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March 6, 2007

*Anything* For A Better Process [9:07 am]

Open Call From the Patent Office - pdf

The government is about to start opening up the process of reviewing patents to the modern font of wisdom: the Internet.

The Patent and Trademark Office is starting a pilot project that will not only post patent applications on the Web and invite comments but also use a community rating system designed to push the most respected comments to the top of the file, for serious consideration by the agency’s examiners. A first for the federal government, the system resembles the one used by Wikipedia, the popular user-created online encyclopedia.

“For the first time in history, it allows the patent-office examiners to open up their cubicles and get access to a whole world of technical experts,” said David J. Kappos, vice president and assistant general counsel at IBM.

It’s quite a switch. For generations, the agency responsible for awarding patents, one of the cornerstones of innovation, has kept its distance from the very technological advances it has made possible. [....]

Don’t miss this!

Maintaining a reliable Web-based reputation has become an increasingly pressing concern for Web companies as they seek to reassure users that they can trust the strangers they do business with online. So the designers of the new patent-review system consulted some of the Internet’s leading experts on reputation, Noveck recounted. These included specialists from eBay and Rob Malda, aka CmdrTaco, the founder of the popular technology Web site Slashdot.org.

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A Payola Settlement [8:56 am]

For this incarnation, anyway: Broadcasters Agree to Fine Over Payoffs

Under a tentative settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, four of the largest radio station owners have agreed to pay a total of $12.5 million to resolve claims that they accepted cash and other incentives in exchange for playing songs — a practice popularly known as payola.

If approved, the settlement would rank as the biggest penalty ever imposed at one time by the F.C.C. — at least until the agency levies another proposed fine, $24 million, against Univision, the Spanish broadcasting giant, which is accused of sidestepping its obligations to supply educational programming for children.

See also Payola pact could boost airplay for indie music - pdf

The Federal Communications Commission’s “pay for play” probe involved Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio Inc., Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. The radio chains, which didn’t admit wrongdoing, agreed to pay a collective $12.5 million in fines and dedicate a total of 8,400 half-hour segments to independent music over the next three years. A few details of the agreement, under which the chains wouldn’t admit wrongdoing, were still being worked on. Any settlement would require approval of the panel of commissioners.

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Positioning for the Fight [8:52 am]

I’m *sure* Microsoft’s employees are losing sleep over the plight of the benighted creators being shamelessly exploited by the evil Google: Microsoft Attacks Google on Copyright

The Microsoft Corporation, the software giant, has prepared a blistering attack on rival Google, arguing that the Web search leader takes a cavalier approach to copyright protection.

In remarks prepared for delivery on Tuesday to the Association of American Publishers, the associate general counsel of Microsoft, Thomas Rubin, argues that Google’s move into new media markets has come at the expense of publishers of books, videos and software.

Mr. Rubin’s comments echo arguments at the heart of a 16-month-old copyright lawsuit against Google brought by five book publishers and organized by the Association of American Publishers, an industry trade group.

“Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people’s content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue and I.P.O.s,” said Mr. Rubin, who oversees copyright and trade-secret law.

Hmmmm - as this BusinessWeek article (pdf) suggests, this is going to be a stretch:

Challenging Google on the Web and Apple in music are stretches for a company that critics say lacks a culture of innovation. But while nearly all the profits are from the old products, the growth opportunities are in the businesses Allard and Ozzie are igniting. [...]

See also Microsoft Attacks Google Over Book Search - pdf.

In case you aren’t sure *which* fight I’m talking about: Searching for Michael Jordan? Microsoft Wants a Better Way

Later: Google and the rocks in the web’s safe harbours - pdf

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Striking Parallel [7:55 am]

Yes, the editorial is about body parts, but the parallels to the trade in digital identity are too apt to pass up: Big business in body parts - pdf

The major objection to normalizing the tissue trade is already moot. Ethicists and policymakers worry that letting donors (or more precisely their heirs) profit from the market would encourage predatory behavior. But we’ve seen that behavior — from tissue procurement organizations looking to make a buck within the shadows of a gray market. Recent body-snatching scandals demonstrate the dangers of keeping this trade underground. In a transparent and regulated tissue market, plundering bodies would be harder — not easier — to do.

There is something inherently disturbing about slapping a price tag on a pelvis. But the question of whether it’s right or wrong to sell human tissue has already passed us by. We’re knee-deep in the body bazaar, and the only remaining question is whether individuals or corporations will set the terms of trade.

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