Archive for the ‘and Trademarks’ Category

Open Source

December 31, 2015

Open source is the inevitable future for coding and software. It is one of the most important characteristics of the changes that society will undergo as a result of the Internet, which itself was borne of “public-domaining” of its technology.

In fact, Open Source is the sharp point of the advance of deeper changes. The angel said in Daniel 12 of the Bible that “knowledge shall be increased”. The printing press made it possible to publish scathing criticism of kings, who promptly clamped down on this new danger to society (sic) by requiring a “copyright”, or right to copy, a book.

With the computer age came electronic copying, and with the Internet came electronic sharing. With computers also came “hacking” by those with the aptitude. The copy-left movement sparked when MIT hackers saw their code escape hidden from them into the clutches of copyright by people who had nothing to do with creating it.

Companies are getting tired of budgets bloated by the arbitrary residuals and the captivity of proprietary fences. Even creators of web sites by the most well-known original Microsoft dot-net experts are abandoning all the insane licensing. Microsoft itself has acknowledged the inevitable.

Oracle has the tightest of proprietary technology it seems and the worst of fees and peripheral charges. Not for nothing Larry Ellison offered to “donate” their software for a national database of all Americans for free. (They make $150 per hour for hiring out their consultants.)

Open source has spilled over into other contexts too. There is now the “Creative Commons” licensing. The rebellion against fiat monopoly grants by a central committee is spreading without a shot being fired.

The effects will cascade further still, and is already. IBM has shared its Power-8 technology for the core hardware of its bread-and-butter systems with a group of giants. Google is building out a huge data center based on it, in combination with other open technologies.

Big corporations might even be able at this point to get a general ledger item total of the cost of patents, copyrights, and licensing. It distracts from other revenue streams. One can even argue that patents are just copyrights as well, since they must be legally described in explicit language.

The line between “fair use” of copyrighted material is so artificial, so arbitrary, that the laws and rules could NEVER be so clear as to avoid a future of never-ending litigation. The situation is so bad that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of patent applications, every year, whose sole purpose is to take something rather evident, or even obvious, to protect its applicants from lawsuits.

The thing will come crashing down. Even the great Isaac Newton said he only “built upon the shoulders of giants” who came before him.

Just as when social pressures obligated kings to give up the censorship over works of literature that copyright laws were meant to enforce, and “pseudo-democratize” it by granting monopolies to creators, and just as the printing press itself created a new environment for sharing ideas new and old, stories new and old, the ease of electronic sharing will eventually overcome the resistance of today’s versions of mercantilism and feudalism.

In any case, we can now unmask the truth that the riches that flow from “intellectual property” royalties usually do not go to the actual creators, but to their employers. Only a few of those who become the most famous eventually get out from under their binding contracts, or have the talent to make hay from them. The Microsoft company structure does nothing but pay the coders, same as for Oracle, HP, and all the licensing producers of proprietary software. Given a good chance to make a living without having to give away their smarts to the boss, most of the good coders, writers, artists, musicians would stampede toward freedom.

Maybe they already are. The natural state of man is not to become a mindless controlled drone. We are individuals, all of us humans, and each of us, the way our Creator made us.

This is an argument against trademark law – Part 2

October 27, 2013
Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the launch of the ...

Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the launch of the World Wide Web Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently posted this:

Somebody asked me:

What is the difference between my owning land and owning unique knowledge?

I’ll try to explain the main differences. Starting with the one that I think is most significant.

For Smith to acquire any land that belongs to Jones, Smith has to harm Jones in some way to de-facto “possess’ it, and Jones loses his own property to theft.

But if Jones “owns” a piece of “unique knowledge”, Jones loses absolutely nothing of what he already has if Smith acquires the same piece of “unique knowledge”.

If we apply the principles that support free trade among nations –they do– consider that the free trade means for sugar that we get net positive effect on the average. End the tarriff on them, domestic producers lose but everybody else gains a LOT more.

Ending the “intellectual property” monopolies might mean a loss for the former patent and copyright and trademark holders, but it means great benefit for the rest of us. Not only in that the monopoly royalties hit us all and drain resources from other productive areas, but it means an end to a completely artificial industry in legal services that support such monopolies as a specialization, supplemented in turn by all the bogus “defensive” patent filings. Defensive patents are taken out on ideas that are so obvious anybody and even everybody knows them, but if somebody is awarded by these clueless patent officials then suddenly they have to pay royalties for the obvious.

An example of this waste is a patent Microsoft was actually awarded for an algorithm that recognizes what country corresponds to a high-level domain suffix in the DNS string!!

Information doesn’t want to be free, it just exists, but punishing people for knowing something or telling it gives too much power to government cronies that have a “For rent” shingle hung in front of their office.

Besides, consider Courtney Love‘s rant that the big corporate monsters of Hollywood control the market and pay pittance to the real true originators of ideas, the original writers, the originators of the “intellectual” product.

Consider also that we have recent outstanding examples that disprove the premise in the US Constitution and in the laws of most countries. The idea was stated as to provide incentives for innovation in science and the arts.

Consider also that a lot of new good ideas come from government-subsidized research. Hey, even IBM got its start with the government employee Hollerith who was told to design a system to count the census faster in the late 1800s. He did, and then went private to produce the punched card machines. I don’t know who got the patent for it, but if he did, is it “fair”? We paid for that research. The government couldn’t do it without robbing us first.

(Before the people who love to be told what to do and say and spend on what react, let us point out that the gigantic advances in calculating and computing have been from the private sector).

But now we have the World Wide Web, using a protocol and algorithms that Tim Berners-Lee gave to the world. Open source is taking over! In the words of one Red Hat developer I recently met, “We won!” (meaning Open Source). Android has more devices running it than Apple has sold, Linux took over the Internet server space lightning fast, open source browsers are crowding out the Microsoft browser on Microsoft machines running Windows.

Open source inspired open document, the commons license, wikipedia (in part), wikis in general. An open source office suite. There is open source bios!

Google Facebook. Yahoo. The most important Internet companies run open source. Brokerage companies on Wall Street that gain and lose millions sometimes in seconds, prefer Linux applications.

And the most creative research in computing is in open source code.

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Oracle wants to own our Java APIs, but the Oracle owners never wrote any of them

June 2, 2013
Association for Computing Machinery

Association for Computing Machinery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Reacting to computer news from ACM (Association for Computing Machinery): “Computer Scientists Oppose Oracle’s Bid to Copyright Java APIs”…


Computer Scientists Oppose Oracle’s Bid to Copyright Java APIs IDG News Service (05/30/13) James Niccolai In a court brief, nearly three dozen computer scientists voiced concerns over Oracle’s plan to copyright its Java application programming interface (API), which they believe would hinder the computer industry and limit end users’ access to affordable technology. The group, which includes MS-DOS author Tim Paterson and ARPANET developer Larry Roberts, signed the amicus brief in support of Google in its copyright lawsuit with Oracle. Oracle accuses Google of infringing the copyright on its Java APIs in the development of Google’s Android operating system, and is seeking billions of dollars in damages. Google argues that software APIs are not eligible for copyright protection under U.S. law. Last year, a district court in California mostly agreed with Google and ruled against Oracle in the case, but Oracle appealed the decision. “The freedom to reimplement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in the computer field–both hardware and software ,” the brief states. “It made possible the emergence and success of many robust industries we now take for granted–such as industries for mainframes, PCs, peripherals, workstations/servers, and so on–by ensuring that competitors could challenge established players and advance the state of the art.”


It’s time to revisit the entire idea of copyright, patents, and even maybe trademarks. Technology has forced the relevant issues into the open, in my view, rather than changed them.


Copyright law began to get fat after the invention of the printing press when Popes and kings began to try to control the proliferation of ideas with the technology that spread the ideas of dissidents and opponents. Next came lists of unauthorized books, banned books.




One clue, in my opinion, to a basic problem with trying to apply copyright law in the real world, is the fact that so much of it is arbitrary. Pick a number out of a hat, almost. What is right in practice might vary from case to case.


#1. How long is “limited”?


From the moment of inception of a work, or its publishing, how long should copyright protection cover it? The United States Constitution says a “limited” period. To me, in 2013, 70 years seems to be unreasonable. I read one author once who said he thought copyright should be inherited and passed on to infinite generations.


#2. What is the perfect “percentage”?


If printed (or electronically copied) work “A” takes an excerpt from previous work “B” and adds context, how much is “fair” to quote? How many words, paragraphs, alphabetical characters, or computer storage bytes? One or two Bible versions I’ve looked at state that you can quote verses and short passages, but to use an entire chapter you have to get permission (and presumably, possibly pay up). With other works, it gets more iffy.


#3. What about paraphrases?


This is one I have not seen much discussion about. I list it here because it’s another example of how there is no “natural” threshold that emerges for this as to how close a paraphrase has to be to violate any “natural” law that may apply.


#5. Translations


For example, again with Bible “versions”, aka “translations”, each newly copyrighted “translation” must differ a certain percentage from ALL other previous copyrighted versions to qualify for a new “unique” status. Of course the copyright owners of a previous “translations” has the right, presumably to “create” as many “derived” works they like.


In my opinion, this is why the major “translations” get revisions every 20 or 25 years. That way they can expand their “territory” of possibly covered works. The more important one might be to extend copyright coverage out further into the future. But maybe most important is that the “latest version” is expected to supplant the earlier one. These are moral hazards at best. At worst, it also introduces temptation for owners, publishers, editors, and translators for all the above, and it makes for multiplied opportunities to introduce tainted doctrines and bad interpretations.


#6. Open Source


The razon d’ĂȘtre of copyright in the U.S. Constitution is said to be to promote science and art. From Article 1, Section 8:


To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;


But there are indications that the “promotion” of science and the “useful Arts” may be much better served by opening it up.


The roaring success of many open source projects shows that such goals can be enhanced by opening it up. We do not look upon other government industry monopoly grants with much sympathy. Maybe the lock-down on science is holding us back, rather than helping progress.


The benefits of producing Open Source have been expounded in many places already. The same intellectual fervor that creates good products like Firefox and Linux and the fact that enterprises that are more efficient and can run with it, and that there have been plenty of bad ones fallen aside, shows that may be a better model in the long run anyway.


In other words, continuing to produce value –rather than a monopoly license grant– may help promote truly useful science and arts.


The courts in the U.S. have certainly recognized the utter futility of attempting to apply copyright protections to mere mathematical algorithms. It’s impractical, it’s inefficient, and would stop progress. Enforcement would have to get a massive bureaucracy of desk clerks squinting at the tiniest little details, and how could you even track it all?




Most of the above arguments apply here, especially concerning algorithms,as applied to patent law.


There’s also publicly funded projects that finance discoveries that have resulted in privately acquired patents that provided the economic base for new companies.




There is one other factor. Most of the copyrights and patents granted or recognized today worldwide are NOT granted to the original authors, but to the very big corporations that “own” that work based on employment or contract.


Stan Lee fought for Spiderman. Courtney Love belted out a very big speech raking the music industry tycoons over the rails for how they treat the authors of their art. Famous singers often get little for their trouble over the height of their fame. Motown stars often ended in poverty later on. I have heard from someone I trust on this that the classic movie mega-hit Cimarron was plagiarized after a rejection letter was sent to the true author. How often has Hollywood been sued for piracy?