Posts by Ben Kington

Happy Fair Use Day!

July 11th is "Fair Use Day" - a day, according to its founder, to "[e]xercise your Fair Use rights or contact a corporation or government of your choosing and let them know you want Fair Use rights and you want them protected - demand your Fair Use rights!"

Public Knowledge would not want to miss the party, and we can't think of a better way to celebrate than by discussing H.R. 1201, a.k.a. the FAIR USE act. We noted previously that while the bill lacks the full flexibility of fair use (maybe next July 11th!), the specific uses it allows for are such no-brainers that the content industry would look silly opposing them.

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Seafood Restaurant Squabble Demonstrates Need to Sink Misguided Views of IP

Recently, several tech blogs made note of the fact that some of the founding fathers were skeptical of intellectual property. What is so compelling about these quotes that tech blogs would turn their attention back two hundred years? A good guess is the sharp contrast of the founders' views with the current atmosphere surrounding IP, in which accomplished authors must be reminded that intellectual property is different than real property, and (presumably) well-educated lawyers for major corporations assert that intellectual property crime is a more pressing problem than actual theft, fraud, or burglary. The same attitude is visible in the current effort to extend IP rights to fashion, which this blog has discussed before. As the quotes above make clear, that someone could "own" the idea of a polka dot shirt with a flower would not have jived with the founders.

Such meme-hoarding avarice even seems to be rubbing off on the small business community. Consider this article from the New York Times, about a restaurant entrepreneur who is suing her former chef for opening a restaurant that is similar to her's. The article does not reveal precisely how similar the two restaurants are, so the suit may not be baseless - there are some rules against copying the appearance of a restaurant, and they are in place for good reasons. However, Rebecca Charles, the potentially wronged restaurateur in the article, isn't mad for any of those reasons. Instead, her ire is due to the same misguided view that has infected the big content industry: that giving someone ownership in an idea is not a drastic step to be taken cautiously, and only when necessary. Rather, Ms. Charles seems to think that such ownership rights reflect a natural entitlement due to the first person with an idea to throw their hands up and say, credibly or not, "I thought of it first!"

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Internet Radio on Wheels: Reason to Cut XM and Sirius Some Slack?

Much of the debate over the proposed XM-Sirius merger centers around whether terrestrial radio really provides the same service as its satellite cousins, or if its orbiting kin provide something so different that Gugliermo Marconi's baby just can't compete. As anyone who's driven cross country - fiddling with the dial trying to find a station that is playing something they can stand and that won't fade to static five minutes later - can attest, there are some advantages to satellite that terrestrial just can't match. Users to whom those advantages are important, the argument goes, have only two places to get them: XM or Sirius. A new company aims to change that. This blog has noted the forthcoming Slacker as a potential competitor in the satellite radio market before, but details were sparse as to how the service would actually work, and thus how similar to XM or Sirius it would be.

This article reveals several new details about how exactly the nascent technology will operate, and the picture revealed is of a robust competitor to XM/Sirius - at least as far as music is concerned.

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A New Breed of Patent Troll

Patent trolls, egregious abusers of the patent system though they may be, have thus far not been a direct bother for the average end user. Any headaches they may have caused have been reserved for the developers that must litigate with them, while the ill effects on the end user have been more subtle: slower progress resulting in the absence of as yet unimagined innovations, and higher prices to fund teams of troll-slaying lawyers. That soon may change.

This article reports on a company whose innovative trolling technique of patenting the methods used to plug security holes will add the prospect of buggy, virus ridden, and generally insecure software to the end user's burden.

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