When the only tool you have is a hammer, as the old cliché goes, everything looks like a nail.
Net neutrality, as I first wrote in 2006, is a complicated issue at the accident-prone intersection of technology and policy. But some of its most determined—one might say desperate—proponents are increasingly anxious to simplify the problem into political slogans with no melody and sound bites with no nutritional value. Even as—perhaps precisely because—a “win-win-win” compromise seems imminent, the rhetorical excess is being amplified. The feedback is deafening.
"On the whole, the results certainly seem to suggest that patent trolls with software patents do very much view the system as a lottery ticket, and they're willing to use really weak patents to try to win that prize. That is not at all what the patent system is designed to do, but it's how the incentives have been structured -- and that seems like a pretty big problem that isn't solved just by showing how many of these lawsuits fail. The amount of time and resources wasted on those lawsuits, as well as the number of companies who pay up without completing a lawsuit, suggest that there is still a major problem to be dealt with."
My article for CNET News.com this morning analyzes the “leaked” net neutrality bill from Rep. Henry Waxman, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I put leaked in quotes because so many sources came up with this document yesterday that its escape from the secrecy of the legislative process hardly seems dramatic. Reporters with sources inside Waxman’s office, including The Hill and The Washington Post, expect Waxman to introduce the bill sometime this week.
My article for CNET this morning, “The end of software ownership…and why to smile,” looks at the important decision a few weeks ago in the Ninth Circuit copyright case, Vernor v. Autodesk. (See also excellent blog posts on Eric Goldman’s blog. Unfortunately these posts didn’t run until after I’d finished the CNET piece.)
The CNET article took the provocative position that Vernor signals the eventual (perhaps imminent) end to the brief history of users “owning” “copies” of software that they “buy,” replacing the regime of ownership with one of rental. And, perhaps more controversially still, I try to make the case that such a dramatic change is in fact not, as most commentators of the decision have concluded, a terrible loss for consumers but a liberating victory.
I don’t have a great deal to add to coverage of last week’s big patent story, which concerned the filing of a complaint by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen against major technology companies including Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Diane Searcey of The Wall Street Journal , Tom Krazit at CNET News.com, and Mike Masnick on Techdirt pretty much lay out as much as is known so far.
But given the notoriety of the case and the scope of its claims (the Journal, or at least its headline writer, has declared an all-out “patent war”), it seems like a good opportunity to dispel some common myths about the patent system and its discontents.
And then I want to offer one completely unfounded theory about what is really going on that no one yet has suggested. Which is: Paul Allen is out to become the greatest champion that patent reform will ever know.