06 May

Senate passes Internet sales tax in final vote, 69-27

The US Senate passed an online sales tax in a vote this afternoon after a heated final round of debate. A small group of anti-tax Republicans, as well as Democratic Senators from states without sales tax like Montana and Oregon, argued vociferously against the bill—but to no avail.

The final vote was 69-27, not much different than the 74-20 procedural vote that took place two weeks ago. The proposal has hardly changed at all in two weeks. The Marketplace Fairness Act, S.743, would allow states and localities to make Internet retailers collect sales tax from their customers if they do more than $1 million per year in out-of-state online sales.

The bill would allow states to write laws that would force e-commerce businesses to collect sales taxes. Right now consumers are supposed to keep track of any online sales and then report them to their state government and pay sales tax on the purchase. It still has to go through the House where passage is a little more rough but don’t be too shocked if in a few months you have to start investigating adding sales tax to any e-commerce software.

19 Jan

TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea)

What does a bill like PIPA/SOPA mean to our shareable world? At the TED offices, Clay Shirky delivers a proper manifesto — a call to defend our freedom to create, discuss, link and share, rather than passively consume.

via TED.com – Defend our freedom to share (or why SOPA is a bad idea). Clay Shirky delivers a clear and cogent history and explanation of PIPA/SOPA, walking through both the intent and what the ramifications of the bill and how it changes the entire legal system under which websites operate. Shirky also makes the very real point that even if PIPA and SOPA are killed (as appears increasingly likely) a bill similar to them will be back.

19 Jan

Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best

Today, we watch in awe as the Internet rallies to fight dangerous blacklist legislation, the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House. The originality, creativity, and magnitude of action we’re seeing represents exactly what these bills would harm most: the value of a vibrant and open Internet that fosters these activities.

As the day goes on, we will continue to update you on Twitter (@EFF) and in this space. In the meantime, here are some of today’s #SOPAblackout highlights. Thank these organizations for their participation and go here to make your voice heard!

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – The Internet at its Best. EFF highlights some of the largest sites that participated in the SOPA/PIPA blackout.

10 Nov

American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!

Today in the Senate there was a major win for freedom of speech and the Internet. In a largely partisan vote Senate Democrats defeated a resolution introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) which would have overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) open Internet rules that are set to go into effect this month.

Though the FCC’s rules are not great, they do offer some protections for net neutrality on the wired Internet and overturning them would have been a huge setback for free speech on the web. During debate on the Senate floor yesterday supporters of the resolution railed against government regulation while opponents defended the rules saying they were necessary to maintain the openness and innovation that has allowed the Internet to thrive.

via American Civil Liberties Union – It Was Close, But We Won: Viva Net Neutrality!. Yeah for Net Neutrality, boo for my State Senator being the one who introduced this resolution.

24 Sep

The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents

The patent office’s original interpretation of software as language and therefor patentable is much closer to reality and more productive for innovation than it’s current practice of issuing software patents with no understanding of the patents being issued.

Under the patent office’s current activity, patents have been come a way to stifle innovation and prevent competition rather than supporting innovation and competitive markets. They’ve become a tool of antitrust employed by large companies against small ones.

To return sanity to the software industry – one of the few industries still going strong in America – direct the patent office to cease issuing software patents and to void all previously issued software patents.

via The White House – Direct the Patent Office to Cease Issuing Software Patents. Why haven’t you signed this petition?

28 Aug

Universal Hub – Court says state law used to ban recording of police officers in public is unconstitutional

A Boston lawyer suing the city and police officers who arrested him for using his cell phone to record a drug arrest on the Common won a victory today when a federal appeals court said the officers could not claim "qualified immunity" because they were performing their job when they arrested him under a state law that bars audio recordings without the consent of both parties.

In its ruling, which lets Simon Glik continue his lawsuit, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the way Glik was arrested and his phone seized under a state wiretapping law violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights:

via Universal Hub – Court says state law used to ban recording of police officers in public is unconstitutional. I could not be happier with this ruling.

24 Aug

NYTimes.com – Its Gene Patents Upheld, Myriad Genetics Moves to Protect Its Secrets

Myriad Genetics retained its monopoly on a lucrative genetic test for breast cancer risk when a federal appeals court recently upheld the company’s patents on two human genes — and the validity of gene patents in general.

But it is only a matter of time before the company’s business faces severe challenges, some experts say, because that $3,340 test is technologically outmoded, incomplete and too costly.

“Science has moved beyond what these folks do,” said Mary-Claire King, a professor of genome sciences and medicine at the University of Washington. “It’s not good for the science and it’s not good for the patients and their clinicians if they cannot have the most complete, up-to-date information.”

via NYTimes.com – Its Gene Patents Upheld, Myriad Genetics Moves to Protect Its Secrets. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the idea of patents on genes, the fact that these patents are forcing patients to undergo a more expensive and less effective procedure should give anyone concern.

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.

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.

01 Aug

The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity

At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation, but actively impedes innovation. We rarely directly confront the effects of this immense waste of resources and brainpower and the attendant retardation of the pace of discovery, but it affect us all the same. It makes us all poorer and helps keep us stuck in the great stagnation.

via The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity. Yet another in a long line of articles decrying the patent system.