Mark Blafkin’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Dec 8th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re: Probably a legal loophole

    Thanks for inserting a bit of sanity into this discussion. Perhaps when the rest of the TD community finishes asserting its faux-technological superiority to the State Department, they'll realize this has NOTHING to do with a lack of knowledge about the nature of the Internet.
  • Jun 30th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Baseball Prospectus


    I didn't know you were a rotogeek too :-)

    I'm sure that I just missed it, but have you ever addressed the success of paywall sites like Baseball Prospectus and ?

    In arenas like fantasy baseball (or stock trading), some information is actually valuable enough to pay for...and is made more valuable by the fact that others do NOT have it. Right?

    While there is understandable concern about general news sites turning to paywalls to survive, it appears that some types of information sites can thrive under that business model.
  • Jun 7th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    A better example...

    The BBC piece is pure bollocks, however, so is the concept that paywalls are always a dumb idea (which seems to be the overwhelming view of the Techdirt community).

    Bloomberg is the best example of an incredibly viable pay-for-content model. Subscribers are willing to pay a seemingly absurd amount of money and navigate a DRM system that would impress the CIA, for access to the kind of reporting/intelligence that can make them money, and that value is actually increased by the fact that they have access to it as early as possible. Incredibly, there are some types of information which are made MORE valuable by the fewer people that know them.

    Both the free and pay-for business models are equally valid in the online world. I think the free model will continue to be the leading model, but for certain types of information and reporting the paywall or freemium concepts will be the right choice of business model.
  • May 20th, 2010 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    How do you know we would be better off without them? Two facts pose a massive problem for your argument:

    1. The US has one of the most liberal approach to software patenability in the world.

    2. The US has the most robust and innovative IT industry in the world.

    Clearly, those facts do NOT = QED/argument over. However, they do suggest that all doomsday talk about software patents is hyperbolic at best. In the end, we need to get beyond the convenient myths about large companies and patent trolls, and start having more honest discussions.

    A couple more points on that topic:

    By "costing hundreds of billions" are you referring to the money that inventors have gotten in royalties and our payments for infringement on their inventions? In some cases these are going to patent trolls, but just as often that money goes to fund new R&D projects in companies large and small.

    And, you seem to ignore companies like i4i, Tivo, and Stamford University, who have gotten multi-billion dollar settlements from the likes of Microsoft and Comcast. If it weren't for its patents, the cable companies would have stolen all Tivo's ideas and driven them right out of business...

    As for seeking investment, when VCs are assessing risk they are more importantly assessing the risk that a larger competitor can simply steal your idea. Therefore your ability to protect it, most effectively throught patents, is actually critical to small firms getting investment.
  • May 20th, 2010 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: A few corrections

    I'll have to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of the events. Like most grassroots campaigns, the FFII spread a lot overstatements and mistruths in an attempt to scare individuals into getting involved.

    Software patents are and have been legal throughout most of Europe. The CII Directive would have done very little to change the patentability of software in Europe.

    Sorry, the FFII got you all ramped up to fight something that wouldn't have done much to change the current situation...but that is the reality.
  • May 20th, 2010 @ 12:19pm


    Yeah...personally, I think these purported "patent thicket" problems are more hyperbole than reality. For all the doomsday scenarios, I haven't seen any related slowdown in innovation and growth in the software/tech industry.
  • May 20th, 2010 @ 11:45am

    A few corrections


    We can agree to disagree (and debate long into the future), whether software patents are good, evil, or somewhere in between. However, there are a few facts that you have wrong in this post:

    1. HARMONIZATION NOT LEGALIZATION. The push 6 years ago was NOT to legalize software patents. It was to harmonize the rules by which the EPO and other European patent offices handle computer-implemented inventions. The CII directive would have done effectively NOTHING to expand the legality of software patents.

    2. SOFTWARE PATENTS WERE ALREADY LEGAL IN EUROPE! Software patents were already legal in most European patent offices, but have been called funny names (computer-implemented-inventions) and/or sorta-limited by language like "controllable forces of nature", etc. Moody is wrong about these usually preventing software patents. The most obvious proof is that fact that Microsoft got a German patent for the FAT file system that was recently upheld by the courts there.
  • Mar 25th, 2010 @ 4:42am

    A little mixup in your post


    There are actually two different cybercrime proposals in the Senate. The cybercrime bill by Hatch and Gillibrand is a limited proposal that is focused on how the US government and State Dept. can help deal with international cases of cybercrime. It has the support of most of the tech industry.

    The article you cite on tech companies RIGHTFULLY being worried about "unintended consequences" is talking about a completely different cybercrime bill that is cosponsored by Rockefeller and Snow.

    has the support of most major tech firms
  • Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Interesting Conundrum

    I think the problem will be that the only way to do this "right" is to put human beings back into the loop to help mitigate any potential false positives in the system. I don't think Google can simply tweak the algorithms to fix it. But, therein lies the rub. Putting human beings back into the system is not in the Google DNA - you can't deliver all these cool free services if you're paying thousands of support staff to answer questions and fix false positives.

    Will be interesting to see how or if they try to fix this issue.
  • Jul 30th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    You're Mostly Right About Search, But This Ain't About That...

    I think you're analysis of the search market is pretty spot on. I don't know if the new models supplant search, but they certainly have the ability to become significant in the future.

    But as I just wrote over at the ACT blog, this deal isn't really about search.

    It's about Search Advertising, with a heavy emphasis on "advertising." From a business perspective, Search is little more than a vehicle for advertising. Search may not be the future of how people find information online, but it seems pretty clear that advertising will be a critical part of how the Internet funds itself for the foreseeable future.

    Most of the first day analysis, however, has focused on what this deal means for the less relevant market for search. Yet, the real question is whether it gives both companies a foot in the door with large advertisers, to which they can provide integrated advertising solutions that span search, banner ads, and newer "human-seeking information projectile" platforms. If so, then the efficacy of this deal looks a lot different...doesn't it, Mike?

  • Jul 29th, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: Interesting but ...


    First, I don't think the commercial success is relevant to the point I'm trying to make at all. Kamen's FIRST competitions for robotics are designed to encourage cooperation in the pursuit of prizes. Designing competitions that incentivize cooperation is actually something he spends a lot of time doing. He does believe in 'ongoing processes' of invention and cooperation to achieve such goals, despite what you assert here.

    Second, you are simply wrong about his commercial success being "mediocre." While the Segway has not revolutionized cities the way some suggested it would, he has built a fortune by inventing, producing, and licensing dozens of medical technologies that have not only been runaway commercial successes but have also won him humanitarian and technology awards around the world. You are right that his attempt to essentially go it alone on producing and marketing the Segway was a mistake, but that seems less because of a lack of innovation than a lack of understanding of the market.


    Perhaps you misunderstood me. I know that some argue that patents "take away rights" of the populace at large. The patent system is a bargain that is designed incentivize the exploration of useful arts and sciences. Whether that bargain is currently the topic of serious debate.

    However, I do not believe there is any question that patents confer special rights and privileges onto those that hold them.
  • Jul 28th, 2009 @ 3:32pm

    Interesting but ...

    not sure this is really an argument against patents.

    Yes, it is a reminder that 'flash of genius' moments are relatively rare and that most innovative products are the result of collaboration and teamwork. However, often the teamwork happens inside singular companies...leading to great leaps. Sometimes those leaps are not enough, and companies need to buy other firms (think iPod and Kindle) or work out collaborative development agreements or licensing deals with other firms. Nothing about patents prevent this kind of collaboration. In fact, they often make it EASIER not harder because rights are clearly defined during the negotiation for collaboration.

    This NetFlix prize is a great story, but it makes a case against ignoring the possibility of collaboration with perceived competitors. It doesn't make a convincing case against patents. Just look at Dean Kamen. No one was put more emphasis on creative competitions that encourage collaboration/coopetition, yet he is one of the biggest backers of the patent system.

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