Thursday, August 26, 2010

Airport Full Body X-Ray Scanner Technology Makes Normal Worries About Privacy Invasion Seem Rather Banal and Mocks the Puritan Ethic

You worry about Google Street View as an invasion of privacy?
 HANNOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 03:  A German Google...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Remember all those comic book superheroes who had X-ray vision and could see through things? Well, that technology is as good as here as you can read at Techdirt in Airport Scanner Technology Mounted On US Gov't Vans To Scan What's In Nearby Vehicles . Just look through the outer metal sheeting of automobiles.
 Body scanner imageImage by Rain Rabbit via Flickr
It is not surprising then that full body scanners at airports give naked pictures of humans in superb detail, as you can see and also read about at that last link. But not to worry, they right now have angels doing the inspecting, though one can be sure it is not always going to turn out that way.
Just wait until they get this technology miniaturized so that anyone who can afford it can wear a pair of X-ray spectacles -- you can be sure that day is soon coming. Then we are really going to have privacy problems.
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EU Patent System Faces Legal Setback at the European Court of Justice Advocates General

We posted about this before, but the expanded informative value of this article is good and worth reading, since it gives a bit of the history of the entire matter.

Through Jennifer Baker of the IDG News Service\Brussels Bureau the New York Times has picked up on the story that Creation of Common EU Patent System Faces Legal Setback, writing:
"The court's Advocate General believes that a centralized patent is 'incompatible with the treaties' that created the E.U...."
Read the whole thing.

Copyright Trolling is a New Intellectual Property Business as Company Sues Multiple Websites and Blogs for Posting Copyrighted Materials from a Newspaper

David Kravets of at Threat Level writes in Newspaper Chain’s New Business Plan that a Las-Vegas based company named Righthaven has purchased copyrights to newspaper content solely for the purpose of bringing lawsuits against websites and blogs who repost copyrighted materials.

The company thus far has targeted those who have published materials from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but there are plans to purchase more newspaper copyrights, since Stephens Media in Las Vegas not only owns the Review-Journal but over 70 newspapers in nine States (Melissa Clouthier has a full list at Right Wing News), and beyond that of course, there are thousands of other newspapers and news sources whose materials are cited online.

Righthaven CEO Steve Gibson is quoted as saying that:
"We perceive there to be millions, if not billions, of infringements out there."
It is a potentially lucrative business. Indeed, the Copyright Act provides penalties of up to $150,000 for a single infringement. As an example, the University Copyright Office at Purdue University writes:
"The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:
  1. Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
  2. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
  3. Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
  4. The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
  5. The Court can impound the illegal works.
  6. The infringer can go to jail.
Faced with those legal dangers, most thus far sued parties choose to settle, rather than run greater risks in litigation. Of course, that is the entire business method of the trolls, cashing in through settlements.

In a black humor sort of way perhaps this development is a good thing because it may be the only way to wake up the slumbering folks in the U.S. Congress and in places like the U.S. Supreme Court, where (as the Bilski case shows) there is apparently -- and surprisingly -- little understanding of what is going on in the intellectual property law world as the result of the digital revolution and the rise of the Internet.

Of course, to be fair, one has to understand the economic dilemma that newspapers face. A print issue could be easily charged for, but how do you charge for online content? When Rupert Murdoch put up a paywall for The Times in the UK, they lost 90% of their readership. The New York Times plans to put up a paywall in 2011 but estimates are that they will lose over 80% of their online readers. The Associated Press has long threatened to charge bloggers "per word" cited. See also Protecting AP's Intellectual Property.

The world being as it is, we do not doubt that in the future, users will probably be paying for nearly everything, so enjoy the present while you can.

No Copyright Law: Was That The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion? Frank Thadeusz Reports at Spiegel Online International

Frank Thadeusz has a provoking article at Spiegel Online International on No Copyright Law: The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion?

Also interesting in the article is the comparison of the German copyright situation with the exclusive publishing monopolies that existed at the same time in England, where books were published primarily only for the wealthy and were so expensive that only a small percentage of the population could avail of them.

I am reminded of JSTOR today, an abomination in the 21st century, set up originally as a non-profit by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, but currently practically available only to people affiliated with universities or similar subscribing institutions, since substantial charges are levied on private readers.

EU Advocates General of the European Court of Justice Find Proposed European Patent Court System Incompatible with EU Treaties

This is a bit late but the original opinion was in French and only released in English translation a few days ago.

The Council of the European Union requested an opinion from the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ, CURIA) on the Compatibility of the Proposed European Patent Court System with EU Treaties. The Advocates General found the proposal incompatible (see the English version of the opinion here, translated from the French -- Request of the Council of the European Union for an Opinion on the compatibility of the proposed European Patent Court System with European Treaty Law, Court of Justice of the European Union, Opinion of the A-G, No. 1/09, 2 July 2010, translation provided by Pierre Véron, Véron & Associés), stating inter alia:

"“As it stands at present, the envisaged Agreement creating a unified patent litigation system is incompatible with the treaties.”".

Bravo. The European Union should not take a bad example from the United States and its balloon-expanding USPTO and self-serving special Federal Circuit Court for patents, but should rather see to it that its patent protections are reduced, with a corresponding decrease in the bureaucracies that serve the economy-sapping patent industry.

For more on the Advocates General opinion see:

Another Patent Myth Crumbles: The Idea that Patents are for the Little Guys: In Fact, Patents Granted to Small Entities are GREATLY in Decline

To get patent reform dialogue to a sane level it is absolutely imperative to get rid of a lot of the patent myths that otherwise pervade the discussion.

One of these myths is the popular Cinderella idea that patents are something for the "little man".

In fact, as Scott Shane writes at Small Business Trends, Patents Granted to Small Entities are in Decline. Look at the graph that Shane has at that web page.

Worse, as Shane observes, the USPTO classifies universities as "small entities" so that if these were to be filtered out of the equation, what is left? Virtually nothing.

Patents are a game for the "big players" and patent reform laws should be written with that important truth in mind.

Modern patent law has much more to do with corporate and academic warfare than with protecting the inventions of John Q. Citizen.

Drug Laws and Drug Abuse: Healthcare vs. Punishment: What Makes More Sense? The Policy Debate on Drug Decriminalization: Portugal as a Model for the USA?

Solutions to the drug problem? Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Jail and prison punishments for drug possession and abuse are not working and have not worked for decades, and yet there are no end to those advocating such sanctions. Men are sheep. Thankfully, there are a few people out there who recognize that modern society must come up with new ways to deal with the ever greater "drug problem" in society.

For example, at Lords of the Blog Lord Norton has some new postings on drug decriminalization:

Decriminalising drug use

Drugs debate continues

and links to a discussion at Speakers' Corner Trust, Forum for Debate, Legalising the Drugs Trade: Reducing Crime or Increasing Addiction?

Baroness Murphy at Lords of the Blog in Drug Policy Debate writes:
"United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has recently issued a discussion paper entitled From Coercion to Cohesion: Treating Drug Dependence through Healthcare, not Punishment.
It’s time to stop pretending that drugs can be eradicated from our society and adopt a more realistic approach to their use and abuse."
Lord Norton had already posted last year about Decriminalizing drugs and we made a comment there incorporating our LawPundit posting:
USA Drug Policy Flawed : 2.3 Million in Jail or Prison : Limits of the Criminal Sanction : Portugal Leads Way to Legal Reform & Drug Decriminalization.

How can we educate legislators to become smarter and to start to look for other solutions to the drug problem than the failed ones they have been following in the past?

Portugal's decriminalization framework can most certainly be held up as an example for what can be done if legislators develop enough courage to jump over their own shadows. Drugs remain illegal in Portugal and convicted dealers get locked up, but you do not throw people in jail for drug possession or drug abuse. Lauren Frayer reports from Lisbon on August 14, 2010 at AOL News in Is Portugal's Liberal Drug Policy a Model for US?:
"Ten years ago, Portugal had some 100,000 heroin addicts -- about 1 percent of its entire population. HIV infections from injecting drugs were among the highest in Europe.

Now the addict count has been cut nearly in half. HIV infections from drug use have fallen more than 90 percent. And the policy shift responsible for such a dramatic improvement in Portuguese life is something U.S. lawmakers -- watching an escalating drug war on their southern border -- might consider worthy of some attention: decriminalization....

"The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success," according to a 2009 report from Washington-based Cato Institute ....

The U.S. has long championed a fierce law enforcement policy toward drugs, but it still has some of the highest rates of drug use in the world, and more than a quarter of its prison inmates are behind bars for drug-related offenses. Per capita, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have smoked marijuana."
FACTS speak louder than THEORIES.

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