Archive for the ‘Intellectual Property’ Category

In the popular story “The Hobbit” there is a part where trolls turn to stone in sunlight.  It seems that the same thing might be happening to a company called Righthaven, that was suing hundreds of blogs and web sites for posting portions of articles that were published in various papers owned by another company called Stephens Media, while pretending that Stephens Media had no interest in the lawsuit.

According to the Electron Frontier Foundation (and I have not seen the actual order myself):

a federal court in Las Vegas ordered the notorious copyright troll Righthaven to pay $5,000 in sanctions and to file the court transcript containing its admonishment in hundreds of other copyright cases.

Wow!  That’s pretty heavy, but apparently the judge further stated:

In the Court’s view, the arrangement between Righthaven and Stephens Media is nothing more nor less than a law firm, which, incidentally, I don’t think is licensed to practice law in this state, but a law firm with a contingent fee agreement masquerading as a company that’s a party.

Doesn’t sound good.  Of course the attorney who is CEO of Righthaven has brushed off this, claiming that the judge has no power to sanction him or his company, and going on The Las Vegas Sun with a video saying how he believes that his attorneys will have him appeal the judge.

I think that Righthaven would do well to back down from a fight with at least one pissed federal judge, but based on their public statements, it seems that they intend to continue.

That said, I think Righthaven has helped clarify some questions about copyright laws that many people may have wondered about (for example why I have no commercial interest in this site).  It’s unfortunate that much of what we say or do online can cause repercussions behind what you might think or realize, and sadly I expect that the legal situation will only become more dire, with congress until recently having spent more time trying to increase criminal penalties for copyright related issues than it did on the budget.

Over 14 years ago, I remember playing online games (there were several different versions), the games would store information in some database and keep track of where I was. About 8 years ago, someone got a patent on this idea, now a company is suing game companies, since no one has challenged the patent for 8 years.

Of course, the lawyers love that people are suing people for infringing on ideas that were in wide usage before someone got a patent, for the rest of us it raises costs, and stifles innovation.

After that article about free software, here is some software that is allegedly free, however it has been based on code that the same company that is suing Google for using their free software.  It’s called LibreOffice, ans it looks pretty good for people who don’t want use Microsoft Office (remember to read all software licenses clearly, because if you breach any of the terms of the software license you can be sued at some random point in the future).

Now, I am sure many lawyers will say that you can’t be sued indefinitely, but it seems like that at times, and people can sue you multiple times for flimsy reasons.

In any case, for the struggling students I highly recommend LibreOffice as way to write papers, do some basic charting, etc.

What I recommend is that if you send your files to anyone else export it as a PDF, I wish the people who use Microsoft products would do the same thing, but Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to create pdfs in it’s products. PDF files are the prefered method of passing documents around that are readonly and retain their print characteristics.  Remember children, save your documents as PDF’s or your teacher will use you as an example of why LibreOffice is bad, in a grant request to get money for new software and hardware for the school, but leave the students having to buy copies of Microsoft Office.

Google has had some success with it’s Android operating system (which it gives away for free).  The Android operating system has been implemented in a variety of devices including cell phones, computers and televisions.

When Google developed Android, it choose to implement a method whereby code written using the programming language called “Java” would be able to run on the Android devices.  Since Google wanted a “free” operating system, they developed a java like implementation that used features from the Apache Harmony Project. Oracle (which actually bought the company that had developed Java) states:

the source code in Android’s “” class is nearly identical to “” in Oracle America’s Java, not just in name, but in the source code on a line-for-line basis

Carlo Daffara has compared the code himself, and his results are not as “cleaned up” as what Oracle presents to the court (and the public), and seem to show reasonable differences (some of the structures are actually standards that are to implemented by common agreement).

Google could have worked from the OpenJDK code base, but instead Google wanted to avoid using what is called the GPL license for some reason.  And this is really the problem.  Google wanted to let hardware manufactures write code and not have to release it with the phone (this is explained better at End Soft Patents), by avoiding the GPL license grant on OpenJDK, Google created a special problem for itself, that it could have avoided.

Another part of that problem might be due to Google having former Sun (which developed Java originally) engineers work on reinventing Java, and they basically wrote code the same way as when they worked for Sun (before Oracle bought Sun).

In any case, Google is a big company and should be able to sort this whole thing out with the courts and Oracle.  I think the patent claims are not going to stand up well under scrutiny, but Oracle might have some arguments for Google having infringed on some copyrights.

Apparently the sagging fortunes of the old media is causing some people at Associated Press (AP) (who see nothing wrong in stealing other people’s content) to think that they can get people to pay them say 20% (which is still zero in my case) for linking or using in any way, any content that AP “created”.

What this is really about is the ability to control information.  If you can’t copy the original article without paying a fee, then they can change the article to say something completely different, and the writer (for instance me) is sometimes left looking silly.

Unfortunately information on the internet is sometimes like smoke, it can drift away and leave no traces, web sites can vanish overnight for any number of reasons, and the spam of the major media organizations dominate the conversation.  For instance I was trying to find the 2007 video that CNN did on Depleted Uranium and how the Army had made training films warning of the dangers of Depleted Uranium, but all the traces of that video seem to have, err, vanished like smoke.

However, as bad as copyright laws might be, I think the usage of patents in Software is worse…but that is another topic altogether…..

If it was April (or March) I would think it’s a practical joke, but a small company that is called “Teachbook” is being sued by Facebook because, according to a quote in the LA Times:

If others could freely use ‘generic plus BOOK’ marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for ‘online community/networking services’ or ‘social networking services,

So for instance having an “eBook” website would be an infringment of Facebook by this reasoning.  Or is an infringer.  Strange that Facebook would go after a company with almost no users but leave alone.  Of course there is the fact that has been in business for 14 years, compared to Facebook being in business for only 6 years, so if Facebook wins it’s case against, I think that can use the exact same argument against Facebook.

That would be poetic justice.

According to TorrentFreak, the RIAA (Recording Industry Associaion of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are working behind closed doors with the governments of several nations to make new global “anti-piracy” laws.  Apparently they blame the lower profits not on a weak economy, but because people are stealing from them.  Of course this law won’t do anything to go after the real pirates (e.g. the ones with guns who take people captive, because let’s face it, why bother), rather it will go after people who are merely accused of illegally watching, listening or reading something that someone else thinks they shouldn’t.

Of course, it’s nothing new that people have laws dictated to them by small groups of insiders, but in the past we at least paid lip service to public debate, apparently that era is coming to a close.

Over at Slashdot, there is an article about a recent case where the Judge ruled (judge order pdf) that copying a part of a program in memory (not the whole program) is copyright infringment, and that if you have a program that does that, (for example a debugger) you can be liable for contributory infringment.

The judge blames the Ninth Circuit for this nonsense, based on this:

Ninth Circuit law holds that the copying of software to RAM constitutes “copying”
for purposes of section 106 of the Copyright Act.  MAI Sys. Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc.,
991 F.2d 511, 518-19 (9th Cir. 1993).

At the moment that you do ANYTHING that is excluded by the License Agreement or Terms of Service you become liable for copyright infringment.    As I wrote in “How companies play games with licenses“, companies write into their license things where, if you install the software you immediately violate the license.  Given that the RIAA has recently won a judgement for $222,000 in a case where (according to attorney Ray Beckerman in the Judge’s Journal, a publication of the Judicial Division of the the American Bar Association):

the defendant being represented by a reluctant attorney whose motion for leave to withdraw had been denied

That’s right, the judge forced this woman to trial with an attorney who didn’t want to be there, and then allowed a $222,000 judgement for having 24 songs.  Now Ray writes in his epilogue on the article that Judge in the case where the woman was hit for all that money has written that he may have committed a manifest error of law.

However that consideration comes long after the initial trial, and while it’s good that Judges are able to reconsider their bad decisions, it still causes a lot of suffering for people when a bad decision is allowed to stand for lack of resources.

The problem is that the courts favor wealthy connected people and the judges don’t seem to do any research of their own.  And why should they?  They are not liable for making bad decisions, so it really doesn’t matter to them what happens, that is unless it becomes highlighted as a bad decision in major legal publications.

The real problem is that there is bad precedent for allowing people to use software going back to 1993, and it seems like that bad policy is still being applied in cases where someone doesn’t like what someone else is doing.

But then again, you could blame this all on the people who play World of Warcraft, since they keep throwing money at companies that go to court to get decisions like this.

Groklaw has posted the order from Judge Dale Kimball in the case where SCO, which claimed to own all the code in Linux, sued Novell for Slander of Title.  Now Novell had waived a lot of things, just so it could get the case to go to trial, since SCO had filled bankruptcy just before the last trial was to start, so Novell isn’t going to get much money anyways.

The gist of the whole thing is:

After considering all of the evidence and the law as it applies to this case, the court awards Defendant and Counterclaimant Novell $2,547,817 on its Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Claims for Unjust Enrichment, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Conversion.

That means SCO was a bad boy, did a bunch of things wrong, but given that they are bankruptcy court, it’s unlikely that much will happen to them.  And the claims against Linux did help SCO lawsuit supporter Microsoft, which was well insulated from blowback from this lawsuit (and the ones against IBM, Daimler-Chrysler, etc).

While other lawsuits remain pending, and SCO is still finding people who want the litigation to continue (which special protection from consquences from the Bankruptcy court, which seems all to willing to provide it), it does seem that SCO is just a nuisance (for a long time) that most people hope will just fade away.

According to Wired, Google is to turn over to Viacom the user names and ip addresses of everyone who has ever watched any videos on YouTube.

The next step is that you can get sued for having “downloaded” copyrighted material.

Just in case you think it can’t happen, here is an article I wrote about how clicking on a link can lead to prison.  There is a little more data than that on YouTube.

The good news is that most YouTube videos are stored only temporarily, so I don’t think that many people are going to be hit for viewing videos.  Those that uploaded them, that might be another story.

Remember the RIAA has it’s own SWAT, and they need to keep the fear money machine going.  After all with Starbucks closing hundreds of stores, you can bet that those cds that Starbucks sells won’t be selling as well.

It’s strange that as the fourth of July rolls around there are those who argue that this is the “Best Country in the world“, I don’t know about that.  There are some other countries that still protect their citizens, rather than criminalize them.

When I say criminalize them, I mean it.  For instance the Heroes Act of 2008 taxes people who rescind their U.S. citizenship on their goods as if they sold them.  So much for the love or leave it argument.

And really where could you go?  Unlike the United States, most countries seem to want productive people to come to their country, not dead beats who get subsidized to not work.

Another interesting thing is the whole joke of people having secure data, when the most likely place for you to have a laptop stolen is going through airport security.  It’s bad enough that they don’t let you bring your own water any more, but now they steal your laptop when you are putting your shoes on (or removing metal from your body).

Privacy just isn’t what it used to be.  After all some banks don’t even bother to encrypt your pin codes for your cash machine cards when they transmit the information or at least that is what this article from the London Times would have us believe in explaining how so many cash machines were compromised.

It’s worse with the “touchless” credit cards where you wave your card and buy things, since people can read those from quite a ways.

It used to be that we used metal with inherent value (e.g. gold and silver) as currency, but apparently that is a little too untracable for this age of perpetual war of on terror.

I find it interesting that Yoko Ono is arguing that the “Heart” of Imagine is “Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too”.  It’s not that I ambig proponent of organized religion, but I am a big believer in fair use, and, according to Groklaw, from a judge’s recent ruling against the people who wanted to shut down the movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed“, Ono’s expert had claimed:

In other words, Dr. Ferrara’s opinion is that the fifteen-second excerpt at issue contains the “heart” of “Imagine.”

This is similar to the insanity that AP had been promoting, that using small excerpts is somehow illegal in today’s world.  Attorneys can and do same different things about the same issues when in different forums, and because the same two bar piano tune is played throughout “Imagine” the plaintiffs argue that any use of those bars is JUST LIKE using >50% of the song.

This would be ridiculous if this didn’t happen all too often.

Remember as this discussion says, playing the radio loud enough for others to hear can be a violation of copyright law.  But don’t use headphones while driving because that is a violation of the law as well.  As the United States courts like to ape the British courts, here is an article about how the copyright police are going after the regular police in England for having the gall to play radios AT PARTIES!

The Lancashire police stations play music in the background, at office parties, and in staff gyms…

There’s a move towards a less free world, and there’s those who want to have a Campaign for Liberty, being able to have discourse without fear of being hauled away for using 5 or more words that someone else may have used in however long a copyright is in effect these days is ridiculous, and frankly a little bit frightening.

The Associated Press (frequently cited as AP) has a new policy of threatening to sue people for using as little as 5 words from an Associated Press article.  At least that is what BoingBoing claims.

I find it amazing that some attorneys have a such a weird view of what people are allowed to do, well not really as 4 out of 9 supreme court judges had to write over 100 pages to explain why the constitution doesn’t mean what it says.

As BoingBoing says:

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.

Seems like a good summary of where the lawyers and their stooges in congress are trying to take us to.

The House of Representatives passed HR 4279 on May 8th. According to, this bill, when it becomes law will:

If you boil it down to brass tax, this legislation allows the U.S. government to lawfully seize your computer if it has one unauthorized mp3 file on its hard drive. It also provides the authorization for the creation of offices within the executive branch to enforce a law that is impossible to enforce.

So the government will have new powers to search and seize computers based on the presumption that you might have downloaded an illegal copyrighted file.  According to the U.S. courts, such evidence can be that your web browser did a get from a web page.

Most web sites (not this one) typically have images from several different locations (for example Advertisments).  If an advertisment was an illegal copy of an image, your computer could be siezed under this new law (I doubt it will happen right away, just whenever it suits the courts).   This has already been used in court against people who allegedly had tried (but did not succeed) in downloading (allegedly, since all they had was a request for a file and an ip address that may have been used by the suspect) illegal files.

All the more reason to install TrueCrypt and use Linux.  Because if you don’t, through no fault of your own, you could go to jail.

According to Animation World Magazine:

We lose our rights and our creations, and someone else makes money at our expense.

This includes every sketch, painting, photo, sculpture, drawing, video, song and every other type of creative endeavor. All of it is at risk!

If the Orphan Works legislation passes, you and I and all creatives will lose virtually all the rights to not only our future work but to everything we’ve created over the past 34 years, unless we register it with the new, untested and privately run (by the friends and cronies of the U.S. government) registries. Even then, there is no guarantee that someone wishing to steal your personal creations won’t successfully call your work an orphan work, and then legally use it for free.


At one time copyright was designed to help the general public, now it’s been tailored to help a select few people.  We have the Attorney General of the United States bragging about how the U.S. government is going after the new terrorists, those who violate copyrights, while making sure that the individuals no longer have the rights they once did.

Nice government for the people, of course it does depend on which people you are talking about.

Here is a good idea about what an orphaned works law should do, but probably won’t. From American Society of Media Photographers:

In terms of drafting, we are proposing to limit the scope of the Orphan Works defense to:

Uses by individuals for non-revenue producing personal or community purposes, including uses on websites that do not generate revenues for the individuals using the Orphan Works;

Uses in works of non-fiction, such as books, articles or documentary films or videos;

Uses by non-profit educational institutions, libraries, museums or archives qualified for treatment under ¤501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as amended

in exhibits, including website displays, and
for uses that produce revenues and that are ancillary to exhibits.
In a nutshell, we see little financial harm to creators from the non-profit and non-fiction uses of orphaned images. At the same time, we want to make sure that commercial> users of images and illustrations would not be able to use an Orphan Works defense as a free pass to profit from infringements.

Well we can hope.


Ben Stein recently produced a new movie (not yet released) called Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.  Fox News had this to say about it:

To wit: Stein, Frankowski and pals say in “Expelled” that perfectly good scientists and educators are being stigmatized for wanting to teach their students creationism and “intelligent design” – in other words, junk science – in addition to or instead of conventionally accepted Darwinism. You see, Stein, like some other celebrities, finally has shown his true colors and they aren’t so pretty.

Now it appears that Harvard is claiming that their video (big version, small version) of the life of a cell was the original idea for the clips that are used in this clip of the movie (and maybe elsewhere).

Why I see some similarities, I also see some differences.  I can’t believe that Harvard claims that they alone have the ideas that the Inner Life of a Cell depicts.  The only really similarity I saw was were the thin looking thing was pulling the big ball behind it on a strand.  ( the thin thing is called a kinesin, I think).

According to ScienceBlogs, this one similarity shows that Expelled stole the concepts from Harvard, according to the blog:

That kinesin molecule is illustrated showing a stately march, step by step, straight down the microtubule. Observations of kinesin show it’s more complex, jittering back and forth and advancing stochastically.

The ScienceBlog also has pictures of the allegedly infringing frame.

The question is, since facts are not copyrightable, is the cell movie from Harvard fiction, and if so why isn’t it labeled as such.

Now, I know it’s not fiction, just that license was taken to portray the sequence of events, but I think that the fact that Expelled wanted to show an ordered set of events is a logical interpretation, not something that they explicitly copied from Harvard.

However it appears that an earlier version of the same steps (absent the big ball) was created by Graham Johnson (quicktime movie here).

It appears that Harvard wants to claim ownership of things that it appears they might have gotten the ideas from other places.

And that’s just not fair to the other scientists and universities that have done similar work over the years.  Even if the argument is unfounded it might keep Ben Stein’s movie out of theaters, and that could be the reason for this.

There is more discussion about this at CoincidenceTheories.