Topic 1: Software Patents – good or bad?
Patents arose as a legal mechanism designed to protect ‘intellectual capital’. In theory, patents provide a valuable protection system for inventors pursuing development of their invention as well as a reward system for commercially valuable ideas.
The term ‘software patents’ is a little bit of a misnomer since in general, it is not the software that is patented, but the underlying method or algorithmic means of accomplishing an end result.
In 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page published a paper on a search engine they were working on called Google (Brin and Page, 1998). They filed a patent the same year (Page, 1998), which was granted in 2001. At the time, the reigning search engine giants like Yahoo, Altavista and Webcrawler were already well established, flush with resources—at least compared to an academic start-up that began in a garage. Google is today the world’s most popular search engine, earning that distinction by giving people a superior product. But what would have happened to Google if their idea could have been stolen without legal consequence?
If software patents can be used to protect inventors and investors actively pursuing development of a clever idea, then they can be a good thing. So the question remains of how to keep the potential for good and lessen the potential for evil.
Another interesting text cames from the movement “nosoftwarepatents”
Topic 2: Proposed Federal Bill C-61 and its potential impact on open source software
Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, was a bill tabled in 2008 during the second session of the 39th Canadian Parliament by Minister of Industry Jim Prentice. The bill died on the table when the 39th Parliament was dissolved prematurely and an election was called by the Governor General Michaëlle Jean at Prime Minister Stephen Harper‘s request on September 7, 2008.
The proposed bill contains the following changes on what constitutes copyright infringement and what does not for personal use:
- Time shifting, limited format shifting, copying for personal use, and device transferring of media is legal as long as:
- Citizens do not retain recorded programs for extended time
- Are not backups of DVD’s (can only be of videocassettes in format shifting).
- Do not circumvent any and all “digital locks”
- Transferring of media occurs only once per device owned by the purchaser of the original copy while retaining the original copy.
- Are not of shows broadcast with “no recording” flags
- Are not governed by any other clauses between the right holder and consumer (ex. Amazon’s non-transferability clause, promotional use only, do not sell/transfer, etc.) 
- Format shifting must comply with the twelve processes listed here (pdf) in addition to all other conditions listed. 
Hosts, such as ISP’s, will no longer have legal responsibility under the new bill when their services are unintentionally used to provide access to copyrighted material. 
Methods of protecting privacy would become legal under the proposed bill, however distribution of software to do so will be illegal, effectively canceling out the new right.
The bill will make circumventing all digital locks illegal, including locks on the Internet. 
It modifies what libraries can do in providing digital copies, such that they would be allowed to create digital copies for patrons, but the copies must self destruct/be destroyed within 5 days of creation 
It modifies the copyrights of performers and their performances such that a performer is given the sole right to: 
- “communicate [their performance] to the public by telecommunication.”
- “to perform [their performance] in public.”
- fix their performance in material form, such as recording their performance onto a dvd.
- reproduce, rent, sell or otherwise transfer ownership of any sound recording of their performance.
Proposed fines for breaking the law are (per each instance, personal use):
- A new statutory damage award of $500 for music downloads.
- Since the $500 limit does not apply to all cases, fines up to $20,000 (defined in previous bills) may be incurred (per instance) for:
- Circumventing digital locks or DRM regardless of reason/intent.
- Uploading regardless of awareness, including uploading to YouTube or peer-to-peer networks. Note that peer-to-peer programs generally allow files to be both uploaded and downloaded by default.
- “Making available” of copyrighted material (regardless if it was actually uploaded). 
In the case of commercial circumvention of DRM, Clause 32 of the Bill specifies penalties of $1,000,000 and/or five years imprisonment on conviction on indictment, or $25,000 and/or six months imprisonment on summary conviction. 
The Canadian Software Innovation Alliance, an association of open source developers questions the bill, because of its potentially harmful effects on open source software modification. Spokesman Bob Young, Lulu Inc‘s CEO (and the former CEO of Linux vendor Red Hat) says “We’re crafting these laws without having anyone from the technology industry engaged in the process.” He contends that the bill caters too closely to the content industry and not to engineers and software developers.
In late July 2008, Michael Geist criticized the bill on environmental grounds. Specific criticisms include:
- If enacted, Bill C-61 would not allow unlocking of cellphones, forcing consumers to acquire a new cell phone each time they switch a carrier, creating excess waste.
- Bill C-61, which parallels American DMCA, could allow lawsuits over the legality of companies that offer to recycle printer ink cartridges.
- Bill C-61 creates new barriers in the race toward network-based computing, since the ICT industry accounts for more carbon emissions than the airline industry. Network-based computing — often referred to as “cloud computing” — basically are large server farms situated near clean energy sources. The bill could prevent developments on Canada’s northern high-speed optical networks with zero carbon emissions. Bill C-61 would further prohibit many uses of network-based computing such as video recording services, backup of data, etc.