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Submission + - D.C. detective pulls gun at snowball fight (

langelgjm writes: The Washington Post reports that during Saturday's record-breaking snowfall, hundreds of twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered in a mostly-empty area of the city and proceeded to have an enormous snowball fight. Things were all fun and games until a D.C. detective in plainclothes stopped in the middle of the fight, leaving his Hummer and confronting the crowd with his gun drawn. At first, D.C. police denied the claims, but the incident was caught on tape. The detective is currently on desk duty pending an investigation. The tech angle to all of this? 25-year-old Yousef Ali, a one-time Apple Genius, said he was inspired to start the snowball fight by a friend's Facebook status and used a dormant personal blog and extensive Twitter promotion to expand the participant list: "Basically, I used a lot of my social media promotions techniques... to really push this thing pretty big."

Comment According to Public Knowledge, this isn't enough.. (Score 4, Informative) 71

Their president has said, "Nothing in the outline presented this morning would increase competition. Reforming universal service and supporting municipal networks are worthwhile goals, but they would do nothing to reverse the slide caused by eight years of misbegotten telecommunications policies that have crippled most meaningful broadband competition for consumers. There was no discussion of opening telecommunications networks to competitors. There was no discussion of structural separations of carriers into wholesale and retail components. These are the factors that Harvard’s Berkman Center told the FCC in a study a mere two months ago were the reasons other countries have surpassed ours – they are using policies we discarded."

Comment Re:Patent? (Score 1) 235

Why are patents allowed on naturally occurring phenomena like genes anyway?

That's just it, though - the patent is granted for the isolation, refinement, or modification of the gene. The issue is what is considered 'naturally occurring.' Chemical composition patents are granted based on the assumption that the composition isn't just sitting around and easy to get at.

The policy question is whether just protecting the process used to isolate something is enough, rather than protecting the actual thing itself.

Comment Re:From TF New York Times A: (Score 1) 527

You're right, the language "common law copyright" is improper and confusing - all I meant to refer to was state copyright law.

If the state has a statute, on the books, that provides copyright protect to something that 301 doesn't provide protection for then that would allow the state court to hear the case. EXCEPT 301 covers everything which can be copyrighted in the United States, the state copyright statute will be invalidated for some reason, so it is a circular argument.

I understand that federal copyright law preempts state copyright law when the work is valid subject matter under federal law, but if the work is valid under a state statute and NOT valid under federal law, why couldn't someone just assert their claim under state law? They wouldn't be claiming a copyright under federal law, just the rights associated with their state's law.

In this case the guy's name is obviously not valid subject matter under 102. But, arguendo, if it were valid under his state's statutes, why would that be preempted?

Comment Re:From TF New York Times A: (Score 2, Interesting) 527

Seriously. The guy wouldn't have a leg to stand on under federal law - words and short phrases cannot be copyrighted. That's why he sent the notice asserting common law copyright (which varies by state, mind you). In any case, even if that common law claim is technically legitimate, the compelling public interest in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc., would likely ensure this case was thrown out. And the title of the /. article is right on - all this idiot has done is drawn more attention to himself.

Submission + - Obama Sides With Blind in Copyright Treaty Debate (

langelgjm writes: In an unexpected turn of events, Wired is reporting that the Obama administration has expressed support for a treaty that would permit cross-border sharing of copyrighted works accessible to blind and visually-impaired people. A few days ago, we discussed the nearly unanimous opposition from U.S. industries to any treaty expands copyright limitations and exceptions. A Department of Commerce advisor spoke before the World Intellectual Property Organization today, saying that "We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view."According to the EFF's Eddan Katz, the move represents a "an historic paradigm shift in international technology policy." At the same time, however, the U.S. representative cautioned that the administration was willing to strengthen international copyright laws in other regards.

Submission + - Copyright Industries oppose Treaty for Blind (

langelgjm writes: According to Wired, "A broad swath of American enterprise ranging from major software makers to motion picture and music companies are joining forces to oppose a new international treaty that would make books more accessible to the blind." With the exception of Google, almost every major industry player has expressed disapproval of the treaty, which would allow cross-border sharing of digitized books accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Google's chief copyright counsel believes the industry-wide opposition is mainly due to “opposition to a larger agenda of limitations and exceptions... We believe this is an unproductive approach to solving what is a discrete, long-standing problem that affects a group that needs and deserves the protections of the international community.”

Comment Re:Wrong: Keyboard, Windows (Score 1) 53

You're dead on with the non-Intel requirement. The tantalizing stories of new ARM-based netbooks (or "smartbooks" as I've heard them called) have kept me from buying.

What I want:

1. ARM-based processor. This means low power, meaning longer lasting battery life. Ideally something around 8 hours would be fantastic. Presumably this would also mean fanless (which means quiet, and thin).

2. Small - maybe 8" to 9". Also, light. My current aging setup is a PDA with bluetooth folding keyboard, for a total weight of about 1.5 lbs. I'd like something around the 2 lb weight range, or less. I no longer carry around my 5 lb MacBook unless I absolutely have to - it's simply too much weight (combined with books, sometimes lunch) to be lugging around a city all day.

3. Linux-based (or at least an option). Main reason my PDA/keyboard setup is no longer that viable is because it's a pain to use tools like scp, and there's no modern web browser. I'd like a machine to run ssh (and scp), definitely rsync, and have the option of installing open-source stuff like Perl, R, and LaTeX.

4. $200 price point. Don't subsidize it by requiring a wireless subscription, either.

I saw a prototype Pegatron machine that looked like it would meet all of these, but it's not available yet... every time I search, I keep hearing that these machines are just around the corner. In summer, they were coming about for Christmas 2009. Now that it's December, I hear they are coming out in Q1 2010.

Comment Re:Legality (Score 1) 125

Yeah, it just sounds like a typical corporate line about intellectual property. If the server is reimplemented (as opposed to downloaded off some warez site) by reverse engineering, seems to me the most it could be is an EULA violation. EULA probably states something like "you may only use this client to connect to authorized servers, etc."

Depending on the particular mechanisms involved, you might be able to argue that skipping the license check is a violation of the DMCA (for example, if the private server has to falsify a credential and return it to the client, and this takes place via a process of breaking an circumvention mechanism), but that's the only thing I can come up with off the top of my head.

Comment Re:Hard to see the redeeming qualities (Score 4, Informative) 407

On one hand, I see why a treaty like ACTA might be desirable to establish a common copyright law across all nations. Especially given how much copyright infringement is going on between nations and how hard it is to enforce laws nationally when the economy and the access is global.

We already have plenty of international agreement on copyright law: the Berne convention, WIPO copyright treaties, the TRIPS agreement, etc. All of those have plenty more signatories than ACTA will have, anyway.

There are also more appropriate venues to be negotiating changes to international copyright law (namely, WIPO). ACTA is not being negotiated there because WIPO requires transparency and broad participation, and ACTA's supporters know that it would not stand a chance at WIPO.

From what I have heard from people who have seen ACTA, as well as the few leaks about it, the reason it's being kept so secret is because it is exporting a lot of crappy US policy, including fundamentally flawed bits, like the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

Comment No, he's not. (Score 1) 407

If Kirk had any interest in increasing transparency in the ACTA negotiations, he'd be able to. He has about a dozen plausible ways:

1. He could say that the Obama administration is interested in transparency, therefore the US will make draft texts public.

2. He could have his office stop denying FOIA requests on the idiotic grounds of "national security."

3. He could say something like, "In light of increasing concern about the transparency (as expressed by groups like the MPAA and the European Parliament), we have opted to release draft texts."

That's just what I can come up with off the top of my head. No, I think his statement is probably honest (in part because I'm guessing he was caught off guard - I've met Jamie Love, and I'm betting the way he posed the question to Kirk put Kirk on the spot).

Comment Except in the US ACTA does not have to be ratified (Score 4, Insightful) 407

What do the negotiations matter? The politicians, or most of them, aren't usually involved in negotiations anyways. What counts is the ratification. That's where the politicians wear it.

Well, ratification would count, except that in the U.S., ACTA is being negotiated as an executive agreement, and thus doesn't require ratification by Congress.

A few Congresspeople have sent a letter to Obama expressing their concern over the secrecy of the treaty, but others are just parroting the line about protecting American business and innovation, etc.

I agree there are good reasons for some negotiations to be kept private, then ratified later. However, when there is no ratification, the negotiation is entirely secret and simply presented to us as a fait accompli, where is the opportunity for public involvement and comment?

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