Thanks to activists in Tennessee, the super-DMCA bill won't get a vote this year. The Tennessean notes that "Opponents ó many of them computer professionals and enthusiasts who mobilized via the Internet ó said no new law was needed and the measure as originally written threatened privacy and civil liberties."
In more good news, Colorado's governor vetoed that state's version of the anti-consumer legislation. These bills, which proponents (the MPAA) claim are mere anti-cable-theft measures, would in effect solidify communications providers' monopolies by giving them a veto over the connection of any devices to the networks. Some of the drafts presume that connecting a device to a network shows intent to defraud.
More on the super-DMCAs. If one is up for debate in your state, please let your legislators know your strong opposition -- activism can make a difference.
The W3C should be commended for its adoption of a royalty-free patent policy for its standards. By requiring participants in the standards process to disclose essential patents and to commit to licensing them on a royalty-free basis, the policy helps keep the core of the Web free.
In order to promote the widest adoption of Web standards, W3C seeks to issue Recommendations that can be implemented on a Royalty-Free (RF) basis. Subject to the conditions of this policy, W3C will not approve a Recommendation if it is aware that Essential Claims exist which are not available on Royalty-Free terms.
Royalty-Free offers freedom in both monetary and non-monetary terms. The money part important, because it means the hobbyist, academic, or pre-financing entrepreneur can as readily implement the standard as big business. Non-monetary freedom -- the freedom to implement the standard without further implementations or restrictions, the freedom to interoperate -- is even more important, though. It enables implementers to develop their own uses for technology, possibly competing with those who patented it, potentially uses not envisioned by the claim's inventor, without asking permission.
The unpatented nature of the Web's basic protocols (notwithstanding various outlandish claims) has allowed an enormous range of innovation. Weblogs themselves build on this openness, and then fuel new tools like Technorati (and the new Technorati API), Blogdex, Blogshares, news aggregators, and more. Of course, open protocols are only part of the picture. We also need open content, but more on that later.
In an interview with Technology Review, Bruce Lehman shows the narrowing of thought that comes from seeing "intellectual property" as the universal answer. Lehman, head of the U.S. Patent Office in the Clinton Administration, was influential in passage of the DMCA. Lehman has been evangelizing strong IP to developing countries.
LEHMAN: There's a technology consortium in Cairo that had made digital images of all of the artifacts in the collection of the Egyptian Museum. They called up WIPO and said, "Look, we might want to put these out on the Web. What should we do about it?" And the response was: call the IIPI. And we talked to them and told them, "No, donít do that just quite yet." We sent a copyright lawyer to help them understand that when you create a visual image of something, even though it might be in the public domain, that you can copyright it and that you should license these things.In other words, instead of sharing its culture with the world, contributing to historical investigation, and earning further renown (and visitors), the museum should restrict and license access to its images. The musem's website isn't even loading at the moment. How many more people might be able to see and learn from the artifacts if the digitized images were freely available for mirroring and sharing?