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Responses from Consumer Advocate Jamie Love 159

Posted by Roblimo
from the at-long-last dept.
We put up the original call for questions on September 5. Jamie's travel schedule (mentioned in one of his answers) is so hectic that it is amazing he found time to answer these questons at all. But answer he did, in detail. It's going to be interesting to see how Jamie's take on tech-oriented lobbying compares with that of "commercial" lobbyist Morgan Reed, whose interview responses we hope to see in the very near future.

1) Politician's Reaction
by dexter1

From my perspective, it seems that all of the politicians in congress seem to be firmly in the grasp of big business ......... or intellectually aware of the issues and responsive to viewpoints other than those of big business? Are there any particular politicians that seem more receptive (that could potentially campaign and convince others)?

Jamie Love:
Politics have gone downhill ever since the US Supreme Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo. By making campaign spending a constitutionally protected form of speech, and essentially legalizing bribery, we created a system where the average member of Congress spends most of his waking hours trying to raise money, just to compete with some other person who might do the same thing. Now the new members of Congress are people who excel at fundraising, or have money to begin with. Once they get on this treadmill, the spent all their time socializing and speaking with the lobbyists who can raise more money. It isn't so important that a politician be genius, or have deep insights of their own into problems, but if you hang out too much with lobbyists and make friends with people just to ask for money, you get a warped and fairly limited view of the world.

That said, I have my own favorites. In the Senate I like John McCain, even though I hate what he does maybe half the time. Patrick Leahy is smart and has his moments. Paul Sarbanes is a decent guy, as is Byron Dorgan. All of these guys will make you mad part of the time, but not all of the time. In the House, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Browne, Jan Schakowsky, Jessie Jackson, Jr. and some others have helped us a lot on our work on access to medicines in developing countries. I think Barbara Lee is very good, and independent -- she was the only member of the House that voted against the bill to give the executive branch a blank check in its war against terrorism. She is one of a small handful of members of Congress who are focused on the tragedy unfolding in Africa over AIDS.

2) Consequences for Patent Breakers?
by Bonker

I believe it was Brazil(? Please correct me) who recently ordered pharma plants to start manufacturing AIDS drugs in violation of U.S. patents. What are the consequences for countries who violate patents like this? Can we take this as a sign that violating a patent in this manner, 'for the public good' so to speak, is going to become more common and acceptable?

Jamie Love:
The Brazil case was poorly reported. Yes, Brazil has threatened to issue compulsory licenses on some patents on AIDS medicine, which has forced the price down, and yes, Brazil manufactures a number of AIDS medicines itself. Brazil only included medicines in its patent Act in 1996, after considerable pressure from the US government, so the earlier AIDS drugs are not covered by patents in Brazil. Now what else has Brazil done? It spends more than $300 million per year to buy AIDS drugs, provides universal access to triple therapy for every person in Brazil who needs it, regardless of their income. Brazil is the only country in the developing world that makes triple therapy available to any significant number of patents. Without triple therapy, most HIV+ people will die within ten years.

Brazil hasn't "violated" any patents. Brazil didn't issue patents on pharmaceuticals before 1996, and now it issues patents. Patents are a grant from the government. If the government wants to limit that right, it can, even here. We recently pushed a report that provides examples of compulsory licenses on patents in the United States, to provide a better understanding of how often this is done in richer countries. It makes no sense for the government to give unlimited power to patent owners. Patents are instruments of public policy, to achieve public purposes. People can't do whatever they want with regular property, and they can't do whatever they want with intellectual property.

We have global trade rules that determine what countries can and cannot do in terms of patents. The most important of these agreements is the World Trade Organization's TRIPS agreement on intellectual property. Articles 27, 30 and 31 of that agreement give governments the right to limit patents in important ways, including cases where governments can create either exceptions to patent rights, or step in and authorize third parties to use patents. In September of this year, the US Department of Justice required 3D Systems Corporation and DTM Corporation to license 178 patents to competitors. I didn't see screaming headlines all over the world announcing that the US was violating patents. Also in September, the US Federal Trade Commission announced it was considering a request for compulsory licenses on Unocal's clean fuel patents, at the request of Exxon. There are lots of circumstances under which the US government can limit patent rights in the United State. But there is often a big international trade crisis when a poor countries wants to issue a compulsory license for a patent on a pharmaceutical drug. This is the case for example in Africa, where infection rates are astonishing. We are working on a compulsory license application in South Africa. Right now more than half of pregnant women in their 20s are testing positive for HIV. They will all die without access to medicines. What type of government would put the interests of patent owners above the interests of half a generation of mothers?

The Clinton Administration was very friendly to the pharmaceutical industry in trade disputes involving medicines, having brought dozens of trade actions against countries all over the world. On January 11 this year, a few days before he left office, President Clinton filed a WTO case against Brazil, claiming their "local working" requirements in the Brazil patent law violated free trade rules. After a great deal of opposition by the public health community, the Bush Administration withdrew the case. Although Clinton actually filed the case and Bush ended it, Clinton is now touring developing countries as a champion of AIDS patients. For eight years Clinton and Gore placed incredible pressure on poor countries to adopt very high levels of intellectual property protection on medicines. President Bush started out with a fairly moderate policy on this, but seems to be increasingly captured by the big pharma companies, in terms of trade policy, and is opposing every effort the poor countries to make the WTO agreement more friendly to the poor, in terms of access to medicine issues.

3) How to communicate issues?
by Sinistar2k

Obviously, the big ticket item is getting the citizenry involved in making changes at a legislative level regarding the liberties that have been traded in the interest of corporate domination. The problem, however, is finding a way to communicate that without spending three days pointing out cases of encroaching corporate control.

Do you have any tips/suggestions on how an average technology enthusiast such as myself can best go about conveying to the every-day public the sense of urgency surrounding technology issues and the reason such issues should be addressed?

Jamie Love:
The Internet is an amazing showcase for creative ways to call attention to various issues and causes. I would barely know how to start. But I can give what I think are some basics.

  • People who take the time to be informed are taken more seriously.
  • It helps to have some idea of who the decision makers are, and how you can get in touch. Writing a member of Congress an email probably has some effect, but probably not much. Writing a Congressional staff member who is working on an issue is likely to have a much large effect.
  • It is rather amazing how much impact public comments have on government bureaucrats, particularly in formal rulemaking and requests for comments. Something more interesting than you might think would be to spend some time searching the federal register on topics you find interesting.
  • Letters to the editor in newspapers are underrated, particularly if you target key papers in a member of Congress' hometown. That's a letter they will read!
  • If the issue is getting press attention, lobby the press. What reporters or columnists say and think is pretty important.
  • For the non-amateur: during the 1996 Telecom debates, $1,000 apparently would buy about 10 minutes of face to face with the Chairman of a key subcommittee. I don't know the current price. We don't do this, but some small businesses might want to, it costs money to elect a Congressman, and it may make sense to support members who support you. I'm only half kidding.

4) Patent Issues
by michellem

It seems that the patent office has, in the last few years, lost their collective mind. Patents are incredibly broad, or amazingly misdirected, like in the case of the patents on human genes. They currently seem to protect only litigious patent holders, not the consumers or anyone else, for that matter. What is your organization doing to change this current patent landscape? Is there anything that can be done?

Jamie Love:
Well, we are doing what we can. We spent a lot of time communicating with the patent office, and dealing in particular with the international dimensions of this. One issue that needs more work is documentation of the costs of the patent system in various industry sectors. It makes no sense to have patents issued for software or business methods. The American Medical Association (AMA) told Congress that "thanks but no thanks," they did not want patents on surgical methods, and Congress provided an exception. One problem here is Article 27.1 of the WTO TRIPS agreement, says that

patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application
The US government has been pushing a very aggressive interpretation on this, and some people at the World Trade Organization or the World Intellectual Property Organization claim that this requires every countries to patent software, business methods and just about anything else. So the USPTO isn't just issuing patents on everything under the sun, it is lobbying the whole world to do so. For example, Jordan is now required by the US government to issue patents on business methods and software.

Another very important international fora concerns the proposed Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments. I have written a lot about this, and this is our main e-commerce project right now. I can't think of a bigger threat to the Internet than the Hague Convention. The Hague treatment of patents is a nightmare. Everyone would be liable for infringement of foreign patents, and the Hague Convention would give exclusive jurisdiction for both validity and infringement in the county of registration. Every country who signs the Convention would agree to enforce both money judgments and "protective and provisional" measures, such as injunctions, across borders. Companies like Microsoft can find or even rent member countries to adopt and enforce bad patents, and harass the free software community or competitors. In the end, every country will try to tax the Internet through overreaching patents. It presents a huge problem. The US government is actually the most progressive delegation on this issue, and the problem now is convincing Europe to take patents and other intellectual property out of the Convention.

On medicines, we are working with Representative Sherrod Brown, who has introduced HR 1708, a bill that would create a stronger compulsory licensing authority in the US, to deal with such issues as blocking patents, or refusals to license on reasonable terms. This bill is limited to public health, but could be expanded.

One thing the average hacker could do is to communicate more with the Judges who make policy, and by this I mean the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which really makes patent policy in the US. These Judges hear from patent owners all the time, but not from the public.

5) Free Speech
by Nexus Maelstrom

As a University student currently involved with a student group called the Campus Democracy Collective, what is the best way to inform both my peers and government representative that the fight for speech, liberty and freedom from oppression will be fought over bits and bytes, and not how many miles per gallon their car will get?

Jamie Love:
I would start by thinking a bit about what types of freedom you think are being threatened. Certainly you can find a lot of free speech on the Internet. What you may find less free are some other media, such as television, which features a remarkably narrow range of views, or the new limits on liberty by expanding concepts of intellectual property. I also think there is a big relationship between privacy and freedom, this is an area where the role of the government is complicated, because on the one hand, you want the government to protect the public from invasions of privacy by businesses and other institutions, and on the other hand, you want the government to leave you alone. After September 11, all of this has become much more difficult to manage. The world has changed, and we have to have a new strategy to protect privacy and human dignity and freedom in a world that wants more surveillance and less liberty, in order to be more safe. How do we enable the government to protect us, while having some protection against the government?

6) Neverending Copyright
by oddjob

The entertainment industry appears able to get copyright protection extended as long as they wish. While not as directly related to technology as patent law, copyright law is becomming more of a concern, especially with the recent mess with the DMCA. Is your organization making any efforts to convice congress to return copyright duration to a sane limit, and if so, is there much hope for success?

Jamie Love:
Our proposal is to have short terms for works for hire, where a corporate entity owns the right. This would put movies into the public domain much sooner, for example, as well as much of the archives of newspapers. More generally, we need to have a much stronger public domain lobby, and an international dimension too, to address the WTO requirements for copyright term.

7) Patents and the cost of development...?
by tenzig_112

How does CPT balance fighting patents on drugs (and other technologies) with the cost of developing those technologies?

Surely, the cost of life-saving medications should not be prohibitive. And dozens of ridiculous patent disputes cannot be good for any industry. But without some means of recouping the often crippling cost of development (for example, 1000s of drugs begin the development process and only a handful make it to the consumer) what incentive is there to investigate new ideas?

What will happen to the fields of medicine and information technology if the market for invention dries up?

Jamie Love:
I spend a lot of time on R&D issues, for example as a member of the MSF working group on Drugs for Neglected Diseases, and also proposing various approaches for R&D treaties. It does cost a lot to develop a drug, but not as much as one might think. If you look at the Orphan Drug Tax Credit, for example, you find that in 1998 drug companies spent only $8.6 million on clinical trials per approved orphan product, a major development cost. Of course for some drugs this can be much more expensive, running into tens of millions of dollars. The most difficult and risky part of drug development is the pre-clinical stage, where there is less data. In general, the US pharmaceutical industry spends about 7.5 percent of sales on R&D, according to its tax returns. This amounts to a lot of money, but even here, a lot of this is fairly low priority stuff, such as "me-too" drugs.

We have proposed R&D mandates for the drug industry. Specifically, we think that every firm that sells drugs in the US market should make mandatory contributions into R&D funds, as a cost of doing business. Companies could manage all or part of this money, for their own benefit, under whatever conditions the government wanted to impose in terms of transparency or public health priorities. This would give the US government new policy tools to increase R&D, if other policy tools, such as compulsory licensing, reduced private incentives.

If you knew how much crap the drug companies get away with now, in terms of ripping off the public on government funded inventions, or "evergreening" patents beyond 20 years, you too would be looking for ways to avoid the constant blackmail over R&D that you get every time you try to introduce some fiscal discipline to the system.

The story on the information technologies side is different, and patents play a much lesser role in protecting investment. Software gets copyright, trademark, trade secret and contract protections. It doesn't need patent protection.

8) The public cost of copyright
by underwhelm

It seems to me that because copyright is intangible, that the public domain is immeasurable, and because expanding copyright takes no money out of the budget, that IP laws are the pork barrel legislation of the Digital Millennium. Senators and legislators see no problem with enlarging copyright beyond its traditional boundaries, past fair use and first sale, because there is no means of accounting for the theft. Is there a sense in Washington that wrapping new copyright restrictions with a bow and handing them to entertainment conglomerates has no downside politically or economically?

If this is the case, how can we change the climate in Washington to make our representatives accountable for diminishing the public domain and enlarging copyright?

Jamie Love:
This is tough, because the entertainment companies really invest in Congressional campaigns. I would have to say that consumer interests are weak, as a movement, on the IPR issues. Larry Lessig and others are trying litigation, raising constitutional arguments. Maybe one exercise would be to ask members of Congress to estimate the loss to the public domain for all of these new claims for privatization. One of the issues is who will pay for the lobbying to protect the public domain? It helps to have money to fight these battles. We have to figure out where the money will come from. It isn't easy. I worked on various IPR issues for a long time before any foundation would fund this aspect of our work. No one understood what it was about. Very few groups work on these issues. We do. EFF has been doing some useful work. Public health groups have been doing a great job on the global medicines issues, and librarians are pretty well organized on issues that directly impact them. The ACLU is beginning to think more about IP issues. Sun Microsystems used to be more active on these issues, as did a few other firms, but really fairly minor. Bill Gates is very involved, but not on the side of the public domain. Richard Stallman seems to have engaged some lobbyists on issues more directly related to free software.

I guess the best answer is to get organized. In 1996 we formed a group called the Union for the Public Domain (UPD). Richard Stallman, Mickey Davis, myself and several others are on the board, but due to my poor leadership, it isn't active at the moment, and we are looking for a new board chair. Suggestions would be welcome. The main problem was that I couldn't even raise the money for a single full time staff, which is really needed. If someone wants to pay for this, it would be a very good investment.

9) What's your job really like?
by Masem

Whenever I hear the word lobbyist, I think of someone carrying a bag of money to a Congressman, and expecting to get legislation passed; the image is most likely a result of hundreds of political cartoons and editorals. Obviously, this image isn't 100% true, but from what we as citizens hear on daily events in Washington, this doesn't seem like an overexaggration.

Can you describe what a typical day is for you - for example, do you see Congressmen, how do you influence their voting (financial or otherwise), and what do you do when you are NOT on Capitol Hill?

Jamie Love:
I spend almost no time on Capitol Hill. I spent a lot of time outside of Washington, DC, and a lot outside of the United States. In August I was in Pakistan, the Dominican Republic, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Tomorrow I leave for Berlin. These face-to-face meetings are pretty important. We use the Internet a lot, but it is quite important to build some confidence first, particular when dealing with international issues, where cultural differences take some time to understand. I also spent a lot of time writing and sending email, managing email lists and posting stuff on our web pages. Our typical contribution is to get fairly technical on policy issues, and share information fairly widely, via the Internet, trying to build a broader movement on this or that. In terms of Capitol Hill, I personally talk with staff more than members, and the same is true with the federal executive branch agencies -- I talk with middle level staff quite a bit. Every once in a while I participate in a meeting with the President or a high level official, but not often, and rarely do I have much to show for it later. But if you do a good job convincing a few key staffers, or the general counsel of an agency, or a lead negotiator, you have really done well. As a practical matter, one of the main things you also need to do is talk to the press. When I travel a lot, reporters get a bit tired of trying to track me down. But you can always call reporters. They play a pretty important role in government.

10) Why do you use Microsoft Windows
by Anonymous Coward

If you are so anti-corporation, and so anti-Microsoft, to the point of publically criticizing them and their practices, why does the Consumer Project on Technology, and specifically you, Mr. Love, choose to use Microsoft Windows on your office and home machines?

Jamie Love:
Well, our office uses just about everything. We have Windows boxes, Linux boxes, Macs and Suns. For a while I moved the CPT unit entirely to Linux, to have a Microsoft free environment to see how that would work. We did this for more than a year for everything. Recently I switched some machines back, and now I use an IBM lap top with Windows as my main machine. I decided to switch back for several reasons. First, I had lost touch with what Microsoft was up too, and I needed to know that. Second, I wanted to use a large number of new devices that I couldn't get to work on my Linux box. Third, I was having trouble sharing my Linux documents with colleagues using MS Office, due to the typical Microsoft anticompetitive practices. And I was pretty unhappy with the progress in the various GPL office productivity tools, with the exception of the GNOME spreadsheet program, which was pretty good. I didn't see much work by AOL in improving the Linux version of Netscape, and wasn't happy when Microsoft invested in Corel and they seemed to be dumping the Linux apps. Recently I went back and tried a few current Linux distributions, and am deciding what to do on that front right now, wondering why Sun can't make Star Office an easier install. I've used lots of different computers over time. My first one didn't have a monitor, only a printer, and my first personal computer was a Commodore 64, which I used to dial into an IBM mainframe. I like computers and computing, and I like Linux a lot, but I am not that happy with the current state of client applications, and a bit frustrated tying to use various PDAs, scanners, cameras, printers, etc, with my Linux box.

11) Outside the US of A
by bfree

I'm not American, but in recent years I have been boycotting many American corporations due to the influence they have on the US legal system and their seemingly inexhaustable ability to gain any IP law they require. I am seriously concerned by the aparently relentless push by US based coporations to bring an American style Intellectual Property regime to the rest of the world. As a Free Software advocate I find few ideas as repellent as "Software Patents"! My question to you is how do you see the International Intellectual Property arguments going, and ultimatley will we reach a system where everyone is under the thumb of software patents or where the US is forced to give up on this terrible idea?

Jamie Love:
As I noted above, the most pressing current danger is the proposed Hague Convention. We have a lot of information about this on our web page. Also, by all means file comments in the EU consolation on the Hague Convention, which can be done by electronic mail.

I think the second major issue is the WTO TRIPS Article 27.1 language, which is quite expansive in terms of what countries must patent.

The third area to watch out are the various bilateral and regional trade agreements, which are basically out of control. In the US, USTR is the lead agency, and is largely captured by a handful of large corporations. But things are really pretty bad elsewhere too. Some European trade officials and bureaucrats have patent envy, and can't wait to get Europe to become even more aggressive than the US. On the Hague negotiations it is the Europeans who want intellectual property in, and the US that wants it out. So sometimes the problem is in Europe more than here. Look too at the mess caused by the EU decision to create these rights in data under the database directive.

12) Effective technology lobbying and activism for DMCA
by melquiades

I'm part of the group that's organizing the DMCA protests in Minnesota. We're passing out fliers and staging protests, but haven't managed to get any press. We're also trying to get a face-to-face meeting with our senators...but no luck so far -- their offices haven't even called us back, despite both written and phoned requests for a meeting.

The problem is, we're technology people, not activists, and we don't know how to lobby effectively. What's your advice? How can we get the attention of our senators? How can we attract media attention (in a respectful way, that is)? Are there other activities we should be undertaking that would be more effective than what we're doing?

Jamie Love:
What worked well in the struggle to change US policy on patents in AIDS drugs for Africa were people doing some brave things, like participating in demonstrations, chaining themselves to office furniture in government offices, getting arrested, and doing lots of civil disobedience. Today everyone seems a bit spooked by the September 11 events, and I don't know how well this will work. But I believe many of these older direct action tactics are quite effective. Why not just find out where the Senator is going to speak and disrupt the event? That seems to get attention. And maybe some good attention if you can show that he meets with the other side, but doesn't get your views. Does he take money from MPAA or RIAA members? And won't meet with his own constituents? Will the local papers take letters to the editor? There are ways that you can get a Senator's attention, and show him that it is in his interest to give you the time of day. Call me and we can talk about this.

13) consumers and quality
by tim_maroney

Ralph Nader's consumer advocacy has always been first and foremost about quality, of which safety is a subset. Given that the commercial operating systems (MacOS and Windows) are much more user-friendly than the current slate of Linux offerings, and that even many Linux advocates have now come around to admitting that fact, how does Linux advocacy benefit the consumer? Isn't it strange for a consumer advocacy organization to be advocating a lower-quality product over a higher-quality one?

Jamie Love:
I think you have to look at the longer run. Where is Microsoft taking us? Where is AOL/TW taking us? What will it take to get a paradigm shift away from Microsoft, and what would be the benefits?

One thing that is unacceptable are actions to undermine the Linux or other alternatives. We think the USDOJ should stop Microsoft from undermining dual boot PCs. We think that remedies in the Microsoft case should make it easier for rivals to be interoperable with Microsoft products, that Microsoft should be restrained from using file formats as an anticompetitive weapon, particularly against its installed base, in order to force unwanted upgrades. Every OS has its strengths and weaknesses, and we favor more biodiversity in the OS space.

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Responses from Consumer Advocate Jamie Love

Comments Filter:
  • focus on ease of use (Score:3, Informative)

    by jchristopher (198929) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:07PM (#2406779)
    "I like computers and computing, and I like Linux a lot, but I am not that happy with the current state of client applications, and a bit frustrated tying to use various PDAs, scanners, cameras, printers, etc, with my Linux box."

    What a telling comment on the state of Linux. Same boat I'm in. This guy is no newbie, yet it still gives him fits.

    Easier, people, easier!

    • The Linux Fault Threshhold [adequacy.org], the point at which Linux lets you down and the apologists come out of the woodwork. Adequacy did an apparently satirical article on this very thing.

    • Easier, people, easier!


      What's that supposed to mean? Do you think developers are sitting around not sure what to do with themselves? And now that you've shared your insight, they will jump up and make their projects easier to use?

      • What's that supposed to mean? Do you think developers are sitting around not sure what to do with themselves? And now that you've shared your insight, they will jump up and make their projects easier to use?

        Show me ONE Linux developer who's willing to talk about interface and ease of use. No one cares, and it shows.

        If you point out the usability flaws in an application, you get flamed. I'm not a coder, what else can I do?

  • It is wonderfully ironic that someone who is head of the CPT [cptech.org] and should be strongly opposed to microsoft for both business and philosophical reasons sites those same reasons for using microsoft products. If people like Jaime Love cannot be convinced of a choice other than microsoft, then there is little hope of the general public doing so.
    • Which, you might say, is another example of how this powerful monopolist has throttled the competition.
    • I think Jaime has a point when somebody asked him about this specific issue. If you are going to be opposed to certain products, you're going to have to stay on top of those products.
    • that possibly, just possibly, that, Microsoft produces, the, *GASP*, best solution for some people? Is that completely beyond comprehension?


      • Could it be that possibly, just possibly, that, Microsoft produces, the, *GASP*, best solution for some people? Is that completely beyond comprehension?

        Maybe there is some confusion as to what "the best solution" might mean.

        You see, for quite a few of us, the best solution is not purely based on technical merit. I am for the purpose of this post completely ignoring the fact that Linux is technically superior to any similar Microsoft offering in several aspects, just as I won't repeat your point that perhaps, for technical reasons, a Microsoft product might seem the better tool in other situations.

        It's about ethics, I guess. And I'll venture to guess further that it's about whether you choose to care or not. If you can't be bothered to think of something so trivial as the ethical foundation for your choice of software then perhaps you shouldn't waste time reading the rest of my post.

        For me, Microsoft isn't an option, regardless of what it allows me to do. Just as I won't by a DVD player, because I feel that I'm being denied fundamental consumer rights and freedoms over my own purchase, I won't use Microsoft code because it violates a whole range of principles that are critically important to me.

        Now admittedly, you were talking about some people, whereas I have only been talking about myself. But perhaps for some people there's more to the question of what the best tool for the job is than what gets it done the quickest/slickest.

      • The more you try to be everything to everyone, the more likely you are going to be nothing to noone.


        It's sad to think that that a company that takes such a large, sweeping, shoddy approach to computing makes someone believe somehow that is going to be the right choice for an individual.


        The larger your audience becomes, the less likely you are to please, or even satisfy your target. That's Marketing 101. When MS's installed base was smaller, people were happier with it. That's the reason why Mac users are so happy with Macintosh; it's targeted to predominantly aesthetically creative people, and Linux users are happy; it's targeted towards technically creative people.


    • So if you use Word, then you must be 100% lockstep behind of all of MS' business practices, huh? Sheesh.

  • by Some Woman (250267) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:18PM (#2406853) Journal

    we favor more biodiversity in the OS space

    I always knew that operating systems were people, too.

  • by SomethingOrOther (521702) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:26PM (#2406911) Homepage
    I believe it was Brazil(? Please correct me) who recently ordered pharma plants to start manufacturing AIDS drugs in violation of U.S. patents. What are the consequences for countries who violate patents like this?

    Simple answer: None

    Reason:
    Acting with the genuine intention to save somebodys life is (under any legal system) is a legtimimate mitigation for any crime, up to and including murder.

    Illegal manufacuture of lifesaving drugs isn't going to bother any judge (or any right thinking person)
    Making cheap viagra on the side may land you in a spot of trouble though :-)

    • Life-saving? Huh? Don't you mean death-prolonging? Now, instead of 10 years, they have 15 or 20 to go around infecting people. Okay, life extension is a noble goal, but don't make it out like these people are saving those who would otherwise die. They'll still die, it'll only take a little bit longer.
      • In other words, there's no such thing as a "life saving" action, since we'll still die in the end?
      • We all die. Putting that eventuality off a little bit longer is what medicine and health care is all about. A drug is "life-saving" if it extends life by a meaningful amount. Insulin-dependent diabetics aren't "cured" by insulin, and they will probably eventually die from diabetic complications, but insulin is certainly life-saving for them. So while AIDs drugs may not cure the patient, or even assure them a relatively normal life span, they are certainly life-saving, and the moral question of whether or not to violate the patent to save lives is still relavant
    • International political pressure isnt exactly under the jurisdiction of courts you know. Sure, it might not hold up in a court if a pharm company tried to sue a foreign government for patent violations on lifesaving drugs, but what can a court do to prevent trade limitations or withdrawal of support programes, etc?
    • Acting with the genuine intention to save somebodys life is (under any legal system) is a legtimimate mitigation for any crime, up to and including murder.

      Oh is it really? I'm sure you, Mr Random Slashdotter, has examined all the laws of all the countries of the world very carefully before arriving at this conclusion? Let me name some countries where I believe what you're claiming to be the case is in fact not the case at all:

      Afghanistan

      Pakistan

      India

      Saudi Arabia

      Russia

      Ghana

      South Africa

      Brazil

      Mexico

      ...

      China

      Madagaskar

      USA

      You're just full of shit.

  • Jamie's answer to "Neverending Copyright"

    Our proposal is to have short terms for works for hire, where a corporate entity owns the right. This would put movies into the public domain much sooner, for example, as well as much of the archives of newspapers.

    OK, this seems a bit vague. A corporate entity holding the copyright? I do not think it would lend itself to a short copyright term. Also, what defines this "short term". How long is "short"?

    It was an excellent question but the answer was quite vague. Disappointing.
    • Re:Jamie's Answer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Masem (1171) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:47PM (#2407022)
      Actually, apart from lacking a length of time, this is a great answer. Nearly every form of entertainment that is put out today is a work-for-hire, in that the publisher (whether MPAA, RIAA, print, etc) pays the creator of the work a fee and royalities, but then maintains the copyright on the work and earns all other moneys from it beyond this. At this point, the copyright that the publisher is holding is at odds with the Founding Fathers' idea for copyright in that it grants a limited monopoly to encourage creators to create more; since the artist has already 'sold' the work out, he gains nothing more with the perpetual copyright and therefore has no encouragement, unless of course the publisher hires him again for more work.

      If we cut down that copyright from 95 years for a corporately-owned copyright to, say, 20 years, it would have two effects; first, as pointed out, things would move MUCH faster into the public domain. But secondly, if a privately-owned copyright lasted significantly longer (say, 35 years, or life+10 years) than the corporately owned copyright, this might encourage more artists to use the indy system (which typically does not do works-for-hire) to publish their works in order to reap more benefit to themselves.

      Of course, that's using PSI::ESP, so I may be reading too much into his response.

      • I see your point, but I do not know how to sway a Congress that is easily bought by corporate interest money. An example is when the copyright on Mickey Mouse is close to expiration, Disney will lobby and grease the palms of legislators to extend the term. This is what happened with the Sonny Bono Act of 1998. In fact, it takes only act of Congress to extend copyright term limits now.
      • I think you underestimate the ability of lawyers to fudge ownership. What would stop a corporation from getting a contract that is, in effect, an exclusive lease of the IP for the duration? The author might, technically, still own the copyright, but all the profits would still go to the corp.

        To take an example from another field, consider corporate tax law, and all the available tax shelters. Undermining the intent of this law will be so easy it will be like going back to kindergarten for them.

        ~k
  • I liked Jamie's responses. I think he's got a good grasp of the long term goals of Consumer Advocacy. Instead of this year's fad issues, he seems to be looking ahead 10 to 15 years. Tough job, but I'm glad somebody's doing it!
  • or is Jamie Love sounding really bummed out? Like he's doing his best, but not getting anywhere and now it's a trudge job.
    • Seemed that way to me to. I was especially troubled by his apparent acceptance of the fact that politicians are always going to work on behalf of the lobbies that provide the most lining for their pockets.

      I realize that it is tough to survive in politics, and that their is a lot of pressure to constantly raise money. However, that is NOT and excuse to abandon your oaths of office (or whatever they take, if anything) and prostitute yourself to the private sector. Jamie acts as though it is our responsibility to sweeten the pot if we want our interests represented, as if electing them and paying for their salaries and perks were not enough.

      Frankly, it sounds to me like he has been in the game too long. Perahps he has contracted a touch of the Stokholm Syndrome.
      • The point of a lobbyist is to know what works. He knows (as does everyone) that money works - it's a short-cut to get their attention. But he also lists other ways of getting their attention - letters to the editor that could influence public opinion, protests, etc. Pick your option.

        Grab.
  • by WillSeattle (239206) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:38PM (#2406974) Homepage
    I noticed that the lobbyist suggested actions like chaining oneself to desks and disrupting events.

    One of the more effective methods myself and friends had at the WTO was not to protest, but to go to the restaurants and hotels the delegates were staying at and talking reasonably (while dressed nicely) about all the issues, and engage the delegates in discusssion of these issues.

    For a Senator or Congressmember, the action I would suggest would be to get four or five people to go to the normal boring "coffee talks" in the home district and have each person have a short question about an issue one wanted to discuss. Then have other members react typically to the response.

    E.g. "Do you think that the DCMA should be changed so that we can make backup copies of our software as is our constitutional right?" Response: "No, Microsoft told me it was cool" Audience: "I thought you worked for us, not for them."

    This really zings them.

    • Another great way to get "face time" with politicians is to volunteer to work on their campaigns. Politicians will listen to anyone who is helping them to get/stay elected. Usually this takes the form of monetary donations, but other types of campaign contributions are just as important...especially if you have something extra, like tech saaviness.
      • Another great way to get "face time" with politicians is to volunteer to work on their campaigns. Politicians will listen to anyone who is helping them to get/stay elected. Usually this takes the form of monetary donations, but other types of campaign contributions are just as important...especially if you have something extra, like tech saaviness.

        Actually, that's how I got a lot of my early connections, back before I had money. A lot of campaigns could use some savvy tech people.

        The bonus is you get to see how the process works, and you make some great connections.

        Plus, for the guy geeks, most campaign staffers are intelligent young women. Even if one doesn't date at the office, they're fun to hang out with. And they have friends.

    • Thank you for your insightful post - I hope many read it with respect.

      Participating in civil disobedience generally makes you look like a fool. I've never had much respect for the "mob mentality" or for extremists who chain themselves to things or block the very roads that I try to get to work every day. There are much more intelligent and effective options to getting the message accross.
      • I agree, most people do not change their minds simply because someone has chained themselves to a tree, blocked a road, set their hair on fire, or whatever crazy stunt that wackos are up to nowadays. If you aren't able to convince people by reasoning with them, then perhaps that says something about your cause.

        • I also find it interesting that most people (not myself) believe that defining ethical and moral values is done by the popular vote. If this is the case, instead of protesting, vote. If the majority thinks something is OK, then who are you to question the majority? (this is more food for thought then me trying to continue a debate)
        • If you aren't able to convince people by reasoning with them, then perhaps that says something about your cause.

          No, more likely it says, you aren't able to convince people by reasoning with them because they don't actually care about your concerns, and/or they won't even bother to listen. That's why people engage in direct action.

          • And you wonder why people consider these kinds of people to be wackos. Forcing me to care about your "concerns" through "direct action" is nothing but thinly veiled terrorism.

            If you are strongly involved in any cause that A) no one cares about, and B) is willing to resort to force, then this definitely says something about your cause.

            There are all sorts of causes that I care about, but there isn't a single solitary cause that I care about enough to curtail someone else's right to life, liberty, or property. Groups that are willing to cut these corners to promote their ends are wrong, whatever their beliefs might be.

      • Yeah, that Ghandi... what a lame jerk, huh?
        • First, as incredible as he was, that doesn't make all of his actions RIGHT (the end never justifies the means). Second, most of his "protesting" was done via fasting, as opposed to chaining himself to a doorway and blocking public roads.

  • I wonder how many times he gets called a communist/socialist/radical/luddite for advocating for the public domain..

    Also, anyone know of any newsletters, good websites to keep track of IP stuff? The best place I've found is james-boyle.com [james-boyle.com].

    • >I wonder how many times he gets called a communist/socialist/radical/luddite for advocating for the public domain..

      Now days, I think we just call these people fascists. It doesn't have to make sense; it's just what you call people with opposing views you don't want to face.

      Name calling has recently gotten strage. For example, someone who is against affirmative action can be called a racist, but so can someone for it. Someone against gun control could be said to promote murders, but so can someone for gun control. It sometimes depends on who's right; sometimes it doesn't have to even apply.

      Doesn't it appear that some (very long) public debates are just this name calling with no real inquiry into the facts? Too bad.
  • You never answered my question (though you did point out some items I may not have been so aware of). I was curious as to whether Jamie with his "inside track" would be in a position to provide his own speculation as to whether the anti Software Patents lobby has a hope, or whether we have already lost the battle. I am concerned that it appears my quadrant of the world (Europe) is as stupid as Jamie suggests and I now ask Slashdot for any good sources of information so I can start to educate my local politicians (in Ireland). I recently enjoyed the experience of stumbling into a Eurpoean Patent Office stand at a conference here in Dublin though unfortunately I the person who could even begin to address my concerns was a patent examiner for chemicals and I only got about 15 minutes of his time because it was the end of the day. What he told me left me seriously disturbed for days and to be honest I still am. The only reassuring thing he had to say was that they realise the USPTO are idiots and that if someone doesn't register for a patent in a way that covers Ireland [espacenet.com] within one year of applying for the patent anywhere it is fair game!
  • by Belly of the Beast (457669) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @12:52PM (#2407045)
    One thing the average hacker could do is to communicate more with the Judges who make policy, and by this I mean the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), which really makes patent policy in the US. These Judges hear from patent owners all the time, but not from the public.

    At the risk of sounding like a babe in the woods, How do I talk to a judge? Do I call up the clerk of the local US Court of Appeals and ask to take her honar out to lunch? Or do I have to sue Micro$oft to get face-time with a judge?

    • When there is a case you are interested in write a letter in the form of a "friend of the court brief". There are specific formats they like to see this in, but pretty much everything gets read. You may or may not infulence the decision, but at least the judge knows there is public interest.

      Judges are also less swayed by money, so you have a better chance of getting a fair ruling from them.

    • On a related note, how do you find out which congressional staffers are working an issue, and get ahold of them?

  • This is the case for example in Africa, where infection rates are astonishing. We are working on a compulsory license application in South Africa. Right now more than half of pregnant women in their 20s are testing positive for HIV. They will all die without access to medicines. What type of government would put the interests of patent owners above the interests of half a generation of mothers?


    The US government, and the government of the vast majority of the other industrial countries (actually I don't know any exception).

    We should be ashamed when we read things like that (I am, although I knew this before, but I'm ashamed every time I'm reminded to such things). No I'm don't want to justify sep 11 events and I strongly abominate them - and I don't like the urge I feel that it's necessary to assure this in any critical statement nowadays - but we (the "developed" nations) sacrify a lot of lives for out wealth, day to day, year to year.

    Go to www.bhopal.org, especially here [bhopal.org] and here [bhopal.org],here [bhopal.net] or here [bhopal.org] (I choose one random example here, to add to the drug thingy) and wonder with me why we as western people can yet go to so many countries in the world and be welcomed, while every dark skinned, muslimic looking man in our countries gets looked like he will soon begin to kill people.

    The typical theme of critizing the united states for their past politics is far to easy for western citizens. No, we all as a big group of people bear the blame for much of the hatred against us, because of our way of living. We amuse ourselfes on a gigantic pile of nearly world wide misery.

    Sorry, this post isn't loaded with facts, sometimes I just get a little depressed and have to rant.

    • "sacrify a lot of lives for out wealth, day to day, year to year"

      That is one way of thinking ...
      However, do you truly believe that drug companies and scientists who get up every morning and work hard to come up with these new drugs are evil ?
      Do you believe that our ability to develop advanced drugs is directly related to slavery and death rates of people in 3rd world countries ?
      In other words, if it weren't for us and our riches, would these poor people have better lives ?
      • However, do you truly believe that drug companies and scientists who get up every morning and work hard to come up with these new drugs are evil ?

        As for the scientists, I don't know why you mention them, they may be evil, they may be good, they are morally on the same ground as everyone else is. I didn't say anything about them.

        Now the companies, well they are neither evil nor good, they are amoral in the fundamentel meaning of the word.
        Companies are profitable or unprofitable, and their determination is to be as profitable as possible - in a true capitalistic economy, many states' constitutions in fact impose a little bit more in that determination, but let's leave it at that.

        No, I think that we, as consumers, don't get of our lazy asses and provide companies with the feedback that acting as if they were good (which they per definition can't really be) is economically advantageous.

        Do you believe that our ability to develop advanced drugs is directly related to slavery and death rates of people in 3rd world countries ?

        No, I don't believe that, I'm neither anticapitalistic nor against technical progress. I'm not an american, and when I compare the outcry in my country after sep 11 to incindents like bhopal and other incidents, I realize how blind we as western people seem to be to suffering in 3rd world countries.
        Just compare the money which will be spend in order to eradicate bin ladens organization to the money spend for development aid. Why do western states now give 600.000.000$ for food for the afghan people to prevent mass starving, and didn't do it before?
        Does someone really think that this money wouldn't have been necessary anyway (without american air strikes) to prevent enourmous suffering? It just wouldn't have been spended.

        In other words, if it weren't for us and our riches, would these poor people have better lives ?
        No, and if it hadn't been for the allies in 1933-1942, the jews in germany wouldn't have been better of, too (yeah, I know Goodwin's Law). What kind of argument is that?
        • "Why do western states now give 600.000.000$ for food for the afghan people to prevent mass starving, and didn't do it before? "

          Why should we ?
          Again, do you believe that our prosperity is a directly related to their inability to maintain civilized and proficient society ?
          Do we owe anything to these people?
          Do we have obligation to help all people who are less fortunate then we are ?
          Does that extend only to people who threaten us if we don't help them ?
          There are lots of questions like that once you get into this "nation building" business.
    • Sorry, this post isn't loaded with facts, sometimes I just get a little depressed and have to rant.

      Well your not alone. At the start of the year the Pope had this to say [vatican.va] about Western society:

      "9. The radicalization of identity which makes cultures resistant to any beneficial influence from outside is worrying enough; but no less perilous is the slavish conformity of cultures, or at least of key aspects of them, to cultural models deriving from the Western world. Detached from their Christians origins, these models are often inspired by an approach to life marked by secularism and practical atheism and by patterns of radical individualism. This is a phenomenon of vast proportions, sustained by powerful media campaigns and designed to propagate lifestyles, social and economic programmes and, in the last analysis, a comprehensive world-view which erodes from within other estimable cultures and civilizations. Western cultural models are enticing and alluring because of their remarkable scientific and technical cast, but regrettably there is growing evidence of their deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment. The culture which produces such models is marked by the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good. Yet, as the Second Vatican Council warned, "without the Creator the creature comes to nothing!"(7) A culture which no longer has a point of reference in God loses its soul and loses its way, becoming a culture of death. This was amply demonstrated by the tragic events of the twentieth century and is now apparent in the nihilism present in some prominent circles in the Western world."

      I suspect he was referring to the US and various European countries. The devil may win a few battles, but evil by its nature is destined to fail...

  • I know I am being overly simple but why not make the copyright law protect a copyright for something like 5 years after it is actively published. That way nobody or no corporation can just sit on a copyright without offering it for sale to the public but anyone who is selling their work will not lose the copyright to that material until after they abandon it. No corporation would be able to sit on a large archive of past work without offering a choice to consumers who would like to buy things if they were available.


    just my $0.03 - adjusted for inflation :)

  • Disappointing (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Zeinfeld (263942)
    Unfortunately Love and the rest of the Naderite faction have pretty much destroyed any influence they might have had. The GOP's sole objective is furthering the corporate interest. Nader cost the Democrats the Whitehouse.

    As a result it isn't too surprising that Love isn't spending much time on Capitol Hill. He doesn't have a constituency there.

    Love's slam of Microsoft on the patent front is somewhat unfair. Unlike Apple, Sun, Rambus, Entrust etc. Microsoft is one of the few major computing companies that has played the IP game with a straight cue. (That is not to say they have played every game with a straight cue). But Microsoft has not sued to prevent others using the Xerox windows GUI as apple did, sued to prevent extension of an 'open' language standard as Sun did, or steer standards bodies towards a technique they owned an undisclosed patent on.

    After the 9/11 attack it is unlikely that there will be a great deal of political capital that the US can expend to further extend its idea of Intelectual Property and errect more barbed wire accross the plains.

    • Nope, Microsoft hasnt been nice with IP either. There was at least one case recently where they threatened lawsuit over a video codec. Perhaps not _as_ nasty as the worst, but nasty enough.
    • Nader cost the Democrats the Whitehouse.

      While this must be true, any things that he was running for will now have some greater attention from the Democratic Party next time. If Nader took away Democratic voters, it's the party's responsibility to get those voters back, and not by getting rid of opposition (other choices), but by addressing the desires of those voters -> DEMOCRACY!

      • Re:Disappointing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Zeinfeld (263942) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @03:43PM (#2408005) Homepage
        While this must be true, any things that he was running for will now have some greater attention from the Democratic Party next time.

        The exact opposite has happened. Nader has caused the Democrats to move away from the green party position.

        The Dems are not going to respond to Nader by moving to the left to pick up part of the 3% of the vote he won. They are going to move further to the right to pick up votes in the center.

        Nader's attack claiming that there was no difference between Bush and Gore devalued the Democrats lead on environmental issues. At the next election Gore (and it will be him since no other Dem will run against Bush now) will be running against broken campaign pledges on the environment.

        Nader's campaign was really not about the 'environment', his real issue was a barely articulated anti-corporativism that tied in with 'anti-globalism'. The Dems can't move in that direction because it is an ideology of opposition. Nader has nothing practical to replace the thing he attacks. He doesn't need to because he knows he won't be president. The Dems cannot adopt Nader's anti-capitalism without proposing an alternative.

    • by beme (85862)
      Nader? Naw, Gore cost the Democrats the White House. Gotta _earn_ those votes. Shameful of the Gore campaign to blame someone else for their own shortcomings. Wouldn't have taken much... just some, any, sign of resistance to the corporate bendover.. some indication of decent environmental policies.. maybe a little Labor in there too... not hard at all for Gore to get the majority of those votes back from Nader.
    • Nader cost the Democrats the Whitehouse

      Bullshit. The democrats are just as much of corporate sellouts. Medicare and Medicaid is a perfect example of how the democrats have sold the good of the american people for corporate dicksucking.

      Gore also got tons of money from the entertainment industry during the election. Hmmmm?? And the DMCA was made into law when who was president? Oh yeah, that sack of shit they call bill clinton.

      You don't get it. Gore or Bush, we were fucked either way.
      • "a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade."

        I am sure you have seen that quote before ..
        Just wondering how would this policy fit into realities in Gulf region.
        Say, Hussein takes over whole region ( which he was very capable of doing) and then jacks up gas prices 6 times ?
        Do we just sit and pay or do we do anything about it ?
    • Re:Disappointing (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maeglin (23145)
      Nader cost the Democrats the Whitehouse.

      Actually, as Nader said, Gore cost him the election.

      If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say "I'd vote for [blank] but then I'd be throwing my vote away so I'll just vote for (Bush|Gore)" -- better yet, if I had a freakin' vote every time -- maybe the major parties would pull their heads out of their asses and realize a lot of us don't like them any more.

      But, that's a pipe dream. People like to play it safe.

      The status quo wouln't be the status quo if it changed.
    • Love's slam of Microsoft on the patent front is somewhat unfair.
      Bullshit. Your slam of Love is unfair. To-wit:
      ... Microsoft has not sued to prevent others using the Xerox windows GUI as apple did,
      It wasn't Microsoft's to sue. It was Xerox'.

      Strike one.

      sued to prevent extension of an 'open' language standard as Sun did,
      Exqueeze me? Microsoft replaced several key calls with proprietary API of their own... violating their license agreement to use the Java trademark. You don't like it? Go write your own [perl.org] damn [ruby-lang.org] language [python.org], but if it doesn't meet standards [sun.com], you can't call it "Java". That's not dirty pool, that's just fair.

      Microsoft never had to sue to prevent the bogus breaking of a language; they were the ones doing the bogus breaking. There's a difference in adding things to a language [netscape.com] and breaking what's already there.

      Strike two.

      or steer standards bodies towards a technique they owned an undisclosed patent on.
      Oh, yeah? [slashdot.org] Tell me Microsoft isn't behind RAND.

      Strike three called, on the outside corner. Go siddown, Casey.

      They don't call it the Evil Empire for nothing.... and I don't care if you are a troll (obviously the moderators don't think so), the hoi polloi need setting straight. I don't hate Microsoft for their products. Some of them are actually decent. I hate Microsoft because they do, in fact, play dirty pool.

      --
      If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve the Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.
      -- Thomas Jefferson, Inagural Address (I)

      • t wasn't Microsoft's to sue. It was Xerox'.

        You should learn some history. Apple ripped off the Xerox GUI technology when it rolled out first the Lisa then the Mac.

        Then when Microsoft, Atari and others tried to bring out their copies of the Xerox desktopo Apple sued them claiming that they 'owned' the GUI metaphor.

        Apple drove Atari into bankrupcy. The Atari O/S was better than any Apple produced until release X last year. They had true pre-emtive multi-tasking with protected memory working.

        Apple also sued Microsoft which is what I was refering to. Microsoft refused to submit to blackmail. The suit was settled as part of the Microsoft rescue package when Jobs took over.

        The Apple management believed that they didn't need to invest in the MacOS because they owned the desktop metaphor. They wasted their R&D on whizzy projects like the Newton and Dylan thinking they could eliminate the competition to their cash cow in the law courts.

    • Bulldust :)

      One example...

      Have you ever wondered why real don't just stream using an ASF format? (or anyone else?)

      After all, ASF streamhandling is implemented in all current versions of windows...

      ...

      Well the answer is because microsoft holds a patent on the file format.

      No reason really, except to create/stream an ASF file you need a patent license (which you don't get) so the only streamers which can stream to media player are microsoft streamers...

      Its not because its hard to do... hell an GPL'd video editing program which could output ASF (virtualdub) had to remove the ability after they received threats from MS Legal

      MS most certainly don't play with a straight cue...

      there are soooo many examples :(
    • "Nader cost the Democrats the Whitehouse."

      Untrue. It would be far more accurate to say that the war on drugs cost the Democrats the Whitehouse. Consider that the Clinton administration prosecuted the war much more vigorously than the Republicans (for example, the total number of drug arrests during the 8 years of Clinton was substantially more than the total during the 12 years of Reagan-Bush.)

      This played out in Florida, in which the number of blacks who had lost their voting rights due to felony drug convictions was several times the margin of Bush's victory.

      Furthermore, Nader campaigned on a drug law reform platform, which attracted many voters who might otherwise have voted Democrat, in the mistaken belief that the Dems are more rational than Bush on drug reform matters.
  • I'm hugely anti-corporation and very very anti microsoft. But if I want to video conference and use a usb web cam I don't have time to dick around with windows. If I want to sync my handspring - again I don't have time to dick around. True that I don't spend enough time with it - but the documentation is lacking and the whole idea of these devices is "plug and play." re-compiling my kernel because it doesn't contain usb support or playing with other settings is a big big problem. I love linux (hell my dog's name is tux) just as much as the next reader - but it's not where it should be - It's used on my servers, my two sparcs, and my laptop and main machine both dual boot.

    Stop and think - possibly, Linux isn't all that easy to use: possibly, Linux isn't the best over all operating sytem in the world.

    -neil
    • If you want to videoconference, all you should need is to run SDR, and create a conference. If your distribution is properly set-up, EVERY device not loaded into the kernel should be available as a module. That way, when you try to do something, the right driver is always going to be at hand.


      (SDR, VIC, RAT, WBD and NTE are some of the best videoconferencing tools available, IMHO, and some of the easiest, since you can drive everything from SDR.)

  • While this sort of thing is commonly mentioned, the underlying assumptions always trouble me:
    By making campaign spending a constitutionally protected form of speech, and essentially legalizing bribery, we created a system where the average member of Congress spends most of his waking hours trying to raise money, just to compete with some other person who might do the same thing. Now the new members of Congress are people who excel at fundraising, or have money to begin with.
    Underneith those sorts of statements -- and, I suppose, the actual actions of the politicians -- is the notion that all of our votes are for sale. Not even just that money helps, but that votes simply go in proportion to the spending of the candidates.

    This is probably true. So what has gone so horribly wrong with the citizens of the US that are so shallow?

    I think there are real 1st Ammendment issues when barring issue ads -- not just real issues, but huge issues... how can you tell someone they can't express their opinion, just because that opinion agrees with a certain candidate (isn't that supposed to happen?)

    Probably a significant part of the problem is that, with no other real difference between candidates, ads are the only thing to tip the balance. One way to fix that would be to bring some real democracy to the parties, instead of having candidates simply be anointed by a party committee. The other solution, of course, is the very hard path of a third party. Or maybe the option of a "I don't like any of them" vote to demand an election with all-new candidates.

    Still, we're all a bunch of losers to let our votes follow the money. OTOH, the other option is not to vote at all -- which is, unfortunately, mistaken as nihilistic apathy (which I don't think it is). No one mentions that Bush wasn't elected with 49% of the vote, but actually less than 25%. Pathetic.

    • Right. If I think both candidates are equally likely to take the country in a direction I don't support, then I am not necessarily being a bad citizen when I decide not to vote. I am, in effect, registering my disaffectation by not voting. And if voter participation falls low enough, the legitimacy of the resulting government might finally be called into question by a large number of people.

      In fact, it might be my view that the two party system is keeping a lot of issues off of the table completely, at least at the national level. So how do I vote against the two party system? If I vote for Perot or Nader, all my friends will tell me that I am throwing my vote away.

      Unfortunately, I don't know how we can effectively reform the system. Maybe, if we had a national referendum and initiative, as many states do, we could get the people more involved in politics. And I don't see what grounds anyone would have to object to it (especially the referendum). The trick would be to get the item on the agenda in the first place.

      Well, that's my semi(at best)-coherrent $0.02

      MM
      --
    • We're all sheep cuz .. well, humans are naturally sheep, but our goverment-run schools have not trained us otherwise. Remember how boring history class was? That's intentional: if you don't know history, you can't argue with the government.

      -B
  • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @01:22PM (#2407190) Homepage Journal
    Events over the past month seem to accord the US a sort of most-hated nation status in the world. While this does not justify taking of innocent lives, and those doing the hating ignores many of the good things that the US does, any solutions that do not address the hatred and its causes will have problems over the long term.

    From what I can see, globalization of IP looks like a means to allow the haves of the world to 'tax' the have-nots. This situation is not good for long-term peace or stability in the world. It will only increase the hatred.
    • ... yet another suicide bombing occurred today, just outside a trendy LA nightclub. Eight people were killed and 19 more wounded. The wounded were immediately rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical center, where 14 were treated for minor injuries and released. Most of the injuries were caused by flying shards of dozens of copy-protected DVD movies the bomber had attached to the explosive device.

      Investigators say that the perpetrator was a 27-year old man with a Master's degree in Computer Science from Stanford University. According to one official, he "really wanted to watch movies on his Linux computer. Why can't these people just use Windows like everyone else does?"

      The MLF (Media Liberation Front), a radical, extremist offshoot of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) immediately claimed responsibility. According to the press release: "The violence will never stop until the DMCA is repealed, all media is freed from the chains of IP law and corporate control and Disney Corporation is abolished."

      • Obviously a silly scenario, I agree.

        But I'm thinking more of other aspects of IP law, and consider the W3C thing, copyright, etc, to be 'another brick in the wall.' Look at the current furor over patented AIDS drugs, Terminator Seeds, and the like. In these cases it's patent revenue and profits vs lives, in the simplified case. In the more complex case, we have to realize that drug development is expensive, and is currently funded through profits. No profits, no new drugs, in today's model.

        But back more directly to W3C, DMCA, etc. The French in particular have been most vocally fearful of the loss of their culture to creeping English. Others are, if not there today, certainly not far behind. In this light, the real danger of our IP-anal "standards" is the potential to shrivel ready availablilty of non-protected hardware. Currently DVD players can play non-CSS media. That may not forever be the case.

        Imagine a world where all widely distributed digital media is protected, and the only mass-produced players play only that protected media. Then the MPAA and RIAA become the digital gate, either neglecting other cultures because of insufficient (local) revenue or active neglect because they see them as competition, however slight.

        The real issue isn't a bunch of geeks wanting to play DVDs on Linux. It's other parts of the world wanting to preserve their local cultures.

        A friend chided me for my inaccurate picture of 'fat, greedy, American' noting that this company is German, that company is Japanese, another British, another French, etc. But like it or not, we're dealing with people too poor to understand these subtleties - they've never read a prospectus. America is the standard-bearer, and the target. Accuracy and sophistication are not necessary, only perception.
        • Imagine a world where all widely distributed digital media is protected, and the only mass-produced players play only that protected media. Then the MPAA and RIAA become the digital gate, either neglecting other cultures because of insufficient (local) revenue or active neglect because they see them as competition, however slight.

          The real issue isn't a bunch of geeks wanting to play DVDs on Linux. It's other parts of the world wanting to preserve their local cultures.

          Regardless, my point is that anger over copy protection on entertainment is unlikely to create the kind of resentment that causes violence. People who have enough physical property to care about intellectual property will find non-violent ways of expressing their dissatisfaction.

          Not that it isn't a problem, because it is, but to say that it will add to the sort of hatred that results in terrorism seems a bit over the top to me.

          As an aside, your imaginary world isn't that much more realistic than mine; I've yet to hear of any digital rights restriction mechanisms that prevents the creation of unprotected media and I can think of no business or technological reason why such a mechanism would make sense.

          • I don't think copy protection itself will cause violence, I said that. But it *will* be one more piece of the puzzle. IMHO AIDS drugs and Terminator Seeds are much more egregious (sp?) cases of IP strangleholds.

            Nor do digital rights restrictions prevent creation or playing of unprotected media. What I fear here is if we get to a point where all *cheap* players and media is of the restricted sort. Compare to the way the WinModem is pushing the real modem to a higher price point, only more extreme. Real modems just never were that expensive to begin with, so as WinModems took over the low-price point, real modem prices didn't rise that badly.

            But in the case of digital media players, that's an expensive chunk of silicon, and economy of scale is the only way to make it cheap. If economy of scale is only applied to players that play only protected media, then unprotected media gets locked out because of cost. It's not a matter of rights, it's a matter of economics and mass production.
            • Hmmm. Either we have a fundamental disagreement, or I'm failing badly to communicate.

              I don't think people who are likely to engage in terrorism will care one whit about IP issues. I think it's far more likely that those bothered by IP-related restrictions will steal their seeds and drugs and make their own music. IP laws cause grumbling and lawbreaking, not violence.

              Also, I reiterate that I have never yet seen a proposal for DRM that includes players that won't play unprotected media. The laws of economics will favor players that can play either protected or unprotected media. Simply put, players that can do both will cost the same to manufacture as players that don't, so the more capable devices will win. It's actually a real testament to the power of the MPAA that they can convince the hardware manufacturers to make players that enforce any protection (c.f. Region Coding), because it's not in the best interest of the hardware manufacturers to do so. It seems very unlikely that the MPAA will ever be able to force them to make completely restricted players -- heck, if they had that much control, do you think CD-R and DVD-R drives would be available?

              PS: Winmodems are a red herring. It actually is cheaper to make so-called winmodems (I prefer the term "dumb" modems, since they're not really windows-specific) than regular modems, because regular modems need a processor. In fact, most of the time winmodems are also *better* than regular modems; they provide lower latencies because the processing is being done by a big 1Ghz CPU rather than a little DSP chip. Their only disadvantage is that the drivers are more complex, making open source drivers harder to write. Harder, but not impossible. The computer I'm typing this on has a winmodem, and I use it under Linux all the time.

              To use the winmodem analogy, you'd need to show that protected media-only players would be cheaper to make than those that can handle both. I've spent the last couple of weeks hacking on Xine (a Linux DVD player) and I can tell you that handling the encrypted DVDs is a huge pain, but it's a trivial "if" to skip all the decryption code for unprotected copies.

              • >Hmmm. Either we have a fundamental disagreement, or I'm failing badly to communicate.

                No, I'm being obtuse.

                I agree with what you say about terrorist-might-bes not caring about IP issues - until the first (maybe second or third) time we go after them with a club.

                The test case for this is in AIDS drugs, and in countries that want to break patents because they've got a REAL problem. Brazil plans to give every HIV-positive person the triple-treatment cocktail, but I assume there's no way they can afford this at U&P rates. This situation appears to be lives vs royalty dollars, and paints in a bad light anyone who defends the latter position. Again, I put a caveat in because it costs serious money to develop drugs, but that gets lost in the shuffle, and I have no idea what part it plays in the profit picture.

                Compared to this, the geek IP issues we normally talk about are chump change, I agree. It's an annoyance, and mostly to the middle-class moderates, not likely to become terrorists. But right now in Afghanistan we're treading a delicate line between being effective against radical Muslims while not offending moderates. In this and future situations, if we have middle-class moderates somewhat annoyed with us, it may make it more difficult to pursue other, not necessarily related objectives. As I said earlier, another brick in the wall.

                As for protected media, I hope you're right. But the SSSCA and the like are getting serious bandwidth right now. Hopefully it's geek panic, but I'd rather not count on that. The SSSCA is far more intrusive and onerous than the protected-only media and players I posit, but it's getting serious discussion. Using the same logic, one could easily make the point (erroneously, but easily, and with enough $$$, convincingly) that, "the only unprotected media is pirate media".

                I'm sure the hardware makers would rather offer more versatile products for negligible cost, as you say. But don't forget that the protected media is licensed, and what *wonders* Microsoft has learned to do with licensing. Imagine a license that says, "Licensing this media decryption algorithm excludes capability of playing unencrypted media on the same system." A DVD player that can't play unencrypted media is an annoyance to a few leading-edge home/college movie types, but a DVD player that can't play encrypted media is DEAD in the market.

                As for CD-R and DVD-R, I think CD-R took them a bit by surprise. They spent their money and developed their skills, and it wasn't soon enough to stop DVD-R. But I'm sure they'd love to, and I fear the money-raising needs of our legislators.
  • Lobbying (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @01:32PM (#2407230) Homepage Journal
    One thing I've discovered is that beyond civil disobedience, politicians love help more than money. Volunteer and get in their face. Find a local politician with some influence and tell him or her that you'll do the research for them on some totally unrelated issue they're working on. Become a volunteer staffer somewhere with clout. Get involved so that your face is seen and you willingness to help out is known. Then make sure your views are expressed every step of the way -- you'll get heard inherently.
    • And how are those of us with jobs, families and a mortgage supposed to do this?
      • Re:Lobbying (Score:3, Insightful)

        by namespan (225296)
        And how are those of us with jobs, families and a mortgage supposed to do this?

        That's an excellent question, and I think it's near one heart of the problem.

        Some people out there have no spare time at all. They are forced, by necessity, to spend all their time working to keep a roof up and food on the table.

        But I think a fair number of us simply choose not to leave any time to participate in public affairs. And if you're interested in being an activist, you have to get your own life under enough control that you have 2 to n hours per week to work on it. That's step one.
  • Bad start (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mikec (7785) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @01:34PM (#2407242)
    Mr. Love's first sentence of his first answer is flat-out incorrect, which makes me wonder about the rest of his answers.

    Ruling that campaign spending is protected free speech is not what forced politicians to become full-time fundraisers. It was the stupidity of allowing limits on campaign contributions that caused the problems. Before limits were in effect, politicians had a range of techniques for funding campaigns. Some raised money in small increments. Others got big contributions from organized labor. Others got big contributions from corportations. Others got big contributions from a few rich folk.

    We ought to remove all restrictions on donations and simply insist on full and immediate disclosure. Then politicians could get plenty of money without attending 300 fund-raisers per year, and voters could see exactly where it's coming from.
    • This is assinine. Where will "full and immediate disclosure" take place? Will it be a website? What percentage of households with web access will hunt down this info.? Will it be a TV special (with viewership comparable to the debates)? What percentage of voters are going to tune in to such broadcast disclosure, compared to the percentage that will see more and hear more of one candidate, and possibly even assume s/he's running uncontested? Hearing that "Mr. Jones took $2 million from the Rape Our Planet League last year" is nothing compared with not hearing Mrs. Smith at all (or will they also say, "Mrs. Smith got no money from anybody, 'cause she's never been seen or heard, and we're not sure she really exists?"). The disclosure argument is flawed because there's TOO MUCH TO DISCLOSE, and nobody can take it all in and make any comprehensive sense of it. Easy solution? Take that voluntary $1 donation from your tax paperwork, make it $5 and compulsory, and fund campaigns that way. Keep the greedy swine money out of it.
      • Re:Bad start (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Full and immediate disclosure is made to anyone who requests the information, at either the requestor or candidate's expense (TBD).

        People running for elected office do not show up out of the blue with no constituency except in the most local of elections. There is a ladder that must be climed and at each step more aspiring politicians get sloughed off. Not hearing about Mrs Smith because she didn't get any money isn't the fault of Mr Jones or the campaign finance system, but the result of Mrs Smith setting her sights too high too soon. If she had worked at the local level and made herself an outstanding candidate, she would certainly have both the loyal constituency and the name recognition necessary to run for higher public office. Nobodies do not become governors and mayors.
      • There is a huge problem with your solution. If I, completely on my own, want to create a commercial favoring one candidate and pay to put it on cable television or in a newspaper, am I allowed to do so? If I am, then your campaign finance law is completely toothless. Virtually all campaign spending will be done by billionaires, corporations, unions, etc. If I am not, then my right to free speech has been removed. The Supreme Court has so ruled, and they are entirely correct.

        Or are you arguing that the Federal government should regulate the content of private media?
  • My solution is simple, easy to administer, and fair to all involved except lobbiests.

    Limit campaign contributions to registered voters. Limit voter contributions to actual races and legislation pending before the voter. No other restrictions are necissary.

    This would eliminate Lobbiests and PACs from contributing to polital causes directly. This would eliminate outside influences to localized politics. This would force politicians to spend more time in their "home districts" representing the people there.

    Personally I don't see anyone's rights violated with my proposal. People who aren't registered to vote, shouldn't have any say in the process, and don't have any right to influence the system, especially at the expense of those that do have that explicit right.
  • I love the _evolutionary_ overtone of the final phrase of Mr. Love's post:

    "[We] favor more biodiversity in the OS space."

    Exactly! Let the software industry/environment evolve, without artificial, commercially driven restrictions. I'd like to see developers compete for whatever motivates them (eyeballs, downloads, dollars, etcetera), with quality, instead of semi-transparent deception.
  • People want to give John Lennon money. Their emotions cloud the fact that even if he wasn't dead, he still wouldn't get most(if any) of the money they bought Beetles albums with.


    The problem is they don't realize this is the end result of these originally well intentioned laws.


    Unfortunatly we can only trust Internet and independant papers on this issue, mainstream media cannot be trusted to cover this, they have to much at stake. That said, at true news sources attacking "Works for Hire" in the headlines is a good way to seperate the industry from the artist in the public eye.


    I believe the duration of copyright overall is the problem, but this proposed battle against unfair "Works for Hire" makes it harder for the MPAA/RIAA to argue. The fact that little money goes to the artists is semintuitive with that phrase(although that intuition may be flawed.)


    Artist writes song -> Artist records song -> artist gets paid flat fee and never gets paid for song again -> all profits and control go to industry.


    So copyright protects the artist, ehh?

  • by PingXao (153057) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @04:21PM (#2408218)

    We think the USDOJ should stop Microsoft from undermining dual boot PCs.

    This point has been all but neglected in the government's case against MS. There was a good Be View in the August Byte Magazine [byte.com] that talked about this subtle topic. No matter what the outcome is with the current DOJ vs. MS Harmful Monopoly case, this dual-boot concern should form the base of the next case against Microsoft. Perhaps it would be helpful to start lobbying officials in the states that are poised to press their own cases against MS once the current federal action is complete.
  • For those of you that live in North Dakota, actually write Byron Dorgan. I filled out a form on his website one day about the DMCA and received a snail mail reply. I then wrote a snail mail response to his letter. Hopefully I'll hear from him again. A few other reasons to write him: 1) He's on the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee. This is the committee that is reviewing the SSSCA right now. He has a low number of constituents. If he hears from 100 of them, that's going to be alot compared to places like California.
  • One of the easiest ways to contact congress is through congress.org [congress.org].
    Capitol Advantage [capitoladvantage.com] will even do a custom version for slashdot for a price.
    -- full disclosure: I work for capitol advantage.
  • I never thought in my lifetime that nations would be preparing to engage in a big game of "I thought of it first!" I wonder how long it will take before we realize how juvenile this is, and will come up with a reasonable way to encourage innovation without taking away people's right to think.
  • For patents you have a system where you pay each year the patent is valid and as the years pass you pay more and more pro year. (at least that's how it works here in Holland)


    I would like to see a similar system for copy rights. That would at least bring the big majority of it into public domain.

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