May 18, 2004

Sad, sad, sad [9:37 pm]

EU votes through software patent changes

The European Council on Wednesday voted through controversial changes to the European Union’s Software Patents Directive that will pave the way for widespread patenting of software in Europe.

According to a spokesman at the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry, which backed the changes, the vote removes many of the changes introduced last year by the European Parliament that would have limited the degree to which software programs could be patented.

[...] The Directive will now be sent back to the European Parliament for another vote there in the autumn as the different bodies of the EU engage in a game of legislative ping-pong. While observers expect vociferous lobbying from open-source and developer groups, reversing the Council’s vote will be difficult, according to James Heald of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), a not-for-profit organisation that promotes the rights of technology entrepreneurs and developers.

“The catch is that if the Parliament still doesn’t like software patents, it has to have a majority of all MEPs to put its amendments, which means that in practice they need a two-to-one or three-to-one majority in the chamber,” said Heald.

If the Parliament is successful in that vote, then it will go back to the Council for a second reading, and then if the Council still disagrees then it will go to a ’sudden death’ reconciliation committee, which will have six weeks to settle the matter.

Slashdot discussion: European Council Approves Software Patents; see also EU software patents: how the vote was won and EU patent law dies, software law lives

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Copyright’s Communication Policy [11:24 am]

A [draft?] paper with an interesting take on the problem, moving the rhetorical goalposts toward elements of the Litman perspective of the “copyright tail wagging the internet policy dog:” Copyright’s Communications Policy [via Siva]

From the latter quarter of the paper:

The communications policy perspective, in other words, sees the online distribution as a weighing of two costs, both difficult to assess. On one side is the cost of the foreclosure, which are the foregone benefits of the new technology, and the benefits of disrupting the market power of existing content industries. On the other side are the lost incentives for new authors and value (if and) of the reliance interst in the property rights guaranteed [by?] the copyright law. Weighing these two costs leads to a spectrum of plausible policy positions on the question of online content distribution, each of which reflects different views of national communications policy. We can group them into three basic positions (reflecting the policies described in Part II): radically open, stewarded, and balanced.

[...] What the right answer is to the online distributio problem is hard to say. But it is incumbent that the Courts be aware that their copyright decision are de facto setting a substantial and growing part of the nation’s communications policy. The instinct that what matters in copyrights is that authors be protected is not incorrect but simply an insufficient accounting of the issues presented. For behind authorship concerns lies a cycle of incumbent and challenger technologies that will never end. The only question is how painful and costly the transitions will be.

(The reason that I suggest that this is a draft arises from the fact that I couldn’t cut-and-paste from the PDF, leading me to typing in the excerpts above — making me aware of the fact that the paper could use a little editing <G>)

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*Shock* — A Sense of Humor? [9:42 am]

[via Slashdot] LinuxWorld Exclusive: Linus Discloses *Real* Fathers of Linux

Summary

Linus Torvalds, the undisputed - except by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute - inventor of Linux, has let LinuxWorld have his immediate comment on the AdTI president’s claims that the parentage of Linux is somehow in doubt. Read his startling admission exclusively here: Linux is in reality the handiwork of the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

For background, see this Groklaw story

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Speaking of Injecting Lawyers Into Innovation [9:20 am]

[Via Slashdot:] Googol may sue Google

Now that Google’s IPO is running, the company is on the verge of being sued by the family of a man who invented the word ‘Googol’ to describe a very big number.

IANAL, but since the USPTO search on "googol" doesn’t even yield a trademark in the Kasner’s name, this sounds like nonsense. (The live trademarks are for "The Googol Board" {a board game} , "Googol Gulch" {a computer program} and "The Secret of Googol." {educational tapes}). OTOH, it’s relatively easy to search on "google" to find their duly registered trademark.

Best Slashdot comment so far:

Where’s parker Brothers in all this? (Score:4, Insightful)

by amichalo (132545) on Tuesday May 18, @09:07AM (#9182327)

You don’t see Parket Brothers suing Microsoft of the word “Monopoly”.

But seriously, our society is WAY WAY WAY too litigious and opportunistic for anyone’s good. On what grounds based in reality does the family of the man who invented the word “Googol” have to the Internet search engine company?

Google even has it’s own dictionary entry - two actually, V and N

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DMCRA Hearing Wrap-up [8:39 am]

A couple of links to notes on the DMCRA Hearing of last week

Also, Support These Congresscritters! give me an excuse to post the text of a letter that I got in yesterday’s mail from my representative, sent in response to an e-mail I sent his office last week in advance of the HR107 hearing. It’s not precisely a resounding endorsement of HR107’s provisions, but it at least suggests that the dimensions of the fight are getting a real hearing:

Dear Mr Field:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding H.R. 107, the Digital Media Consumer Rights Act (DMCRA). I appreciate having your views on this legislation.

As you may know, Congress passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act in 1998 which makes it illegal for anyone to circumvent copy protection technologies. In addition, the law prohibits the creation of technologies that can be used to copy encrypted, copyrighted works. Some have argued that the DMCA is too far-reaching and will prevent consumers from the “fair use” of these materials.

The DMCRA expands the ability of consumers to make and use digital copies of copyrighted works. The legislation also requies companies to inform consumers when an audio CD contains copy protection technology that could make it unplayable in certain CD players. The bill also broadens the definition of scientific use of copyrighted material.

I believe Congress must strike a delicate balance between protecting the property of and ensuring that copyright holders are fairly compensated for their work with the need for the free flow in ideas that comes with “fair use.” Please be assured that I will follow these bills closely during the 108th Congress and I will keep your views in mind should they come to the floor of the House for a vote.

Thank you again for your comments. If my staff or I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

[signed]

Michael E. Capuano

Member of Congress

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