» How Microsoft lost control of VC-1

A two page article on The Register on how excitement over VC-1 waned and H.264 ended up ruling the current generation of video codecs. While I am not keen on trusting Microsoft with any additional power over computer technology and I am quite happy that H.264 seems to have won the battle, what’s really interesting here is how patent law, as ludicrous as it is, can even backfire on the mightiest players of the industry.

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» I dare anybody to [hack into] once a month on the Windows machine.

Absolute BullErrr, right. Despite his — numerous — amazingly bad evaluations (e.g. the importance of the ‘net in the mid-1990s), his volatile opinions on important matters (e.g. patents), lack of ethics and piss-poor software, Bill Gates has time and again proven to be an important thinker when it comes to technology and its importance in society. It’s a shame to see he’s lost it. In this latest interview in Newsweek it’s actually surprising to see how he can be so off-base. While there’s no doubt that Apple is king in catchy marketing and shameless exaggeration of its value and its products’ {importance, features} in its marketing campaigns, Microsoft is no spring chicken either (‘Get the Facts’ campaign anyone?). Its funny how Gates tries to engage in the pompous reality skewing and typical polemic that his once-ideologically-charged-turned-loser-turned-mighty-tech-salesman rival, the mercurial Steve Jobs, is famous for. Unfortunately for him Gates lacks the ‘Charisma +834’ rating that Jobs seems to possess. :)

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2006.10.24

Patently Insane

If you’re living in Europe you might have heard of the debate on Software Patents. That is patents regarding software. This essentially equates to patenting abstract ideas, not implementations of these ideas. This is not just dangerous for progress, business and innovation. It’s nonsensical. Take a look at this article from ArsTechnica.

  • US 5,796,967 – Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service.
  • US 5,442,771 – Storing Data in an Interactive Network.
  • US 7,072,849 – Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service.
  • US 5,446,891 – Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities.
  • US 5,319,542 – Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue.

Patently Insane.

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» A recent review of the Community Patent process

Some informative articles by the The Register on the state of the negotiations for establishing a common legal system for establishing patents and governing litigation across the EU. See this. Also on The Reg, this article about how damaging the U.S. system is to FOSS.

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2006.05.26

Microsoft’s JPEG ‘replacement’: The Unifier?

Microsoft is late in releasing a proprietary, closed, image format, but it certainly got there. Much as with WMA and WMV, Microsoft has long endeavoured a lock-in by virtue of media formats. Is the WM Photo format more of the same? Do we really need it? Is it going to spell the beginning of Microsoft’s dominance in the digital graphical media?

Let’s see.
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2006.02.27

European Union Copyright Directive

It is less than a year since the European Software Patents law was finally defeated in the European Parliament, after a long and troubling history with the European institutions. This article is about the EUCD (European Union Copyright Directive), the European version of the U.S. DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). This controversial law aims to limit not only copyright infringement, but also any attempt to counter copyright protection mechanisms, like its american counterpart. While the existence of such legislation in the U.S. is arguably justified by the large corporate dominance of politics, its presence in the European Union is not only alien to the culture of the land but of critical importance to the industry, technology and, indeed, society of the EU member states. In addition to the DMCA, a relatively recent example of the legislatory power of corporations in the U.S. are the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, also known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, where by the copyright term for a work was extended by 20 years; the law was passed just when the copyright for Mickey Mouse was about to expire.
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2005.02.03

The EU Patents review process restarts…

Well, go there and read this. Apparently :

Brussels, 2 February 2005 – The Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) has decided with a large majority to ask the Commission for a renewed referral of the software patents directive. With only two or three votes against and one abstention, the resolution had overwhelming support from the committee, and all-party backing.

The decision is a powerful statement from MEPs that the current Council text, and the logjam of concern it has caused, is simply not a sustainable way forward. It is now up to the Commission to submit a new, or the same, proposal to the Parliament. Parliament will then hold a new first reading, this time under the guidance of Michel Rocard MEP as rapporteur.

And hopefully, the new proposal will be better. It’s good to see this development. In the current social evolutionary context, patents are merely adding another level of ‘trading rules’ between multinational or otherwise huge corporations while creating barriers to entry to small, innovative teams/individuals/legal entities. I guess there’s still some way to go until free market nonsense and mega-corporate pressure manages to change this situation in the EU, and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen until society is ready to deal with it.

In the end, it is the EU’s ‘failings’ (by British standards, at least) that ’save’ the Union from becoming another socially anachronistic free market hell like the States. But, it is also the EU’s failings that keep the European states lagging behind in economic development terms. With a large chunk of Open Source development happening in Europe a lot is at stake. The ‘era’ of patents will start soon in the U.S. Let’s see where this will lead to, here in Europe.

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» IBM to open 500 of their patents to the public.

IBM may not be any different to any other corporation — ironically it used to be the ‘bad guy’ 20 years ago — they announced that they will be opening 500 of their patents to the open source community, ensuring that open source developers will be free to use their technologies without paying any royalties.

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