30 April 2011

Moral Bankruptcy of the Copyright Industry

As anyone who has followed the area for a while learns, the copyright industry has an extraordinary sense of entitlement. It seems to think that it has a right to demand that governments around the world preserve its outdated business models and existing profit margins - and that it should be granted any kind of extraordinary legal protections for its monopolies to ensure that, whatever the concomitant cost to society.

And yet as Rick Falkvinge points out, that's wrong in all sorts of ways:

The copyright monopoly legislation is a balance between the public’s interest of having access to culture, and the same public’s interest of having new culture created.

That’s it. Those are the two values that go into determining the wording of the copyright monopoly.

The copyright industry always demands to be regarded as a stakeholder in this monopoly. But to give them that status would be to royally confuse the means of the copyright monopoly with its end.

If they were a stakeholder, they would never agree to anything that went against their interests. But the copyright industry is not a stakeholder. They are merely a beneficiary of the copyright monopoly. Just because you benefit from something, you don’t get to affect its future.

That unfounded sense of entitlement would be bad enough, but it seems that it engenders something much worse in some quarters: a complete and utter moral bankruptcy, as this statement from the new director of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, Rodrigo Roque Diaz, makes plain:

El tema de la piratería es gravísimo […] brutal para la sociedad mexicana y para el mundo. Las cifras que tenemos del Foro Económico Mundial indican que el comercio ilegal representa el 10% del comercio mundial.

El ingenio lo usamos para violar la ley.

El tema de la piratería es más importante que el tema narcotráfico. El tema de la piratería cuesta billones de doláres al mundo. El impacto económico es muy importante.

[Via Google Translate: The issue of piracy is very serious [...] brutal to Mexican society and the world. The figures we have from the World Economic Forum indicates that illegal trade represents 10% of world trade.

We use ingenuity to violate the law.

The issue of piracy is more important than the drug issue. The issue of piracy costs billions of dollars to the world. The economic impact is very important.]

There we have the view of the copyright maximalists in a nutshell: "piracy is more important than the drug issue" - this from a citizen of a country where the level of violence due to what is here simply dismissed as "the drug issue" is almost incomprehensible for those of us fortunate enough to be distant from it:

Casualty numbers have escalated significantly over time. According to a Stratfor report, the number of drug-related deaths in 2006 and 2007 (2,119 and 2,275) more than doubled to 5,207 in 2008. The number further increased substantially over the next two years, from 6,598 in 2009 to over 11,000 in 2010.

According to the director of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, piracy is "more important" than those 27,000 deaths in the last five years.

This is where the insanity of copyright maximalism leads: to valuing the preservation of a government-backed monopoly over the lives of tens of thousands of people. That a high functionary representing the copyright industries can trivialise the suffering of those victims and their families in this way shows how desperately we need to restore not just Falkvinge's "balance" to the copyright debate, but decency and humanity too.

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29 April 2011

Who Was Really Behind the Digital Economy Act?

It was just over a year ago that the Digital Economy Act was passed. Of course, the battle to stop this insanity goes on, although the recent verdict against BT and TalkTalk does not bode well. But rather than re-visit all that is wrong with the bill, I want to talk about how it was passed.

On Open Enterprise blog.

28 April 2011

Is This the Start of Microsoft Anti-Trust 2.0?

Although it probably seems like impossibly-distant ancient history to most people now, the Microsoft anti-trust case was pretty exciting stuff at the time.

Highlights included Larry Lessig being made Special Master to the court and Microsoft objecting (sadly, it eventually got Lessig taken off the case.) The judge's final “remedy” was to split up Microsoft into two parts: one for operating systems, the other for everything else. Then we had a change of US government, and a much watered-down final settlement that did nothing of the kind.

On Open Enterprise blog.

The Not-So-Great Firewall of Europe

I am staggered by the cluelessness of some politicians [.pdf]:

The Presidency of the LEWP [Law Enforcement Working Party] presented its intention to propose concrete measures towards creating a single secure European cyberspace with a certain "virtual Schengen border" and "virtual access points" whereby the Internet Service Providers (ISP) would block illicit contents on the basis of the EU "black-list".

A big hint of that cluelessness is that these people are still using the term "cyberspace" *seriously* in 2011, as is the fact that they actually think it's possible to create a "single secure European cyberspace" with "virtual borders" and "virtual access points". They only have to look at how porous the Great Firewall of China is - something that has been created and honed by experts with huge resources.

Finally, they seem completely oblivious of the implications of their daft "plan": the imposition of Europe-wide censorship. Again, the fact that "blacklists" (a) don't work and (b) are always flawed is obviously not something the twits in Brussels have quite appreciated. But even if they did work, it's outrageous that the European Union can be contemplating their use without even the slightest twinge of conscience.

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Damaging the DNA of Science

Here's a sad story, but not for the reason you might expect:

Developing therapies from human embryonic stem cells is under threat in Europe, say scientists.

In a letter to Nature, they express "profound concern" about moves at the European Court of Justice to ban patent protection for embryonic stem cell lines.


In their letter to Nature, the scientists argue that industry would have no incentive to invest in this area unless their innovations could be protected with patents.

This is the old FUD that unless patents are given for every possible advance, industry will never "invest". Well, even assuming that were true, scientists shouldn't be worrying about that: they are *scientists*, not managers. They are supposed to be motivated by love of knowledge, by the joy of research. Patents weren't allowed on the results of the Human Genome Project, and yet somehow that came to splendid fruition: why should stem cell research be any different?

And the idea that industry doesn't invest without patents is nonsense: that's precisely what happened in the world of software until a misguided court decision allowed programs to be patented in the US. But the introduction of patents in that field has led to a net *loss* for the industry of billions of dollars, as the book "Patent Failure" - written by two supporters of patents - explains in great detail.

The central motivation for innovation is not to get a patent, but to use that innovation to surpass rivals and win business as a result - it's a means to an end. Even if those rivals then use that same invention, they are still at a disadvantage because they are simply following in the original innovator's footsteps. And if they manage to develop the work further, then they advance the field and provide more ideas for yet more innovation - that's how things are supposed to work.

But what's really sad about this whole episode is the fact that scientists have become so corrupted by the trend towards turning knowledge into property that they can't conceive of carrying out exciting science without the nominal incentives of patents. This indicates that something bad has happened to very DNA of science - and patented stem cell research certainly isn't going to fix it.

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26 April 2011

Breaking the Monopoly of Celebration

Today is apparently something called "World Intellectual Property Day". How bizarre to be celebrating government-backed monopolies that lock down knowledge.

According to the WIPO site:

The aims of World IP Day are:

to raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life;

to increase understanding of how protecting IP rights helps promote creativity and innovation;

to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe;

to encourage respect for the IP rights of others.

So, that impact would be things like HADOPI, which wants to install spyware on every French user's PC; or ACTA, that will turn enforcement agencies around the world into the content industry's private police force; or the New Zealand legislation that would make even watching unauthorised copies of videos on YouTube enough to get you thrown off the Internet.

So what about that "understanding of how protecting IP rights helps promote creativity and innovation"? Well, I'd certainly like to understand that by seeing some independent, peer-reviewed research into the field, because at the moment what we have is just an unstated assumption that intellectual monopolies promote creativity, not evidence.

And it's certainly clear that those same monopolies do crimp creativity when it comes to mashups that are forbidden by copyright, or to writing software programs when surrounded by impenetrable patent thickets. What we need is some research that actually examines whether copyright and patents *do* promote creativity and innovation on balance.

And I'm all for "creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe", but I believe we should celebrate all kinds of creativity, not just the kind that makes money for WIPO's friends. And that means giving back to the great commons of culture - letting creators present and future do with your content what you have done with the work of the past - something that is impossible when copyright terms are so long most people will never live long enough to create using the raw material of their own culture.

And finally, that "respect": respect for monopolies? Really? Respect for excluding people, respect for refusing to share? Can't we do better than that? How about another, rather different, global day that celebrates generosity not judicial threats, sharing not suing?

Of course, pitting ourselves against the might of WIPO machine and its monopolist friends is no easy task: they possess all the power and money, while we must make do with having only right and time on our side.

Time, because the younger generation know instinctively that sharing is good - it's what their mothers told them, after all. And once they rise to positions of power the old monopolistic dinosaurs will suddenly find themselves superseded and looking very silly for the anachronistic idea that digital creations could ever be treated as anything but abundant.

But how should we organise all this? Well, Leo Loikkanen has knocked up a quick World Sharing Day manifesto - completely open and editable, of course - and invites everyone to help hone and perfect it (with a rather tight deadline....)

But that's just one approach: there are many other ways we can celebrate sharing - and I encourage you to , er, share some in the comments, or on your own site, or, indeed, anywhere. After all, why should the intellectual monopolists have a monopoly on all the fun...?

Dell Does it Again

One of the first PCs that I bought was a Dell. It came with 8 Mbyte of memory, 230 Mbyte hard disc, and cost a mere £1479 (the HP Laserjet IV cost an extra £1030) - all excluding VAT. Sadly, it was running Windows 3.1, not least because at this time - 1993 - I had yet to discover free software (and GNU/Linux was, in any case, still pretty rudimentary at this point.)

On Open Enterprise blog.

25 April 2011

Do Creatorless Creations Deserve Copyright?

Copyright has its convenient myths. The principal one is that copyright is intellectual *property*, which taps into our natural tendency to support tangible property. The other, more subtle, is that copyright is necessary to fan the flame of the creativity.

In fact copyright inheres in just about anything in fixed form, however banal and trivial - and not just to sonnets and symphonies. But even for these hopeless, quotidian artefacts, there might be some logic to offering the incentive of copyright in the hope that by accident an occasional masterpiece is produced as a result.

But what about this?

This month, Wolfram Alpha’s WolframTones, modestly subtitled “A New Kind Of Music.” (Yes, that would be the same breathtaking humility that led them to originally price the Wolfram Alpha app at a hilarious $50. Fortunately, they subsequently bought a clue.)

It is pretty cool, in a geeky sort of way: music generated by fractally complex cellular automata, in the style of your choice—classical, dance, rock/pop, hip-hop, etcetera. Every composition is unique, and can be downloaded as a ringtone.

That's interesting, but the real kicker is the following:

They lay claim to the copyright on all the generated music, mind you, raising the interesting question of what counts as “fair use”

But this isn't just about "fair use", it goes to the heart of what exactly we mean by creativity. Why should something produced algorithmically be regarded as creative? If there is any creativity, it's at the level of programming - and programs are already covered by copyright - so why is another layer of protection needed?

Nor is this a unique case, as a recent story of a "robot journalist" writing news stories indicates.

Copyright is designed to encourage creativity; but if output is produced algorithmically,there is no need to provide any incentive, since machines cannot (yet) respond to such things, and the incentive to create the program that produces the output is rewarded by copyright in the lines of code. So surely, by logic, such creatorless creations do not need copyright?

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21 April 2011

Why Time is Patently on Open Source's Side

So far, I've held off from writing about the proposed sale of 882 Novell patents to a consortium “organised by Microsoft”, since there have been so many twists and turns - first it was on, then off - that making sensible statements about the likely impact on free software was well-nigh impossible. As is so often the case, the devil would clearly be in the details.

On Open Enterprise blog.

20 April 2011

How Can Your Content Live After You Die?

The current computer scene is notable for the role played by user-generated content (UGC): Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube etc. are all driven by people's urge to create and share.

Most of this is done by relatively young people; this means death is unlikely to be high on their list of preoccupations. Which also implies that they are probably not thinking about what will happen to all the content they create when they do die.

So we find ourselves in a situation where more and more content is being produced - not all of it great, by any means, by certainly characteristic of our time and important to the people that create it and their family, friends and users. Despite that rapid accumulation, no one is really trying to address the issue of what is going to happen to it all as users die.

This is quite separate from the more immediate problem of services shutting down, as is happening with Google Video. At least in these cases, you generally have the option to transfer it to some other site. But what happens when you - the creator, the uploader, the one that is nominally responsible for that content - are no longer around to do that?

You might hope that your heirs, whoever they might be, would carry on with things. But that presupposes that you leave all your passwords with them - in your will, perhaps? There are probably also issues to do with changing over the ownership of accounts - again, something that has not needed tackling much yet.

But is it really realistic to expect your family and friends to carry on caring for your content? After all, they will probably have their own to worry about. And what happens when they die? Will they then pass on not only their own UGC, but yours too? Won't that create a huge digital ball and chain that grows as it is passed on to the unlucky recipient? Hardly a recipe for sustainability.

Doubtless at some point some sharp entrepreneur will interpret this coming need as an opportunity. Just as you can pay a company to keep your cryogenically-preserved body against the day when a cure will be found for whatever ailment you eventually die of, so there will be companies offering digital immortality for your content.

The key question - as for those cryogenic preservation companies - is: will they really be around in hundreds of years' time? Of course, that's not really a problem for those sharp entrepreneurs that have your money *now*; and there's also not much you will be able to do about it if they don't make good on their side of the bargain...

What we need are repositories where content can be stored safely with a very particular audience in mind: posterity. To a certain extent, the Internet Archive already does that, but as I know from my own blog posts, its coverage is very patchy. And that's to be expected: a single organisation cannot hope to archive the entire Internet, including its second-by-second changes.

Moreover, depending on on one organisation is like putting all of the world's knowledge in the Library of Alexandria and nowhere else: after a good fire or two, you have lost everything. No, the solution is clearly to store the world's digital heritage in a distributed fashion.

We could start with national repositories, like the great deposit libraries that have a copy of every book published in their land. Those national Net holdings might also be national - after all, if every country did this, the world's output would be covered.

But clearly that's not a safe option either: ideally, you want multiple backups of national material to build in redundancy. You'd also want vertical markets to be stored by relevant organisations - every architectural site by some architectural body, every fishing site by some suitable organisation. You might have even more local stores of data in local libraries, or in local universities. Obviously the more the merrier (although it would be good to have some protocol so that they could all signal their existence and what they held to each other.)

Of course, none of this is going to happen, because the intellectual monopolists would be squawking their heads off about the inclusion of "their" content· This would have knock-on consequences for UGC, since, as we know, the boundaries between what is fair use and copyright infringement is ill-defined without hugely-expensive court cases. No organisation is going to take the risk of getting it wrong given the insanely litigious nature of the content companies.

And so we must sit back and contemplate not only the inevitability of our own demise - however far off that might be - but also the inevitable destruction of all that really ace content we have created and will create. Because, you know, maintaining that 18th-century intellectual monopoly is just so much more important than preserving the unparalleled global explosion of human creativity we are currently witnessing online.

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19 April 2011

Of Apple and Android: Running Scared

The smartphone space is turning into a textbook example of why patents not only do not promote innovation as their supporters claim so insistently (though never with any proof to corroborate that claim), but actively block the further development of a field. Just look at the diagram at the bottom of this post from Techdirt to get an idea of how hopelessly entangled things are.

On Open Enterprise blog.

OpenOffice.org: Freedom on a Fork

Regular readers of this column will know that I'm something of a fan of forks, but even I was surprised when OpenOffice.org was forked by the Document Foundation six months ago.

On Open Enterprise blog.

18 April 2011

The Perversion of Copyright

The first copyright law, the Statute of Anne - which definitively moved copyright away from its original roots in state censorship - was:

An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.

That is, it was unequivocally about "encouraging learning" by promoting the publication of books. Against that background, this is pretty extraordinary:

Medical Justice was founded in 2002, and today has about 3,000 members, located in various states and representing different medical specialties, who pay an average of $1,200 a year. The company sells membership as a batch of services, mainly centered around helping doctors that are facing medical malpractice litigation. But the Medical Justice benefit that has drawn the most scrutiny is its program of fighting “physician internet libel and web defamation.” The system works by getting patients to sign contracts that assign away the copyright in any future review they might of a doctor—to the doctor.


an effort to help doctors get around Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (an “arcane nuance of cyberlaw,” according to Medical Justice’s website), the law that protects web services from getting sued over content posted by their users. When doctors send review sites a note complaining that a review is false or defamatory, the website is protected by CDA Section 230 and is unlikely to remove the review. But when the same sites receive copyright takedown notices, the law compels them to act—and act quickly. Section 230 doesn’t cover intellectual property claims, and copyright infringement has harsh legal penalties.

There are several interesting things going on here.

First, there is the preferential treatment given to alleged copyright infringement over alleged libel. Obviously US law disagrees with Shakespeare's words:

Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

But more seriously, copyright is being wrenched far from its stated purpose of encouraging learning to become an out-and-out tool of censorship - in an ironic return to its medieval origins.

In a way, that's hardly surprising: copyright is a monopoly, and monopolies by their very nature are about exercising control over people. What's odd here, though, is that copyright is being employed to exercise control over someone else's possible future creation - it's an *anti*-encouragement to creativity.

An excellent new site set up to fight this worrying move - wittily entitled "Doctored Reviews" - explains why this is so dangerous:

Medical Justice’s efforts may be a sign of things to come. Imagine if other companies used similar contracts. Before you get a haircut, before you buy a six-pack of soda at the local grocery store or before you order a meal at a restaurant, imagine you were required to keep quiet and never post your opinion online about the product or service you purchased. Sound ridiculous? It does to us, and we think it’s no less ridiculous when doctors demand this of their patients.

Ridiculous, maybe, but sadly not implausible: the enforcement of intellectual monopolies is being used to justify extreme international treaties like ACTA and TPP. The treaty "obligations" give participating governments around the world a handy excuse for the imposition of laws that seriously curtail civil liberties and human rights, while laying the blame on their treaty partners (the same circular trick was used to justify keeping the ACTA treaty secret: it was always some *other* country that wanted it that way.)

The present episode is merely part of this larger abuse of ancient and by-now unnecessary monopolies - the perversion of an already perverse system.

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15 April 2011

Brain Institute's Clever Move

One of the more unexpected interests of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is the Allen Human Brain Atlas:

Using an innovative approach to human brain mapping, the Allen Institute is developing a one-of-a-kind resource for understanding genes at work in the human brain. Launched in May 2010, the ALLEN Human Brain Atlas is expected to provide insights that propel researchers to understand and discover new treatments for a variety of brain diseases and disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, schizophrenia and drug addiction.

To its credit, it has adopted a reasonably liberal licence:

You may use, copy, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display or create derivative works of the Materials for research or noncommercial educational purposes or for your own personal noncommercial purposes.

Interestingly, it has this rider:

Freedom to Innovate and Rights to Improvements

You may, and are encouraged to, develop new methods, applications, interfaces or other inventions or works that improve the use of, and build upon, the Materials (collectively, “Improvements”). In order to make the Materials available to you and others in the research community, however, the Allen Institute must preserve its freedom to innovate. If you develop an Improvement based on or utilizing the Materials, and you obtain any proprietary rights in or to that Improvement, you and your successors or assigns agree not to assert such proprietary rights against the Allen Institute or its successors or assigns for its or their use of any Improvement independently developed by or on behalf of the Allen Institute that might otherwise infringe such proprietary rights. Additionally, the Allen Institute retains its rights, title and interest in any Materials that are part of or are used by you to create an Improvement.

That's a clear recognition of the fact that "proprietary rights" like patents cut across the "freedom to innovate". It's a pity that the Allen Institute didn't go further, and insist that all improvements be made freely available to everyone, but it's a start.

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Why Google Should Buy the Music Industry

Rumours about Google's music service have been swirling for a while now, but they certainly seem to be reaching a new stage with stories like this:

The latest rumor to emerge from the Google campus is that the company’s much anticipated music service is just about at the end of their rope with the major label licensing process. A source close to the negotiations characterizes the search giant as “disgusted” with the labels, so much so that they are seriously considering following Amazon’s lead and launching their music could service without label licenses. I’m told that, though very remote and my guess is that it would never come to this, Google may go so far as to shut down the music service project altogether.

When there are rumours that you're about to give up on a project, you know it must be real.

But what really caught my attention was the following paragraph and its final, throwaway line:

I’m told that this is when the idea of launching without licenses came up. Google may be starting to think that if the industry weren’t going to sue Amazon, then why would they take on Google? After all, who needs whom the most in this scenario? Could you even wrap your brain around the legal costs? As a source pointed out to me, “Larry, Serge and Eric could buy the entire music industry with their personal money”.

The fact that this is literally true tells us something that is often overlooked: the music industry is economically quite small and unimportant compared to the computer industry. And yet somehow - through honed lobbying and old boy networks - it wields a disproportionate power that enables it to block innovative ideas that the online world wants to try.

On a rational basis, the music industry's concerns would be dwarfed by those of the computer world, which is not just far larger, but vastly more important in strategic terms. But instead, the former gets to make all kinds of hyperbolic claims about the alleged "damage" inflicted by piracy on its income, even though these simply don't stand up to analysis.

But that throwaway comment also raises another interesting idea: how about if Google *did* buy the music industry? That would solve its licensing problems at a stroke. Of course, the anti-trust authorities around the world would definitely have something to say about this, so it might be necessary to tweak the idea a little.

How about if a consortium of leading Internet companies - Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Baidu, Amazon etc. - jointly bought the entire music industry, and promised to license its content to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis?

At the very least, the idea ought to send a shiver down the spine of the fat-cats currently running the record labels, and encourage them to stop whining so much just in case they make the thought of firing them all too attractive to the people whose lives they are currently making an utter misery....

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Fighting the Copyright Ratchet Racket

Copyright is nominally a compact between public and creator. A government-backed, time-limited monopoly on their works is offered to artists as an incentive to create. Initially, that limited time was 14 years, renewable to 28. Since then, the period has only ever been extended, never reduced - call it the copyright ratchet racket.

On Open Enterprise blog.

12 April 2011

Why Openness is Inevitable

As Richard Stallman constantly reminds us, there are strong moral grounds for adopting free software. But whether or not you accept that line of argument, there is another extremely good reason for taking this route: open source is better.

On Open Enterprise blog.

11 April 2011

UK Newspapers Confirm Digital Death-Wish

I thought I had plumbed the depths of the UK newspaper industry's stupidity when it came to digital. The idea that putting up paywalls in any way strengthens the readership, reputation and brand of a publication was so far off the mark that I thought it was not possible to go beyond it in sheer wrong-headedness.

I was wrong:

The UK government is abandoning plans that would have compelled publishers of content behind “paywalls” to make that content available for free through Britain’s main libraries.


“The government is committed to delivering regulations that cover non-print content and therefore propose to develop the draft regulations to include only off-line content, and on-line content that can be obtained through a harvesting process.”

The fact that the government was bamboozled into believing that it was impossible to "harvest" online content behind paywalls shows how little it understands about technology: it would be trivial to allow external access through a VPN to the editing/versioning systems that newspaper journalists, subs and editors have access to internally. It would probably cost nothing - as in zero. The idea that it would require "£100K per annum per publisher" as some were suggesting, is absurd.

It's also disappointing to see the Guardian Media Group making idiotic statements like this:

“A random patch work of snap shots will “plug the digital black hole” which the British Library (BL) states threatens the nation’s digital heritage ... it poses a real threat to our ability to safeguard our commercial interests. The threat arises from the BL itself.

If they really think "snapshots" are enough, they, too, have not understand the deep changes being wrought by the shift to digital, despite their relative success there compared to other even more benighted publishers. The whole point is that for the first time in history, we have the possibility of capturing everything, and finding unguessed-at connections between them at a later date. This is unique, invaluable data about not just newspapers but the world they purport to mirror that cannot ever be obtained from "snapshots."

This comment also confirms once more that copyright is a canker, eating away even at the heart of one of the few "serious" newspapers with a vaguely liberal attitude to re-use. The fact that the Guardian Media Group thinks that its "commercial interests" somehow outweigh the rights of posterity is a terrible comment on the state of media thinking in this country.

Bear in mind, that this is stuff that theoretically is supposed to enter the public domain after some (long) but finite period: so does that mean all the newspapers will be progressively releasing their files down the years? I think not - it will doubtless be "too expensive" again, and that presupposes that the newspapers are even still around, which I strongly doubt based on their current reading of and response to trends.

And this is the real tragedy. By refusing to allow Legal Deposit Libraries to do their job - to capture culture as it is made, and store it safely for the future - they are inevitably consigning themselves and their production to oblivion at some point, when they close their doors, or the servers crash and the backup copies can't be found or don't work. They are throwing away not just our past, but theirs too.

Update: seems the UK government hasn't swallowed the UK publishing industry's ridiculous claims. Let's hope it perseveres here.

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Tasting the Delights of OrangeHRM

Since free software was originally created by hackers for hackers, it's no wonder that the first programs they created were tools - things like EMACS - and something to run them on - GNU/Linux. The second generation applications were key infrastructural elements - Web servers, databases etc., while more recently, we've seen the rise of applications like enterprise content management and CRM, as open source moves closer to the end users.

On Open Enterprise blog.

07 April 2011

So What's Mozilla's Message on Messaging?

Just over three years ago, Mozilla made an interesting move:

Today we’ve announced the launch of Mozilla Messaging, the new name for the entity I’ve been calling MailCo on this blog. As promised, it’s a new subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, focused on email and internet communications.

On Open Enterprise blog.

06 April 2011

How Gene Patents Cause Suffering

Here's a textbook case of how gene patents not only do *not* promote innovation, as is so frequently claimed, but slow it down - and will probably cause millions to suffer as a result.

An AIA lawsuit filed in February 2010 against the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine — a source of laboratory mice funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) — now threatens hundreds of government-sponsored Alzheimer's researchers with litigation.

But wait, what patent might that be?

The suit concerns an AIA patent on a human DNA sequence used in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. The sequence encodes the 'Swedish mutation' (discovered in a Swedish family), which causes early-onset Alzheimer's. Michael Mullan, a biomedical researcher who is now head of the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota, Florida, patented the sequence in 1995, then sold it to the AIA.

So this concerns a *human* DNA sequence, found in a Swedish family. That is, it is something natural, that was discovered, not invented in any sense. And yet a patent was granted on this non-invention, and this ill-considered move is now casting a chill over an entire field of research that could potentially alleviate the suffering of millions.

Now, tell me again how gene patents promote innovation and progress...?

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EU's New IT "Principles" Show Unprincipled Hypocrisy

You may remember that there was a big to-do about the European Interoperability Framework, and the definition of “open standards”. The key issue was how to create a level playing field so that any company can compete fairly when IT contracts are being awarded by the EU. As I pointed out then, the end-result was a complete disgrace, since it basically paid lip-service to such level playing fields while fundamentally undermining them.

On Open Enterprise blog.

05 April 2011

Open Source in Good Health and Vice Versa

Last week I wrote about the UK government's “new” IT strategy, which is designed in part to avoid some of the costly mistakes of the past. And as far as the latter go, there aren't many bigger or costlier than the NHS National Programme for Information Technology (NpfIT).

On Open Enterprise blog.

04 April 2011

Why I Was Wrong about Microsoft

I have been reporting on Microsoft all my journalistic life, and believe me, that's quite some time. To give you an idea how far I go back with Microsoft, let's just say I remember the occasion when I was given a personal demo of a hot new product that Microsoft was about to launch – a graphical spreadsheet for the Macintosh, later known as Excel.

I was particularly impressed by the evident passion of the person demonstrating the beta code – he clearly really enjoyed his job. But perhaps that wasn't so surprising, since his name was Bill Gates.

On The H Open.

01 April 2011

OpenCorporates - Open Database of the Corporate World

One of the interesting offshoots of open source is open data. It's still very early days, which means that few have started thinking about the tricky next stage: how to build a business around open data. But some brave souls are already trying, including the company behind something called OpenCorporates, launched a few months back.

On Open Enterprise blog.