Friday, June 20, 2003

John McCain, Senate Commerce Committee chairman, will hold a hearing on the fallout from Verizon having to hand over customer details to the RIAA.

Meanwhile Eric Raymond is weighing into the SCO UNIX trade secret claims lawsuit with IBM. According to the story at PC World,
"Raymond claims to have collected the names of 60 Unix users who are willing to sign affidavits that disprove SCO's contention that its Unix System V source code, which forms the basis of IBM's AIX Unix, contains trade secrets."
Seán McGrath explains why we can Blame/thank the Irish for copyright law. Mark O'Neill picked up the story the same day and expanded on it. A couple of saints engaging in a fierce battle over a supreme court ruling that said "To every cow its calf, to every book, its copy" (or to be more precise "Le gach bain a bainin, le gach leabhar a leabhrán."), resulting in 3000 mortalities and we talk about the 'copyright wars' today!

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Back briefly to point to a piece in the Washington Post - Harry Potter and the Copyright Lawyer.
Paul Carlyle, a partner at commercial law firm Shepherd & Wedderburn specialising in intellectual property and telecommunications law, writes in the Scotsman: "The European Commission consultation on patenting software, published last year, revealed most to be against any extension of patents to business methods. Even the draft Software Patent Directive, currently being finalised, seeks simply to codify the current position rather than extend patent protection."

Paul Meller over at InfoWorld likewise seems to think that Arlene McCarthy and her JURI committee have settled "on a position that ignores views from both extremes of the debate over software patents, and endorses the approach to patentability currently applied by the European Patent Office." He also says, "The European Parliament is likely to support a law that permits software patents but limits their application to inventions that have a technical effect outside of just a computer program. A program could only be patented if it runs in conjunction with some sort of device such as an intelligent household appliance or a mobile phone." That's one interpretation of the language but the concern of opponents of the measure is that it does not read exactly like that.

It seems that the intention of folk like MEP McCarthy is that the "technical effect" (or "technical solution" as it appears to have been called in JURI) doctrine apply to software patents, whereby the software can only be patented if in combination with a computer or other piece of hardware it can be considered to be a novel, useful and non-obvious invention. So the software can't be patented in isolation. The concern of McCarthy's opponents is that the technical effect notion is vague and in the case of software, if you can run it on a computer, it will have a technical effect. So any software that runs is thereby patentable. Speaking of running, I've got to and this saga is likely to.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Another note to T182 students: remember from Section 1 -

"The Future of Ideas applies the environmental movement's sustainability rallying call to the resources we use to create and innovate. Its author, Lawrence Lessig, presents the case for the sustainability of ideas. He argues that unless we nurture the resources used to create and innovate scientific discoveries, language, skills, stories, facts etc. then society will run out of ideas. Lessig thinks we are fencing off these resources with law and technology, handing control of them to private owners. "

Here is an articulate rant, by Evan Hunt linking the environment and the public domain. In a similar vein to Lessig, Evans says:
"Why was Eldred vs. Ashcroft such a horrible blow? Because our generation and those that came before us were lucky enough to have a rich public domain to draw from in creating new artistic work, and our descendents will be stuck with no more than what we had--after we've already thoroughly mined it--and anything else, they'll have to pay for. Disgusting.Protecting the public domain is another kind of environmentalism."
The final chapter in Larry Lessig's The Future of Ideas is called What Orrin Understands and praises Senator Orrin Harch for his stance on the Napster and Microsoft cases, and specifically his concerns about concentrations of power. Senator Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is apparently now keen to give the music industry the right to remotely destroy peer to peer file sharer's computers.
"If we can find some way to do this without destroying their machines, we'd be interested in hearing about that," Hatch said. "If that's the only way, then I'm all for destroying their machines. If you have a few hundred thousand of those, I think people would realize....There's no excuse for anyone violating copyright laws." I guess Professor Lessig and Senator Hatch have reached a parting of the ways....
I've been falling behind with things and hadn't spotted, over at SecurityFocus, Scott Granneman's look at DRM in general and Microsoft's plans in the area.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

I'm not sure where Donna Wenthworth gets her energy from and manages to keep up with so many developments, but Copyfight is a must read (as usual) on everything from PIL 2003 to the fascinating "The Layers Principle: Internet Architecture and the Law"by Lawrence Solum and Minn Chung to Seth Finkelstein on the DMCA, fair use and Eldred. But don't waste time here - head over to the original for the complete works.
Note to my T182 students - You may find the Information Commons Blog on libraries as commons helpful in respect of the early discussion we had in Section 2 re. commons.

The June 13, 2003 entry in full follows

"Libraries and the Defense of the Commons

There's been a bit more blog discussion linking the defense of libraries and the defense of the commons. Larry Lessig picked up
on our post yesterday about funding cuts in Milwaukee-area school libraries. Larry suggests that librarians might sign the
Reclaim the Public Domain petition and ultimately lower the cost of libraries by expanding the public domain.

The sound you may have heard just now was the palm of my hand smacking against my forehead. Yes! Thank you, Larry. I
should have made the connection between the petition and supporting libraries myself, but now will not fail to take up the
banner Larry has so graciously unfurled. However, I think there are stronger reasons for librarians to support the petition than
just lowering the cost of information and therefore possibly making library budgets go further (laudable though that practical
goal may be).

Libraries are some of the best examples we have of the information commons in action. Libraries are community resources that
provide all kinds of information services to the public. Librarians are professionals whose role is to make the information
commons accessible to users. Librarians are among the staunchest supporters of access to information and of the framework of
rights necessary to guarantee that access. And librarians should support the public domain in general (and this petition in
particular) because the access to information embodied in copyright's public domain is interwoven with access to information in
society as a whole. An action in support of a vibrant public domain is an action that supports access to information overall.

And the discussion goes on. Over at Copyfight, Donna Wentworth linked Larry's post back to the Shifted Librarian. And that's
where Jenny Levine at TSL added: "The public domain and commons is just one more excellent service that libraries enrich,
and yet one more service we as a society will lose, if we don't start valuing our libraries and librarians more." Support the
commons, support libraries. Support libraries, support the commons.

Jessamyn from added to the discussion with a comment on yesterday's commons-blog posting citing TSL. I'm
copying it here in its entirety to make it a bit more prominent:

"strikes me also that we need to be less vague than "support library services" in our requests. I think we need to:

"1. stress why libraries are important;

"2. explain specifically what we would like politicians to do [not just wear an "I [heart] my library" button in public];

"3. make having a library card wrapped up with being a good citizen.

"These things have been working well, so far, in Vermont where we have bi-partisan support FOR libraries and AGAINST the
USA PATRIOT Act. Go see Bernie Sanders at ALA and tell him you like what he is doing.

"...and, of course, going to our public library ourselves, and encouraging others to do the same. Even if you like to buy books at
Amazon, there are still things your library has to offer you. And every little book checked out helps your library look more

There are a couple of things I really appreciate about Jessamyn's comment. For one thing, I believe it implicitly suggests that
supporting libraries (like supporting the commons) is inherently a political act (at least in terms of requiring that we take a clear
position on how resources are organized in our society). Furthermore, she points out that we need to be very concrete about
what we think libraries offer, about what we want to acheive, and about what we ask our elected officials to do for us. If we
can't get concrete, it will be much more difficult to get anywhere.

Another point this conversation is raising for me is that we have greater potential for success if we can work together. There are
lots of ways that people are working to promote access to ideas and it can only help us to see the connections among the
various initiatives and to approach them with a spirit of mutual cooperation. Support for the public domain ultimately *is*
support for libraries, and the reverse is true as well. Furthermore, all of us who advocate openness in information can take heart
in the successes of our compatriots. The groundswell of opposition to the FCC's further deregulation of media ownership rules
is good news for all of us concerned with promoting access to ideas. The 12-thousand plus signatures on the Petition to
Reclaim the Public Domain are a sign of support not just for the Eldred Act, but for access to information overall.

So what to do? How about building a coalition that brings together the many voices working now to promote the commons and
access to information in its many forms? Is this desirable? Is it possible? And to what extent is it already happening? More on
this from me in the future, but if anyone has thoughts on this, I hope you'll share. . ."

There are some responses to these thoughts also available.
Back to George Radwanski - He allegedly spent $500,000 on travel and hospitality over two years. Can't say I've ever spent as much as $444.49 on dinner for two. Looks like he also has the authority to sign off on his own expenses claims. There's certainly a lot of mud flying around here and looks likely there'll be more.
The Green party have produced a negative press release on McCarthy's success on software patents. A bit ott - comes across as hysteria and doesn't really help make the point.
There's been a lot of activity on EU software patents in recent days. Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy has convinced the European Parliament's Commission on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market (JURI) to go along with her proposals on software patents. Apparently McCarthy won a majority on all points, which one critic says means
- introduction of program claims
- refusal of interoperability privilege (ITRE 15)
- refusal of definition of "technical"
- what is new needn't be technical and what is technical needn't be new
- no need for a technical solution, only problem must be technical
- additional rationales for patentability (e.g. need to make money
from licensing in view of low-cost economies)

NIce article on Balancing Data Needs And Privacy - how US folk can preserve privacy in response to the Total Information Awareness programme. It appears there has been some substantial investment by the Pentagon into research at PARC to produce sound privacy enhancing technologies, that strip away personally identifying information, whilst allowing aggregate analysis of data in sophisticated ways which further the objectives of law enforcement and security services to fight crime and protect against other attacks. DARPA have put up £3.5 million dollars for this research, which is a bit more than peanuts. Marc Rottenberg of EPIC is skeptical "You can't escape the fundamental contradiction of privacy research being conducted around a half-a-billion-dollar program of national surveillance. It is like building environmentally friendly nuclear power plants."

The cynic in me agrees with him. The reality is that mass privacy invasion is unlikely to be counteracted in the short term effectively by law, however. So what we probably need is an architectural/technological response/development of the type that Teresa Lunt appears to be considering here. Private enterprises and individuals then can use these kinds of technolgies as technological gatekeepers to maintain the integrity of access, with various levels of access being granted e.g to law enforcement authorities who provide appropriately secured warrants or other legal documents.
George Radwanski looks to be on his way out, though he says he will not go quietly. The committee does seem to be making a big issue of two things - anomalies in expenses (they seem to think he's been stretching his travel budget unreasonably) and an altered paragraph in a letter about access to information. The latter, the Commissioner says, was an admin error - seems like a reasonable explanation but if you've got folk who are suspicious of you investigating you, it's not wise to provide that kind of ammunition. Mr Radwanski's suggestion is that the government don't like him because he is doing his job too well. Maybe the best form of defense is attack. I've been impressed in the past by Radwanski's committment to sound privacy principles but there isn't enough detailed information in the public domain about this investigation to make a judgement as to whether he has a real case to answer or whether it is a case of machiavelian manoeuverings on the part of political opponents that we are seeing here. It would be a pity to see a principled advocate of privacy protection brought down by silly mistakes or nasty politics. IF there are serious questions to be answered, from my limited knowledge of the man, I always figured him for the kind of guy who would fall on his sword. I await developments with interest.