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Current Topic: Intellectual Property

Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » U.S. Copyright May Get Harsher and Broader
Topic: Intellectual Property 1:20 pm EDT, Apr 25, 2006

The bill would increase penalties for small-scale, noncommercial copyright infringement beyond even their current excessive levels. For example, noncommercial distribution of copyrighted material worth $2500 or more would carry a maximum sentence of ten years in Federal prison. Even attempting to commit that level of infringment would potentially carry a ten-year sentence. That’s the same maximum sentenced faced by bribe-taking Congressman Duke Cunningham, whose corruption probably cost taxpayers millions of dollars. It’s also more than the average Federal sentence for manslaughter (33 months), sexual abuse (73 months), arson (87 months), fraud (14 months), embezzlement (7 months), bribery (10 months), or racketeering/extortion (72 months).

I got $10 that Marsha Blackburn cosponsors this intolerable act.

Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » U.S. Copyright May Get Harsher and Broader

Congress readies DMCA ][
Topic: Intellectual Property 7:30 am EDT, Apr 24, 2006

New technology is "encouraging large-scale criminal enterprises to get involved in intellectual-property theft," Gonzales said, adding that proceeds from the illicit businesses are used, "quite frankly, to fund terrorism activities."

Willful attempts at piracy, even if they fail, could be punished by up to 10 years in prison.

But one of the more controversial sections may be the changes to the DMCA. Under current law, Section 1201 of the law generally prohibits distributing or trafficking in any software or hardware that can be used to bypass copy-protection devices. (That section already has been used against a Princeton computer science professor, Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and a toner cartridge remanufacturer.)

Smith's measure would expand those civil and criminal restrictions. Instead of merely targeting distribution, the new language says nobody may "make, import, export, obtain control of, or possess" such anticircumvention tools if they may be redistributed to someone else.

When the Attorney General raises the specter of terrorism in the context of laws which primarily related to p2p file trading networks, its time to stop taking the Attorney General seriously. He is obviously not a serious person.

As for Lamar Smith, he is responsible for 2004's round of rock stupid DNS WHOIS legislation.

Congress readies DMCA ][

A VC: Patently Absurd
Topic: Intellectual Property 7:43 pm EDT, Apr 13, 2006

I completely agree with Brad about software patents, I think they are useless as a business tool.

Until they are abolished however, I encourage all of our portoflio companies to file for as many as they need for defensive purposes.

A VC: Patently Absurd

Dennis Forbes - DNS is full. Go home.
Topic: Intellectual Property 7:45 am EDT, Apr  4, 2006

Given that there are approximately 50 million .COM domains registered, it is indeed true that the low-hanging fruit domain names are overwhelming taken, and your chances of lucking upon an unnoticed available three-letter acronym (TLA) are close to zero, and your only recourse would be to haggle with domain speculators.

Some interesting data about the state of available domains.

Dennis Forbes - DNS is full. Go home.

Hillarious anti-open source quote...
Topic: Intellectual Property 10:39 am EST, Feb 23, 2006

"If Mozilla permit the sale of copied versions of its software, it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation, as it is difficult for us to give general advice to businesses over what is/is not permitted."

How dare you have a different approach to Intellectual Property. Now everything won't be the same and some people might have to think! Thats impossible!

Hillarious anti-open source quote...

Boing Boing: Copyright office head denounces Sonny Bono Act
Topic: Intellectual Property 1:50 pm EST, Feb 21, 2006

The head of the US copyright office has accused Congress of making a mistake by extending the length of copyright in America, calling the term "too long," and saying that Congress made a "big mistake."

Boing Boing: Copyright office head denounces Sonny Bono Act

Weapons of Business Destruction
Topic: Intellectual Property 10:08 am EST, Feb  7, 2006

Why, then, does the software industry want patents at all? Software firms, in the main, don't rely on software patent in fundamental ways—they innovate to make a better product.

There is some interesting information in this article, but there are also some conclusions I don't like. I don't think the Stallman "all software patents are bad" solution is the right answer. I've seen software patents used by entrepreneurs to sell their companies. Without them, you either have to become Microsoft or you die. Furthermore, I've certainly seen Microsoft collect on patents, from powering mice from the serial port to displaying text on television sets. I think the problems are:

1. Obvious patents are bad. The standard for obviousness used by the PTO is very, very weak. They need a completely new perspective on how to assess this.
2. Patents should not be issued for things you can't actually do, even if you might be able to do it in the future.
3. Heres a radical idea: If you could not have copied the patented product you didn't violate the patent. The ensures that obvious ideas aren't covered, and it ensures that patent trolls aren't covered either. No one is going to independently invent RSA. However, if you invent wireless email you're going to have to actually get a product out there that people might have seen before you can argue that someone might have copied you. (I realize they might have read the patent database, but they didn't. The patent database is almost completely useless. It was designed as a thing for engineers to read, and yet engineers cannot read it for fear of criminal liability lest they violate something. It should be done away with.)

Weapons of Business Destruction

Intellectual Property Evolutionists Are Wrong!
Topic: Intellectual Property 1:57 pm EST, Nov 10, 2005

NAS and NSTA do not have to endorse the Kansas Board of Education's decision to teach intelligent design. The theory isn't supported by science, and Kansas should not be able to imply that teaching it comports with NAS or NSTA standards. United States trademark law would certainly prohibit Kansas from claiming NAS or NSTA approval for its alternative curriculum. But instead, the organizations are leveraging their copyrights in the standards manuals to get Kansas to accept evolution theory.

I've avoided commenting on this discussion for a couple weeks specifically because I think the devil is in the details here, and no one talking about this has really illuminated the details to the point where I feel comfortable taking a position.

In general, I don't like the idea of copyright controlling derivative artistic works, because I think it limits people's freedom of expression, but there is a problem here. Ultimately, if you are taking a large chunk of my IP, you really aren't making a "fair use" of the material, particularly if the thing you are publishing serves the same purpose that mine does. So you need to pay me. Its impossible for the legal system to distinguish between a scenario where I refused to sell you the rights because you can't meet my price, and I refused to sell you the rights because I hate you. So ultimately, copyright holders are going to have some control over the artistic nature of derivative works. It cannot be avoided.

Furthermore, if you accept the line of reasoning that copyright should only serve a financial purpose you MUST reject the GPL, and you must at least raise questions about BSD licenses. These licenses do not require payment for a work. They simply impose a set of controls on the use of that work by others. How is that for a philosophical pandora's box? I'm not sure I'm afraid to open that box. Hence my unwillingness thus far to talk about this question.

Why is this science standard copyrighted? Does that copyright exist entirely for the purpose of control, or do they charge for it? If they charge for it, and Kansas wishes to use it almost in it's entirety but with criticial changes, is it not within their rights to refuse to sell it. Is all use of copyright for control bad?

I think the standard that we have is that you can use copyright to control, but only certain kinds of control are ok. You cannot prevent comment, criticism, etc... You can prevent the release of closed source modifications, or competitive works that are largely derivative. These balances are muddy and messy and still evolving. I don't think there are any bright lines here. I do wonder if the fair use exemptions for educational purposes might apply to Kanas in this case?

On the other hand, Its not clear that this decision by this science board is simply an attempt to stifle criticism. It may be an attempt to prevent a copyrighted work from being used to produce a competitive, mostly derivative work which the original authors object too. It may be more the sort of control that we accept rather then the sort of control that we don't accept. I don't think anyone has made a clear case about where it falls on that spectrum. More details about what is specifically going on are needed. Seems like it might make a meaty trial...

I'm not sure terms like "conservative" and "liberal" make sense in the funhouse world of artificial scarcity. But, to the degree that they do, Granick is not a copyright liberal. GPL is copyright "liberalism." Her perspective requires it's rejection. She is a copyright minimalist. A public domainer. A Copyanarchist.

Intellectual Property Evolutionists Are Wrong!

Grandpa is sued over grandson's downloads
Topic: Intellectual Property 11:32 am EST, Nov  5, 2005

The Motion Picture Association of America filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Fred Lawrence of Racine, seeking as much as $600,000 in damages for downloading four movies over the Internet file-sharing service iMesh.

Grandpa is sued over grandson's downloads

Freedom to Tinker - Movie Studios Form DRM Lab
Topic: Intellectual Property 11:37 am EDT, Sep 20, 2005

Imagine that you somehow convinced policymakers that the auto industry could make cars that operated with no energy source at all. You could then demand that the auto industry make all sorts of concessions in energy policy, and you could continue to criticize them for foot-dragging no matter how much they did.

If you were using this ploy, the dumbest thing you could do is to set up your own “Perpetual Motion Labs” to develop no-energy-source cars. Your lab would fail, of course, and its failure would demonstrate that your argument was bogus all along. You would only set up the lab if you thought that perpetual-motion cars were pretty easy to build.

Which brings us to the movie industry’s announcement, yesterday, that they will set up “MovieLabs”, a $30 million research effort to develop effective anti-copying technologies.

This commentary is entertaining but Felton is missing the point. The movie industry doesn't want DRM that prevents "piracy," they want DRM that increases the scarcity of their product as far as regular users are concerned, ala DIVX, while also preventing fair use of the material.

Freedom to Tinker - Movie Studios Form DRM Lab

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