22 Jul

The Word of Notch – On Patents

But there is no way in hell you can convince me that it’s beneficial for society to not share ideas. Ideas are free. They improve on old things, make them better, and this results in all of society being better. Sharing ideas is how we improve.

via The Word of Notch – On Patents. Notch (the guy who started Minecraft) has a really good piece on why patents are a bad idea. My opinion on patents has slowly changed from thinking that just software and business process patents to getting more convinced that patents in general are a bad idea.

02 Oct

Ars Technica – Verizon sues to halt FCC’s net neutrality rules

On Friday afternoon, Verizon filed its expected challenge to the FCC’s network neutrality rules, suing in federal court to stop them. Verizon claims that the agency has no authority to issue rules affecting the Internet.

“Verizon is fully committed to an open Internet," said Verizon senior vice president Michael Glover in a statement. "We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority to impose potentially sweeping and unneeded regulations on broadband networks and services and on the Internet itself. We believe this assertion of authority is inconsistent with the statute and will create uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”

Verizon’s lawsuit claims the rules, which largely exempt wireless networks, are "arbitrary" and "capricious"—the same charges recently brought by net neutrality supporters arguing that the FCC improperly let the wireless industry off the hook.

via Ars Technica – Verizon sues to halt FCC’s net neutrality rules. How about the uncertainty for businesses to know if next month they’ll have to pay fees to not have their sites arbitrarily slowed down? Net Neutrality is a framework of rules to prevent businesses and services from being treated differently from everything else served via the Internet.

10 Sep

Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for “staggering chutzpah”

A federal judge has fined Texas lawyer Evan Stone $10,000 for sending out subpoenas and then settlement letters to people accused of sharing a German porn film called Der Gute Onkel—all without the judge’s permission.

In September 2010, Stone brought suit on behalf of Mick Haig Productions against 670 accused file-swappers, and he asked permission to take early discovery. Judge David Godbey said no; instead, Godbey brought in the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen to represent the interests of the Does, since none of them had yet been named and therefore had no counsel to speak for them. EFF and Public Citizen lawyers soon began hearing from people who said that Verizon had turned over their information to Stone, information generally obtainable only by subpoena.

The lawyers asked Judge Godbey to find out what was going on, and to sanction Stone if he had in fact issued subpoenas without the court’s permission. Turns out that he had—at least four times. Godbey ruled (PDF) yesterday that Stone "grossly abused his subpoena power," obtained subscriber names he was not entitled to learn, and then, "almost unbelievably, Stone used the information he received to contact an unknown number of potential Does, presumably in the form of demand letters and settlement offers."

This wasn’t even the first time Stone had run into subpoena problems. In a separate Texas lawsuit over anime, Stone sent a subpoena more than a month after the judge in that case withdrew permission to do so; even more shockingly, "Stone issued the subpoena on the same day that he voluntarily dismissed the underlying case," according to Godbey.

via Ars Technica – Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for "staggering chutzpah". Seriously stupid and unethical moves by this lawyer.

10 Sep

paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit

Earlier this week came reports that the daily-deals site, suddenly unpopular with both users and investors, is considering shelving its long-expected IPO. Now comes more bad news—Groupon’s own employees have filed a class-action suit against the company.

In a filing in Chicago federal court this week, former salesperson Ranita Dailey confirmed she will be lead plaintiff on behalf of Groupon employees who seek to recoup overtime that the company allegedly failed to pay. The suit claims that Groupon violated federal and state labor law, and demands three years of back wages and punitive damages for hundreds of employees.

The lawsuit coincides with a rise in negative comments on sites like Glass Door by people claiming to be Groupon employees. They have posted comments like: “a boiler room”; “Immense pressure to hit unrealistic sales goals” and “Sales staff cries all the time.”

Groupon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the class-action suit.

via paidContent – More Bad News For Groupon: Sales Team Files Class-Action Suit. Obviously can’t speak to validity of this lawsuit but it wouldn’t shock me. What a cruddy business.

19 Aug

Ars Technica – Does not compute: court says only hard math is patentable

On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected a patent on a method of detecting credit card fraud. The result was unsurprising, but the court broke new ground with its reasoning. Citing the Supreme Court’s famous rulings against software patents from the 1970s, the court ruled that you can’t patent mental processes—even if they are carried out by a computer program.

Of course, all computer programs implement mathematical algorithms that could, in principle, be implemented with a pencil and paper. So is this the end of software patents? Unfortunately not. The court ruled that the no-patenting-math rule doesn’t apply if the math in question complicated enough that "as a practical matter, the use of a computer is required" to perform the calculations.

In order to justify this result, the court gives the most thorough defense of software patents that we’ve ever seen from the judiciary. We don’t think the line they draw—between ordinary math and math that requires a computer—makes much sense from either a legal or policy perspective. But the ruling at least signals that, for the first time in over a decade, the courts are thinking hard about how to apply the Supreme Court’s old software patent cases in the modern world. We’re hopeful that as the confusion in this week’s decision becomes more obvious, we’ll see further progress.

via Ars Technica – Does not compute: court says only hard math is patentable. It’s nice to see the courts limit patents somewhat, but the logic still has a real problem which is that practically speaking all math can be performed by a human being it may just either be tedious or time-consuming. The other question becomes raised if the math is complicated enough that a computer becomes required does that mean that the math itself is patentable (which the courts have said no math isn’t patentable)? The court seems to be trying to not rule against all software patents while acknowledging they are broken and need to be reformed.

The core of the legal problem with software patents is that they are just algorithms, logic and math, neither of which is patentable. Combine the two and describe a possible computer program and bam, that logic and math is now patentable. Ignoring all practical aspects of patents and software patents in particular, legally speaking software patents seem to me to be indefensible.

19 Aug

Electronic Frontier Foundation – Open WiFi and Liability for Copyright Infringement: Setting the Record Straight

Last week, TorrentFreak ran an interesting pair of posts offering opposing views on an issue that has become increasingly important with the rise of the copyright trolls: whether a person who runs an open wifi network can be held liable when others use the network for copyright infringement.

The problem with “online debates” like this is they can leave folks with the false impression that there are two equally valid approaches to a legal question. In this case, there aren’t. The truth is that no court has ever found that anyone is liable simply because another user of his or her open wifi committed some legal wrong. Every day cafes, airports, libraries, laundromats, schools and individuals operate open wifi routers, happily sharing their connection with neighbors and passers by. Sometimes people use those connections for bad acts, most of the time they don’t, the world gets a valuable public service, and the open wifi providers are not liable.

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – Open WiFi and Liability for Copyright Infringement: Setting the Record Straight. The line about “online debates” had me giggling.

18 Aug

Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys

On Friday, August 12, Google filed inter partes reexamination requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the two patents asserted in patent infringement claims by Lodsys against, among others, several Android developers. The patents subject to these requests are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,222,078 and 7,620,565.

We have had a chance to review the reexamination requests, and after that review we believe Lodsys is in for a rough time. We have seen reexam requests before, but when we saw these, the above quote came to mind. Lodsys, you shouldn’t have brought a knife to a gunfight.

And for all of those naysayers who have shouted Google is not doing enough to protect Android app developers and that Android app developers should cave to the Lodsys demands, you need to reconsider your position.

via Groklaw – Google Reexam Requests Devastating to Lodsys. What’s interesting about this story is the suspicion that Google and Apple had not previously filed re-examination requests because their agreements with Lodsys prevented such an action, apparently not so at least for Google.

18 Aug

Freedom to Tinker – Google+Motorola = Software Patent Indictment

Wouldn’t we all be better off skipping those patent threats and cross-licensing transaction costs? As Google’s pre-Motorola travails showed, it’s almost* impossible to opt-out of the patent system by choosing to publish and not patent your own inventions. Unlike in copyright, where you can share under Creative Commons, for example, and just have to prove you never accessed another’s work if accused of infringement, you can only save yourself from patent claims by assuring that every bit of technology you use was published more than 17-20 years ago! (*Rare but not impossible: Richard Hipp of SQLite says he only uses 17-year old, published algorithms to keep his code free of patent clouds.)

In a work-in-progress, I argue that patent’s incentives aren’t working right for software, because they come at too early a stage in development. Patents for software motivate lawsuits more than they induce or reward product development. Google+Motorola may prove to have non-patent benefits too, but its early indications shine a spotlight on the thorny thickets of the patent landscape.

via Freedom to Tinker – Google+Motorola = Software Patent Indictment. That point is the reason patents are a blight on the software industry, you can’t just stop being a part of the system. Patents are a field of hidden landmines for any person/company that does software of any sort.

10 Aug

FARK.com – Patent-infringement lawsuit against Fark settled for zero dollars. Also, patent trolls suck hairy donkey balls

A lot of you were already aware that Fark was sued by a patent troll back in January. I wanted to share that as of today, after eight months of legal work, that lawsuit was dismissed.

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Their patent had nothing to do with Fark. The patent troll realized we were going to fight them instead of settle, so they asked for our best offer. I said how about you get nothing and drop the lawsuit? They accepted.

via FARK.com – Patent-infringement lawsuit against Fark settled for zero dollars. Also, patent trolls suck hairy donkey balls. Whee the patent system is working so well.

02 Aug

This American Life – When Patents Attack!

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

via This American Life – When Patents Attack!. Not upset enough about patents, spend an hour and you’ll get even more upset.