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June 27, 2011

CA Ban on Sale of Violent Video Games to Minors Overturned [10:52 am]

On First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds — decision: Brown, Governor of California, et al. v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al.

Given that Breyer and Thomas each file dissents, one might expect a colorful opinion. On except from Scalia’s majority opinion:

California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers “till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.” The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales 198 (2006 ed.). Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. Id., at 95. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven. Id., at 54.

High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. [...]

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June 22, 2011

Upending Anonymity, These Days the Web Unmasks Everyone - NYTimes.com [12:17 pm]

This article went up a couple of days ago, Upending Anonymity, These Days the Web Unmasks Everyone [pdf], but now there’s also a discussion that’s worth a look. Maybe not earth-shattering, but at least it acknowledges that there are a lot of eddies in this particular swirl of internet technology and policy:

Not too long ago, theorists fretted that the Internet was a place where anonymity thrived.

Now, it seems, it is the place where anonymity dies.

The discussions:

  • The Virtues of Anonymity; Daniel J. Solove [pdf]

  • The Rage of Being Right; Philip Smith [pdf]

  • Promoting Repression; Kashmir Hill [pdf]

  • The Glue of Civility; Christine Pearson [pdf]

  • Practicing Self-Regulation; Peggy Post [pdf]

The Smith–Post axis of discussion is notable, and I am generally surprised by the frequent excuse in these articles that incivility is (mostly) thoughtless. (And Hill inelegantly raises the very important issue of what it means to delegate the interpretation of civility to institutions.)

The way I see it, the very root of incivility is almost always thoughtlessness. “Conscious incivility” evokes something entirely different — consider your likely responses to these two common situations: (1) Being cut off in traffic by an inattentive driver and (2) Hearing the car horn of the vehicle immediately behind you the split second the traffic light changes from red to green, possibly accompanied by a rude gesticulation by the driver. The first is incivility, the second is an act of aggression.

(Note that there *are* cultural referents that can matter. In Morocco, the second act listed is, in fact, common practice, because the car at the head of the line at a red light is expected to have pulled far enough into the intersection that the car’s driver can’t even see the traffic light — there, the honk of the horn is a practical requirement of all courteous drivers.)

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Apple Awarded A Patent On Multi-Touch Interface [11:25 am]

Wonder what the other capacitative display smartphones/tablets are going to do about this? From Patent 7,966,578:

Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content

Abstract

A computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display. An N-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display. In response, the page content, including the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page, is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen display. An M-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N. In response, the frame content is translated to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display, without translating the other content of the page.

Filed: December 19, 2007; awarded June 21, 2011. Via Patently Apple

As a side note, the specificity of claims is quite a hoot to read, particularly the “M” and “N” specifics:

What is claimed is:

  1. A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display; displaying a portion of web page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein [...].

  2. A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display: displaying a portion of page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein the portion of page content includes: a frame displaying a portion of frame content, and other content of the page; detecting an N-finger translation gesture on or near the touch screen display; in response to detecting the N-finger translation gesture, translating the page content to display a new portion of page content in the stationary application window, on the touch screen display, wherein translating the page content includes simultaneously translating the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page; detecting an M-finger translation gesture on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N; and in response to detecting the M-finger translation gesture, translating the frame content in the stationary application window, to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display without translating the other content of the page.

  3. The method of claim 2, where N is equal to 1 and M is equal to 2.

  4. The method of claim 2, wherein the page content is web page content.

  5. [...]

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June 15, 2011

Whom Would You Root For? [10:04 am]

Chuck Schumer giving a textbook case of crony capitalism or
Business method patents getting a bad rap. Sadly, it’s going to take work for both of them to lose but, in the long run, anything to knock business method patents is going to be my preference: Schumer Helps Banks With a Patent Problem [pdf]

The patents at issue are called “business method” patents, which cover a process for performing a task but not necessarily the technology required to make it happen. Method patents are the bane of the corporate world, and business groups say they encourage frivolous lawsuits based on faulty application of patent law.

[...] While other provisions address reviews for patents after they are issued, the language of Mr. Schumer’s provision seems aimed at banks or, specifically, “a method or corresponding apparatus for performing data processing operations used in the practice, administration or management of a financial product or service.”

The legislation is the “America Invents Act,” and the discussion here is centering on HR 1249.

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June 6, 2011

Apple WWDC Announcement of iCloud [2:56 pm]

Not sure, but it looks like Apple/Jobs have set up something that’s revolutionary in the world of digital copyright; the pending iCloud service, built into the next versions of IOS (5) and OS X (Lion), will allow users, for free, to move copies of iTunes music among digital devices. Purchased iTunes songs can only move to 10 devices, but one would assume that all other content is endlessly copyable.

Suggests that the announcements of deals with the music companies had less to do with iTunes streaming and more to do with getting something set up to avoid the copyright issue? Apparently, if you’ve ripped the song yourself, and it exists in the iTunes store, then… (waiting)… a matching process takes place and if it’s in the library, then first the song is converted to AAC DRM free (but you have to pay $25/yr — so it may be streaming-like after all) — plus no indication of the disposition of your original ripped song.

Interesting times……..

Later: The NYTimes — Apple Unveils ‘Cloud’ Music and Storage Service [pdf]

A linchpin of iTunes in the Cloud, as the new music service is called, is that Apple has reached deals with the major record labels and music publishers to license their recordings. Amazon and Google offer similar music services.

But because those two companies did not obtain licenses from the labels, users have to upload their own music libraries — and any new song purchases — to the Web before they can access them on other devices. The process can take hours, if not days, for people with large collections.

By cementing the deals with the music industry, Apple can save users that time-consuming step. What is more, Apple, which is already the world’s largest distributor of music, is expected to find a ready audience in its millions of iTunes users, virtually guaranteeing that its service will leapfrog the offerings from Amazon and Google.

This APWire story is also worth a read: Apple’s cloud music could finally make piracy pay [pdf]

The service acknowledges a well-known fact — that most music on iPods, iPhones and iPads was ripped or swapped. Apple reached a deal that gives recording companies more than 70 percent of the new fees, addressing a dark secret that has crippled the music industry, and provides them with some economic payback.

Where Apple is able to identify and match songs from its 18 million-song database, it will transfer them into the user’s iCloud, a storage area housed on servers, including those at a massive new data center in North Carolina.

“The chances are awfully good that we’ve got the songs in our store that you’ve ripped,” Jobs said.

Where songs can’t be identified — say of bootlegged concert recordings — users can manually upload them to the cloud and gain the same access.

I guess that the MP3.com name was already taken, but I’d be curious to understand what’s in the contract that Apple arranged with the music companies to avoid the things that took MP3.com down. (Update: see “Unlicensed: Are Google Music and Amazon Cloud Player illegal?“)

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