The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week, compiled by Wendy M. Grossman, a freelance writer specializing in science and technology. This week’s top story discusses an open access bill passed by Sao Paulo’s state assembly.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
Brazil: Sao Paulo state assembly passes open access bill
Recursos Educacionais Abertos reports that after nearly two years of discussions led by the OER Brazil Project, Bill 989/2011, passed on December 20, 2012, by the Sao Paulo legislature, establishes a requirement that educational resources developed or purchased with government funds in the state must be freely accessible to the public under an open copyright license. The governor must sign the bill for it to become law.
Virginia company claims patents on social networking
Intellectual Property Watch reports that the Virginia–based company Bascom Research, part of the Lexington Technology Group, claims it holds four broad, longstanding patents on fundamental aspects of social networking. It is suing five companies for infringement: Facebook, LinkedIn, Jive Software, BroadVision, and Novell in cases valued at $1 billion.
Nairobi: University of Nairobi adopts open access policy
EIFL reports that the University of Nairobi has launched an open access repository and adopted an open access policy that requires all members of the university community to submit their scholarly output to the repository with a non–exclusive, irrevocable, world–wide license and encourages them to publish their scholarly work in open access journals.
EU: European Council presidency proposes weakening citizens’ right to privacy
EDRI reports that the Irish presidency of the European Council has distributed a discussion paper on the protection of citizens’ personal data as part of the preparations for this week’s Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Dublin. Proposals include weakening registration obligations and making fines for privacy violations “optional or at least conditional upon a prior warning.”
US: Free speech advocates win preliminary injunction against California’s Proposition 35
EFF reports it has won a preliminary injunction in its suit, filed jointly with ACLU of Northern California, challenging California’s Proposition 35 on free speech grounds. Passed in November, the proposition restricts the legal and constitutionally protected speech of all registered sex offenders in California.
Hacktivist suicide highlights disproportionate enforcement and open access
Out of the many obituaries on the Net, these few give a broad view of the life of activist, RSS inventor, and Reddit co–founder Aaron Swartz, found dead on January 11 aged 26. A proposed “Aaron’s Law” would ensure that violating computer or Internet terms of service would no longer be a felony in the U.S. Finally, in an active tribute, friends and admirers honored Swartz’s memory by adding their papers and essays to an open access repository. The collection also includes obituaries, memories, and commentaries on Swartz’s prosecution for downloading documents en masse from JSTOR.
David Weinberger | danah boyd | Alex Stamos | Matt Stoller | “Aaron’s Law” | OA tribute
U.S.: Patent and Trademark Office considers patents in genetic diagnostic testing
In this set of notes, Knowledge Ecology International reports on discussion held at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to evaluate the use of patents and licensing practices in the context of genetic diagnostic testing. The USPTO held hearings last year and expected to release a report in June 2012 but concluded more study was necessary.
The college textbook bubble
In this article, Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes that the rising price of college textbooks, which has risen more than 800% since 1978, has outstripped those of medical services, new homes, and the consumer price index. Perry suggests that the open educational resources movement will do to traditional textbooks what Wikipedia did to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Testing the effectiveness of anti–piracy measures
In this paper, “Clickonomics: Determining the Effect of Anti–Piracy Measures for One–Click Hosting,” researchers at Boston’s Northeastern University study the effectiveness of anti–piracy measures taken by rights holders and conclude that tactics such as blocking sites by seizing domain names are ineffective. The paper looks in particular at the “piracy ecosystem” that has built up around one–click hosters (cyberlockers), which the authors argue is now at least as significant as BitTorrent.