With Unanimous Vote, Oregon Moves to Ban Patent Trolls

A bill passed today in the Oregon Senate would make the state the first of its kind in the nation to ban the practice of patent trolling. As reported by OregonLive:

Senate Bill 1540 would make patent trolling a violation of Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act. The bill would also allow an individual or business targeted by a patent troll to sue and recover attorneys’ fees.

Patent trolls are companies that buy often obscure patents and threaten lawsuits against hundreds or even thousands of people and businesses. The real aim is to get companies to fork over cash to make the troll go away. 

“We want to help and protect the small businesses who fuel our local economies,” said Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, who sponsored the bill.

#sfbeta Endorses Boycott of Coca-Cola

#sfbeta endorses the the Boycott of Coca-Cola and calls on other startups to do the same.

Coca-Cola is a signature sponsor of the 2014 Olympic Games, which have come under intense scrutiny due the fierce anti-gay legislation recently enacted in host country Russia.

The anti-gay law has unleashed a series of violent actions against the country’s LGBT community, with police often joining homophobic aggressors in contributing to, rather than curtailing, hate-inspired violence.

“It’s a scary place for LGBT people in Russia right now.”

Despite the public outcry against the law, which Brian Burke, former Toronto Maple Leaves General Manager, has called “repugnant,” Coca-Cola refuses to withdraw their sponsorship of the games, and remains silent on the controversial law itself.

Reactions against Coca-Cola have been fierce and swift, driven largely by the LGBT and allied communities. A Facebook page called Boycott 2014 Olympic Games in Russia has attracted 55,000 likes, whose frequent posts attracted the attention of television pundit Keith Olbermann:

On August 29, demonstrators gathered in Times Square, crushing Coca-Cola cans and pouring the sugary drink conspicuously down city drains. Journalist Craig Takeuchi reports, via the slightly-ironically-titled Straight.com,

Queer Nation NY and RUSA LGBT staged a demonstration in Times Square on August 29 to protest Coca Cola’s sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The activist organizations stated in a news release that they are demanding that the company withdraw its sponsorship.

“By sponsoring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Coca-Cola is associating its brands with state-sanctioned gay-bashing,” Queer Nation cofounder Alan Klein stated. “Coca-Cola is sacrificing the safety and security of Russian LGBT people for profit—a position that opposes fundamental Olympic principles, runs counter to the International Olympic Committee charter, and that will tarnish its global image for decades to come.”

Klein also noted that Coca-Cola also sponsored the Olympics in Nazi Germany in 1936.

Crisp, clear, repressing.

Homophobia has no place in a just and civil society, and #sfbeta condemns the individuals who practice it, and corporations that condone it.

Besides, companies should know better: in the leadup to the 2012 United States Presidential Election, Aimee Castenell received over 115,000 signatures in a petition protesting Google’s sponsorship of ultra-conservative CPAC conference, and enjoined Google: “Don’t sponsor bigotry.” Aligning oneself with homophobia, whether in the form of a country, a conference, or a commentator, is never cool.

As an active voice in the startup and entrepreneurship community, #sfbeta calls for an end to Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

To co-sign your support (or express a rebuttal), please share your perspective in the comments below.

San Francisco Announces Entrepreneurship-in-Residence Program

Ed Lee, San Francisco's Startup Mayor (Source: AP)

Ed Lee, San Francisco’s Startup Mayor (Source: AP)

Recognizing that the spirit and practice of entrepreneurship can enrich and benefit government and the public sector, Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced the San Francisco Entrepreneurship in Residence, a new initiative from the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation.

Working in tandem with the Mayor’s office, talented entrepreneurial teams will build technology-enabled products to drive significant ends towards governmental goals: whether increased revenue, enhanced productivity, or decreased cost.

“We need the top entrepreneurs to work with us on opportunities that are actual pain points and needs of government,” says Mayor Lee. “San Francisco’s EIR program advances our role and vision as the Innovation Capital of the World.”

The program will last for 16 weeks, beginning mid-October of this year and continuing through February. Teams, of which three to five will be selected, will have unprecedented access to the $142 billion public sector market, tackling areas such as data, mobile and cloud services, healthcare, education, transportation, energy and infrastructure.

The moves comes as another inspiring moment for Mayor Lee, whose alliance with Twitter, Spotify, and other leading startups is revitalizing the long-depressed Mid-Market area, bringing jobs and prosperity to an area accustomed to empty storefronts and deserted sidewalks — a long-beleagured neighborhood that the mayor himself is set for a “total resurgence.

LOLCats and the Arab Spring

In the words of Tomcat Jefferton.

In the words of Tomcat Jefferton.

The tango ever twists betwixt technology and its intended uses. The telephone, intended for serious man-talk of the business-y persuasion, found its fanbase amongst teens and housewives. The beeper, intended for serious man-beeps of the business-y persuasion, digitized the urban drug trade far moreso than the man-beep telecommunication grid; as quips some chick from a forum:

I’m an 80’s girl.. grew up with a rotary phone not a cell phone. I remember when beepers came out but we couldn’t get beeper because those were for drug dealers.. and Michael jackson… Hello his best years were in the 80’s!

Now the internet, in all its Discordian tomfoolery, may have turned the axiom upside down — where serious man-beep devices no longer weave their way into consumerdom, but quite the inverse.

Sites sporting the flimsiest veneer of purported public interest may be the very catalysts galvanizing wave after wave of popular uprising — so much the trend these days, these uprisings, perhaps owing to a collective catacylsmic apoplexy raging against the Legion of Morose Hipster Ennui — from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the Egyptian Uprising to the Popular Revolts of Brazil to Moral Monday, and more.

What do all these mass movements have in common? The power of lolcats.

Well, sort of. According to the cute cat theory of digital activism, penned by Ethan Zuckerman of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, popular social networks, far moreso than tools specifically geared towards activists, become the very tools that activists employ in their organizing:

The cute cat theory of digital activism is a theory concerning Internet activism, Web censorship, and “cute cats” (a term used for any low-value, but popular online activity) developed by Ethan Zuckerman in 2008. It posits that most people are not interested in activism; instead, they want to use the web for mundane activities, including surfing for pornography and lolcats (“cute cats”). The tools that they develop for that (such as Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, Twitter, and similar platforms) are very useful to social movement activists, who may lack resources to develop dedicated tools themselves. This, in turn, makes the activists more immune to reprisals by governments than if they were using a dedicated activism platform, because shutting down a popular public platform provokes a larger public outcry than shutting down an obscure one.

Censorship, whether analog or digital, is a popular bludgeoning tool wielded by states threatened by the prospect of an informed, organized, and unruly populace. However, even the more draconian of governments recognize the people’s right to humorous pictures of cats, if not Marxist screeds against the repression of the proletariat. And woe behold the government who stands between the people and their lolcats.

Zuckerman states that “Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers. Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.”Zuckerman says that if a tool passes “cute cat” purposes, and is widely used for low-value purposes, it can be and likely is used for online activism, too.

If the government chooses to shut down such generic tools, it will hurt people’s ability to “look at cute cats online”, spreading dissent and encouraging the activists’ cause.

Viva la meowvolution!

Thanks to Rachel Swift, author of I, Cyborg: Parsing the Pleasure of Being Hooked on Machines, for the topic suggestion.

First They Came… Internet Edition

Curtailing your liberties in the name of freedom.

Curtailing your liberties in the name of freedom.

First they came for torrent trackers, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t downloading from them. (Often, anyway.)

Then they came for MegaUpload, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t storing files in the cloud.

Then they came for Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Aaron Auernheimer, and Barrett Brown, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a hacktivist.

Then they came for Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Microsoft, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t working for Google, Apple, Yahoo!, Facebook, or Microsoft.

Then they came for LavaBit and Secret Circle, and I did not speak out, because I use unencrypted email.

Then they came for GrokLaw, and I did not speak out, because I wasn’t a legal activist.

Then they came for me, and no one spoke out, because I was the only person left on the internet.