Posts tagged ‘software patents’

[Getting Rid of IP] Even Bad Guys Are Going ‘Open’

This appeared in Network World:

… According to this report from Seculert Research, the makers of Citadel, a variant of the Zeus Trojan are using open source models to hone their code and make the Trojan more dangerous.

Not only open source, but the Citadel creators are also deploying it from a SaaS model and using a CRM type of system with forums and message board to communicate with the consumers using the Trojan to commit criminal activity. You have to hand it to these guys, they are using cutting edge techniques to make their product better. Too bad they don’t put this much effort into a legitimate business, but then again they probably wouldn’t make as much money.

Those who have followed this blog over the years or who know me in person, know that I personally believe that freedom preserving software, otherwise known as "free software", or freedom-respecting software, otherwise known as "open source", should be the only type of applications used in government agencies, including taxpayer-funded schools. I believe that the advantages in terms of being able to see what the software actually does and to legally change it if desired are so important that it far outweighs "well this is what they are using in private industry" factor.

Likewise, I think that the "many eyes makes all bugs shallow" aspect of open source would really help in enhanced security environments. I do note that in order to partake of these advantages, said organizations need to have people who are can read and write computer code. That is probably not the case at this time, although I do know of a higher education institution whose technology instructors adopted Moodle in place of Blackboard, and actually contributed back code to the project.

I just find it funny that schoolkids are learning where to click on the "ribbon" toolbar to find a particular function in a particular proprietary office suite, knowledge that will be obsolete within a couple of years when software versions change. Yet, the bad guys have gotten past protecting their "supersekrit™ IP" and are using open source to build, improve, and develop their malware.

As Against Monopoly points out:

If you want to know what the world would be like without IP: look at the criminal world where they can’t easily sue each other for patent and/or copyright violation. Is there software innovation in that world? The virus producers are innovating faster than the anti-virus vendors.

Isn’t it funny how flimsy the arguments for government-enforced monopolies like patents and copyrights begin to fall apart when they are closely examined? I believe we need to make the case, loudly and publicly, that "intellectual property" hinders both innovation and the invention / creation of previously unknown products and services. We need to make the case to politicians, so that they will be less eager to pass the latest "kill the Internet to protect corporate IP" bill. We need to make our case to the public, via the Internet and the news media. And we need to make our case to the artists, writers, authors, composers, and performers that organizations like the RIAA and MPAA prey upon (all the while telling them that they’d make no money without the organizations and their copyright maximalism). We need to counter their claims that stronger copyright and patent enforcement increases the number of domestic jobs with anecdotes and studies that show the opposite.

A couple of recent posts on this topic: Responding to copyright maximalism, and the danger of corporations.

Tuesday, 2012-February-14 at 02:32

On SOPA, PIPA, and Copyright Maximalism: How We Must Respond

Joel Spolsky – Google+ – Two things about SOPA/PIPA and then I’ll shut up 🙂 (1) …

(1) The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us… then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, “OK, compromise,” and gets half of what they want. That’s not the way to win… that’s the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.

The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It’s time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we’ve got. Let’s force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:

  • Elimination of software patents
  • Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
  • Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary “to promote the useful arts.” Maybe 10 years?
  • Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
  • And ponies. We want ponies. We don’t have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the “compromise” position.

Mr Spolsky is expressing thoughts that all of us should be thinking. In fact, I’ve partially expressed some related concepts before. Only, now that they’ve been expressed, we need to discuss them, modify them as needed, and then implement them. I encourage you to go to his post on GPlus and read the whole thing.

Sunday, 2012-January-22 at 20:18 3 comments

Courts, Patents, XML, and Microsoft

Court Blocks Microsoft Word Sales in U.S. | News | The Mac Observer

According to i4i’s suit, the company owns a patent that saves users from having to embed command codes in their documents to control text formatting, and Microsoft’s XML formatting feature infringes on that. The patent in question, number 5,787,499, describes a system that removes the need for individual, manually embedded command codes to control text formatting in electronic documents.

The Judge’s order blocks Microsoft from selling or importing into the United States any version of Word that can open documents containing custom XML which includes .XML, .DOCX and .DOCM files. While the injunction blocks the sale of Word in its current state, it doesn’t prevent Microsoft from selling versions of the application that open XML documents as plain text.

As everyone knows by now, Microsoft has again been burned by the application of the patent system to the field of software. I maintain that the present patent and copyright system violates the Constitution, but even those who support the present system have problems with the way it was applied in this case.

Incidentally, both HP and Dell are asking to file “friend of the court” briefs supporting Microsoft’s appeal of this judgment.

I note that Andy Updegrove, whom I respect highly, doesn’t seem to think this is going to be the big, world-ending thing that everyone else seems to think. He’s right, of course, but I think it will be bigger than he thinks, particularly when coupled with the potential effects of Microsoft’s own XML in word processing patent.

Microsofties, I sincerely hope your company wins this case. I support you in this, even as I continue to disagree with the way that companies (including yours) are filing patents based on a misinterpretation of the clear meaning of the Constitution.

Storing text docs in XML may run afoul of Microsoft patent – Ars Technica

The patent appears to cover both the creation of the XML document and the file that’s created. That would allow a certain degree of leeway in terms of interoperability, as there is nothing here that would seem to cover reading a Microsoft-generated XML document, for example. But it certainly seems that Microsoft could assert that any word processor that used this class of XML storage as a native format was violating its patents.

The key question going forward is what Microsoft chooses to do with this patent now that it has been granted. The company is under pressure in both the US and EU to increase its software’s interoperability with that of its competitors, so a rigorous enforcement of this patent would seem like an express lane to further legal trouble, something the company has seemingly been anxious to avoid.

I hope that SteveB and company will awaken to the dangers posed by unlimited patents and copyrights and join me in calling for a greatly restricted scope for such “intellectual property”. Misusing patents and copyrights to lock up information for private profit harms everyone, as Microsoft is again learning. See the GeekPAC position paper for more information.

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