Juha Saarinen sends news that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has proposed a fix for software patents in general and patent trolls in particular: requiring applicants to provide specifics about their solution. They say the applications should include working code, or at least "detailed, line-by-line notations explaining how their code works." "And if they do get a patent, they should be limited to the invention they claimed. We think software patents are bad news, and incredibly harmful to our society and economy. We wish we didn’t have to deal with them at all. But by fixing the functional claiming problem, and limiting patentees to a narrow invention that they actually came up with, we would also limit the amount of harm those patents could cause. The Patent Office does not (yet) have the power to get rid of software patents entirely, but it can fix the functional claiming problem."
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mvar writes "A company in the UK is trying to trademark the 'Python' term for all things computing. The Python Software Foundation is asking for help. According to the PSF, they contacted the company in order to settle the matter but 'They blew us off and responded by filing the community trademark application claiming the exclusive right to use "Python" for software, servers, and web services — everywhere in Europe.' They now seek help from the community in several ways: By sending a letter to the EU council if you happen to work on a company that uses the Python programming language, by providing EU-published material regarding the Python language (articles etc) and/or financially supporting the PSF in the upcoming legal battle."
head_dunce writes "A bill introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers seeks to make it easier for states to collect sales taxes stemming from online purchases. Amazon is among the e-retailers supporting the proposal, while a lobbying group representing eBay and Overstock.com stands opposed. From the article: '"Small businesses and states alike are suffering from the inability to collect due -- not new -- taxes from purchases made online," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., adding the legislation is a "bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense solution that promotes states' rights and levels the playing field for our Main Street businesses."'"
Bulldust writes "The Federal Court in Australia has ruled in favor of U.S. biotechnology company Myriad Genetics, enabling them to continue to hold the patent over the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1. The same patent is also being reconsidered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the current session. From the article: 'Federal court Justice John Nicholas has ruled that a private company can continue to hold a patent over the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1, in a decision that has devastated cancer victims.The decision is the first in Australia to rule on whether isolated genes can be patented, and will set a precedent in favor of commercial ownership of genetic material.'"
rogue-girl writes "Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg showcases portrait sculptures from genetic material collected in public spaces. DNA extraction and processing are done in a DIYbio-compliant fashion at the DIYbio hackerspace Genspace in Brooklyn, the collected information is then given as input to a 3D printer. The software developed and used for this project is awkwardly dubbed 'friendware', that is it is neither open nor closed, but only available to friends. Reconstructing faces from DNA is not new: scientists already successfully reconstructed Neanderthal man's face from ancient DNA back in 2008. At first sight, the artist's project may seem fun and quite impressive as high-voltage science proves once more feasible at home, but all the data one can have access to from totally banal samples leaves open worrying perspectives about how easy it is to use DNA collected in public spaces for "fingerprinting" people against their will and without their consent."
Several readers have passed on news of a privacy hole in the Google app store. Reader Strudelkugel writes with the news.com.au version, excerpting: "Every time you purchase an app on Google Play, your name, address and email is passed on to the developer, it has been revealed today. The 'flaw' — which appears to be by design — was discovered this morning by Sydney app developer Dan Nolan who told news.com.au that he was uncomfortable being the custodian of this information and that there was no reason for any developer to have this information at their finger tips."
Onymous Hero writes "With the printing and distribution of pornography already banned in Iceland, further measures to stop internet porn are being considered by Iceland's Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson. From the article: "Iceland is taking a very progressive approach that no other democratic country has tried," said Professor Gail Dines, an expert on pornography and speaker at a recent conference at Reykjavik University. "It is looking a pornography from a new position — from the perspective of the harm it does to the women who appear in it and as a violation of their civil rights.""
Republican staffer Derek Khanna was thrust into the spotlight in December for being fired after submitting a controversial brief titled: Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it. In the brief Khanna said: "Current copyright law does not merely distort some markets – rather it destroys entire markets," a view not very popular with Republicans in the House of Representatives. Since the firing, Khanna has continued to speak out on the need for copyright reform and most recently on the law against unlocking cellphones. Derek has graciously agreed to take some time to answer your questions about copyright reform and IP law. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
GovTechGuy writes "A number of lawmakers are using the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz to speak out against the Justice Department's handling of the case, and application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The controversy surrounding the Swartz case could finally give activists the momentum they need to halt the steady increase in penalties for even minor computer crimes."
Seeteufel writes "Nadim Kobeissi, security researcher, describes the Do Not Track standard of the W3C as dangerous. 'In fact, Google's search engine, as well as Microsoft's (Bing), both ignore the Do Not Track header even though both companies helped implement this feature into their web browsers. Yahoo Search also ignored Do Not Track requests. Some websites will politely inform you, however, of the fact that your Do Not Track request has been ignored, and explain that this has been done in order to preserve their advertising revenue. But not all websites, by a long shot, do this.' The revelations come as Congress and European legislators consider to tighten privacy standards amid massive advertiser lobbying. 'Do not track' received strong support from the European Commission."
An anonymous reader writes "Seed giant Monsanto has won more than $23 million from hundreds of small farmers accused of replanting the company's genetically engineered seeds. Now, another case is looming – and it could set a landmark precedent for the future of seed ownership. From the article: 'According to the report, Monsanto has alleged seed patent infringement in 144 lawsuits against 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 U.S. states as of January of 2013. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta together hold 53 percent of the global commercial seed market, which the report says has led to price increases for seeds -- between 1995 and 2011, the average cost of planting one acre of soybeans rose 325 percent and corn seed prices went up 259 percent.'"
An anonymous reader writes "With the launch of Office 2013 Microsoft has seen fit to upgrade the terms of the license agreement, and it's not in favor of the end user. It seems installing a copy of the latest version of Microsoft's Office suite of apps ties it to a single machine. For life. On previous versions of Office it was a different story. The suite was associated with a 'Licensed Device' and could only be used on a single device. But there was nothing to stop you uninstalling Office and installing it on another machine perfectly legally. With that option removed, Office 2013 effectively becomes a much more expensive proposition for many."
Beeftopia writes "The relationship between regulator and regulated is once again called into question as industry pressure leads to a scientist's removal from an EPA regulatory panel. From the article: 'In 2007, when Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an Environmental Protection Agency panel assessing the safety levels of flame retardants, she arrived as a respected Maine toxicologist with no ties to industry. Yet the EPA removed Rice from the panel after an intense push by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry lobbying group that accused her of bias. Her supposed conflict of interest? She had publicly raised questions about the safety of a flame retardant under EPA review.'"
Stereolithography," says Max Lobovsky, while other low-cost 3D printers use a process called FDM (fused deposition modeling). Max explains the differences between the two processes in the video, but what it comes down to in the real world is that his process can "do features down to 0.3 mm," which, he says, is much finer than you can get with FDM. It also seems that structures made with Stereolithography can be made stronger and can be machined more accurately than those made by the FDM process. So this is another step toward fully-useful home fabrication of... almost anything. So Formlabs and the company's initial product, the Form 1, are interesting. And surely there will be other "consumer" Stereolithography machines in the market before long, and prices for both the machine and the chemicals they use as raw materials will come down. Meanwhile, a company called 3D Systems is suing Formlabs for patent infringement. This isn't a nickel and dime deal; Formlabs raised $2,945,885 through Kickstarter, says TechCrunch in a story about the suit. And since their 3D printer is an order of magnitude less expensive than earlier Stereolithography machines and the company's future looks bright, 3D Systems might be better off taking a stock settlement than going for cash. They've settled with other alleged infringers before, so there's a precedent for that idea. Suit or no suit, Formlabs is going forward, building and shipping 3D printers as fast as they can -- and President Obama mentioned 3D printing in his State of the Union speech last night, which will surely help boost the entire industry, including Formlabs.
An anonymous reader writes "Last night before the State of the Union speech, President Obama signed an executive order for improving cybersecurity of critical infrastructure (PDF). The highlights of the order are: 'information sharing programs' for the government to provide threat reports to industry; an overarching cybersecurity framework developed by NIST to figure out best practices for securing critical infrastructure; and reviews of existing regulations to make sure they're effective. The ACLU supports the Order, as does the EFF. '"A lot of what this shows is that the president can do a lot without cybersecurity legislation," said Mark Jaycox, policy analyst and legislative assistant for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who points out that the executive order satisfies the need for information sharing without the privacy problems that existed under legislative proposals where loopholes would have allowed companies to dump large amounts of data on the government in an effort to obtain legal immunities. Without those immunities, companies will by nature be more circumspect about what they provide the government, thus limiting what they hand over, Jaycox said.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Finnish copyright lobby TTVK Ry (which earlier ordered the artist promotion site The Promo Bay to be censored as 'thepiratebay subpage' before later admitting that it's legal, and also got the police to confiscate a 9-year-old's Winnie-the-Pooh laptop on suspicion of having illegally downloaded a single album) launched an anti-piracy website: http://piraattilahti.fi./. The site closely resembles The Pirate Bay, and if you take a closer look, you'll notice that CSS has been directly copied from thepiratebay.se, complete with the original site name in comments (http://piraattilahti.fi/css/css.css, pastebin mirror). Of course, one interesting question is: how on Earth did they manage to pirate The Pirate Bay content, considering that they managed to get court orders for major ISPs to censor access to The Pirate Bay?"
astroengine writes "President Barack Obama called for 'meaningful progress' on tackling climate change in his State of the Union speech in Washington, DC on Tuesday night. While acknowledging that 'no single event makes a trend,' the President noted that the United States had been buffeted by extreme weather events that in many cases encapsulated the predictions of climate scientists. 'But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods — all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it's too late,' Obama added." Other significant statements from Obama's speech: 34,000 troops coming back from Afghanistan over the next year; new gun regulations "deserve a vote"; rewards for schools that focus on STEM education; increases in tech research; a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9.00/hr and tie it to inflation; and a proposal to use oil and gas revenues to fund a move away from oil and gas,
coondoggie writes "The asteroid NASA says is about the half the size of a football field that will blow past Earth on Feb 15 could be worth up to $195 billion in metals and propellant. That's what the scientists at Deep Space Industries, a company that wants to mine these flashing hunks of space materials, thinks the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is worth — if they could catch it."
An anonymous reader writes "The Supreme Court of the Philippines has put an indefinite hold on a controversial law that would, among other things, ban cybersex and porn. A host of groups, particularly journalists, had resoundingly criticized the law, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, as broad and out of touch with how the Internet works. The Philippines' National Union of Journalists, for example, called its definition of libel 'a threat not only against the media and other communicators but anyone in the general public who has access to a computer and the Internet.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced yesterday that the government will not be proceeding with Bill C-30, the lawful access/Internet surveillance legislation. Yet despite the celebration of the Canadian Internet community, Michael Geist notes that the law could return. On the same day the government put the bill out its misery, it introduced Bill C-55 on warrantless wiretapping. Although the bill is ostensibly a response to last year's R v. Tse decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, much of the bill is lifted directly from Bill C-30. Moreover, there will be other ways to revive the more troublesome Internet surveillance provisions. Christopher Parsons points to lawful intercept requirements in the forthcoming spectrum auction, while many others have discussed Bill C-12, which includes provisions that encourage personal information disclosure without court oversight. Of course, cynics might also point to the 2007 pledge from then-Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to not introduce mandatory disclosure of personal information without a warrant. That position was dropped soon after a new minister took over the portfolio."