Monthly Archives: November 2004

A New, Kinder, Gentler IP

  • WIRED: Battling the Copyright Big Boys Lobbyists for movie studios and record labels have long dominated the copyright discussion in Washington, using their power and influence to help craft law favorable to their interests. Now, a group of citizens in favor of a more consumer-friendly copyright policy have formed a political action committee in hopes that the interests of the public can be served, too. “Copyright is supposed to be a balance in the Constitution,” said David Alpert, president of IPac, which launched about a month before the 2004 election. “The government should not be in the business of preventing technology changes just because some companies are afraid it might hurt their existing business models.”
  • It is good to see a group of citizens organizing to protect the rights of consumers. Currently, all the lobbying power lies with the large recording companies and media comopanies. IPac does not condone illegal copying, but it believes that the rights of consumers and innovators should be protected in IP law. One rotten apple should not spoil the pie.

  • WIRED:Battling the Copyright Big Boys The group says it believes that intellectual property laws should be clear so technologists can innovate without being sued.
  • Wiki-what?

  • WIRED: Wikipedia Creators Move Into NewsAfter doing much in recent years to revolutionize the way an encyclopedia can be built and maintained, the team behind Wikipedia is attempting to apply its collaborative information-gathering model to journalism. Through a new effort, Wikinews, members of the open-source community who write and edit Wikipedia’s encyclopedia entries are encouraged to test their skills as journalists. The news site follows a similar set of rules as the encyclopedia, which allows anyone to edit and post corrections to entries, so long as each change is recorded.
  • Wikis are the latest and greatest way for communities to interact and contribute to content on a website. Individuals are kept in line by the fact that anyone can edit your contribution if they feel it is out of line. Records are kept of who edited what, and deviant behavior can be punished by removal from the community. But, the fear of being silenced by others removing your content is usually enough for most.

    Wikinews brings the idea of wikis to the news frontier. This is similar to what bloggers have been doing with reporting local and first hand news. However, Wikinews is trying to keep a neutral voice, whereas most blogs bring opinion to the table. Many people use blogs and rss feeds to keep up on what is happening in the world and in industries. It will be interesting to see if the use of a wiki to aggregate news content has any affect. The corporate news organizations should be watching closely.

    Does the US Intellectual Property Policy Work for Software?

  • James Boyle: A natural experiment Imagine a process of reviewing prescription drugs which goes like this: representatives from the drug company come to the regulators and argue that their drug works well and should be approved. They have no evidence of this beyond a few anecdotes about people who want to take it and perhaps some very simple models of how the drug might affect the human body. The drug is approved. No trials, no empirical evidence of any kind, no follow-up. Or imagine a process of making environmental regulations in which there were no data, and no attempts to gather data, about the effects of the particular pollutants being studied. Even the harshest critics of drug regulation or environmental regulation would admit we generally do better than this. But this is often the way we make intellectual property policy.
  • US IP policies do not seem to be working in the way intended for software. Huge companies, such as Microsoft, have patented many aspects of software, and have the financial backing to use their patents to bully competitors. Developing countries, such as China, have a huge problem with illegal copying of software. P2P and music swapping is unlikely to die anytime soon, even with the lawsuits against end users. Open source seems to be thriving, but has its own set of problems. The IP system may limit the true aspects of innovation which it hopes to protect, so what is the answer for fixing it? Should patents for all types of uses be treated the same? Is a movie the same as software which is the same as a part for an automobile? The digital revolution has blurred the lines, and I believe the system will need to continue to evolve to protect who it should while still feeding the innovation this country thrives on.

  • WIRED: File Sharing Growing Like a Weed While the music industry attempts to shutter peer-to-peer services in court and in Congress, one company is using P2P networks to promote and pay artists. Shared Media Licensing, based in Seattle, offers Weed, a software program that allows interested music fans to download a song and play it three times for free. They are prompted to pay for the “Weed file” the fourth time. Songs cost about a dollar and can be burned to an unlimited number of CDs, passed around on file-sharing networks and posted to web pages.
  • Maybe a policy based upon this type of system could work? It certainly would be nice to sample software before you have to pay for it. You would be more likely to be loyal to the software companies you did buy from.

    Another possibility is the Creative Commons copyright, which allows you decide how to share your content and how it can be used by others.

    Maybe a Spark of Life at the End of the Tunnel…

  • Q & A: What the Fall of the Dollar Really Means For the seventh time in a month, the U.S. dollar hit a record low against the euro Wednesday, falling to $1.3160 from $1.3086 late Tuesday. In recent months, the U.S. dollar has also lost ground to the yen and the Canadian dollar. Most of us know that when the value of the dollar falls, we end up paying more for imported goods. But how else does this affect the U.S. economy? We turned to Mark Zandi, chief economist for the consulting firm, for a primer on what the dollar’s fall really means.
  • It looks like there may be a few good things with the fall of the dollar. 1) US consumers may become more responsible and increase their savings, 2) The US economy will begin to produce more than it consumes, strengthening the economy for the long run, 3) The government will be forced to be more fiscally responsible, 4) US products will become cheaper for foreign consumers to purchase, which will increase spending on US products.

    That’s the good news. However, it will take a period of adjustment to get there. Time to save and lock in fixed rates on any long term loans. And hold on to your hat, it’s likely to be quite a ride…

    Doom & Gloom?

  • Boston Herald: Economic `Armageddon’ predicted. Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish. But you should hear what he’s saying in private. Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity. His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic “armageddon.” Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach’s presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, “it struck me how extreme he was – much more, it seemed to me, than in public.” Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that “we’ll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.”
  • Now I try to be as positive as the next American. But this Administration’s blatant disregard for the economics of our unborn grandchildren really has me concerned about our own economic future. With the upward spiral of the national debt, and many wondering if we’ll ever pay it all back by the time we’re done with this war, I wonder if we’re not about to see the 70s and 80s all over again. Is it time to trade in the gas guzzling SUVs for a fuel efficient hybrid compact? Maybe not quite yet, but I think I’ll hold on to the mortgage rate I have and hunker down with as little debt as possible. At least for 4 more years….

    Microsoft vs. Linux

  • CNet: Ballmer attacks Linux on Patent Front Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer warned on Thursday that Linux may not really be free given the intellectual-property risks that could be posed by the open-source operating system. Answering questions after a speech to government officials in Singapore, Ballmer noted that entities using Linux could be opening themselves up to intellectual-property litigation. “There was a report out this summer by an open-source group that highlighted that Linux violates over 228 patents,” Ballmer said at the company’s Government Leaders Forum event.
  • Microsoft will do almost anything to stop the onslaught of Linux into their marketshare. They’ve already lost some government contracts to the open source operating system. They have the money and political clout to take on Linux companies in the patent arena. Even if they are innocent, many companies do not have the cash to defend themselves in court against the OS Giant.

    Microsoft got off with just a handslap in the anti-trust arena, who is going to stop them now? Will innovation and customer choice suffer?

    Google Still a Good Investment?

  • AP: Google co-founders, CEO to sell up to 16.6 million shares Google Inc. co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin each plan to sell up to 7.2 million shares of their stock in the online search engine leader during the next 18 months — divestitures that would generate windfalls of more than $1 billion apiece at current market prices.
  • Well, so much for the good investment. Ok, I can see selling off some of your stock to take advantage of your high stock prive, but 7.2 million shares seems quite greedy. Of course this is only a share of what Larry Page and Sergey Brin own, but what type of message does this send to your stockholders and employees?

    CMS – Web Impact’s Prism

    Prism by Web Impact Web Impact has a content management system called Prism, which I demoed a few days ago. It includes a library of templates, designs and stylesheets, which you can add to or extend. The membership controls allow registration on the web pages and can control access to content by page. By using personalization, a user may choose what topics they are interested in and how much they interest them by using a percentage. Web designers can tap into that percentage for serving up special content. This personalization can also be extended to enewsletters or email blasts. On the back end, content managers can share content across pages. Pages can be moved, cloned or ghosted, with the security that does not allow masters to be deleted when children still rely on them. Prism tracks versions and stores all its content in XML. Prism will help with the migration of data by writing scripts to migrate content over with q&a testing.

    Prism’s pricing is based upon either purchase or lease of their software. Leases are based upon monthly pricing of number of sites supported and features desired. Pricing for purchase is similar and yearly continual support is available.