January 24, 2004

Remember Microsoft’s "Embrace" of XML? [7:34 pm]

Microsoft seeks XML-related patents

The company filed patent applications in New Zealand and the European Union that cover word processing documents stored in the XML (Extensible Markup Language) format. The proposed patent would cover methods for an application other than the original word processor to access data in the document. The U.S. Patent Office had no record of a similar application.

[...] Despite those moves toward openness, the patents could create a barrier to competing software, said Rob Helm, an analyst for research firm Directions on Microsoft.

“This is a direct challenge to software vendors who want to interoperate with Word through XML,” he said. “For example, if Corel wanted to improve WordPerfect’s support of Word by adopting its XML format…for import/export, they’d probably have to license this patent.”

The patents likely wouldn’t immediately affect the open-source software package OpenOffice, which uses different XML techniques to describe a document, Helm said. But they could prevent future versions of OpenOffice and StarOffice, its proprietary sibling, from working with Microsoft’s XML format.

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From Tomorrow’s NYTimes Magazine Section [5:25 pm]

The Tyranny of Copyright? — with quotes and comments from the entire ILaw group — Lessig, Zittrain, Benkler, Nesson and Fisher. (I note that I come late to this — see Donna’s links from yesterday below.)

The future of the Copy Left’s efforts is still an open question. James Boyle has likened the movement’s efforts to establish a cultural commons to those of the environmental movement in its infancy. Like Rachel Carson in the years before Earth Day, the Copy Left today is trying to raise awareness of the intellectual ”land” to which they believe we ought to feel entitled and to propose policies and laws that will preserve it. Just as the idea of environmentalism became viable in the wake of the last century’s advances in industrial production, the growth of this century’s information technologies, Boyle argues, will force the country to address the erosion of the cultural commons. ”The environmentalists helped us to see the world differently,” he writes, ”to see that there was such a thing as ‘the environment’ rather than just my pond, your forest, his canal. We need to do the same thing in the information environment. We have to ‘invent’ the public domain before we can save it.”

One of the callouts, put into a crosshead in the dead-tree version, makes the following stab at redefining the rhetoric (Larry Lessig’s comments in the text):

“In the cultural sphere,” says one law professor, “big media wants to build a new Soviet empire where you need permission from the central party to do anything.”

Slashdot discussion: The Tyranny of Copyright?. See also Donna’s posts: The Copyfight Hits NYT Magazine and Eyes on the Prize

After yesterday, it’s good to see that these issues are getting some exposure. But, I fear that articles like this are largely preaching to the choir. It may well be that some will be informed by this article, but it’s not at all clear that the article is generating the kind of thinking required. See the forum that the NYTimes is running alongside the article. It will be interesting to see if anything emerges there that isn’t already a Slashdot diatribe. Sor far, aside from a weird slam at the author of the article (already responded to), it’s about what you might expect.

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Algorithms to Defeat Currency Copying [10:52 am]

As a followup to the discussion on efforts to make copying currency difficult by putting code into PhotoShop and other tools, sharp-eye reader of Slashdot comments Su finds a link to a design feature that appears to be a part of the technique in a Slashdot comment: The EURion Constellation.

Note that others cite that this same pattern appears in the new US $20s and probably other bills — something to check on the next time you get some cash from the ATM

Update: Jan 26 — Ed Felten has some more to say about this: Photoshop and Currency

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