Tag Archives: competition

Crackpot or visionary? Teaching seven-year-olds about intellectual property

It’s been a while since I’ve devoted a posting to intellectual property issues and my focus is usually on science/technology and how intellectual property issues relate to those fields. As a writer, I support a more relaxed approach to copyright and patent law and, in particular, I want to see the continuation of ‘fair use’ as it’s called in the US and ‘fair dealing’ as it’s called in Canada. I support the principle of making money from your work so you can continue to contribute creatively. But, the application of intellectual property law seems to have been turned into a weapon against creativity of all sorts. (At the end of this post you’ll find links to three typical posts from the many I have written on this topic.)

I do take the point being made in the following video (but for seven-year-olds and up!!!) about trademarks/logos and trademark infringement from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office,

Here’s the description from Youtube’s Logo Mania webpage,

Published on Jan 16, 2018

Brian Wheeler’s January 17, 2018 article for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) online news on UK Politics sheds a bit of light on this ‘campaign’ (Note: A link has been removed),

A campaign to teach children about copyright infringement on the internet, is employing cartoons and puns on pop stars’ names, to get the message across.

Even its makers admit it is a “dry” and “niche” subject for a cartoon aimed at seven-year-olds.

But the Intellectual Property Office adds learning to “respect” copyrights and trademarks is a “key life skill”.

And it is hoping the adventures of Nancy and the Meerkats can finally make intellectual property “fun”.

The series, which began life five years ago on Fun Kids Radio, was re-launched this week with the aim of getting its message into primary schools.

The Intellectual Property Office is leading the government’s efforts to crack down on internet piracy and protect the revenues of Britain’s creative industries.

The government agency is spending £20,000 of its own money on the latest Nancy campaign, which is part-funded by the UK music industry.

Catherine Davies, head of the IPO’s education outreach department, which already produces teaching materials for GCSE students, admitted IP was a “complex subject” for small children and something of a challenge to make accessible and entertaining.

Wheeler’s article is definitely worth reading in its entirety. In fact, I was so intrigued I chased down the government press release (from the www.gov.uk webpage),

Nancy and the Meerkats logo

Nancy and the Meerkats, with the help of Big Joe, present a new radio series to engage pupils with the concept of intellectual property (IP). Aimed at primary education, the resource guides pupils through the process of setting up a band and recording and releasing a song, which is promoted and performed live on tour.

Building on the success of the previous two series, Nancy and the Meerkats consists of a new radio series, short videos, comic book, lesson plans and competition. The supporting teaching resource also includes themed activities and engaging lesson plans. Together, these support and develop pupils’ understanding of copyright, trade marks and the importance of respecting IP.

Curriculum links are provided for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The series will launch on Monday 15th January [2018] at 5pm on Fun Kids Radio

Along with ‘Logo Mania’, you can find such gems as ‘Track Attack’ concerning song lyrics and, presumably, copyright issues, ‘The Hum Bone’ concerning patents, and ‘Pirates on the Internet’ about illegal downloading on the Fun Kids Radio website. Previous seasons have included ‘Are forks just for eating with?’, ‘Is a kaleidoscope useful?’, ‘Rubber Bands’, ‘Cornish Pasties’, and more. It seems Fun Kids Radio has moved from its focus on the types of questions and topics that might interest children to topics of interest for the music industry and the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. At a guess, I’m guessing those groups might be maximalists where copyright is concerned.

By the way, for those interested in teaching resources and more, go to http://crackingideas.com/third_party/Nancy+and+the+Meerkats.

Finally, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. I do know that I’m curious about how they decided to focus on seven to 11-year-olds. Are children in the UK heavily involved in content piracy? Is there a generation of grade school pop stars about to enter the music market? Where is the data and how did they gather it?

Should anyone be inclined to answer those questions, I look forward to reading your reply in the Comments section.

ETA January 19, 2018 (five minutes later) Oops! Here are the links promised earlier,

October 31, 2011: Patents as weapons and obstacles

June 28, 2012: Billions lost to patent trolls; US White House asks for comments on intellectual property (IP) enforcement; and more on IP

March 28, 2013: Intellectual property, innovation, and hindrances

There are many, many more posts. Just click on the category for ‘intellectual property’.

Science-themed scriptwriting competition for Google (call for submissions)

David Bruggeman writes about a Google-sponsored scriptwriting competition in an April 28, 2016 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: Links have been removed),

At the Tribeca Film Festival last week [the festival ran from April 13 – 24, 2016] Google announced that its CS Education in Media Program is partnering with the website The Black List for a fellowship competition to support the image of computer science and computer scientists in media (H/T STEMDaily).  The Black List is a screenwriting site known for hosting the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The fellowship could award up to $15,000 for as many as three scripts (one film script and two episodic television pilots).  The writers would use the money to support their work on new materials for six months.  At the end of that period the writer(s) would present that work to Google along with a summary of how the grant helped advance that work and/or affected their career.

Here’s more about the competition from The Black list website’s The Google Computer Science Education in Media Fellowship Call for Submissions webpage,

The Black List is pleased to partner with Google’s Computer Science Education in Media program to offer financial grants in support of the development of three scripts with a focus on changing the image in popular culture of computer science and computer scientists.

REQUIREMENTS

  • The candidate must host a script on www.blcklst.com for a least one week during the opt-in period.
  • Such script must be original to the candidate.
  • The candidate must be competent to contract.
  • If selected for the fellowship, writers must develop a feature screenplay or episodic pilot that changes the image of computer science or computer scientists, particular as it applies to women and minorities, in popular culture.
  • Further, selected writers must agree that six months following receipt of the fellowship that they will provide a designated representative of Google with a sample of his/her new work along with a report addressing how the grant has been used to advance his/her work and/or impacted his/her career.

SELECTION PROCESS

Beginning April 20, 2016, users of the Black List website can opt into consideration for this fellowship.

On July 15 [2016], the Black List will short list ten writers based on all data available on the Black List website about their opted in feature screenplays and teleplays.

These ten short listed candidates will be asked to submit one-page biographies, which will be sent to Google along with the screenplays/teleplays.

Google will review these 10 scripts and choose the Fellowship recipients. Google reserves the right to grant no fellowships if, in Google’s opinion, no entry is of sufficient merit.

DEADLINES OF NOTE (ALL TIMES 11:59 PM PT)

Evaluation purchase deadline* June 15, 2016

Opt in deadline July 15, 2016

* In order for new script evaluations to guarantee consideration for this opportunity, they must be purchased by midnight on the Evaluation deadline.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT GOOGLE’S COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION IN MEDIA PROGRAM

Why is Google working with Hollywood? 

Google aims to inspire young people around the world not just to use technology, but to create it.  To do so, we need more students pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field. Google wants to prepare the next generation for the workplace of the future, and expand access to CS education that engages and retains students from all backgrounds.

  • Moreover, Google’s research shows that perceptions of CS and computer scientists are primary drivers that motivate girls to pursue CS. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” as our friend Geena Davis notes.
  • Google’s hope is that by dispelling stereotypes and identifying positive portrayals of women in tech it can do for CS what CSI did for the field of forensic science, changing its gender make-up and increasing its appeal to a wider audience.
  • Media is part of the ecosystem that needs to change in conjunction with the other areas of work where Google has invested including increasing access to curriculum, non-profit grants, and policy support. If we don’t address the perceptions piece for both young people and adults through mainstream media, we run the risk of undermining our other efforts in CS education.

Background stats on perceptions of CS: 

Google’s research shows that perceptions of careers in computer science really matter.  Girls who feel that television portrays programmers negatively or who don’t see other students like them taking CS are significantly less likely to get into computing. Interestingly, girls who want a career with social impact are also less likely to go into CS.

Google conducted a research study to identify the factors that most influence girls to study computer science, and the second most important category of factors was Career Perceptions.

  • Girls who felt that television portrays programmers in a negative light were less likely to pursue CS.
  • If a girl didn’t see the right social crowd in a class — that is, if there weren’t enough students like her — she was less likely to go into CS.
  • Girls who want careers with social impact are less likely to go into CS. (It’s clear we need to do a better job of showing how CS can be used to develop solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.)
  • Perception accounts for 27% of the decision making for girls to pursue CS.. #1 factor is parent/adult encouragement which is also influenced by media.

Stats on representation in media:

  • Blacks & Hispanics are already underrepresented on-screen 14.1% and 4.9%, respectively.
  • Combine this with lack of / misrepresentation of STEM/CS characters in family movies and prime TV, you get STEM characters < 18% women; CS characters <13%.

Proven Success with other Fields:

  • Forensic Science – CSI increased the number of forensic science majors in nationally recognized programs by at least 50% in 5 years – a majority being women.
  • Law – UCLA claimed a 16.5% increase in law school applicants 1 year after LA Law premiered.  Justice Sotomayor credits her interest in law from watching Perry Mason at 10 years old.
 …

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A Setswana word (or phrase) for nanotechnology: a competition in Botswana

The Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) has issued a linguistic challenge: submit a translation of the word nanotechnology into Setswana. H/t John Churu’s July 17, 2015 article for BiztechAfrica.com. The deadline for entries is July 31, 2015. I believe you have to be within Botswana to participate. Winners will receive a tablet.  You can get more information about the competition here.

Competition, collaboration, and a smaller budget: the US nano community responds

Before getting to the competition, collaboration, and budget mentioned in the head for this posting, I’m supplying some background information.

Within the context of a May 20, 2014 ‘National Nanotechnology Initiative’ hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Technology, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the US General Accountability Office (GAO) presented a 22 pp. précis (PDF; titled: NANOMANUFACTURING AND U.S. COMPETITIVENESS; Challenges and Opportunities) of its 125 pp. (PDF version report titled: Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health).

Having already commented on the full report itself in a Feb. 10, 2014 posting, I’m pointing you to Dexter Johnson’s May 21, 2014 post on his Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website) where he discusses the précis from the perspective of someone who was consulted by the US GAO when they were writing the full report (Note: Links have been removed),

I was interviewed extensively by two GAO economists for the accompanying [full] report “Nanomanufacturing: Emergence and Implications for U.S. Competitiveness, the Environment, and Human Health,” where I shared background information on research I helped compile and write on global government funding of nanotechnology.

While I acknowledge that the experts who were consulted for this report are more likely the source for its views than I am, I was pleased to see the report reflect many of my own opinions. Most notable among these is bridging the funding gap in the middle stages of the manufacturing-innovation process, which is placed at the top of the report’s list of challenges.

While I am in agreement with much of the report’s findings, it suffers from a fundamental misconception in seeing nanotechnology’s development as a kind of race between countries. [emphases mine]

(I encourage you to read the full text of Dexter’s comments as he offers more than a simple comment about competition.)

Carrying on from this notion of a ‘nanotechnology race’, at least one publication focused on that aspect. From the May 20, 2014 article by Ryan Abbott for CourthouseNews.com,

Nanotech Could Keep U.S. Ahead of China

WASHINGTON (CN) – Four of the nation’s leading nanotechnology scientists told a U.S. House of Representatives panel Tuesday that a little tweaking could go a long way in keeping the United States ahead of China and others in the industry.

The hearing focused on the status of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a federal program launched in 2001 for the advancement of nanotechnology.

As I noted earlier, the hearing was focused on the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and all of its efforts. It’s quite intriguing to see what gets emphasized in media reports and, in this case, the dearth of media reports.

I have one more tidbit, the testimony from Lloyd Whitman, Interim Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and Deputy Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology. The testimony is in a May 21, 2014 news item on insurancenewsnet.com,

Testimony by Lloyd Whitman, Interim Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office and Deputy Director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Chairman Bucshon, Ranking Member Lipinski, and Members of the Committee, it is my distinct privilege to be here with you today to discuss nanotechnology and the role of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in promoting its development for the benefit of the United States.

Highlights of the National Nanotechnology Initiative

Our current Federal research and development program in nanotechnology is strong. The NNI agencies continue to further the NNI’s goals of (1) advancing nanotechnology R&D, (2) fostering nanotechnology commercialization, (3) developing and maintaining the U.S. workforce and infrastructure, and (4) supporting the responsible and safe development of nanotechnology. …

,,,

The sustained, strategic Federal investment in nanotechnology R&D combined with strong private sector investments in the commercialization of nanotechnology-enabled products has made the United States the global leader in nanotechnology. The most recent (2012) NNAP report analyzed a wide variety of sources and metrics and concluded that “… in large part as a result of the NNI the United States is today… the global leader in this exciting and economically promising field of research and technological development.” n10 A recent report on nanomanufacturing by Congress’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO) arrived at a similar conclusion, again drawing on a wide variety of sources and stakeholder inputs. n11 As discussed in the GAO report, nanomanufacturing and commercialization are key to capturing the value of Federal R&D investments for the benefit of the U.S. economy. The United States leads the world by one important measure of commercial activity in nanotechnology: According to one estimate, n12 U.S. companies invested $4.1 billion in nanotechnology R&D in 2012, far more than investments by companies in any other country.  …

There’s cognitive dissonance at work here as Dexter notes in his own way,

… somewhat ironically, the [GAO] report suggests that one of the ways forward is more international cooperation, at least in the development of international standards. And in fact, one of the report’s key sources of information, Mihail Roco, has made it clear that international cooperation in nanotechnology research is the way forward.

It seems to me that much of the testimony and at least some of the anxiety about being left behind can be traced to a decreased 2015 budget allotment for nanotechnology (mentioned here in a March 31, 2014 posting [US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s 2015 budget request shows a decrease of $200M]).

One can also infer a certain anxiety from a recent presentation by Barbara Herr Harthorn, head of UCSB’s [University of California at Santa Barbara) Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS). She was at a February 2014 meeting of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (mentioned in parts one and two [the more substantive description of the meeting which also features a Canadian academic from the genomics community] of my recent series on “Brains, prostheses, nanotechnology, and human enhancement”). II noted in part five of the series what seems to be a shift towards brain research as a likely beneficiary of the public engagement work accomplished under NNI auspices and, in the case of the Canadian academic, the genomics effort.

The Americans are not the only ones feeling competitive as this tweet from Richard Jones, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Sheffield University (UK), physicist, and author of Soft Machines, suggests,

May 18

The UK has fewer than 1% of world patents on graphene, despite it being discovered here, according to the FT –

I recall reading a report a few years back which noted that experts in China were concerned about falling behind internationally in their research efforts. These anxieties are not new, CP Snow’s book and lecture The Two Cultures (1959) also referenced concerns in the UK about scientific progress and being left behind.

Competition/collaboration is an age-old conundrum and about as ancient as anxieties of being left behind. The question now is how are we all going to resolve these issues this time?

ETA May 28, 2014: The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has produced a summary of the May 20, 2014 hearing as part of their FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News, May 27, 2014 (no. 93).

ETA Sept. 12, 2014: My first posting about the diminished budget allocation for the US NNI was this March 31, 2014 posting.

Patents and innovation; should Canada take its cue from India?

Anti-retroviral drugs are invaluable therapy for  AIDS patients and the world is dependent on India for a cheap supply of the drugs. According to an article (Indian Trade Agreements Could Choke AIDS Drug Lifeline) by Jenara Nerenberg on the Fast Company website, this access could be jeopardized,

India is the primary supplier of anti-retroviral (ARVs) AIDS drugs in middle and low-income countries. And a report from the Journal of the International AIDS Society reveals just how catastrophic it would be if somehow that supply were to get cut off due to political, trade, or disaster-related causes: In some countries, up to 90% of children with AIDS are dependent on India’s cheap, generic drugs.

… The massive, low-cost ARV production industry in India has been made possible by the country’s patent laws. “Indian laws did not grant patents on a product, but only on a process to make it, which helped its drug firms to make cheaper versions and improved formulations using alternative methods,” SciDev.net reports. [emphasis mine]

But not everyone in the world sees those laissez faire patent laws as a good thing. India is in ongoing discussions with the World Trade Organization and the EU, but there is fear that increased patent requirements may dismantle the country’s thriving ARV production industry.

Interesting that a demand to patent products would mean less competition. If India’s experience with anti-retroviral drugs is any indicator, while patenting products gives you more patents (handy when countries are comparing scientific leadership by measuring the number of patents [amongst other criteria] that have been filed) patenting a process leads to more competition or should we call it innovation.

If there’s interest in innovation/competition (something the Canadian politicians and government agencies are very concerned about stimulating) then, I think Canada should look to India and its experience with anti-retroviral drugs for inspiration.

Canada’s new copyright bill (C-32) and OECD’s take on intellectual property rights and innovation

Canada’s conservative government introduced a new bill (C-32) on copyright last Wednesday, June 2, 2010. The previous attempt, Bill C-61, died and, as I recall, that death occurred after furious protest largely concerning the ‘digital lock’ provision. This provision was modeled on a similar US provision, which has been highly contested in that country. For a brief description of a digital lock I went to Michael Geist’s blog where I found a posting answering 32 questions about Bill C-32,,

… what are anti-circumvention or digital lock provisions? The short answer is that they are provisions that grant legal protection to technological protection measures (TPMs). In plainer English, traditional copyright law grants creators a basket of exclusive rights in their work. TPMs or digital locks (such as copy-controls on CDs, DVDs, or e-books) effectively provide a second layer of protection by making it difficult for most people to copy or sometimes access works in digital format. Anti-circumvention legislation creates a third layer of protection by making it an infringement to simply pick or break the digital lock (in fact, it even goes further by making it an infringement to make available tools or devices that can be used to pick the digital lock). Under the Bill C-32, it would be an infringement to circumvent a TPM [digital lock] even if the intended use of the underlying work would not constitute traditional copyright infringement. [emphases mine]

I gather that even if I copy something that is now legal in Canada, e. g., make a photocopy of a page from a book for noncommercial purposes, that it will be illegal if I try this with an e-book where I need to break a digital lock. In effect, all copying becomes illegal if there’s a digital lock or other ‘technological protection measure’, which is likely with provisions such as this while we move to using more and more towards using digital media.

Intriguingly, an earlier posting by Michael Geist which focused on the original bill C-61 cited a research paper with a focus on copyright policy in Canada, the US, and Mexico where this was noted,

According to [Michèle] Austin [chief of staff for then Industry Canada Minister, Maxime Bernier], the decision to introduce U.S.-style DMCA [digital lock] rules in Canada in 2007 was strictly a political decision, the result of pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office desire to meet U.S. demands. She states “the Prime Minister’s Office’s position was, move quickly, satisfy the United States.” When Bernier and then-Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda protested, the PMO replied “we don’t care what you do, as long as the U.S. is satisfied.” [emphasis mine]

Thankfully, the new bill according to Geist and other sources he cites (I recommend reading his blog if you’re interested in this issue), is fairly balanced overall except for the digital lock provision.

There are two possibilities that come to mind when I consider how this ‘digital lock provision’ in the new copyright bill could have an impact on science in Canada. First, if publishers put locks on articles in science journals, you’d no longer be able to copy and paste selections (properly cited of course) into your own paper.

Second, copyright is a subclassification, along with patents and trademarks, of intellectual property law. While all three are intended to protect the creators of content, products, etc., they are often used as legal tools to intimidate competitors (large corporations or agencies such as the International Olympics Committee) or extort money (patent trolls), which tends to suppress innovation and competition. Restricting use through a new copyright law may not have a direct effect on patent law but the environment in which business and the legal profession operate will be affected and I strongly suspect adversely so.

I mentioned yesterday, The OECD Innovation Strategy: Getting a Head Start on Tomorrow and its Key Findings report. From p. 18,

An important contributor to building such networks and markets is the ability to own certain kinds of knowledge, as recognised by intellectual property rights [IPR]. IPRs provide an important incentive to invest in innovation by allowing firms to recover their investment costs. Patents are particularly important for small firms, as they can facilitate entry into new markets and enable competition and collaboration with other firms. IPRs should be well protected and appropriately enforced. Weak protection of IPRs undermines incentives to invest in innovation, facilitates counterfeiting and piracy, reduces the potential for technology transfer and limits the formation of markets for knowledge.

However, the protection of knowledge needs to be combined with policies and mechanisms that facilitate access and transfer. Excessively strong IPR may hamper the appropriate use of protected knowledge and discourage follow-on research and research in adjacent areas to the detriment of both competition and innovation.

I certainly consider the ‘digital lock provision’ in the current bill (C-32) as excessively strong and I don’t see how it helps innovation and competition (I think competition arises from innovation which is why I put it second).