Patents

Intellectual property: Do you have a leak?

Is your organization's intellectual property floating around the Internet? Not sure? Here are some ways to check.

After reading how copious amounts of data pertaining to the Joint Strike Fighter and Marine One helicopter managed to escape, I decided I must be naive. No way could that have happened. Yet terabytes of data flowed out to who knows where. If that can happen to top secret information, what hope do we have of protecting our intellectual property?

Being an optimist, I think there's lots of hope. But, the solution is going to require a shift in focus. It's time to concentrate on the data not the infrastructure, because that's ultimately what the bad guys are after.

What is intellectual property?

Before getting too much further in the discussion, I thought I'd better explain what intellectual property should mean to organizations. While trying to figure that out I came across a CSO article by Derek Slater and really liked what he had to say. To begin with, Slater pointed out that the World Intellectual Property Organization considers intellectual property to be:

"Creations of the mind - inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. IP includes but is not limited to proprietary formulas and ideas, inventions (products and processes), industrial designs, and geographic indications of source, as well as literary and artistic works such as novels, films, music, architectural designs and web pages."

Not much left to chance in that definition. Slater goes on to mention that there are four legally-defined categories of intellectual property, patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. It's a pretty good bet that the bad guys will be focusing on the trade secrets group, so then should the people in charge of securing the company's intellectual property.

Safe or not?

It's not complicated to determine what should be considered intellectual property. The difficulty starts with trying to determine the status of the data, especially whether it's safely under control or on YouTube or some malicious Web site for the world to see.

The good news is that there are methods to determine if data leakage is occurring. One method is to use services like Brandprotect, which are specifically geared to protect the integrity of a company. But, they're expensive services and typically out of reach for most SMBs.

I had thought those services were the only game in town until I read another CSO article by Brandon Gregg, where he presented several free solutions.

Monitor information leaks

The obvious method is to use search engines like Google to find any results that point to information leaks. The problem with using search engines is that the ensuing amount of data can be overwhelming. With so much data to inspect, it becomes easy to overlook pertinent hits. One option is to use Googlehacks to further refine your search parameters.

Google alerts

I prefer using Google alerts over generic searches, especially if detailed search terms (check the FAQs) are used. It can become a powerful automated tool that works in the background, sending an e-mail notification of any alert that's found.

Limewire

Limewire isn't specifically an application designed to search for content. It's a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing program. Limewire recently came under some congressional scrutiny, when it was accused of being the delivery method used to transfer Marine One designs to a site in Iran.

I suspect the reason Limewire is under the microscope is because it's arguably the most popular P2P application in the world. Which is also why Limewire would be the logical choice to determine if any sensitive material is readily available on P2P networks.

To use Limewire, download and install the software on your computer. Please make sure to disable all file sharing. Then setup searches using key names that reference company or intellectual property in some way and see what shows up.

Monitter

Twitter is definitely controversial, especially in a business setting. Still, no matter what you think about it, it's a very powerful method to disseminate company information rapidly and if so desired with relative anonymity. Fortunately, Gregg found a unique solution.

Welcome to Monitter, a Web-based application that eavesdrops on the Tweeter stream. It's easy to setup as Monitter's search functions are identical those used by Twitter, for more details check out the FAQs at search.twitter.com.

Similar to Google alerts, Monitter can be automated; sending results as an e-mail message, RSS feed, or SMS text. I've introduced this to a few friends that are security administrators and they've already mentioned how surprised they are at the amount of company-related chatter on Twitter.

Addictomatic

Addictomatic is a rather unique application that crawls the Web searching a wide variety of sites, including popular blogs, YouTube, Digg, and even Flickr. All that's required is to enter a search term and Addictomatic will start working. Hopefully no real surprises will show up. I like how Addictomatic presents the results in a manner that's readily understandable.

Addictomatic is not automated at this time, but the developer has mentioned that an RSS feed will be added soon. Another useful feature is that Addictomatic can be added the Web-browser's search bar.

Final thoughts

Unwanted dissemination of valuable and or sensitive information can have all sorts of adverse effects, from simple embarrassment to destroying an organization's competitive advantage. Using the above simple techniques can help prevent or minimize the fallout from losing control of intellectual property.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

124 comments
abatekai
abatekai

I am going to try out your suggestions. Nice article

jkameleon
jkameleon

Protection costs money, while folks in India and China invents stuff for a song.

Dusterman
Dusterman

OMG ....... Michael ....... thank you ! . I am starting a another, new business , with a totally new concept and my business mentors have been all over me to make every effort to keep my concept/idea secret. . I have literally been manually writing every idea down and now that I am ready to start to " put it into print " I have been doing it on a machine that is not connected to the internet and using an encryption program . . As always ...... thank you for your great ideas ! . Thanks also, to the others here that contribute :-) . Mike

Craig_B
Craig_B

Thanks again Michael for another well written and informative article. Keep them coming.

adrian.teerlink
adrian.teerlink

So I discover that company data or IP are out on the Internet. How do I trace back to the source of the 'leak' so I can plug it?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

This article is more on keeping the classified part of IP totally safe, something that's impossible to do once you share it with another person or have it on a computer that's part of a network or accessible to another person. Even when it's on a computer with no network and not accessible to others, there's still a risk it can get stolen. So you just provide the best security you can afford or think is reasonable, then hope for the best. The other aspect is the ownership security, and the best way to ensure that is to publish it as soon as possible because once it's published it's yours and you just established prior art etc. to your IP. How you balance these two is a real tight rope act and will depend upon what the IP relates to as well. And that's a whole new article in itself.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

If you get any results good or bad, please let us know your experiences.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I have heard that it's cheaper to copy or steal than to innovate.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

On the new enterprise. I realize you are probably very busy, still I'd appreciate learning how they work for you if you deploy any of the above tactics.

BrandonGregg
BrandonGregg

Adrian, You ask a good question that I didn't answer in my article. With Limewire you can see the posters IP address, however with Yahoo MSG Board and other sites there is no way to get the IP info without a subpoena or by a nice little trick I use called readnotify.com. This website offers a free service to pull IP addresses from any OPENED email. Simply trick the poster of info to open your fake email address and poof you get his or her IP address. 9 times out of 10 (especially if you email them during business hours) they will open the email at work and you can track the IP to the user. Another trick is get them to mail you a word doc and get the name off meta data. Both work every time...

klaasvanbe
klaasvanbe

The ISP and some technical network specialists in most organisations are able to trace any IP address on the net. Wikipedia for example has some users with so called CheckUser permission who can be asked to do just that.

aw.de.landgraaf
aw.de.landgraaf

We built a new service that does just that: A confidential data leakage monitoring and surveillance service. It has three 24x7 components: a deep web search engine service, a p2p monitoring and ssurveillance Service and the E-Secure-IT alerting service, where positives are checked and customers alerted. email more-info@e-secure-it.com for details.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I've found that in most cases, I leave that to upper management as it usually involves employees. It's a tough problem and if I hear of any viable solutions, I certainly pass them along.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Still, you can't publish everything. Otherwise Coca-Cola would have a long time ago. I understand that the recipe for Coke is one of the best-kept secrets ever.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Now it's generally cheaper to innovate. Besides, copying or stealing involves reingeneering, which is often more labour intensive and problematic than inventing. Remember TU-144? There are, of course, always exceptions, for example expensive, militarily sensitive research. But, as I've said- these are just exceptions. In the most cases, brand name is far more important than technology involved. For example, if you steal the secret Coca Cola formula, if would be of no use to you. Even if you'd produce the exact copy of that potion, it still wouldn't the genuine Coca Cola. So, why should Coca Cola waste its money protecting its famous formula? It's worthless for everyone else.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I was unaware of Readnotify.com It's an interesting concept.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

But in many cases the source is just a subverted computer belonging to a botnet or under the control of a C&C server located elsewhere.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Scan outgoing traffic? Also how would it help with employee IP theft?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

employing private detectives or taking the matter to the police if they can.

Jaqui
Jaqui

how they make caramilk and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken :p

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

One of the funniest IP thefts I'd heard about concerned the US Department of Defense in the 1970s. An ex consultant to the US military had seen an opportunity to utilise a piece of top secret electronic hardware in another field. He took the basic design of the item he wanted and got a patent on it. he was using it commercially before the DoD found out about it. The story goes they were going to take him to court but then decided not to as they'd never published anything and the paperwork to prove prior art would require them to make public exactly how they used the item in a range of military equipment, and thus tell a lot more about the equipment than they wanted to. In the end they let the patent stand in order to maintain secrecy. As it was the commercial use didn't even go anywhere near the military use. Decades later after the change in the USSR many Russian specialist were surprised to learn the item had been used in military applications before the commercial ones; the idea had never entered their minds. Thus is demonstrated the danger of NOT making public or patent part of the process. Even a patent on half the process may protect. What I do object to with current US IP laws is the ability to pattern laws of nature like genes etc.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I would say the implementation is the key. A food formula combines physical chemicals in a set order where a math formula does not regardless of it enabled through processor electrons or brain electrons. With food, your looking at a physical process of combining chemicals. This seems more like the physical process of combining computer chips which is patentable. It was wifi or mobile phones that had this issue a few years back when it was shown that the combination of components in a specific order was originally patented by an Australian research firm. The resulting effect wasn't an issue but the direct duplication of the hardware was. While chemistry seems close to math, it is still an interaction between physical matter. With software, we seem to now be able to patent an idea rather than a physical process. This negates competition because you can't attempt to find better ways to accomplish the same idea. This is more like being able to patent the grocery store checkout lineup rather than one's implementation of the cash register used during the transaction. If such a thing where allowed in the physical world we'd have a single grocery store legally entitled to running all other retail outlets into the ground through legal action or royalties. Coca Cola protects the implementation of chemicals to produce a specific flavor. Other companies are free to try and duplicate that flavor provided they forgo espionage to obtain the exact same implementation. Coke can be reverse engineered to provide a competitive or compatible end result. The two are close enough in the grey area that even a bad lawyer could argue them either way successfully.

darpoke
darpoke

to disagree with you Neon, particularly as I personally oppose software patents too, but I have to ask: What's the difference between a secret recipe and a secret math formula? After all, a recipe is simply the most common form of algorithm known to the general public... I welcome discussion on the subject as I'm a little confused as to the ownership claimed here - is it the knowledge itself or simply the implementation?

jkameleon
jkameleon

... the only secret lies in our subconsciousness. Or entrails. Or... well... whichever part of our bodies our secret desires happen to be located in.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If the formula where available, Pepsi would taste exactly like Coke as would President's Choice Cola. The brand would weaken because the people who prefer Coke would no longer taste any difference. The minority who taste a difference due to visual cues like branding would be the hold outs but these people would tell you water tastes like Coke if it was in the same bottle. Sidenote: A difference between the Coca Cola secret and software secrets comes to mind here. The formula used to produce pop is documenting a physical process of mixing various chemicals. As such, I wouldn't consider it an example of why software secrets should be closely protected by patents and binary blobs (wifi NIC firmware, GPU drivers) since these are "secret" math formulas which should not be patentable in the first place. This is off topic but it came to mind when I was typing.

aw.de.landgraaf
aw.de.landgraaf

The service searches for outside (internet) clues to possible leaks, and potential leaks, such as staff, suppliers, etc. open shares.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. running out of beer with the stores on strike; that?s like a national crisis right there. ;) The great example here is privatized energy. It sucked with power was purely provided by the crown corporation but it?s a complete mess now with the third party resellers. I have never met a slimier business that was not outright criminal. Monthly door to door sales visits and they keep coming around trying to sign you up even after your already a subscriber (ie. indentured sucker). And how they can push five year contracts on month to month rental units; I don?t know. The brief time I was one of the indentured suckers, I had the current provider try to resell me three times and the direct competitor in that area try to slam my subscription over twice. On the sales foot-soldiers are the pushiest social engineers I?ve had dealings with so far. Energy costs are not going down and there is no such thing as service. Once fooled into the service you still pay the original energy provider but as a member of the applicable resellers group; exactly how do they provide me a service while being a viable business? If one is a consumer in the Canadian gas and electricity markets; stick with the original source. When the energy parasites come around asking for your bill to ?confirm that you have there lowest rate?; chase them with a large dog and/or baseball bat. Our underground trains seem to be stable at the moment but last year was constant talk about striking. Right now, I?m more interested in the number of camera traps being setup. Six cameras with three pointing in each way on the hallway ceiling; tell me that?s not a facial and gape recognition system. I think your right about the lawsuits. I believe it was Clinton or possibly Dubya that suggested capping settlements based on injury. Previous to that (or if it didn?t go through) it was all about how much your lawyer could get for a payout. It?s definitely a contributing factor. And as always, for a business, a customer who pays for constant treatment is far better than one who pays once for a cure.

darpoke
darpoke

model of healthcare, Neon. We pay for prescriptions here too, unless you're underage/retired/a student/in the armed forces etc. - but they're subsidised so you pay a flat fee of about a five or six pounds. I think healthcare is one of those systems that is sufficiently complicated as to defy most business models. It usually turns out to be the case that a few bucks saved here cost you twice as much down the line. It's comparable to the London Underground, actually - the Tube was privatised years back but it's spiralled in costs and the service is suffering lately. Infrastructure is so old it needs updating, but they're underground tunnels, so it means cutting into service hours. The Tube does shut down overnight so that provides some time but it's a slow and painful process. Plus the unionisation has its effects - Tube workers strike yearly here. We had one the other week and I spent three times as long getting to work as I had to walk. Seems if you board a bus or train without having paid, you can be held by the transport police, but if you buy a monthly pass it entitles you to no guarantee of service whatsoever. And they're not happy with working conditions? What a joke. From what I hear, the biggest problem in America is that there's no preventative treatment being given - it's all defensive medicine. They're so scared of lawsuits from any complications that they will only provide the bare minimum of treatment that's either justifiable or required by any applicable law. Obviously this will tend towards a system where conditions will worsen to the point where they are life-threatening before being treated. Also by this point it costs far more to solve a problem that a small operation or course of drugs might have avoided months ago. Plus the small fact that people spend far longer being ill than they needed to. But who cares about that?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I was glad that you straightened us out. It is strange that a state government would take that on if a private concern takes it on. Well, maybe not. States help pro sport teams build stadiums.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

know is: 1. What I read in the media; 2. You can ride them, provided you get on from the correct side; 3. Following them with a bucket and shovel can help your rose garden grow; 4. They hurt when they step on your foot.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The owners declared bankruptcy. The Maryland legislature promptly passed a law that allows the state to buy the track if nobody else will. One more state-owned white elephant...

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I seem to remember that one of the triple crown races was thinking about moving as the financials were really bad. Yet the last I heard a private concern came to the rescue. You absolutely have to have a Mint Julep in your lifetime at the Kentucky Derby and dare I say a Miller at a Green Bay Packer game.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

About that. But as so totally clueless in that realm I felt compelled to keep quiet. It would be really dumb on their part to lose that.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

about the name change and KFC's change too, it was quite clear about the organisers of the race making arrangements to move it over the border as a protest against the state legislature. I'll see if I can find it again and post a link if I do. Sadly, whenever I actually go looking for something on the Internet it immediately goes into hiding.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm all for government staying out of the citizen's afairs as much as possible but healthcare is one of those things that really should be managed centrally. At least a solid base healthcare. Indavidual health is a universal need that everyone is eventually going to need help with. I do get the arguments though. Capitalism in a healthy market drives better products and services. In theory, this should mean a higher degree of health care at a more competitive price. Usually in that same argument is the claim that one shouldn't pay for healthcare when they don't need it; the choice for obtaining insurance should be an individual decision. It appears that the privatization of healthcare does not result in lower cost and higher quality though and inevitably, everyone is going to need care. I also see it form a distance so I'm sure I don't have the full picture. By contrast, anyone can walk into a hospital in England and get care. They don't care if your born and raised or fresh off the plane. You'll still get care to the best of the doctor's ability and be sent on your way with any required prescriptions at no cost. In Canada, we do have some costs like the prescription pickup at the pharmacy and such but care is predominantly covered. Health insurance does cover the extras on top of required care; my coverage allows me to have a private hospital room versus a shared one and similar. We seem to be somewhere between the US and Frence/England ends of the spectrum.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Wow, we need to do something about it. I'm afraid to even figure out how much I pay in health insurance a year.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Every trip to the states begins with my visit to the local traveler's health insurance provider. I think it's around 30$ at my bank and I'm covered (depending on expected length of visit of course). I'd be bankrupt trying to cover costs if I was visiting without insurance and needed care.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I've heard that Canada has a great program. I've also heard that Canadians visiting MN usually take out an insurance policy because our system is so expensive.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A doctor is paid based on the quality of care given to each patient. This seems much more applicable than billing by the visit and how expensive a treatment the doctor can justify. Granted, I'm basing this on Sicko which is a Roger Moore movie so you can't take the entire thing as gospel. I can't see any reason not to believe the English and French doctors interviewed though. (Sadly, celebrity worship is not just a US phenomenon. The sports may change but absurd pay scale is there for the favorite local marketing engine. Football or Baseball in the US, Hockey in Canada, Footy in Europe.)

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

You were talking about the United States. So the hero worship goes past our shores. I'm not into sports at all. What I have trouble with is the ancillary people in medicine, they have our lives in their hands and yet make no where near what a minor league player gets.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That seems to be the big part of it. Celebrity status means you can put your face in an add and make a company a huge lump of money from the product. Much of the sport star's freaking huge income is off royalties from product placement as is the other celebrities. Why do luxury product companies give free samples to the celebrities; "and if you could wear our watch on TV or while on the movie set that would be really swell" It's more about how much money you can make other people and how well your contract to do so is written. I do agree that being paid millions of dollars a year to play a children's game is absurd even given the amount spectators can be gouged for stadium tickets. It's all about the marketing pitch though.

darpoke
darpoke

is that in this country at least, all kids want to be when they grow up is a model, musician, or sportsperson. What ever happened to aspirations? These three industries (and acting of course) are so disproportionately paid that anyone who wants to be rich needn't even bother spending the 7 years and masses of money on passing medical school, or the bar. Just cake on some industrial grade makeup and sleep with the right famous people and bingo! You're a star! People used to be famous because they were special. These days it's the other way around. I just can't get my head around how someone who drives a car for a living can make in a week what the people who save lives every day, or teach our children, make in a year. How messed up is a society that accepts that? Meanwhile we'll continue to mine the only people who managed to get a medical degree in the third world, bring them to the UK because they'd be happy to work for the pittance we pay our medical staff. Anyone who's born in this country of course, would never dream of taking advantage of the education we take for granted because we can all have it. They'd sooner get 'discovered' for being able to kick a ball. That's more vital to the continuance of our species, how?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Look at what Mr. Farve is doing, tell me that's not selling his products.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It seems the celebrity industry is purely based on marketing. A hotel chain airess comes to mind as someone who is famous purely because she is famous. Be rich and go to enough parties and you to can be a celebrity without any need for talent. For those who do have some talent, it's something special when they branch out. Artist XYZ just jumped from music to movies; they are so diverse. Anyone remember when everyone in Hollywood was a triple threat? If you where going to be more than a waiter, you had to be able to sing, dance and act. But again, it's an industry that evolved out of the stage where talent was required. Talent could lack a little with the introduction of film. And now, like I said, it's an industry purely fueled by marketing itself; every movie concern or media appearance is an advertisement for the next one with no actual substance behind it. I can't remember the last time I saw a film out of Hollywood that wasn't a remake of an older film.

darpoke
darpoke

...Americans don't even really need to have organised religion in government - they've evolved a culture of worshipping their president and the once almighty dollar in the same way we worship celebrity and binge drinking here in Britain. I used to disapprove of the shallow side of American culture but these days I'd have to be a hypocrite to do so. And yeah, the news that the US government neatly sidestepped the issue of illegal torture practice by no longer calling it 'torture' made it over here. I still don't quite understand why those people haven't been tried for warcrimes. I haven't followed the Obama administration very closely so far but his failure to prosecute for that disappointed me. I guess it's tough to open a can of whoop-ass without getting some on you. I do feel more keenly as time goes by that I lack a thorough enough understanding of politics, history and geography. I gave up both hist and geo when I was able to at school, to concentrate on languages, but I wish I hadn't. 14 is a tough age to be given that decision, I suspect. Disinformation and propaganda are the extremes of control utilised by an administration attempting to strongarm the populace. All partisan communication and reportage is naturally going to be biased to an extent (or it wouldn't be partisan) but when it reaches the point of outright withholding or editing information it becomes an abuse of power. I also wish people were better at spotting and calling bullsh!? when they see it - the leader of the Opposition party in this country is always criticising the failures of the PM and cabinet, but never has anything constructive or realistic to offer instead. From cabbies to coroners, we're all backseat drivers when it comes to running the country - but I'd expect the man who would be Prime Minister to have some actual answers. Otherwise, we're just stuck with what we have. That's not even democracy: it's monocracy.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That has to be my favorite line from Frost Nixon and I?m guessing it?s historically accurate given the topic of the movie. At least Nixon showed real regret where W simply created a new law to and grandfathered in his criminal acts. Earning caps would be a great start. I believe the annual salary for being a Canadian government official is pretty low even for the person in the big chair. We have our own political problems I?m sure but profiteering seems to be reasonably limited. Religion should definitely have no place in politics (ok.. outside of church politics of course); especially in places that base there government on a separation of state and church. The Americas where settled because people where trying to escape the persecution of a religious government. Wait.. let me go look up the definition of ?irony? why I listen to the campaign messages from the last several presidential votes. Education is important in all topics. Even I have only a vague notion of how politics works and I may actually have a better understanding of US political processes than my own country. It sucks to admit but that?s the first step of twelve isn?t it? Critical thinking is also an important part of that given that people really do base there presidential vote on Fox News infotainment without any second sources; not everybody but many. With the campaigns of disinformation that the last years have seen it?s been about voting against one rather than for the other. Still the answer seems to be in the hands of the voters where apathy dominates. The beliefs that something can?t be done or that it?s not worth the effort or it doesn?t effect the individual remain supreme. For all the political cartoons for and against the new US administration, we?ll have to let time demonstrate any difference in the government and citizens.

darpoke
darpoke

is my new favourite near-oxymoron :-) Seriously though, I think the concept 'sense of entitlement' pretty well captures the sentiment that has overtaken at least the Western world. Sadly it seems that everything the Western world suffers, the rest of the world is doomed to commit, at least in part, some years later. Take the horribly inept, corrupt and despotic governments in Africa. Or the effects of industrialisation in China. It's spread to government here in the UK. The idea that people should get paid to run the country is perfectly acceptable - it's a job like any other. The idea that people should get rich doing so is perfectly unacceptable. At some point the authority structure of any society becomes self-governing, in the sense that these people make the rules by which they are themselves governed. For British MPs to claim 'we've done nothing that isn't legal' in response to allegations of fraudulent expenses is to ignore the fact that they had control over what was termed 'legal' and what wasn't. It's utterly immoral. I think that a number of things ought to be done to reform governmental paradigms, here in the UK and anywhere else that has similar problems: earnings caps - a person who wants to become rich should not be placed in a position where they can make decisions that can actually influence law to achieve this. Politicians who want wealth are ultimately the enemy of the citizen since they generally acquire this wealth at the cost of the taxpayer. Allowing wealthy politicians attracts the wrong sort of person to the role in the first place. religious stance - this has no place in government. Sorry. With the exception of very few countries (mainly in the Middle East) the populace of a country and the members of a single religion do not coincide exactly, or even slightly. Various places of worship exist to serve religious needs. Those running the country have no place doing so on behalf of one god or another. Values are key to politics, but religion is not the only way to acquire these values- additionally each religion colours its imparted values - like the Catholic anti-contraceptive stance. People are free to choose these groups for themselves. Having such representation at the position of heads of state removes everyone's choice. mandatory public education - specifically in basic politics. Poor voter turnout is a symptom of a country not respecting the democratic process. This is, like so many things, ultimately the failure of government. People need to understand how their country works, and that it is their duty to make the choices that decide how it is run. Apathy caused by the current lack of decent choices is a factor, but what we've seen lately is a case of positive feedback - lack of public scrutiny has seen more and more unsavoury characters sneaking into the fray. We're the only ones to blame when we've taken our eyes off the ball. Essentially I think that politicians in general have failed to adopt the ideals they ought to have in the first place. In retrospect it seems a little silly that anything else should have been expected. Hence restrictions should be placed on them to enforce what is demanded of them by the public, who are basically shareholders (through taxation) in a company the goal of which is to run the country.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is what I've been hearing for several years now as well. That's just sad.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

hehe.. seriously though, I sure don't have an easy answer. Every election cycle seems to degrade further into selecting the least worst candidate. It's become reactionary; who will screw me the least in the next four years or who can get less mud drudged up from there past.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I don't mind off topic at all. I love the dissemination of ideas and beliefs. That's how we all learn and may even affect change somehow. That's my dilemma, how did we get to this apathy and how can it be rectified?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Too be sure that we're completely off topic on an interesting thread.. I watched Religiulous the other evening. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0815241/ The topic may not be for everyone but I think it's worth watching for the humor and critical thinking; be it to re-affirm or question one's own beliefs. At one point, he is interviewing a US senator. This has to be my favorite scene in the entire thing. I'll try it here from memory. He's discussing the creation story with the senator. "So your a Christian" 'yes' "You believe that Eve was made from Adam's rib and both where cast out of the garden for eating an apple" 'correct' "You effect policy. You actually run our country. Other people try to but you actually take part in making those decisions. Now, I have to admit that I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea that our country is being run by people who believe in a talking snake." 'Well. There's no IQ test for becoming a senator..' He meant it as a joke but trails off abruptly when realizing what he just said in a taped interview. You can actually see the color drain from his face. The look on it is priceless. You can tell that his handler standing just off camera is banging his head against a wall. Priceless. A frightful example of those entrusted with managing national policy but priceless. I'm buying a copy of the DVD for that single interview alone.

darpoke
darpoke

after the recent expenses scandals. Every day there're more and more revelations over what MPs have been claiming for on their taxpayer-funded expense accounts. Once minister claimed for the adult movie her husband ordered in a hotel. Another claimed for having their moat cleaned. That was not a typo. Most have simply been claiming for second, third or fourth properties, or claiming for repairs to a home in order to sell it at inflated cost. In this country there are only two main parties - Labour, currently running the government, and Conservative (Tory), the shadow cabinet. Liberal Democrats are fairly large and have many constituents but would never be a threat to the big two without forming a coalition. During the scandal reports, Labour's public support has taken a dive and the party has lost all confidence in the Prime Minister, a little unfairly I think as he hasn't been implicated (yet) and it's hard to fire your staff when they're running the country. Every time the Tory leader David Cameron steps up and criticises their party though, everyone laughs because his party accounted for 8 or 9 out of every 10 ministers implicated. Hardly any Lib Dems have been indicted or fired (if any, I'm not too sure on that one). But they're in no position to take on Labour as I've said, they're small fry. Two weeks ago we had an election for Members of the European Parliament. The public disgust at the expenses scandal was seen in their voting, as Labour lost several key seats and the Tories got nowhere. The trouble is, what can a populace do when the people they don't trust are *politicians*, full stop? We found out in this country. Two northern constituencies voted in members of the BNP. For those who don't know, the British National Party is the closest thing this country has to empowered bigotry. These are troublesome times indeed. How do you choose between bigots and thieves?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I doubt that we would be able to solve the problem. It seems that we as the general public are becoming more a more dissatisfied with the performance of our elected officials. It seems that the standards have dramatically dropped when it comes to most governmental types. Sad as that sounds.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Copyright expires after an amount of time but this isn't a copyright issue. Patents can be found invalid due to prior are, lack of innovation and such. Again, it's not a patent. Trademark can be legally invalidated if the owner does not persue infringement. If I was in my old job still I could ask the trademark lawyer in passing. If I remember my few discussions with him though, I believe it can also be invalidated legally by showing that it's too general a term to remain legally binding. This is Canadian law though so I don't know what the US law implications are.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

get the money they needed to balance the budget after paying off all their friends and perks. That's why they did it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That seems to fall on the list with a grocery store patenting the checkout lineup process. There is just something seemingly wrong about a public office being able to register it's location as a mark. Kentucky should be a state not a business brand.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That's right, I remember now. That was definitely not a good move. I fail to see why the state even felt it important to do that. KFC couldn't make the state change it's name, could it?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Kentucky trademarked the word Kentucky and charged people like Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Kentucky Derby for using the name Kentucky. The result was the Kentucky Derby became something like the Rose Race or Rose Derby (forget which) and moved out of the state of Kentucky altogether - cost the state millions in lost revenue. Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC and when they needed a new corporate headquarters the state of Kentucky was NOT considered a suitable place to build in. One article I read said the move by the state legislators actually cost them many millions in lost tax revenue and the whole state hundreds of millions in lost income from a few organisations that were upset with the actions and took their business elsewhere in protest.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I forgot about those. I hear that KFC had to change their name recently for some reason related to TM or copyright.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I'll check them out. Are there are existing cases under review now?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of the creator, but the US laws have some extras that can extend it out to 120 years - and copyrights for people who died before the last changes that made the basic extend from 50 to 70 years have 50 years from death. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_copyright_law en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_Kingdom en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_copyright_law

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Could anyone give a description of what the laws here and in the UK state. I'm trying to follow, but not familiar with what exists now.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

so as to get the kids through university. Most people who write an autobiography or memoirs don't make much out of it themselves but leave the income to their kids or grand kids simply because to be noteworthy enough for it to sell you've just GOT to be near the terminal end of your life and the majority of sales will be after you die. I agree, no extensions after the set period, and also want laws protecting the works from abuse once in the public domain. Public domain should mean you can print it or use it, not abuse it.

darpoke
darpoke

Forgive me, I'm still at work at half 7pm (BST) having got in at 9 this morning, trying to finish some crap. But still. That's got to be a result! I must confess to having found it hard to live in a world that tolerated the existence of that woman. The idea that there may be justice after all is the light at the end of a long, dim day here in Blighty. Thanks, Neon :-) Oh, and sorry DE - but I stand by this. A set period from creation of the works is sufficient for ensure the owner to benefit from them if they are young, while allowing a dying man to still provide for his children. Surely you must accept that the U.S. Grant example is the very pinnacle of extremity when discussing valid bequeathal of copyright to one's estate. Most other examples are hardly as worthy or deserved. How about this - copyright for life plus 22 years. That way anyone who writes something get to benefit from it for their lifetime (quite rightly of course) and, in the most extreme circumstance that they actually die while fathering a child (or in childbirth, tick as appropriate), their child will be provided for up to the legal age of adulthood in nearly every country. Allowing an extra year for pregnancy, should the male author somehow go out with a smile on his face, to put it glibly. I still don't get why it should be the default that a person could get to their own middle or near-retirement age having lived almost their entire lives off the back of a single achievement (or range thereof) of their parent's?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

A last work to support widows and children under the age of consent seems rather justifiable. A parent's work being adopted by the children above the age of consent rather than those children doing there own work is different. Nothing is ever black and white. And to take a grocery store rag moment; I hear rumor that the grandparents (the real money) have excluded Paris from the will out of disgust.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

financial income for their families, and that's one aspect of the copyright laws. An extreme case is General U.S. Grant - his final months of life while dying of a terminal illness were dedicated to writing his memoirs so his family could sell it and have money to live off, some of his children were still under the legal age at the time of his death. If the creator doesn't want his family to profit by his work, he can easily include it in his will for it to become public domain instead of leaving it to a family member. The fact some children misuse what their parents leave them does NOT remove the wishes of the parents to leave them something. If we had an automatic 'public domain on death' we could see some cases of people getting killed so their copyright can be shifted to the public domain. The current system allows for a reasonable period after the person's death. Two possible copyright changes that could be made would be to not allow an extension of the copyright, which can be done in some countries, and to have the material in the public domain globally protected from distortion the way Disney and Hollywood distorts stories. Heck, the way Hollywood and Disney distorts stories, I wouldn't be surprised to see variants of events like the Battle of Waterloo or Gettysburg where the losing side wins as such changes are not protected in anyway once it's public domain.

darpoke
darpoke

between copyright and patent in this case. Patents are designs for systems, products and processes that are sufficiently innovative to warrant patenting. The patent is renewed every X years. If a father invents something, it's up to him to continue renewal of the patent and to pass it to his children if that's what he wishes. If some or all of his children turn out to be graftless toerags then they'll plough his business into the ground anyway. Perhaps he should have divided his time more carefully between home and the invention treadmill. Copyright on the other hand is creation of art. Music, literature, whatever. The creative process is one of inspiration - creators draw from their environment and culture when creating. Their creations are derivative on their tastes, life and upbringing, and most people's work owes something to what has gone before in the same field. This debt is paid by their work returning to the public domain after an appropriate amount of time. Their children have no moral or ethical entitlement to the revenue from this work. If their parent is so concerned for their child's welfare then let them leave a substantial sum of *their* earnings in trust for their descendants. Being raised by someone doesn't entitle you to everything they worked for at no effort or expense of your own, nor does it grant you identical talent or ability to theirs that would make you best placed to care for their works. If you think it does, let me refer you to Paris Hilton and Kelly Osbourne.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

in their will, but no one else is. There have been cases where creators have given their copyright to charitable organisations and family members. Heck, I was watching a documentary on the War Between the States and at the end they mention U.S.Grant was terminally ill and spent his last months writing his memoirs so his family would have some money to live off when he died - which they did from the royalties. There are a number of reasons why it should go beyond the death of the creator, but there does have to be a suitable break point.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Sure, I can see how having Dad's invention knocked off would be emotional. I just can't justify the dedicated license and flow of royalties for Junior. Let him write is own novel or invention to bind his name too. If dad writes a math text book, Junior with an average grasp of math shouldn't be drawing royalties from that. Inheritance from the parent covers it rather than ongoing profit generation. In the case of a spouse continuing to dray royalties, that is more of a grey area given the status of marriage. Such things may have been how the former intended to continue supporting the widow for some years after. The emotional angle of anguish over dad's novel being hacked up into a horrible movie adaption is not at all pleasant but isn't enough for continuance either.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

generation or so should be given the opportunity to lock down for their lifetime too. I've seen a few people get really twisted because of changes post the death of dad or granddad. One case the guy almost went homicidal, although it related to businesses and family names. In the cases I've seen the father or grandfather started a business and built in from scratch. The business included the family name in it and the products quickly became associated with the family. When it got big enough it was incorporated and shares created. When the originator died the shares he had (75%) were spread between the five kids (15%) each. Three were more interested in the money than anything else and quickly sold their shares, the other two offered deals over time as they didn't have that much money ready to hand. Not good enough, they wanted the money NOW. The son of the father's junior partner had the cash available and bought the shares, taking him from 25% to 70% ownership and took over control of the company. Within months the reputation for quality switch to one for shoddy due to the cost cutting practices the new CEO applied, he also gave himself a huge salary so their was little profit to distribute either. The two sons who retained their shares were very pissed and couldn't do a damn thing about it. They were upset about how the lost of control was ruining their father's and their family's reputation. They ended up selling their shares on the market fro less than they were really worth as they were useless to them. The only saving grace was the three major products the company's business was built on were patented to their father and he assigned usage rights to the company every seven years; something the CEO didn't know. He thought the company owned the patents, but they were in the name of the father. the two sons took their time to set up in a business of their own to make the same products as per the patents, getting ready to go into production when the assignment ran out. They easily lured a lot of the better staff away from the old company. When the assignment ran out the two sons, who'd gotten full control of the patents from their siblings, promptly sent an order to cease using the patents and started manufacturing. the subsequent court case ruined the old business as they lost and had to pay all the court costs of both parties. Knowing the people concerned, I shudder to think how it would have ended up if the patents had belonged to the company and they couldn't use them to regain control of their father's reputation. I know it gets a bit different when you start to talk about IP for books and software etc, but imagine how the author of Beauty and the Beast would feel about the Disney version. I can also see how the author's children would like to protect such destruction during their life, and even some grandchildren if they were very close to the author. But not beyond that. The original idea behind the fifty and seventy years after death was to protect during the lifetime of the children of the copyright holder. I'd agree to stop control at that point so they can't renew copyright after that point.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I love the scene at the start where the evil empire's knight is buying fairytale characters for ransom money. Lifespan is a problem though. I can accept 70 years or until death but that should not be inherited by subsequent generations. That seems like downright madness. Similar to that would be allowing corporations as a legal entity to carry those copyrights indefinitely since EOL only comes when the company is bankrupt or dissolved through other means.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

How many people know the Disney versions of Snow White and Beauty and The Beast - and how many have read the originals. Talk about chalk and cheese, Disney has desecrated a lot of works by making their cheesy animated versions. Most of the Dracula stories bear very little resemblance to the original too. The list of authors who made the mistake of letting Hollywood and company loose at their works grows every time another book gets turned into a film. I've yet to see the complete movies of Starship Troopers and Dune because they screw the stories over so much it isn't funny - the movies are totally different stories to the books. Any author, or descendant, who wishes to preserve the purity or integrity of their works needs to protect them from Hollywood etc for as long as they can. Hell, can you imagine Thomas the Tank Engine episodes with the trains standing on their hind legs and dancing - that's what you'd get if Disney got hold of it. Or Thomas with them dragging armoured cars and having wars, which is what you'd get from the people who made the Starship Troopers movie as the movie focussed on about five percent of the book, and then screwed it something awful. I think it's right to protect the copyright of the author for their lifetime and the lifetime of their children so they can preserve the memory if they wish. There are ways authors can release their works early or the children who inherit the copyright can release them and make them public domain. Heck, I've got many works out there with an open copyright rule on them. Look at my stuff on ASSTR (www.asstr.org/~ebywater/) or SOL (storiesonline.net/auth/Ernest_Bywater) simply by putting them on those sites I'm allowing people to read them for free, and some they can distribute free too - as long as they keep a it the way it is and copyright is attributed to me. A lot of the training materials on my personal web site I allow people to make small numbers of copies of with no troubles. The system allows this, WHERE the copyright owner wishes it to be done.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Is a huge topic, I was just reading about all of the court cases here in the US as to where children are fighting for royalties from objects that are over 50 years old.

darpoke
darpoke

educated on the subject, but if software patents aren't set to comparatively short lifespans, i.e.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Patent law is immensely complicated. As for the mouse click patent, doesn't it really depends on who first applied for it and if that aspect is contested or not.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The law books are littered with good examples of where a single bad law has totally wrecked humanity. Yet, we seem not to be able to learn from history.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't suggest that the interest in patent reform negates there own behavior in persuing every obsurd patent they can get issued by any means though. Also, how does double click not fall into previous art? Didn't Apple's single button use double click before Microsoft even had a GUI layer to drape over Dos? Eesh.. examples of bad patents are more common than good it seems.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I knew about those patents. I often wonder how I would react if I was in that position. Not that I will ever have to worry about it. Also I have personal experience that tells me patents aren't really that effective. I have 7 myself and in less than two years after receiving one of the patents, competition was exploiting it. I could have done something about it, but that would have defrayed any financial benefit I received from the patent.

pgit
pgit

why does M$ hold patents on such things as double clicking an icon representing an application for the purposes of executing the application, or the use of a right click to invoke a list of options pertinent to the object which is at the focus of the click? http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29130 =)

pgit
pgit

What was/is the device? Or process in your example? Sounds interesting. And I'll go farther; US patent and copyright law needs to be scrapped and reworked from a clean slate. How's this for an example: A fellow came across an interesting book that was long out of print. The author had died in the 1970's and a nephew now held the rights to it. The fellow wanted to republish the book, so he made the nephew an industry standard, and quite reasonable offer of a lump sum for the rights. The nephew, not understanding the market in the slightest, imagined he'd be entitled to royalties, in addition to an up front 'lease.' But the margins on such things are so slim as to usually result in a loss to the publisher. In fact this publisher knew he'd take a loss on it, but wanted the information available to the people in and around his think tank. (Mises dot org) So the nephew gets nothing, the book languishes and will never see the light of day, at least for another 50 or so years, and by that time not only will the willing publisher not be around, but the pertinence of the information will likely be lost as well. This doesn't relate to the discussion nor the article that initiated it, but does illustrate my point; the laws are counter productive.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If there was not a strong business case for the decision, it wouldn't be. They are a huge target for litigation and spend a great deal on defense though the offensive cases are the ones that get press. I don't doubt that the reason for such interest in reform is to remove some of that weight from there backs. I think the harm that software patents cause greatly outweighs who is involved in promoting reform. But you are absolutely right; it's no reason to stop watching the usual suspects closely. (speaking of which, I think that will be this evening's background noise.. now where is my DVD copy..)

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and I had to keep aware of the IP concerns and issues as they didn't.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Yet MS causes me to have a wait and see attitude as their past performance has been fairly self-centered.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

That you are more in tune with this than I am. I wonder why the term "greater good" is so lost these days.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They are one of the loudest voices for patent reform. It may be due to being such a big target; but still. I don't forsee drastic changes any time soon either though. Too much money to be made with the status quo perhaps.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I also don't see it getting fixed anytime soon. I get concerned that patent squatting is going to stifle innovation.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I was just getting to that "hey, wait a sec" thought when you mentioned the mess that is US patent law and by extension, relates to other nations. Patents by them selves can be very important as are copyrights. Where one should not be applicable, the other can be. Things like math and genes should not be patentable yet they are depending on what legal blanket one falls into. To make things worse, there is the intentional confusion of copyright and patent law through "intellectual property" claims as if it's some new thing. Brilliant example by the way. I love hearing the old spy stories when they crop up.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I'd guess the US Patent Ofice and DoD need to be on better terms. I also have issues with patents for biologics as well as IT concepts.

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