By Tyler Lacey
Australian State Backpedals on Anonymous Online Political Speech Ban
On February 2, Ars Technica reported that following a harsh public reaction, South Australia’s Attorney General Michael Atkinson has pledged to repeal a recently enacted law that banned anonymous online political speech. The new law is particularly controversial because it applies specifically to bloggers and online commentators, but not to online newspapers or magazines. Atkinson noted that “the blogging generation believes that the law supported by all [Members of Parliament] and all political parties is unduly restrictive” and promised to make efforts to repeal the law. Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson concluded the article with the thought that while the vow to repeal the law was a “victory for people power,” the dangers inherent in anonymous speech should not be ignored.
United States Patent and Trademark Office to Receive Budget Increases
On February 1, Reuters reported that President Obama’s new budget proposal includes a 23% increase in the operating budget of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in 2011 as compared to 2010. The proposal also includes a 15% increase in statutory patent application fees and an allowance for the PTO to invest all of its fee revenues internally rather than turning over a portion of them as it had done in the past. The budget proposal urges the PTO to invest its increased budget and fee allowance in efforts to “improve the speed and quality of patent examinations.” According to the article, the PTO currently takes an average of 34.6 months to fully review a patent application and is hampered by an “antiquated” computer system and high staff turnover.
British Online Surveillance Website Stalled While Under Review
On January 28, the BBC reported that the Internet Eyes website has been restricted from offering surveillance camera feeds pending an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO is a United Kingdom government agency that takes responsibility for “uphold[ing] information rights in the public interest” and “promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.” Internet Eyes’ business model is to pay interested citizens to spot and report crime that they spot in surveillance camera feeds on the Internet Eyes website. The ICO is reportedly reviewing Internet Eyes’ compliance with the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act by verifying that the footage is used appropriately and that the citizen observers are properly trained. Internet Eyes has promised to comply with any demands issued by the ICO as a result of the investigation.