[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Thursday, 2011-04-21

Microsoft gets Novell’s Patents rights but must share them with Open-Source Software

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Linux,Programming — bblackmoor @ 09:17

In response to pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (Das Bundeskartellamt), Microsoft and its CPTN Holding Partners — Apple, EMC, and Oracle — have revised their agreements so that the Novell patents will be under both GPLv2 and Open Innovation Network protection.

So what does it all mean? Andrew “Andy” Updegrove, founding partner of Gesmer Updegrove, a top technology law firm, said, “This is a rather breath-taking announcement from a number of perspectives. Among others, the granularity of the restrictions imposed demonstrates a level of understanding of open source software in general, and Linux in particular, that has not been demonstrated by regulators in the past. It also demonstrates a very different attitude on the part of both the U.S. and German regulators, on the one hand, and Microsoft, on the other, from what we saw the last time that Microsoft was under the microscope. In the past, Microsoft was more disposed to fight than negotiate, and the U.S. and the European Commission were far apart in their attitudes. This announcement conclusively places open-source software on the U.S. regulatory map.”

(from Microsoft gets Novell’s Patents rights but must share them with Open-Source Software, ZDNet)

I think this is a really interesting development. Interesting in the sense that it’s not antagonistic to consumers and developers, and that it’s not what I predicted, or even guessed might happen.

Monday, 2011-04-18

This is not a cause for celebration

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 11:58

In a statement issued on Friday, Oracle announced that it intends to discontinue commercial development of the OpenOffice.org (OOo) office suite. The move comes several months after key members of the OOo community and a number of major corporate contributors forked OOo to create a vendor-neutral alternative.

OOo is one of many open source software projects that Oracle obtained in its acquisition of Sun. OOo has long been plagued by governance issues and friction between its corporate stakeholders. Sun’s copyright assignment policies and bureaucratic code review process significantly hindered community participation in the project. Oracle declined to address these issues after its acquisition of Sun and exacerbated the friction by failing to engage with the OOo community in a transparent and open way.

A group of prominent OOo contributors eventually decided to fork the project, creating an alternative called LibreOffice. They founded a nonprofit organization called The Document Foundation (TDF) in order to create a truly vendor-neutral governance body for the software. LibreOffice is based on the OOo source code, but it also incorporates a large number of other improvements driven by its own developer community. […]

The community defections eventually made OOo financially untenable for Oracle, which is why the company has finally thrown in the towel. Oracle says that it is ready to hand over control of the project to the community, but doing so at this point would be little more than a symbolic gesture; the community has already moved on of its own accord. […]

The LibreOffice escape from Oracle is a powerful demonstration of how open source forking can be used to protect community autonomy and lock out exploitative stakeholders.

(from Oracle gives up on OpenOffice after community forks the project, ArsTechnica)

You might be tempted to applaud. You shouldn’t. We would all be better off if Oracle had participated in the OpenOffice project in a transparent and open way. Users would be better off, because Oracle brings a lot to the table, and Oracle would be better off, because they would have a foundation for their commercial Cloud Office project (which appears to have been terminated along with their participation in OpenOffice). So, we all lose here, in the short term.

However, in the long term, the project continues, under better conditions that Oracle permitted, and we all benefit from that. It’s just a shame that Oracle was so short-sighted.

Saturday, 2011-02-26

Evil panelists

Filed under: Art,Intellectual Property — bblackmoor @ 11:56

I am at Mysticon, listening to a panel on costuming photography. One of the panelists is a photographer — an evil photographer. She went on and on about copyright, and how the people she photographs have the gall to think that they have some right to the photos of them.

Then she turned around and talked about having models sign releases, so that in case the photographer asks them to stand on a glass table, and the table collapses, cutting the model to ribbons, that the photographer won’t have any responsibility. That was her example: a real model really got cut up because a photographer had her stand on a glass table, which broke.

While I was typing this, she started in again on the copyright thing.

I don’t care if she is right or wrong about the letter of the law. It’s disgusting.

Monday, 2010-09-20

Guess what? You don’t own that software you bought

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 10:51

Some disappointing news from the Ninth Circuit Court.

On Friday, 10 September, three judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, covering the nine western states of the US, handed down a decision that effectively means the end of the doctrine of first sale for commercial software. Speaking of the limited monopoly power granted by copyright law to a copyright holder, the 9th Circuit decision reads:

The exclusive distribution right is limited by the first sale doctrine, an affirmative defense to copyright infringement that allows owners of copies of copyrighted works to resell those copies. The exclusive reproduction right is limited within the software context by the essential step defense, another affirmative defense to copyright infringement that is discussed further infra. Both of these affirmative defenses are unavailable to those who are only licensed to use their copies of copyrighted works.

A fair bit of a fuss is being made over the restrictions imposed by this interpretation of the applicability of the first sale doctrine. Wired offers an article that focuses quite a bit of attention on the subject: Guess What, You Don’t Own That Software You Bought.

(from Court decision clamps down on our rights to software that we ‘own’, TechRepublic)

Thursday, 2010-09-09

European Parliament passes anti-ACTA declaration

Filed under: Civil Rights,Intellectual Property,Privacy — bblackmoor @ 18:57

Europe has its issues. Thankfully, bending their citizens over for the benefit of the media robber barons and the Digital Rights Mafia does not appear to be one of them.

Today 377 members of the European Parliament adopted a written declaration on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in which they demand greater transparency, assert that ISPs should not up end being liable for data sent through their networks, and say that ACTA “should not force limitations upon judicial due process or weaken fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and the right to privacy.”


“Written Declaration 12 is a strong political signal sent by the EP to the Commission that ACTA is not tolerable as a way of bypassing democratic processes. Legislation related to Internet, freedom of speech and privacy cannot be negotiated in secrecy under the direct influence of entertainment industry lobbies,” said spokesperson Jérémie Zimmermann. “Full rejection of ACTA is the only option.”

(from Ars Technica, European Parliament passes anti-ACTA declaration)

Monday, 2010-09-06

Obama administration does not know the difference between theft and copyright infringement

Filed under: Intellectual Property — bblackmoor @ 19:35

The head of the US Commerce Department wants online pirates to be treated just like “thieves.” We assume he’ll be calling for dramatic reductions in statutory damages, then.

(from ars technica, Obama administration: “Piracy is flat, unadulterated theft”)

Saturday, 2010-05-08

FCC hands Hollywood the keys to your PC, home theater and future

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Movies — bblackmoor @ 20:09

Cory Doctorow, one of a handful of People Who Have A Clue, reports on the recent abomination handed to the USA by the FCC on behalf of the media robber barons and the Digital Rights Mafia:

The FCC has given Hollywood permission to activate the “Selective Output Control” technologies in your set-top box. These are hidden flags that allow the MPAA to deactivate parts of your home theater depending on what you’re watching. And it sucks. As Dan Gillmor notes, “Fans of old TV science fiction will remember the Outer Limits. Given Hollywood’s victory today at the FCC — they’ll be able to reach over the lines and disable functions on your TV — the intro to the show takes on modern relevance.”

The FCC says that they’re doing this because they believe that if they do so, the MPAA will start releasing first-run movies (the ones that are still in theaters) for TV. They say that Hollywood won’t make these movies available unless they get Selectable Output Control because SOC will stop piracy.

This is ridiculous.

First, it’s ridiculous because this can’t ever stop piracy or get first-run movies into your living room. Even with SOC, the studios are not going to release high-value movies that are still in theatrical distribution for viewing in your house, where you could set up a tripod and high-quality camera (along with ideal lighting) in order to make your own camcordered copy and put it online.

Now, the FCC could have solved this by saying that only movies that are in their first theatrical release run can have SOC turned on, but they didn’t, because they knew that the MPAA was lying through its teeth about using SOC to enable the “new business model” of showing you first run movies in your home.

Second, it’s ridiculous because it’s possible in the first place. The FCC (and the candy-ass consumer electronics companies) allowed for Selectable Output Control to be inserted into your devices even though they claimed all along that they would never allow it to be used. Read your Chekhov, people: the gun on the mantelpiece in act one will go off in act three. Allowing the MPAA to get SOC in your set-top box but “never planning on using it” is like buying a freezer full of chocolate ice-cream and never planning on eating it.

If the CE companies and FCC wanted to prevent SOC from being used, the best way of doing that would be to not include it in devices in the first place.

Finally, this is ridiculous because of what it’s really for: ensuring that Hollywood gets control of all the features in your home’s devices and computers. Here’s how that works:

  • SOC only works with DRM-crippled outputs, like those locked with HDCP, DTLA, etc.
  • Now that some content will have SOC on it, every manufacturer will race to add SOC (and hence HDCP and DTLA and so on) to their devices
  • The committees that run DTLA and HDCP and other DRM cartels are absolutely in thrall to the MPAA. When I’ve attended DRM committee meetings, I’ve watched the MPAA reps tie the consumer electronics guys in knots, playing them off against each other, bullying them, dirty tricking them
  • Putting DTLA or HDCP in your devices isn’t simple: in order to do so, you have to comply with an enormous about of restrictions that the MPAA dreams up and crams into the license agreements (much of these agreements are secret, and not available for regulators or consumer to inspect)
  • Ergo: now that the FCC has allowed SOC in devices, all devices will have SOC, and since SOC comes with DRM, and since the studios control DRM licensing, and since they shove all kinds of restrictive crap into DRM licenses, the FCC has essentially just guaranteed that the future of all media will be controlled by Hollywood, to our eternal torment and detriment

Now here’s the really scary part:

I’m not just talking about TVs and set-top boxes here. This stuff is targetted squarely at operating system vendors. Both Apple and Microsoft have enthusiastically signed onto adding DRM to their OSes in order to comply with HDCP, DTLA and other “device-based” DRMs.

In the PC world, compliance with DTLA and HDCP rules isn’t just about what features the OS can have, but what features the video cards, hard-drives, network interfaces, motherboards and drivers can have.

So the FCC has just handed the keys to specify drivers and components for general purpose PCs to the thrashing dinosaurs of Hollywood. Because even your cheapo netbook or homebuilt Linux box relies on components that are manufactured for the gigantic mainstream PC and laptop markets.

Now that the mainstream component market has a new de-facto regulator at the MPAA, watch for all of those components to come with restrictions built in.

The Obama White House has done some good, but its administrative branch is stuffed with Hollywood lawyers who are Democratic Party stalwarts. The FCC has some great tech people on this, but the commissioners’ staffers who wrote this memo are either the most credulous yokels that ever met an MPAA lobbyist, or they’re in the pockets of Big Content.

(from FCC hands Hollywood the keys to your PC, home theater and future, Boing Boing)

Friday, 2010-05-07

Greed and stupidity aren’t new

Filed under: Entertainment,Intellectual Property,Technology — bblackmoor @ 14:35

Not too long ago, I made the observation that anarchists and mad bombers aren’t new, that spies and subversives are not new. We have laws that deal with these offenses, and we should be using them, rather than looking for opportunities to deprive people (even criminals and terrorists, gasp, shudder!) of their civil rights, or even of their citizenship.

Well, greed and stupidity are not new, either, and there is no finer example of greed and stupidity than the endless battle of the media robber barons (the MPAA, the RIAA, and the rest of the Digital Rights Mafia) against the people who create and enjoy media (you and me, for example). With that long-winded preface out of the way, here are five examples of “file sharing” hysteria which predate the Internet.

Wednesday, 2010-04-14

ACTA hostile to libraries

Filed under: Entertainment,Intellectual Property — bblackmoor @ 09:49

With the release of leaked versions of the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), opposition to the drafting process continues to grow. Recently IFLA issued a statement arguing that while it is appropriate for governments to act to stop commercial counterfeiting, the copyright and patent issues at stake in ACTA would be better addressed through the World International Property Organization (WIPO). They also object to the secrecy of the negotiations. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) has also been active in its opposition to ACTA, most recently joining in a letter complaining about provisions in the leaked text and issuing a statement of LCA concerns. Earlier, Janice Pilch had prepared an issue brief on ACTA for the LCA.

(from Will ACTA end the purchase of foreign titles by libraries?, LibraryLaw Blog)

As if libraries needed anything new to worry about. They already have inadequate funding for the technological demands placed on them, and inadequate space to keep classics on the shelves. Now this?

The entire concept of drafting a treaty in secret in a republic such as ours is repugnant to me — and that is assuming that the treaty itself has some merit or reasonable purpose. This treaty has no such merits. If your treaty is so hostile to the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals that even the overtly anti-freedom “World International Property Organization” (WIPO) is not invited to the table, then you have gone beyond even the everyday abuse of power and perversion of the legal system by the media robber barons to which we have become accustomed in the United States (and elsewhere).

Aaron Shaw argues that “ACTA would create unduly harsh legal standards that do not reflect contemporary principles of democratic government, free market exchange, or civil liberties. Even though the precise terms of ACTA remain undecided, the negotiants’ preliminary documents reveal many troubling aspects of the proposed agreement,” such as removing “legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers” in effect giving ISPs no option but to comply with privacy invasions. Shaw further says that ACTA “would also facilitate privacy violations by trademark and copyright holders against private citizens suspected of infringement activities without any sort of legal due process”.

So, who is really to blame for the involvement of the United States in this travesty? You are. Now go do something about it.

Thursday, 2010-04-01

New Zealand patent reform bill says no to software patents

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 19:10

I view this as good news:

New Zealand’s parliament is preparing to vote on a major patent reform bill that will tighten the country’s standards of patentability. One of the most significant changes in the proposed bill is a specific patentability exclusion for software. If the bill receives parliamentary approval in its current form, it will broadly eliminate conventional software patents in New Zealand.

(from New Zealand patent reform bill says no to software patents, Ars Technica)

You may also find this interesting:

Are Software Patents Evil?

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