“But Nothing Can Change The Shape of Things to Come?”

Target’s latest ad-jingle-based-on-a-classic-movie-hit (Wild in the Streets, showing my age <G>) went through my mind as I read this (and also leaving me even more interested in the release of V For Vendetta): A Bit of Good News for Blair: ID Cards for Britons Advance

The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair faced down its opposition on Monday in a politically charged vote in the House of Commons on a plan to introduce mandatory national identification cards. The vote moved Britain closer to the use of such cards but did not make clear precisely when that would be.

The Really Interesting Questions Go Here

Attention in N.S.A. Debate Turns to Telecom Industry

Though much of official Washington has been caught up in the debate over the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program, one set of major players has kept a discreet silence: the telecommunications corporations.

Some companies are said by current and former government officials to have provided the eavesdropping agency access to streams of telephone and Internet traffic entering and leaving the United States. The N.S.A. has used its powerful computers to search the masses of data for clues to terrorist plots and, without court warrants, zeroed in on some Americans for eavesdropping, those officials say.

Now the companies are in an awkward position, with members of Congress questioning them about their role in the eavesdropping. […]

[…] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit privacy group, has filed a class-action suit against AT&T maintaining that the company’s cooperation with the agency is violating customers’ privacy. The suit says the company is providing the N.S.A. “direct access” to its “key domestic telecommunications facilities,” but does not offer proof.

Related: Inquiry Into Wiretapping Article Widens

Competing Interests in Patent Reform

IPMemes points to this interesting look at the fight over patent reforms these days: Patent reform in Congress drives wedge in industry [pdf]

The Patent Act of 2005, introduced in the House of Representatives in June, is intended to overhaul 50-year-old legislation that has failed to keep up with fast-moving and comprehensive changes in technology, particularly in the life sciences and information technology sectors.

[…] Everyone agrees that the system needs improving, but the venture capital industry is split on how this should be done.

The division is broadly between the life science companies, which typically depend on just one patent, and IT companies, which often rely on a raft of ideas that couldn’t be sufficiently covered by any single patent.

“Life science companies are unfundable without patents,” said Mark Radcliffe, partner in the Silicon Valley office of law firm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. “Because of the length of time it takes to develop a drug, a patent is essential for the company to be able to sell onto a pharmaceutical company.”

“IT companies have dramatically shorter timelines — products can become outdated after as little as six months or may even extend beyond a single patent, so a patent isn’t as crucial,” Radcliffe said.

Both sides have been lobbying strongly — the life scientists for a strong patent that would be harder to challenge and overturn and for which they are willing to pay, while the IT companies, often built on a collection of internally generated patents and patents licensed from other companies, would like a streamlined process making a challenge easier.

House Committee on Internet Firms and China

House to grill Web firms on censoring for China [pdf]

America’s biggest Internet companies will face questions about censoring information and stifling dissent in China from a House panel on human rights that is weighing legislation to restrict the companies’ activities in countries with repressive governments.

Executives from Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Google Inc., and Cisco Systems Inc. will testify tomorrow before the human rights subcommittee of the House Committee on International Relations. The hearing will consider whether the companies have gone too far in censoring the Chinese Internet, and handing over information about Internet users under investigation by Chinese authorities.

Note that the committee does run webcasts; you can find a link to live ones on their homepage.

Later: Yahoo! plans a preemptive presentation of its position today — Yahoo Grapples With Online Rights

In advance of what could be harsh Congressional questioning this week, Yahoo plans to issue a statement today outlining its belief in openness and freedom of speech — even when it is forced to violate those beliefs by laws in China.

Later: the NYTimes article Web Firms Are Grilled on Dealings in China

MovieBeam Gets an Upgrade

Disney upgrades video service [pdf]

Disney is relaunching the box as a separate company, MovieBeam Inc., with several new financial backers, including Cisco Systems Inc. and Intel Corp., and is expanding the service with plans to eventually make it available on laptop computers and other devices.

[…] MovieBeam plans to introduce a stand-alone antenna with a USB port that can be attached to a computer or other portable device, eliminating the need for a box.

But the real goal is to get ready for the ultimate video store end-run — allowing consumers to buy films and burn them to DVDs. ”Those rights don’t exist today, but they will be coming and we want to be a part of that,” said TresIzzard, MovieBeam’s CEO.

See also MovieBeam offers first HDTV online movie rentals [pdf]; and As an Alternative to a Trip to a Video Store, Movies Through a Set-Top Box