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Archive for February, 2008

Counsel Cunningham Criticizes Patent System

From the Raleigh News and Observer:

Boosting our innovation system

Michael Cunningham

RALEIGH – Red Hat has been based in North Carolina for over a decade. As a leading provider of open-source software solutions, we’ve been able to witness and contribute to the state’s recent growth in high-technology jobs. While it is our hope that North Carolina’s future continues to be filled with this kind of development, companies must be given the tools they need to add to the state’s rich history and to create jobs for North Carolina’s future.

We, along with many other local and global companies, believe that our ability to create is being compromised by an outdated and imbalanced U.S. patent system. This issue affects all businesses, from smaller companies like us to large multi-national corporations.

The current system has not been significantly updated in more than 55 years. America’s abilities and needs have changed greatly since that time, and it’s important to have a system in place that not only adapts to these transformations, but encourages them.

Negative People Upset Me

Comedian Daniel Lyons crushed morale here at Red Hat last week with this post. It was ugly, people were bumming. They quit in droves. (I only stayed because I got a better office and joined a support group that meets where the ping pong table used to be. I’m a survivor.)

Red Hat, the single company freetards always point to when they want to prove that open source can make money, has turned into an inept cluster[NAUGHTYWORD], with nothing but bluster and bravado and a deluded belief that they’re actually a thorn in Microsoft’s paw. Bottom line: they’re the new Borland. They’re 15 years old and have been publicly traded since 1999 and last year they did all of $400 million a year in sales. Microsoft does more than $1 billion a week. That’s right. Red Hat’s entire fiscal year is a good three days for Microsoft. Last quarter the Borg added $2.6 billion in revenues — that’s six entire Red Hats. In a quarter.

There’s another measure of the hugeness of Microsoft Lyons can add to his schtick: The $1.3 billion fine imposed on Microsoft by the EU for its legendary anti-competitive practices is worth almost three Red Hats.

Good for them.

OSI’s Tiemann on Microsoft Announcement

Microsoft and standards–deja vu all over again? | Open Source Initiative

Let’s be clear: Microsoft’s lawyers have a deep understanding of open source software. They submitted two licenses to the OSI earlier this year after many years of internal discussion, deliberation, and refinement. They went through one of the most difficult gauntlets of reviews I have seen on license-discuss. They succeeded in having those licenses approved because they met all the criteria spelled out in the OSD, and because the answer to every question posed to them (within the scope of the license approval process) was answered well and to the satisfaction of all who reviewed objectively. (You can see for yourself that some people did not want to approve the licenses on the principle that Microsoft is evil, and rightly or wrongly we chose to not consider that question in the review process.) So given that Microsoft does understand the rules and requirements of open source, why would they make a major announcement about open source interoperability that so clearly violates the principles of our community?

We have shown tolerance for Microsoft as a company by reviewing and approving their licenses. Soon, I would like to see Microsoft show respect for our community by actually issuing a patent covenant that we can all embrace and applaud. Any steps that fall short of universal safe harbour look like strategic behavior against the community, and we will continue to reject that in the strongest possible terms.

Red Hat Statement on Microsoft Announcement

Red Hat News | Red Hat Statement on Microsoft Announcement

Eight years ago the U.S. regulatory authorities, and four years ago the European regulators made clear to Microsoft that its refusal to disclose interface information for its monopoly software products violates the law. So, it is hardly surprising to see even Microsoft state today that “interoperability across systems is an important requirement” and announce a “change in [its] approach to interoperability.” Of course, we’ve heard similar announcements before, almost always strategically timed for other effect. Red Hat regards this most recent announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism. Three commitments by Microsoft would show that it really means what it is announcing today:

* Commit to open standards: Rather than pushing forward its proprietary, Windows-based formats for document processing, OOXML, Microsoft should embrace the existing ISO-approved, cross-platform industry standard for document processing, Open Document Format (ODF) at the International Standards Organization’s meeting next week in Geneva. Microsoft, please demonstrate implementation of an existing international open standard now rather than make press announcements about intentions of future standards support.
* Commit to interoperability with open source: Instead of offering a patent license for its protocol information on the basis of licensing arrangements it knows are incompatible with the GPL – the world’s most widely used open source software license – Microsoft should extend its Open Specification Promise to all of the interoperability information that it is announcing today will be made available. The Open Specification Promise already covers many Microsoft products that do not have monopoly market positions. If Microsoft were truly committed to fostering openness and preventing customer lock-in, it would extend this promise to the protocol and interface information it intends to disclose today. There is no explanation for refusing to extend the Open Specification Promise to “high-volume” products, other than a continued intention on Microsoft’s part to lock customers into its monopoly products, and lock out competitors through patent threats.
* Commit to competition on a level playing field: Microsoft’s announcement today appears carefully crafted to foreclose competition from the open source community. How else can you explain a “promise not to sue open source developers” as long as they develop and distribute only*/ “non-commercial” implementations of interoperable products? This is simply disingenuous. The only hope for reintroducing competition to the monopoly markets Microsoft now controls – Windows, Office, etc. – is through commercial distributions of competitive open source software products.

Leahy and Hatch push Patent Reform Act of 2007

From a Washington Times Op-Ed coauthored by Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

Meaningful patent reform

During the course of our work in the Senate, we have often found ourselves on opposite sides of controversial legislation. While we agree to disagree on some questions that come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have long been close partners on intellectual property issues. For several years, modernizing the patent system has been at the front and center of our mutual legislative agenda. Meaningful patent reform is crucial to America’s ability to maintain its competitive edge in the world, and now — after years of careful spadework — Congress has the chance to move forward.

The Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S.1145) is the product of years of deliberation and study within Congress and by many esteemed agencies and institutions, including dozens of hearings with the testimony of scores of witnesses, extensive and substantive mark-up sessions, and hundreds of meetings and discussions with countless stakeholders representing a sweeping array of interests in the patent system.

Free Software Pays

Australian open source workers earn more money – Jobs Centre –

IT workers who specialise in free and open source software are earning more than the national average for IT, according to the results of Australia’s first open source census.

The average full time salary of respondents to the Australian Open Source Industry and Community Census was between $76,000 and $100,000, but the 10 percent working on open source full time were earning “a lot more” according Pia Waugh of Waugh Partners consultancy, which conducted the survey.

“The people who were working on free software full time were earning more than the average for the general community,” she said.

And they thought pirates were bad…

You just don’t mess with Hobbits. You don’t take their rings, and you definitely don’t trifle with their IP.

CNW Group | THE TOLKIEN TRUST | Tolkien Charity Files Suit Against New Line Cinema for Failure to pay Share of Film Revenues

The trustees of The Tolkien Trust, a British charity, have filed an action against New Line Cinema for its failure to pay a contractually required gross profit participation in the three films based on the world-famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trustees of the estate of JRR Tolkien and HarperCollins Publishers are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The suit was filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Lord of the Rings films produced by New Line are among the most financially successful films ever created by Hollywood and were released in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively. The cumulative worldwide gross receipts to date total nearly $6 billion. Notwithstanding the overwhelming financial success of the films, and the fact that the plaintiffs have a gross participation in each of the films, New Line has failed to pay the plaintiffs any portion of the gross profit participation at all.

Telco Immunity for Warrentless Wiretaps Still Uncertain

House Leaders Oppose Immunity, Reid Prepares For Extended Negotiations | Threat Level from

House leaders sent a letter to fellow lawmakers Friday saying they strenuously oppose handing amnesty to telecom companies that helped the government’s secret, warrantless wiretapping program, even as the Senate is set to approve such a provision early next week.

Perhaps in response to that letter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) filed a bill Friday that would give the two houses another 15 days to iron out a compromise without passing the expiration date on the extensive wiretapping powers handed to the Administration this summer.

T.J. Anderson & DJ Spooky

My local small town paper, The Carrboro Citizen covers remix culture. Cool.

YouTube – T.J. Anderson & DJ Spooky

Composer T.J. Anderson’s opening statement following a lecture by Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky. A rather nice intergenerational black composer moment. That’s Dr. Lyneise Williams in the middle.

Patent Failure

(Via Groklaw)

Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk

by James Bessen and Michael J. Meurer

Princeton University Press
March 2008

In the last several years, business leaders, policymakers, and inventors have complained to the media and to Congress that today’s patent system stifles innovation instead of fostering it. But like the infamous patent on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, much of the cited evidence about the patent system is pure anecdote—making realistic policy formation difficult. Is the patent system fundamentally broken, or can it be fixed with a few modest reforms? Moving beyond rhetoric, Patent Failure provides the first authoritative and comprehensive look at the economic performance of patents in forty years. James Bessen and Michael Meurer ask whether patents work well as property rights, and, if not, what institutional and legal reforms are necessary to make the patent system more effective.

For a PDF of the chapter on Software Patents click here.

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