October 20, 2004

GrokLaw on S/W Patents [10:26 am]

The Patent Conversation Continues — Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz

The elephant in the room in all software patent discussions is GNU/Linux. What about Linux? What about GPL’d software? How can the US patent system be made to fit a world that wants that software? And it does want it. Proponents of software patents need to answer that question. In Europe, they must answer it this exact minute. Because that is the real question. If you have software patents, what happens to GNU/Linux software?

I don’t see how you can have both. Sooner or later, the Patent Cold War guarantees only one software company in the world, a proprietary one, or a small club of proprietary software giants, will survive. Even Cold Wars are eventually won by somebody, you know, and the patent system is set up so that only the biggest and richest can play, and whoever has the most patents wins in the last battle. Software is math, with only so many ways to do certain fundamental tasks. Once somebody has a patent on every fundamental task, then no one new can write software. Why would the world want that?

[...] Let’s be honest. Patents are a monopoly grant with a purpose, and the purpose isn’t so you can make out like bandits. The whole idea is to benefit the rest of us too while allowing you to reap a fair reward for your labor for a limited period. Where, though, is the benefit to the public in the current system? I see the benefit to large companies, but where is the benefit to small and medium companies? The best they can hope for, under the current system, is to be bought by a bigger fish, and that isn’t everyone’s dream, you know.

What about all the programmers in the world who simply love to write Linux? They do it because they enjoy the creative challenge, and money isn’t the object of it all. That’s the real reason SCO can’t seem to find any infringing code in Linux, by the way. There is no fun in copying code, to those whose motivation is the creative challenge of writing beautiful code.

Where is the benefit to the public, if GPL’d code is not allowed to exist, merely because its authors don’t have millions or billions of dollars to play Patent Cold War?

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Craig Barrett on the Political Debate [10:15 am]

Intel CEO: Candidates Ignore Tech Debate

Intel Corp.’s chief executive on Tuesday decried the lack of attention by the presidential nominees to how the United States is losing its competitive edge over other nations on education, technological infrastructure and research and development.

“This is what you don’t see being debated by our two presidential candidates today,” Craig Barrett told several thousand workers from the high-tech industry at the Gartner Symposium ITXPO at Walt Disney World.

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The Evolution of Computer Gaming? [10:11 am]

Screen Sizzlers

Get ready for video games gone wild this fall: Several mainstream game publishers are releasing bawdy games containing nudity and explicit sexual content. “The Guy Game” and “Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude” are already out. An adults-only “Singles: Flirt Up Your Life” is being sold online, with a toned-down M-rated version on the way. November will bring “Playboy: The Mansion” and “Rumble Roses,” the first all-women’s-wrestling game, featuring unquestionably dirty moves.

These are the raciest games ever made for the mainstream market, their graphic graphics setting a precedent for a whole new sexual dimension. Some experts say it’s the next evolution in the industry, one that — combining the two hottest forms of entertainment today, video games and sex — could expand the focus of the “M” rating from bad language and violence to prurience.

Why now? Because the first gaming generation has grown up. The $7 billion-a-year video game industry now caters to players whose average age is 29, not the nerdy teen stereotype, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Yet 85 percent of all games sold in 2003 were rated “E” for everyone or “T” for teen.

“It would be naive to think, given that market,” says ESA President Douglas Lowenstein, “that forevermore video gaming would be a completely pure and chaste field.”

[...] Explicit content can make for marketing headaches, including getting approval from the three big console makers — Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo — who have final say on which disks spin on their systems.

Majesco’s Gold says many publishers are hesitant to make sexual-content titles because they would have a limited distribution base beyond video-game stores and the Internet. “You know it is not getting into Wal-Mart and Target,” he says.

And some critics fear that video gaming’s naked ambition will take Pong to porn.

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VoIP To Get FCC Oversight [10:06 am]

Unsurprisingly, FCC to Seek Internet - Based Phone Oversight

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Tuesday that he would seek broad regulatory authority for the federal government over Internet-based telephone services to avoid stifling the emerging market.

[...] “There is no need to organize a regulatory regime around permits and prices and costs as we have done for nearly a century with common carriers,” Powell added.

Umm, and we’ll just have to hope this isn’t a “we had to destroy the village to save it” quotes.

Slashdot commentary: FCC Insists Feds Should Regulate VoIP; later - the Washington Post roundup of online articles: Figuring Out the Rules for VoIP

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OT: The Times Gets Around To Jon Stewart [9:47 am]

No Jokes or Spin. It’s Time (Gasp) to Talk. Of course, there’s better sources.

Later: Now there’s a backlash, with this as an emblematic bit: If You Interview Kissinger, Are You Still a Comedian? [pdf]; also see the Slate followup: Silence, You Fool!

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Larry’s Political “Spam” [9:15 am]

Got an e-mail today from Larry Lessig about P2P-Politics.org (hopefully the python problems will get resolved soon — *fixed*)

A bunch of us have put together a p2p-politics.org site which I’d be grateful if you could look at, and more importantly, pester the campaigns about.

The idea of the site is to enable people to send clips — both video and audio — about the candidate they support to people they know, asking them to listen to or watch the ads sent before they vote. These ads can come from the campaigns, or from anyone who wants to make an ad for a campaign. And as this email does, the site permits people to ad text to the message.

We were very successful in collecting ads supporting Kerry. Moveon.org had a bunch licensed under a Creative Commons license we we could get automatically. And the Kerry campaign then gave us a few more to include.

But despite our repeated requests, through many channels, we’ve not yet been able to get a reply from the Bush campaign.

So here’s the request. If you go to the site (linked below) and think it worthwhile, can you send a brief email to the Bush campaign (there’s a link on the site) or the Nader campaign (if that’s your persuasion)?

If that’s too much, then enjoy (or be frustrated by) the ads I’ve selected here. They are all tied to a theme I’ve written about — the effect of this election on the next generation — inspired, no doubt, by my confronting my own next generation, now just 13 months old.

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