29 November 2011

Ubuntu's Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life: 'Whole Patent System Is A Sham'

Mark Shuttleworth is probably best known for three things. Selling the certificate authority Thawte Consulting to VeriSign for about $575 million in 1999; using some of that money to become the second self-funded space tourist; and using some more of it to found and sustain the Ubuntu version of GNU/Linux. 

On Techdirt.

Getting Lost in the Patent Thicket Thicket

One of the many hopeful signs that the Hargreaves team knew what they were talking about was the recognition that patent thickets were an increasing danger in many fields, notably that of mobile technology. One of the actions flowing from the report was to investigate this area further, and now the UK government has released its report [.pdf]:

On Open Enterprise blog.

28 November 2011

Coming To Plates In Europe: Patented Vegetables, Produced By Conventional Breeding

The European Patent Organization (EPO) is a strange entity. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the European Union. Instead, it was set up on the basis of the 1973 European Patent Convention to grant patents under that Convention. 

On Techdirt.

Patent Scandal of Laws Made Behind Closed Doors

The ACTA saga has been grinding on for years now, distinguished by a wilful lack of transparency that is a clear sign that you and I are being right royally stitched up. If, like me, you were wondering where we are in the UK with this charade, the Open Rights Group has put together a useful summary:

On Open Enterprise blog.

24 November 2011

SABAM: A Turning Point in EU Internet Law?

One of the most striking - and disturbing - trends of recent years has been the assumption by the copyright industries that protecting their intellectual monopolies outweighs the rights of the public.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Sarkozy Worried About The Internet 'Stealing Audience Share' From 'Regulated' TV Services

Earlier this week Techdirt reported on the surprisingly forthright statements of Neelie Kroes concerning the failure of the copyright system in the digital world. She made her remarks at the Forum d'Avignon in France, which was about "strengthening the links between culture and the economy". 

On Techdirt.

23 November 2011

New EU Parliamentary Forum To Push For Even More Draconian Copyright Laws And Enforcement

Last year, Techdirt reported on the approval by the European Parliament of the Gallo Report, which calls for harsher enforcement of intellectual monopolies. Although the Report has no legal force, it's important, since it functions as a framework for future legislation in this area. And now the eponymous French MEP Marielle Gallo is at it again, with her new "IP Forum": 

On Techdirt.

A Small Victory For Patent Common Sense: Earth Closet Orders Are No More

Sometimes you just have to shake your head over patent law. Here's a practice from the UK that has been going on since 1876, and involving the Reverend Henry Moule's patented earth closet

On Techdirt.

22 November 2011

Why The Supreme Court's 'Grokster' Decision Led To More, Not Less, P2P Filesharing

In the 2005 "Grokster" decision, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that file sharing networks could be held liable for copyright infringement if they take "affirmative steps" to encourage infringement. Grokster closed down as a result, and the recording industry pretty much assumed it had won that battle

But as a fascinating analysis by Rebecca Giblin of what happened afterwards points out, against the industry's expectations, P2P filesharing flourished


UK Publishers Moan About Content Mining's Possible Problems; Dismiss Other Countries' Actual Experience

One of the recommendations made by the Hargreaves Review in the UK was that a text- and data-mining exception to copyright should be created, with the following explanation of why that made sense (PDF): 

On Techdirt.

21 November 2011

EU Commissioner Kroes: Copyright Is 'A Tool To Punish And Withhold'; New Business Models, Not More Enforcement Needed

Neelie Kroes is that rare thing: a politician who actually seems to understand digital technologies. Before she became the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, her current post, she was European Commissioner for Competition, and in that capacity made a speech about open standards in 2008 that included the following interesting statements

On Techdirt.

Of Open Data Startups and Open Businesses

Last week I was invited to talk at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference which took place in northern Italy, in the city of Bolzano (disclosure: a paid gig.) As its title indicates, this was a more local, specialised conference than some of its more famous international siblings, but I was impressed just how much activity was going on. It was also interesting to see that open data was already a hot topic here - it's not just national holdings that are being opened up.

On Open Enterprise blog.

19 November 2011

E-Publishing The Chinese Way: Very Fast And Very Cheap

Increasingly, publishers are joining the music and film industries in bemoaning the effects of piracy on the sales of digital products – and some are even starting to sue people for alleged copyright infringement (because that has worked so well elsewhere.) Perhaps they should take a look at what is happening in China: instead of whining about e-book sales "lost" to piracy, publishers there have come up with a business model that embraces the possibilities of the Internet

On Techdirt.

Learning From Beethoven: Speeding Up The Exchange Of Scientific Knowledge

There is a general belief that science proceeds by smooth cycles of discovery and sharing – that scientists formulate theories, investigate problems, produce data and then publish results for other scientists to check, reproduce and then build on. 

On Techdirt.

16 November 2011

Help Fight Against Extrajudicial Suppression of UK Domain Names

With so many bad things happening in the digital world at the moment- ACTA, TPP, Digital Economy Act, HADOPI, La Ley Sinde etc. - there is a natural tendency to focus on your own country's woes. But there's something spectacularly awful going on in the US at the moment that is likely to have very serious ramifications here, too.

On Open Enterprise blog.

14 November 2011

Why Barnes & Noble is an Open Source Superstar

As I've noted many times, one of the biggest threats hanging over open source is patents, because of the way trivial but indispensable software techniques have been patented in some jurisdictions (mostly the US). Things are made worse by the fact that vague threats can be made in this area, for example this famous assertion in 2007:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Want To See Peak Copyright? Here's What To Do

It's a curious fact that the term of copyright only ever gets longer. Since copyright is a government-backed monopoly, and monopolies are generally regarded as bad things, you might have expected some countervailing pressure against this continual extension, and that at some point Peak Copyright would have been reached. You might, if you were extremely optimistic, even expect copyright term to be reduced occasionally. 

On Techdirt.

12 November 2011

Misleading Metaphors That Drive The War On Online Sharing

Certain terms crop up time and again in the arguments around copyright infringement and file sharing. Words like "theft" and "stealing" clearly represent an attempt to frame the debate in a certain way. That's hardly a new insight: many posts on Techdirt have pointed out these attempts to manipulate the discourse. 

On Techdirt.

10 November 2011

Is Google Losing it?

Google matters for open source. First and foremost, it is an example of a multi-billion dollar global company that simply would not be possible without an underpinning of free software. Open source's customisability means that its engineers have been able to fine-tune Linux and other code to meet Google's very specific needs. That, and the fact that there is no licensing fee, has allowed the company to scale its operations to unprecedented levels – rumoured to be over a million servers.

On The H Open.

09 November 2011

Which Causes More Harm: Copyright Or Patents?

One of the recurrent themes on Techdirt is the harm caused by intellectual monopolies – copyright and patents – to the economy in particular, and to society in general. Stephan Kinsella has raised an interesting question: which of them is worse? 

On Techdirt.

Mozilla's Brendan Eich on the Birth of Firefox

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first part of an interview with Brendan Eich, who is Mozilla's CTO. That covered the early years of browsers at Netscape, and the origin of Mozilla. Somewhat belatedly, here's the second part of that interview, which picks up the story at the beginning of this millennium, and reveals the complex sequence of events that led to the creation of Mozilla Firefox.

On Open Enterprise blog.

Russian Internet Content Monitoring System To Go Live In December

Back in April of this year, the Russian government put out a tender:

Last week, Roskomnadzor, Russian Federal Service for Telecoms Supervision, announced a public tender for developing Internet monitoring system. According to the tender, the budget for such system is 15 million rubles (about $530,000) and the job applications should be submitted by April 15, 2011. The system needs to be developed by August 15, 2011 and the testing period should end on December 15, 2011.
On Techdirt.

07 November 2011

Free As In Freedom: But Whose Freedom?

It would be hard to overstate the contribution of Richard Stallman to the digital world. The founding of the GNU project and the creation of the GNU General Public License laid the foundations for a wide range of free software that permeates computing from smartphones to supercomputers. Free software has also directly inspired like-minded movements based around sharing, such as open access and open content (Wikipedia, notably). 

On Techdirt.

05 November 2011

Phorm Still Looking For A Large-Scale Deployment, Still Finding Investors

As a search through the Techdirt archives shows, Phorm's behavioral advertising service based on watching your Web activity was beset by problems in its early days. One of the last Techdirt posts on the company from a couple of years ago explained how Phorm was planning to expand overseas, and here's some news on how that's been going

On Techdirt.

03 November 2011

Academic Publishing Profits Enough To Fund Open Access To Every Research Article In Every Field

The arguments against open access have moved on from the initial "it'll never work" to the "maybe it'll work, but it's not sustainable" stage. That raises a valid point, of course: who will pay for journals that make their content freely available online? 

On Techdirt.

India Wants UN Body To Run The Internet: Would That Be Such A Bad Thing?

The Internet is under attack – but not, as politicians would have us believe, from hordes of cyber criminals, but from the politicians themselves. Alongside national legislation like E-PARASITE and international treaties such as ACTA, there is this proposal that a UN body should take over the running of the whole system

On Techdirt.

02 November 2011

Spanish Judge Gets It: Pirated Copies Not Necessarily Lost Sales, May Boost Purchases Later

One of the favorite assumptions of industries based around copyright used to be that every pirated copy is a lost sale. More recently, that rhetoric has been moderated somewhat, as a review of the area in the report "Media Piracy in Emerging Countries" shows, but a variation of that fallacy lives on, expressed now as vague "losses" caused by piracy. 

On Techdirt.

01 November 2011

Germany To Put Special Monitoring Software On School Computers To Search For Infringement

Just under a month ago, the "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), which styles itself as "the largest European hacker club", had some disturbing news for Germans:

The largest European hacker club, "Chaos Computer Club" (CCC), has reverse engineered and analyzed a "lawful interception" malware program used by German police forces. It has been found in the wild and submitted to the CCC anonymously. The malware can not only siphon away intimate data but also offers a remote control or backdoor functionality for uploading and executing arbitrary other programs. Significant design and implementation flaws make all of the functionality available to anyone on the internet.
On Techdirt.

What Exactly Makes A Pop-Up Mall A Pop-Up Mall? On Second Thought, Who Cares?

One of the pernicious effects of once-obscure legal issues surrounding copyright and patents seeping into everyday life is the belief that even the vaguest ideas can be owned, and that such ownership is a thing worth fighting over. Here, for example, is a sorry tale from Christchurch in New Zealand, which suffered a massive earthquake in which 181 people died back in February of this year: 

On Techdirt.