Yesterday, the MGM vs Grokster case kicked off in Washington – an internesting summary is available at Timothy K. Armstrong’s blog (Tim is a Harvard law student who attended the session). They’re calling this the biggest copyright ruling since the BetaMax Case (1984) that ruled that yes it was legal for people to sell equipment that is capable of recording copyrighted material (but it is still illegal for users to mis-use that equipment)
This is yet another of those bell-weather cases between multinational copyright holders and small independent distribution mechanisms. Except, err, in this case, Grokster didn’t actually distribute anything – they just wrote the P2P software that others used to distribute between themselves in a decentralized way, as opposed to the old Napster system where Napster servers were “in the loop”. The RIAA seem to be clutching every straw they can grasp at this stage – one of these days, they will have to stand up and admit the world has changed and change their business models (artist renumeration, licensing) to reflect this.
One interesting observation from Tim highlights how absurd the MGM case really is:
At least some of the Justices, Scalia in particular, seemed troubled by how an inventor would know, at the time of inventing, how its invention might be marketed in the future. How, some of the Justices asked MGM, could the inventors of the iPod (or the VCR, or the photocopier, or even the printing press) know whether they could go ahead with developing their invention? It surely would not be difficult for them to imagine that somebody might hit upon the idea of marketing their device as a tool for infringement.
Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court justices are fully informed and hand down a just ruling on this one. I hope you’re not in a rush though – it’ll be three months before they hand down their ruling!
One of these days, Sony will mass produce these and I’ll forever hate them for shortening my snoozes.
Aside, isn’t it an awful shame that Media Labs Europe has shut down – if this is the type of projects they do, I’d imagine it’d have been a cool place to work.
I’ve got to say, I’m confused by all the legal text but the way this Directive is being forced through the legislative process while so many concerns and questions remain unanswered is very unsettling.
The simple question remains – if this directive is passed and in the future I decide to develop a new product that is based on common software engineering patterns, principals and designs, will I spend more time and money checking to make sure I am not violating existing commercial software patents than building the product itself? Will we need to redefine pair programming to be a laywer<->programmer symbiosis? How competitive do you think this will make EU software companies?
Will the open-source community be able to survive (empty?) threats of legal action from large multinational corporations?
Or would you all prefer to work for souless multinationals for the rest of your lives?
At this stage, it looks like an uphill task to get a qualified majority of the European Parliament to reject the second reading but if you get a free moment, try to register your views. Read this, then find your local Irish MEP (or go here to find listings for other EU Parliament Offices).
I’m too busy at work right now but I did get a response from the EU Commission regarding my earlier query). They send me a .tiff scan of a document – very clever. I’ll post a copy later, but in the meantime, this might be of interest. The reply referenced a transcription of the speech McCreevey gave to the EU Parliament when handing the directive back to them for second reading. In the speech, Mr Mcreevey clearly states:
The Commission proposed to clarify the legal rules on patentability for software-related inventions. This does not include computer programmes or other software as such. It means inventions which make a technical contribution and which are truly novel.
Such inventions are present in a number of everyday consumer goods such as cars, mobile telephones and domestic appliances. The Commission’s intention in making its proposal was to avoid patenting of pure software and clearly differentiate the EU from the US. Nothing that is not patentable now will be made patentable by the directive.
The current rules in the European Patent Convention are out of date and leave a very wide decision-making power in the hands of patent examiners. There can be different interpretations as to whether an invention can be patented. This leads to uncertainty for businesses and small and medium-sized companies in particular are negatively affected by the lack clarity in the existing rules.
I can’t wait to catch up on the whole saga (I’ve been away on vacation in beautiful Barcelona) but I thought this was too good not to post in case it hasn’t been referenced elsewhere. How much truth is in these words will emerge, I’m sure, with time.
There is something fundamentally odd about The National Public Toilet Map of Australia. To be fair, if one is incontintent and has a web ready PDA this is probably useful. But the rest of us can only look and wonder.
Oddly, you can Register and subsequently while browsing you can “Add to my toilets”. The website uses some common icons:
- – Male.
- – Female.
- – Wheelchair acessable.
But what’s this one for?
- My guess is it’s a bush loo!
I’m not intending to poke fun at the incontenent here (God knows it could happen to me someday) so I’m sure those who comissioned the site had good intentions. However, they should stand back and check if the result matches the real requirements of the incontinent, or just gets close because it was implemented on an off the shelf product designed to locate commercial facilities in a, emm, less urgent manner. I mean, c’mon, more than likely someone will need this information when they are not prepared – what are they supposed to do find the nearest access point first? Perhaps a freefone information phone line might have been a better option.
That said, the site is ranked 3rd in Google for the search term “map australia” (the one I was using, I swear!) so someone must be using it!
My work laptop has slowed down a lot recently and I’ve been trying to figure out why – most of the slowdown seems to be because the machine seems to be doing a lot more disk I/O – it has one of those noisy laptop HDDs and I can hear it crunching away more than ever, even when I’m not really doing anything.
It appears that Thunderbird’s mbox format, render them in the familiar list/web page format.
Here’s the rub – I also do frequent builds on my laptop that typically involve creating vast qualtities of small files (classes, JavaDoc, jars, generated WSDL etc). If GDS insists on indexing each generated file it slows things down considerably. I know I can turn the crawler off for 15 minutes but what I really want is a way for it to switch itself off whenever I’m interacting with my machine.
What I’d really like to know is, is there any way to get the GDS to stop running while I’m actively using my PC? This is really something I’d expect to be there, just like screensaver wait.
In the meantime, I’m going to try adding some directories to the “Don’t search these items” option in the Desktop Search preferences page. Hopefully that will stop it from slowing things down.
Other solutions welcome…
It had to happen eventually – Sony have started to get their act together and are releasing some very nice flash based Mp3 players this NW-E507
Take note Apple, 50 hours battery live (3 hours after a 3 minute charge!), a 3 Line OLED display and an FM tuner – the three features missing from the iPod Shuffle.
Take note Sony, come up with some cute names for your models, nobody will remember “NW-E507″.
Side by side this kicks the iPod Shuffles ass but Apple won’t be too worried until Sony have a Music Store. Oh wait what’s this. Ah then, any minute now…
Exactly how they did this seems to be very interesting indeed – did the Luxemburg Presidency contravene the EU Council’s rules in a bid to avoid changing the A-item status of the directive to that of a B-item?
The reasoning offered for pushing the directive:
“so as not to create a precedent which might have a consequence of creating future delays in other processes”
In the face of concerted opposition (by the European Parliament no less), does that stand up as a democratic reason for pushing this directive through? I think not.
A week ago, I sent a casual email to the office of the Internal Market and Services Directorate General asking for some information regarding the process. Did I get a response (even an automated PFO?) – you guess:
From - Tue Mar 01 12:18:36 2005 X-Mozilla-Status: 1001 X-Mozilla-Status2: 00800000 Message-ID: Date: Tue, 01 Mar 2005 12:18:35 +0000 From: John O'Shea User-Agent: Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0 (Windows/20041206) X-Accept-Language: en-us, en MIME-Version: 1.0 To: Charlie.Mc-Creevy@cec.eu.int, Oliver.Drewes@cec.eu.int Subject: Request for information regarding IMS and OHIM role in current EU comission debate on software patent directive. Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Mr McCreevy, I understand you work with both the Internal Market and Services Directorate General or the OHIM in the EU Commission. I would appreciate it if you can define your office's role in the reported decision by the European Commission to decline the European Parliament's request for a restart of the legislative process regarding the software patents directive. As a participant in the european software industry, this information would be invaluable in order to be able to gain a better understanding about how decisions are being reached in the highest levels of the EU that will directly affect the industry in which I, and my colleagues, work in. Best Regards, John.