Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What laws effecting media / libraries to expect

Ars has a decent roundup of laws that congress will be taking up next year effecting technology.

Network neutrality is one of the biggest since SBC announced that they would hinder the performance of competing VOIP services over their lines. The network neutrality law would prevent such practices. It is likely to pass since cable is moving into voice and telcos are moving into video; there will be less lobbying to stop it.

Patent reform is touched on and the problems Research in Motion is having. The US patent system is severly broken on several fronts. Patents are granted for obvious improvements. Patents are granted when prior art is already on the market. The ability to get injunctions preventing the sale of products that contain parts that are in dispute often drives small companies out of business.

The current system favors the practice of large companies with huge stables of patents to hagel with other companies that have a patent they may infiringe in exchange for allowing them to infringe. There are already law firms that buy up patents from failed IPOs so they can sue people later. Ideally software should not be patented, by its very nature most innovations are obvious or incorporate prior art. Patent terms sould be shortened to a maximum of 15 years and a minimum of 2 years, and terms should be applied in a case by case basis.

Science education is also touched on. The US is doing a horrible job educating kids in science and education in general. With No Child Left Behind teachers are required to teach to a test which obviously means that if successful than the children will be able to pass the test. However, this is a bad way to teach critical thinking and real world problem solving techniques which are vital to science education. The funding of schools is antiquarian to say the least but as Gov. Rendell (PA) found out people are all for lowering property tax but raising funds for schools in another way is hard to do.

The hard truth is that people may love their children but part of that love is to see their children do well even if they have to drag your child's education down to do it. For some the education of their child takes a back seat to the culture wars and a misguided attempt to increase faith in America. The proponents of such psuedo-science undermine the very nature of scientific inquiry by suggesting that since evolution is "only" a theory any holes in it discount it totally and instead of filling the holes through tests and inquiry just pull the "God did it" card.
I wonder when they'll get around to dismissing gravity since it is "only" a theory, after all, the "God did it" card would explain why scientists can't find gravitons. Most of scientific education is theory there are very few laws.

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