Next time you see your government proposing internet censorship laws of any kind, remember this incident where the Indian government crippled their own software industry so they could be seen to be doing something about terrorism. Their department of telecommunications has blocked 32 web sites — including archive.org and Github — as if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily (ETI claims it’s 60+). They’ve blocked entire slices of multi-purpose web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it, according to TechCrunch.
Perhaps it is happening because a person tasked with being seen to be doing something about terrorism found a broad and badly-drafted regulation with no checks, balances or oversight that she could use to satisfy her instructions at no personal cost. As a result, vast numbers of Internet uses that are neutral or positive to Indian culture and society are being inhibited in pursuit of a tiny number of cases that are negative. Certainly the sources ETI cites have no clue the damage they’re causing.
Laws and regulations don’t just get used for their intended purpose; they get used by anyone that is permitted to do so for any purpose that is not proscribed. So broad rules permitting censorship for open-ended durations and purposes can and will be used to silence opposition, score points and prove some functionary is tough on terrorism or paedophiles. Who cares if businesses, research and culture are harmed? Think of the children!
Draft regulations have been published in Britain that will finally end the anomaly where quotation, parody, caricature and pastiche are considered breaches of copyright. If approved by Parliament, they will come into force on June 1st, finally closing the loophole in copyright law that allowed copyright owners to chill criticism and stifle research in cases that are otherwise reasonable.
For more details, see our article on ComputerWorldUK.
In InfoWorld today, Simon challenges the assertion some are making that Google’s sale of Motorola after such a short time is a sign of failure. Noting all the gains Google has made, both financial and strategic, he suggests actually the deal is both profitable and clever. Certainly it’s a deal for its time, focussing mainly on triaging the negative consequences of a patent system designed for an industrial age being misapplied to the meshed society. Read all about it.
In yet more intellectual property news, we heard yesterday that the US Supreme Court has agreed to consider a question arising from the Alice Corporation vs CLS Bank dispute over the patentability of software. The Federal Circuit court, which is known to have a bias towards patent holders, has referred the question to the Supreme court after an en banc hearing resulted in a divided opinion. The matter unresolved concerns agreeing on a foolproof test for whether a patent ought to be valid if it combines a computer and an unpatentable abstract method. Read more in Simon’s InfoWorld summary.
The Innovation Act – a bill to restrain patent trolls – is a step in the right direction on the road to patent reform, despite its flaws. Yesterday the House of Representatives showed massive endorsement for the need to reform the patent system by supporting the bill with an overwhelming majority of 325 to 91. Despite the huge support for change, even from the White House, there remains a core of vested interest voices speaking out in favour of the patent trolls. News of the House’s response to the bill shows that these voices are now very much fighting against the flow of progress. For more detail, here’s Simon’s InfoWorld article on the announcement.
Today saw the announcement of the latest major LibreOffice release. LibreOffice 4.1 is heralded as “a landmark for interoperability” in The Document Foundation’s announcement. They’re keen to emphasise compatibility related improvements and features such as the upgrades to Microsoft OOXML import and export filters and the newly enabled font embedding. Whilst compatibility with proprietary file formats is certainly one of LibreOffice’s key advantages, the new release is not short on improvements and new features in other areas too. In all, the release marks a significant stride forward for LibreOffice, maintaining it’s impressive form.
For those involved with the LibreOffice community, the annual gathering is happening in September in Milan. The call for papers is still accepting submissions until the 4th of August, so get yours in now!
The LibreOffice Conference will be held in Milan on September 25-27 this year. The Conference has already made it’s call for papers, so if you have something interesting to say, now’s your chance to submit a proposal. The Document Foundation blog makes it clear that all are welcome, so whether you’re a member or a volunteer, a user or a developer, take a look over the list of topics for this year. If there’s something there which you need to have your say on or which simply catches your interest, now’s your chance to make your voice heard. Submit a proposal before August 4th to have it considered for LibreOffice Conference 2013.