by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 8:07pm
by Michael Ho
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Will Wright, the creator of SimCity, has imagined what the first Mars settlement might look like in 2047. A Martian town with a population of 8,000 inhabitants sounds somewhat unlikely in less than 50 years, but it might happen someday. [url]
- An open source Mars Simulator built in Java has been around since 1998. SimMars was never commercially released, so this open source project was the only game in town -- until the mod for SimCity 4. [url]
- FMARS is a simulated Mars habitat project, located near an impact crater on Devon Island. The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station was created by the non-profit Mars Society in 2000 -- and it would be cool if they rented it out on AirBnB... [url]
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 4:38pm
from the go-for-it dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 3:33pm
from the interesting-idea dept
They've already tackled three patents, a cleantech patent (7,739,378), a driverless vehicle one (which is actually just an application, rather than a granted patent) and another driverless vehicle patent (which, bizarrely, is also just an application).
We want to take the EFF’s idea one step further: we scan for patents that have not YET caused problems, but have potential to do so in the future. We have chosen a few basic criteria:
1. Technologies that will be crucial in the near future.
2. Technologies that are potentially vulnerable to single patents.
3. Technologies that we understand at least somewhat.
4. Sometimes technologies we are just interested in.
We are doing this because we feel strongly about the issue of patent misuse, and want to see innovation that enables a better future. Between us we have quite a lot of experience in creating inventions, protecting them and analyzing patents. We feel that this project is a way to put that experience to good use.
I like the general goal of the effort, but going after applications seems a bit premature based on the goal of the program. Perhaps it will help with some of the new pre-grant review stuff that is making its way into our patent system, but the actual patents will most likely change a lot before they become patents, if they become patents.
Besides, if any patent application is fair game, these guys are barely going to scratch the surface of the problems with the system. At least the EFF focused on patents that actually are a problem. On top of that, part of the real problem with patent trolls is that they take broad patents that no one thinks has anything to do with anything, and suddenly claim that they're being infringed upon in a totally different field. So it's often quite difficult to accurately predict which patents are likely to be troll problems down the road.
While it's great that they want to try to prevent trolling, I'm not sure this will be a particularly effective means of doing so.
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 2:38pm
from the not-just-artists-getting-screwed dept
While most of our stories revolve around the artists who get screwed, there are other people getting screwed in the process as well. One of these people is a music producer by the name of Roy Thomas Baker, a producer for the likes of Queen, Guns N' Roses and Journey. Roy is now suing Sony for unpaid royalties on 21 Journey songs.
Sony was supposed to pay Baker royalties under a producer agreement, according to his 18-page federal lawsuit. But Baker says an audit of Sony's books revealed that the music company had been underreporting his royalties by more than $475,000 for the period audited.If these allegations against Sony are true, that is quite a lot of money that Sony was not paying out. It really isn't surprising at all though. We have seen such payment dodging from all throughout the legacy entertainment industries. Publishers, labels, movie studios and game publishers have all used such tricks to avoid paying out money to the people who actually make possible the income they have. All the while claiming that they support the people in the trenches.
He says Sony is refusing to release other documents that might uncover additional underreporting since the audit, and he estimates that his royalties may have been underreported by more than $500,000 before the audit using Sony's incorrect rates.
This lawsuit also highlights something we pointed out about that settlement Sony made earlier in the year, that Sony got off way too easily.
Baker says he opted out of a class action over Sony's alleged failure to correctly pay artists for downloaded music because the proposed settlement in March "is wholly insufficient to make plaintiff whole."Because no matter how you worked out the split of the $5 million that Sony set aside for settlement, Roy would not have made anything close to the $475,000 he says he is owed. If other artists and producers feel the same way, Sony's legal team won't get any rest any time soon.
All in all, these lawsuits are just another indication that the entertainment industry is changing. As more and more artists are able to bypass legacy gatekeepers and only use those enablers that truly add value to their work and make more money in the process, those artists stuck with legacy gatekeepers will wonder why they aren't making as much money as they feel they should. They will eventually leave those gatekeepers, but in the meantime, we will see a whole lot more actions like this as those artists and other enablers seek to get paid.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 1:33pm
from the oops dept
Furthermore, two years ago, Bruce Schneier reasonably pointed out that behavioral profiling did not seem very good at finding terrorists, but did uncover criminal behavior unrelated to airplane security:
It seems pretty clear that the program only catches criminals, and no terrorists. You'd think there would be more important things to spend $200 million a year on.Again, that seems to be what's happening in Boston, as the efforts have turned up some criminal behavior. And, apparently, that's by design. Because buried deep within the NY Times article was this tidbit:
Officers said managers’ demands for high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals had led co-workers to target minorities in the belief that those stops were more likely to yield drugs, outstanding arrest warrants or immigration problems.In other words, TSA managers -- apparently in an effort to make the program look good to superiors -- are putting pressure on TSA line agents to turn up exactly what Schneier suggested: some form of criminal behavior just to make the program look good. That's leading lazy TSA agents to just focus on doing searches of minorities, as they believe that they're more likely to find some sort of criminal activity completely unrelated to airplane security.
[....] The officers identified nearly two dozen co-workers who they said consistently focused on stopping minority members in response to pressure from managers to meet certain threshold numbers for referrals to the State Police, federal immigration officials or other agencies.
The stops were seen as a way of padding the program’s numbers and demonstrating to Washington policy makers that the behavior program was producing results, several officers said.
Beyond the blatant problems of racial profiling, some of the news here highlights a potentially larger problem with airport searches. As Julian Sanchez points out, the comments above suggest not just that the focus is on criminal behavior rather than security, but also that there's a quota system in place.
That could present a serious legal problem for the basis of TSA searches. After all, a series of lawsuits that established the legality of TSA airport searches focused on the fact that they were specifically designed to keep airplanes (and those on board them) safe rather than to uncover criminal activity. An excellent summary article on BoardingArea.com explains the cases that made such searches legal. Here's a snippet that covers some of the key points:
Except... as the case in Boston shows, the searches are going well beyond that "essential administrative purpose," and are now being used for general law enforcement. It's at that point that they clearly violate the 4th Amendment, as they're creating general law enforcement searches without proper cause or warrants. It seems that someone who was searched in Boston under these conditions could now make a pretty reasonable constitutional case that the search didn't just violate their private rights, but that the entire TSA setup -- when designed to search for criminal behavior -- has gone beyond the limits established by the courts, and now violates the 4th Amendment.
In 1973 the 9th Circuit Court rules on U.S. vs Davis, 482 F.2d 893, 908, there are key pieces of wording that give the TSA its power to search essentially any way they choose to. The key wording in this ruling includes “noting that airport screenings are considered to be administrative searches because they are conducted as part of a general regulatory scheme, where the essential administrative purpose is to prevent the carrying of weapons or explosives aboard aircraft.”
U.S. vs Davis goes onto to state “[an administrative search is allowed if] no more intrusive or intensive than necessary, in light of current technology, to detect weapons or explosives, confined in good faith to that purpose, and passengers may avoid the search by electing not to fly.”
U.S. vs Davis was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court in 1986 in U.S. vs Pulido-Baquerizo, 800 F.2d 899, 901 with this ruling “To judge reasonableness, it is necessary to balance the right to be free of intrusion with society’s interest in safe air travel.”
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 12:27pm
from the the-wrong-calculation dept
- This is the first change to Google's rankings that isn't in the best interest of its users. Google has argued that these new changes will actually benefit users by pointing them to "better" results. That argument is effectively that sites that they are demoting in the rankings are akin to "spam" sites. But there's a very big difference here. Spam sites tend to be sites that the person doing the searching doesn't want and which clutter up the results. For content searches, the searches that Google will be demoting actually might be the ones that the consumer does want. Google has always been pretty religious about making sure the search results best matched what the searcher was, in fact, looking for. But it's now changing that policy. That seems like a dangerous step down a potentially very slippery slope.
- Admitting that it's willing to cave to the interests of businesses, rather than users, will lead to more such demands. Already, we've seen companies complain about how Google rankings work -- and Google could always point to the fact that it determined how to rank its results based on what was best for users. But that's no longer the case, as others can point to Google caving in this one instance. Expect other industries to start asking for special treatment here, too. Google can fend these requests off, but it's going to start to get a lot of them.
- It's never enough. The industry will always want more: As we've already discussed, the MPAA and RIAA aren't satisfied with this move, and will continue to pressure Google to do even more. Opening the door here won't mean that they'll suddenly be satisfied. It's just going to convince them to keep up what they'd been doing in the past: complaining to anyone and everyone that Google doesn't do enough.
- Google's defense in anti-trust cases just got that much more difficult: Google has always argued in the antitrust efforts against them, that the ratings results are the best for users, not for any particular business. But this new effort will be pointed out time and time again to show that's not always the case, as those on the other side of antitrust fights will start asking why the RIAA and MPAA get special treatment, but others can't.
- This will harm new innovations: As we noted above, Google claims this shouldn't hurt YouTube. But, imagine if Google had this in place years back, when YouTube was first starting out. It gets a bunch of DMCA notices early on, Google "filters" it down, and YouTube never becomes "YouTube" -- one of the most important tools that many artists today use for promoting, distributing and monetizing their works. Did it have lots of infringement early on? Hell yes. Did it develop new tools that tons of artists now find so valuable that they rely on them every day? Yes. Would that have happened if Google had demoted them early on? Probably not.
- This may hold back other search engines: This one Google might not mind. As the entertainment industry has done with things like Content ID, it will now argue that all other search engines, by default, should do the same thing -- even though most of them may not have the tools or the DMCA data to make this work effectively. In doing this, Google may end up burdening other search engines -- especially upstarts -- in the space. Google may not mind this, but historically Google has at least been a reasonably good neighbor in not actively trying to undermine competing search engines.
- This won't hold back infringement. At all. The underlying rationale for this is that the RIAA and MPAA think that people searching for content online are too stupid to realize the difference between a paid link and a free link. They think that if someone does a search on the name of a movie along with "free online," that if they're shown an authorized fee-based offer, they're willing to pay for it. There's little evidence to support that. The people doing such searches know exactly what they're looking for. The real problem is not that Google is showing it to them, it's that the traditional entertainment industry players aren't providing users what they want.
by Harold Feld
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 11:21am
from the a-study-in-contrasts dept
My family and I got back from our annual vacation in the Current Middle Ages last Friday morning around 2 a.m. Exhausted from the trip, I forgot to take in my iPod and left it visibly displayed on the front seat. When I went out to the car the next morning, I found the passenger-side window broken and the iPod (along with some other items in the front seat) stolen. I called the police, and an officer came out to take my report. He was properly professional and sympathetic. He informed me that the chief tool available was a database that pawnshops must maintain of any electronic devices that are pawned. If the serial number on my iPod came up in the database, they would nab the felon. Otherwise, though, there wasn't much hope. The officer also advised me that there had been some similar incidents in the general neighborhood and that the best way to avoid having my car broken into in the future was to make sure that no electronics or charging cords were visible. I thanked him for his professionalism and advice and that was that.
Then I got to thinking, what if I were the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)? How would I handle the theft of my iPod and the advice from the police on how to avoid future break ins? Rather differently, as I explain below . . . .
So if I were the MPAA, how would I handle this?
Berate the cop who answered my call for not stopping the crime before it happened. I would also go around to everyone in my neighborhood and accuse them of "supporting theft" from their failure to set up a neighborhood watch to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car.
When the cop told me that I could reduce the likelihood of future car break-ins by keeping electronics hidden, I would shout at the cop for "supporting theft." After all, I have a perfect right to keep my iPod in my car, prominently displayed if I want. How dare this cop tell me to change my behavior to avoid getting robbed!
Later, I would try to get the cop who advised me on how to avoid future car break-ins fired for "abetting car thieves." I would conduct a public smear campaign in which I accused this cop of being in bed with thieves, fences, and other nefarious dealers in stolen goods because he "supports theft" by advising me how to avoid future car break-ins rather than setting a 24/7 guard on my driveway or preemptively arresting anyone who looks like he or she might steal my iPod. After all, if you really cared about stopping theft, you wouldn't tell me to change my behavior or take steps to protect myself! I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in my front seat, and theft is wrong. So telling me to hide my iPod to avoid a break in means you don't really want to enforce the law.
While I'm at it, I will also accuse my neighbors of secretly wanting to steal my iPod. They have motive (who wouldn't want a free iPod?) and opportunity, so they are all prime suspects. I will demand the police conduct a house-to-house search. If they are too busy, I insist the police give ME the right to do a house-to-house search. I will also start harassing my neighbors and treating them like criminals. If they tell me to bugger off, and demand to see a warrant before I search their homes for my iPod, I will point to their bad attitude as proof that they are either thieves or support thieves. Why else would they object?
I would lobby the Montgomery County Council to place a 24/7 guard on my driveway so I can leave my iPod in the front seat. I would also insist on a video surveillance system and fingerprinting for anyone who comes with 500 feet of my car. Any neighbors who complain about what a waste of tax payer money this is, or that it invades their privacy, or that they don't like giving fingerprints to police to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat "support theft" and deserve the smear treatment.
I would give $1 million in campaign donations to any County Council rep who votes for my proposals. I would give the same amount to the opponents of any County Council member who even suggests that my proposals are a little extreme and maybe I ought to just put my iPod in the glove compartment. I would hold parties where County Council members can meet famous movie stars and recording artists, all of whom will urge the members of the County Council to vote for my eminently reasonable proposal to avert the veritable crime wave of iPod thefts in my driveway.
I would produce statistics that show that Montgomery County loses thousands of dollars and numerous jobs annually from iPod theft from my driveway. Anyone who questions the accuracy of these statistics "supports iPod theft."
Then I will wonder why I am so unpopular with my neighbors. I will conclude they have been deluded by the pawnshop lobby. Or they support iPod theft. But it can't be anything wrong with me, since I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car and anyone who questions any measures to protect that right either supports theft or is being controlled by the pawnshop lobby.
You may ask, wouldn't it actually be easier, cheaper and more effective for me to change my habits and be a bit more careful about leaving my iPod and other electronic devices on the front seat of my car? To which I can only say "if you can even ask that question, you clearly support iPod theft."
Stay tuned . . .
Cross-posted from Tales of the Sausage Factory
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 10:15am
from the in-ten-minutes dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 8:56am
from the drop-the-crap dept
First of all, I think it's great that we're seeing alternatives and someone like Caldwell trying to do something different. More competition is something I always think is a good thing, and I'm happy to see more players in the market trying different ways to do something. If anything, hopefully it will drive Twitter to stay more focused on providing a great service.
But I do have a complaint: Caldwell and others seem to be acting as if this fee-based effort is somehow more ideologically "pure" than a free-based system that makes money on ads. You can see it all over the website and especially in the video announcing the launch:
- First off, App.net's interests are not economically aligned with its users. It wants money from those users, and all things being equal, those users want to keep their money. So their goals are actually diametrically opposed. Who's to say that App.net will always cost $50 per year? What if, a year from now, it needs a lot more to keep the service going. App.net has incentives to figure out ways to raise the price to bring in more money. Now, that's fine. That's how businesses work. But to suggest that the economic interests are aligned is simply not true. Coldwell argues that the interests are aligned because it now has to make the service as good as can be so that users will want to pay. But the same thing applies to free-based services, as we explain in the next point...
- A free-based service, supported by advertisers, has tons of incentive to keep its users just as happy as a fee-based service. Why? Because if it doesn't, people go elsewhere and the advertisers go with them. If the advertisements are too annoying and/or intrusive, people will go away and the value of that advertising drops. Any smart media property knows this, and actually works quite hard on keeping the user experience as good as possible, which quite frequently means pushing back against the desires of advertisers. Caldwell acts as if all such companies immediately give in to any ad company desire, which is either spoken from ignorance or out of a desire to misrepresent reality to benefit his own effort.
So, please drop the moralizing about App.net being more pure. It's not. It's economically interested in taking its users' money. That's not that much different than a site that's economically interested in taking advertisers' money.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 7:58am
from the give-'em-an-inch-and-they'll-ask-for-a-foot dept
First, the RIAA's statement:
"Today Google has announced a potentially significant change in its search rankings that can make a meaningful difference to creators: sites that are the subject of large numbers of copyright removal notices may be ranked lower in search results than before. This should result in improved rankings for the licensed music services that pay artists and deliver fans the music they love. This change is an important step in the right direction -- a step we've been urging Google to take for a long time -- and we commend the company for its action.And the MPAA's statement:
"As Google itself has acknowledged, this is not the only approach, and of course, the details of implementation will matter. Moreover, there are many more actions that we hope Google will take. But by taking this common-sense step and treating copyright in a way that's consistent with the search firm's approach to other forms of activity on the Internet, Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators. That is good news indeed. And the online marketplace for the hundreds of licensed digital services embraced by the music business is better today than it was yesterday."
"We are optimistic that Google's actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe. We will be watching this development closely -- the devil is always in the details -- and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.”Google may think that such moves will quiet down the complaints from legacy companies who don't want to innovate, but they may find that, like feeding trolls, it just brings out even more requests...
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 6:00am
from the take-part-now dept
- the building of digital infrastructure
- the promotion of entrepreneurship and economic development
- improving productivity in the private and public sectors
- improving education and workforce development
- strengthening creativity and invention
- improving university commercialization
- improving decision making through data analytics
- protecting digital assets
- harmonizing cross-border laws to promote the digital economy
- promoting socially responsible innovation
- Read through the list of items listed on the Step2 post
- Vote (up or down) on the items, based on the priority you believe they deserve
- Comment on individual items, with suggestions, thoughts, information, clarifications, etc.
- Respond to others' comments and discuss the various ideas being proposed
- Add your own items if you feel there are ideas that are lacking from the initial 96 items.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 4:40am
from the that's-not-how-it-works dept
That said, Jeff Roberts, over at GigaOm, properly called out Intellectual Ventures for its hypocrisy in calling for "Global Good" when the company's entire business is focused on screwing over innovators by charging them an often substantial tax by bundling together tens of thousands of broad patents. Roberts notes that anyone taking the job is signing up for a "Faustian bargain."
The future “VP of Global Good” will be hard-pressed then to carry out enough good works to offset the colossal harm of his or her employer. Unless, of course, they choose to close the company and reform the patent system.The ever-thin-skinned Myhrvold took exception to that and mocked GigaOm -- a company that actually produces something, unlike Myhrvold's company -- because Malaria!
I think we do a whole lot more good for the world than GigaOm does. How big is their malaria research project? How much effort do they put into polio? I’m quite curious! What on Earth have they done that is —This is disingenuous to the point of being sickening. IV is very much a "for-profit venture" as well. In fact, if the leaks from the incredibly secretive company, concerning how much they charge companies are accurate, it's a massively profitable venture. And, if we're talking about "tools or toys for the rich," there's no better example of who Myhrvold is describing... than Myhrvold himself. Remember this is the guy who is selling a $600 cookbook about how to use modern technology to prepare your food.
You know, I was at a conference recently where someone said, “Well, do you feel good about what you’re doing?” I turned to this person who is an entrepreneur at a prominent social networking website, and I said, “OK, fine. You’re about people sending little messages to each other and having fun on a social network. How big is your malaria project?”
It turns out it’s very easy if you have a technology-centric mindset to think, Ah yes, Zynga, they’re doing — I don’t mean to call Zynga out in a negative way, but is Zynga doing God’s work? Is Facebook doing God’s work? Even setting aside what God’s work means, I think it’s pretty easy to say, those companies are doing wonderful things, but they are for-profit ventures. It’s either tools or toys for the rich. There really is a role in taking great technological ideas and trying to harness them for the poorest people on Earth.
But this claim -- that if you're not doing anything about malaria, you can't comment on how harmful Intellectual Ventures is for innovation, the economy and for society -- is ridiculous. Roberts, thankfully, hits back hard in a piece entitled, Malaria is no excuse for patent trolling, Mr. Myhrvold. Here's a snippet:
And, of course, for all the talk of stopping malaria, the bug zapping demo is just that. It's a demo. He hasn't done anything to stop malaria either. He's produced a fancy demo that the slobbering press loves, so that he can pretend to be doing good for the world, while being the single largest force against innovation in our economy today. The companies Myhrvold is shaking down and suing are producing real products in the real world, not just demanding people pay them or get sued.
Well, the sentiment is certainly a noble one. The problem, though, is that Myhrvold is utterly unfit to espouse it. As we’ve stated before, no amount of philanthropy can undo the incredible ruin his company has unleashed on innovation through unfettered patent trolling. Lest you doubt, consider the following:
New research shows that Intellectual Ventures is tied to at least 1,300 shell companies whose sole purpose is to coerce real companies into buying patent license that they don’t want or need. Those who resist the “patent trolls” are dragged into nightmarish lawsuits.
Think what this means in practice. It means thousands of entrepreneurs must divert revenue from development and technology to pay Mr. Myhrvold’s licensing tax or else brace for millions in legal fees. Worse, Intellectual Ventures is targeting some of the most promising young start-ups in the country like hand-craft site Etsy. Now, instead of hiring workers and bolstering the economy, Etsy and others must put aside money to pay for Mr. Myhrvold instead.
Myhrvold is proving himself not to just be a completely obnoxious patent troll with his efforts, but now one who hides behind ridiculous moral relativism to hit back at critics with very real gripes. It's sickening.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 13th 2012 2:36am
from the this-is-not-healthy dept
Amazon has hired executive recruiting firm Argos Search to help the company hire an intellectual property "Acquisition and Investment Leader" to "identify and evaluate strategic IP acquisition and licensing opportunities," according to a job description obtained this week by Reuters.What an incredibly sad job. It's a role designed to waste a company's money on pieces of paper that will never be used for actual innovation, but merely as tools for the possibility of a patent battle with others. What a broken system.