30 December 2011

Johnson & Johnson Refuses To License Three HIV Drugs To Medicines Patent Pool; Invites Patent Override

By their very nature, drug patents can create monopolies that allow prices to be kept artificially high. In other domains that may be simply an annoyance or inconvenience, but in the world of medicines, it can be a matter of life or death for those unable to afford those inflated prices. 

On Techdirt.

OpenStreetMap: The Next Wave Of Commoditization For Startups?

One of the striking features of some of the most successful startups over the last ten years – companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter – is that their infrastructure is based almost entirely around open source. Of course, that shouldn't really be surprising: open source allows people to get prototypes up and running for the price of a PC, which is great for trying out ideas with live code. And yet despite these zero-cost origins, open source software scales up to supercomputing levels - the perfect solution for startups that hope to grow. 

On Techdirt.

29 December 2011

The Great Digitization Or The Great Betrayal?

One of the great tasks facing humanity today is digitizing the world's books and liberating the huge stores of knowledge they contain. The technology is there – scanners are now relatively fast and cheap – but the legal framework is struggling to keep up. That can be seen in the continuing uncertainty hovering over Google's massive book scanning project. It can also be observed in some recent digitization projects like Cambridge University's Digital Library

On Techdirt.

27 December 2011

How Even Highly-Targeted Censorship Can Lead To Overblocking

As the battle rages over SOPA and PIPA, censorship is very much on people's minds. But there are many different kinds of censorship, operating at different levels of precision. For example, while some forms are crude and inexact, like Homeland Security's shutdown of 84,000 sites, others are highly targeted, and designed to block in a very specific way. 

On Techdirt.

23 December 2011

Daft Idea Of The Week: Giving People Copyright In Their Faces

Copyright maximalism has proceeded along two axes. The first is the term of copyright, which has been steadily extended from the basic 14 years of the 1710 Statute of Anne to today's life + 50 or 70 years, depending on the jurisdiction. The other is the scope of copyright, where there are constant attempts to make yet more fields of human endeavor subject to it – for example fashion or food

On Techdirt.

Brazil's Copyright Reform Draft Bill: The Good, The Bad And The Confused

As this timeline indicates, Brazil's attempts to draw up a copyright reform bill have been dragging on for five years now. That in itself wouldn't matter too much – the process of updating major laws is by its very nature a complex and slow process; but during those five years there has been a change of administration, and with it, apparently, some major shifts in policy. 

On Techdirt.

22 December 2011

UK Government Open Standards: The Great Betrayal of 2012

Back in February of this year, I wrote about PPN 3/11, a Cabinet Office “Procurement Policy Note - Use of Open Standards when specifying ICT requirements” [.pdf], which contained the following excellent definition of open standards:

On Open Enterprise blog.

21 December 2011

BT Joins the Patent Hall of Shame

Those with good memories may recall the following amusing episode when BT wanted to sue people for daring to use its super-duper patented hyperlink invention:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Do We Really Need Copyright For Academic Publishing?

QuestionCopyright has an interesting article about the role that open access might play in opening up China to new ideas. But what really caught my attention was the following section: 

On Techdirt.

Top Photographer On Why He Doesn't Care If His Stuff Is Pirated

Trey Ratcliff is an extremely successful photographer, who specializes in HDR photography. His blog Stuck in Customs is the top travel photography blog on the internet, with over a million views each week. 

On Techdirt.

Open Access Is Spreading -- But Is It Really Open Access?

The latest big boost to open access has come from in UK government's "Innovation and research strategy for growth" (pdf), which says: 

On Techdirt.

Three Strikes Approach Rejected By Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Gov't Seeks Censorship Plan Instead

The contentious nature of the "three strikes" response to unauthorized sharing of copyright materials can be seen by the legal battles being fought around it across Europe. That's particularly the case in Ireland, which has emerged as a key testing ground for the approach and its legality. 

On Techdirt.

19 December 2011

EU Council Quietly Adopts ACTA, By Hiding It In An Agriculture And Fisheries Meeting

At the end of last week, the Council of the European Union – which is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies – had a meeting. A group of some 40 ministers for agriculture and fisheries signed off on a range of important matters, including: 

On Techdirt.

Apple Abuses Patent System Again To Obstruct W3C Open Standard

Apple has been garnering quite a reputation for itself as a patent bully, for example using patents around the world in an attempt to stop Samsung competing in the tablet market, and bolstering patent trolls. But that's not enough for the company, it seems: now it wants to use patents to block open standards. 

On Techdirt.

Former Tunisian Regime Goes Beyond Spying On Internet Traffic... To Rewriting Emails & More

Most people instinctively appreciate the dangers of government surveillance. But at least it's possible to be on your guard when you suspect such surveillance may be present by taking care what you write and send. You might even use some industrial-grade encryption for the important stuff. 

On Techdirt.

16 December 2011

People in Glasshouses (With Windows) Shouldn't Throw Stones

It's no secret that Windows Phone is struggling desperately in the battle against the smartphone leaders, iPhone and Android. And desperate times demand desperate measures; but even so, this move by Microsoft is pretty extraordinary:

On Open Enterprise blog.

What Should Mozilla Do?

There has been a flurry of excitement about Mozilla recently. Not, as you might hope, about the latest version of Firefox; one of the unintended consequences of the rapid release approach currently adopted is that nobody really gets excited about the constant flow of new versions, which is a pity.

On The H Open.

A Rational Way To Dispose Of Counterfeit Designer Clothes: Donate Them To The Homeless

The narrative around counterfeit goods usually ends with their seizure. We rarely get to hear or see what happens to them afterwards unless some token burning or breaking is laid on for the cameras' benefit. That makes the following story doubly noteworthy: we not only find out where fake designer clothes go after they have been seized in the UK, we discover that they are put to an excellent use

On Techdirt.

15 December 2011

Harkening to Hargreaves: UK Copyright Consultation

The road to copyright reform is a long one, full of false starts and diversions. Those with good memories may recall the Gowers Review from 2006, which made lots of sensible suggestions, all of which were promptly ignored by the UK government. So following the good work of the Hargreaves Report, the very real risk was that it, too, would be simply filed and forgotten.

On Open Enterprise blog.

13 December 2011

Open Data: Europe Starts to Get It

As readers of this blog will have noticed, open data is particularly hot at the moment. Whether that will endure is another matter, but for the moment we should be grateful for all the politicians jumping on this particular bandwagon, and we should grab the open data they are releasing with both hands while we can. Here's the latest convert, the European Commission itself:

On Open Enterprise blog.

EU's Advisor On Supporting Net Activists Previously Forced From German Government...By Net Activists

The Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, Neelie Kroes, recently made quite a stir when she dubbed copyright "a tool to punish and withhold". Now she's back with two major projects: a pan-European open data stategy and the "No Disconnect Strategy": 

On Techdirt.

12 December 2011

HADOPI Wants To Research File Downloads: Shouldn't It Have Done That First?

One of the most important aspects of the UK's Hargreaves Report was that it called for copyright policy to be based on evidence. It also noted that so far that simply hadn't been the case, and that practically all of the so-called "studies" used to justify laws in this area came from the copyright industries, with missing or dubious methodologies. 

On Techdirt.

11 December 2011

Open Source, Open Data, Open Innovation

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the South Tyrol Free Software Conference.  This was the first time I'd visited Bolzano/Bozen; although I was only there fore a few hours, it was enough to appreciate its charms and wonderful setting.

For the record here's my speech:

Open Innovation, Open Data and more from SFScon on Vimeo.

As you might notice, this is not in the Queen's English; my slides, however, are, and can be found embedded below (also downloadable).

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

09 December 2011

Spotting Counterfeit Chips Is Hard; Spotting Digital Piracy Is Even Harder

One of the favorite techniques of those pushing for ever-more severe penalties for copyright infringement is to blur the distinction between analog counterfeits and digital copies. The argument then becomes: "counterfeit drugs can kill people, therefore we must come down hard on online filesharing." This trick can be seen most clearly in ACTA, which stands for "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement", but where the most problematic sections concern digital piracy, not counterfeits. 

On Techdirt.

08 December 2011

From Open Source to Open Research: Horizon 2020

Last week I took part in a meeting at the European Parliament entitled “Horizon 2020: Investing in the common good”. Here's the background:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Making AIDS Drugs Affordable With Prizes, Not Patents

Of all the dysfunctional parts of the patent system, drug patents are arguably the worst, since the exorbitant prices that patent monopolies allow mean that millions of people simply cannot afford medicines that would keep them alive or would improve their quality of life substantially. 

On Techdirt.

Who Owns The Data Collected About You From Devices Inside Your Body?

People have started to wake up to the fact that companies like Google and Facebook hold huge quantities of data about their users. That raises questions about who owns what there, and to what extent users should be allowed access. Now Hugo Campos is asking the same question about a different kind of personal data – that being collected by a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest: 

On Techdirt.

07 December 2011

Getting It: In A World Of Digital Abundance, Sell The Scarcities

A recurrent refrain from the copyright industries is that you can't make money from digital goods if they are freely available online. To which Techdirt has been pointing out for years that not only are there many ways of doing precisely that, but lots of people are already coining it as a result. One of the Guardian's columnists has noticed one of them - that in a world of digital abundance, you can make money by selling associated scarcities

On Techdirt.

Open Source Total Cost of Ownership 2.0

Back in 2006, I wrote a piece for LXer called "A Brief History of Microsoft FUD". This ran through successive attempts by Microsoft to dismiss GNU/Linux in various ways. One of the better-known was a series of "Total Cost of Ownership" (TCO) studies. By an amazing coincidence, these all showed that Microsoft Windows was cheaper than that supposedly cheap GNU/Linux.

On Open Enterprise blog.

06 December 2011

More Collateral Damage From SOPA: People With Print Disabilities And Human Rights Groups

As people wake up to the full horror of what SOPA would do to the Internet and its users, an increasing number of organizations with very different backgrounds are coming out against it. Here's one more to add to that list, from the world of non-profit humanitarian groups. 

On Techdirt.

Flood of EU Software Patents on the Way?

The idea of bringing in a unitary EU patent system has been rolling around Brussels so long most people have assumed it will never happen. But there is a clear push on at the moment to realise these plans once and for all. That's hinted at in this very low-key press release from yesterday [.pdf]:

On Open Enterprise blog.

Self-Regulation: Should Online Companies Police The Internet?

For anyone in Belgium on Wednesday, here's an afternoon event open to all that might be of interest: "'Self'-regulation: Should online companies police the internet?" If you can't make it to the European Parliament in Brussels, there's also a live video stream available

On Techdirt.

03 December 2011

Royal Society Claims 1671 Copyright On Newton Letter (Copyright Law Born 29 Years Later)

The Royal Society calls itself "a Fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and... the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence." Its Fellows and Foreign Members have included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking. 

On Techdirt.

The Pirate Party Effect: German Greens Scramble To Draw Up Digital Policies To Hold On To Voters

The founding of the Pirate Party in Sweden in 2006 was regarded by many as a joke. After all, the argument went, who would want to be associated with "pirates" or vote for such a narrow platform? This overlooked the fact that the traditional political parties had consistently ignored the concerns of voters who understood that the Internet raised important questions about areas such as copyright and privacy. By focusing on precisely those issues, the Pirate Party gave disaffected voters the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the old political parties and their outdated policies. 

On Techdirt.

02 December 2011

Why We Don't Need To 'Think Of The Artists': They're Doing Fine

Just as politicians routinely invite us to "think of the children" when they want to push through some new liberty-reducing law, so the copyright industries regularly invoke "the artists" when they want to justify longer copyright terms or harsher enforcement laws. 

On Techdirt.

01 December 2011

More UK Open Data Moves - and Why That Makes Sense

In striking contrast with its disappointing performance in terms of supporting open source, the UK government continues to take huge strides in the world of open data. Details about its latest moves are contained in this document [.pdf] that came out of the recent 2011 Autumn Statement:

On Open Enterprise blog.