from the gadgets-galore dept
by Mike Masnick
Sat, Jan 10th 2015 9:00am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 7th 2015 9:07pm
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jan 7th 2015 1:00am
Back in 2011, we wrote about the fascinating culture of "shanzhai" production -- Chinese companies manufacturing counterfeit goods that ignore intellectual monopolies like patents. The post drew on insights from the open hardware hacker Andrew "bunnie" Huang, who has been following this world closely, drawing on his first-hand experiences of visiting and using shanzhai companies. In 2013, Huang gave the shanzhai approach to sharing -- like open source, but not quite -- a name: "gongkai". In a long and fascinating new post, he explains the background to the term:
["Gongkai"] is deliberately not the Chinese word for "Open Source", because that word (kaiyuan) refers to openness in a Western-style IP framework, which this not. Gongkai is more a reference to the fact that copyrighted documents, sometimes labeled "confidential" and "proprietary", are made known to the public and shared overtly, but not necessarily according to the letter of the law. However, this copying isn't a one-way flow of value, as it would be in the case of copied movies or music. Rather, these documents are the knowledge base needed to build a phone using the copyright owner's chips, and as such, this sharing of documents helps to promote the sales of their chips. There is ultimately, if you will, a quid-pro-quo between the copyright holders and the copiers.
This contrasts with the Western approach, where explicit permission to use every patented invention or extract of copyright material must be obtained in advance before progressing further. The resulting "patent thickets" and copyright analogs are a growing problem for complex digital products that depend on multiple technologies built out of small incremental advances, most of which are patented, and which therefore require separate licenses and negotiations. The more flexible gongkai approach offers an interesting alternative. Huang goes on to explore the important differences between what he calls "this fuzzy, gray relationship between companies and entrepreneurs" and the way things work with the Western system:
The West has a "broadcast" view of IP and ownership: good ideas and innovation are credited to a clearly specified set of authors or inventors, and society pays them a royalty for their initiative and good works. China has a "network" view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors. This is unlike the West, where rule of law enables IP to be amassed over a long period of time, creating impenetrable monopoly positions. It's good for the guys on top, but tough for the upstarts.
This "network IP" results in an elevated rate of product innovation:
Chinese entrepreneurs ... churn out new phones at an almost alarming pace. Phone models change on a seasonal basis. Entrepreneurs experiment all the time, integrating whacky features into phones, such as cigarette lighters, extra-large battery packs (that can be used to charge another phone), huge buttons (for the visually impaired), reduced buttons (to give to children as emergency-call phones), watch form factors, and so forth. This is enabled because very small teams of engineers can obtain complete design packages for working phones -- case, board, and firmware -- allowing them to fork the design and focus only on the pieces they really care about.
The fact that many of those products fail, or are "whacky", misses the key point here: that the gongkai system, with its low barriers to entry, allows experimentation and improvement to be iterated so rapidly that bad ideas fall quickly by the wayside, to be replaced by better ones, until a winning combination is achieved. As patent thickets and copyright maximalism tie up Western companies in fruitless and debilitating legal battles, the shanzhai companies and their nimble gongkai culture may soon emerge as the true heirs of the innovative startups that created Silicon Valley and the Internet before intellectual monopolies started to throttle both.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Dec 20th 2014 9:00am
For this week's awesome stuff, we take a break from the usual crowdfunding campaigns to look at three creators raising money on Patreon, the platform where you can sign up to make regular monthly contributions towards the creation of new content.
This is a podcast that's right up Techdirt's alley. Brad Guigar, Scott Kurtz, and Cory Casoni — some or all of whom you may recognize from their webcomics, videos and other projects — discuss the challenges of building a business as a content creator online. The first episode, appropriately, features the creator of Patreon itself:
With 103 patrons it's just getting off the ground — but if they hit a goal of $500 per episode, they're going to live-stream them all, and at $750 take the show out on tour.
I know I'm not the only retro video game fan around here. If you too love our pixellated heritage, check out the videos from PushingUpRoses, who exclusively makes retro videogame reviews and related content. Here she is discussing an all-time classic and personal favorite:
PushingUpRoses has already hit her critical milestone goals, with nearly 200 patrons giving just over $1000 per month — but you can still support the project, and if it hits $2000 she'll be, in her own words, "overwhelmed".
The Numberphile, aka Brady Haran, creates videos all about the world of math and numbers, in which there is no shortage of fascinating and important topics. The videos bring in a variety of experts to talk about things ranging from the lofty to the down-to-earth, like this discussion about infinity:
With over $2,000 in monthly funding, the Numberphile is going strong — but every new pledge just adds to the production quality and depth of these already-excellent videos.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Dec 18th 2014 1:40pm
This week's episode of Techdirt Podcast is all about thinking outside the box (and the atmosphere) on the subjects of broadband and global connectivity. There have been many attempts to build practical satellite-based internet access over the years, and though so far they have all been multibillion-dollar failures, there's still a huge amount of potential in the concept — not to mention other innovative concepts, like internet from balloons, blimps or floating platforms. This week, Mike, Hersh and Dennis discuss the past and future of such ideas, and the revolutionary disruptions that they could usher in.
If you still haven't subscribed, you should follow us on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or simply plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcatcher app (we have a few recommendations). Of course, you can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.
If you've already subscribed, please note: we've moved our podcast RSS feed to a new location — techdirt.com/podcast.xml — which will be its permanent home going forward. The old RSS feed will continue to work indefinitely, but the new address (which acts as a redirect) safeguards against disruption from any future changes to our podcast hosting setup.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 11th 2014 3:38pm
by Karl Bode
Thu, Dec 11th 2014 2:39pm
"According to the literature, providers facing limited competition could use UBP to increase profits, potentially resulting in negative effects, including increased prices, reductions in content accessed, and increased threats to network security. Several researchers and stakeholders GAO interviewed said that UBP could reduce innovation for applications and content if consumers ration their data. While FCC is collecting data regarding fixed UBP, it is not using this data to track UBP use because it only recently started collecting the data specifically to analyze prices. As a result, although FCC is charged with promoting the public interest, it may not know if UBP is being used in a way that is contrary to the public interest and, if so, take appropriate actions."In other words, the FCC is behind the game when it comes to tracking usage cap data, and therefore couldn't be bothered to study the negative impact of usage caps. The GAO noted that "better communication is warranted" on the issue and that the fixed-line broadband industry should develop a "voluntary code of conduct" to make sure consumers understand what they're buying. While that's all well and good, it doesn't address the failure of regulators to track meter accuracy, nor does it really address the fact that usage caps are by and large (like neutrality violations) the byproduct of uncompetitive markets.
"The literature also suggests that providers could implement UBP to benefit consumers—for example, by offering low-data, low-cost plans for those who do not want an unlimited data plan. While mobile providers GAO reviewed offer such plans, fixed providers—generally facing less competition—do so to a lesser extent."Odd, that. Obviously the problem is that while carriers pay lip service to usage-based plans that offer value, with no competition this never actually comes to fruition. What we wind up seeing are plans that simply take existing flat-rate unlimited pricing, with overage fees layered on top. In a few instances users will get a tiny discount in exchange for giving up the freedom of unlimited data. For example, Time Warner Cable (who took an absolute PR beating in 2009 and had to retreat from mandatory caps) now offers users a $5 discount if they replace unlimited consumption with a $5 usage cap. Feeling the value yet?
Mon, Dec 8th 2014 12:43pm
Techdirt has written about Newegg many times since the company became a leader in fighting back against ridiculous patent lawsuits, going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest trolls around. The company's Chief Legal Officer, Lee Cheng, has vowed to never settle with a patent troll, and so far has never lost an appeal on a patent claim. As he puts it:
As I learned about this uniquely American litigation industry, it became clear that the lawsuits were being filed by people who had identified a way to extract unjust premiums for often worthless patents because of weaknesses in our legal system. The majority of defendants, both large and small companies, are forced to settle with patent trolls because of the high costs of defending themselves.
Newegg has fought back and won — but, as satisfying as it is when a patent troll gets smacked down in court, this is still an unnecessary and unfair tax on innovation, draining time and resources from companies like Newegg that could be better spent doing just about anything other than fending off frivolous patent lawsuits. And for every company that fights back, there are many more that don't have those resources at all, and simply pay the extortionist fees that make patent trolls billions of dollars richer every year. No matter how many companies fight back, the problem won't truly be solved without real patent litigation reform that addresses the roots of trolling and abuse.
Last week marked the one year anniversary of the passage of the Innovation Act in the House, by a bipartisan majority. The bill, which would have made real progress in addressing the patent troll problem, was blocked in the Senate, but there is no good reason this bipartisan bill supported by the President should not be law. Today, the CEA urges you to contact your U.S. Senator and ask them to pass patent litigation reform using the contact tool at that link and embedded below.
The Innovation Movement, sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, unites those who believe innovation is critical to American global leadership and economic growth. The Innovation Movement uses grassroots advocacy tools to support smart public policies, like patent litigation reform, that foster startups and innovation. To learn more about the Innovation Movement’s work fighting patent trolls, visit trollticker.com, follow on Twitter @imovement and like Innovation Movement on Facebook.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Dec 6th 2014 9:00am
For this week's awesome stuff, we've got a few informative film projects doing the rounds on Kickstarter.
With the ever-present issue of police abuse and racial profiling currently coming to a head across America, the time is right for the release of a documentary like Arresting Power, which tracks the history of these and related problems in Portland, Oregon, going all the way back to civil rights actions in the 60s. But it didn't catch my eye just because it's topical — there's also an interesting reason the filmmakers need cash. Apparently they gained access to the Oregon Historical Society's film archives, where they got film of meetings and marches dating back over fifty years — but the society wants $6 per second for the rights to use the footage.
Closely tied up with the debate about law enforcement is the debate about the death penalty, so our second documentary this week is The Penalty, which follows the stories of three different people whose lives are tangled up with capital punishment in different ways, including an exonerated inmate who spent 15 years on death row.
Okay, I'm cheating a bit here, since this one isn't exactly a documentary. But we all remember a couple of months ago when John Oliver created footage of dogs dressed as Supreme Court justices and challenged the internet to create videos of all the major cases, right? Well, one person at least is aiming to do exactly that, with the ambitious plan of doing every recorded Supreme Court case one mini-Kickstarter at a time. There's only a day left to help him hit his modest $250 goal, and I for one think he deserves a shot to show everyone what he can do!
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 4th 2014 2:44pm
Patent Troll, n -I recommend not clicking on the link for number three.
1/ A company or individual who, using patents that either never should have been issued or are broadly constructed (intentionally for the purpose of misuse, or as a result of poor USPTO patent examination practices), sends letters to various and sundry companies and/or individuals that simultaneously request license fees and threaten legal action if the recipient fails to respond correctly by paying up and who will, in the face of inaction by a demand letter recipient, actually file suit in Federal District Court, the District of East Texas being the most popular venue.
2/ A company set up to act as a cover for large corporations who try to breathe new life into older patents which they would ordinarily let expire but, as a result of greed and/or pressure from Wall Street, have decided are ripe for assertion or litigation.
Explore some core concepts:
|12:04||One Year Since The Innovation Act, And Still No Patent Reform (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Podcast Apps (17)|
|14:57||Why New York's Sharing Economy Is A Win For Job Creation And Innovation (8)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Sound The Alarm (8)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Hoverboards Are Real! (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Repurposing Skateboards (5)|
|21:12||Departing EU Digital Commissioner Warns Against 'Analogue Europe' Blocking Digital Innovation (11)|
|14:48||Have Drone Will Travel: Slow-Moving Regulators Force Innovation Overseas (10)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Portable Standing Desks (14)|
|09:14||Neil deGrasse Tyson Attacks 'Startup Culture,' Demonstrates Lack Of Understanding About Innovation (106)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Time Travel (13)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Simple And Small Stuff (10)|
|15:52||Why Industry Vets Should Play Nice With Startups (8)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Rethinking The... Trash Can? (8)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Supersuits Are The Next Wearable Tech? (10)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Better Keyboards (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Rethinking Retro: Rocket Skates, Coolers And Tickers (6)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Not Quite A Smart Watch (13)|
|11:58||Elon Musk Destroys The Rationale For Patents, Opens Up All Of Tesla's (65)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Alternative Energy (12)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Portable, Modular Computer Stands And Furniture (6)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Pets Need Innovative Technology Too (7)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: People Powered Vehicles (7)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Stand While You Work (19)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Functional Fashion (5)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Mainstreaming Augmented And Virtual Reality (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: A Notebook For Your Thoughts (5)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Get Out And Exercise (7)|
|12:00||Awesome Stuff: Everything Old Is New Again (21)|
|17:29||Will 3D Printing Transform The World -- Or Just Fill It With Non-Biodegradable Personalized Junk? (38)|