi’s amusing post is about “Engineer's 2.0 day-life in the midafternoon”.) Item: From Clay Shirky, Social Facts, Expertise, Citizendium, and Carr; a careful, level-headed thought piece on what it means to be an expert, in the context of Wikipedia and Citizendium. Item: From “jbischke” at Learn Out Loud, a handy list of The Top 10 Arguments Against DRM; we already knew most of this stuff, but it’s useful to have it pulled together, well-argued and in one place. Item: Everyone’s blogging Test your musical skills in 6 minutes!; I only got 72.2%, sigh.
Kill Switch Nightmare ·  Mary Jo Foley (who has been excellent recently, a must-read) reports that both Windows Vista and Office 2007 have a “Kill Switch”; if you can’t prove you’re properly licensed, the software turns itself off. Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems like complete batshit-looney territory. Let’s see, suppose I’m a black-hat profiteer sitting beyond the reach of Western law but with control over a few botnets. If I can get my hands on your Kill Switch, I’ll have a nice little extortion business, as in “Pay up or all your desktops will decide they’re unlicensed and turn off.” It’d work best in a sales-centric business near end-of-quarter. Another potential victim would be any government (or company even) that has a lot of enemies; they don’t want your money, they just want to take you down. So, without thinking too hard, here are some attack vectors I’d consider: If I can subvert your network routing, gotcha! If I can subvert the registry on your desktop machines, gotcha! If I can subvert the NTP protocol (how most computers learn what time it is), gotcha! I’m sure that an actual seasoned network engineer could think up a half-dozen more attack scenarios over a cup of coffee. Finally, never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence; WGA is software and software has bugs and if one of those bugs flipped the Kill Switch on your sales infrastructure offline during the Christmas rush, well, there wouldn’t be any malice involved, but it’d sure be a pity. What prudent businessperson, I wonder, is going to install critical infrastructure that can be turned off remotely, trusting the claims that only the good guys will be able to find the key to the “off” switch?
Know Fear · Check out Jason Matusow’s Your Input Requested, on the reaction to the recent Microsoft-Novell deal. Jason notes the push-back and seems to be saying that some of it is reasonable and they’re willing to fine-tune. But there’s this one sentence that leaps off the screen at me: We are not interested in providing carte blanche clearance on patents to any commercial activity - that is a separate discussion to be had on a per-instance basis. Oh really. At one level that’s a tautology, but placed like this in the immediate context of the Novell deal, it’s more than a little threatening. It’s hard for me to imagine Microsoft firing a barrage of litigation, or even of royalty demands, at a bunch of Linux developers or integrators or packagers—that would be a nuclear first strike and who knows who’d be left standing—but then strange things happen in this world. Maybe the nonspecific saber-rattling is the real point, just trying to create enough not-unreasonable doubt in the minds of high-tech legal departments to put a little drag on OSS business momentum. Of course, they don’t say what the patents that apply in this context are, but that’s not unique Microsoft evil, it’s just the evil way that these things are usually done. [Update: Ballmer confirms: “the fact that that product uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders.” And “anybody who has got Linux in their data center today sort of has an undisclosed balance sheet liability”]
Streaming-Only Hah Hah · You really have to snicker at YouTube trying to suppress tools that let you capture video to disk. Lessig is amusing on the subject. Uh, just in case there are one or two people in the universe who still don’t know: if you post video to YouTube (or to anywhere else on the Web), it can be captured and downloaded and it will be captured and downloaded and no lawyer in the world, however expensive and threatening, can stop this happening. Deal with it.
IBM vs. Amazon · The Internet has been amazingly quiet about IBM’s litigation against Amazon. It feels to me like maybe the biggest Internet story of, well, maybe, ever. I haven’t gone and read the IBM patents yet, because reading patents always depresses me. If the titles mean anything (not always a sure bet), this might mean that IBM has finally managed to figure out how to set up that Internet Tollbooth that we’ve always been afraid of. If you’re interested in “Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service”, “Storing Data in an Interactive Network”, “Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service”, “Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities”, or “Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue”, apparently IBM thinks you need to pay them for the right to do any of those things. If the courts agree with them, it’s time for me to find a new line of work. [Update: David Berlind is the first journalist to get off the mark and start spelling out the implications. The Internet as we know it could be over.]
Licensing Modes · Mark Pilgrim’s Waiting for the revolution has been rattling around the back of my brain the last few days. Mark argues, and his argument seems awfully coherent to me, that the “NonCommercial” option on Creative Commons is inconsistent with being an Open-Source partisan. I wonder if I’m weird, because I discover that my attitudes towards code and non-code are different. The notion of restricting anyone from using code I contribute to feels entirely foreign, and if they want to use it to make some money, good on ’em. But I have strong negative feelings about other people making money from my words or pictures without involving me. (Not that I or anyone else have actually made any real direct money from ongoing fodder.) In the time that ongoing has been on the air, I’ve snarled a couple of republishers off the air, without even thinking about it. Call me a greedhead. And control freak. That’s on top of being delusional about the potential value of these electrons.
Java.net Terms of Use · Sometimes we make progress. Way last year, I got email from Norbert Lindenberg, grousing about the Terms of Use on Java.net; they were full of scary language about how you and your employer had to indemnify Sun and “its business partners” against anything bad that might happen with any connection to anything you did, and about how you were signing up for the similarly-scary sun.com terms of use. So I went poking around and asked the Java.net people why they sounded unfriendly, and they said, “Hmm, let’s talk to the lawyers”, who said, more or less, “If there are good business reasons to relax this a little, well OK then.” It turns out we’re partnering on this stuff with O’Reilly and CollabNet, so there were a lot of moving parts involved; a whole bunch of people had to pitch in. I didn’t do much of the work, so I may have this wrong, but from where I sit it looks like Marla Parker and and Cliff Allen deserve special credit. Anyhow, as of yesterday, things are better. Check it out: the new Java.net Website Terms of Use. Still not light reading, of course, but not likely to cause potential contributors any heartburn.
Sanity up North · I’m talking about the Canadian Music Creators Coalition, which includes quite a few of our better-known pop musicians (disappointingly, quite a few of them are missing, too), and whose manifesto includes refreshingly-sane statements like “Suing Our Fans is Destructive and Hypocritical” and “Digital Locks are Risky and Counterproductive”. Exactly. Let’s see some more names on that list.
Microsoft DRM Agenda · Hey, here’s this week’s first juicy DRM-bashing opportunity. At a conference in London, Microsoft’s Amir Majidimehr helpfully explained the goals of their DRM strategy: “We don’t want this technology to be available to every hobbyist. We need to keep the number of licensees down to a manageable number. We charge a license fee to keep the number of people we have to deal with down to a level we can handle.” Now, there’s a damn fine way to build a nice, disciplined business. Wouldn’t want any of those nasty entrepreneurs stirring things up, would we? There’s more at Boing Boing.
DRM News · A week without some DRM fightback is like a week without sunshine, which we’ve just had seven or eight of here in Vancouver, so let’s load up and blaze away. First, Simon Phipps has a really first-rate rant; he starts by building a really good metaphor on the Paris and Nürnberg subway systems, and goes from there. Second, grounds for hope: this EFF report from Washington covers what happens when the lawmakers actually encounter DRM themselves. Let me put it this way: the timeframe available to the DRM banditos to get their abusive laws passed is growing shorter and shorter.
GPL3 Draft · The GNU Public License is an important piece of our infrastructure these days, so I read Simon Phipps’ report with interest, and decided I should give the V3 draft a good close read. Unfortunately, while the text may be sensible, the HTML is an unreadable stinking heap of Plone dung; I attempted to print out a human-usable version and the results were unprintable. So I cleaned it up by hand, inserted a tiny bit of minimal styling to make it a bit more human readable, made sure it was validated, and here it is: GPL3 Draft of January 2006. [Update: On Simon Phipps’ suggestion, I equipped the draft with purple pilcrows, so each paragraph has its own URL.]
On Selling Art · Increasingly, the products of artists are digital; thus subject to essentially-free copying and sharing. Artists, just like accountants and ambassadors, need to get paid. How best to arrange this? (Provoked by a long talk with Cory Doctorow at ApacheCon; my thanks to him, but the fallacies are my own.) ...
Gleanings · I’ve been kind of busy, in part due to my employer having made some sort of announcement approximately every fifteen minutes for the last three months. I’m still behind on more or less everything, but here are some things that have built up in my tabs bar that I just can’t bring myself to bypass. Item: Quoting Simon Phipps: “It seems to me inevitable that eventually, the nobility of the old world will turn up at the doors of the frontiersmen of the new world and demand payment of tribute in the form of patents royalties.” Item: Br’er Rob channels Georg channeling God. Item: Zawodny: Do Search Engines Censor Bloggers? Good question; the one time I’ve dropped into unmitigated-flame mode here about a company, the result is that if you type their name into Google, my flame’s right there beside their homepage. I feel guilty even though they entirely earned the flame; people’s jobs are at stake. Item: Good Richard Pryor eulogy. I still think the original Richard Pryor Live video is maybe the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, comedy striving for the divine and not missing by much. Item: IBM licensing its patent portfolio to startups via VCs. This deserves more attention than it’s received. My initial reaction is visceral horror, does it mean you can’t safely start a company without taking VC money? Item: Beau Hartshorne has abandoned databases in favor of Atom. Item: Amazingly cool optical illusion. Unifying theme: None.
On the Naming of Roses · I have on several occasions linked to the UBC Botanical Garden Botany Photo of the Day (“In science, beauty. In beauty, science. Daily”), and while Lauren and I did help by encouraging them to launch, I would have done this anyway, just because it’s great. Yesterday’s entry, entitled Rosa ‘Harwanna’, is outstanding, both for the ethereal rose photo, not taken with a camera, and for its discussion of the intersection of intellectual property and flower names. Did you know that flowers can be patented? And further, trademarked? And further, that these practices damage our ability to talk about flowers? This entry touches me at an uncanny number of points: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward, the featured artist, took the best picture of me that anyone ever has, and the flower is named after Jacqueline du Pré!
Damnable Rights-removal Mischief · Last week, there were repeated percussive sounds coming from the general direction of ZDNet; those were the weighty blows being landed by David Berlind on the business and culture of DRM, which he bills as “Digital Restrictions Management” (I have another suggestion, above). David is right; the media industries, and the technology companies who are playing their game, are wrong. Here’s a hint: when the rest of the world wakes up and realizes they’ve been ripped off, they’re going to get mad and they’ll know who did it. So, to the vendors (see FairPlay and PlaysForSure) who are playing this dirty game: right now would be a good time to get your PR people working on the damage-control campaign.
The Grim High-Def Future · This engadget piece is horrifying; it says Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players will report any “hack” and are capable of being disabled remotely. You realize what this means? That’s right, whenever you want to watch a movie, you’re going to have to sit through as many minutes of previews and ads as the vendor wants you to; no escape. Our wonderful little region-free universal player from Nintaus, well that kind of thing just won’t be tolerated any more. So I guess that in the world of high-def, you just won’t be able to buy disks for your kids from overseas... wouldn’t want them to learn any of those nasty foreign languages, would you? There’s an explosion coming, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
USPTO, v-Fluence, Lameness · I got this email from the USPTO five days ago (two of them, actually, to my two main addresses) and I thought I’d wait till I was less irritated before I wrote about it, but you know what, that’s not working. The title was “Yes, the USPTO reads blogs! USPTO Small Business Protection Web Site” Reading the first phrase, for a microsecond I thought “Hey, they’re getting a clue?” but no, it’s a just a vapid PR pitch for two of their “Stop Fakes” websites, which are full of marketing bumph with two messages: “Get Patents Now!” and “The Administration is Great!” And the email itself? Here’s a sample: “Can bloggers help? Yes! The USPTO is well aware of the impact bloggers have and the important role they play. As an online opinion leader you can help small businesses protect the intellectual property of small businesses in one of several ways: Write about the site in your blog...” (I’ll spare you the rest). Oh yes, and across the bottom: ***This e-mail was sent on behalf of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations, Inc.*** So, let’s put this simply. Dear USPTO, you’re lying. If you actually read bloggers you’d know that the few who write about you think you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution (most recently, no less than Irving Wladawsky-Berger). Dear v-Fluence: You’re spammers, which means you’re filth. And, Dear World, please don’t give any more business to v-Fluence, they’re abusive incompetents.
648-14 · Those are the numbers by which the European Parliament smacked down the long-lived and wrong-headed attempt to adopt a USPTO-style tax on innovation. Everyone’s already reported this, but I will too, just because it makes me happy to write this, but also because there’s a take-away: Sometimes politics works. The patent vampires tried to sneak this one through the back rooms, and it was good old-fashioned lobbying and pamphleteering and evangelizing and hollering that stopped them. I’m feeling refreshingly un-cynical.
That Microsoft XML Patent · The coverage from ZDNet says the patent is for the conversion of objects into XML files; but if you read the patent itself, the important “Claim 1” doesn’t even mention XML, it’s just about serializing objects based on using an annotated source file and a schema. I was trying to find a way to write about this without becoming shrill and using bad language, but failing. Fortunately, I ran across a good opinion, shrill but not obscene, penned by Greg Aharonian who’s a real actual patent lawyer and thus qualified. Herewith a little bit of my own shrillness, followed by Greg’s professional evisceration of this extreme case of patent bogosity. [Update: slight correction regarding Don Box.] ...
Patent Reform? · I was reading Business Week and they had a little commercial section with ads from law firms. A couple of them were intellectual-property specialists and I snarled internally; whatever you think about patent law, as a longtime businessman I’m pretty convinced that the IP law profession, while it contains many good and intelligent people, is collectively a giant leech sucking money and time out of the community of innovators. Having said that, two of the lawyers’ blurbs jumped out at me; both about proposed US legislation which would institute a new process, within the PTO as opposed to the courts, for a quick challenge to the validity of a patent. This is important, because today, defending yourself against patent-infringement litigation is insanely expensive, $1M and up, way up. This is why most companies, in particular small companies, roll over and settle quickly when they get hit with this kind of lawsuit, no matter how dopey the patent is. Here are the two reports: Defending Against Patent Greenmail (which begins Patent “trolls” are currently the subject of much discussion...; most IP specialists don’t like to admit that patent trolls exist, but they do) and New USPTO Post-Grant Patent Opposition Legislation on Horizon. I think the high-tech business community ought to get behind this legislation, big-time. Everyone except the patent trolls.
License Craziness · You know, it would be nice to have a serious discussion about Open-Source licensing issues; but that’s getting harder and harder every day. Herewith some feedback on Jonathan Schwartz’s latest, thoughts on the GPL, and appalled head-shaking at the bad, bad craziness going on in this space. [Update: 15 minutes after I pressed “publish”, Simon Phipps, who knows way more about licensing than I do, weighed in; definitely worth a read.] ...
LimeWire & Chansonniers Perdus · For the Français-challenged, the last words sort of mean “missing singers” but a chansonnier isn’t just a singer, it’s a French male pop singer in a particular romantic kind of old-fashioned style. Anyhow, they’re still missing, despite the best efforts of some really remarkable software; oh, and there’s a P2P vs. RIAA angle too. [Updated: found one out of two.] ...
Wyman on DRM and Creative Commons · From the Atom Working Group mailing list, some remarks from Bob Wyman that are both educational and sobering on what Creative Commons licenses do and don’t do; and yet more gloom and doom about the whole DRM train-wreck.
Pricey Pix · Last night, in the excellent Guardian blogs, I ran across this amusing picture of the Queen greeting four venerable guitar virtuosi (Beck, Clapton, Page, May); Beck and May look like rock & roll degenerates, Clapton like an eighth-generation aristocrat, and Page like a bank vice-president. The Queen is perfectly turned out, it’s obvious that being a Constitutional Monarch involves less wear and tear than being an axemaster. I gather the occasion was something of a debacle since Her Majesty couldn’t actually figure out what it was they did. Anyhow, for some reason I found the photo oddly charming and compelling, and I thought I might run it here sometime. So I spotted the credit and got myself a Getty Images account and worked out how much it would cost. I can tell you, Getty is not set up for bloggers. To start with, I had to specify which areas of the world it would run in. Then, I had to sign up for a fixed time period, with the longest available being two years. Finally, they wanted... wait for it... $235. Uh guys, there are millions of us bloggers, and more every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if a huge number of us would be willing to pay a few bucks to someone like Getty for the privilege of using a photo legally. But the price is an order of magnitude too high, and this fixed-term thing would just have to go.
More Patent Funnies · Perhaps just now it’s unfashionable to grumble about patents, given that Sun and IBM are showering the world with bucketfuls of ’em (and a fine thing, too), but if you want a loud, ugly, wake-up call, start at VarChars, which is offered by someone who apparently wishes to be known only as “rayg”. Samples: IBM Receives Patent for Using Regular Expressions to Extract Information from Documents, Google Receives Patent for Highlighting of Search Results, and Microsoft Attempts to Patent Object Persistence. Read on for some predictably-negative commentary and—gasp!—a look inside some incredibly-advanced Google technology ...
Two Licenses · There’s an interesting debate around syndication licensing going on, launched by Martin Schwimmer, with the important links aggregated by Scoble (here, here, here). I think the conclusion is obvious; some people, including me, need to have different licenses for site and feed ...
Those IBM Patents · Courtesy of ZDNet’s (very good) Open source blog, a list of those patents IBM is releasing sans charge. But what does it mean? ...
Newsapalooza · I take off for a couple of days of rural isolation and and dial-up access, and the news floodgates break loose. Simon Phipps has good commentary and more pointers. First, a tip of the hat to Poland for their intervention which (at least temporarily) seems to have derailed the EU’s headlong rush to embrace software patents. In all this news, one angle that’s getting little discussion but seems to me a real game-changer has to do with the Microsoft/EU litigation. Microsoft says they’ll ship a version of Windows without Media Player and, while I agree with the EU that they played a little dirty in leveraging the Windows monopoly into the media-player space, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. What does seem a big deal is the order that they disclose enough of the Exchange and SMB protocols to empower people to build competitive mail/disk servers without having to do arcane reverse-engineering. This genie, I think, can’t be put back in the bottle, however the appeals end-game shakes out, and it’ll be a while before we really understand all the implications.
Intellectual Vampires · Hey, there’s this new company getting a lot of buzz, check it out. Hmm, did I misspell the name? [Update: I just got a suggestion that yes, I did get that name wrong, I should have written Intellectual Vultures.]
Patent Theory · Software patents are much in the news these days, and while there’s a lot of heated verbiage on the subject, there’s not much argument from first principles. So I tried some, and, to my surprise, ended up concluding that there may be real affinity between patents and Open-Source software ...
OpenOffice Furore · My goodness, there are oceans of words being pumped around about some subclauses in the Sun-Microsoft agreement. I love Slashdot’s editorial judgment but despise the idiotic discussion threads, so suffice it to say that the usual people said the usual things there about Sun and Microsoft and litigation; but then check out Danese Cooper’s take. Anyhow, I think it’s sensible to be concerned about the potential threat. Of course, that concern would vanish if Microsoft were to state that they won’t use intellectual-property litigation as a competitive weapon against other office-software packages. Simple enough. How about it?
Legal Downloads, Eh? · It’s all over the news that a Canadian judge has ruled that posting copyrighted works on a P2P network is not against the law. (I have no idea how long-lived that URI will be, Canadian newspapers are not very careful about their web-space). I wonder if the ruling extends to the Web? I would just totally love if it I could post the occasional excellent piece of music here, and I bet it would drive business to the artists and their published works; and I’d love it if some of the other people whom I’ve gotten close to via their writing were able to share some of their faves with me, too. Go, Judge Finckenstein!
The Intangibles Market · The book business is easy to understand. An author writes a book, a publisher edits, prints, markets, and distributes it, and bookstores sell it. The money gets split up between the bookstore, the publisher, and the author, and it all works well enough to keep the books flowing. This is a successful market mechanism; not perfect but there aren’t any obvious better alternatives. Around the universe of brainware, it doesn’t usually work that well; wherever you look you see markets that are twisted or compromised or just broken. And it’s not obvious what the way forward is. Examples include TV, journalism, conferences, and increasingly what’s on your computer screen ...
Software Patents from the Inside · There has been much lamentation and gnashing of teeth in recent times about the evils of software patents. There is wild controversy about whether the whole idea is fatally flawed—for example, Dave Winer has argued that software patents are bad economics and (in the U.S. context) constitutionally unsound. Further, there is a widely-held belief that the US PTO has been too uncritical, and insufficiently attuned to prior art, in issuing such patents. Here’s a confession: I currently have two software patents in the US PTO pipeline, and did some work on them last week. Herewith some narrative of what the process is like from the inside, with commentary on the broader issues ...
The Rant at Seybold San Francisco · I attended Seybold San Francisco 2002, where I gave an opening keynote and shmoozed heavily. Probably the most stimulating session was the Digital Property Rights track session "The Antipiracy Wars. The moderator was the pleasantly cynical Bill Rosenblatt, a guy who worries about this full-time. On the panel were Ted Cohen, a shill for the record company EMI, Lawrence H. Leach of L2 Design & Development, and Ed McCoyd of the Association of American Publishers ...
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