Nov 01, 2000

Red Herring Trend #2 - IP
General IP Issues
11/1/2000; 1:00:11 PM

'In the year 2001 the debate over intellectual property and what constitutes fair use will intensify. Copyright owners on many levels -- from artists to multinational corporations -- will continue to aggressively protect their intellectual property by suing pirates, while consumers will find swapping illegal files so easy as to be irresistible.

'The programmers creating these file-swapping programs have no qualms about what they're unleashing. British programmer Ian Clarke deliberately designed his file-swapping program FreeNet to attack the whole notion of defensible intellectual property. FreeNet offers complete anonymity for its users, has no centralized control, and no way even to determine where files are being stored in the system (see chart Music To Your Ears).'

Nov 01, 2000

Clinton, GOP Compromise On Net Filtering
Free Speech
11/1/2000; 12:52:35 PM

'Although the government spending bill carrying a clause requiring Internet filtering on school and library computers that are federally funded is wrapped up in partisan melees, the White House and Republican lawmakers appear to have reached common ground on the filtering question.'

Turns out the Administration's objections centered on exactly which Federal dollars are to be spent on software to prevent children from seeing Bad Things. They're also apparently concerned about the use of the word "filter" and "block"... I guess the software will somehow filter and block the Bad Things without actually 'filtering' or 'blocking' them.

Nov 01, 2000

People Won't Pay For Privacy
Privacy from Companies
11/1/2000; 12:45:57 PM 'Zero Knowledge Systems seems to have finally realized a harsh truth: Internet users don't like to pay extra to protect their privacy.

'The Montreal-based firm won acclaim for its sophisticated identity-cloaking techniques, but very few people appear to have paid the $49.95 a year to cloak their online activities from prying eyes.'

Americans talk the talk, but they won't walk the walk of caring about privacy.  Almost by definition, nobody will care until it's too late...

Nov 01, 2000

BMG-Napster Deal Details
Music & MP3
11/1/2000; 12:31:56 PM

OK, so we're getting some more details on the BMG-Napster deal...

'The settlement calls for Bertelsmann's e-commerce group (BECG) to develop a paid membership service that would be separate from Napster's free 38 million member-strong free online swapping service. Presumably, Napster users will be able to purchase titles from Bertelsmann Music Group's (BMG's) entire catalog of music, while also being allowed to freely swap other titles on another area of the Web site. However, no date was announced for the new service, strongly suggesting that many details remain unanswered about this radically new business model....

'Mr. Barry stressed the new service will have a membership-based, as opposed to a subscription-based, model. "In a subscription, you pay money, you get something," he says. "In a membership model, you belong to a community, you participate in that community." He also said he expected the new service to price at $4.95 a month.'

This service will have high-quality downloads instead of user-generated junk. Sounds good so far...

'Napster must convince the other record labels that it can prevent paying subscribers from freely swapping the music they download using Napster via,, and other similar P2P sites. In July, Napster signed a research and development agreement with Liquid Audio, a Hummer Winblad-funded digital-rights management company. And just last week, BMG inked a deal with Intertrust Technologies to encrypt its entire music catalog.'

Uh-oh... nobody's proven this is possible yet. Many claim to have solved the problem... there's also a lot of people who believe it to be fundamentally impossible. I would say this could become a major sticking point in the future.

Nov 01, 2000

Suit Turns the Tables on Patent Critic
11/1/2000; 9:59:30 AM

'An outspoken critic of the patent system, Aharonian regularly blasts software patents that he views as overly broad. One such patent holder has struck back.

'TechSearch -- a Chicago-based company that obtains ownership of patents and then seeks to enforce them -- filed a patent infringement suit against Aharonian in July. The company claims he is infringing its so-called "remote query communication system" patent, which covers a method for compressing and decompressing data transmitted from a server to an end user.

'Aharonian had said the patent is so broad that anyone with a Web server could be sued for infringement.

'"That's probably not incorrect," said TechSearch founder and president Anthony Brown.'

Last week, I wrote my essay section on Software Patents, in which I predicted, based on my analysis, that this sort of thing would be happening soon. It did, sooner then I thought it would. To the best of my knowlege, this is the first case where 'patent infringement' is being used to squelch free speech, and for no other reason.

Capsule summary of my essay's argument: Aharonian's "speech" includes (implicitly) the web server software, which has instructions on how to send data across the network. TechSearch has a patent on a specific kind of speech (the web server, which as software is speech as well). Because this means they have a legal monopoly on this speech, they can deny it to everyone else, and thus block speech. With this patent, they can block all speech on the web (or so they believe). This will happen more often if we do not put a stop to it.

I'm smoothing over a lot of stuff here, because it's just a summary. The main point is that patents are not balanced to work in a speech domain. This is another major reason why software patents are wrong. (In some ways, it's the root reason why patents are wrong.) Patents should not give companies the 'right' to squelch speech! is Aharonian's site.

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