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September 2018
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Stupid Patent Of The Month: A Newspaper On A Screen

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One of the oldest challenges in journalism is deciding what goes on the front page. How big should the headline be? What articles merit front-page placement? When addressing these questions, publishers deal with a physical limit in the size of the page. Digital publishing faces a similar constraint: the storage capacity of the user's device. You can only put as much content on the device as will fit. If that sounds like a fundamental to you, and unpatentable, idea, we agree. Unfortunately, the Patent Office does not. They recently decided to issue our latest Stupid Patent of the Month: U.S. No. 10,042,822, titled "Device, Method, and System for Displaying Pages of a Digital Edition by Efficient Download of Assets."The '822 patent adds nothing remotely inventive or technological to the basic idea of providing a portion of a periodicali.e., a newspaperbased on the amount of space available. The patent owner, Nuglif, makes an application for distributing news and media content.Even a cursory glance at the patent reveals the limits of its technological reach. It explains: "The present invention is concerned with a processor-implemented method for displaying a digital edition readable by a dedicated software application running on a data processing device having a display screen, even though the digital edition is not completely downloaded on the data processing device." The specification is typically elusive as to what that invention actually is, instead repeating the boilerplate phrase beloved by patent applicants, that "the description set forth herein is merely exemplary to the present invention and is not intended to limit the scope of protection."For the limits of the patent, we look to its claims, which define the applicant's legal rights instead of describing the operation of the "invention" to which the claims supposedly correspond. The patent has only one independent claim, which includes steps of (a) receiving a pre-generated file linking to at least some content from current and upcoming digital editions, (b) requesting the linked-content for display, and (c) determining how much content from the upcoming edition to download based on publication date and device capacity.

Notably, the patent does not claim as the invention the processor, the network, the digital edition, the software application for reading the digital edition on the device, or any other technical aspect. Instead, it claims the combination of receiving, requesting, and determining, without limiting it to any particular device or manner of operation. Aside from the reference to a "processor-implemented" method in the preamble to the claim, nothing in the claim indicates these steps would even have to be performed by machinery rather than a human. Nor does it indicate why providing a partial edition would be challenging once a complete edition can be provided.In 2014, the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank decision confirmed what numerous earlier decisions had already established: to be eligible for a patent, an applicant must actually invent something. Patents on abstract ideas, laws of nature, and naturally-occurring phenomena are prohibited. These represent the fundamental building blocks of innovation and scientific progress that must remain available to the public. When a patent claims something in these prohibited categories and adds nothing to transform the claims into a specific invention, the patent takes from the public domain, and adds nothing in return.Abstract ideas are basic principles that apply and often represent methods of organizing human activity that people have known and used for years without technological intervention. Too often, applicants obtain patents on abstract ideas by claiming systems or methods that merely apply these ideas using off-the-shelf computer hardware and software and without adding anything that is inventive and patent-eligiblei.e., something attributable to the applicant other than the abstract idea or pre-existing computer technology that supposedly makes it concrete.The '822 patent issued on August 7, 2018, and has a priority date of January 10, 2014. That means the Alice decision came out in plenty of time to block its issuance. The idea of providing less based on resource constraints is not even technological, let alone innovative. It is a basic idea that drives human activity every day: from our decision not to consume an entire day's worth of food at breakfast, to our decision to fill our bag with only what we can carry, and actually need, for work or school.Nothing in the patent suggests that the applicant came up with anything beyond the idea of making a determination based on timing and capacity. Even the patent relies on the obvious analog analogies, explaining that Saturday editions are typically "more voluminous" and thus demand more capacity than "lighter" Sunday editions with fewer sections. But that was just as true for paper editions distributed by newspaper carriers as for digital editions distributed on devices today. The need to adapt to the constraints of a medium is not a problem tied to any particular technological tool or environment.Right now, we have no concerns about the conduct of the assignee, Nuglif. But we are worried that the Patent Office is still issuing patents like this one. Because the '822 patent issued so recently, it has the potential to be used to threaten or bring suit until it expires in 2034. Since it directly relates to the distribution of news content, these threats could add to risks and costs of creating and distributing newspapers, magazines, and other creative contentactivities the First Amendment protects.Reposted from the EFF's Stupid Patent of the Month series.

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posted at: 12:31am on 01-Sep-2018
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Police Union Offers Citizens $500 To Get Hurt, Killed, Or Sued As Amateur Cops

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Police unions have never been the sharpest tool in the law enforcement PR shed. Over the years, they've claimed officers should be subjected to less scrutiny than Walmart employees, flashbang-burned toddlers are the price society pays for "safe" neighborhoods, and anything remotely suggesting greater accountability or transparency will probably result in dead cops.

Hey, I get it. Zealous advocacy and all that. Unions need to show the rank-and-file their dues are being put to use. And it's the best use possible: self-preservation and consistent maintenance of the status quo. Unions will always strongly advocate for their officers, even when advocating positions officers don't agree with. To sum up: ridiculous. And here we are with yet another ridiculous police union action.

Recently, a video went viral showing an officer begging for help from a security guard while a number of people stood around filming his losing battle with an arrestee. Maybe the problem was callous citizens and their anti-cop attitudes. Maybe the problem is the reduction of real life to social media filler. Or maybe it was just the bystander effect: the more bystanders there are, the more everyone assumes someone else will step up and help out.

The correct response from New York City's Sergeants Benevolent Association would have been nothing more than some grousing about civilians and their nipple-suckling. Instead, the SBA chose to get involved in the worst possible way.

A police union wants to turn random bystanders into vigilantes-for-hire — by offering $500 to any civilian who helps cops wrestle down suspects who are resisting arrest.

The cash proposal from the Sergeants Benevolent Association is aimed at getting those who normally would make videos of cops taking people into custody to put down their phones and actually get involved.

“When you see an officer struggling, rather than take your cellphone out, assist the officer and you’ll receive an award of $500,” SBA president Ed Mullins told The Post.

Oh my. $500 is barely going to cover an hour of bystanders' attorney's time. Good lord, what an awful idea.

If Joe Self-Deputization decides to pitch in and help a professional suspect-subduer subdue a suspect, he could get injured or killed. Who's legally responsible in this wrongful death suit? The union? The PD? The city? The suspect? The officer who needed help? Someone's going to get sued and all the union can offer is a conditional $500.

Let's up the ante: instead of the civilian being injured during the helpfulness, it's the cop. Can the cop sue the person incentivized to assist the officer by the officer's union? Does the officer sue the union for pitching such a stupid idea?

What if the amateur officer has a gun and handles it as responsibly and accurately as cops do? Now he's got a dead cop on his hands and zero chance of obtaining $500 since the suspect has probably used this unexpected opportunity to flee the scene. Is this person going to jail? A lawsuit is inevitable. No one knows who's suing who at this point, but what happens to the erstwhile officer while the litigation logistics are sorted out? Assaulting an officer charges and all the sentence enhancements that brings?

What if the suspect is killed or injured by the non-officer? Can he sue or press charges?

These are all questions no one's answering. And they need to be answered. You can't just encourage a bunch of non-professionals to pitch in with crime fighting without deciding who's indemnifying who when everything goes sideways.

The only bright spot in all of this stupidity is only bright if you're as cynical as I am. It appears one New York legislator is planning to introduce a bill that will make it much easier for those involved to sue the government post-clusterfuck.

State Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), a retired cop, will introduce a new good Samaritan law to shield civilians from liability if they help cops. The bill is still being drafted, his office said.

“The current good Samaritan law does not protect citizens who assist first responders. It is my intent to introduce legislation in the Senate that corrects this shortcoming,” Golden said.

Cool. This almost makes it official policy. This might codify the state's liability when suspects, cops, or citizens are injured and killed during assisted altercations. It shields citizens from liability, which pushes it back on the government. Officers have a variety of immunities already available to them, but this law would implicitly condone assistance efforts by citizens, making it a policy issue when lawsuits start rolling in. If an injury/death stems from a policy or law, it's much harder for government entities to dodge liability.

My guess is there will be few takers. Attempting to help a cop out with an arrest is an activity with very few positive outcomes. People jumping into these situations greatly increase their risk of being injured or killed, and they sure as hell do not possess the training needed to assess the danger before getting involved. $500 doesn't pay for much medical care, much less much lawyering.

If the police union would like more citizens to support their officers, perhaps it should spend more time considering how much its own actions and statements have harmed community relationships with law enforcement. The fact that the union feels it needs to pay citizens to help cops is an indictment of the system unions helped create -- one that has elevated officers from their position as public servants to one of warlords presiding over disputed territories.

If fewer people are interested in coming to the aid of cops, it's not because there's no financial incentive. Only an organization completely out of touch with the people its officers serve would arrive at this conclusion. And because it came to this conclusion, the union has again illustrated why it shouldn't be allowed to represent the officers it's supposed to be serving. Officers have been dumping dues into a PR disaster for years. Maybe it's time they made their money do a little talking of its own.

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posted at: 12:31am on 01-Sep-2018
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Jul/Aug 2018 - GOTO Hell - Part 1

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There are families who can't discuss religion at the dinner table. There are some that can't discuss politics together. MultiValue is a family that can't seem to discuss GOTO without descending into madness. Despite that, a GOTO adherent has offered to guide us through their reasons... and their regrets.

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Jul/Aug 2018 Magazine

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Cover Story - GOTO Hell - Part 1

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