Mar 12, 2001

Should Patents be Granted for Computer Software? (UK)
Country Watch: Britain
3/12/2001; 9:58:13 PM

'The Government’s conclusion is thus to reaffirm the principle that patents are for technological innovations. Software should not be patentable where there is no technological innovation, and technological innovations should not cease to be patentable merely because the innovation lies in software.'

'However, the Government agrees with those respondents who said that at present the law is not clear enough, and that this is damaging. Clarification is needed. This raises complex and technical questions, but the central difficulty can be expressed simply: how to define the boundary determining when software is, and is not, part of a technological innovation, so that what is patentable will be clear in specific cases in future. The Government intends to take this matter up with its partners in the European Union and the European Patent Convention as a matter of urgency.'

I'm going to have to disagree with my non-esteemed colleagues at Slashdot, who claim that this means software is unpatentable. While it's that a western government made these statements, the amount of wiggle room in the phrase "technological innovation" remains large, as the government admits. This is hardly a clear-cut victory.

Mar 10, 2001

German Court Finds AOL Guilty of Internet Piracy
Country Watch: Germany
3/10/2001; 1:20:23 PM

'Restrictive online copyright protection may have been bolstered by a German appeals court, which has upheld a ruling against America Online (NYSE: AOL - news) that found the Internet giant responsible for pirated material swapped on its service...

'The Frankfurt district court ruling Friday upheld the determination of a Bavarian state court in Munich last April that Internet service providers (ISPs) are responsible for pirated material traded on their systems.'

Provides interesting contrast to the last story, does it not?

Mar 10, 2001

Users, vendors face off over UCITA law in Texas
3/10/2001; 12:01:45 PM

'A TITANIC STRUGGLE over the proposed new Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act -- one that pits large corporate users against a group of major technology vendors -- is under way in Texas and could become a key showdown for the controversial software licensing measure.

'The legislation, known informally as UCITA, was approved relatively easily last year in two states: Virginia and Maryland. But things are different in Texas, where opponents are moving aggressively to prevent the state legislature from passing the measure.

'The opposition has "definitely caught on," said Val Perkins, an attorney and lobbyist for the Texas Business Law Foundation, which is the lobbying arm of the State Bar of Texas, in Austin, Texas. The foundation pushed for the recent introduction of UCITA in the Texas House of Representatives and Senate. "Long before the bill was filed, members in both houses had already received a barrage of e-mails and letters expressing opposition," Perkins said.'

Mar 10, 2001

Law shelters AOL from child porn suit
3/10/2001; 11:56:38 AM 'The state Supreme Court said Thursday that federal law shields America Online from illegal transactions--in particular, the sale of child pornography--taking place on its service.

'In a 4-3 decision, Florida's high court said the Communications Decency Act gives the Internet service provider, a unit of AOL Time Warner, immunity from a lawsuit filed by a Florida woman, whose 11-year-old son appeared in a lewd videotape sold by one AOL subscriber to another.'

Wow, safe harbor actually held up, though it was still 4-3. And in what would be an extremely controversial lawsuit, no less.  I'm encouraged by this.  

Mar 08, 2001

Peer-to-Peer File Sharing and Copyright Law after Napster
General IP Issues
3/8/2001; 7:57:01 PM

'This piece is meant as a general explanation of the U.S. copyright law principles most relevant to P2P file-sharing technologies. It is aimed primarily at:

'The following discussion is meant as a general introduction, and thus occasionally glosses over some of copyright law’s more subtle nuances. At the most basic level, it is aimed not at giving you all the answers, but rather at allowing you to recognize the right questions to ask your lawyers.'

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