Thursday, December 29, 2005

Bad software patents again

Greg Aharonian has named the worst software patent of the year in his PATNEWS mailing list, and I must say that I thoroughly agree with his choice. Behold U.S. Patent 6,910,071, which protects a "Surveillance monitoring and automated reporting method for detecting data changes". Sounds impressive, right? Here is the abstract:

A surveillance monitoring and automated reporting method is used for detecting observable changes in data sources over a network, such as the internet, for accessing changing data, such as world wide web content data, and for providing scheduled change detection notifications and results through user defined search criteria for automated monitored search criteria matches on a recurring basis by user defined scheduling. The method extracts content data from the data sources and updates a master database, then detects changes in the content data within the search criteria. Upon detection, the user is notified using graphical interfaces, electronic mail messages, pager messages, or personal data assistant messages.
Wait a second. A patent for a system that detects changes in database and sends a notification? This is beyond obvious, any database worth its salt will come with such a notification procedure. Not only that, imagine that any sort of notification of changes already in existence will be infringing.

And they ask why so many people are opposed to software patents.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Creative Commons and real life

What happens when works licensed under Creative Commons hit real life? My theory is that CC is no different to any other type of licensing in principle, and that posting stuff online will always leave one open to abuse, be it with proprietary or non-proprietary works.

This is brought by the interesting case of the mobile phone pictures of the London Underground bombings in July, which travelled the world via blogs under a Creative Commons licence. This was a great example of the power of open licensing and the advent of the "citizen journalist". Now the pictures have appeared in Time's Pictures of the Year feature, but one image is credited to the author and Gamma, a wire-photo agency. The question is now, how can they claim any sort of ownership over the picture?

This comes at the same time that Lessig has expressed some concern about the incompatibility between copyleft licences.

Interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

alternative wikipedia edited by experts

According to The Register, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger is to launch an alternative Wikipedia that combines the best of both worlds: wide public input edited by hired experts.

This is definitely something to be curious about and it will be interesting to see how this approach works out.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

SCRIPT-ed December issue now online

The latest issue of SCRIPT-ed is now online. Here are the contents:

- The Adelphi Charter; John Howkins.

Special Feature
- Intellectual Property, Competition and Human Rights: the past, the present and the future; Abbe Brown and Charlotte Waelde.
- Intellectual Property Rights, Competition Policy and Innovation: Is There a Problem? Paul A. Geroski.
- The Interface Between Intellectual Property Rights and Competition in Developed Countries; Valentine Korah.
- Human Rights and Competition Law: Possible Impact of the Proposed EU Constitution; Neil MacCormick.
- Towards Utopia or Irreconcilable Tensions? Thoughts on Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Competition Law; Hector L MacQueen.
- HUMAN RIGHTS-Relevant Considerations in respect of IP and Competition Law; E.S. Nwauche.

Peer-reviewed articles
- Socially responsible intellectual property: a solution? Abbe E. L. Brown.
- Of Otakus and Fansubs: A Critical Look at Anime Online in Light of Current Issues in Copyright Law; Jordan S. Hatcher.

Book Reviews
- Human Rights in the Digital Age; Mathias Klang and Andrew Murray (eds). Reviewed by Nicholas J Gervassis.
- The Data Protection Directive and Medical Research across Europe; Deryck Beyleveld, David Townend, Ségolène Rouillé-Mirza and Jessica Wright (eds). Reviewed by Jane Kay.
- A Handbook on the GATS Agreement; World Trade Organization. Reviewed by Christine Riefa.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What does Nature's Wikipedia study reveal?

This week Nature published a study on the reliability of Wikipedia in comparison to the Britannica encyclopaedia. 50 science articles were chosen from both encyclopaedias and send for "blind" peer review. The result from 42 returned usable reviews: Britannica turned up 123 errors, and Wikipedia 162.

In regards to this outcome, Nature titled: "Internet encyclopaedias go head to head."

This is definitely a big success for Wikipedia and many have seen it in this way. But others interpret the study in a different way. The Register for example puts it this way: "Wikipedia science 31% more croncy than Britannica's". It points out that "there are errors and there are errors" and that no one should draw firm conclusions without a closer look at the reviews. The Register also suggests that Wikipedia will probably prove more unreliable in the fields of social science and culture.

These are excellent points and it would be too hasty to celebrate Wikipedia's victory over Britannica. But the most staggering about this all is: why does Britannica turn out with 123 errors, an average of 3 errors per article? Does this mean Britannica is doing very bad, or does it only reflect that knowledge is difficult to grasp, constantly changing and more a matter of agreement than of cognition? If the latter would be the case, 162 "errors" in 42 articles wouldn't be that bad.

And another point to think about: Presuming that knowledge is a product of peer production in the broadest sense, an encyclopaedia based on peer production might be the perfect tool to represent this knowledge. If it will be able to attract more and more qualified authors and get rid of those who deliberately vandalise the articles, future headlines might be something like this: "Wikipedia far ahead".


Monday, December 12, 2005

Flooding peer-to-peer networks firm fails

A firm dedicated to flooding P2P file sharing networks with fake copies has been shut down. Overpeer was a company that started filling networks with copies that did not work in order to make it difficult for users to find music. They were initially paid by the music industry, but the networks never really suffered from the service because they were always available, and many included rating systems.

Friday, December 09, 2005

If you can't beat them, sue them

Creative is threatening to enforce a patent that they own on a system to navigate music on a digital player. Unfortunately the news source does not have the patent number. This seems like just another way of beating your competition. If their product is more popular, find a broad patent and sue them into submission.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Two studies on open source and public domain

WIPO has published a study entitled "A Primer on Open Source Software for Business People and Lawyers". Seems ineresting and I will read when I am back.

Another interesting report has been produced by the The Brennan Center, called "Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control". Another one to read.

France is planning to enact strict copyright law soon

After taking time implementing the EC copyright directive 2001, France is now planning to force the copyright and neighbouring rights in the information society bill (DADVSI) through parliament using an emergency procedure. Due to heavy lobbying from the copyright industry, French copyright law may become the strictest in Europe (BoingBoing).

For the French copyright and neighbouring rights in the information society bill, click here.

For more information, click here.


Monday, December 05, 2005

UK Treasury to conduct IP study

(First seen on IPKat). A new study from the Treasury on the impact of IP to the UK economy has been announced. While this has to be welcome, it is worrying that the people who drafted the report on the website are unaware that fair use is an American legal term, and that it does not exist in the United Kingdom.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Costa Rica

I'm off on annual leave to Costa Rica. I will be posting as often as possible with technology news from tropical climates.

Creative Commons Scotland licences go live

Creative Commons Scotland licences are now available in the Creative Commons website. The licences are the end result of the outstanding effort and dedication of Jonathan Mitchell QC, who has drafted and pushed for the licences tirelessly. Jonathan must be applauded for making this launch possible.

This blog is now licensed under a CC-SCO BY licence.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Build your own web

(Thanks to Arne for the link) After the news that ICANN is to remain in control of the web (was there ever any doubt they would?), there are people out there asking whether this should be the case. There is an alternative, build your own root nameserver. The internet currently works with 13 root nameservers,which make up the backbone of the current domain name system. The root is distributed, but eventually the control is in ICANN. The current system allows only for the top level domains and country top level domains that we know and loathe (.com, .org,

Dutch company UnifiedRoot provides an alternative root system that allows for the existence of ad hoc domain names, such as parking.schiphol and news.cnn. They have already sold several names, but the question must be asked, is this feasible? The whole point of having a new internet is that they need to be updated in DNS servers around the world. To do this, ISPs will have to include a set of addresses into their tables. I tried with my home ISP and with the University of Edinburgh's, and neither recognise the set of UnifiedRoot addresses. I could do this manually by adding their DNS servers into my own server list, but this is cumbersome, and would require extra steps from the user. Besides, most DNS setting nowadays are set by dynamic settings.

This is a very interesting idea, but I am still a bit sceptical about it.