on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at Qld Raceway 25 May 2003


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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Thu, 17 Jun 2004

Patents suck, patent profiteers suck double

I’ve come to believe that all software patents should be disallowed retrospectively and that no new ones should be granted to anybody, ever. All the justifications for patents—and there are some, although most seem flimsy to me—are only valid when it comes to protections for material goods that take capital resources to create. Software, apart from the minor cost of programmer time, costs nothing to create in the first place and absolutely nothing to replicate. Patents on software stifle innovation, while giving nothing back to the wider community. And, given the laughable inability of patent examiners to detect prior art, there’s no hope that patents would ever be limited to innovative discoveries, even assuming that they deserved patent protection.

This is a long-standing irritation for me and it was brought back to my attention by an IEEE Spectrum feature article that was published today. Here are some snippets:

Acacia claims to own patents that cover virtually every aspect of transferring digitally encoded media from a server to a customer. A few examples: the downloading of songs to computers and MP3 players such as Apple’s iPod, the streaming of video to a PC, the digital distribution of motion pictures to hotel rooms, even the use of a TiVo digital video recorder.

If Acacia’s patents are valid and as broad as Acacia thinks they are, thousands of companies—including titans like Time Warner, Disney, Microsoft, and Sony—and maybe even hundreds of millions of users will have to pay Acacia directly or indirectly. Cable, satellite, and Internet service providers, video-on-demand companies, music sites, the new Web radio enterprises, pornographers—almost anyone delivering digital video or audio across a network will be liable.

As far as I’m concerned, companies that innovate, patent and go out looking for infringers to persecute are evil. Companies like Acacia, which create nothing but simply acquire patents in order to get rich by chasing licensing deals and seeking punishment in the courts, should be stamped out of existence.