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The Courts

Uber Drivers Are Company Employees Not Self-Employed Contractors, Rules British Court (arstechnica.com) 230

A British court has ruled that Uber drivers have the same employment rights as other full-time employees in the country, which makes them entitled to a wide array of benefits. Ars Technica reports: The ruling (PDF) means that drivers are now entitled to earn the national minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay, and other benefits, after the San Francisco-based taxi firm lost a case brought against them by two drivers backed by the GMB union. Uber had argued that it was a tech firm rather than a transport one, and that as its drivers were self-employed contractors it was not obliged to provide the kinds of statutory employment rights full-time workers would expect. According to the GMB, the Central London Employment Tribunal's decision will have ramifications in other industries which rely on casualized labor, and that "similar contracts masquerading as bogus self employment will all be reviewed." In the court's ruling, however, the judges insisted that "the notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common 'platform' is to our minds faintly ridiculous. Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers... They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber's terms." The tribunal panel reserved hefty criticism for the firm, claiming that it had used "fictions," "twisted language," and "brand new terminology" to hoodwink drivers and passengers alike. The GMB meanwhile denied that the majority of Uber drivers enjoyed the "flexibility" of their current contracts.
Businesses

Prominent Pro-Patent Judge Issues Opinion Declaring All Software Patents Bad (techdirt.com) 294

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: A lawsuit brought by the world's largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and handled on appeal (as are all patent cases), by the notoriously awful Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) may have actually killed off software patents. The ruling came from a judge that has ruled over patent cases since the 1980s, and it appears he's been born again into the anti-software patent world. Judge Mayer pointed out that the First Amendment says that "some" patents should not be allowed. The whole concurrence is worth reading, starting with the First Amendment argument -- which is kind of fascinating in that it goes well beyond what most people had talked about in the past concerning software patents. Judge Mayer makes the point that basically all software is unpatentable because software is "a form of language," which we don't patent: "All software implemented on a standard computer should be deemed categorically outside the bounds of Section 101. ("Section 101" is 35 U.S. Code; 101 is the part that governs patents.) The central problem with affording patent protection to generically-implemented software is that standard computers have long been ceded to the public domain .... Because generic computers are ubiquitous and indispensable, in effect the 'basic tool []' of modern life, they are not subject to the patent monopoly. In the section 101 calculus, adding software (which is as abstract as language) to a conventional computer (which rightfully resides in the public domain) results in a patent eligibility score of zero .... Software lies in the antechamber of patentable invention. Because generically-implemented software is an 'idea' insufficiently linked to any defining physical structure other than a standard computer, it is a precursor to technology rather than technology itself."
Microsoft

Ballmer To Retire 633

Today Microsoft announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will be retiring within the next 12 months. He said, "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. ... My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Ballmer, 57, has been Microsoft's CEO since taking over the role from Bill Gates in January, 2000. The company's board of directors has formed a committee to find a replacement for Ballmer, and he will continue his duties until a new CEO is found. Questions about Ballmer's fitness to remain CEO have been circulating for the past several years, particularly after the company struggled to get a foothold in the mobile market. It will be interesting to see how this affects Microsoft's stock price. Upon retirement, Ballmer will be able to cash out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Microsoft stock.
Australia

Tasmanian Cops Decline To "Censor Internet" 116

aesoteric writes "Tasmania's police force has taken the unusual step of asking the public to stop alerting it to every 'abusive or harassing' comment posted to Facebook or other social media sites. The force said it was 'increasingly receiving complaints' about material posted to the sites, but sought to clarify that 'the use of technology to undertake some conduct does not in itself create an offense.'"
Patents

Posner Dismisses Apple/Motorola Case, With Prejudice 146

whisper_jeff writes "Judge Posner has dismissed the patent case between Apple and Motorola, with prejudice (meaning they can't refile), putting an end to this patent dispute between the two companies. Posner wrote, 'Both parties have deep pockets. And neither has acknowledged that damages for the infringement of its patents could not be estimated with tolerable certainty.' I know many on Slashdot will be happy to hear Apple's lawsuit failed; I am happier to hear that Motorola has been prevented from abusing FRAND patents, a situation I feel could set a very bad, very dangerous precedent for the entire industry."
Printer

Secret Printer ID Codes May Be Illegal In the EU 229

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "In response to a query from a member of the EU Parliament, an EU commissioner issued an official statement (.DOC) saying that, while they do not violate any laws, secret printer tracking dot codes may violate the human right to privacy guaranteed by the EU's Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. If you don't remember what these are, Slashdot has discussed the issue before. In short, most color printers print small yellow dots on every sheet in a code that identifies the printer and, potentially, its owner. The EFF is running an awareness campaign, and a couple of years back made a start on deciphering the yellow dot code."

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