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Wednesday, August 31 2016 @ 08:56 PM CDT

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Egregious Nonsense Regarding eBook Standards

Intellectual property Rights

It takes something truly ridiculous to make me write an out and out rant. Still, every now and then I read something that I can’t avoid responding to, because of the degree to which it misrepresents reality in an area I both care about and am knowledgeable in. Yesterday I had that experience when I read an article contending that proprietary eBook formats are good rather than bad, and that while “someday” we may have a truly interoperable eBook format, for now we should just sit back and appreciate proprietary formats in this area.

What rubbish.

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S. Ct. Rules that a “Good-Faith Belief” is no Defense to Patent Infringement Liability

Intellectual property Rights

Courtesy of Matt Wade/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 UnportedMost engineers are aware that patent owners can sue those that infringe their patents. It may surprise them, however to know that a patent owner can also sue someone for only “inducing” another to infringe their patent. Luckily, in both cases, the patent owner only has a right to sue if the other party acted “knowingly.”

As you might expect, the circumstances and facts that are deemed to prove knowledge are the subject of much litigation and many legal opinions. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court added another decision to the pile, and a distinction that the court drew on this question may surprise you. It should also particularly concern open source software developers, for reasons I’ll return to below.

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Patent Pledges and Open Source Software Development

Intellectual property Rights

For all its benefits, one aspect of open source software does cause headaches: understanding the legal terms that control its development and use. For starters, scores of licenses have been created that the Open Source Initiative recognizes as meeting the definition of an “open source license.” While the percentage of these licenses that are in wide use is small, there are significant and important differences between many of these popular licenses. Moreover, determining what rights are granted in some cases requires referring to what the community thinks they mean (rather than their actual text), and in others by the context in which the license is used.

Rather like interpreting the applicability of the U.S. Constitution to modern life, except that there is no Supreme Court available to call the coin toss when people disagree.

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Hallelujah! Book Two is off to the Editor

Lafayette Deception (a Cyber Thriller)

The old line about the joys of boating holds that an owner’s two happiest days are when he buys a boat and when he sells it. An author feels the same way about a book, although you have to up the number of happy days to three: the day the author sits down to write a book and realizes that it’s probably going to work, the day the finished work is actually out there for sale, and in between, the day that the actual writing and editing part is finally, actually (really!) done. Thank goodness, that day finally arrived for me on Saturday.

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Library of Congress “Opens Up” with (wait for it…) OOXML

OpenDocument and OOXML

Last week, the Library of Congress announced that it will “open up with OOXML.” Nine new OOXML format descriptions will be added to the LoC Format Sustainability Website.

Last July, the U.K. Cabinet Office formally adopted ODF, the OpenDocument Format developed by OASIS and adopted by ISO/IEC, as an approved open format for editable public documents. It did not give the same approval to OOXML, another XML-based document format that was based on a contribution from Microsoft to ECMA, another standards organization. OOXML was also in due course adopted by ISO/IEC. The Cabinet Office decision came ten years after the largest standards war of the decade was launched by a similar, but later reversed, decision by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Dept. of Justice Blesses IEEE Rules on Injunctions and Reasonability

Intellectual property Rights

Following almost two years of debate, public posting of five drafts, and consideration of 680 comments, IEEE-SA preliminarily approved amendments to its Patent Policy to address these and other questions. IEEE-SA is the developer of the Wi-Fi standards (and thousands of other specifications). It is one of the major standards development venues in the information and communications technology industry, and thus a venue within which the question bears great weight. However, final approval of the amendments was made contingent upon receiving a favorable “Business Review” letter from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a business review letter, the regulator responds to a detailed explanation and rationale for a proposed action, and indicates whether it would, or would not, be likely to challenge that action if implemented. In this case the DoJ expressed its belief that the proposed actions would be procompetitive rather than restricting competition, and that it would therefore not be inclined to challenge the final approval and implementation of the policy changes. That approval will occur later this month when the proposed policy updates are approved by the IEEE-SA Board of Directors.

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In Praise of Curation

Adventures in Self-Publishing

It's become fashionable for content producers to rail against the concept of “curation” in the Age of the Internet. Why? Because the guidelines of those  terrible people, the “traditional publishers,” are supposedly keeping authors from the global audience that certainly must be their birthright. True, the balance can (and in the recent past certainly has) swung too far in the direction of permitting far too few good books to gain access to traditional distribution channels.

But it’s worth remembering that the situation can look very different to a content consumer than it does to a content producer.

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Newsflash: Amazon Acts like For-Profit Company!

Adventures in Self-Publishing

One of the most incredible phenomena I’ve witnessed since I’ve become interested in self-publishing has been the propensity for many authors to lionize Amazon as if Jeff Bezos’s sole purpose in life was to help avenge the author class against the evil patriarchs of traditional publishing. Well, guess what? The realization has finally begun to dawn that facilitating self-publishing has been a means to an end for Amazon, and not the end itself.

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VC Madness Redux: Stop them Before they Kill the Economy Again

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

Courtesy of Spechtarts via Wikimedia Commons,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria license. Heaven help us all, they’re doing it again. The “who” are the venture capitalists, and the “what” is super-inflating another start-up company bubble. Consider the following valuations, as summarized by Steven Davidoff-Solomon in this morning’s New York Times: Instacart, a same-day grocery delivery service (remember WebVan?) wants to raise $100 million at a $2 billion valuation. Too modest? How about WeWork Companies (why not share your office space the way Uber shares cars?), which closed on $355 million at a $5 billion valuation. And then, of course, there’s Uber, with a $41 billion valuation, but only a modest share of the $7 billion a year people spend on cabs.

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A Writer’s Perception of Reality

Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal

Scientists and philosophers have struggled for years to define our relation to reality, or even to decide what “reality” might be. The rest of us mostly muddle through the daily experience of our existence.  For a writer, perceptions of reality are also important, as it’s easier to write about what we have perceived than what we have persuaded ourselves to imagine.