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<nettime> Fwd: CU Newsletter 10 December 2001

************************************************************ wrote on 9/12/2001
C O M P U T E R U S E R . C O M          N E W S L E T T E R
10 December 2001
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Whither intellectual property?
By James Mathewson

Most current debates in the tech sector center on
intellectual property (IP): How do we rewrite existing
analog laws for the digital world? There are several
high-profile examples. At what point is it legitimate to
wield a patent for software or business practices? How do
recording companies protect themselves from piracy while
honoring constitutional fair-use provisions? Even the very
definition of piracy in a number of arenas is in a state of

Perhaps the most prominent place for these debates to be
settled is in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO),
which issues patents and protects copyrights in a way that
is supposed to hold up in court. The office came under
intense scrutiny in the Clinton administration for being
tough on consumers while playing nice to business. The
office supported the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA), which is a full-frontal assault to fair use in
digital recordings. And it granted patents for the most
vague and general business practices, which enabled
companies like Walker Digital to become overnight

I'm sorry to say that James Rogan--the Bush Administration's
appointee to head the PTO--will not change the office's
stance on these issues. A story on our site last week
underscores Rogan's strong background, which should enable
him to be the most competent person in that position in
several years. He has served on every major committee
related to IP issues in the House, and he has co-sponsored
several bills related to IP in the tech sector.

But my own research shows that his positions on patent and
trademark issues as a member of the House of Representatives
suggest that it will be business as usual at the PTO for
some time to come. First, his campaign contributors included
Sony, Time Warner, Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal
Studios, and the Motion Picture Association of America,
which all have strong interests in maintaining the DMCA. In
fact, it was his support of the law that garnered him the
contributions. Second, he repeatedly opposed patent reform
legislation that would have required more specifics in
business methods patents than simply "name your price,"
or "one-click ordering."

I'm hopeful that as the overseer of this vital office, Rogan
will use the day-to-day experience he gets to change his
opinions on these matters. There is an old saying in
business circles: "What's good for consumers is good for
business." Well, vague business methods patents are bad for
consumers, limiting their choices significantly. And fair
use is good for consumers, increasing their ability to share
information. Though he may think he's protecting business
interests with his positions on IP, by stomping on
consumer's rights to choose and share, he is ultimately
stamping out business opportunities.

-- James Mathewson is editor of ComputerUser magazine and

Related Links:

James Rogan news story:

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************************************************************ Forums

Posted 12-05-01 by Anonymous:
"I want to upgrade my pc's AGP video card. I have an old
Pentium II 266MHZ. I would like to upgrade to a 32mb video
graphics card, perhaps an ATI. Would you recommend to use
the Xpert 128 or the Xpert 2000 Pro? Since my pc is slow,
will it be able to handle one of these? Do you have any
recomendation that will work on my PC?"

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