Law

Explicitly creating copyright free networks

Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site - As debate over the legality of online file trading rages on, a University of Maine department takes a contrarian approach to copyright protection, creating a network where content is open to all. By Michelle Delio. [Wired]

I wonder how wireless, ad hoc networks would negotiate similar issues.

Patenting the User-Centred Design Process

Here's a fairly standard user-centered design process - not particularly different than most: Uncovery, Wireframing, Storyboarding, Prototyping, Development and Optimization.

It's a familiar story to anyone experienced with iterative, user-centered processes. Its name: the Minerva Architectural Process ™ for Persuasion Architecture ™, with the obligatory consulting firm trademarks. The difference: there's a patent pending on it. "M.A.P & Persuasion Architecture are Patent Pending proprietary business processes belonging to Future Now, Inc. Contact us about licensing for your organization."

Now maybe I'm misreading, and Future Now is only trying to patent some very specfic part of an iterative design process for persuasion. (though maybe B.J. Fogg or Andrew Chak might object). Given the USPTO's track record, it may well be granted, despite prior art.

Don't get me wrong, I think Persuasion Architecture is a valuable approach. I just think that patents on process are pathetic. How about you?

Updated: Some Future Now clarification added to comments.

Frames and global navigation patented

I didn't believe this when I read it on other blogs, but Prodigy is claiming that in 1996 they patented web site global or primary navigation. There's a story on this topic in the NY Times. Something really has to be done about how patents get awarded. Why on earth would anyone want to pursue royalties on an interface design element such as navigation menus? I'm sure someone can make the claim that the design of persistent menus can be traced back to non-web interfaces and argue that these types of menus are not a new thing. This would be a good time to use the Internet Archive's way back machine, in this case to find some pre-1996 example of global navigation.

More from the article:

    When British Telecom claimed in 2000 that it had patented the Web's ubiquitous hyperlink, the Internet erupted in a fit of protest that lasted until the company lost its test infringement case against Prodigy Communications last summer.

    But that has not stopped Prodigy's parent company, SBC Communications, from asserting a patent claim on a Web navigation technique nearly as widely used. According to letters SBC sent out last week, the company believes that any Web site that has a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site may owe it royalties.

Court: Disability law doesn't apply to Web

Anitra Pavka pointed to the follow up article in ComputerWorld on the SouthWest Airlines web site accessiblity case. This is the case that tries to argue that web sites should fall under the aegis of ADA laws. Courts rejected the suit and the plaintiffs plan to appeal. The usual quotes from PR spinners and experts are interesting.

The statement below is most likely true, companies have not focussed on accesiblity. Planning for accessiblity is just cost-effective.

    [B]uilding in accessibility during a Web site's design costs only a quarter of the amount needed to retrofit a site later, said Jennifer Vollmer, a research analyst at Meta Group Inc. Accessibility ... has not just been a priority for companies."
Anitra weighs in on Gerry Santoro's contention that,

    "In general, programmers write for themselves" and are interested in only designing a system that works. "The same is true of Web designers; they tend to design for themselves".
Could bad IA get you arrested?

The Intranet Focus Blog is, from what I understand, the only public blog dealing specifically with intranet issues. A recent post entitled Enron — The Intranet Implications talks about how, with all this talk lately of document retention policies and email backups, little attention is paid to how documents are stored, accessed, and kept on intranets.

The entry brings up a good point, but unfortunately leaves the issue of intranet IA hanging a bit:

“In many industries government officials and industry regulators have the authority to enter the premises of a company to look for evidence of malpractice. That would include the intranet. ... if the information archtecture of your intranet is so bad that the investigators feel that they are being impeded in their work you might end up on the end of an obstruction of justice charge.”

Could bad IA really call for charges to be filed? I seriously doubt that the IA would/could be that bad, and a bad information architecture on an intranet would most likely go along with a system of organizing files and documents throughout the company, not just on the intranet. Still, it's an interesting idea, and another reason that it may be worthwhile to pay attention to IA.

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