Technologizer posts about Legal Issues

Why History Needs Software Piracy

How copy protection and app stores could deny future generations their cultural legacy.

By  |  Posted at 1:12 am on Monday, January 23, 2012


Amid the debate surrounding controversial anti-piracy legislation such as SOPA and PIPA, our public discourse on piracy tends to focus on the present or the near future. When jobs and revenues are potentially at stake, we become understandably concerned about who is (or isn’t) harmed by piracy today.

I’m here to offer a different perspective, at least when it comes to software piracy. While the unauthorized duplication of software no doubt causes some financial losses in the short term, the picture looks a bit different if you take a step back. When viewed in a historical context, the benefits of software piracy far outweigh its short-term costs. If you care about the history of technology, in fact, you should be thankful that people copy software without permission.

It may seem counterintuitive, but piracy has actually saved more software than it has destroyed. Already, pirates have spared tens of thousands of programs from extinction, proving themselves the unintentional stewards of our digital culture.

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , ,

The other shoe–the Samsung-suing-Apple shoe–has dropped.

Posted by Harry at 10:04 am

Comments Off

Who’s Suing Who? A Cheat Sheet to the Mobile Patent Mess

All the legal ugliness in the phone business--and a few peaceable relationships--all on one page.

By  |  Posted at 7:32 pm on Tuesday, April 19, 2011


So Apple is suing Samsung, accusing it of imitating Apple products with its Galaxy phones and tablets.¬†The most startling thing about the news may be that the two companies weren’t already in court with each other. Over the past few years, the mobile industry has been so rife with suits and countersuits that if every complainant¬†managed to sue every subject of its ire out of business…well, there’d hardly be a mobile industry left.

I had trouble remembering the precise details of the umpteen cases that have made headlines–as well as some related relationships, such as Microsoft’s licensing agreements with Amazon and HTC–so I decided to document them with a handy-dandy infographic, as much for my own edification as anyone else’s.

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The rumored deal between Google and Verizon over Network Neutrality issues isn’t a deal–it’s a joint proposal to the FCC. It recommends rules that would prohibit the favoring of certain traffic over other traffic on the wired Internet. But Dan Gillmor, who knows way more about this stuff than I do, isn’t thrilled with the companies’ suggestions. And the proposal is pro-Network Neutrality only for wired traffic, not wireless data. Isn’t that a little bit as if it had advised for consumer-friendly regulations for dial-up–but not for broadband–in, say, 2000?

Posted by Harry at 12:33 pm


Now that it’s clear that jailbreaking iPhones (and performing the similar act known as rooting an Android phone) and unlocking them isn’t a violation of copyright law, let’s conduct a Silly Little Poll. (Note: The fact that this stuff is legal doesn’t mean that Apple, Google, or your wireless carrier is going to help you do it…)

Posted by Harry at 2:52 pm


Don’t get too too excited just yet, but a New Orleans circuit judge has ruled that General Electric didn’t violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when it worked its way around the security dongles on some power supplies it owned in order to fix the power supplies. The judge says that GE is in the clear because the action it was trying to undertake–fixing its own property–isn’t illegal.

Until now, the notion has been that any attempt to override copy protection violates the DMCA–which means that the DMCA itself essentially overrides the notion that consumers have the right to make copies of content they’ve bought for personal use. Here’s hoping that this new ruling proves to be influential; the fact that a judge thinks it’s okay to defeat copy protection in certain circumstances is kind of shocking, in a good way….

[RELATED GOOD NEWS: The Copyright Office has declared that it's legal to jailbreak and unlock phones, as well as override other security measures imposed on consumer electronics gadgets in certain circumstances.]

Posted by Harry at 8:29 am

Comments Off

The New York Times thinks that maybe the federal government should have some sort of oversight over Google’s algorithm. Which gave Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan an idea that sounds about as sensible.

Posted by Harry at 5:43 pm


Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson reports on questions to the FCC from US Senators who wonder if our National Broadband Plan involves a willingness to be a decade behind the most progressive countries when it comes to fast, affordable, universal Internet access.

Posted by Harry at 5:11 pm

1 Comment

Google’s China gambit is working, at least for the moment: It says that the government there has renewed the company’s license to operate its Web site, which provides a variety of non-search services, plus a link to its uncensored Hong Kong search engine.

Posted by Harry at 8:09 am

Comments Off

Supreme Court Leaves Software Patent Issues Unanswered

By  |  Posted at 10:44 pm on Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a long awaited decision on a patent case that could have changed how or whether software patents are granted. Ultimately, little changed, except that the Court’s decision was at odds with 150 years of patent law, says a legal expert.

The Court’s Bilski v. Kappos decision could have invalidated many software patents had it accepted a Federal circuit court’s “machine or transformation” test for what is patentable. Proponents of the lower court’s decision had hoped that the high court would finally bring an end to excessive patent litigation and eliminate questionable patents that they say can slow the pace of innovation in technology.

The Bilski case involved a patent claim for a business method for hedging risks in commodities trading. The Justices affirmed the lower court’s decision that the Bilski patent was too abstract and therefore un-patentable. However, it did not accept the machine or transformation test, thus failing to provide any guidance to government patent examiners, defendants, or patent filers.

Continue reading this story…


Apple Facing Possible Lawsuit Over iPhone 4 Antenna

California-based law firm Kershaw, Cuttiner, and Ratinoff is asking for customers with iPhone 4 signal reception issues to contact it, likely signaling the beginnings of a class-action suit against Apple over the issues. An announcement was posted to their site this week.

The reception problem looks like it won’t be going anytime soon. While some have tried to argue that the problems are related to iOS4 itself, it seems highly unlikely it’s a software issue alone. With Apple confirming that the metal band around the phone does serve as an antenna, it seems only logical that any interference(including putting your hand over it) would impact signal quality.

Posted by Ed Oswald at 8:48 am


A U.S. District Court Judge has ruled in favor of Google and against Viacom in the latter’s lawsuit over copyrighted videos on YouTube. Seems that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act–a law which usually seems to work in favor of copyright owners–absolves Google of blame for unauthorized uploading of videos as long as it deletes specific examples it knows about.

I’m not reflexively anti-giant media company, but it was tough to side with Viacom in this case. It says it plans to appeal, so it’s not over just yet.

Posted by Harry at 5:18 pm

1 Comment

There are multiple things about Apple’s recent behavior in relation to third-party development tools and ad networks that don’t thrill me. As a fan of free enterprise, however, I’m not thrilled with the prospect of the federal government possibly stepping in and telling the company how to run its business–at least not as long as the iPhone’s share of the smartphone market isn’t monopolistic. (Which it isn’t: It’s not even the best-selling handset.)

Posted by Harry at 5:47 pm


The New York Times’ Brad Stone is reporting that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Apple’s tactics in the digital music market on antitrust grounds–a business in which Apple’s iTunes has 69 percent of the market and second-place has only eight percent.

The article doesn’t specify much in the way of alleged Apple misdeeds except for threatening to withdraw marketing support for songs if their publishers signed temporary exclusive deals with Amazon. Last time I checked, I wasn’t an antitrust lawyer–is that illegal?

Posted by Harry at 1:23 pm

Comments Off

HTC Sues Apple

By  |  Posted at 11:47 am on Wednesday, May 12, 2010


This isn’t even slightly surprising: HTC is suing Apple. The Taiwanese phone giant says that the iPhone maker has violated five HTC patents, and it’s therefore asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to prevent the iPhone, iPad, and iPod from being imported into the U.S. and sold.

Last month, Apple sued HTC, seeking to ban that company from selling phones in the U.S. Apple is also suing Nokia, which is itself suing Apple. Twice.

(Extremely unlikely but perversely satisfying potential scenario: All three companies win all their lawsuits, preventing all of them from selling any products whatsoever and driving them all out of business. At least it might dissuade other businesses from doing battle in the courtroom rather than the marketplace…)

Continue reading this story…

Read more: , , ,

The good news for Apple? It’s already sold a million iPads, more than twice as many as the original iPhone had sold at this point in its history. The bad news, at least according to the New York Post? The Department of Justice and the FTC are trying to figure out which of them should be investigating Apple over its decision to prevent iPhone developers from using cross-platform tools that would allow for easy creation of apps for both the iPhone and other handsets.

Posted by Harry at 8:15 am