Nov 10, 2001

UCITA: a security threat
'THE EVENTS OF Sept. 11 taught us that our enemies are ready to take advantage of any weakness to do us harm. One weak link we have right now is UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act) and the security holes it encourages in government and corporate information systems. As a matter of national security, UCITA has got to go.'


Nov 09, 2001 || The Dog Ate My Password!
Surveillance and Privacy from Government
'I've followed the discussion on Convention on Cybercrime which was recently approved by the Council of Europe with great worry.... One of the Convention's points is that an individual might be forced to hand over his password to investigators (part of the Explanatory Report included in the above link, section 201). If this section of the treaty will not be enforced by technological means (key escrow, backdoors, etc) fighting such draconian legislation is still difficult: claiming that you "forgot" the password will most likely be construed as obstruction of justice.'

'Then I started wondering if there is such thing as "plausible deniability" of knowing your own password.'

An interesting discussion. I doubt it can be done, but still interesting.


Nov 09, 2001

Cybercrime and Patents in Europe
General IP Issues, Patents
Slashdot - '"The Council of Europe has been working on a Cyber Crime Treaty for some time. The final version is now available, and makes interesting reading." The submitter points out that treaty signers will be obligated to create legislation, as the UK already has, to force people to disclose passwords and encryption keys to the authorities. The U.S. may well sign this treaty - we've participated in the drafting process. On a slightly different note, people are up in arms because the European Patent Office has decided, apparently on its own, that software programs are patentable.'

One baby step forward, two giant steps back.

Also note that the EU Patent Office's extension also extends to mathematics: The EuroLinux article links to a French version of the text; an English version [] can be obtained by changing the "f" to an "e" (or following my link).

Here's the part on Mathematics:

These are a particular example of the principle that purely abstract or intellectual methods are not patentable. For example, a shortcut method of division would not be patentable but a calculating machine constructed to operate accordingly may well be patentable. A mathematical method for designing electrical filters is not patentable; nevertheless filters designed according to this method would not be excluded from patentability by Art. 52(2) and (3).
First, note that the Patent office, evidently not being staffed by mathematicians, believe that they have not rendered mathematics patentable. After all, "These are a particular example of the principle that purely abstract or intellectual methods are not patentable."

I see three problems with this:

  1. "Purely abstract or intellectual methods" often are algorithms. For example, we tend to express the mathematical concept of "graph reachability" as the algorithm that tells us whether a given node is reachable from another. It can be defined other ways (including second order existential logic), but we tend to think of it algorithmically first, moreso for complicated properties.

    Therefore, despite protests from the Patent Office that mathematics are not patentable, damn near every discrete mathematics definition and algorithm is patentable, or close enough that a the prospect of fighting a patent would scare anybody.

  2. The Patent Guidelines say: "A mathematical method for designing electrical filters is not patentable; nevertheless filters designed according to this method would not be excluded from patentability by Art. 52(2) and (3)."

Functions are only relevent in terms of the results. (Merely specifying a domain is rarely useful.) If one can create a mathematical concept, then proceed to creatively patent the (useful, for the Patent Office's amazingly low standard of "useful") results that can come from concept and associated functions (which are almost always an integral part of the concept), then the only useful part of the concept is effectively patented. Combine this with the next problem ->

  • An increasing amount of math is taking place on computers. For instance, the famous and importent 4-Color problem was proven by a computer. This trend will only increase over time. Therefore, there may be no difference between the abstract math and the concrete implementation, which means there is no difference between patenting math and patenting an algorithm.

  • The EU Patent Office doesn't know mathematics. (Evidence: These directives.) They honestly think that they have not rendered mathematics patentable. Unfortunately, the less you know on a topic, the more you think you know, so the authors of these guidelines are probably going to be impossible to convince otherwise.


    Nov 08, 2001

    LinkBack, Misc.
    'Of course, now that I think about it, if everyone did that, it would seriously destroy the rankings, permanently enshrining those 40 links in the list since they would be linked from every site via the RSS feed creating, in essence, an infinte loop. Interesting!'

    Quick point: I hit this exact problem (conceptually) with a project I'm working on. The answer is to tag the links in the RSS feed, and have DayPop ignore a link if it has that tag.

    Unfortunately, coming up with an XHTML tag is fairly difficult, since we'd like to place it in the <A tag itself. Probably the best thing is an obscure class value. (You can't just randomly create an attribute, because it's not compliant. Bleah.)


    Nov 08, 2001 Technology | Internet liberation theology
    'As more of the commons -- as more of the intellectual material of innovation -- is controlled, the opportunity for new forms of production is diminished. The monopolies of today sweep more broadly than the monopolies of the past. Mr. Ford may have controlled the auto industry, but he did not control the nation's roads. This is the warning in Lessig's masterly exploration of the history of the Internet and the future of innovation.'


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