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Comment Re:Based On One Case from 1996? (Score 1) 456

"A willful infringement, which the magistrate judge found, combined with a willful default, however, warrant an award greater and more significant than one which corresponds so closely to an estimated loss to the plaintiff,"

I don't know anything about the facts of this one case, but by itself, this seems reasonable enough to me. I mean, if you download a music album and happen to get sued for it, and the court forces you to pay the $15 that the CD would have cost in a store, that's virtually no risk at all. I would support punitive damages equal to two, three, or perhaps as high as ten times the retail value of the CD.

Which, of course, doesn't even come close to the tens of thousands of dollars that the RIAA thinks is fair. They and common sense are in different galaxies.

Comment Re:Kubuntu (Score 1) 948

Or hedge your bets with sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop, so you can have GNOME and KDE on the same Ubuntu system. It's convenient enough, as you can switch between desktop environments by clicking a menu option at login. It has a few flaws though, such as dumping some menu items into both environments that only work in one.

Comment Rational behavior (Score 5, Insightful) 132

They will also consider open-source software on an even footing with proprietary for all new software purchases. [...] Their only criticism was, 'can't you do more?' with one advocating that free and open source software be given preference, not equal footing."

Indeed, it seems irrational that open source software isn't always considered on an even footing, not just in Vancouver but everywhere. Do governments assume that there is some inherent advantage to the source code being kept secret and copyrighted—security through obscurity, perhaps?

And it seems at least as irrational that open source isn't already given preferential treatment on account of its price, which is generally zero. You always hear about governments automatically going with the lowest bidder, even to their own detriment. Yet, when it comes to software, it almost goes without saying that they shell out money for Windows and Office.

Comment Re:Wikipedia does something right for a change (Score 2, Informative) 90

Well, the migration couldn't have happened if the FSF didn't sign off on the change; they were the only ones with the authority to make an update to the GFDL allowing it. Although it seems that the FSF's decision came out of a negotiation that took place back in 2007, so perhaps it wasn't really their idea and it was more a matter of bowing to pressure from the masses. Also, I have no idea how RMS personally felt about it.

I definitely agree that the GFDL was totally unsuitable for Wikipedia.

Comment Re:I didn't RTFA (Score 1) 90

Each page of Wikipedia (or any other wiki that runs on an open copyright license) is a licensed work, and each version of the page is a derivative work based on the previous ones. Using your suggestion, users could only choose their own license terms when they create a new page—any edits to existing pages need to comply with the license terms of the previous edits, in order to be permitted as derivative works of those edits. And letting the creator of each page choose their own license for it wouldn't work out well, since content couldn't be moved from page to page if their licenses didn't match.

Submission + - Wikipedia Licensing Migrating to Creative Commons (

FilterMapReduce writes: The Wikimedia Foundation has resolved to migrate the copyright licensing of all of its wiki projects, including Wikipedia, from the GNU Free Documentation License to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. The migration is scheduled to be completed on June 15. After the migration, reprints of material from the wikis will no longer require a full copy of the GFDL to be attached, and the attribution rules will require only a link to the wiki page. Also, material submitted after the migration cannot be forked with GFDL "invariant sections," which are impossible to incorporate back into a wiki in most cases. The GFDL version update that made the migration possible and the community vote that informed the decision were previously covered on Slashdot.

Comment Re:for those of you who don't get it... (Score 1) 167

Actually, I believe it's just "nuclear free zone", reflecting a ban on both nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

I heard a chemistry professor suggest that this means that the atoms there weren't allowed to have nuclei. My theory is that everyone who lives there is a prokaryote.

Actually, the nuclear free zone goes great with those "Drug Free Zone" signs you sometimes see. No joking, there's actually one on Telegraph Avenue. Of course, the standard interpretation is "Free Drug Zone". Perhaps the maintenance guys were just high. Thank you, I'll be here all week...

Comment Re:Duh.. (Score 1) 167

I'm a computer science major at Berkeley and I can attest that, outside of the EECS department, things run on pretty much the same software as at any university. I don't know about server software specifically, but all the administrative computers I've seen run Windows or are Macs.

Inside the EECS department, though, you can see the Unix-centric heritage. It's like a little software enclave—it's got its own class account system with email and newsgroups, no doubt dating back to when it was the only department on the campus to have such things. Oddly enough, most of the machines don't run on BSD, nor on Linux, but on Solaris. I think Sun must have given them a deal on hardware a while back. Of course, there are some BSD and Linux boxes around too.

Comment Return on investment (Score 5, Insightful) 201

I've been saying for years that it would be a great idea for public schools to invest in the production of open-source-style licensed textbooks. As long as textbooks are being sold by traditional publishers, they get to charge a per-unit price for them. If you want ten million students to read some publishing house's version of Our Glossy History of America or what have you, then you have to pay ten million times n dollars. If you instead invest in having a new textbook written from scratch and placed under a Creative Commons license, then you pay an up-front cost (expensive, no doubt, but probably pretty cheap as line items on the state budget go) and then it can be issued to any arbitrary number of students for no more than the cost of having copies printed up by the lowest bidder. The publisher's markup, marketing costs, and distribution costs vanish from the price.

There are external benefits, too. Some day it might be plausible for schools to save even more money by going all-digital; they wouldn't even have to pay to print the books. If the books are formatted in such a way that they can be printed paper-bound at your local Kinko's (the way most college readers are), students could cheaply have one or two extra copies as their private property—one to highlight and take notes in, or one copy for the locker and one for home. And free online textbooks would be a resource to autodidacts and other schools, not just in the state, but anywhere on the Internet.

The analogy to open-source software is apt. These days, reproducing information costs next to nothing, as long as it was produced by someone who chooses not to charge a per-unit price. Public schools essentially pay rent on individual textbooks issued to students, not unlike the so-called Microsoft tax when you buy a PC. I have nothing against the textbook publishers' profit-seeking activities—they're free to try whatever business model they like—but philanthropists and volunteers really ought to be able to beat their prices.

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