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MIT Reviews Aaron Swartz, Google’s 100 Million Takedowns & More…

FOSS Week in Review

USPTO shoots down Apple patent

There seems to be more than enough tit-for-tat to go around in the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung. If we wanted to be snarky, we’d say we haven’t seen this much legal maneuvering since the last days of the Beatles and the “sue me, sue you blues.”

Oddly, this fight puts us American FOSSers in the position of supporting the guys on foreign soil over our homegrown boys from Cupertino because Samsung is being sued and sued again over their implementation of Android, reportedly a version of Linux. Then again, maybe it’s not so odd given the fact that Apple doesn’t really make anything here. The United States is for dreaming stuff up and Asia is for actually getting things done, or so it sometimes seems.

This war has been a two way affair, with both sides using their patent portfolios against the other. Both seem to be out for blood, although something tells us that Samsung would be more than willing to sign a we’ll-ignore-your-infringements-if-you’ll-ignore-ours peace treaty since they also make a plethora of products for Apple– business they’d no doubt like to keep, just not at any cost.

On Monday, John Ribeiro reported on PCWorld that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected patent claims against Samsung after a jury had decided in Apple’s favor:

“The jury found at trial that 21 of 24 Samsung smartphones and tablets infringed claim 8 of U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915(‘915 patent), Samsung said in its filing on Sunday. The claim relates to “determining whether the event object invokes a scroll or gesture operation by distinguishing between a single input point applied to the touch-sensitive display that is interpreted as the scroll operation and two or more input points applied to the touch-sensitive display that are interpreted as the gesture operation,” according to a USPTO document filed in the court by Samsung.

“The USPTO ruled claim eight was anticipated in U.S. Patent No. 7,724,242 awarded to Daniel W. Hillis and Bran Ferren. ‘Hillis teaches distinguishing the number of contact points and determining whether the event object matches a gesture pattern,’ the USPTO wrote in its decision.”

Back in April, multiple claims on another Apple patent important to the case, the “overscroll bounce” patent, were also rejected by the USPTO. In both cases, Cupertino claims they may have options to have the rulings overturned.

Yesterday we learned the USPTO has delayed another decision on whether Samsung phones are infringing on additional Apple patents. If we’re reading this report from Reuters correctly, the delay may be dependent on an earlier ruling that went against Apple:

“The delay comes as the same companies – which are waging legal battles in some 10 countries – await a decision from the Obama administration on whether to stick with an ITC decision finding that some Apple devices infringe a Samsung patent. That decision is now due.

“The ITC ruled on June 4 that some older iPad and iPhone models made to use AT&T’s network infringed on a Samsung patent that allows the ability of devices to transmit multiple services simultaneously and correctly through 3G wireless technology.”

This links to possible copyright violators.
All we have to say is that smartphones sure are fun until billions of dollars get thrown into the picture to ugly things up.

Google hit with 100 million takedown requests in 2013

Now we’ll go from patents to copyrights which are, in a way, two sides of the same coin, although we find copyright law to be a bit more palatable until the RIAA and movie moguls get involved.

We learned Monday from the BBC that Google has been hit with over 100 million DMCA takedown requests to remove links in search results to sites allegedly containing pirated material. This is more than double the number it received during the entire 12 months of 2012.

“Google began publishing all such requests in its Transparency Report in 2012 and since then the number has risen sharply, as rights holders have made greater use of the reporting system.

“In the past month alone Google received requests to take down nearly 14 million links from its search results, relating to 3,200 copyright owners.”

We have one little question. We used to visit a cool little record store that sold bootleg vinyl albums and CDs. Now, if the phone company prints the address and phone number of this store in their phone book, can the RIAA file a takedown request, necessitating Ma Bell to recall all phone books and issue new ones without the offending record store’s number? Or would the phone company be required to disconnect the store’s phone, since a phone line is certainly the equivalent of a link, is it not?

Just saying.

MIT report says school could’ve done more

On Tuesday, an internal review was released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which admitted the school missed some key opportunities that could have eased the legal difficulties being faced by Aaron Swartz.

According to Reuters:

“An internal MIT review found that while leaders of the elite school may have been trying to act with restraint, they paid little attention to Swartz’s case as it was developing and did not question the law underlying the charges.

“‘MIT’s position may have been prudent, but it did not duly take into account the wider background of information policy against which the prosecution played out and in which MIT people have traditionally been passionate leaders,’ according to the report. The reviewers also wrote that ‘…by responding as we did, MIT missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on.'”

To us, this report seems to be a bit self serving and very much a case of “too little, too late.” However, MIT isn’t the real bad guy here and is basically only an enabler. The real criminals are the federal prosecutors who refused to recognize that Mr. Swartz didn’t act with criminal intent but with misguided idealism. Sometimes a slap on the wrist is exactly what’s called for–something the feds no longer want to believe.

Twitter receives more government data requests

While we’re on the subject of overzealous governments, Twitter reported on Wednesday that requests from government agencies for the personal data on their users rose 40% in the first six months of this year. All-in-all, they received 1,157 data requests during that period with 75% of the requests coming from the United States. Also rising are attempts by governments to censor Twitter content, as reported by Reuters:

“‘Over the last six months, we have gone from withholding content in two countries to withholding content (ranging from hate speech to defamation) in seven countries,’ said Twitter legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel.

“Twitter was censored the most in Brazil, where courts issued orders on nine occasions to remove a total of 39 defamatory tweets.

“The report did not include secret information requests within the United Sates authorized under the Patriot Act, a law enacted after the September 11 attacks. U.S. companies are prohibited from acknowledging the existence of data requests made under those statutes.”

If you think government interference on the Internet is bad now, just wait until the last newspaper quits publishing. Remember, governments don’t think the same free speech rules apply to digital data as existed in the old analog world.

To paraphrase Phil Spector: “Back to analog.”

Like Dan Quayle, Windows 8 still gaining acceptance

This week market tracker Net Applications said that Windows 8 now commands a whopping 5.4% of all Internet traffic, compared to Vista’s 4.24%. We’re now waiting to receive an invitation for the party Steve Ballmer’s sure to throw at his house to celebrate the news.

Hacking Secure Boot

While we’re on the subject of Microsoft gaffs, a couple of security guys at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas demonstrated on Wednesday that Secure Boot can be bypassed on some PCs. The problem, evidently, is with the sloppy way some computer makers implement UEFI and not with the specification itself. However, as they say, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.


That does it for another week. Thanks for joining us. Until next Friday’s review, may the FOSS be with you…

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