Friday, June 10, 2005

Acacia UK

It seems as though we have a UK case with parallels to the Acacia legal shenanigans going on here on our own doorstep. A UK judge has ruled that digital photo companies, Corbis and Getty Images did not infringe a patent for selling digital media online.

Acacia are the company that started out successfully suing porn companies for infringing their streaming technologies patents. They then moved on to target the education sector a little over a month ago decided to go after big guns Intel and Texas Instruments, for infringing a computer architecture patent they've been awarded.

Kill data retention

From eGov monitor, "The European Parliament has called on the Council of Ministers to abandon proposed legislation forcing ISPs to collect and retain information on their customers"

This doesn't, of course, mean that the Council of Minister will pay any attention to the the call.

Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films

There has been significant angst in copyfighting circles about a US court of appeal panel decision in the case of Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films. They decided that sampling three notes constituted copyright infringement. Respected intellectual property practioner and scholar, William Patry, is damning in his analysis of the decision.

"The original panel opinion, as well as Friday's, are controversial, for at least two reasons. First, the panel adopts a different approach to infringement of a musical composition embodied in a phonorecord than for infringement of the sound recording embodied in that same phonorecord; second, the difference lies in the lack of any requirement of even a de mininis taking for sound recordings. (While finding that a sampling of three notes was infringement, the court demurred on whether sampling of one note would be. I fail to see any basis in the court's reasoning for excusing the taking of one note when three is infringement)...

It is true, as the court stated that a bright line test, one which says "Get a license or do not sample" provides "ease of enforcement." But that is equally true of all other subject matter: you want to parody a work, get a license; you want to write a book review, get a license; you want to quote three words from a poem in a movie, get a license.

The court believed that samplers don't take accidentally, but that is true of all my examples, and the more than de minimis copying requirement for substantial similarity has never been based on unconsicious copying. Nor is there anything special about copying by sampling versus copying by incorporating three notes from a musical composition into another musical composition or into a phonorecord. The court also believed that even three sampled notes have value. Ditto other copying, but whether the portion copied has value has never been the test for infringement (although it is relevant at the much later fair use stage).

Bridgeport is policy making wrapped up in a truncated view of law and economics, shorn of analysis of all the public interest factors and harm to derivative creators that nuanced exponents, such as Judge Posner, engage in."

Thursday, June 09, 2005


William Heath has been thinking about ID cards again, in the light of what a couple of his friends have been saying about biometrics and voice verification technologies.

Nothing to hide

David Matheson at "On the identity trail" does a nice job of dissecting the "nothing to hide" argument frequently trotted out by supporters of ID cards. Extract:

"Due to ignorance about the nature or consequences of protecting one's privacy -- e.g. a failure to understand how important privacy, and hence its protection, is for securing such goods as friendship, intimacy, autonomy, political excellence, etc. -- one can in fact have a reason to protect one's privacy despite having no desire to protect if. If one's ignorance were removed, one would have the desire, given that one desires these other goods; and that suffices to give one a reason for protecting one's privacy in the absence of any actual desire to do so."

Drunk drivers let off due to trade secret

Here's a strange twist in the IP/trade secrets story. Drunk drivers in Florida have been getting let off in their hundreds because the manufacturers of the breathalyzers refuse to disclose how the machines work.

"Seminole judges have been following the lead of county Judge Donald Marblestone, who in January ruled that although the information may be a trade secret and controlled by a private contractor, defendants are entitled to it.

``Florida cannot contract away the statutory rights of its citizens,'' the judge wrote."

What puzzles me is why the company is insisting that some basic chemistry is a trade secret. The operation of standard breathalyzers is well documented. When a drink driving suspect breathes into the device the breath passes through a mixture of chemicals and water. Sulphuric acid removes any alcohol from the breath sample. This then reacts with potassium dichromate producing a colour change. The colour is compared with a 'control' sample containing no alcohol and the meter produces a reading. Check out howstuffworks if you're interested in the details.

It is unfortunate when drink drivers get off on a technicality but even though the judges will be much maligned over their decisions, this is yet another side effect of overreaching claims on the part of intellectual property or, in this case trade secrets owners.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Open Access Law Project

The Open Access Law Program has been launched by the Science Commons folks. Good for them.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Scott Adams on inspirational posters.

"The point of that poster is that your spirit should soar like an eagle while you continue to do mundane work"

The murder of persuasion

Matt Miller at the NYT thinks the art of persuasion is dead. He's probably right but a little too gentle on the killers - the media and politicians - of whose actions he describes as "more manslaughter than murder."

LSE ID card report

The mainstream press are catching up with the LSE's excellent report on national identity cards. This Telegraph report chooses to focus on the the LSE's just published proposed alternative ID cards, which would limit the amount of information collected by government and cost significantly less than the government's ridiculous unworkable scheme.