Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

HOPE X: Can You Patent Software?

Can You Patent Software?

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Ed Ryan, Patent Attorney

Will be talking about the Alice v. CLS Bank decision. So can you patent software? Short answer: yes.

In the US, the power to issue patents comes from the Constitution, and is meant to encourage innovation. Patents involve a trade: you get a monopoly on making something for a limited amount of time, but you have to tell us how you made it. It's common wisdom that patents are good, but Ed asks if that really holds up for software.

He argues that being secretive over ideas in tech is wasteful and that the main benefit of software patents is to allow people to talk about their ideas without the need for secrecy.

Software is usually patented as a "process" or a "machine." However, laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas can't be patented. When you patent the basic building blocks of an industry, you in effect own that industry. Software patents go against the long-held ideals of sharing in open source.

HOPE X: Barret Brown and Anonymous: Persecution of Information Activists

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Kevin Ghallagher
Ahmed Ghappour, Professor, UC Hastings
Gabriella Coleman, Professor, McGill

VizThink by Willow Brugh.


Anonymous has risen as the face of global dissent. Their roots were fully in the world of internet trolling. Fox News called Anonymous "The Internet's Hate Machine. Anonymous responded with a video.

HOPE X: The Repair Movement

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

Concerned with mass production and unidirectional flow of goods. Especially important for hackers because of electronic goods. How do we change this?

Tiffany Rad, @TiffanyRad, Pianos and Cars

When you buy something, do you own it, and how much of it?
Concerned about ownership of private information, GPS etc, in cars. You don't own the software, and could void the warranty by disabling features you don't want.

Can you legally access your car's computers? Diagnostic computers cost 15-20k. Makes it difficult to repair outside of dealership.

If you have to break cryptography to fix your car, you may void your warranty and may violate the DMCA. There has been a push for "Right to Repair Acts." These have succeeded in Massachusetts and Oregon.

Jiffy Lube and AutoZone lobbied for standardized access to diagnostic tools. Available by 2018. Only licensed mechanics are covered by these agreements.

Other Consumer Goods.

VizThinks from Day One of HOPE

Persecution of Internet Activists:
Barrett Brown, a Dallas-based writer and freelance journalist, was arrested in late 2012 and indicted several times on charges including the publication of a hyperlink. He was earlier pegged by the media as an “unofficial spokesperson” for the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. But who is he really and what was he trying to uncover that made him a target of the feds? The prosecution was widely regarded as excessive and included a gag order, subpoenas, charges issued against family members, attempts to seize defense funds, and criminal counts so flawed that they were later dismissed. This talk will explore Brown’s work, what happened during his case, the dynamics of his interactions with Anonymous and its implications for other journalists who work with hackers, and why his case outraged many of those who care for free speech and freedom of press.
Speakers: Kevin Gallagher; Ahmed Ghappour; Gabriella Coleman

HOPE X: Diversity in Tech Meet-Up

Liveblogged at HOPE X.

In this Meet-Up we broke out into groups to talk about common problems related to diversity in tech and to brainstorm solutions. This documents the reports that each breakout group gave.

Problem: How to balance radical inclusion with creating safe spaces for minorities?
Solution: Encourage meaningful interactions that go beyond "don't do this."
Solution: Make space sometimes available to closed groups.

Problem: Tech has an image of lacking diversity, which turns people off.
Solution: Help diverse communities develop technical skills internally.

Problem: Differences in ingrained communication styles. The loudest voice often wins.
Solution: Employ different techniques, e.g. roundtables. Encourage a focus on awareness of language, such as gender neutrality.

Problem: How to move from being unaware of a lack of diversity to making improvements.

Problem: Narrow definitions of success, such as entrepreneurial stereotype.

Problem: Lack of buy-in on importance of diversity.

Problem: People taught from an early age that they can't do tech.


Subscribe to Front page feed