or “When the USPTO takes its lessons from the MPAA and BSA”
A couple of shocking stories have just come from CeBit. It looks almost as though companies take the law into their own hands. Vainly enough they decide that software patents are applicable worldwide (universally) and that they can confiscate other people’s physical property based on this superficial assertion.
Here is the article from CNET.
The police didn’t name which people or companies were targeted, but they did say the alleged patent violations deal with devices that have MP3, MP4, or digital video broadcast functions; DVD players; and blank CDs and DVDs. They managed to fill 68 boxes with gadgets, documents, and advertising material and took down the identities of nine people, most of whom were reportedly cooperative.
The raid was a response to a rising number of “criminal complaints by the holders of patent rights in the run-up to CeBit,” and the patent holders had warned the accused companies in “good time” about their lack of licenses, police said, according to the AP.
DigiTimes (from Asia) wrote about it as well.
Italy-based Sisvel S.p.a., holder of a somewhat controversial MP3 patent, has had the CeBIT 2008 booths of several Windows Mobile smartphone and digital media player makers shut down over allegations that the devices of the makers infringe on its patents.
Judge for yourselves what can be concluded from this. Either way, despite legalisation of software patents in the UK, the BlackBerry seems safe here — for now.
Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind BlackBerry mobile devices, will not have to pay patent licence fees to a rival email software company after the High Court ruled that the rival’s UK patent was invalid.
Linux, as purely software, cannot be confiscated because of the way it gets distributed, but what if Microsoft decided to crack down on Linux devices based on its unsubstantiated claim that the Linux kernel, which Novell touches, infringes on its mythical patents? █
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Identifying foes of Free software…
For those who forgot, the French President has been doing a lot of legwork for Microsoft and their partners in the media industry. We mentioned this more recently, but a couple of references are worth repeating. The first one is about the president’s seemingly healthy affairs with Microsoft, namely:
Sarkozy and his family have been vacationing at a lakefront estate in Wolfeboro owned by former Microsoft Corp. executive Michael Appe.
Here is a recent change of law that was proposed (taxing the Internet).
French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to ban advertising on public television and replace the income stream with a tax on mobile phones and Internet accounts. “Our national television must provide quality and access to culture; it must not be shaped solely by commercial considerations,” said Sarkozy in Paris on Tuesday.
What this neglects to take into account is the fact that falling into the public domain is a gain for the public – and hence the actual moment when it becomes part of the “national pop heritage” – and that the gain vastly outweighs any minimal effect it has on ageing rockers’ royalties.
The actual news comes from the following blog. It suggests that Sarkozy’s copyrights crusade shows no signs of abatement.
The support for Commissioner McCreevy came from the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Soon after taking office, he set up a commission, led by the head of the major retail chain FNAC, to look into copyright and the creative industries. Alongside recommendations on ISP responsibility, the commission proposed extending copyright and this will be on the agenda when the French Government assumes the Presidency of the European Union in July this year.
For those wondering how this relates to this Web site, consider the strong relationship between copyrights and patent laws. The two are very different, but the term "intellectual property" strives to have them assimilated. TechDirt has published a good new essay against intellectual property, which is claims cannot really exist.
The main reason why I have trouble with the “property” part isn’t just the fact that it leads people to try to pretend it’s just like tangible property, but because it automatically biases how people think about the concept.
Here is another good analogy. [via Glyn Moody]
Copyright maximalists love to draw parallels between property rights and copyrights. But if we take that analogy seriously, I think it actually leads in some places that they aren’t going to like. Our property rights system was not created by Congressional (or state legislative) fiat. Property rights in land is an organic, bottom up exercize. The job of government isn’t to dictate what the property system should look like, but to formalize and reinforce the property arrangements people naturally agree to among themselves.
The fact that our current copyright system is widely ignored and evaded is a sign, I think, that Congress has done a poor job of aligning the copyright system with ordinary individuals’ sense of right and wrong. Just as squatters 200 years ago didn’t think it was right that they be booted off land they cleared and brought under cultivation in favor of an absentee landowner who had written a check to a distant federal government, so a lot of people feel it’s unfair to fine a woman hundreds of thousands of dollars to share a couple of CDs’ worth of music. You might believe (as do I) that file sharing is unethical, just as many people believed that squatting was unethical. But at some point, Congress has no choice but to recognize the realities on the ground, just as it did with real property in the 19th century.
Lastly, consider this new piece about it being a lost cause.
The scarcity argument focuses on the efficient use of existing resources. In contrast, the reward argument focuses on the creation of new resources. It says that people will under-produce valuable resources if they aren’t allowed to keep what they produce. For example, a farmer is far less likely to plant crops in the spring if he won’t be able to prevent others from harvesting them in the fall.
By eradicating the problem (software patents) and identifying barriers — including people — progress can finally be made. New laws which strive to illegalise/marginalise Free software can (and should) be eliminated for logical and scientific reasons, not just philosophical or economic ones. The copyrights debate has many parallels we can learn from. █
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In case you missed it, Novell now considers itself a Microsoft partner. Not bad. We might as well treat Novell as part of the Microsoft ecosystem from now on. Unsurprisingly, Novell supports OOXML. It must. And if that’s not enough, Microsoft is showing off this support and uses it to stifle truly open standards.
Microsoft shows off open document lab in Cambridge
According to officials from Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, the software stalwart is joined in the initiative by a variety of software vendors including local firms Novell Inc. of Waltham…
Enough said. Other partners are not in the open source or Linux business. Neither should Novell.
To confirm what Stephane told us some time ago, ECMA indeed appears to be an embodiment of Microsoft, at least to an extent.
Ecma International’s Rex Jaeschke does not only live very close to Redmond.
Can you feel how Microsoft owns ECMA and the whole ISO process?
With escorts, moderators and ‘rivals’ (or devil’s advocates) like these, no wonder Microsoft has come as far as it has. It’s all just a game of greed and deception. It’s no way to make international standards. █
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As we indicated before (see this recent comment for example), organisers of the BRM are in ‘damage control’ mode. They try to pretend that everything is all fine and dandy. Alex even released an edited set of notes to please critics, but the Groklaw crowd demands more. It wants the rumoured audio recording. It wants unedited (i.e. unembellished) scripts. So do many of us.
“It appears as though the rules of the whole process have just changed ‘on the fly’.”As it stands, we moved from secrecy [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] to selective secrecy, so it’s not enough. It’s akin to what the Bilderberg Group is doing when it comes under scrutiny. It only shows what it wishes to show; whatever does not make the cut can be assumed a dark secret.
It appears as though the rules of the whole process have just changed ‘on the fly’. Alex, who typically keeps quiet, has joined the discussion, implying that there is likely an element of truth in the claims. Do have a look.
Alex Brown has updated his blog post about the voting rules at the BRM. “This was the wrong clause” he says.
Some questions for the audience:
1. Which one is the “normal JTC1 procedures”?
2. None of them mentions which majority should be taken. Simple majority of 50%, or 66% of P-members?
3. Where is the “letter” in the letter ballot?
Another concern arises which involves Jan van den Beld, the man behind a lot of this mess.
The 5 months ballot started on the 2nd of April 2007. JTC1 directives were changed on the 5 of April 2007, in order to add a special chapter 13 wrote with the help of ECMA’s Jan van den Beld about the Fast Track procedure. So which version applies to the current process? v2.0 or v3.0?
Can you change the rules while a process is running?
The concern here is of course that goalposts might be moved to serve Microsoft’s agenda. Remember what happened in Switzerland (before September)? It was utterly appalling. █
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It has only been one week since we mentioned Microsoft’s embrace of (to extend and extinguish) Java and also a short while since we last mentioned Apache in a similar context. It is not worth repeating the same arguments which were made at the time, but the gist of it is that Microsoft wants to envelope Free software projects, making them more reliant on Microsoft and dependent on Windows.
A week goes by and voila! Microsoft is now sweet-talking to Eclipse.
Microsoft’s Sam Ramji, director of open source and Linux strategy, said after the session that in two weeks, Microsoft will reveal plans to collaborate with open-source Eclipse Foundation projects. Those details are to be aired at the EclipseCon conference in Santa Clara, Calif. on March 19. Microsoft has been one of the industry’s few holdouts from Eclipse participation. (The foundation declined to comment afterward.) Microsoft also plans to work with the Apache Software Foundation.
“This is clearly a move against GNU/Linux, which is similar to Sun’s. ”This needs to stopped and the ignorance must be realised. We have explained before how Microsoft plans to harm these projects by entering their conferences (a friendly invasion morelike), so you are encouraged to look at past writings that are cited here. This is clearly a move against GNU/Linux, which is similar to Sun’s.
A reader wrote in to inform us about it. Here is his E-mail:
As you’ve already noticed, Microsoft marketeers have started a heavy, new offensive revisionist history is a big part of this round:
“Microsoft’s business was built out of open APIs,” Ramji said..
Ha. How does infoworld find the gall to publish that? They used to do
a little better accuracy than that.
Also, note the use of borg elements, in this case Ramji of Zend, claiming it’s not so bad on the inside. That tactics is used every few days. Are they borg elements or are they called ‘useful idiots’ like Bill’s role model Lenin called them?
Eclipse is too important for development to be allowed to be broken like Zend was.
Here our some of our more recent writings that mention Zend and Microsoft’s true intention [1, 2]. █
“[If I ask you who is Microsoft's biggest competitor now, who would it be?] Open…Linux. I don’t want to say open source. Linux, certainly have to go with that.”
–Steve Ballmer, February 28th, 2008
Update: The same reader asked us to append a few points. His message follows.
Here’s a more recent one, showing that the undocumented API problem spans a very long time. The articles are 5 years apart. But it’s worse than that. The cases span nearly 2 decades.
Be sure to add a link to the Eclipse download page, and maybe a tutorial, to encourage people to try it before it’s gone. NetBeans is comparable tool. Both are useful in very large development projects or projects using lots of libraries and or objects / classes.
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Microsoft’s elite continues to crumble
Another one bites the dust and it seems to suggest that defending Microsoft in Europe proved rather frustrating, if not altogether impossible.
Tom Brookes, Microsoft’s Brussels-based spokesman on antitrust matters, has resigned his partnership position at the public affairs consultancy G-Plus, and his responsibility for the Microsoft account, and is understood to be joining Apple, according to people who work closely with him.
And another one joins the top-level exodus. This comes just days after Steve Ballmer expressed concerns over the fines in the EU and even mentioned "retirement".
Let’s just wait and see how Microsoft can spin this departure from the case/cause as a good thing. They always find a good excuse. █
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