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IRC Proceedings: April 21st, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 6:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


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Patents Roundup: ACTA Affects Patents, Philips Upset With the Patent System, NZOSS Responds to the Software Patents Lobby

Posted in America, Apple, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Patents at 2:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

David and Goliath ACTA
Famous depiction of David vs. Goliath (in the public domain)

Summary: As indicated in the title, this is a grouping of many patent news stories

Here in a nutshell are some of the latest developments regarding software patents.

Bad Apple

Apple is part of the software patents problem because it is already using them against GNU/Linux. Apple goes way too far, with trivial human actions written as software, then monopolised with aid from the USPTO (and ITC for enforcement). Here is the latest example. How far will the USPTO be willing to go? It has already gone way too far. Just consider copyrights on clothing, which gives a whole new meaning to ‘stealing’ of clothes.


The release of ACTA for public viewing is hardly news. People have seen it for well over a year [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] through many leaks that also showed how it changed over time. ACTA does affect patent law, as we have known and noted all along [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Now this can be shown using a formal and authentic document rather than a leak. Glyn Moody quotes Hammerstein (former European member of parliament) as writing: “ACTA text: includes copyright and patents of Sections 1 through 7 of Part II TRIPS. not “counterfeit” treaty”

Hammerstein has had many other valuable things to share recently [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], so power to him.


EurActiv, a Web site that routinely covers activities such as lobbying in Europe, states that the “EU [will] convene [a] subgroup of ‘innovation commissioners’” and begins as follows:

The European Commission will formally establish a subgroup of at least eight EU commissioners with a stake in innovation policy when it meets this week.

Glyn Moody responds to it by asking: “what’s the betting they’ll want more intellectual monopolies?”

The last thing that the Commission needs is yet more ACTA proponents like Luc Pierre Devigne or even Pedro Velasco-Martins. “But the ministers also make it explicit that Open Standards and interoperability are the way to go for the European public sector in general,” says this separate new report from the FSFE. It looks rather encouraging:

The EU’s member states have just thrown their weight behind the principles of Open Standards and interoperability. At a meeting of the ministers for telecommunication and information society in Granada, Spain, the ministers of the 27 EU member states yesterday issued the Granada Ministerial Declaration on the European Digital Agenda [pdf].


FSFE is part of the IGF and has taken part in WSIS while it lasted. A lot of good work was done there, and we’re glad to see that the European member states value the principles of those fora.

Again, this is not the European Commission speaking, but the member states. The Commission itself has been sending mixed messages. In her parliamentary hearing, Neelie Kroes emphasised the importance of Open Standards. On the other hand, the department in charge of the Commission’s IT infrastructre, DIGIT, has been doing all it can to purge Open Standards (not to mention Free Software) from the revised European Interoperability Framework. There are also indications that Neelie Kroes is being pressured to remove references to Open Standards from theDigital Agenda policy paper which she is about to issue.

Philips, which is a software patents lobbyist based in Europe [1, 2, 3], is doing something similar to General Electric (GE), which is also a software patents lobbyist in Europe (lobbying alongside Microsoft). Philips complains about the patent system after GE sounded the alarm too and made similar complaints. From China Daily:

Noted for its international products and innovation, electronics giant Philips is also a pioneer in patent protection in China, ranking third among foreign companies for its more than 1,600 filings last year alone.

Such large numbers don’t surprise industry insiders, as they reflect a worldwide trend – what Ruud Peters, company vice-president and CEO of Philips Intellectual Property and Standards, calls “global patent warming”.

In fact overheated patent activity threatens to overwhelm the entire system, he said.


We have too many patents today and the patent system is facing the risk of being overwhelmed,” Peters said.

“Most patent offices have been unable to cope with the steep increase in patent filings and a huge backlog of unexamined applications is building,” Peters said. “For a time it was easier to get a patent granted, so the patent quality has decreased.”


Outlandish or bad patents, frivolous lawsuits and high damage awards have triggered a public debate about the functioning of the entire system.

Philips is a European company, but its complaints refer also to American nations.

United States

Over in the United States, gene patents may have just been declared void [1, 2, 3]. Patents on life may be the latest form of patents to die and Wired Magazine looks back at the root of this issue exactly 23 years ago (April 21st, 1987).

1987: The U.S. Patent and Trademark office announces it will begin accepting patent applications for animals.

Justice Stevens is leaving as we’ve mentioned about 5 times by now and here is a long summary of things he has accomplished throughout his career (one of which is the Bilski decision).

Justice John Paul Stevens, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1975, announced on April 9, 2010, that he will retire when the Court completes its current term this summer. This article reviews his contributions to technology related areas of law.

New Zealand

Earlier today we wrote about software patents in New Zealand, noting yet again that it’s mostly lawyers and multinationals who are fighting to make these patents legal. Here is the latest response from NZOSS:

In the letter Mr Matthews concludes that “NZCS represents a broad church of ICT professionals and no doubt some of our members have different views on software patents (as with all things). However in the same way that Section 92a of the Copyright Act was harmful, albeit with the best intentions, the evidence certainly appears clear that software patents are simply too potentially harmful to our sector, and in fact innovation in New Zealand, to support.”

New Zealand is probably the hottest battleground at the moment when it comes to software patents. Whatever happens in New Zealand may impact other countries. To Microsoft, abolition of software patents must be like the “Red Threat” (Soviet communism) at the moment. So, it sends out the B-52s (lobbyists and partners) to help carry out the coup, as we have shown before.

Smearing Free Software is a Terrible Business/Marketing Strategy

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD at 1:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Jive Software as evil

Summary: FUD tactics or cheap shots against Free(dom) software no longer jives well with Jive Software

“Jive Software retreats from ‘dumb mistake’ on open source,” says this blog from Oregon’s press. It relates to this earlier report about Jive taking shots at Drupal and Liferay, only to be exposed and denounced.

I’m a little late to this tale, but wanted to note the little spat that broke out last week between Portland’s Jive Software and the open source community.

It started with a white paper Jive published last month, provocatively titled “Jive vs. Open Source.” Jive took it down, but accounts describe it as positioning Jive’s software as superior to open source alternatives, Drupal in particular.

Acquia, a commercial open source company specializing in Drupal, responded directly with this post, “Don’t Jive Me,” announcing new software called “Drupal Commons” as a direct competitor to Jive SBS.

The moral of the story is that publicly attacking Free software is a bad idea; that’s why Microsoft uses so many proxies to do its attacks on Free software (and we have given many examples over the years). At one stage, Microsoft too attacked Drupal, later retracting and apologising just because it got caught.

“Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.”

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

Richard Stallman’s Life Dedication to Software Freedom

Posted in Bill Gates, FSF, GNU/Linux at 12:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman

Summary: Richard Stallman explains how much he has sacrificed so that the world of software will be a better place for users and developers alike

WIRED MAGAZINE has this new article which starts with a big picture of an offender and breaker of the law, as though he is the father of computers or something like that (as opposed to a ruthless businessman from a family of lawyers who fought the law and disregarded the law). But deeper inside the article there are some paragraphs about Richard Stallman, the father of Free software. Glyn Moody has concentrated on these portions (he chose the headline ‘Richard Stallman: “I Wished I Had Killed Myself”‘) and received many comments — mostly positive comments — about Stallman, but having looked at other sites, I found some really nasty comments about Stallman (see the rude comments thereto) and they used Moody’s post as ammunition. “Your post about RMS puts his quote out of context; feeds anti-RMS crowd in TuxMachines,” I told Moody, but his reply was: “I disagree: people who are anti-RMS would twist *anything* against him; the post emphasises the positive…”

Perhaps there is logic to that given all the faith-based hatred of Stallman that we’ve come across. Stallman has no PR department (unlike some) and he is a risk to some people’s businesses (usually the lesser-ethical ones). Sooner or later they may have their Eureka moment and find out what they have done.

“I don’t want to work for a toy computer company [Microsoft], I’ve got real iron here at Yale. [...at Microsoft] We don’t have a manager who cares about what we’re doing [...] We don’t really have a clue as to what we’re doing from a strategic standpoint. [...] This is shitty. If you guys want to do something with a windowing package like Vision’s, then you need somebody running the group who knows about it.”

Steve Wood, early Microsoft developer

Journalists to Other Journalists: Call Out Windows

Posted in Apple, Security, Windows at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Annual report by Microsoft

Summary: Microsoft continues to receive a free ticket when its long-neglected flaws lead to chaos, whereas when other platforms are affected, then they are named and shamed

LAST MONTH we announced the "Call Out Windows" campaign. We ought to set up a section for this, somewhere alongside existing campaigns (one of which is “Boycott Novell”). Today we have the editor of Linux Today slagging off reporters for refusing to name Windows as the culprit in a variety of articles about Windows-only problems. In summary she writes:

But Vista was released in Jan. 2007, and Windows 7 was released October 2009, and they’re supposed to be all more secure. Sure, there is still a huge legacy Windows base…but when you read malware definitions you quickly learn that the malware don’t care, all Windows are equally tasty.

This type of reporting is little more than propaganda. The goal is to convey the same message over and over: Cybercrime is entirely the fault of cybercriminals and careless users. Malware targets all PCs, that’s just the way it is and it’s nobody’s fault, except criminals and careless users. But this is pure baloney: The porous nature of Windows, and the entire Microsoft software stack, is the problem. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.

What would it be like if Linux, or any real multi-user networking operating system with a sane design, were the standard operating system? I bet money we would not have tens of millions of Linux PCs in botnets, even with a large population of unsophisticated users. No botnets pumping out phishes, spam, and malware, no drive-by infections from merely visiting infected Web sites, no getting cooties from simply having an infected email or document on your system without even opening it, no viruses or worms spreading to millions of other computers in an eyeblink. It takes special talent and OS architecture to make those things possible.

The irony of it all is that when a worm targets Mac OS X, then every single journalist will name “Apple” or “Mac”. When it’s a Windows problem (as it happens to be well over 95% of the time), then it’s just a “computer problem”, or “computer virus”, or “virus” for short.

It is time to call out Windows.

In other but similar news today, Glyn Moody points to this article and says: “poor journalism: no mention of Windows, again” (i.e. more of the same).

“Our products just aren’t engineered for security.”

Brian Valentine, Microsoft executive

Novell Autocomplete Failure or Human Failure Leaks Confidential UK Database

Posted in Europe, Mail, Novell at 12:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GroupWise client

Summary: Policemen in the UK are left red-faced after a software screwup — caused in part by the user — which compromised the privacy of many people

Novell’s fault or purely a human error? You decide. Software should be designed to minimise human error.

Police send Reg hack CRB check database

Investigators are blaming human error for the data breach, rather than the system design. It occurred when the author of the email — a member of the force’s CID data management unit — used the autocomplete function in Novell’s email software to include the journalist’s address along with those of five Gwent Police officials in the “CC” field of the message.

‘Serious’ data breach at Gwent Police

The mistake is said to have occurred when the author of the email — a member of the force’s CID data management unit — used the auto-complete function in Novell’s email software to include the journalist’s address along with those of five Gwent Police officials in the “CC” field of the message. The Register email address had been automatically saved by the system after it was used to submit two unrelated Freedom of Information requests last year.

Hitherto, there has been no response from Novell, but it would be interesting to know if there’s a deficiency in Novell’s software that makes such an error easier to make and/or harder to spot?

Adobe Turns to Linux After Apple Snub

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 11:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Old light switches

Summary: As Apple pulls the switch on many developers, towards Linux/Android they begin to march

ADOBE was blocked by Apple due to Apple’s infinite arrogance (Adobe also ditched Windows Mobile, but that’s another story). Other developers state publicly that they are sick of Apple, announcing that they will ditch Apple for future development. Meanwhile there’s Adobe’s other side, which has already warmed up to the Linux Foundation and even to LiMo. Perlow said that Adobe should rely on Linux to spread its binaries and Microsoft's booster Tim Anderson says that “Adobe [is] no longer investing in Flash compiler for iPhone, sings Android praises” (Android and Linux may soon be re-merged at the kernel level).

Chambers spends much of his post saying how well Flash runs on Android – though Flash Player 10.1 and AIR 2.0 for Android are still in beta – and suggesting that Flash developers target Android instead.

“The fact that Apple would make such a hostile and despicable move like this clearly shows the difference between our two companies,” wrote one of Adobe’s employees, whose even ruder words generated some bad-looking headlines that had Adobe distance itself from his statements quite quickly. He spoke passionately and that’s just fine. That was a few weeks ago.

It is possible that the Mono boosters will also aim their Microsoft wares at Android now that Android is growing faster than any other mobile platform (depending on the source/s of the claim). We already know that they are doing this [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9].

Given the continued stream of news about Apple’s exclusion of Mono [1, 2, 3, 4], focus on this strategy may be inevitable, but Novell’s Microsoft MVP is still fighting to control Apple platforms with Microsoft APIs.

Novell VP and Mono project lead Miguel de Icasa isn’t worried that MonoTouch might fall under Apple’s new restrictions that banned Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler. He just announced the release of MonoTouch 3.0, which adds support for iPhoneOS 4.0′s new APIs. MonoTouch compiles C# to C and XCode (the iPhone IDE), unlike the Flash CS5 compiler, which compiles to machine code. Still, MonoTouch apps are originally written in a language other than the ones listed in the new iPhone terms, so like any iPhone app, it just depends on the whim of Apple. MonoTouch 3.0 was quick to add support for Multitasking, iAds, Game Center, and enterprise data protection.

As The Source points out, there are almost no Mono applications that use MonoTouch anyway. To quote:

After the whole Apple 3.3.1 “Can’t develop with non-approved toolchains” debacle a lot of people set up a Google Docs spreadsheet to list the tons of amazing apps that would be impacted by this rule change.


The numbers are even less impressive if you wished to focus on a single toolchain of interest, like say – oh I don’t know – MonoTouch, which can boast almost a whole dozen entries on the spreadsheet.

Over at the SD Times (which loves Microsoft and has Microsoft as a prominent advertiser based on what the PDFs of the magazine show), professional Microsoft booster Larry O’Brien has this new piece defending Microsoft and Mono while denouncing Apple. This is typical. We have seen just about any proponent of Microsoft doing this and only a week ago we saw David Worthington and O’Brien chatting with one another about how horrible it is that Apple blocks Mono. It’s very unprofessional when two writers from the same magazine quote one another when both basically hold the same position.

Anyway, MonoTouch is being blocked [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and the future of it seems uncertain. On the desktop, the situation is similar, but a Canonical employee has this application which is one among others that make people dependent on Mono. As we noted yesterday, Canonical's CTO is at least aware of the problems with Mono.

Links 21/4/2010: Sabayon Linux CoreCD, Tor for Android Released

Posted in News Roundup at 10:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Socrates on sharing knowledge

    I came across this text over at www.linuxformat.gr and it got me into a lot of thinking. I would like to thank NikolaosX1 for sharing the original post in Greek and Danae for the translation in English that follows.


    After discovering this article I really wanted to write a post here expanding my thoughts on it and how they relate with Free Software. I decided to just express some initial points of concern I have instead, leaving it open for discussion. Here’s what’s troubling me:

    1. In general I don’t like taking words of great people out of context, nor misusing them just to make a point. I only use this quote here, with respective differences taken into consideration and respecting the analogy, to trigger a conversation. I already feel awkward, but I felt this was something worth sharing.

    2. I am aware that FLOSS has other “rules” and “freedoms” to define itself and I have in mind that the quoted text is far from expressing the Free Software ideology. However I agree with the initial writer. For me, the idea behind Socrates’ words in a way demonstrates the substance of Free Software, and the “sharing knowledge” concept is one of the reasons that drove me into this community in the first place.

  • How Hard Can it Be? DIY OCW

    One of the miracles of free software is that it always begins with one or two people saying: “hey, how hard can it be?” The miracle is that they say that even when “it” is an operating system like GNU, or a kernel like Linux, or a graphic image manipulation package like the GIMP. Despite the manifest impossibility of one person writing something that usually requires vast, hierarchical teams, and months of planning, they just start and the miracle continues: others join in and the thing grows until one day, with the help of a few hundred friends, they achieve that impossibility.

  • Databases

    • NoSQL – Apache Cassandra Release 0.6

      The Apache Software Foundation recently announced Apache Cassandra Release 0.6, a NoSQL database. As a reformed database architect, I was intrigued by the appearance of yet another data management model.

  • Business

    • MuleSoft Helps Canonical Compete in the Linux Enterprise Server Space

      I had so much fun writing about Ubuntu last week, I thought I would return to the topic with some new Ubuntu news and analysis. Two pieces of news on Ubuntu today. First of all they announced the imminent release of the LTS Server edition 10.4. In a related announcement MuleSoft and Canonical announced a partnership in releasing an updated Tomcat package for Debian and Ubuntu that makes it easier for developers to use.

  • Open Access/Content

    • The dangers of growing DNA databases

      Scientific data sharing has become big news in the wake of the theft of e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit and ensuing investigations. Although the CRU researchers appear to have had an attitude towards data sharing that breached generally accepted scientific ethics, the process of actually sharing the data would have been anything but straightforward. The CRU had no procedures in place for data sharing, the data came from a variety of sources with no standardized data format, it was a mix of published and proprietary information, etc. In short, it’s one thing to decide to share the data, another challenge entirely to actually do so.

    • BitTorrenting biology, getting the big picture in search

      The biosciences, like other branches of research, are being dragged into the digital era. This is in part because traditional mediums of communications, including journal articles, are migrating online, and in part because high-throughput approaches to biological research are producing staggering amounts of data that can only be stored in digital form. A couple of papers released by PLoS ONE have presented new approaches to both aspects of digitization that, in essence, simply involve modifying tools that are common outside of the field specifically for use by biologists.

    • University told to hand over tree ring data

      Queen’s University in Belfast has been told by the Information Commissioner to hand over 40 years of research data on tree rings, used for climate research.

      Douglas Keenan, from London, had asked for the information in 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act.

    • Linked Data and the Leaders’ Debate – My Challenge

      For example – can someone write me a Linked Data query to show how much is spent by the government on UK education quangoes?

    • CloudMade’s OpenStreetMap Surges On Wikipedia-Like User Passion

      The number of contributors to OpenStreetMap has grown steadily over the years. A year ago 110,000 individuals had added or edited data. Today it’s up to 245,000 individual mappers. An average of 7,000 edits an hour are made to the data.

    • An Open Mind

      If the mission of the university is the creation of knowledge (via research) and the dissemination of knowledge (via teaching and publishing), then it stands to reason that giving that knowledge away fits neatly with that mission. And the branding benefits are clear.

      The Open University, the distance-learning behemoth based in England, has vastly increased its visibility with open courses, which frequently show up in the Top 5 downloads on Apple’s iTunes U, a portal to institutions’ free courseware as well as marketing material. The Open University’s free offerings have been downloaded more than 16 million times, with 89 percent of those downloads outside the U.K., says Martin Bean, vice chancellor of the university. Some 6,000 students started out with a free online course before registering for a paid online course.

    • Khan Academy Goes CC BY-SA

      David Wiley has a new post expressing frustration that the Khan Academy, an OER repository, did not have a clear license. Shortly after Wiley’s post the Khan Academy added the CC BY-SA license.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • What will the browser look like in five years?

      The web browser was just another application five years ago. A useful app, no doubt, but it played second fiddle to operating systems and productivity software.

      That’s no longer the case. Browsers have matured into multi-purpose tools that connect to the Internet (of course) and also grant access to a host of powerful online applications and services. Shut off your web connection for a few minutes and you’ll quickly understand the browser’s impact.

      I got in touch with Charles McCathieNevile, Opera chief standards officer and a speaker at the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo, to discuss the the current role of web browsers and their near-term future. He shares his predictions in the following Q&A.


  • YouGov/Murdoch Distort Poll To Stop Lib Dem Momentum

    The proposition above is, obviously to anyone, not really a question but a set of dubious propaganda statements designed to influence the interviewee.

  • Whitehall and suppliers in ‘old boys club’, alleges Indian offshorer

    Vineet Nayar, chief executive at HCL, told the Financial Times that the companies had a “stranglehold” on the market, with almost no room for other suppliers to participate. Weeks away from a general election, the issue is becoming increasingly heated, and the Conservative party has insisted that it would open up the market to more companies if it wins on 6 May.

    Nayar did not name the companies he alleged to be dominating the market, but Patrick Dunleavy, chair of the public policy group at the London School of Economics, told the newspaper that five companies including HP-EDS, IBM and BT run an estimated 90 percent of government contracts. Other suppliers commonly selected by the government include Fujitsu, Logica, Civica, CSC and Accenture.

  • Science

    • Lousy DNA Reveals When People First Wore Clothes

      Using DNA to trace the evolutionary split between head and body lice, researchers conclude that body lice first came on the scene approximately 190,000 years ago. And that shift, the scientists propose, followed soon after people first began wearing clothing.

    • Maxed out: How long could you survive a vacuum?

      Sadly we know how long humans can survive if suddenly exposed to the vacuum of space. Three Soviet cosmonauts died in 1971 when a faulty valve caused their Soyuz 11 capsule to depressurise at an altitude of 168 kilometres, shortly before re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Investigations revealed that the cabin pressure dropped to zero for 11 minutes and 40 seconds, until the capsule hit the atmosphere. The crew died within 30 to 40 seconds from hypoxia. “You need both oxygen and air pressure to deliver oxygen to the brain,” says Jonathan Clark, a former space shuttle crew surgeon.

  • Security/Aggression

    • The dangers of growing DNA databases

      The practice of retaining genetic samples from people arrested for a crime but not convicted is growing in the U.S. It has serious human rights implications.

    • News From The Pavement: Dispersal Zones

      Last summer, The Pavement’s reports into Operation Poncho – a City of London’s scheme to wake rough sleepers in the middle of the night to “wash” where they were resting with freezing cold water – hit national headlines. Their night disturbed, many homeless people reported their inability to sleep, and felt it was a brutal attempt to damage them psychologically. Human rights legal teams labelled the process inhumane.

  • Environment

    • Illegal logging in Madagascar [Flash warning]
    • World forests ‘being flushed down the toilet’

      As global population grows and access to sanitation improves, the world’s forests are “under assault” from paper companies competing to respond to growing consumer demand for toilet tissue, the only paper product that cannot be recycled after use, writes the Worldwatch Institute.

    • Statement on deforestation and palm oil

      Today, in a letter to Greenpeace, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe sets out the steps Nestlé is taking regarding palm oil. He emphasises: “Nestlé is highly concerned about deforestation in Indonesia and other countries, and we support a moratorium on the destruction of rainforests.”

    • Betting on Climate Change: Corporations Stand to Make or Lose Billions

      “If you think about Brazil, their two biggest industries are mining and agriculture,” Friedberg says. “That’s billions of dollars, and there’s a massive market for developing crop insurance. If we can figure out agriculture and do it right, the opportunity is huge to go country by country.” Does he believe that global warming is already noticeable? “Oh yeah,” he says. In just the three years that Weatherbill has been collecting data, extreme weather events have risen 8 percent.

    • Some catching up: Asilomar

      Spending a week on the beautiful North California coastline with a bunch of interesting people talking about a fascinating topic is obviously a chore, but I girded my loins and took the plunge. The Asilomar meeting on the regulation of geoengineering research was intended to echo the Asilomar meeting of 1975, which set out procedures for moving beyond the moratorium on genetic engineering experiments that had been set up the year before.


      The other 4 lessons are: Nobody has any clear idea how to resolve the inequalities inherent in geoengineering; People will be talking about banning field experiments; It’s all about the money; and trust is everything.

  • Finance

    • I.M.F. Lends Its Support to Charging Bank Fees

      The International Monetary Fund has endorsed proposals to charge a levy on the largest banks for the cost of any future government-led rescues as well as a tax based on bank profits and compensation.

    • SEC chief pledges better oversight of banks

      The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday pledged better oversight of the nation’s largest banks after criticism that the agency failed to spot accounting tricks at investment bank Lehman Brothers before it collapsed.

    • What links the banking crisis and the volcano?

      As New Scientist magazine points out, an event like this would knacker most of the systems which keep us alive. It would take out water treatment plants and pumping stations. It would paralyse oil pumping and delivery, which would quickly bring down food supplies. It would clobber hospitals, financial systems and just about every kind of business – even the manufacturers of candles and paraffin lamps. Emergency generators would function only until the oil ran out. Burnt-out transformers cannot be repaired; they must be replaced. Over the past year I’ve sent freedom of information requests to electricity transmitters and distributors, asking them what contingency plans they have made, and whether they have stockpiled transformers to replace any destroyed by a solar storm. I haven’t got to the end of it yet, but the early results suggest that they haven’t.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • Now charlatans will know to beware the geeks

      A year ago, I went to a London pub to speak at a meeting for the apparently doomed cause of libel reform. Simon Singh had written an article which was true and important about the dangers of the quack therapy of chiropractic healing. Then, like so many authors and publishers before him, he learned English law persecuted rather than protected honest argument and that he was in trouble.

      The British Chiropractic Association was suing him for saying that there was “not a jot of evidence” that its members could help sick children by manipulating babies’ spines in accordance with the teachings of a more-than-usually nutty American faith healer.

    • The Fujian Three sentenced for slander

      Three bloggers from Fujian who spread information online relating to the alleged rape and murder of Yan Xiaoling were found guilty of slander on Friday. AP reported that self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong received a two year sentence, whilst two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, will each spend one year in prison.

    • Which bad law would you scrap first?
    • Hitler Is Very Upset That Constantin Film Is Taking Down Hitler Parodies
    • Everyone Who’s Made a Hitler Parody Video, Leave the Room

      One the most enduring (and consistently entertaining) Internet memes of the past few years has been remixes of the bunker scene from the German film, The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich (aka Der Untergang). EFF Boardmember Brad Templeton even got in on it, creating a very funny remix with Hitler ranting about troubles with DRM and the failure of DMCA takedowns to prevent fair uses. (Ironically enough, that video resulted in the Apple Store rejecting an EFF newsfeed app.)

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Gallo Report: policy brief against biased industry-funded figures

      La Quadrature du Net sent a letter to the members of the JURI committe of the European Parliament, along with a 8-page policy brief on the Gallo report. La Quadrature urges EU citizens concerned about the future of copyright and patent enforcement, fundamental rights, and the Internet, to contact them as well.

    • Music Industry Warns That It May Sue UK File-Sharers

      The BPI has warned that it may be forced into suing UK file-sharers, despite the recent passing of the Digital Economy Act. In an interview yesterday, Chief Executive Geoff Taylor said although the industry would prefer for file-sharing to be dealt with via ‘technical measures’, they might still have to sue some people.

    • Debating Traditional Knowledge Legislation

      A rather different view is the attack on the idea of traditional knowledge being granted legal recognition and protection. The proponent of this view seem concerned that the idea of collective ownership of knowledge will subvert their view of intellectual property. In their view knowledge can be viewed as property which can be owned by an individual or (more likely) a corporation, and as a commodity, traded, rented out and the like. Since they generally also represent those corporations that have amassed large inventories of copyrights, trademarks and designs they are also concerned that traditional knowledge will subject them to claims of ownership of the same material.

    • Copyrights

      • Self-Published Titles Topped 764,000 in 2009 as Traditional Output Dipped

        A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of “nontraditional” titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.

      • What If More Money Makes People Less Inclined To Create?

        The entire premise behind copyright law is that by making sure there is enough financial remuneration, people will be more interested in creating more great content. The argument of those who push for ever stronger copyright law is always based on this very premise, with the often explicit claim being “if artists can’t make enough money making art, they’ll do something else instead,” while suggesting that would be a net negative to society. Now I’m all for artists making money and being able to create more art. It’s why I spend so much time discussing business models that work for those artists. But what if that entire concept — that we need this monetary incentive to create — is bunk?

      • Lawrence Lessig: “Getting Our Values around Copyright Right”
      • Nokia launches free music service in China

        Joining Google Music China in the trend of attracting users with free content, Nokia has launched a free music service in the PRC.

    • Printing/Digital

      • Why Old Media and Social Media Don’t Get Along

        I’m just soooooo tired of the doom and gloom. It really makes one want to give up on the main stream media (like many, many, many people under 30 have). But, we can’t. We’ve got to save these guys from themselves – the institutions and the brands matter (I think). So, in that pursuit, let’s tackle the beast head on, again.

      • Rolling Stone Releases Entire Archive on the Web

        Everyone must get stoned — Rolling Stoned, that is. Starting today, the mag beloved by aging mamas and papas and young music fans alike is making its entire collection of magazines (43 years’ worth) available on the web — for a price.

        Although much of the content will, in fact, be free, RS plans to charge a fee for full access to all content new and old: $3.95 per month or $2.50 dollars per month with a year’s subscription, according to AFP. The move comes as part of the mag’s overhauled website, which will also feature more audio and video content.

      • Digital Textbook Sales in U.S. Higher Education — A Five-Year Projection

        Our five-year projections assume a current market share of 0.5% for digital textbooks in the U.S., and an average yearly increase in sales growth of approximately 100% over the next five years. We project that growth to taper to approximately 30% annual growth for the ensuing five years (2015-2019).

    • Canada

      • Lawyer Claims TorrentFreak Abused Canadian Democracy

        Last summer, TorrentFreak encouraged its Canadian readers to have their voice heard in the country’s public consultations on copyright reform. The response to this call for action was overwhelming, and as a result a pro-copyright lawyer is now claiming that we “systematically abused” Canadian democracy.

      • A Call For Disclosure – Who Do The Professionals Represent And Why Are They Hiding The Connection?

        As a writer and musician I’ve always been interested in copyright. It’s part and parcel of what I do. However until last summer I wasn’t involved in the discussion of where copyright in Canada should go. In fact you can blame my current high level of interest in copyright law on TorrentFreak.

    • ACTA

      • ACTA: Signature collection for Written Declaration 12 continues

        Leaks of the ACTA text show that dangerous provisions have been pushed by the negotiators and that the agreement could have severe consequences on freedom of expression, access to medicines and innovation worldwide1. Although the upcoming establishment of transparency is a positive step, the substance of this international agreement harmonizing civil and criminal enforcement of copyright, patents and trademarks must be openly debated. This fundamental discussion is long overdue.

      • ACTA: Partial transparency isn’t legitimacy

        After more than two years of opaque elaboration, ACTA negotiators have finally bowed to the pressure of NGOs and citizens worldwide.The European Parliament, as well as various institutions and industries have also opposed the negotiating process and the potential consequences of this non-amendable plurilateral agreement.

      • Tech companies fear implications of trade pact

        Companies across the technology industry — from Internet access providers to social networking sites to video-sharing services — are bracing for this week’s release of a draft of a trade agreement that they fear could undermine all sorts of online activities.


        The Bush administration began negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, in the fall of 2007 in an effort to harmonize intellectual property protections across different nations. The far-reaching agreement would encompass everything from counterfeit pharmaceuticals to fake Prada bags to online piracy of music and movies. Once ratified, trade agreements take full effect and a country can face complaints for noncompliance.

      • ACTA arrives (and it’s gotten a tiny bit better)

        We’ve been covering the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) for two years now, and in that entire 24 month period no official text of the agreement has been released. Remarkable, really, given the intense scrutiny, but there you have it.

    • Digital Economy Bill

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