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Feed Techdirt: Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Sued To Show That Sherlock Holmes Is Public Domain (techdirt.com)

A little over three years ago, we had a discussion concerning whether or not Sherlock Holmes was in the public domain. By our understanding of the law, the character absolutely is in the public domain. There is one remaining book -- The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes -- which contains a few stories, that are still covered by copyright, but the characters and most of the written works, are in the public domain. However, the legal representatives of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Estate use the fact that one book is still held under copyright to argue that the character is still protected until (at least) 2023. Of course, as with things like Happy Birthday, even if it should be in the public domain, if there's some corporate entity insisting that it's covered by copyright, you'd have to go to court to prove otherwise. And most people don't want to bother.

Thankfully, that just changed when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes scholar, Leslie S. Klinger, was working on a book (with Laurie R. King) called In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, detailing "major mystery/sci-fi/fantasy authors inspired by the Holmes tales." However, the Conan Doyle Estate contacted their publisher, Pegasus Books, demanding a license fee, and saying if they weren't paid, they'd make sure that no major distributors would sell the book. Specifically, the estate directly threatened that:

If you proceed instead to bring out Study in Sherlock II unlicensed, do not expect to see it offered for sale by Amazon, Barnes Noble, and similar retailers. We work with those company's routinely to weed out unlicensed uses of Sherlock Holmes from their offerings, and will not hesitate to do so with your book as well.
Like too many publishers, Pegasus freaked out and refused to publish the book at all, so Klinger has taken it upon himself to file for declaratory judgment. You can see the full filing posted here (and embedded it below).

The lawsuit points out that Sherlock Holmes characters have long been in the public domain, and even that remaining book of stories includes two that are clearly in the public domain, as they were published prior to 1923. But, most importantly "none of the Sherlock Holmes Story Elements first appeared in any of the stories that were collected in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes." In other words, the entirety of copyright protected elements in the character were published outside of that one book, and are now in the public domain.

The lawsuit also notes that Klinger and King's publisher on an earlier book, A Study in Sherlock did, in fact, pay a license to the estate, but they did not concede any of the legal arguments. When the estate threatened Klinger, he correctly explained that no license was needed, but he's still dealing with the fallout from his publisher getting cold feet. Thus, he's asking the court to state, definitively, that the character is in the public domain. Kudos for Klinger for taking this on. We need more people willing to stand up for the public domain. Also, jeers to Pegasus for not being the one to take this on and for freaking out over the bogus threat.

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Graphics

Submission + - Unigine's Newest Benchmark Features Huge, Open-Space Expanses

jones_supa writes: Unigine announced a new GPU benchmark known as Valley Benchmark. From the same developers who created Heaven Benchmark, the Valley Benchmark is a non-synthetic benchmark that is powered by the Unigine Engine, a real-time 3D engine that supports the latest rendering features. The Valley Benchmark includes massive area of 64 square kilometers of very detailed terrain that includes forest, mountains, green expanses, rocky slopes and flowers. The area can be freely explored by means of walking or flying. All major operating systems are supported.

Submission + - Bill Gates owns US$23 million shares in Monsanto (naturalsociety.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates .. focuses his money and time on furthering genetically modified technology, geoengineering, experimental vaccinations, and preaching about how Monsanto is the answer to world hunger.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Gates owns 500,000 shares worth 23 million US dollars (or more) of Monsanto stock. The very same company that has been caught running slave rings in Argentina in which workers were forced to work 14+ hours a day while withholding payment, has used their massive finances to fund organizations that literally fake FDA quotes to support GMOs, and of course peddling through GMOs that have been linked to numerous health concerns.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: I just need... marketing?

An anonymous reader writes: Over the years, Slashdot has had many stories of non-technical entrepreneuring people in need of programmers. Now I found myself in an almost opposite situation: I am a programmer with a fledgling mass-market product that needs marketing.

I know slashdot's general sentiment towards marketing. Without being judgmental one way or the other, I must say that for a product to reach the widest possible audience in a given time period, marketing is a necessity. Short of doing everything myself, I see a couple of options: 1. Hire marketing people, or an outside marketing firm; 2. Take in willing partners who are good at marketing (currently there are no shortage of people who want in).

With these options, my major concerns are how to quantify performance, as well as how to avoid getting trapped in a partnership with non-performing partners — I already have a tangible product with a huge amount of time, money, and effort invested. Budget is also limited. Budget is always limited unless you are a fortune 500 business, but for now that's more of a secondary concern. So here is my question to Slashdot: how do you address these concerns, and in a more general sense, how would you handle the situation: technical people with a product in need of marketing?

Comment Re:"Flaw"? (Score 1) 269

The only other information that is useful is generic information. Specific information (name, address, credit card numbers, etc.) the app developers (me included) do not need -- they are only useful to Google Play/Checkout/Wallet handling the purchase transactions on the app developers behalf.

The language you are running the phone in could be used to prioritize/target translations of the application. The version of Android could be used to concentrate testing. Tablet vs. phone as well as screen sizes can give an indication of where to improve UI layout and presentation (although the devs should still ensure it is at least functional on those setups). The device the app is installed on can be useful for tracking down bugs and if a particular device is popular for the app, the dev can purchase one to focus testing.

The only other information is app specific -- e.g. what functionality of the app is being used / where people are spending most of their time. This allows the devs to either remove the functionality (no-one wants it) or figure out how to make it more discoverable (no-one knows it's there). This also applies to help -- which help pages are being read the most (indicating a usability/discoverability issue).

Firefox

Submission + - How to fix Firefox Metro style not launching in Windows 8 (pureinfotech.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Many Firefox users got really excited to hear that Mozilla made available a new Firefox (Metro) Nightly version specially designed to take advantage of Windows 8 chromeless UI. But many users are reporting in different websites and in forums that the new Metro style version of Firefox is not working when they trying to launch the Nightly tile from the Start screen, and instead the default version of the browser launches.

Submission + - Kaspersky does it again; Explorer.exe crippled by them on XP machines (kaspersky.com)

Filgy writes: In less than a week Kaspersky has done it again. This time the problem is much more severe than last weeks update that prevented internet access on XP machines. They now pushed out an update that absolutely cripples Win XP machines. It causes total system hangs, failures to reboot, failure for the login prompt to come up, failure to login, login taking 20 minutes, and explorer.exe crashes (some people experience one symptom, some others). Kaspersky's "solution" has been to release a patch (pf80) that DOES NOT fix the problem for most users. They are now closing out support request tickets saying the problem is resolved. It is not. Just like last week, their forums are now starting to be set on fire again regarding this much more severe problem: http://forum.kaspersky.com/index.php?showtopic=256312&st=0
Software

Submission + - Adobe CEO angers everyone by side-stepping Creative Suite pricing questions (geek.com)

An anonymous reader writes: There have been a lot of very angry Adobe software users in Australia this week as it was discovered retail versions of Creative Suite would carry a massive premium (up to $1,800) over what Adobe charges US users.

So when Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen turned up in Sydney to meet with press and open a new office, the opportunity was taken to ask him why there was a huge pricing difference. Did he answer the question? He didn’t even attempt to.

Chrome

Submission + - Inventing the Chromebook - First Version was Based on Firefox (jeff-nelson.com)

Andy Prough writes: Former Google engineer Jeff Nelson has written a fascinating blog post about how he created "Google OS", the forerunner to Chrome OS. Last August, he finally received a patent for it, but his work began in 2006, and the first versions of the OS were built on Firefox and a "bare-bones Linux distribution" that could execute any Linux program. In fact, when he first started writing the OS, Chrome itself did not exist, and the whole purpose for his work was to create a system that loaded fully — and only — into system RAM. This purpose grew out of his frustration with wait times as he wrote webapps for Google, and found himself waiting 30-45 seconds just to restart a web browser. By moving the entire OS to RAM, he was able to cut the Firefox restart time from 45 seconds to 1 second, and found similar speed increases for other mundane tasks. He built himself a "Chromebook" and used it as his primary development box for over a year. The fact that his boss and Google management originally had no interest in his project makes this story all the better. This blog post is a very interesting read, as it discusses the beginnings of the range of Google webapps that were ultimately created to "replace any and all functionality normally found on a desktop".

Submission + - Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court To Not Hear Jammie Thomas Case (arstechnica.com)

Jane Q. Public writes: The Jammie Thomas-Rasset case has been in the news for years now. As of the last court ruling, she has been ordered to pay $222,000 for sharing 24 songs. Her attorney argues that you can buy the same songs on iTunes for $24, and imposing a penalty of almost 10,000 times as much is "excessive and oppressive". The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Obama Administration has asked the Supreme Court to not review the case. Is this another example of this administration pandering to the copyright tro... I mean corporations, rather than The People they are supposed to represent?

Opera

Submission + - Opera picks up Webkit Engine (opera.com) 1

nthitz writes: Opera has announced that they will be dropping their rendering ending Presto, in favor of Webkit. This knocks the number of major rendering engines down to three. Opera will also be adopting the Chromium V8 Javascript engine. The news coincides with their announcement of 300 million users. "300 million marks the first lap, but the race goes on," says Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. "On the final stretch up to 300 million users, we have experienced the fastest acceleration in user growth we have ever seen. Now, we are shifting into the next gear to claim a bigger piece of the pie in the smartphone market."

Submission + - Judge hints at jail time for porn troll Prenda Law (arstechnica.com)

rudy_wayne writes: A federal judge in Los Angeles has suggested serious penalties for Brett Gibbs, an attorney at porn copyright trolling firm Prenda Law. Facing allegations of fraud and identity theft, Gibbs will be required to explain himself at a March 11 hearing. And if Judge Otis Wright isn't satisfied with his answers, he may face fines and even jail time.

The identity theft allegations emerged late last year, when a Minnesota man named Alan Cooper told a Minnesota court he suspected Prenda Law named him as the CEO of two litigious offshore holding companies without his permission. Worried about exposing himself to potential liability for the firms' misconduct, Cooper asked the court to investigate the situation. Cooper's letter was spotted by Morgan Pietz, an attorney who represents "John Doe" defendants in California. He notified Judge Wright of the allegations.

Patents

Submission + - Why USPTO awards so many outrageously stupid patents ? (slashdot.org)

morto writes: "Why USPTO awards so many outrageously stupid patents?

I am always amazed by the ever-growing stupidity of software patents. Why is that so? Is it dumbness, corruption or something else?

Please illuminate me because it is looking pretty crazy from outside (and take into account that I am Brazilian, meaning I should be at this point well desensitized by government agencies stupidity and corruption)."

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