Tag Archives: Michael Geist

US Patent and Trademarks Office invests in a public relations campaign

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC has been renovating its Arts and Industries Building since 2004. It is not scheduled to reopen until 2014 but there will be a ‘soft’ launch of a new partnership between the Smithsonian and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)  in June 2013, which relates to building’s refurbishment, according to David Bruggeman’s Jan. 20, 2013 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog,

The partnership will include developing and displaying innovation-themed exhibits in the Arts and Industries Building.  In addition, the Smithsonian and the USPTO will sponsor an Innovation Expo in June 2013 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria (with future expos in the Pavilion).  Placing this pavilion in the Arts and Industries Building is a sort-of homecoming, as technology and progress were themes of many exhibits when the building first opened as the National Museum in 1881.

This seven-year, $7.5 million partnership is not the first collaboration between the USPTO and the Smithsonian. …

Here’s more about the Expo from the USPTO Innovation Expo webpage where they are appealing for more exhibitors,

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Smithsonian Institution are teaming up to stage the 2013 Innovation Expo. This is your chance to join a select group of technological game-changers in a celebration of ingenuity and patented technology.

The Expo will be held June 20-22, 2013, at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va., just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital. The combination of the USPTO’s soaring architecture and the Smithsonian’s world-renowned exhibition programing makes the Innovation Expo an extraordinary opportunity for both exhibitors and attendees. Under terms of an agreement signed by the USPTO and the Smithsonian, the Expo will move to the National Mall in the summer of 2014 when the historic Arts and Industries Building reopens.

For three days, exhibits at this free and open-to-the-public event will showcase the latest technological developments from America’s innovators affiliated with large corporations, small businesses, academic institutions, government agencies, and the independent inventor community.

The Expo will also demonstrate the vital role America’s intellectual property system and the USPTO play in promoting and protecting innovation, a role that contributes greatly to America’s competitiveness and prowess in the global economy. [emphases mine]

The application deadline has been extended to March 31, 2013. Exhibition slots will be awarded to qualified U.S. patent owners on a rolling basis. Space is limited, so apply now.

Applications will be reviewed by an independent committee made up of representatives from some of the most important and respected intellectual property organizations.

If that wasn’t enough, the Smithsonian Institution’s Jan. 16, 2013 news release makes the purpose for this project blindingly apparent,

The collaboration will begin this year with an Innovation Expo June 20-22 at the Patent and Trademark Office’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va., where the latest technological developments—patented technologies from American companies—will be showcased. The three-day expo will feature a narrative about how the U.S. patent system promotes innovation and technological development. [emphasis mine] The Innovation Expo, which will be organized in partnership with the Smithsonian, will serve as a template for future expos to be held in the Innovation Pavilion at the A&I Building (the Pavilion will cover around 18,000 square feet of the 40,000 square feet of public space in the building).

During 2013, the Smithsonian will also develop further designs for the new Innovation Pavilion and begin work on plans for exhibitions and programming. The Pavilion will be a center for active learning, engaging visitors using digital technology and informing them about new developments in American innovation and technology. The collaboration is described in a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Smithsonian Secretary and the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO anticipates supporting the Pavilion over the term of the collaboration.

“The Arts and Industries Building has always been about celebrating innovation and progress, and it has been one of my goals to reopen the building and return it to that purpose,” said Wayne Clough, Smithsonian Secretary. “Through this collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we will create a program that not only celebrates American ingenuity, but also reflects the 21st century expectations of our visitors.”

“We look forward to working with the Smithsonian to showcase America’s rich history and bright future of innovation, providing a workshop where inventors of all ages can interact together,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos.

The Smithsonian and the USPTO have worked together on several projects in recent years, including three exhibitions: “The Great American Hall of Wonders” and “To Build a Better Mousetrap” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and an exhibition about Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs’ patents in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center.

$7.5 million of taxpayer money to promote an intellectual property system that seems to be in serious trouble, along with many other such systems around the world, is a time-honoured fashion of dealing with these kinds of  problems. Generally, they are doomed to fail. As I like to say, you can put a gift bow on a pile of manure but unless you trot a pony out right quickly, it’s no gift. And, the USPTO definitely does not have a pony waiting nearby.

I have written many pieces on the problems with intellectual property systems. There’s this Nov. 23, 2012 posting about patents strangling nanotechnology developments, this Oct. 10, 2012 posting about a UN patent summit concerning smartphones and patent problems; and this June 28, 2012 posting about patent trolls and their impact on the US economy (billions of dollars lost), amongst the others. For more comprehensive news, Techdirt covers the US scene and Michael Geist covers the Canadian scene. Both cover international intellectual property issues as well.

European Union, copyright, stakeholder meetings, and ripple effects

According to the Dec. 6, 2012 posting by Ben Zevenbergen on Techdirt the European Union will commence a yearlong, starting in 2013,  ‘structured stakeholder process’ to discuss copyright reform,

This exercise will assess whether “the market” is able to address the current deficiencies of copyright in the following six topics: “cross-border portability of content, user-generated content, data- and text-mining, private copy levies, access to audiovisual works and cultural heritage.

Zevenberg goes on to analyze the six topics at more length and he also discusses the politics that led to this develoment but the part I found most interesting focuses on possible ripple effects (Note: I have removed links),

Hopefully the British will now feel supported in implementing the recommendations of the Hargreaves report. Perhaps the Dutch will also feel justified to proceed with the idea to make their copyright system more flexible. Overseas governments may also feel reinforced to open the discussions on their copyright systems and join the EU in finding the new way forward. But will the EU’s move encourage the GOP [US Republican Party] to republish their recent insightful report on copyright reform?

You can find the Hargreaves report here and Michael Geist’s May 18, 2011 posting about the report and his August 3, 2011 posting about the government’s response to the report. For anyone unfamiliar with Geist, here’s an excerpt from his blog’s About page,

Dr. Michael Geist is a law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. He has obtained a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees from Cambridge University in the UK and Columbia Law School in New York, and a Doctorate in Law (J.S.D.) from Columbia Law School.  Dr. Geist is an internationally syndicated columnist on technology law issues …

Billions lost to patent trolls; US White House asks for comments on intellectual property (IP) enforcement; and more on IP

It becomes clear after a time that science, intellectual property (patents, copyright, and trademarks), and business interests are intimately linked which is why I include items on the topic of intellectual property (where I am developing some strong opinions). As for business topics, I am more neutral as my understanding of business is quite limited.

All of this is to explain why I’m taking ‘another kick at the IP (intellectual property) can’. I’m going to start with patents and move on to copyright.

A June 26, 2012 news item from BBC News online highlights the costs associated with patent trolls,

The direct cost of actions taken by so-called “patent trolls” totalled $29bn (£18.5bn) in the US in 2011, according to a study by Boston University.

It analysed the effect of intellectual rights claims made by organisations that own and license patents without producing related goods of their own.

Such bodies say they help spur on innovation by ensuring inventors are compensated for their creations.

But the study’s authors said society lost more than it gained.

A June 27, 2012 commentary by Mike Masnick for Techdirt provides more detail,

The report then goes further to try to figure out whether the trolls are actually benefiting innovation and getting more money to inventors, as the trolls and their supporters like to claim. Unfortunately, the research shows quite a different story — with very little of the money actually flowing back to either inventors or actual innovation. In other words, we’re talking about a pretty massive economic dead-weight loss here. Money flowing from actual innovators and creators… to lawyers, basically. Innovators grow the economy. Lawyers do not.

Masnick’s commentary includes a table from the report showing how the costs have increased since 2005 (approximately $6B) to 2011 (approximately $29B).

The researchers are James E. Besson and Michael J. Meurer at Boston University and the open access report, The Direct Costs from NPE [non-practicing entities] Disputes, is available from the Social Science Research Network.

Interestingly the same day the study from Boston University was released was the same day that the US White House’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Victoria Espinel, announced she wanted comments about US IP enforcement efforts (from Espinel’s June 25, 2012 blog posting),

Today my office is starting the process of gathering input for the Administration’s new strategy for intellectual property enforcement. The overarching objective of the Strategy is to improve the effectiveness of the U.S. Government’s efforts to protect our intellectual property here and overseas. I want to make sure as many people as possible are aware that we are working on this so we can get the very best thoughts and recommendations possible. Part of the process of gathering public input is to publish a “Federal Register Notice” where we formally ask the public to give us their ideas. We will read all of your submissions – and we will make them publicly available so everyone can see them.

You can do so by following this link to Regulations.gov where you will find more details for submitting your strategy recommendations beginning today.

I believe that essential to the development of an effective enforcement strategy, is ensuring that any approaches that are considered to be particularly effective as well as any concerns with the present approach to intellectual property enforcement are understood by policymakers. [emphasis Mike Masnick of Techdirt] Recommendations may include, but need not be limited to: legislation, regulation, guidance, executive order, Presidential memoranda, or other executive action, including, but not limited to, changes to agency policies, practices or methods.

Beyond recommendations for government action as part of the next Strategy, we are looking for information on and recommendations for combating emerging or future threats to American innovation and economic competitiveness posed by violations of intellectual property rights. Additionally, it would be useful to the development of the Strategy to receive submissions from the public identifying threats to public health and safety posed by intellectual property infringement, [emphasis mine] in the U.S. and internationally as well as information relating to the costs to the U.S. economy resulting from infringement of intellectual property rights.

Aside: That bit about public health and safety being endangered by infringement is going to have to be explained to me. Moving along, Mike Masnick’s June 26, 2012 commentary about this matter on Techdirt includes an exhortation to participate,

I will be submitting my own thoughts, which I will also publish here, but for those thinking about what to say, I would focus on this sentence above [emphasized in the previous excerpt from the Espinel posting "I believe that essential ..."]. Historically, many of the government’s approaches have not been at all effective, and have created a number of significant problems — most of which have been ignored by the government (either willfully or through ignorance). This really is a chance to provide examples of why the current policy is not effective (and will never be effective if it keeps on the current path) as well as the “concerns” with the current approach, such as the criminalization of expressive behavior and the outright censorship of media publications.

Meanwhile, we here in Canada are focused on copyright.

Michael Geist (the Canadian copyright guru) notes in his June 26, 2012 posting (Note: I have removed some links.),

Brian Brett, the former Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada and an award winning author, has issued an explosive public letter that “breaks the ‘cone of silence’ that has obscured for too long some of the ugly practices of Access Copyright.”

You can get an idea why Geist described the letter as “explosive” from this excerpt (from the June 26, 2012 commentary in the Georgia Straight),

As a former Chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada (I’ve been a member more than thirty years), I have been asked to sign a letter to educational institutions supporting Access Copyright’s efforts to obtain collective licensing agreements with those institutions. I will not sign. I believe the time has come for action, not words. …

For the first time in history it has become too complex and expensive to quote the music of our era for many young writers. Writers are being charged exorbitantly for quoting other writers in their poems, fictions, and essays; yet are losing their own rights and income. Meanwhile, the Canadian Government has made legislation favouring educational institutions and media empires (at the expense of creators) in the name of supporting our nation’s culture.

As we earnestly discuss these issues, but do nothing to protect ourselves, we are seeing the rights of creators to fair compensation eroded to the point of where many are at risk of receiving nothing for their work.

Access Copyright, created specifically to collect fair compensation for creators, is central to this discussion. While I believe that educational institutions must pay writers, and will eventually pay them, it’s also necessary to call out the ugly regime of Access Copyright, which is collecting our copyright income. …

6. Access Copyright rewards textbook companies who demand that authors relinquish their copyright to their work by paying them both the publisher and creator copyright payment. Academic authors often consider textbook authorship crucial to tenure. Thus academic authors are open to being pressured by publishers out of their copyright. In effect Access Copyright is encouraging textbook publishers to undermine copyright by demanding a creators’ total copyright, and doubling the publisher’s payment for this ugly practice.

So, the academics who write those science and math (and other subject) texts are being pressured by financially motivated publishers to give up copyright while they are also being being pressured to publish for the well-being of their careers. Nicely done Access Copyright! (sarcasm)

While I suspect that I don’t agree with Betts on some issues, I do believe that content creators should receive some financial benefit from their work.

On a more hopeful note, the recent passage of Bill C-11 (Copyright) has some very good things indeed (from the June 21, 2012 commentary by Leigh Beadon on Techdirt [Note: I have removed a link.]),

Michael Geist has an excellent summary of C-11 with a comparison to previous phases of copyright law in Canada. The victories for smarter copyright law in C-11 sound almost like fantasy when compared to the American copyright debate. They include:

  • New fair dealing provisions (our version of fair use) to cover educational uses, plus parody and satire
  • New backup, format-shifting and time-shifting allowances that remove previous restrictions on networked DVRs and internet TV services (similar to those that have suffered in American courts)
  • Explicit copyright exceptions for “user-generated content”, aimed at protecting non-commercial fan-art and remixes
  • A bunch of explicit exceptions for schools, such as the right to stage public performances
  • A notice-and-notice system, not a notice-and-takedown system
  • A $5,000 cap on statutory damages for all non-commercial infringement

Sadly, there is the issue of the ‘digital lock’ provision which was rammed through Parliament despite almost universal condemnation from Canadians of all walks of life. Geist provides much more detail about this issue than I can. In fact, he offers two postings outlining both Canada’s Justice Dept. discussion about the digital lock provisions (June 25, 2012 posting) and the Competition Bureau’s (June 26, 2012 posting) and possible issues with constitutional rights.

On a much happier note for me personally is a recent Federal Court of Canada ruling about linking and posting, from the June 25, 2012 posting on the Michael Geist blog (Note: I have removed links.),

The Federal Court of Canada has issued an important decision involving copyright and posting content online. The case involves a lawsuit launched by Richard Warman and the National Post against Mark and Constance Fournier, who run the FreeDominion website. Warman and the National Post sued the site over the appearance of two articles and an inline link to photograph that appeared on the forum. The court dismissed all three claims.

While the first claim (Warman’s article) was dismissed on the basis that it took too long to file the lawsuit, the legal analysis on the National Post claim involving an article by Jonathan Kay assesses the copyright implications of posting several paragraphs from an article online. In this case, the article was 11 paragraphs long.  The reproduction on the Free Dominion site included the headline, three complete paragraphs and part of a fourth. The court ruled that this amount of copying did not constitute a “substantial part” of the work and therefore there was no infringement. The court added that in the alternative, the reproduction of the work was covered by fair dealing, concluding that a large and liberal interpretation of news reporting would include posts to the discussion forum.  The decision then includes an analysis of the six factor test and concludes that the use was fair.

So I can link to and quote from Canadian publications in peace, for now. (Great news!)

There is some additional analysis of the ruling in a (h/t) June 26, 2012 posting by Leigh Beadon on the Techdirt website.

No grand thoughts here. I just find this very fluid situation with regard to intellectual property important as I believe the outcomes will affect us all in many ways, including how we practice science.

Media piracy study and Canada’s International Development Research Centre

Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) helped to fund (along with the Ford Foundation) a massive study on media piracy in emerging economies led and published by the US Social Sciences Research Council in March 2011. It was a global effort also supported by Brazil’s Overmundo Institute and the Center for Technology and Society, Getulio Vargas Foundation; India’s Sarai: The Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and The Alternative Law Forum; South Africa’s The Association for Progressive Communication; Russia’s The Centre for Independent Social Research and The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology; and the US’s The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property. I half expected to see China listed too and I find the absence surprising.

It was a March 8, 2011 posting by Mike Masnick on Techdirt that alerted me to the study. (from the posting),

… much in the report is extremely forward-looking and thinking. It goes into great detail how fascinating and innovative new business models are appearing around the globe where “piracy” is rampant, and suggests that we really need to rethink the idea of “piracy” in those markets. It highlights how almost all of the policy discussions in the west concerning infringement focuses on “enforcement,” but that may be the wrong way to go about it. The research, instead, points out that a better focus may be on setting up the structures for successful business models to emerge — which include local firms who can compete on prices …

The 440 page report, Media piracy in Emerging Economies, is available under various licensing agreements (free and pay).

Yesterday (June 1, 2011), I received a media advisory from the IDRC informing me of a panel discussion being held tomorrow, June 3, 2011,from 2 pm to 4 pm EDT in Ottawa (if you can’t get to the live panel discussion, you can view it via livestreaming webcast). From the media advisory,

Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, a landmark study co-funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), made headlines around the world earlier this year. The controversial study determined that this “global scourge” was better described as a global pricing problem: high prices for media goods, combined with low incomes and cheap digital technologies. The report underscored that attempts to police piracy aren’t working and that, in some cases, global enforcement has led to unintended negative socio-economic consequences.

In a panel discussion at IDRC on June 3, three internationally renowned experts will discuss the implications of media piracy for the global economy. Media Piracy in Emerging Economies editor Joe Karaganis, from the American Assembly at Columbia University, and one of the researchers, Ronaldo Lemos, from Brazil’s Center for Technology and Society at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas School of Law (who will appear via live stream), will be joined by technology law expert Michael Geist, from the University of Ottawa, to debate the issues as they relate to Canada and the world. [emphases mine]

You can to this page to register for the live event or click through to the livestreaming website.

Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages declares opponents to Copyright bill are “extremists”

This is just too juicy to resist. Could I please get on to a list of  ‘radical extremists’ as per James Moore’s recent comments?

By the way, it was a shock to realize that Moore, Canada’s Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages is from my neck of the woods. He represents Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam in BC, just a few miles away from Vancouver.

Moore’s declaration is one of the latest developments in the public discussion about the current bill on copyright (C-32).  From Mike Masnick’s article on Techdirt,

The recent story about Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore lashing out at his critics over the Canadian version of the DMCA (C-32) and calling them “radical extremists” has been getting an awful lot of attention, including condemnation from other elected officials. However, Moore’s response has been anything but comforting. He apparently denied saying those words in a correspondence with Michael Geist, but it didn’t take long for some video to surface that not only shows him saying that, but many other nasty things about anyone who dares criticize the bill …

You’ll find the video evidence of Moore’s comment after that paragraph. It’s not easy to hear as he seems to be mumbling his speech but he definitely makes the statement. Making this even an even better experience, it looks like someone is trying to cover it up. From Michael Geist‘s blog,

Almost lost amidst the considerable outrage from many people over Moore’s comments, was the possibility that there was an attempt to bury the “radical extremist” comment. The initial video posted by event organizers (the Chamber of Commerce’s IP Council) did not include a clip of the reference to radical extremists. Sun Media ran a story that included the quote but others seemed to act as if it never happened.

By mid-morning yesterday, attendees were not confirming the comment, Moore was denying it, and the event video did not include it. That might have been the end of the story, but IT World Canada reporter Brian Jackson compiled his own video of the event and posted it online. [emphases mine] The Jackson video included the reference and made it clear that Moore was not being forthright in his private claims (the event organizer site later added the same video). The lack of candor is rather rich given that Moore’s comments tried to paint critics of the bill as misleading the public.

I hope Moore will apologize for lying about having called opponents to his copyright bill ‘radical extremists’. I can understand that people sometimes let their frustrations run away from them and they say things they wouldn’t ordinarily. Unlike politicians though, I’m not likely to be recorded by anyone when my mouth runs away from me. By that token, my words don’t have the same impact either and that’s part of Moore’s problem. He doesn’t seem to understand the power that language has. Using an inflammatory phrase such as ‘radical extremists’ to characterize critics and opponents to a copyright bill before the House of Commons debases the term. By simultaneously linking individuals who use violence to achieve their ends (the usual application for the term ‘radical extremists’) to individuals who are debating, discussing, and writing commentaries critical of your political aims you render the term into a joke and you minimize the violence associated with it.

I can even understand if Moore denied saying it because he didn’t remember it that way. Memory can be pretty flexible. It’s the attempt to cover it up (Geist includes copies of Moore’s repeated twitter denials) that sticks in my throat and brands the man a liar.

Note: I have discussed the new bill C-32 in this previous posting.

Canada’s new copyright bill being introduced June 3, 2010 (we think), NFB, RIP!, and student copyright video

Last week’s handy dandy National Film Board (NFB) newsletter directed me to their blog post about copyright, documentary filmmaking guidelines, and the video, RIP!  From Julie Martin’s May 19, 2010 posting,

The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) released a set of guidelines last week that help filmmakers make sense of how to use copyrighted materials in their films. The Guidelines draw on existing fair dealing provisions set out in the Copyright Act.

In addition to finding out more about the guidelines, you can also access, embedded in the posting, a related  NFB documentary RIP! A Remix Manifesto by Brett Gaylor (approx. 85 mins.), if you follow the link.

Meanwhile,  Michael Geist offers two postings of interest, one about a student-produced video (he offers the English language version and a link to the French language version) calling for fair copyright. In his second posting, Geist offers information about the government’s new bill which is to be introduced (according to reports) this Thursday, June 3, 2010. From the posting,

This is copyright week in Canada as multiple reports indicate that the long-awaited copyright bill will be tabled on Thursday. The recent round of reports are noteworthy for several reasons. First, they confirm earlier reports that the government plans to introduce DMCA-style anti-circumvention legislation.

There’s more including possible changes to fair use and the suspicion that the government may try to fast track the legislation by holding summer hearings.

Science policy, innovation and more on the Canadian 2010 federal budget; free access in the true north; no nano for Van Gogh’s The Bedroom; frogs, foam and biofuels

There are more comments about Canada’s 2010 federal budget on the Canadian Science Policy Centre website along with listings of relevant news articles which they update regularly. There’s also a federal budget topic in the forums section but it doesn’t seem have attracted much commentary yet.

The folks at The Black Hole blog offer some pointed commentary with regard to the budget’s treatment of post doctorate graduates. If I understand the comments correctly, the budget has clarified the matter of taxation, i. e., post doctoral grants are taxable income, which means that people who were getting a break on taxes are now losing part of their income. The government has also created a new class of $70,000 post doctoral grants but this will account for only 140 fellowships. With some 6000 post doctoral fellows this means only 2% of the current pool of applicants will receive these awards. Do read The Black Hole post as they clarify what this means in very practical terms.

There’s been another discussion outcome from the 2010 budget, a renewed interest in innovation. I’m kicking off my ‘innovation curation efforts’ with this from an editorial piece by Carol Goar in the Toronto Star,

Five Canadian finance ministers have tried to crack the productivity puzzle. All failed. Now Jim Flaherty is taking a stab at it.

Here is the conundrum: We don’t use our brainpower to create new wealth. We have a highly educated population, generous tax incentives for research and development and lower corporate tax rates than any leading economic power. Yet our businesses remain reluctant to invest in new products and technologies (with a few honourable exceptions such as Research in Motion, Bombardier and Magna). They don’t even capitalize on the exciting discoveries made in our universities and government laboratories.

Economists are starting to ask what’s wrong. Canada ranked 14th in business spending on research and development – behind all the world’s leading industrial powers and even smaller nations such as Belgium and Ireland – in the latest statistical roundup by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I believe she’s referring to the 2009 OECD scorecard in that last bit (you can find the Canada highlights here).

There are many parts to this puzzle about why Canadians and their companies are not innovative.  Getting back to Goar’s piece,

Kevin Lynch, who served as Stephen Harper’s top adviser from 2006 to 2009 [and is now the vice-chair of the Bank of Montreal Financial Group], has just written an article in Policy Options, an influential magazine, laying the blame squarely on corporate Canada. He argues that, unless business leaders do their part, it makes little sense to go on spending billions of dollars on research and development. “In an era of fiscal constraint, there has to be a compelling narrative to justify new public investments when other areas are being constrained,” he says.

Here’s a possible puzzle piece, in yesterday’s (March 15, 2010) posting I noted a study by academic, Mary J. Benner, where she pointed out that securities analysts do not reward/encourage established US companies such as Polaroid (now defunct) and Kodak to adopt new technologies. I would imagine that the same situation exists here in Canada.

For another puzzle piece: I’ve made mention of the mentality that a lot of entrepreneurs (especially in Canadian high tech) have and see confirmation  in a Globe and Mail article by Simon Avery about the continuing impact of the 2000 dot com meltdown where he investigates some of the issues with venture capital and investment as well as this,

“It’s a little bit about getting into the culture of winning, like the Olympics we just had,” says Ungad Chadda, senior vice-president of the Toronto Stock Exchange. “I don’t think the technology entrepreneurs around here are encouraged and supported to think beyond the $250-million cheque that a U.S. company can give them.”

One last comment from  Kevin Lynch (mentioned in the second of the Goar excerpts) about innovation and Canada from his recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail,

A broader public dialogue is essential. We need to make the question “What would it take for Canada to be an innovative economy for the 21st century?” part of our public narrative – partly because our innovation deficit is a threat to our competitiveness and living standards, and partly because we can be a world leader in innovation. We should aspire to be a nation of innovators. We should rebrand Canada as technologically savvy, entrepreneurial and creative.

Yes, Mr. Lynch a broader dialogue would be delightful but there does seem to be an extraordinary indifference to the notion from many quarters. Do I seem jaundiced? Well, maybe that’s because I’ve been trying to get some interest in having a Canadian science policy debate and not getting very far with it. In principle, people call for more dialogue but that requires some effort to organize and a willingness to actually participate.

(As for “rebranding”, is anyone else tired of hearing that word or its cousin branding?)

On a completely other note, the University of Ottawa has announced that it is supporting open access to its faculty’s papers with institutional funding. From the news release,

According to Leslie Weir, U of Ottawa’s chief librarian, the program encompasses several elements, including a new Open Access (or OA) repository for peer-reviewed papers and other “learning objects”; an “author fund” for U of Ottawa researchers to help them cover open-access fees charged by journal publishers; a $50,000-a-year budget to digitize course materials and make them available to anyone through the repository; and support for the University of Ottawa Press’s OA journals.

But the university stopped short of requiring faculty members to deposit their papers with the new repository. “We all agreed that incentives and encouragement was the best way to go,” said Ms. Weir, who worked on the program with an internal group of backers, including Michael Geist, professor of intellectual property law, and Claire Kendall, a professor in the faculty of medicine who has been active in OA medical journals.

There is some criticism of the decision to make the programme voluntary. Having noticed the lack of success that voluntary reporting of nanomaterials has had, I’m inclined to agree with the critics. (Thanks to Pasco Phronesis for pointing me to the item.)

If you’ve ever been interested in art restoration (how do they clean and return the colours of an old painting to its original hues?, then the Van Gogh blog is for you. A member of the restoration team is blogging each step of The Bedroom’s (a famous Van Gogh painting) restoration. I was a little surprised that they don’t seem to be using any of the new nano-enabled techniques for examining the painting or doing the restoration work.

Given the name for this website, I have to mention the work done with frogs in pursuit of developing new biofuels by scientists at the University of Cincinnati. From the news item on Nanotechnology Now,

In natural photosynthesis, plants take in solar energy and carbon dioxide and then convert it to oxygen and sugars. The oxygen is released to the air and the sugars are dispersed throughout the plant — like that sweet corn we look for in the summer. Unfortunately, the allocation of light energy into products we use is not as efficient as we would like. Now engineering researchers at the University of Cincinnati are doing something about that.

The researchers are finding ways to take energy from the sun and carbon from the air to create new forms of biofuels, thanks to a semi-tropical frog species [Tungara frog].

Their work focused on making a new artificial photosynthetic material which uses plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes, trapped within a foam housing, to produce sugars from sunlight and carbon dioxide.

Here’s an illustration of the frog by Megan Gundrum, 5th year DAAP student (I tried find out what DAAP stands for but was unsuccessful, ETA: Mar.31.10, it is the Design, art, and architecture program at the University of Cincinnati),

illustration by Megan Gundrum, 5th year DAAP student

Thank you to the University of Cincinnati for making the image available.

Off the deep end: an interview with Cheryl Geisler (part 3 of 3)

Today is the last of the series on Cheryl Geisler and the new Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT) at Simon Fraser University (Burnby, Vancouver, Surrey, Canada):

In addition to factors such as the global economy and faculty politics (used not pejoratively but in its most general sense), Geisler and her colleagues have to contend with an increasing emphasis from the tri-council funding agencies (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [SSHRC], Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR], and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council [NSERC]) on open-access to research and on proving to the public that the funded research has value.

From the recent Conference Board of Canada report on trademarks, patents, and copyright, Intellectual Property in the 21st Century by Ruth Corbin (as quoted by Michael Geist on his blog here),

In discussing the tabling of a new copyright bill, it notes:

Simultaneous support for “open-access” initiatives, where appropriate – such as facilitation of the use of government data with suitable safeguards, and readier access to publicly funded research – would help to unlock tremendous stores of knowledge and balance out the resources being expended on protection of rights.

From the SSHRC report, Framing our Direction, here,

Systematic evidence about the multiple short and long-term benefits of research in the social sciences and humanities will provide a solid foundation for decisions about levels of investment. In other words, our ability to enhance research activities is closely linked with our collective efforts to demonstrate the impact and value of social sciences and humanities research to society. For this reason, we will update our programs and policies to include a more complete accounting of research results. (final para. on p. 12 in print version, p. 14 on PDF)

The SSHRC report makes it quite clear that the quantity of funding it receives is liable to be affected by how the agency and its grant recipients are able to “[demonstrate] the impact and value of social science and humanities research to society.” No doubt the other members of the tri-Council are feeling the same pressures.

In responding to a question about how FCAT will make its research more easily accessible, Geisler drew on her experience as the head of the Language, Literature and Communication Department at Rensselaear, the oldest technological university in the US. “There certainly was the desire at the National Science Foundation and other federal programmes in the US for research to be more widely disseminated and to try to incorporate outreach activities and for the same reasons [as here in Canada].

For example, the School of Contemporary Arts will move into Woodward’s [Downtown Eastside] in the fall [2010] so now we’re planning for how we will partner with the community, what kinds of non-credit programmes we’ll offer, and [the] residencies [we’ll offer] for artists in the community. We also have 3 or 4 faculty members that work with policy leaders in the area of culture to try to understand how to manage cultural resources and growth and make them a greater social benefit.” She also pointed out that there are plans to situate the Surrey City Hall near SIAT as part of an initiative to create a new city centre in that municipality. All of this is in stark contrast with SFU’s main campus, built in 1965, and situated on a mountain top.

Regardless of its mountain top status, SFU has long made an effort to reach out to its various communities through its non-credit continuing studies programmes in Vancouver at Harbour Centre, the programmes at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, and its longstanding presence in the Downtown Eastside through various School of the Contemporary Arts courses (Note: The school is slated to make a wholsale move into the area, Fall 2010). Unfortunately, many of these efforts fall short of reaching any community that is not in some way affiliated with the university

Geisler acknowledges that more could be done, “You have to give the public ways to option in, or to find out things or to give more clear access. That’s a good problem to work on.”

As for why she came to SFU, “I’ve always done interdisciplinary work and I led a department that had many of the same components that I saw here. In a way, I thought this was the perfect next step for me. There was no other department like mine and there’s no other faculty like [this one]. I had a sense that at FCAT there was a lot of potential and desire to interact across disciplinary boundaries and do exciting new work and I thought that’s [what] I would want to lead.”

The next and last question begged to be asked. Do you have any dreams, any fantasies about where it [FCAT] might go?

“What people do is very interdisciplinary in the sciences, in art practice, and in design practice but the academic structure is much more reified and rigid so that students’ curricular experience often doesn’t mirror what’s going on in professional practice and in knowledge generation. Also, I think one of the consequences [of curricular rigidity] is that the public is often alienated from the university because it’s cut off from what makes academics excited.

There’s a real potential for creating new processes and faculty structures that can be responsive and be reflective of more problem-based or opportunity-based alignments [that exist] for a few years to get [a] project done. [As opposed to] ‘we all do biology here and we always do it; and a hundred years from now there’s going to be a biology dept. Departments are structured ‘as if they will always be there’ because they reflect the way the world is. I’d like to see a more exciting, project-based [approach]. I don’t know exactly how to do that but I thought this would be a place to figure [it] out.”

Thank you to Dr. Geisler for the insights and your time.

Off the deep end: an interview with Cheryl Geisler Introduction, Part 1, Part 2

Happy Weekend!

15th Century painting techniques and nanotechnology; Conference Board of Canada and copyright; Real Vancouver Writers; Better Living

Kate Nichols is a fellow at TED. She is also a painter who trained in 15th century techniques. From the article by Kristen Philipkoski on Boing, Boing,

Nichols learned painting as painters did in 15th century Flanders: by apprenticing under a master and learning to make her own paints. She became skilled at creating the type of complex colors only possible as light travels through thin layers of oil glaze. But she eventually found that no amount of layering could recreate the complexity she saw in the Morpho butterfly’s wings. [I previously posted about nanotech and the colour of butterfly wings here.]

As Philipkoski goes on to recount, the desire to recreate the colours of a Morpho butterfly’s wings is what led her to working with nanotechnology but, first, working with mathematician, Judy Holdener, she learned why she couldn’t recreate those colours with her traditional techniques. Nichols eventually contacted someone at a nanotech laboratory in her pursuit and went on to become the first artist-in-residence at that lab (the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley). (You can see images of her work at the article on the Boing Boing site.)

More recently she was awarded the TED fellowship I’ve already mentioned. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design and it started out as an annual conference. You can find out more about TED here and more about this year’s annual conference here. As for the fellowship, it sounds a bit like a mentoring programme but you can read the description for yourself here.

One last quote from the article,

“I love thinking about plasmon resonance–likely, because I paint motion and grew up dancing,” Nichols said. When light comes into contact with a metal, electrons are displaced. Because the electrons are attracted to the nuclei of the metallic atoms, the electrons fall back into their original positions only to be exiled again, over and over. This oscillatory dance is called a plasmon and we perceived it as color when the wavelength falls within the visible spectrum.

On the copyright (intellectual property) front, Michael Geist is commenting on the latest Conference Board of Canada’s report. As you may recall, the Conference Board was embarrassed last year when it released a report that had large chunks plagiarized from a US lobby group’s materials. You can read more about the contretemps here on Techdirt and Geist’s comments here. From Geist’s blog,

The new report, which weighs in at 113 pages, was completed by Ruth Corbin, a Toronto-based IP expert. Corbin started from scratch, reading a broad range of materials, conducting interviews, and leading a private roundtable on the issue (I participated in the roundtable and met separately with her). While there is much to digest, the lead takeaway is to marvel at the difference between a report cribbed from lobby speaking points and one that attempts to dig into the issues in a more balanced fashion. Three examples:

First, the report puts intellectual property policy into perspective as just one portion of the innovation agenda, noting that over-protection can be lead to diminishing returns…

W2 Community Media House (in Vancouver, Canada) is hosting a writer’s series that has two more weeks to go. The next event is Feb. 17, 2010.

This description from Heather Haley (poet) highlights a couple of radio interviews and her upcoming Real Vancouver Writers appearance,

Real Vancouver Writers Series at the W2 Culture and Media House
Located across from the refurbished Woodwards Building in Downtown Vancouver
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
7:00pm – 10:00pm
112 E. Hastings
“Poet, author, musician and media artist Heather Susan Haley pushes boundaries by creatively integrating disciplines, genres and media. Published in numerous journals and anthologies, her poetry collections Sideways (Anvil Press) and Three Blocks West of Wonderland (Ekstasis Editions) have been described as ³supple and unusual” and ³brawny and uncompromising.² She was an editor for the LA Weekly, publisher of Rattler and the Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines. Architect of the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre, the Vancouver Videopoem Festival and SEE THE VOICE: Visible Verse at Pacific Cinémathèque, her works have been official selections at dozens of international film festivals. Haley has gained renown as an engaging performer, sharing her poetry and music with audiences around the world. Most recently she toured eastern Canada and the U.S. in support of her critically acclaimed AURAL Heather CD of spoken word songs, Princess Nut.”
She will be appearing with Teresa McWhirter, Lee Henderson, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Nikki Reimer, Chris Hutchinson, Dina Del Bucchia, Amber Dawn, Donato Mancini, Sonnet L¹Abbe, Jonathon Wilcke and Catherine Owen.
RADIO APPEARANCES:
Heather will be live in ‘The Artist Lounge’ hosted by J Peachy on CJSF 90.1 FM on Tuesday Feb 16th at 7pm. Hope you can tune in, its also online at http://wwwcjsf.ca. The next day, the day of the reading, Wed. Feb. 17 Heather will be visiting friends Steve Duncan and RC Weslowki on Wax Poetic @ 2pm (PST) 102.7fm CFRO Co-op Radio, http://www.coopradio.org/. *See* you there!

I like to feature more about the arts and new media on Fridays or, at least, to have something amusing here. Today, I’ve managed both now that I’ve come to this item by Alissa Walker in Fast Company ,

Who knew that paper clips and staples could teach such smart life lessons? Everyday objects you might find at your desk are the stars in Hints for Better Living , a short film by Los Angeles-based designer Mike Afsa, who also does work for companies like Chiat\Day and Quiksilver.

It’s charming and it gave me a whole new perspective on paper clips and staples. Happy Weekend!

Reverse engineering the brain Ray Kurzweil style; funding for neuroprosthetics; a Canadian digital power list for 2009

After much hemming and hawing, I finally got around to reading something about Ray Kurzweil and his ideas in an interview at the H+ site and quite unexpectedly was engaged by his discussion of consciousness. From the interview,

I get very excited about discussions about the true nature of consciousness, because I‘ve been thinking about this issue for literally 50 years, going back to junior high school. And it‘s a very difficult subject. When some article purports to present the neurological basis of consciousness… I read it. And the articles usually start out, “Well, we think that consciousness is caused by…” You know, fill in the blank. And then it goes on with a big extensive examination of that phenomenon. And at the end of the article, I inevitably find myself thinking… where is the link to consciousness? Where is any justification for believing that this phenomenon should cause consciousness? Why would it cause consciousness?

Some scientists say, “Well, it‘s not a scientific issue, therefore it‘s not a real issue. Therefore consciousness is just an illusion and we should not waste time on it.” But we shouldn‘t be too quick to throw it overboard because our whole moral system and ethical system is based on consciousness.

The article is well worth a read  and I have to say I enjoyed his comments about science fiction movies. I’m not enamoured of his notion about trying to reverse engineer brains no matter how ‘mindfully’ done. I suspect I have a fundamental disagreement with many of Kurweil’s ideas which as far as I can tell are profoundly influenced by his experience and success in IT (information technology).

Unlike Kurzweil, I don’t view the brain or genomes as computer codes but I will read more about his work and ideas as he makes me think about some of my unconscious (pun intended) assumptions. (Note: in the H+ article Kurzweil mentions some nanotechnology guidelines from what the interviewers call the Forsyth Institute, I believe Kurzweil was referring to the Foresight Institute’s nanotechnology guidelines found here.)

I guess I’m getting a little blasé about money as I find the $1.6 million US funding awarded to help with neuroprosthetics for returning US soldiers a little on the skimpy side. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have left a terrible legacy: more than 1,200 returning American soldiers have lost one or more limbs. To address this growing national need, researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) are laying the groundwork for a new generation of advanced prosthetic limbs that will be fully integrated with the body and nervous system. These implantable neuroprosthetics will look and function like natural limbs, enabling injured soldiers and the more than 2 million other amputees in the United States lead higher quality, more independent lives.

As for making these limbs more natural looking, I find this contrasts a bit with some of Lanfranco Aceti’s work  (I first posted my comments about it here) where he notes that males (under 50) don’t want limbs that look natural. I don’t if he or someone else has followed up with that but it certainly poses an intriguing question about how we may be starting to view our bodies, gender differences and all.

Michael Geist has a 2009 Canadian digital power list on The Tyee website here. I was surprised that Gary Goodyear (Minister of State for Science and Technology) received no mention, given his portfolio.