When I wrote an article for FSM a few years ago about 3D printing it was a big topic in the open-source community but it had not yet gone fully mainstream. If there was one thing guaranteed to make 3D printing explode onto the mainstream news media it was an item about someone "printing" a gun. That got your attention, didn't it? Mine too. It's controversial of course but it might just be the beginning of a rerun of the Napster/Piratebay episodes in the 21st century - with the inevitable debate between patent-free, non-hierarchical open-source models and patent-encumbered proprietary software and hardware. Napster was a ripple. 3D printing will be a tsunami.
The end of 2010 has been interesting. Mass defections from Oracle's OpenOffice team and the software is ported as LibreOffice. Then Mark Shuttleworth announces that Wayland is in, Xorg is out and Unity will be the next Ubuntu desktop. I was just getting my head around all that when the newswires started humming again with the news that Novell had been sold. I experienced a strong sense of deja vu and began to wonder if this was going to be a reprise of Sun's sale to Oracle and the forking of OpenOffice, one of the crown jewels of GNU/Linux.
Earlier today (March 24th, 2010), I submitted this response to the IPEC call for public comment on future Intellectual Property enforcement policy. Given the short notice (only six days!), I was not able to come up with a more detailed response, but I did want to express my dismay at the way these policies are being framed.
Some time ago I wrote an article about Jim Kent, an American biologist who used free and open software to race Craig Ventnor to the finishing line, sequencing the human genome. That was very big, cutting edge science with a global audience and reach. We live in an age when big science is done, overwhelmingly, in big businesses, universities, research labs and government laboratories. In Eric Raymond's paradigm it is the culture of the Cathedral.
Latest from the Bizarre Cathedral.
I was lucky enough to catch Kurt Denke for a short interview. Kurt is actually on vacation right now; however, he still found some time to answer my questions. For those who have been living under a rock for the last week, Kurt Denke is the owner of Blue Jeans Cable; Monster Cable attacked Blue Jeans Cable on the basis of "Intellectual Property violations". You should read Kurd Denke's response. It's a very enjoyable read, which makes you realise just how knowledgeable Kurt Denke is, on intellectual property law and on cables (!).
Here is the interview:
Sadly, there's nothing genuinely new about this story, but a recent discussion on the Fedora Games mailing list demonstrates the sort of chilling effect on innovation and impoverishment of the intellectual commons that occurs today because of a broken, outmoded US patent system and its misapplication to software. I'm at a loss for words to express how absurd these "patents" are.
Patent advocates, large successful businesses, and politicians are so enthusiastic about the patenting of software that it’s hard to accept arguments from people like the FFII and Free Software Foundation who claim that the software industry simply does not need software patents and would be far better off without them. In this article I’ll try to explain why software patents are necessary, and in the sake of fairness I’ll look at the other side of each argument. Here is the “defense of Software Patents”. I report, you decide.
I recently read an interview with Bill Hilf  (thanks to a link from Groklaw).As I read it, I realised that it needed clarifications to anybody left wondering whether Mr. Hilf’s answers are indeed objective. This article will go through the most interesting questions and answers, and will try to clarify some important points
Usually, I use this spot to rant about something, or someone that's riled me up in some way. My lack of discussion on software patents doesn't mean I agree with them, it's just that everyone else has been doing it. I couldn't see why I should do so and be seen as just another blogger with nothing better to do with my time.
Someone that has plenty of things to do with their time is Simon Phipps. He was brought into Sun to work up their Open Source strategy, and was instrumental in getting Java released under the GPL. And he still has enough energy left to be a great speaker. I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing him talk last night, where he introduced his ideas for software patent form. Let's face it - software patents are going to happen, so we might as well be constructive about it and guide it in the right direction, so it can be implemented in a manner with which we are agreeable.
In April, the Supreme Court issued two rulings with respect to patents that will have significant ramifications for software companies. The first case dealt directly with Microsoft, which won big, staving off millions in damages for patent infringement. But in the second ruling, dealing with the design of a gas pedal control system for cars, Microsoft (and the whole software industry) lost big time. However, in one of those rare cosmic moments, the FOSS movement was a major winner in both cases.
"Thus, this [Supreme] Court's precedent repeatedly sets out that software, which is nothing more than a set of instructions – an algorithm – to be performed by a computer in order to solve some mathematical problem, is subject matter that is not patentable..."
The fresh scent of hope and useless prognostication is in theair. Journalists and bloggers all over the world are cranking outtop-ten lists of the best of 2006, and the most likely or mostoutlandish predictions for 2007. Will this be the year of the flyingcar? Secure MS-Windows? Duke Nuke'em Forever? One can hope!
In early 2006, the European Commission began talking about a "final attempt" to fix the European patent system.
We heard the standard concerns about Europe's innovation gap. "How can we catch up with the Americans?" "How can we prevent the Chinese invasion?" "We need a better system of intellectual property rights." "We need stronger protection for rights holders." These noises came out of the Commission, in meetings, and speeches; we heard echoes from large software companies and the industry clubs they sponsor. SAP, in particular, began calling very loudly for a cheaper, stronger patent system.
And the focus of all these noises has been "EPLA" (the European Patent Litigation Agreement), a new system designed to make it easier to enforce patents. EPLA is not, superficially, about software patents at all. But dig deeper, and it's exactly that: a third major attempt to introduce software patents, by removing all remaining regulation of the patent industry.
A couple of weeks ago, at a very large event in Brussels, I sat and watched several government officials, from the US and EU, debate innovation policy. This sounds very grand, but what they actually said, to paraphrase, was “we want to stimulate innovation by spending money and protecting intellectual property”.
Driving innovation—but which way?
Microsoft has always had excellent timing. They know when to announce a product; they know when to begin grass-roots movements to build hype for a product; they know when to create an alliance; they know when to break an alliance. They have missed some marks, that's true. They almost missed the internet boat, but were able to quickly recover with the licensing of Spyglass, Inc's browser. Microsoft's best timing, though, has always been when and where to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.
And that brings us to Novell.
I know that many people come to the FFII—as I did—because they feel a deep sense of injustice at how the smaller players in IT are consistently squashed by special interests and monopolists. But I’m going to look at our core concern—software patents—from a different angle, one based more on economics and less on emotions.
Software bills got you down? Here at Intellectual Property Magazine (championing intellectual investment since 2012!), our studies show that the share of an average household's budget for software rental has increased from 10% to 23% from 2040 to 2056. Today our experts will share* some money-saving ideas!
*Please note a licensing fee of $50 for initial use of the ideas in this list, and an ongoing monthly charge of $5.
I am a great believer in karma. If you are generally nice then generally nice are the events that you get back. Being the school bully is only short-term fun. As you get older and your bones become more fragile then others will take over your role and trample on your head. This is also true in business. Sure you have to be hungry and competitive, but not at the cost of losing your native support along the way. Let this blog be a warning to you... wag, wag my finger is wagging.