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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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