September 7, 2006

Software/Method Patents [3:19 pm]

Let’s take it, to the limit, one more time.” How long will this continue? Microsoft Applies for Language Technology Patent

The method to be patented includes receiving a verb in a base language; identifying verb forms in the target language using a translation of the received verb from the base language to the target language; and displaying the identified verb forms in the target language.

[...] Microsoft’s move is sparking criticism. Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, said this is just another example of how “completely out of control” the patent system is.

“Not only have our pro-patent courts and lawmakers expanded patent eligibility to include literally anything, including conjugating verbs, but they’ve also said that doing something that was already known with the use of a computer can make it a new—and thus patentable—thing,” he told eWEEK.

Application #20060195313 — Method and system for selecting and conjugating a verb

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Privacy in a Public Space (updated) [11:12 am]

Still interesting to see what triggers a reaction in this space, and what goes completely unremarked — in this case, a design decision that “breaks” the working metaphor, with unsurprising fallout: Web social site Facebook hit by privacy protests - pdf

Facebook.com, the No. 2 U.S. social network site that is quickly expanding beyond its college student base, has been met with a sudden privacy backlash by users after it made design changes this week.

[...] [T]he Facebook reaction is fueled not because it revealed any new personal data about its users. Rather, the change simply makes it easier for friends to track one another. “Stalking is supposed to be hard,” a Facebook user complained.

“News Feed is just too creepy, too stalker-esque, and a feature that has to go,” reads the petition of the newly formed “Students against Facebook News Feed.”

Nonetheless, the outrage mingled with tongue-in-cheek humor as evidenced in the name of a related protest site: “The Coalition to Stop Facebook, Stalker Edition.” Both groups can be reached only by registered Facebook members at: (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2208288769).

From the Washington Post - In Online Social Club, Sharing Is the Point Until It Goes Too Far - pdf

“It’s really creepy,” said Jenny Myers, who graduated this year from American University and works in Washington. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, putting people’s information out there, even small things.”

That might be a shift in thinking among 18-to-25-year-olds, said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, a Michigan research firm that studies privacy. “On the one hand, they’re complacent about posting photos but really active and protesting when their information gets posted in a news feed.”

Later: Saying It ‘Messed Up,’ Facebook Modifies Controversial Feature - pdf

Even later: When Information Becomes T.M.I.

Some Slashdot background: Patriot Act Bypasses Facebook Privacy (2006 Jul 11); Facebook Launches Developer API (2006 Aug 17); Facebook Changes Provoke Uproar Among Users (2006 Sep 05); Facebook Scrambles after Unexpected Privacy Fumble (2006 Sep 08); and Social Networking Goes Big Business (2006 Sep 11)

Later: Another object lesson — Few are laughing over sick online joke - pdf

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An Imaginative Legal Strategy [7:48 am]

A test of how far the courts are going to be willing to take the notion of property rights in intangibles, and what is alienable: Owning O.J. - pdf

In what looks like one truly inspired piece of lawyering, Fred Goldman — the father of Ron Goldman, murdered a dozen years ago along with O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole — is going after O.J. Simpson, again. Make that, still.

[...] But consider: Simpson says he’ll never hand over Dime One to the Goldmans. He moved to Florida, where the law protects his half-million-dollar-plus house from court rulings. [...]

So how can Goldman lay a finger on him?

That’s the beauty part: Goldman wants the court to award him Simpson’s publicity rights: Simpson’s name, his image, his likeness — anything that cashes in on O.J. Inc.

[...] When I talked to [Continental Enterprises' Karl] Manders on Wednesday, he told me, “I would give anything to see O.J. Simpson’s face” when he heard about this. “It does strike at the heart of what’s important to him. Our opinion is: The only thing that’s important to Mr. Simpson is Mr. Simpson.” If the court grants this request, “every time he signs his autograph, that name is the property of the Goldmans. The moment it comes off the pen, it’s no longer his.”

Years ago, Manders says, he worked out the deal that let John Wayne give his publicity rights to his children before he died, “so the concept of a person walking around who doesn’t own his own likeness is not so strange.”

And intellectual property “is property like any other property. It’s bought and sold and transferred every day, especially in Los Angeles — that’s what the city’s built on.”

Findlaw has the motion

A later thought — if the Goldman’s win, imagine what kind of products they might elect to lend Simpson’s image to. They could simultaneously make money while absolutely shredding the remnants of his reputation.

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Hilton Satire [7:27 am]

Nothing like aiming at an easy target: Prankster ‘Remixes’ Hilton’s CD - pdf

As if it weren’t disappointing enough that Paris Hilton’s album “Paris” sold a lackluster 75,000 copies in its first week of release, a British guerrilla artist named Banksy has taken it upon himself to add insult to her injurious pop foray.

Earlier this week, he staged an elaborate practical joke-cum-art piece lampooning the socialite-heiress’ debut musical offering — as well as the disposable nature of pop idolatry itself.

[...] The artist also enlisted the help of Danger Mouse, the Grammy-nominated producer behind the groundbreaking hip-hop/psychedelia/R&B duo Gnarls Barkley, for a 40-minute “remix” of “Paris.” A news release from Danger Mouse’s management company quotes the artist-producer explaining the collaboration by saying, “Its [sic] hard to improve on perfection, but we had to try.”

itv’s article has a few more details - Banksy strikes Paris debut

A spokesman for HMV said the chain had recovered seven CDs from two Brighton shops.

“The album hasn’t been selling that well so we managed to find three in one store and four in another because there weren’t that many on the shelves,” he said.

“We’re planning to auction them, because presumably they’ll be worth quite a bit and highly collectable.

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