“Oprah Winfrey, or to be more precise, Oprah’s Book Club, is being sued by the inventor/patent attorney Scott C. Harris for infringing upon his patent for ‘Enhancing Touch and Feel on the Internet.’ So Oprah’s Book Club is now one of many people and entities being sued over this patent because they allow people to view part, but not all, of a book online before purchasing it. Mr. Harris also sued Google Books for infringing upon this patent. He actually was fired from his position as partner at Fish & Richardson for that, because Google is a client of that law firm and they had conflict of interest rules to uphold.”
It would be entertaining to see Oprah give very wide and mainstream publicity to the abuses enabled by our current patent system.
Indeed. She’s still one of the most influential people in the country—I wonder if her audience is getting close enough to a baseline tech-savviness such that they’d understand the implications of Harris’ lawsuit or the significance of Apple’s announcement yesterday that they’re at last removing digital rights management from songs sold on iTunes. I’d wager if Oprah discussed these legal issues on her show, or perhaps invited Eric Schmidt and record company execs and a few college students, that groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation would have a banner fundraising year.
Update: The Federal Trade Commission will look at DRM issues soon, including soliciting of public opinion in a town hall setting. To folks new to these issues, it might not seem like digital rights management (software that controls how/when you use other software, such as code in an .mp3 that keeps you from playing that .mp3 on more than two devices) and copyright are explicitly related. But they both can abuse the intended purpose of intellectual property law: to encourage innovation, but not to guarantee inventors (nowadays companies) a permanent income from their inventions.