Against Software Patents

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WEEK 4 Intellectual property. 1.League for Programming Freedom, "Against Software Patents", Communications of the ACM, January 1992. (pg. 67). .:Summary:. This is an article obviously against the use of software patents. The author believes that software patents threaten to devastate America's computer industry. Many old software patents are now being used to attack many large computer companies. Patents do not cover systems, instead they cover the techniques used to build those systems. Since a computer system can use many different techniques to accomplish it's goal, it can infringe on many patents at the same time. A change in the U.S. Government's policy in the early 1980's has stimulated a flood of applicatons. Many patents were granted on obvious or pre-existing techniques. Two examples of this are 4,736,308 (scrolling with multiple subwindows) and 4,197,590 (XOR'ing a cursor on the screen). 4,555,775 (backing store) was so obvious by the MIT developers, that they didn't think of patenting it. Software is different from hardware because it is much easier and cheaper to create. .:Response:. Although this article was written in 1992, when most computing concepts seem ridiculously simple nowadays, I think that many of these patents that are listed in this article are absurd. I recently read an article on in which the US Patent Office has admitted that they are about two years behind in granting new patents. Add to this the fact that most patent officers do not understand all the concepts that they are granting patents for, and you have the receipe for a disaster. Many of the patents that are granted may seem ingenious to a patent lawyer, but ridiculously simple to any average computer scientist. For example, the article states that the XOR cursor patent could probably be created by a few lines of a code by a relatively bright high school student. A patent that simple and obvious should not have been granted in the first place. As for some of the other patents, prior art SHOULD have defeated them in the courts, as many of them were already implemented (in one case, it was implemented YEARS before the patent was applied for). I do not think that ALL software patents should be thrown out because there are many new and important software inventions that should be patented, I just think that the current system needs to be fixed. 2.Paul Heckel, "Debunking the software patent myths," Communications of the ACM, June 1992. (pg. 74). .:Summary:. This is another article that talks about how software patents are wrong and how the current system needs to be fixed. The author Paul Heckel talks about his time with Zoomracks and how they tried to sue Apple when they created the HyperCard, which is based on a similar but more limited card and stack version of the metaphor. He was forced to fight two large companies who were sophisticated about intellectual property, rather than small ones who were not. Heckel gives 10 points which are the consensus of informed opinion on software patents. 1. By creating property rights, patents promote innovation in non-software areas. They particularly promote innovation from small and mid-size companies. 2. Patents have evolved to address converns raised by those who suspect software patents. 3. Patents are not perfect. 4. Software is not inherently different from other technoilogies in the way innovation or patents work. 5. A nonprofit Marxist economic system is not optimal in promoting innovation in software. 6. Software, like every technology, has unique problems. 7. Legally, software is patentable and it will remain so. 8. Whether or not one agrees that software patents are beneficial, patents are here to stay so we should plan to work with them. 9. The practical effect of continuing to spread misinformation on software patents will be to hurt small developers and US competitiveness in software. 10. In considering the issues, we should deal with examples of real patents and, where possible, real infringement where facts for both sides are fairly stated. .:Response:. I found the article very long and boring, but it makes many good points. Although software patents are not used correctly and are not passed correctly in the first place, software patents can be used for good, and that is what this author is trying to say. Software patents, like patents for other industries, help to promote healthy competetion and help to create new businesses that can afford to operate with a patent protecting their invention. But despite all the good that software patents have brought about, there are still many downsides to them. Due to software being constantly reinvented by other developers, many software patents are granted for things that would seem obvious to the average programmer. It is this ambiguitiy that helps to give software patents the bad name that the author is trying to debunk. My suggestion would be to add more software (lawyers) to the patent granting process, and to keep these people in the loop regarding current computer trends. That way they could spot many trivial or obvious patents. 3.Tim O'Reilly, "The Internet Patent Land Grab," Communications of the ACM, June 2000. (pg. 94). .:Summary:. After posting an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, O'Reilly received over 10,000 letters in support of his letter. This letter was in protest of's suit against Barnes & Noble for it's use of's "1-Click" patent. As a result of the support shown, Bezos made a number of suggestions for reform in his own open letter, including development of a prior art database, a public opposition period for new patents, and a shortening of the term of software patents. Many of the true software innovaters, the ones that create the new innovative programs that help to fuel the internet, feel threatened by software patents. The internet was built off a history of open source, and open standards. One developer at a large software company states "I have my name on nine patents and I think all of them are a joke." One problem of the current software patent system is that the developers are not required to do an exhaustive search for prior art. Add to that the fact that there does not exist a complete prior art database for software patents. Many other patent areas have a nice prior art database, or at least some way of checking up on prior art. .:Response:. I found the first few paragraphs of this article quite laughable. While I applaud Jeff Bezos' attempt at appearing to care about the software community, he has created or helped to create a few of the worst offenders in the software patent community. His "1-Click" patent is so ridiculous that it should be throw out of court and removed as a patent. I mean, how hard is it to come up with a system that allows checkout in one easy step. To illustrate how stupid this patent is, just look how Barnes & Noble could have escaped this lawsuit. They just needed to add another "step" in the checkout process, even something as simple as a reminder would do. This just goes to show that not all software patents are used for good and the promotion of healthy competetion. 4.Larry Graham, "Debunking Software Patent Myths," IEEE Software, July/August 2000. (pg. 97). .:Summary:. Once again, another article debunking myths about software patents. This one talks about a few specific myths that software patents have. The first one is that software should not be patented. The author points out that if this happened, then developers would write less software and society would be worse off without some form of protection against copying. His closing argument for this myth is that software should be protected, and the patent laws are the best system presently available. His next myth to debunk is that there are no valid software patents. It is unreasonable to attack all software patents as equally invalid. Next myth, valid patents must cite nonpatent prior art. One of the principle attacks against software patents is that the PTO does not thoroughly check for prior art. Next myth, patent applicants must search for prior art. Under US law, inventors have a duty to inform the PTO of any prior art that they find, but are under no obligation to search for it in the first place. Another myth is that recent litigation proves the system has run amuck. .:Response:. I feel that the current patent system has gone amuck. I believe that patents are very useful and can protect many legitimate inventions. Unfortunately, patents are very easily abused in the software world. I feel that many of the patents are just an excuse for more money and more lawsuits. Companies try to grab up all the patents they can in an attempt to stifle other legitimate companies from doing business. Looking at the patent, nothing unique and innovative was done. The "1-click" patent was actually very obvious and I think that Jeff Bezos was just trying to make some more money as well as force Barnes & Noble to change their checkout policy. Most of the problems within the patent system stem from the lack of a prior art database. If there were a reliable, accurate and easy to use prior art database, then I think that half of the accepted patents would be rejected. Of course, that also assumes that patent officers get a clue about software techniques and reject the ultra-obvious patents before they ever see the light of day. 5.Michael S. Guntersdorfer and David G. Kay, "How Software Patents Can Support COTS Component Business," IEEE Software, May/June 2002. (pg. 99). .:Summary:. The main argument of this article is that software patents, now a permanent facet of the business landscape though not yet universally employed, can support the commercial adoption of component based software. A trade secret is any information a business uses that is not generally known. The computer industry relies on trade secrets to protect software source code. A copyright protects original works of authorship against copying -- works such as prose, drama, music, art, and software. A copyright does not protect against independent creation of the same information. Patents protect inventions, not just specific embodiments or implementations. In conclusion, any radical change in the current applicability of patent law to software is unlikely. Software professionals should consider how to achieve the most effective results within the existing legal framework. .:Response:. Sure, I believe that patents are a good idea, and I believe that they can help COTS systems even more. One of the problems of many computer systems is the lack of standards. If a company were to patent some system, it would possibly create less standards because another company couldn't create another method like the patented one. Unfortunately, life is not so simple. One of the best things about our economy is the plethera of choices. I dont want to be forced into using a system because the company that owns the system patented a method that could have been done in a better way by another company. This is especially true if the owning company is a large company such as Microsoft and they chose to exert their massive force on another company, their "standard" might become less desireable. 6.Larry Lessig, David Post, Eugene Volokh, "Copyright Law," lessons 2-12 of Cyberspace Law for Non-Laywers, an on-line course (not in the paper readings packet). The previous link sometimes doesn't work; if not, try the following: *LINK DID NOT WORK* 7.Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Unintended Consequences: Three Years under the DMCA," May 3, 2002 ( (pg. 106). .:Summary:. In 1998, a law was enacted called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). This law was very broad and far reaching. It was not used like Congress had intended it to be used. Congress intended to stop piracy and stop pirated from stealing copyrighted material. What they got instead was an overly broad law that is being used by many companies large and small to thward legitimate attempts at fair-use by individuals and small companies. It is said that the DMCA threatens 3 important public policy priorities: DMCA chills free expression and scientific research, DMCA jeopardizes fair use, and the DMCA impedes competetion and innovation. The DMCA prohibits the act of circumventing a technological measure used by copyright owners to protect their works, even if the act is deemed fair use. Some examples of the backlashes of the DMCA include 2600 magazine being sued because they posted a LINK to DeCSS, and the arrest and prosecution of a Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov. Also, Professor Felten's research team was threatened by SDMI representatives under the DMCA not to present their findings. The author concludes that the DMCA reaches too far, creating a chilling effect on a wide variety of legitimate activies in ways Congress has never intended. .:Response:. In my opinion, the DMCA is one of the worst pieces of garbage ever to come out of Congress. I've have seen way too many news stories about how some single programmer was threatened by the DMCA for creating what he thought was a legitimate program. These are programs that MIGHT be used for copyright circumvention, but were intended for legitimate purposes covered under the fair-use doctrine. It is obsurd to attempt to censor a program because it MIGHT be used for the wrong purposes. There are many non-software things that could also be used in evil ways such as knives, guns, or even some pesticides. Also, the DMCA is being used as a scare tactic. Many companies and lawyers threaten legitimate programmers under the DMCA while having no intent of following up with a lawsuit because they think that it will scare the programmer. 8.David Streitfeld, "The Cultural Anarchist vs. the Hollywood Police State," Los Angeles Times Magazine, September 22, 2002. (pg. 115). .:Summary:. Larry Lessig is a Stanford Law professor who believes that the entertainment industry is trying hard to lobby Congress to get them to lock up old movies, books and songs by increasing the length of a copyright. These are movies that should have gone into the public domain a long time ago. He believes that not only does the RIAA and MPAA want to lock up the old past copyrights, but they want the future locked up in their possession as well. A law was passed in 1998 that extended the copyright protection another 20 years. Congress has extended the copyright 11 times in the past 40 years. Before the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was passed in 1998, copyright limits expired 75 years after publication. Disney donated money to 18 of the 25 sponsors of the Bono Act to ensure that it had the momentum to pass in Congress. The Bono act extends the copyright protection for an additional 20 years. .:Response:. Extending copyrights another 20 years is just another example of how Congress is heavily swayed by intense lobbying by major companies. If Congress was really looking out for all the little people, the American public, then it would have never passed the Bono Act in the first place. Instead, a few large companies that don't want to see their copyrights (aka cashflow) taken away, send a lot of money to lobbyists, and they get their bill passed. There is no reason why a company needs to retain ownership on a copyright for 95 years. It creates an unfair monopoly on something that should have been in the public domain long before the century mark. 9.Associated Press, "High Court Debates Copyright Case,:" New York Times, October 9, 2002. (pg. 124). .:Summary:. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was created in 1998, and inside this law, copyrights were extended another 20 years past the current length of 75 years. Many companies supported this law, including big companies such as Disney and AOL Time Warner who have lucrative copyrights that they do not wish to see be expired. Justice Sandra Day O'Conner says that she can find a lot of fault with what Congress did, but that she doesn't know if it's unconstitutional. .:Response:. Same response as the previous article, as it's basically the same thing. One more interesting note that I read somewhere. The song "Happy Birthday" is protected under copyright, and was due to expire soon, yet with this act, such a simple and widely used song will remain tied up in copyrights for another 20 years or so. Or that is until Congress decides to extend it again in 18 years. 10."Rep. Boucher Outlines 'Fair Use' Fight,", July 8, 2002. (pg. 126). .:Summary:. US Congressman Rick Boucher is trying to eliminate some of the far reaching new copyright bills, and to help restrict record companies from selling copy-restricted CDs. He says that although copy protected CDs are not against any current law, using them wont really help the music industry curb its piracy problems. Selling them will only anger many law abiding citizens, while just creating another minor roadblock for those dedicated minority who wants to steal their music. He also wants to ease up on some of the DMCA restrictions. This new law aims to make seven changes to copyright law. 1. Change the ephermeral recording exemption of copyright law. 2. Expand existing selection for sampling of songs, much the way offline music stores allow people to listen to tracks before buying. 3. Allow back up copies of music on a hard drive. 4. Address older "mechanical" rights of copyright law by creating "safe harbor" provisions. 5. Require non-descrimination in the licensing of music inventories by major labels in the music industry. 6. Require an examination of programming restrictions. 7. Require direct payment to artists. .:Response:. I remember hearing about a few copy protected cds that were recently introduced onto the market. I don't remember the names of the band, but they were relatively obscure names that the RIAA decided to use as test bait to see how the new CDs fared. Of course, MINUTES after the CDs were released, copies were floating around the internet, and many law-abiding customers were furious. Many of these CDs did not even play inside their computers, and one particular CD even caused hardware failures in certain Apple cdroms. A grassroot movement was started the encourage customers to make intelligent decisions, and if they were unhappy with the crippled CDs, they should return them to the store, and let the music store eat up the cost of a "damaged" cd. When stores like Best Buy noticed an increase in returns for the crippled music cds, they sent out a press release apologizing for the inconvience. 11.Declan McCullagh, "Lawmakers: Keep your tunes to yourself,", July 11, 2002. (pg. 129). .:Summary:. Republicans Howard Coble of North Carolina, and Howard Berman of California have drafted a bill that would sharply limit American's rights relating to copying music, taping TV shows, and transferring files over the internet. The first part of their proposal would limit backup copies. Another section of the draft would give a minor boost to Webcasters by saying they're off the hook for temporary copies. Berman also said he would launch a bill that would allow the record companies to launch technological attacks against file-swapping networks. Rep. Polk Wagner says that the proposal has the potential to cut back fair use rather substantially. .:Response:. This sort of things makes me glad I'm not a Republican :) All kidding aside, I think this bill is a very bad idea. I know that in it, it supposedly helps out the webcasters who would get excemption due to the fact that they are only streaming temporary copies, but then the article goes on to state the the webcasters actually favor Rick Boucher's bill instead. So assuming that they're supporting it for a good cause, I see no reason to support this new bill. On top of that, the other bill that Berman wants to pass, the one about the RIAA and MPAA launching attacks on file sharing networks is chilling to say the least. To think that it would be made LAW that a private company would be AUTHORIZED BY LAW to launch an attack on another citizen or network because they believe they are trading music illegally. If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what would. Companies should never be given that music power to do whatever they want. 12.Declan McCullagh, "Anti-Copy Bill Hits D.C.," Wired, March 22, 2002. (pg. 133). .:Summary:. A new bill proposed by Democratic senator Fritz Hollings prohibits the sale or distribution of any electronic device unless they come equipped with some intense copy protection standards. Hollings says that the lack of security on these devices have enabled significant copyright piracy to go on everyday. The MPAA and RIAA hailed this bill as a savior and the only way to prevent piracy. On the plus side, and software standards must be open source and viewable by anybody. .:Response:. Oops, I guess I dont want to be a Democrat either :) But seriously, I think that this bill is another ridiculous attempt by the RIAA and MPAA to supress and control every piece of music that the public listens to. This law doesn't take into account the many legitimate mp3s and movies that are viewed on electronics devices. It reminds me of the DMCA in that the DMCA also didn't take into account that some software can be used for good, and not always just bad. Of course, it's not a big surprise that the RIAA and the MPAA are involved in yet another bill to reduce customer rights. 13.Ted Bridis, "Lawmaker Defends Online Piracy Bill," The Washington Post, September 26, 2002. (pg. 136). .:Summary:. California Congressman Howard Berman defended his bill, saying that it was never intended to allow record companies to act like hackers and attack internet users. It is a very controversial bill because, as many people claim, it allows record companies to "disable, interfere with, block, divert or otherwise impair" the trading of pirtated songs. Berman states that companies could not use this unless they told the Justice Dept. about it, but they dont have to get their permission first. .:Response:. I think that this is a good example of how a bill has obviously overstepped its boundaries. Berman believes that since a property owner can tresspass to retreive his stolen goods, so should a record company. The US Constitution was not setup with the mindset of "an eye for an eye", in that just because someone did something to you, it doesn't give you the right to retaliate with something which is also illegal. That is what the police are here for. One of my favorite parts from this article was when computer user was threatened by Warner Bros. for downloading the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". It was later found out that this was not a movie after all, but instead it was a children's book report. If the RIAA/MPAA had used this to launch an attack on the file sharing network, then it would have been wrong and misdirected. 14.Howard L. Berman, "Statement for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Hearing on 'Piracy of Intellectual Property on Peer-to Peer Networks'", September 26, 2002. (pg. 138). .:Summary:. Thsi is a statement given by Rep. Howard Berman regarding his ideas of Piracy on P2P networks. He lists many laws that were passed recently including the DMCA, American Inventors Protection Act, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the No Electronic Theft Act and so on. He goes on to say how it's amazing to think anyone would be against his wonderful bill. He goes on to state how napster is bad, and how unauthorized distribution or downloading of copyrighted works on public P2P networks is illegal. He says that most people use P2P for illegal uses instead of legitimate ones. He lists a few people who have been harmed directly by P2P piracy. .:Response:. Another article about the same old thing. This time it's from the viewpoint of Bermen talking to Congress. He makes a few valid points in this, but those are just the same old arguments over and over again. Big deal, piracy is bad, P2P users trade illegal software. Everybody knows this. But the problem is that his idea on how to fix it is not much better. First off, he finds it RIDICULOUS that anybody would be against his wonderful perfect bill. To think, people that dont think that giving companies the right to engage in "self-help" measures to thwart piracy. I'm not going to say that piracy is not an important issue, but it is one that should be dealt with differently than the Berman Bill. 15.Howard L. Berman, "Frequently Asked Questions about the P2P Piracy Prevention Act (H.R. 5211)," (pg. 144). .:Summary:. This article basically talks about some of the frequently asked questions regarding the Berman bill. Berman tries to justify many of the things that occur in the bill that may seem extreme to most people. He says that copyright owners are not allowed to hack into anyone's computer, but instead they are allowed to just view what everyone else can view from the outside. He describes how he is not trying to shut down peer-to-peer networks, he is only trying to remove copyrighted material from them. He defends his act by saying that those who claim the bill will kill P2P networks are short-sighted piracy profiteers who believe P2P networks are used only for illegal purposes. .:Response:. This article basically just rehashed everything in the previous articles, but it was given a new spin by Berman himself. He mentions that he's not trying to take down peer-to-peer networks, but isn't most stuff on peer to peer networks illegal? I'm sure there are some legitimate content on there, but honestly, most of it is illegal. It's a shame that there's no company like Napster for them to go after now. It's very difficult to go after thousands of users who are (or are not) trading illegal copyright material. I don't really think of myself as a privacy profitteer, but I do think that the majority of music and movies traded on the internet are illegal. 16.Amy Harmon, "Hearings Set on Measure to Promote Digital TV," New York Times, September 25, 2002. (pg. 149). .:Summary:. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding hearings that would render all TVs obsolete by 2007 and would require the FCC to support copy-protection technology that would prevent consumers from copying digital TV programs. Many people see this as troublesome because it shows the willingness in Congress to favor copyright holders over the rights of the consumers. Another downside to this law would be that it would require many consumers to purchase new and expensive equipment, because their old TVs and VCRs would become either inoperable or illegal. This proposal would force broadcasters to stop sending analog tv signals by Dec 31, 2006 and this deadline would not be extended. The FCC has required tv makers to install digital tuners in most sets by 2007 but most tv makers are rejecting this saying that it will increase the average price by more than $250. .:Response:. I love my HDTV. You havn't watched TV until you've watched it in HDTV. With that in mind, I think it's good that the FCC is trying to make TV makers and broadcasters incorperate digital tv into all new tvs. Of course, I'm against any copy-protection measures that will be included into this bill, but I think it's a good thing that the FCC is stepping up. Of course this bill should be phased in gradually over the next 5-10 years because Congress can't realistically expect consumers to replace all their TVs in less than 5 years. WEEK 5 Constitutional issues: Baase chapter 5. 1.David S. Touretzky, "Free Speech Rights for Programmers," Communications of the ACM, August 2001. (pg. 161). .:Summary:. In 1998, Congress passed a bill called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that makes it illegal to circumvent a technological measure that controls access to a copyrighted work, and section 1201(a)(2) makes it illegal to traffic in any circumvention technology, product, service or device. Under the DMCA, it became illegal for any law-abiding user to own a DVD player that did not implement such measures as the ability to lock out the fast forward button, or region encoding. The author created a website to host different implementations of the DeCSS code. Some of these "implementations" included screenshots of the code as well as the author's own fictional programming language. Congress never intended the DMCA to diminsh anyone's First Amendment rights, but it did. .:Response:. I actually own one of the copyleft T-Shirts. When I was buying this t-shirt a few years ago, I noticed on the website that it said it was illegal to transport the shirt across state lines because it was some sort of encryption device. I dont remember the full details or if it was even true, but I found it amusing and I bought the shirt so I could tell that story to all my friends. I think this article brings up a very good point, at which point is source code not source code anymore? If some source code is not compilable, is it still subject to the same restrictions? 2.Eric M. Freedman, "Pondering Pixelized Pixies," Communications of the ACM, August 2001. (pg. 164). .:Summary:. In 1996, a law called the Child Pornography Prevention Act was passed. It was created to look out for the rights of children and to protect them from exploitation. What it got instead was a very broad law that is so vague that it could lead to many First Amendment violations. According to legislative findings, viewing of child porn, even if the "actors" are computer generated, will desensitize a viewer into thinking that child porn is ok. It will also create an unwholesome environment. Two court cases were struck down relating to the censorship of pornographic material. In 1959, the state of New York tried to ban the viewing of the movie Lady Chatteryley's Lover on the basis that it was a presentation of adultery. The Court struck this down because it was a violation of First Amendment rights. Many people think that Congress is merely overreacting to a new techonological invention the same way that it previously reacted to the motion picture. Soon, they hope, Congress will become desensitized to this new invention and will move on to other things. .:Response:. This article reminds me a little of the Columbine shooting. To quote the article, "if someone visits a website and is motivated to commit a murder, the murderer should be punished, not the site owner". This is very similar to what happened in the Columbine shootings. Right after it happened, there was a public outcry for the banning of all violent video games and movies. One of these such games was Grand Theft Auto, a game that rewards players for beating each other up. My feelings toward this is that if the user does not have the self control to tell the difference between a video game and reality, then they are not fit to play such video games. I mean, how hard is it to tell that beating each other up is just in the video game, and should not be taken elsewhere. Does the videogame have to be so unrealistic in order to demonstrate this idea? 4.Peter K. Yu, "New Technology and the Supreme Court,", May 23, 2002. (pg. 172). .:Summary:. Recently, the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the Child pornography Prevention Act of 1996 that prohibited the distribution of virtual child pornography under the premise that it violated the First Amendment. It also warned about the broadness of the Child Online Protection Act, but it did not make a ruling. Like the Intenet, the motion picture was once very new and the American public did not know how to use it. When motion pictures first came out, many public officials did not know how to deal with them, so they put it outside the realm of First Amendment protections. Under a lawsuit in 1915 that cited Ohio's ban on violent and immoral movies as a violation of the First Amendment, the Court said that movies were different from other mediums of expression and it should be dealt with differently. As the court later became more comfortable with the movies, they relaxed and reconsidered many of their previous rulings. .:Response:. I don't like how the government has the right to tell us what we can and cannot watch. I think it's ridiculous to think that Congress would lower all of our quality of viewing, just so that children would not be harmed. Which is to say that viewing a violent or sexual film would even harm a child in the first place. It has been said that this law reduces all movies to the level of any backwoods American community and what they see as morally fit. The very definition of the first amendment garuntees us the right to view and distribute what ever videos we want. If I want to view a video about some inhumane thing, I should have every right to watch it, and I should not be banned from getting it. WEEK 6 Computers, organizations, the workplace and productivity: 1.Greg Miller, "Fired by Big Brother," Los Angeles Times Magazine, January 28, 2001. (pg. 175). .:Summary:. In 2001, Dow Chemical Co's factory in Midland, Mich. Fired 39 workers for what they deemed "innapproriate use of email". Most people at the plant used e-mail for one thing or another, and many sent lewd jokes or pictures across that email. It was very commonplace for a pinup calendar to be put on the factory floors, or for a lewd joke to be told over the water cooler. Many of the workers thought nothing of it, because even the higher up management partook in this time honored tradition. But now, 39 people find themselves out of a job because Dow Chemcial decided to make a moral stand and take a hard stance on the issue. Many of the workers who were fired were older people who had worked at Dow for many years. Most didn't have home computers and were thus unaware of computer etiquette. Dow faced a tough decision, it was wrong to send these emails to each other, but should the workers be fired for it without warning. Dow evidently felt they had been given enough warning, and that they needed to take a stand to curtail any further spreading. .:Response:. I am actually very torn by this article. On the one side, these workers violated the company ethics code, as well as commited sexual harassment. Despite the fact that it was commonplace before email came along, email is very different from talking to one person at the water cooler. It can reach a wider audience very quickly and easily. On the other hand, these workers were fired relatively abruptly and without much warning. I understand that Dow had to take a public stand on this issue to save face, but I wonder if they could have handled it differently. I dont know if a warning would have been sufficient to many of the gross violators. Sure, there would have been the people who didn't even know it was bad, and they would have stopped immediately, but without harsh consequences, many of the other violators might have just kept on going. I know at my work, that's paper saying I will not use email for any bad purposes is one of the first ones I have to sign every year. That is considered my warning if they choose to fire me about it. 2.Malcolm Gladwell, "Designs for Working," The New Yorker, December 11, 2000. (pg. 181). .:Summary:. There are many resemblences in the workplace to neighborhoods. Many executives were put in a nice office, with plants and a secretary to "guard" it. They resembled gated communities. In the 1980's and early 1990's, most offices were very boring and looked like a Levittown in postwar suburbs. All the cubicles were alingned in a row and they all looked exactly the same. Many new offices are very open and inviting, and executives share space with the newest employees. Many people believe that in order to be functioning as it should, employers needs to give employees one of the basic necessities of life, social interaction. Many new ideas are created due to the collaboration of many different people, often in different departments that would never have collaborated in previous years. One way to increase interaction is to create as few private offices as possible. .:Response:. I have to admit, I work in one of the older boring offices. My work was created in the 1950's, when all workers were shoved into identical cubicles and expected to function at their peaks. After working in such an envionment myself, I really don't think it's as bad as their making it out to be. I think that I get plenty of social interaction as it is, and any less privacy would actually make me uncomfortable. It's my opinion that everybody needs to have some privacy, sort of a place to retreat to when you don't want to be in the public eye all the time. Without any privacy, I think I would have gone crazy. For example, even the best workers get bored every once and a while, especially when you've been coding for hours on end. To elliviate this boredom, I'll play a quick game of solitare or freecell, then get back to work. If I didn't have the privacy of a cubicle, I would always feel like I'm being watched, and I would never feel totally comfortable. 3.Christine L. Borgman, "Where is the Librarian in the Digital Library," Communications of the ACM, May 2001. (pg. 188). .:Summary:. This article basically says that we need libraries for the digital library because seaching through the many texts is a daunting task for even the average computer user. Many small companies are starting up that fill this task nicely. They are providing intermediatary services that help users filter their searches. Libraries are also responsible for the upkeep of the library, no matter how digital it is. They work behind the scenes to select, collect, organize and preserve the library. Many organizations believe that due to the success of the digital library, regular old fashioned public libraries will not be necessary anymore. .:Response:. I for one love the library. It will never be replaced as a great meeting spot, a place to study, or a place to look for a good book to read. One of the great things about a physical library is that you can view many books in person, making searching for books much more enjoyable. The statement that new schools will soon not even have a library is ridiculous to say the least. No matter how easy or effecient a digital library is, it will never replace the feeling of going to a library with a cup of coffee and sitting down with a new book. I mean, don't get me wrong, a digital library is great...if you just need to do some research. But for pleasure reading, nothing beats a library. 4.Janice C. Sipor and Burke T. Ward, "The Dark Side of Employee Email," Communications of the ACM, July 1999. (pg. 190). .:Summary:. Sexual harassment is becoming a very important issue in the workplace now that email has become commonplace. Sending sexual emails across the company network can see you without a job as well as provide your employers with a very long electronic trail that can be used against you in a court of law. Although email can be used to increase productivity and organizational responsiveness, it also can be used for evil purposes by the employees. Two reasons why email is used to send bad emails is that emailing someone creates an environment in which the sender is removed from the process. You don't have to see the person first hand when you give them the news, so email loses some of it's personal feeling and people become desensitized. The other reason is that messages are wrongly viewed as temporary when in fact they are very permanent. Not a lot of companies have tight email policies, most have some sort of blanket statement that says not to harass anyone sexually, but most companies dont talk explicitly about email. .:Response:. What can I say, email is good if used correctlly. I find that the statement about email creating an environment in which the sender is removed from the recipient to be very true. One of the problems with email (well not really a problem) is that more racy things can be sent over them without remorse. There are some things that I've sent over email that I would never be caught dead saying in person, for reasons of shyness or embarassment. With such an attitude and environment, it is no wonder that email has quickly become a large problem with people sending out sexual emails to one another. 5.Tony Horowitz, "Mr. Edens Profits from Watching His Workers' Every Move," Computerization and Controversy: Value Conflicts and Social Choices," 2nd ed., Rob Kling (ed.), 1996, p. 322. (pg. 198). .:Summary:. This article is about a very naive manager names Mr. Eden. Mr Edens believes in watching over his employees every move to ensure that they do not try to steal or waste company resources. He blocks windows because he feels they are distracting to look at. He also forbids talking, as well as any personal items on their desks. This sort of environment is necessary, he says, because he deals with lots of money and his clients expect to be reassured by seeing a well run business. Throughout all of this, Eden does not believe that what he is doing creates a harmful work environment. He thinks it's a necessary evil that goes along with handling thousands of dollars a day. Many workers feel trapped by this attitude and feel very lonely and unsocial. They resort to childlike tactics to try to speak to other people. Eden's response to all of this..."we're not paying these people to talk, we're paying them to work." .:Response:. Wow, I wasn't aware that there were people like this still holding managerial positions today. I would assume that any logical minded person would see that high productivity is not all about cutting off all other forms of interaction, it's about making an employee feel happy and comfortable. This is a drastically different article then the greenwich village article because in that article, the supervisors realized that social interaction was key to high productivity. I couldn't imagine working at an office like this, where I was watched all the time. I would definetly feel like it was a hostile environment and I would be paranoid. Granted I probably wouldn't steal anything because I would be afraid of getting caught, but fear should not be the way that employees are kept under control. 6.Ian Parker, "Absolute PowerPoint," The New Yorker, May 28, 2001. (pg. 200) .:Summary:. Interesting article that starts off talking about a mother who couldn't control her children so instead of talking to them like a mother should, she created a powerpoint presentation that scared the kids into being good. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many executives rely heavily, if not solely, on the use of powerpoint presentations. There is one feature in PowerPoint called the AutoContent Wizard that basically does all the work for you, and puts your points into a nice slide. The problem is, once you've seen one slide, you've seen them all. Powerpoint has become such a household tool that it's becoming overused. One user caught himself thinking of how he could use a powerpoint presentation to talk to his wife about vacation planning. The widespread use of PowerPoint has gotten to the point of allowing users to use them to get their words across, instead of the normal human interaction. Americans have always used visual aids in their presentations, as it helps the viewers to associate and visualize better what the speaker is trying to say. According to Microsoft, at least 30million powerpoint presentations are made every day. .:Response:. God I hate powerpoint presentations. Dont get me wrong, PowerPoint has a few good uses. One example of a good use is in the article, a person talks about how they used powerpoint to show a slideshow at a wedding. In this case, powerpoint was used as background information, not as a replacement from a real speech. When I'm at work, and I hear that we have a powerpoint presentation coming up, I immediately shudder and expect the worst. Maybe it's the fact that most people don't know how to use powerpoint presentations correctly, or the fact that I've been scarred many times by presenters who have just read off their slides, and made for a very boring meeting. There are of course exceptions to this rule. These are the people who are natural speakers and know how to captivate an audience. These are the people who don't NEED to use powerpoint, but instead use it to supplement and drive home their point. Powerpoint is a very dangerous tool if put into the wrong hands, but it is also a very powerful tool if used correctly. 7.John Cassidy, "The Productivity Mirage," The New Yorker, November 27, 2000. (pg. 208) .:Summary:. Alan Greenspan believes that the American economy is booming, and at the heart of all of this is a more productive American worker. Greenspan believes that American workers are more productive than they used to be because of the proliferation of information technology. Over 1995, productivity slowly great at a rate of 2.9% annually, which when added up over time, can add to a large increase in productivity and output. Many point out that this upswing is only temporary, and that it will soon fall back to the previous levels, perhaps even decreasing. Many new advances in computer technology has helped to create a much more productive work environment. Many of the computer innovations have helped companies to work closer together and to track their inventory and customers more efficiently. With these new advances, companies don't waste products on unneeded things, and they can help track employee progess to see where they need help. The author also points out that not all computers necessarily help to increase productivity. He points out how in the course of researching for this article, he surfed the web and found English soccer scores as well as emailing his friends and family. .:Response:. I think that computers have helped increase productivity immensely. Not only do computers make the jobs of most people much easier and more efficient, but many things that humans could never do can be done in a split second with a computer. Even things as simple as email have revolutionized the way business gets done. No longer does someone have to stay on hold while they wait for someone to answer their phones. They can just send an email and be done with it. People don't have to stop what they're doing while they call somebody, or dont have to take time out of their day to go visit someone in order to get a few documents that could have been sent over email. I really don't know how I got along without these things. I mean, it may sound silly because I know that I survived for many years without these, but I dont think i was more productive.

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