Patenting Someone Else’s Ideas

H.264 is a video codec (a standard for storing video information). It is patent-encumbered, meaning that any software which implements the H.264 standard (to play video, create video, or to convert between codecs) is violating patents unless the developers pay for licenses. There are many encoders for H.264, and they can produce wildly different results. The best is widely regarded as being x264, which is Free Open Source Software. The developers of x264 do not have patent licenses (it’s rather tricky for Free Software to get such a licence and remain Free), and have got away with it so far. It helps, of course, that software patents are not enforceable in all countries.

Tandberg (owned by Cisco) has apparently taken some algorithms from x264’s source code and has filed a patent application on them with the USPTO. The patent has not yet been granted.


UN Says It’s Okay to Execute Gay People

Well, not directly, but they removed language about sexual orientation before they passed a resolution condemning arbitrary and unjustified executions. This is almost made worse by the fact that a previous version of this resolution, passed in 2008, did contain a reference to sexual orientation. Mali and Morocco lead the campaign to remove protection for LGBT people, and were joined by 79 other countries, including Uganda (which has already been in the news about such matters), Afghanistan, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

At this point, I should note that I somehow missed this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance on the 20th. How many trans people were murdered over the past year?


Religious Exemptions from the Law

One of my own principles is that groups should not be exempted from any legislation, or given any other special privileges, merely because they have, or claim to have, an invisible friend. Johann Hari’s article about exemptions from animal welfare legislation for halal and kosher butchers struck a chord.

One of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is the howls you will hear from the Men of God.