The Future of the Internet – New Developments

CNN Money at Business 2.0 in The Next Net 25 by Erick Schonfeld, Om Malik, and Michael V. Copeland, presents websites which reflect new developments on the World Wide Web. First the newcomers are listed as challengers, followed by the incumbent power in the respective field.

Social Media
digg – Collaborative News Aggregator [we use their feed on our website]
Last.fm – Social Radio
Newsvine – Collaborative News Publisher
Tagworld – Social Networking – Dating
YouTube – Video Sharing
(YahooDel.icio.us, Flickr, Webjay, My Web 2.0)

Mashup and Filters
Bloglines – Online Feed Reader [we use this service ourselves]
Eurekster – Search mashup (a do-it-yourself search engine, a search wiki viz. a “swicki”)
Simply Hired – Job Search Engine
Technorati – Blog search engine [we use this service ourselves]
Trulia – Real Estate Mashup (home listings and Google maps) [We add Zillow here as well]
Wink – Tag search engine
(GoogleGoogle maps, Google Reader plus Blogger, Writely)

The New Phone
Fonality – Open-source telephony software
SIPphone – Internet phone shoftware
Iotum – Presence (call) management software
Vivox – Peer-to-peer voice technology
(Skype – free calling, IM, video calling, eBay users)

The Webtop (ala Desktop)
Jotspot – Wikis, web collaboration and online spreadsheets
30 Boxes – Collaborative online calendar for social networks e.g. families
37 Signals – Online project management (Basecamp, Backpack)
Writely – Online word processing [we use this service ourselves, and see also the less sophisticated Writeboard for comparison]
Zimbra – Online e-mail and calendar collaboration suite (AJAX technology)
(MicrosoftWindows live [LawPundit adds: this is so buggy it can not be recommended])

Under the Hood
Brightcove – Internet TV distributor
Jigsaw – Business contact databse
SimpleFeed – Opt-in RSS marketing
Salesforce – Platform for online enterprise software
Six Apart – Blogging tools (Moveable Type, TypePad)
(AmazonAlexa, Mechanical Turk)

Some of these new applications are definitely here to stay, and others not, but no one really knows which is which. Only time will tell us.

Let us add here the Firefox extension (add-on) Wizz RSS for Mozilla Firefox, currently available as Wizz RSS 2.1.1. We use it and it is a quick, superb feed reader for Firefox.

BlawgWorld 2006 Available for Free Download at TechnoLawyer

The e-Book
BlawgWorld 2006
Blawg World 2006
is available for a
free download at TechnoLawyer.

BlawgWorld contains a selection of the best postings in the past year from 51 law blogs (including LawPundit) on topics of current interest.

Legal weblogs focusing on intellectual property rights are particularly well represented. In our view, the major legal issues of our day are being battled in the IP area. Just look at the Blackberry case. We post on this issue in BlawgWorld. Take a look at BlawgWorld 2006.

German English EU Links and Law

Dr. Stephan Ott has interesting English, German and European Union legal materials at the following sites:

http://www.linksandlaw.com/ (English)
http://www.linksandlaw.de/ (German) and
http://www.linksandlaw.info/

containing, as he writes:

Information about legal aspects of search engines, hyperlinks (surface and deep links), inline links and frames, including case law summary, links to relevant court rulings worldwide and to relevant articles (in English and German) in the area of competition and intellectual property law (copyright, trademark and patent law). The website also deals with the liability for linking to illegal material and linking policies that try to restrict linking and framing.”

The main pages deal with news, decisions (Germany, USA and Canada, other European countries), legal resources (publications in German, English, and other languages, plus websites with overviews), linking cases (liability for links to illegal material, Criminal Law, Trademark Law, deep links and search engines, linking policies, framing and inline-linking, laws & regulations, paid listings, fake error messages, other search engine news), Ott’s own publications, and technical background materials.

There is also a newsletter.

Best Bio of the Chief Justice – EB or Wikipedia?

There is quite a controversy raging over a Nature article comparing the accuracy of the online Wikipedia with the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

We posted the following comment about that to digg:

True, true. We agree with devinbunker that “you need to take everything you read with a grain of salt”. We have several encyclopaedias on CD-ROM including the EB, Encarta and the German Brockhaus and we have two full sets of the EBs in the print version. The EB is a great encyclopaedia and we use it regularly. However, we also use the Wikipedia regularly. We check the entries in ALL sources against other available alternative sources because no encyclopaedia entry is ever perfectly accurate. EB articles are written by experts in the field – who also have their personal prejudices, foibles and sources of error, just as Wikipedia authors do. Wikipedia authors may not be considered experts, but maybe they read several experts to find their information, rather than just one expert. In my opinion, what is involved here is not so much the issue of the accuracy of information, but rather the fact that information is a big business and traditional encyclopaedias are surely suffering from the Wikipedia boom. We are regularly contacted by people trying to sell encyclopaedias to us. A major reason for the popularity of the Wikipedia is that it is free, instantly available online and yet very comprehensive and in some respects much more up-to-date than traditional encyclopaedia offerings online or off. An example here would be the bio of the new US Supreme Court Justice Roberts at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Roberts,_Jr. which finds no comparison among the standard encyclopaedias, either as to timeliness of entry nor as to the extent of coverage. The people at EB should stop complaining and improve their product, e.g. by offering alternate expert views on controversial scientific topics, etc., rather than just by presenting one version of some so-called expert’s idea of the truth. The EB’s major problem is that their information model is simply out-of-date and it is time to catch up if they want to survive.

New York Times Agrees With Us – Patently Ridiculous

We have been posting about the ridiculous state of the US Patent System for a number of years now (e.g. our posting selected for BlawgWorld 2006now downloadable for FREE here – covered this topic) and the recent Blackberry case has finally hit some of the mainstream mules in politics and media on the head.

See also CNET about the RIM patent reform campaign.

The NY Times – better late than never – has a March 22, 2006 editorial on US Patent reform aptly titled “Patently Ridiculous” in which they correctly write:

Something has gone very wrong with the United States patent system.

Americans think of the granting of patents as a benevolent process that lets inventors enjoy the fruits of their hard work and innovations. But times have changed. The definition of what is patentable has slowly evolved to include business practices and broad ideas….

[P]rofiteers, including lawyers and hedge funds, have turned the very purpose of patent rights — to encourage people to invent and produce — on its head, using them to tax, blackmail and even shut down productive companies unless they pay high enough ransoms. These so-called patent trolls have emerged as the villains in this intellectual property debate.” (Hat tip to André Rebentisch and Rebentisch Blog.)

RIM, the patent troll victim in the recent Blackberry case, in urging patent reform, writes:

As to the lingering question of why the patent system should allow such a bizarre set of circumstances to threaten millions of American customers in the first place, we share your concern. The good news is that this topic is currently receiving much more attention from policymakers and the Supreme Court and we hope the patent system will evolve to close the loopholes and become more balanced.

The Supreme Court case referred to above is the eBay case, described by ZDNet as follows:

Auction giant eBay and networking-systems developer MercExchange are scheduled to appear before the justices on March 29 to present arguments related to a long-running dispute. In 2003, a federal jury found eBay guilty of willfully infringing on two MercExchange patents related to its “Buy It Now” feature, which lets shoppers purchase items without participating in an auction, and ordered it to pay $25 million in damages. [Note that the clueless USPTO patent office has essentially granted a patent for “buying now” – that is an invention??????? worth millions??]

The high court won’t be dealing with the facts of the case. Instead, it will be addressing a broader question: Under what circumstances is it appropriate for a court to issue a permanent injunction–that is, a prohibition against using the patents in question–against an entity found guilty of patent infringement?

Let us say here that based on its performance the last two decades, our opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court is very low. The incumbent Justices are for the most part skilled hair-splitting legal technicians who often ignore the essential foundations of the legal system in order to reach spurious decisions based on legal technicalities for holdings guided primarily by political allegiances. In the last two decades, the court has been “result-oriented”, which means that ratio decidendi were guided by preconceived notions of what judgments should be made, rather than by an objective analysis of what the law and precedents actually demanded. Whether this will now change under the Roberts’ court remains to be seen.

We ourselves would put many patent trolls into jail for fraud. The current judiciary, on the other hand, is filling these same trolls’ bank accounts with bucketfulls of millions and is helping to enable the extortion of these moneys from legitimate businesses.

We are sceptical as to the future of patents in the USA because we doubt whether the judiciary, and in particular the US Supreme Court, has the requisite intellect and technical understanding to deal with this problem.

Furthermore, the current federal government, through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Solicitor General (of course, supported by the clueless USPTO), is sticking its nose into where it does not belong at all, and in an amicus brief is siding with MercExchange, so that we think the Supreme Court will also dutifully do the same.

Small wonder that. The patent holder MercExchange has its patent from the company’s founder, a former CIA employee turned inventive auction genius, whose own ventures and companies went down the tubes commercially but who now is trolling those companies that are successful under the motto, “those who do, do – and those who can’t, sue for patent infringement”.

Is the Supreme Court likely to side with the patent troll in the eBay case? We think yes, because in upholding the right of injunction in patent cases, the Justices will be increasing the power of the judiciary, and that is an opportunity that judges, and especially Justices of the US Supreme Court, have seldom turned down.

The legal principle which may be applied will be a simple one along the lines of: “pay up or shut down”, and I am sure, as Justice Scalia will presumably find, is firmly anchored “originally” in the U.S. Constitution. The idea that looking down the barrel of a gun is a convincing argument is not new. Injunctions serve the same purpose.

But note that the ancient Hebrews tried that system several thousands of years ago in that they first had a strong executive (a series of powerful kings), during which society prospered, followed centuries later in days of weaker kings by the rule of judges. And what followed the rule of judges was total societal collapse.

When people such as myself think that the “rule of law” is being trampled under foot in the patent field, the loss of the consent of the governed is not far off. When the most obvious trolls and business failures are being rewarded for doing nothing and providing no societal benefit by stupid application of the patent law system, what incentive do law-abiding citizens have to actually WORK for their money? None.

The Twelve Tablets of Roman Law

N.S. Gill at about.com has a nice piece on the Twelve Tablets of Roman Law, which were important for the development of codified law and which represented an important step forward in the concept of equality under the law.

Orin Kerr, Yale Law School, Herbert Packer, Dean Pollak

Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy has opened up his own blog, OrinKerr.com on “law, the legal academy, and the legal profession“.

His post on Yale Law School and sixties was of great interest to this reader, particularly since Professor Herbert Packer of Stanford (at that time professor of law and vice provost for academic planning and programs at Stanford), for whom I was the student assistant at the time, was rumored to be in line to become Dean of Yale Law School (after Judge Louis Heilprin Pollak) until he suffered a massive stroke from which he never recovered in 1969. Packer was just barely over 40 years old.

One wonders what Yale Law School would be like today if the brilliant, dynamic, liberal but pragmatic Packer had been able to continue his illustrious career at Yale. I worked together with Herbert Packer long enough, both before and after the massive stroke which resulted in his substantial paralysis, to realize that the world of the law had lost a great man. Indeed, Professor John Kaplan, my subsequent mentor at Stanford, was so moved by this tragic event that he was unable to talk about it for years afterward.

Interesting in this connection is a book review by Dan T. Carter in the Alabama Review of Blood of the Liberals by George Packer, Herbert Packer’s son (Farrar Straus & Giroux, NY, 2000, ISBN 0-374-25142-8).

Carter writes of that book as follows, suggesting that the brilliance of the father has passed on to the next generation:

No review can begin to capture the subtleties, the insights, and the eloquence of George Packer’s memoir. Historians often argue, sometimes unconvincingly, that an understanding of our past can illuminate the dilemmas of the present. I know of no book published in the last decade that fulfills that goal more eloquently. I can only urge the readers of The Alabama Review – whatever their political persuasion – to read Blood of the Liberals.”