The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the federal Government will soon announce that it will subsidise the purchase of internet porn filters. According to the report:

the plan will include subsidies for parents who buy pornography-filtering software for home computers and an injection of funding for NetAlert, the internet safety advisory body.

Microsoft is in damage control mode, after it has been revealed that their latest attempt to control piracy phones home to Microsoft every day. The extent of the daily communication appears to be just checking with a Microsoft server that the program should continue to run, and it does not appear to pass any information back to Microsoft other than your computer’s IP address.

However, this daily communication is not disclosed in the EULA displayed during the program’s installation–only the fact that it gathers information about your computer. The interesting question is whether, in initiating undisclosed communications back to Microsoft’s server, Microsoft has broken any laws — because this is very similar to the behaviour that malware exhibits (except that malware often transmits back other data about or from your computer). (more…)

The New York Times is reporting on a story by journalist Seth Mnookin that will appear in the forthcoming issue of Vanity Fair about author Lewis Perdue’s lawsuit against Dan Brown. I commented a couple of months ago on Perdue’s loss in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The Vanity Fair article is not yet online, but the Times article gives an idea of what it will be about, and has some quotes. After introducing the procedural history, it states that “Mr. Mnookin’s article suggests that Mr. Perdue might have had a valid case, if not a strong legal one. Mr. Mnookin compares the two novels, finding that ‘The Da Vinci Code’ ‘contained a plot, pacing and structure that were very similar to “Daughter of God’s”‘ ,” and continues (more…)

CNet reports that the US Senate Judiciary Committee will be looking at patent system reform. The home page for the hearing on 23 May contains links to some interesting testimony. I have set out some extracts from the two most striking witnesses. (more…)

A few interesting developments on a number of fronts:

The Register has a story panning the trial judge’s decision in the Apple trade secrets vs blogging case. According to the story, “Judge Rushing cites Wikipedia as a source, a mistake which earns students an ‘F’ grade today. He talks about the need to disregard economics and sociology in favor of a ‘memetic marketplace’ – whatever that is – and allows himself some flights of technological rapture.”

ArsTechnica has an interview with the CEO of eMusic. You may not have heard of eMusic, but it is currently the number 2 seller of downloadable music, behind only Apple’s iTunes Music Store. And the interesting part: eMusic does not use DRM. (And its songs cost only about 25c each, from what I can see on its website). I wonder how Napster can complain about this one?

Finally, an interesting post claims that a newly-created lobby group for net neutrality is just a shill for telcos. And according to SourceWatch (run by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy) the primary funder of the group is … AT&T.

A story I’ve meant to post about for a couple of weeks: we know pirates sometimes choose specific products to knock off, but these guys created their own entirely fictitious company, cloning NEC. Raids on 18 factories and warehouses in China and Taiwan revealed that the fake NEC clone had established links to more than 50 electronics factories in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and was controlled by entities in Japan and Taiwan. Remarkably, the crooks had not only chosen to clone about 50 of NEC’s existing products, but had gone so far as to design their own new ones, which were described in the article as “generally good quality”. (more…)

This slightly disturbing judgment is doing the rounds just now, although it was delivered in February. It was an application for review of a denial of refugee status brought on three grounds. The first ground failed; the second ground would probably have been enough on its own to have the decision set aside.

It is the third ground that is of some interest:

33. In support of ground 3 the applicant complains that the tribunal’s decision was vitiated by bias both apprehended and actual. On the first page of the decision there is a heading in bold type as follows:


34. The explanation for inclusion of the word ooga-booga is that the tribunal member was having difficulty with her spell check program and it was suggested that she type a nonsense word into the decision to see if the spell checker would find it. The tribunal member said that she overlooked the word when proofing the decision.

The Federal Magistrate (Riethmuller FM) disposed of a preliminary submission by the Commonwealth as follows:

36. Counsel for the Minister relied heavily upon the fact that the word does not appear in any of the major dictionaries and points out that it could not be an example of onomatopoeia, because onomatopoeia describes a word that sounds like the thing it is describing. Counsel for the Minister, however, noted that the term Ooga-booga appears to have been adopted as a brand name for a line of Australian clothing. Clothing names are not altogether helpful given other recent brand names such as FCUK and CNUT appear in the marketplace.

Then, he proceeded to sketch some recent and not-so-recent uses of the term. Unfortunately, this one contains an error:

The term has also appeared in web posts, such as the following which appears on the ‘Ask the Myth Busters’ site at < http :// > where it is stated:
I know at one point in the show you’ve stated that you’d like to stay away from the ‘ooga-booga’ myths, meaning I suppose the ones with a bit of mysticism attached to them. …

The website cited [should that be ‘webcited’?] is Slashdot’s science section and has nothing to do with Mythbusters; it just happened to carry a post last November entitled “Ask the mythbusters”, with answers posted in December.

Not all that surprisingly, after noting that “[t]he term appears to have overtones of mysticism and racism in its more modern uses”, Reithmuller FM sent the matter back to be heard by a differently constituted Refugee Review Tribunal on the grounds of apprehended, though not actual, bias:

48. These proceedings involve a claim for refugee status and a protection visa on the basis of a fear of personal harm as a result of political conduct in Burma. The issues are potentially those of life and death for the applicant. It is essential that the public and those involved in proceedings have confidence in the integrity and impartiality of such proceedings.

49. In the circumstances of this case I am of the view that a fair minded observer appraised of the facts and circumstances of the ooga-booga comment would entertain a reasonable apprehension of bias.

It’s famous last words, but the problem is currently under control – one spam comment in the last few days, which is two orders of magnitude less than before. The spammers are using spambots to exploit a weakness in the blogging software for which I don’t think there’s any sure cure given the way it’s currently written. My fixes currently depend on some weaknesses in the spambots, but a smart spammer would be able to circumvent them with some thought.

If you get a “possible spam detected” message when you try to post a comment, please email me and let me know (lawfont at gmail dot com.

One useful tidbit: the spammers have cottoned on to an open redirect script on that doesn’t properly check destination (naughty!). This would be an excellent vector for a phishing attack, as the URL would display in an email client as resolving to (example: If you get a link to adobe in an email, don’t click it.

Just a short note to let you know: we’ve been getting a lot of comment spam over the last few days (and many, many other blogs are experiencing the same). It appears to be part of a concerted new effort by spammers (mostly sellers of dodgy pharmaceuticals), who are starting to find ways around the most common anti-spam protection. Fortunately, the setup we use at LawFont has let only a handful of this trash actually show (about 2%), but very many are getting caught behind the scenes, requiring time and effort to clean up.

I’m going to take action over the next couple of days to try to prevent any more getting through. I think I can do it without breaking anything, but if anyone experiences any problems accessing the site or posting comments over the week ahead, please drop me a line at lawfont at gmail dot com. I also have a few other tweaks and upgrades planned, which I will try to roll out over the coming few months (work permitting).

The US Supreme Court has unanimously allowed eBay’s appeal regarding the award of injunctive relief for patent infringement, and returned the case to the District Court for further consideration. Justice Thomas wrote the opinion of the court, which was characteristically short and to the point. The Chief Justice issued a concurring opinion joined by Scalia and Ginsberg, J.J., and Justice Kennedy issued a concurring opinion joined by Stevens, Souter and Breyer, J.J.

The procedural background was as follows: MercExchange held a number of patents which it attempted unsuccessfully to license to eBay and MercExchange then sued the two for patent infringement, and succeeded. (more…)

And when I write “Apple”, whom do you think of? The computer maker? Thought so. Today, Mr Justice Mann found for Apple Computer, Inc. in the lawsuit between it and Apple Corps Ltd (the Beatles). My intro is possibly a little misleading, however, as the case was not directly about the classical trade mark concerns of confusion between two particular marks.

Rather, it concerned the interpretation of a settlement agreement between the two parties executed in 1991 in order to avoid some of the sporadic conflicts the two had previously had in exploiting their similar marks. However, notions of applications and use of trade marks do surface in construing just what that agreement meant. (more…)

Napster is apparently changing its business model in an attempt to turn a profit. They will now allow a user to play songs five times before they are required to buy it or become a Napster subscriber.

It’s not a bad idea, but it does not address the fundamental problems with subscription models, that I have previously commented on. (more…)

Further evidence of the music industry adage “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ”: the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States has rejected an appeal by author Lewis Perdue in respect of his claims that Brown copied from two of Perdue’s works in writing The Da Vinci Code.

The case was not a simple copyright suit brought by Perdue; it was actually brought by Brown and his publisher, Random House, seeking a declaration of non-infringement. Perdue then counter-claimed for infringement. Brown succeeded at first instance, and the court of appeals just upheld that decision. The appeal decision is not available online, but most of the trial documents are, at a website maintained by the plaintiff Perdue. (more…)

I just caught a replay of Glenn Reynolds being interviewed on C-Span. For those who don’t know, Reynolds blogs as Instapundit, and was one of the pioneers of blogging. The interview ranged widely, and although primarily focussed on politics (unsurprising, given the nature of his blog), did cover some IP territory. (more…)

The New York Times has a short and sharp editorial criticising the US patent system. It’s at a very high level of generality, but it does cover some of the familiar themes for criticism: (more…)

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